Susan Bartholomew Williams Takes First
By Kristen McFarland
U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS, May 2003 – Veteran U.S. National team triathlete Susan Bartholomew Williams showed that she has returned to top form this spring as she collected two big wins in the opening races of the international racing season.
Starting with the famous St. Croix race, a 15-year-old event, she came out ahead of Joanna Zeiger this year after having been second to her last year. Coming out of the water about a minute behind Zeiger and the lead men, she hadn’t realized that they had all missed a buoy.
“I didn’t know that. Someone did tell me within the last few weeks. I noticed that all of the sudden they were really far ahead of me, but I just thought, ‘oh, they’re working together with the fast guys pulling them and I’m just here slugging along I guess.'”
Susan had raced in St. Croix two other times, so she had experienced the famous “Beast,” a 600-foot climb on the bike leg with an average grade of 14%.
“I didn’t do anything special to prepare but this time I did use a 27 cassette on the back wheel. I know when I did it last year with a 25 I was mashing quite a bit. I thought with the 27 it would help me spin a little more.”
Clocking a bike split six minutes faster than Zeiger, she passed her and also Julie Gibbons, who had also been in the lead swim group.
“Honestly I felt like it was even harder this year. I think part of that is because the road is in a lot worse shape and there was a lot of resistance.”
The following weekend she island-hopped over to St. Kitts for the Olympic distance International Triathlon Union points series race. Susan also had plenty of experience with this race also, as it was her fourth time competing there. She felt that the competition wasn’t as stiff there, but another win was still very sweet.
Although she took plenty of rest time during the week before the race, she did get in a few workouts. “I did one quality run, like a tempo run, and then one longer bike, and a couple quality swim workouts before I left St. Croix.”
At 34, Susan recently left her job at Lockeed Martin after eight and a half years. She had been the rocket scientist triathlete for long enough. They had been very supportive of her six-year professional triathlon career over the years, but it was time for her to focus more on her daughter and one more shot at making the U.S. Olympic Team.
Just days before the Olympic Trials in 2000, she found out she was pregnant with her daughter and was forced to take it easy in the race. She aptly named her new baby Sydney.
“I was getting to the point where I had Sydney in daycare five days a week. Three of them I was working and two of them I was training. I wasn’t happy with that. I wanted some time to spend with her and still do the training. Here I was with three jobs: an engineer, a pro athlete, and a mom, and I got rid of the one that was the least fun. It was just too much. My heart wasn’t into it.”
The extra energy for training and family seems to be paying off.