Nicole DeBoom Wins IRONMAN Wisconsin
Interview by Kristen McFarland
ISSUE #25, Winter 2004/2005 – Kristen McFarland sat down to talk with Nicole DeBoom, who recently won her first IRONMAN race. DeBoom discusses her day at IRONMAN Wisconsin.
Kristen McFarland: When you last raced in Hawaii at the IRONMAN World Championship, you said you probably would never do an Ironmnan again. So what changed your mind?
Nicole DeBoom: When they [IRONMAN North America] first announced Wisconsin as a race a few years ago I thought it would be a really good venue for a race like that. So the seed was sort of planted in my mind that it might be fun to go do that race at some point. Well, after that I decided to never do an IRONMAN again, but I learned to never say never.
Because when I went with Tim to Germany last summer and he did his IRONMAN, I guess subconsciously the challenge started to brew again. When we returned from that race, I was not very inspired by the race schedule I had set out for myself. I just decided this [racing IRONMAN Wisconsin] sounded better to me, and that I had just enough time to prepare. I was kind of up for the challenge. That’s when the decision was made. It was about eight weeks before the race.
KM: So you had been training for short distance all year and you decided to do a long race with only eight weeks to train. Were you nervous at all about the preparation time?
ND: I wasn’t that nervous because I had done half IRONMANs earlier in the year, so I had some longer base training in my legs and I continued to do longer rides here and there throughout the year. I felt pretty fit. So the only thing I was worried about was running a marathon. I hadn’t run that long in a while.
KM: When you got to Wisconsin what were your expectations?
ND: The field was filled with quite a few women who, sort of like me, were dark horses. I think many of us were in the same boat. We had potential. None of us had ever won an IRONMAN, but if any of us had a really great day we could have won an IRONMAN. Andrea Fisher. Isabelle Gagnon, who had shown some greatness in Hawaii with a top ten finish. I would never count out Lauren Jensen. Not too many years ago she came to Ralph’s and flew in her first half IRONMAN ever.
My expectations? I definitely didn’t go in expecting to win. I went in with more confidence in my running than I’d ever probably had for an IRONMAN. My run had finally come around last season, consistently fast in every race. So I went in with a very conservative attitude: Don’t blow up on the bike, which I always do in Hawaii, or had always done in Hawaii in the past.
KM: OK, let’s talk about the race itself. How was your swim?
ND: The swim was great, surprisingly great. Actually, I was in the lead group in the swim, which was pretty much where I expected to be. But half way through some guy I was swimming behind lost his position and I suddenly realized there was a very big gap between us and the people in front. Normally in a swim you don’t catch people, you kind of just get in a group and that’s where you stay. But I felt fine, so I just decided I was going to catch them. So I did. I was sort of proud of that because I never got out of my zone. I got a little bit warm, but I never got anaerobic… But I caught them fast enough and then that dude, of course, stayed on my feet and passed me when I caught everyone else. I dragged him back up to the group, the leaders.
Transition took me a little longer than Andrea [Fisher], so she had a gap on me right away. And she pretty much maintained that gap and pulled away a little bit more throughout the bike. The bike was hard. I was not that happy on the bike. I’d say about halfway through I was fighting the negative feelings. I had to make sure I was eating and getting my gels and hydrating.
About a third of the way through Isabelle Gagnon caught me… It was before the special needs bags. We kind of rode together. She was within site. Then I got my special needs bag but she didn’t. And I needed it because it had an oatmeal cream pie and I was really hungry.
KM: A Little Debbie?! You should get a sponsorship!
ND: I needed that at that moment. But as I got my special needs bag it was a bit windy and she took off, she dropped me. I didn’t see her again on the bike. Apparently she may have even caught Andrea. I don’t know, but they continued to put time on me. They were at least five minutes up on the bike.
I was trying to spin, to get myself mentally and physically ready for the run. But I got a surprise… You know we’re rolling home on those hills, and just before I got to transition an age group woman went by me. It turns out that she’s an amazing cyclist, but it’s not such a good sign to be caught by an age grouper. So I came off the bike in fourth place, behind an age grouper named Carol something. Then right into transition Lauren Jensen ran in right behind me. So there were three women in transition right behind me: [the eventual] second third and fourth place.
KM: You seemed worried about Lauren.
ND: I definitely thought she could pull something together if she was having a good day. So the fact that she was right there did not ease my mind by any means. But I came out of transition and I felt fine. So I just started going. About a mile down the road Carol, the age grouper, was pulled over sick. The other women were about five minutes ahead of me, and Lauren was behind me. My gap on Lauren was growing and my gap behind the other girls was shrinking and I started plugging away. I actually don’t know when I caught Isabelle, but she was walking in the run early on. But Andrea was on the first lap. I would say it was probably about nine or ten miles into the run that I caught Andrea. She didn’t seem like she was doing very well. I just ran by her and that was it, I took the lead. In a way I was a little nervous because I still had sixteen miles at least, and that’s a long time to hang on… It never feels good to just die out there and be worried about people coming up on you.
KM: Did that happen?
ND: It got progressively worse. What else do you expect [laughs]? The first half of the run I was on a 3:15 or 3:20 pace, which I would have been really happy with. The second half was rough. I had a couple of bathroom stops as many people do, and I felt like I was just trudging along at some points. I didn’t walk at all, but apparently my pace slowed down a lot because I finished in just over 3:30.
KM: You said earlier that you had thought the venue would be appealing. How did you end up liking the course?
ND: Wisconsin was really the best venue I’ve ever done for an IRONMAN. I’ve only done California and Hawaii though… I have watched other IRONMANs: Germany, Austria, Coeur d’Alene. They’re all amazing, but something about Wisconsin. I think it’s the college crowd and the town. Mid-westerners are friendly [Nicole grew up in a Chicago suburb], and the town has really embraced the race… There was one angry farmer who was taking up the road. We had to go around him. The course was really hard. I would characterize that bike course as relentless. It was just up and down. You’re never steady. I was in my easiest gear many times, which was a 25. It was conducive to cramping, and you had to stay focused. The run was rolling. I loved the run because it had hills in it, which I like. Basically it was a tough course, not a fast course.
KM: So you won your first IRONMAN. Is this going to inspire you to do more?
ND: I’m not sure if inspired is the right word. Because it was a tough day, it wasn’t like it was an easy day and I feel as if I could just jump right back out there and have another great result. But, like I said before, you never say never. And right now in my plans I do have Hawaii listed as my final race for this year.