This interview came about in a most mortifying way. Remember last year I wrote about a Spinverals spinning DVD called Sweating Buckets and I described all the sweaty cyclists in it? I dubbed one woman "Granny", because "Coach Troy mentions she's a grandmother of 6. Overachiever!".
I got an email a few days later:
Hi Shauna, I am the 'granny' in the Sweating Buckets DVD.
"Granny" is known to the wider world as Bobbie Williams. Sweating Buckets was filmed in 2001, and Bobbie is now 72 years old, living in Texas and kicking all sorts of butt. In her 28 year triathlon career she's completed 7 full ironman triathlons, 18 half ironman races and countless sprint and Olympic triathlons. You can imagine my delirium when Bobbie was not only cool about the whole "Granny" thing, she was also up for an interview about her truly Amazing Adventures…
1. Let's start with the basics… name/age/location?
I am Bobbie Williams, age 72, until July, and I live in Nassau Bay, Texas (just South of Houston, near Galveston Bay).
2. You write on your blog, I've been a triathlete for 27 years. I started when there were no coaches, no magazines with training articles, no clipless pedals, no aerobars and very few rules. What prompted you to take up triathlon? How did you get started?
Well, it's been 28 years now. I was swimming in the local high school pool one night (we had a group of fitness swimmers and that was the only place we could find to swim in the Winter) one night in early Spring before the outdoor pools were open. A fellow swimmer asked me if I was going to do the triathlon. I asked, "What is a triathlon?".
He explained it was this swim, bike, run competition thing. So I asked when it was going to be held. He said in about a month. I said, "I don't think so". It was being held at the Texas A&M campus in April. I didn't think I could be in shape for it that soon. It was an Olympic distance race with the bike and run reversed. I swam regularly, ran for weight control and rode my bike recreationally. Nothing that you could call training, so didn't feel ready mentally.
But the following year, I did enter it and it was my very first triathlon. I got a 4th place trophy which I still have and I was hooked. I had no idea the difficulty doing all three disciplines back to back and almost could not get off my bike at the finish.
3. Have you always been an active person? What other activities have you tried over the years?
I've always been an 'outdoors' sort of person. As a kid I played outdoors, ran, rode my bike, climbed trees. I also liked to ice skate and roller skate. I did all the things the kids did, jumped rope, played various ball games. All just play…
4. What is your strongest event in the triathlon? Your least favourite of the three?
My strongest event in the triathlon is probably the bike but that is because Coach Troy is my coach. I was a swimmer first and I still love to swim the most. But because of Troy's coaching I have become a better cyclist. I am a terrible runner! So obviously the run is my least favorite.
5. Tell me how you decided to step up to the mighty Iron Man distance. What was the training like? How did you feel when you finished the big race?
I had been doing triathlons for about 16 years, but only locally and just sprint and olympic distances. This sounds really egotistical but I always placed in the top three in the races and it had become sort of routine. I knew I was going to win or at least place high and was getting to the place where I didn't try very hard and I just showed up and finished. Some of my triathlete acquaintances were entering the Half IM so I sort of got the bug to try it too. I had a friend coach me but I got injured in my first Half IM so I hired Coach Troy from a picture I had seen in a magazine. I had actually entered an IM in Florida and told Troy I needed help. He was great. We went to work and I finished my first IM at age 60.
Troy worked my butt off. I was doing 5 hour bike rides, 4000 swims and 18 mile runs. All I did was eat, sleep and train. I talked to him every week. I was just such a novice! But Troy talked and talked to me. We made it to the race in November of that year and I finished 1st in my age group.
I was so pumped up during the race I felt like I could have gone on forever. That was ridiculous because I was exhausted. There were flashbulbs and cameras at the finish line. I never expected so much attention. I definitely got my 15 minutes of fame
6. How many triathlons have you done? Is there any event that stands out as a favourite?
I have done 7 full ironman triathlons and 18 half- ironman (70.3) races. So many sprint and Olympic Tris, I never kept a record. I have finished Hawaii ironman 4 times but I have qualified about 8 times.
All are special in some way. I really liked IM Canada. It was so beautiful. My first Hawaii IM, which was the same year I did Canada, was special. I finished 3rd in my AG with some of the worst winds in the race's history. We had 40 MPH cross winds and 60 MPH headwinds. I somehow managed to stay on my bike and got a 3rd place award.
7. What are the biggest challenges with fitness and getting a little older?
I think the biggest challenges I face now is recovery and fatigue. I get tired easier and it takes me longer to recover from a hard workout or a race.
8. What foods do you like to eat to keep your energy levels strong?
I eat anything and everything. I really stay on a pretty healthy diet because I have been doing it for so long it is just a habit. I don't change my eating at all. I'm not a vegetarian, I drink alcohol and I eat sweets. But probably in moderation. I just don't think about it too much. I'm fortunate in that I like all fruits and vegetables. I eat only whole wheat bread and drink lots of skim milk. But I do have a weight issue. I guess I should think about it more. I gain weight every winter and every spring I have to lose it. It is such a pain!
9. Tell us a little about starring in Coach Troy’s Sweating Buckets DVD. Apparently you really were sweating buckets that day?
Yes it was a hot photoshoot. The filming was in a client's home, a very large beautiful place and the owner had offered the use of her home for a Spinerval shoot. The view you see through the windows is her property. But the A/C that day was not working. It was VERY hot! The man next to me in the red cycling shorts filled his shoes with sweat… gross! All the people in the video were rather average athletes and it was not a particularly difficult workout. Troy asked each person how they/wanted to be identified at The beginning… student, Judge etc. I couldn't think of anything since I didn't work. I just said I was a grandmother of 7. Troy said,"I like that". Troy is very family oriented and has a great respect for mothers and seniors. He always said I had a lot of experience even though I was never a great athlete. He said I KNEW a lot
10. Do you have any fellow triathletes that you admire?
My favorite Triathlete is Chrissy Wellington. I love her CLASS. She is not just an outstanding athlete , she is a classy person. I like that she is educated and can give a speech like an intelligent person. Her concern for the less fortunate in the world is admirable. As you know, she is from Great Britain.
Also, and by no means least, is Coach Troy. Troy is a wonderful person. He is kind, loving and giving. He puts his family first. He is a devoted father. At the same time he works extremely hard and manages to keep himself in top physical condition because of years of consistent training. He is an amazing person. He has worked very hard to achieve the success he has. It took a lot of discipline for him, AND he is extremely modest about his accomplishments.
11. What training are you currently doing? Are you planning any races this year?
I am currently training for a sprint tri in Kemah, Texas (that's on Galveston Bay south of Houston) on April 29 and Eagleman 70.3 on June 10th. Next Saturday we are driving to Tucson, AZ to attend Coach Troy's training camp. In September my husband Stan and I are entered in the 5150 National championships in Des Moines, Iowa. I may do another one or two but not sure yet.Hawaii is in the back of my mind
12. Could you sum up your “Formula” for living a healthy life in ten words or less?
Living a healthy life. Let's see. 10 words or less… I think I learned it as a child… LIKE healthy food and sports and the rest comes naturally. Boy I could say a lot more but you wanted it short
Thank you so much for your time and generosity Bobbie. You're a superstar!