By Lynn DeBruin
August 22, 2010 (Longmont, CO) – Never mind that it was her first triathlon in five years. Nicole DeBoom, 38, is back, and in a big way. The former Wisconsin Ironman champ and Boulder entrepreneur shattered the course record at the Outdoor Divas Sprint Triathlon.
She finished the half-mile swim, 12-mile bike ride and 3.1-mile run in 1 hour 2 minutes 56 seconds—more than three minutes ahead of runner-up Jessi Stensland, 34, (1:06:32). DeBoom and Stensland afterward shared a hug along with memories of their days when they competed professionally.
Christiana Glenn, 24, Lafayette, took third (1:06:45).
“I knew it was going to be a great day no matter what,” said Stensland, who like DeBoom took a break from pro competition to start her own business. “But I mean she just smashed me. I’ve been training a little bit, but she’s just awesome.”
DeBoom lowered the boom in the swim portion, her specialty at Yale some 20 years ago, getting out of Union Lake in 10:57. She was second-fastest in both the bike and run, and still had enough energy to cheer on seven of her employees.
Corie French, in charge of customer care at DeBoom’s Skirt Sports enterprise in Boulder, went to her boss with a proposal earlier this summer. “I came up with the idea a few months ago to get the whole bunch together, to train and do a tri together,” said French, 34, Denver (1:50:15).
While the group of eight—including three first-timers—trained twice a week together, French wasn’t sure what her time-crunched boss was doing on other days.
“When she crossed the finish line, she said, ‘I did okay.’ That’s Nicole for you,” said French, awed by the performance. “But she was definitely excited.”
DeBoom said it was a different adrenaline rush than when she competed as a pro and won the Boulder Peak Triathlon numerous times as well as the 2004 Wisconsin Ironman.
“It’s different now than when I used to race more seriously—not that this isn’t serious. I took it seriously and trained for it, but I didn’t try to pull all the little tricks out of my hat. It was like, ‘Let’s get in the water, have some fun.’ It was just a really great workout.”
DeBoom launched Skirt Sports in 2005 after having an epiphany during a 2004 training session. She wanted to find clothing that was cute and made her feel good working out.
“I guess I operated under the mantra, if you look good, you feel good and perform better,” she said.
Now, after starting with two hand-sewn skirt prototypes for triathletes, she has more than 50 styles of skirts, outerwear and accessories, carried in 400-plus retail stores, with distribution centers in Australia and Canada as well.
The business was like having a child, she admitted, cutting heavily into her training and prompting her to end her pro career. But she didn’t feel right entering triathlons as an amateur in what she called “that gray area” immediately following her pro career.
“I wanted to tackle new things, so I ran four marathons, did Masters swimming, got back to my roots,” said DeBoom, whose husband, Tim, is a two-time Ironman World Ironman Champion set to compete again in Hawaii this year.
“I decided I wasn’t going to do a workout again that I didn’t want to do because it wasn’t my job. I came back for this race because my staff challenged me.”
One of her employees, Maggie Kelly, went on to finish tenth overall and win her age group (40-44) in a time of 1:11:44—cheered down the stretch by DeBoom.
Stensland, meanwhile, figured it was her last shot to beat DeBoom—though DeBoom insists Stensland had honors once in Chicago.
“I saw her for about the first four strokes of the swim,” said Stensland, who a year ago launched Movement U as a way to educate athletes on how to reach better performance. She will go on a cross-country educational tour this fall.
“Then I saw her as I left the transition on bike, ” said Stensland. “It was the only straight stretch we had and I saw this little green blip.”
That pink-and-green bundle of energy will next serve as Master of Ceremonies at the Skirt Chaser 5K in Cherry Creek (August 28), an event she created in 2007. DeBoom is also considering the Boulder Half-Marathon (September 19) and another in Florida while taking Skirt Sports to a new level with a series of industry trade shows.
As with her business, DeBoom says, “You gotta be flexible because things will never go as planned.” Yet for this race, her plan was flawless.