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The two-time Ironman world champion (and Triathlete contributor) opens up about balance, body image and the things that matter most.
Triathlete: The recent Boulder fire came uncomfortably close to your house. If you were in a situation where you knew your home would be destroyed, but you had time to save five items, what would they be?
DeBoom: Nicole and I actually talked about that. We were in California during the fire, and people called to see if there was anything we wanted, but nothing stood out. I had Nicole with me; I had my wedding ring with me. Otherwise, there are definitely some photos of our history together that are pretty important, so that’s something I would grab. Also a lockbox with important documents and, of course, my dog. I might grab my computer and maybe a frame that I won Kona with, but otherwise everything’s replaceable. I’m not very materialistic, so nothing else is that vital.
Triathlete: What are a few of your best-and worst-memories from your Kona victories?
DeBoom: Of course it was a dream come true, winning one and then another, back-to-back. But I also look back and see a lot more bad than good, meaning I didn’t appreciate it enough at the time. I remember crossing the finish line and immediately looking toward the next year rather than absorbing that first victory. Also the amount of strain each year-the strain emotionally on me and the strain on my relationship with my wife-the whole year of my life revolved around that race. I feel much more balanced now, and I think I would have raced even better if I had been more balanced then. It’s not the be-all and end-all of life. It’s a career goal and an accomplishment, even a career maker, and I certainly have a goal of getting back to that top spot.
Triathlete: For a while there, you were described as fairly reclusive. More recently, you’ve been talked about as more relaxed, more open. But forget everyone else’s perception of you. If you were writing a personals ad, what would your intro paragraph say?
DeBoom: It would say I’m pretty relaxed and quiet. I keep a lot inside. I’m not one to put it all out there. But I am definitely open to meeting new people. I didn’t used to be at all. I never wanted to know much of what was going on around me. I really kept to myself, conserving every bit of energy for myself, Nicole and the people closest to me. But now I really enjoy interacting with all sorts of new people. Obviously, if you’re not naturally like that, you have to go through something to bring that out. Everything that’s happened in the past few years-career-wise and personally-has gotten me to this point. I’m really enjoying everything much more. I don’t keep my cards as close as I once did.
Triathlete: As a world-class athlete, you’re obviously supremely fit. But you must have some body image hang-ups. Do you ever think you’re fat? Or maybe too skinny?
DeBoom: In college I went through eating issues like a lot of people. Even as an athlete, I wondered if I should lose some weight. But that goes out the door pretty quickly when you get to the level where I am now and you want to be successful. You realize if you don’t eat enough, you’re not going to get through your workouts. My big thing right now is trying to eat enough. Whenever I’m not training I’m trying to eat. I’ve never cared at all how I looked; it’s always been performance-oriented. I’ll lift weights and I’ll think about how I need to get more strength in my legs. I’ll stand next to Normann and think, “God, his legs are twice the size of mine!”
Triathlete: Of all the competitors you’ve known over the years-guys who are currently racing or retired-who would you most like to duke it out with in Kona in 2009?
DeBoom: I’ve been trying to get Pete Reid back in the game this year! He’s been such a great friend and influence, a partner almost, so it would be fun to have him back. If Pete and I could have another duel, even if it was just for a top-five finish-to have it come down to the run again would be cool.
Triathlete: If you could be famous for something besides triathlon, what would you choose?
DeBoom: I’d like to win a Pulitzer for writing. To write something monumental that could touch a lot of people would be a pretty cool accomplishment.
Triathlete: Let’s wrap up with some word association. I’ll give you a word or phrase; you tell me the first thing that comes to mind.
Triathlete: White cycling shorts. DeBoom: Bad news.
Triathlete: Compression socks. DeBoom: Bad news again. We’re bad enough running around in our Speedos out there; we don’t need to add knee-high socks. I don’t care if they work or not.
Triathlete: Kidney stone. DeBoom: Fluke.
Triathlete: Retirement. Deboom: I will never use that word.
Triathlete: Real job. DeBoom: No fun for me. Probably won’t happen.
Triathlete: Third time’s a charm. DeBoom: Yeah. I think that would be good for me. Third time would be destiny.
Holly Bennett is a freelance writer and marketing professional in the multisport industry. She was introduced to triathlon in her late 20s, and after cheering raucously from the sidelines for an entire season, boredom got the best of her and she took the plunge-straight into her first swim start, where she immediately hyperventilated. Now, with three Ironman finishes and more than 10 years of racing to her credit, she shamelessly proclaims herself a veteran triathlete.