Four Wins, Ten Top-Four Finishes for 2003
By Kristen McFarland
Photos by Courtney Johnson
ISSUE #22, Winter 2003/2004 – Nicole DeBoom started out her racing season early, as in “still winter” early. February brought her to Brazil and the Santos International Triathlon. “That was an out of shape race,” she recalled, chuckling. “Any time, I figure, that you get a chance to go to a fun place like that, where you’ve never been, and at least break even, you should.” Out of shape or not, she came in fourth at the non-drafting Olympic distance race, a good beginning to a very good year.
A couple more months of training and she was more race-ready and competed along side husband Tim at Ralph’s Half Ironman California. “I led the bike until maybe about mile 40, so it was DeBoom and DeBoom leading.” She faded some in the middle of the run and then rallied for a strong third place finish behind Heather Fuhr and Andrea Fisher.
“And then I did Wildflower, my first ever flat [tire in a race].”
And only a quarter mile out of the transition. In a race that many called the worst weather that they had ever raced in, she was trying to change a flat in pouring rain with cold wet hands and had quite a bit of trouble. After having been second out of the water it was very frustrating.
“As I’m out there all these women are zooming by, women that I beat out of the water by five or six minutes.”
The conditions were compounded by the fact that it had been raining like that all week long. She and Tim were staying in a trailer with Roch Frey (her coach) and Heather Fuhr. Roch had brought a wind trainer, so they were trying to stay ready to race with that. It was better than being huddled in tents like most of the poor souls that week.
The run has traditionally been a trail run at Wildflower, but race day morning came and it was announced that the trails were washed out and the course was being changed.
“It was a harder run, even though it was already a super hard run there.”
Very steep ups and downs, and on pavement. Despite all the trials of the day, she put in a solid 1:30 half marathon run and finished eighth in a competitive field.
Double DeBoom Win in Memphis
Nicole and Tim DeBoom also raced together at the Memphis in May Triathlon. She had never raced it before, but it was the second triathlon of Tim’s life back in 1992. Even so, it was her idea to do it.
“What I’ve been wanting to do every year is to do all of the races that sound fun and different and appealing in our sport. So I’ve been hitting them off every year.”
Memphis has a time trial staggered start format. She and Tim both won, the first time that they had won a triathlon together. (In July they would win together again at the Vail Half Marathon, a unique course that pretty much climbs straight up the ski hill to 11,000 feet.)
Nicole then went out to San Francisco for Escape from Alcatraz with high expectations.
“The first year I did Alcatraz it was a blast. I surprised myself and got third in a world-class field. I beat Barb [Lindquist] and I beat Laura Reback and some other big names.”
So she was hoping to do even better.
In the rough waters of the bay she took a slightly different swim course line than the leading women, though, and that set her back four minutes from the group. Her swim time was ten minutes slower than the previous year’s. She was out of contention for the win quickly, but stayed strong and pushed hard for fourth place.
“The thing about that race is it’s a great experience. I’d recommend it to everyone before they’re done racing. It’s a spectacle. It’s not just a race. You have to get up at four in the morning and there’s a lot to do before you even hit the water. You have to get to the transition and then you take a bus to the ferry. It’s kind of crazy.”
The 1.5 mile rough swim, 18 mile hilly bike, and 8 mile run distances were originally chosen to make the athlete spend roughly the same amount of time in each portion of the race.
Nicole’s splits were 36:14/54:28/50:51 for a total of 2:27:03 (the first transition is long and includes a short run on a sandy beach).
The Shawnee Mission Triathlon in Kansas is a race that asks a well-known pro to come and speak to the athletes before the race each year. After the general pre-race meeting she spoke to the whole group of participants and then had a question and answer session.
“They were a great audience. They were totally fun. I did kind of the general ‘how I got where I am’ speech and then I did get a ton of question-and-answer stuff.”
They set up the shorter than Olympic distance race so she might be able to beat all of the men, but Rick Rosencranz showed up and managed to beat her. (Rick has worked for USAT for years, formerly in Colorado Springs but now at the National Training Center in Clermont, Florida.)
The DeBoom Family Title
The Lifetime Fitness Triathlon in Minnesota was also set up with a handicapped women’s start to try to get a woman to “win.” The pro women started just under ten minutes ahead of the men and there was a big bonus for whoever crossed the line first.
The $250,000 winner’s prize was the biggest in triathlon history. The event was also the most quickly broadcast race in U.S. history, airing only a couple of hours post-race. (Boulder’s Wes Hobson and Siri Lindley commentated).
An invitation-only race, Nicole and both Tim and Tony DeBoom were there. She came in seventh and neither Tim nor Tony beat her to the finish line. Even though she took only home seven thousand in prize money instead of a quarter million, she got to claim the DeBoom family title at the race.
Three-peat at Boulder Peak
A prestigious race and one of the older races in the country, Boulder Peak draws a strong field. Nicole continued to dominate at her home race, winning for the third year in a row.
“It’s interesting. Every year it’s been the exact same scenario.”
She comes out of the water a little bit behind the leader and then by the time she gets to Old Stage Road she has passed everyone on the bike and has to ride alone. And she is ahead of all the men, too, because the women start first.
“So I’m just kind of riding along with no splits and its okay if you’re feeling strong, but it’s a hard race and I never feel that good that day, because I never peak for that race. It’s a backyard race, you kind of have to use it as training.”
Three Weekends, Three Big City Races
The grand finale of Nicole’s season was to race the three big urban races, three weekends in a row in late August and the first weekend in September. The Chicago Accenture Triathlon (formerly Ms. T’s), the Boston Monster Challenge, then the Los Angeles Triathlon had her crisscrossing the continent.
“I’ve never done that before. It was like a test for me. I’ve always wondered, will I get better every week? At what point will I know that I’m ‘going down the other side of the mountain’?”
Her coach, Roch Frey, helped her figure out the weekly plan. She decided to get through each race one at a time and skip the next one if she felt she had to.
Starting with Chicago, she raced to a second place finish behind powerhouse Barb Lindquist.
“It was probably my strongest race of the year, solid all the way through, across the board.”
The next weekend she raced in her only ITU points race of the whole year. The Boston Monster Challenge is very interesting in that it is set up with the transition area inside the Boston World Trade Center, so the athletes ride in and out of a large opening on either side of the building at the harbor where the swim takes place.
She swam with the leaders so was in the lead pack on the bike in this draft-legal race. She had intentions of trying to break away but after a while realized that it would be too hard and perhaps unsuccessful.
“A couple times I would just push the pace a little bit and realize that they were having trouble keeping up but I also realized that I couldn’t continue to push the pace that hard.”
The three lead women got off the bike together and it was a running race at that point, and a flat one.
“That run was the flattest run I have ever done. It was out and back six times.”
For the second week in a row she would have to settle for second.
“Halfway through L.A. I knew I was done.”
She felt good in the water at the start of this third big race and took off very fast on the bike, maybe too fast.
“Everything started to fall apart.”
Becky Gibbs passed her at the end of the bike and started the run only about thirty seconds ahead. Yet another second place finish went into her record book.
Fun in the Hamptons
Nicole wrapped up the season with an easy win in the Mighty Hamptons Triathlon on Long Island. Her lead sponsor, Tyr, sponsors the race, and invited her to compete, attend some Tyr functions, and stay at the owner’s home.
“The two races that were the most fun were my invitation races, Shawnee Mission and the Hamptons, because they made it fun.”