What it takes to win at Ironman 70.3 - an interview with Brad Williams.
Brad Williams posted another top 10 finish at Ironman 70.3 Liuzhou in China a few weeks ago. That wasn't his first solid result out in Asia, he won IM 70.3 Chungju last year too. We asked him for his thoughts on racing over in Asia and ended up chewing the fat on all sorts of aspects of winning at that level, from hydration and nutrition, to kit and support from sponsors. It's worth a read if you're looking for tips to achieve your own goals this year...
Brad, you've raced out in Asia quite a bit in the last few years, winning your first 70.3 out in Chungju last year. What makes you want to race out there and what are your thoughts on the rise of Ironman and triathlon in Asia?
Yes, I have quite a bit of racing experience out in Asia. I was stationed in South Korea with the US Air Force from 2007-2009 and then again from late 2010 to 2012. My first ever 70.3 was actually China 70.3 back in 2009! So, Asia has always appealed to me as I have quite a few friends racing out there still.
It also suits my current ability level and strengths quite well. The fields tend to be quite small, usually under 20 people and most of the bike courses are fairly flat and fast, which suits my riding style really well. I have a few more races on the schedule in Asia this year too. I think it's smart for athletes to build their brand in a specific region, and grow a following there. With the amount of racing I am doing in Asia, I'm starting to see that as a benefit as well.
Credit: Scott Flathouse
Talk us through your race in Liuzhou, what went well and what didn't go to plan? Any learnings for the next race?
Liuzhou was my first race of the season. The only goal was to get the first race out of the way really. The field ended up being a quality field and I was happy to walk away with 9th. I took some time off the bike late last year, doing just over 2 months of swimming and running only, so I was a bit worried about how I was going to ride. I still rode well, but I struggled a bit during the last 20k, so the next block of training I'll work the bike a bit more and I feel confident enough that come the next race I will be back to where I was at my peak last year...
You had your first child last year, how has that changed your training plans and your approach to the sport? How do you balance 'the day job' with family life?
Asher (my son) has actually been a huge help to my training. He holds me accountable to get out the door and to stick to a daily schedule. Before, I used to get caught up in emails and doing training plans for my coached athletes, but now my schedule is structured more than ever.
If I slack off it means less time with the family, and that isn't fair to them. The order of priority for me is family, training/racing, coaching my athletes and then I spend a bit of time working with one of my sponsors, FireStar Energy, doing a bit of social media work and working with brand ambassadors.
You've been a pro for a few years now, can you talk us through the decision process behind making the jump to going pro?
This was one of the most asked questions when I first qualified for my pro card in 2013. I made the decision not to turn pro right away, waiting until 2014 once I qualified again. I used to ask professionals the same question when I was an age grouper dreaming of one day racing as a "professional" athlete. I would get various responses from "I want to race the best", "I want to start first and get done early", "I want to save money on entries" to "I want to have a reserved porta potty and avoid the lines".
After qualifying twice in 2013, I did not believe I was ready. I didn't want to be the guy that is always getting beaten by amateurs. I think that is also a good sign that you are not ready to be a pro or that you should consider going back to the amateur ranks. The timing finally came together and the stars aligned. I transitioned out of the Air Force in August of 2014 and the transition to start training and racing full time was the best time for me to make the jump to the professional start line. I waited until after Kona as I wanted one last crack on the big island.
One major reason I took the plunge was the fear of having regrets. I didn't want to look back 5, 10 or 15 years from now and go "Man, I could have raced with the best in the world, but I didn't". I want to look back and go, "I had an amazing opportunity and I gave it everything I had". So that is what I did!
Credit: Arnold Bjornsson
You've been working with many of your sponsors for years now, what does a pro triathlete look for in a sponsor (over and above cash, which of course you need to be able to do what you do)?
I was fortunate enough to start some great partnerships when I was still racing as an age-grouper. I was usually able to get my foot in the door being in the military and then would build the relationship from there. That is one of the reasons that I waited the extra year to turn pro as I wanted to ensure I had a strong sponsorship base moving into the pro ranks.
Some of the loyal supporters from the beginning have been Kiwami Triathlon, ISM Saddles, and Clever Training. Since turning pro, I have been able to align with some great companies and continue to grow the amount of quality sponsors I have. I have been lucky enough to come across you guys at Precision Hydration here in the UK, you've really helped me dial in my hydration and nutrition plan.
Last year I was also able to partner with blueseventy and that has been a massive help. I have not swam in a better wetsuit than the Helix, and I think you would be hard pressed to find any other athletes that would say differently.
Can you remind us of your hydration strategy for training and racing?
I use PH 250 as my everyday hydration mix, the PH 1000 during my harder and longer workouts, and then I preload on sodium before a race with PH 1500. Making this switch to a personalized hydration plan has been a huge help during my training and racing.
There is NOT one product that works for everyone, and that is one of the many reasons why I believe in what you guys are doing. I also love that you have developed your free online Sweat Test too, it's a great way for athletes to get started with personalizing their hydration strategy and I recommend it to all of my coached athletes who can't get to a test centre for the full test.
What about your pre/in-race nutrition plan, how do you stay fuelled?
Since I have switched my focus to 70.3s and do not plan to do a full Iron distance race in the near future, I have started tweaking my nutrition plan. I am unsponsored when it comes to "food", so it really gives me a lot of options. I'm currently using 1-2x GU Chomps and 1x Picky Bars on the bike.
On the run I typically use GU Chomps, but if I get behind on calories or I'm in a dark place I will start hitting Cola at every aid station. I also use a caffeine "supplement" called FireStar Energy, it is only 10 calories and has 150mg-180mg of caffeine depending on which one you take. I typically use one packet before the race and then another half way through the bike.
What wetsuit do you use and what makes it better than others you've tried in the past?
As mentioned above, I am using the blueseventy Helix. It is by far the most flexible wetsuit I have used to date, and with 9 years in the sport, I have been through quite a few wetsuits trying to find the right one!
Can you talk folks through your bike set up?
My bike setup is something that I take great pride in. I am fortunate enough to have the support of Ceramic Speed, ISM Saddles and Cervélo, all of which I consider to be the best products on the market. All other bike equipment choices are unsponsored which leaves me the flexibility to run the best equipment.
I have a 2015 Cervelo P5 frame and my wheels are HED JET Disc / JET 9 with Continental Attack & Continental Force with Vitorria Latex Tubes. My brakes are Margura Hydraulics and my powermeter is the SRAM ELSA Quarq 172.5mm. The rest of my setup is detailed on my site.
What are your goals for 2017 and beyond?
I want to continue to progress in the sport and climb the ranks. I would like to find my way onto a few more podiums this year to build on 2016. At the end of the day, I can only control what I can control, and I can't control who shows up to each race. All I can do is continue to put in the work and I believe the rest will take care of itself...