Tim DeBoom Wins the 2001 IRONMAN World Championship
Story and Photos by Kristen McFarland
ISSUE #13, October/November 2001 –
This year the field was deep at IRONMAN Hawaii, very deep. There were probably a dozen athletes who could have won the race and a few who had before. But the time had come for the patient Tim DeBoom. It was his ninth time here, and his seventh year as a pro. Five days before the race he was nervous. He had never felt this good before Hawaii. Had he tapered too much? Had he peaked too early? But at 5:45 on Saturday morning he showed up to a hotel room near the pier and not a bit of nervousness showed as he plopped down on the floor, smile on his face, to stretch out before heading down to the start. When the lead swimmers had disappeared into the distance the announcer on the loudspeaker took a break from his commentary and put on some music. It was Sting, one of Tim’s favorite artists, singing “Brand New Day”. It was a good sign. This day was going to be his.
It wasn’t going to be easy, though. The winds out on the lava fields of the Queen K highway are famous, but they were steady and unrelenting this year and caused many to give up the fight before the run even started. The course was new and different this year, too, and started with a slow climb up Kuakini Highway to the southeast before turning north onto the Queen K. This spread out the athletes more than before, but also delayed when the competitors would get out into the wind. In the past a few of the fastest pros could sometimes beat the wind a little, but not anymore. The short time difference with the new course prevented anyone from avoiding it.
Tim didn’t go off the front this year like he had two years ago. He stayed up towards the front with most of the expected leaders, including brother Tony. An early drafting penalty threatened his confidence, though.
“It’s quite a struggle on the bike to get through it and basically know you’re three minutes behind everybody you’re riding with,” he said afterwards.
One of the big unknown quantities in this race was former national mountain biking champion Steve Larsen, who won the first IRONMAN distance race he ever tried in Lake Placid this summer. Some were predicting that he would take the lead on the bike by the turn around at Hawi, but he was too far back after the swim for that. Take the lead he did, though, around Waikoloa on the way back. Tim, Peter Reid, Normann Stadler, and Thomas Hellriegel were the only ones who could even attempt to go with him, but he steadily pulled away and got to T2 five minutes ahead of all of them. Tim was second into transition but had to wait for three minutes due to the drafting penalty.
Once on the run he picked off Norman and Thomas pretty quickly, and Peter was fading and would shortly quit the race. All that was left was Steve Larsen. Larsen had given his legs to Queen K, though, and kept slowing as Tim picked up the pace. Before the Energy Lab Tim had the lead and was so focused he never really even knew how far ahead he had gone until after he finished the race and was waiting for second place Cameron Brown of New Zealand to cross the line. His 2:45:54 marathon brought him in with a fifteen minute margin, two and a half miles ahead of the rest.
DeBoom enjoyed the new ride and run course because he felt like the spectators gave him a big boost and you passed more of them with this new route. In this year of so much pro-American sentiment, the crowd was really with him.
“Today was just unbelievable in terms of the support out there. Everywhere I looked it wasn’t ‘Go Tim’ it was ‘Go USA.’ I even felt like some of the foreign athletes and fans were cheering for the USA.'” Thomas Hellriegel of Germany even crossed the finish line with an American flag.
The second American finisher was Boulder’s consistent Cam Widoff, finishing his 11th Hawaii IRONMAN and third top ten finish. He gave it everything he had on the run, collapsed at the finish line, and was carried off by the medical crew.
Nicole DeBoom was Colorado’s top female finisher in 13th place. When Mark Allen won the IRONMAN for the first time, his wife Julie Moss stopped racing to greet him at the finish line, and Nicole wanted to do the same. But she finally decided she should probably go ahead and finish, too. tim would want her to.
Last year’s amateur champion Tim Luchinske of Boulder had a very impressive professional debut this year with a sixteenth place finish.
A newcomer to the IRONMAN fray was former Olympian Ryan Bolton, also of Boulder. He had a rough swim, getting kicked in the eye and doing the backstroke a couple of times just to get recentered. The slower swim brought him to the bike leg in the midst of a lot of traffic and he found himself buried amongst the top women and age group men. He got a “failure to drop back” penalty call going up Kuakini. Dealing with all of the congestion was challenging. He struggled in the wind on the bike all day.
Ryan’s strength is his run, though, and he warmed into a pace that would have him pass over a hundred people before his 30th place finish. His run split was second only to that of Tim DeBoom.
“I was psyched,” he said of his first Hawaii IRONMAN. “Obviously the race didn’t go optimally, but it probably never does. It was a good learning experience, and ultimately my goal was to cross the finish line feeling good. It gives me a perspective about what it’s going to be like. I wasn’t like my normal self out there but its necessary to go through the motions.”
Triathlon writer Dan Empfield has great hopes for Ryan in the future. “Three years from now the Hawaii IRONMAN will come down to the final miles, and the dual for the win will be between Ryan Bolton and Rasmus Henning (another great runner),” he said.
The top age group finisher from Colorado was Dr. Chris Peeters of Colorado Springs, who finished with a 9:54:38 in 79th place.
The parade of DNFs
The strong winds and even stronger competition took a very heavy toll on the pro field this year. Former champions and top contenders either couldn’t even finish the bike or couldn’t run after they had. Defending champion Peter Reid went down. Luc Van Lierde couldn’t go on the run either. Previous top ten finishers like Olympian Joanna Zeiger, German powerhouse cyclist Jugen Zack and Briton Spencer Smith dropped out. Local favorites Dave Scott and Tony DeBoom DNFed, too. Hoping for his first top ten finish in Kona this year, Tony struggled with back pain and nausea and quit about mile 14 on the run. Dave gave up on the bike around Hawi. It was a very tough year.
Top Ten Men
1. Tim DeBoom (USA), 8:31:18
2. Cameron Brown (NZL), 8:46:10
3. Thomas Hellriegel (GER), 8:47:40
4. Normann Stadler (GER), 8:49:43
5. Lothar Leder (GER), 8:49:49
6. Marc Herremans (GER), 8:51:19
7. Andreas Niedrig (GER), 8:53:00
8. Carmeron Widoff (USA), 8:55:33
9. Steve Larsen (USA), 8:56:28
10. Chrisoph Mauch (SWI), 8:57:30
Top Ten Women
1. Natascha Badmann (SWI), 9:28:37
2. Lori Bowden (CAN), 9:32:59
3. Nina Kraft (GER), 9:41:01
4. Paula Newby-Fraser (USA), 9:41:35
5. Karen Smyers (USA), 9:48:34
6. Fernanda Keller (BRA), 9:51:20
7. Wendy Ingraham (USA), 9:57:33
8. Gina Kehr (USA), 9:57:36
9. Heather Fuhr (CAN), 10:00:58
10. Jill Savege (CAN), 10:03:30