Multiview 11: Hannah Williams

27 Mar

I met Hannah last summer out in Steamboat. She was a new (and welcome) addition to the office staff at camp, adding an aura of total calm to a place that is often overrun by screaming 10-year olds. Word spread quickly that Hannah was also a really accomplished runner and that she participated in a weekly running group in town. I’d just started getting more serious about my running and thought the group would be good for me. I asked Hannah about it and for the rest of the summer, every single Thursday, she left me a detailed, handwritten note with directions to that evening’s meeting place. I never actually went (Danica did. All the time), partially out of fear of being left in the dust and partially due to work obligations. OK, it was mostly the fear thing. But Hannah consistently reminded me that ability didn’t matter and that I was welcome no matter what.

Hannah is extremely modest, as her profile illustrates. But she has accomplished some amazing things: a 50-mile ultra in super harsh conditions through the High Rockies and back-to-back wins at the Steamboat Pentathlon are just two of her many achievements. This summer, I am committed to attempting to run with Hannah, even if it means eating her dirt. Here is Hannah’s story:

Name: Hannah Williams
Hometown: Steamboat Springs, CO
Sport(s) of choice: Mountain running, ultra-running, Cross-Country skiing and biking
Longest distance ever covered and on what (feet/bike/skis/snowshoes/etc…): 50 miles running, marathon XC-skiing, 60 miles-ish on a bike, 2 miles swimming.
Occupation: Office manager at Honey Stinger

Gimme a brief history of Hannah in sports. Have you always been athletic? 

I grew up participating in sports and being outdoorsy and athletic, but I was never competitive on any level higher than just school sports. I always liked basketball as a kid and wanted to excel in it, but in high school I barely made the team and sat on the bench the whole time my freshman year. My brother saw that I was unhappy because I wasn’t playing and he and the cross-country coach persuaded me to join the cross-country & track teams. I did! And I turned out to be semi-good, so that’s how I got into running. I pretty much quit trying to play all other sports like basketball and volleyball, etc… I decided that I wasn’t good at them 🙂

In certain circles, you’re known as the “Fastest Woman in Steamboat.” How did you get so dang fast? Have you always been fast or is it something you’ve had to work on? 

I don’t think I was the fastest last year or the year before or ever! I guess it depends on who you talk to though. I will say that I think I might have the potential to be one of the fastest! I think almost anyone could have the potential, it just takes the right training, nutrition, mindset, and commitment. It took a long time with proper (or almost proper) training to become the athlete I am today. It didn’t happen with no effort or with mindless effort. It doesn’t come naturally! I have been training pretty regularly and hard for the past couple of years. I do believe I could tweak certain things, break certain habits, etc, be more focused whatever it is, and become faster though. It is amazing how much I’ve improved over the past few years looking back at some old race times.

What’s it like working for one of my favorite sports nutrition companies (Honey Stinger)? Do you have to be a crazy talented athlete to work there? 

It’s so much fun to work at Honey Stinger! It is not a requirement to be an athlete to work there and they certainly don’t discriminate if you’re not, but you might become one if you start working there. There are plenty of us who are into our different sports. And plenty of people who have gotten into sports after they started working there too! I love working there.

What do you eat? 

What do I eat? Hmmm…well, to break it down, I try to eat healthy, as in whole grains, vegetables, fruit, lean meat, etc. I limit as much as I can anything processed or artificial. I guess eating whole foods is the goal for me. If I can’t understand or pronounce anything in the list of ingredients I won’t buy it. There is no use in eating that kind of stuff. For breads and pasta and rice, it’s always whole grain. I don’t understand the point of eating white bread. It doesn’t even taste good to me. If your going to have calories, make them useful!! There is nothing in white bread other than empty calories, and not many people need empty calories.

I used to try to watch portions and restrict calories and all that. It never worked for me, and I usually ended up gaining weight after going on a diet. So I kind of just decided to eat normal portions of healthy foods and that seems to have worked the best for me. I feel fine about my weight and my body. Throughout the winter I ate ice cream and homemade cookies just about every single night for dessert! It was great. Natural vanilla Breyer’s is the best and homemade whole wheat low-fat cookies! Mmm!

You live and train in a Colorado mountain town. How do you deal with training in freezing temps? 

Freezing temps in the winter definitely make winter running difficult. But really we only get a couple of weeks out of the winter that can be unbearably cold. During that time, I’ll usually stick to spin class or swimming, maybe a run on the treadmill. I probably only run twice or three times a week during the winter. I like to take a little break from it so I don’t get burnt out. There are plenty of winter activities that keep me in shape though. I skate ski, go to spin class, winter hike, take masters swimming classes, do yoga, and Telemark ski. Some of the trails are packed down from people snow biking, cross-country skiing and snow-shoeing so if the conditions are right, it can actually be really fun to go winter trail running in Steamboat. I highly recommend winter trail running to anyone who hasn’t done it. It’s such a beautiful peaceful experience.

I had to include a pic of Hannah in action. Especially because she’s wearing a Nathan hydration vest.

Can you recall a particularly challenging moment in training or racing? How did you deal with it? 

My most challenging moment in racing was during the Run Rabbit Run between miles 36 and 44. It had rained and snowed the whole day and by that time I was freezing cold. I hardly saw anyone that whole stretch. I had been running for about 9 or 10 hours at that point and was pretty drained. It was snowing and wind was blowing and it crossed my mind that I might not be able to finish if I became hypothermic. Being cold sucks, but when you have been cold AND exerting yourself for ten hours straight, that’s another feeling. When you’re that tired and cold and it starts snowing harder and gets windier, it’s a huge mental hurdle to get over and keep going. I have never been that cold in my life. I pushed the thought of not finishing out of my head and just told myself to get to the next aid station at mile 44. As soon as I trotted into the aid station I burst into tears. It was kind of funny actually. I don’t know why I was crying, I guess I was just happy to see people. They gave me some warm water and wrapped me in a sleeping bag until I stopped crying and then I went on my way. I ran the last 6 miles fine and finished with a smile on my face!

Any interesting/funny/inspiring stories you want to share from training or racing? 

Well, I think I have to think about that one a little more. I don’t know why, but falling seems to be really funny when your running or skate skiing. As long as the person doesn’t get hurt, of course. One time I tripped over a speed bump while I was running out of a long drive way…I must have been going too fast. Ha, just kidding. I can’t even count how many times I’ve eaten it skate skiing. One time my friend’s dog ran into a snow boarder while we were running up the mountain and the edge of the snowboard sliced through the dog’s leg and it started bleeding everywhere. That wasn’t good, poor Lucy.

Talk to me about equipment/product. What do you wear? What do you ride? What gels do you like?

I ride a Moots CR road bike and I love it. I also have a custom Moots Mooto X mountain bike, but I’m still learning how to mountain bike…I’m still a novice at that sport. My skate skis are Fischer RCRs. My tele skis are Volkl Aura with the Hammer Head bindings. I usually wear Asics trail shoes, but I just bought a pair of Mizuno which I also love. Sometimes I wear those Five Finger shoes for shorter runs, or hikes. I really like those, they make my feet feel amazing! But not for anything over 4 miles. I also want to try some of those minimalist Merrell shoes. I like the Patagonia baggies shorts for trail running in the summer. I love everything Athleta, Prana, Smartwool. I also love everything Patagonia–we call it Patagucci around here. When I ride, I like to wear my Honey Stinger kit of course! Or Moots kit, depends on my mood. I love exercise clothes! Sometimes on the weekends I sit around and shop online on sites like backcountry.com, Athleta, Running Warehouse, etc. and look for cute work out clothes. I’m a dork.

For energy food when I’m working out I usually stick with Honey Stinger stuff. Pomegranate chews and vanilla waffles are my favorite. If it’s a longer run I’ll go with a Rocket chocolate energy bar for some added protein and nutrients. I’m not too big into energy drinks or mixes, plain water is good enough for me

Any advice for the “noobs” out there? 

Stick with it! Find a group or a club to train with. It makes it so much easier and more fun. If you can’t keep up with them, don’t get discouraged, it takes a long time to build up and learn new skills. I struggled with skate skiing a ton when I first started. I could not keep up with anyone, but I still went to the group skates every week and chased after all my friends while my lungs were burning. I did that for a whole winter and this year I was finally able to keep up with them towards the end of the season.

Your FB wall indicates a recent win and by a very wide margin. What was the race and what did you do to take it?

Oh, the Facebook wall post stuff was for the Steamboat Pentathlon. You can also read more about it here. It consisted of alpine skiing, snow shoeing, skate skiing, biking and running. It’s a fun event in Steamboat every winter. They have a standard course and a short course. Some people do relays and some people do the whole thing by themselves. I did the standard course by myself the past two years.

[Modest Hannah fails to mention that she WON BOTH TIMES.]

Its my favorite Steamboat event! It’s a pretty tough event, but super fun. I wish more steamboat women would do it though.

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