Catching up with two-time Kona champ Tim DeBoom

He's the last American to win the Ironman World Championship and brought the title back to the US so fittingly in 2001, just weeks after 9/11. We catch up with Ironman legend Tim DeBoom about his career, his favorite races (Norseman, really?), family life and more.

| March 17, 2017 | PERSONALITY

Photo >Eric Wynn

TriathlonWorld.com: Your first win in Kona seemed even more special because of all the issues that were going on around 9/11 at the time - you won the race just weeks afterwards. Then you won again in 2002. Can you tell us a bit about what that process was like?

Tim DeBoom: Looking back I went from third place to second place to first place, then repeated again as first place and those four years were my “career years” and very pivotal to who I am and what I am going to be remembered for in the sport. Getting second place is what defined me for 364 days until I got to get on that start line again – I wasn’t always the most pleasant person to be around that year because I only had one thing on my mind and you get so close to something that you can taste it and then to not get it, but to come back the next year, with everything that was going on (around 9/11) made it that much sweeter.

You and Peter Reid were fierce rivals in Kona, but also really good friends. How did that dynamic work?

It’s funny, we were really good friends off the course and I think I expected that friendship to remain on the course the year I was third and he was second. I learned that year that there are no friends on the race course. I tried to be the same on the course as we were off the race course and he taught me real quick that on the race course we’re enemies, basically. I took that to heart. On the race course you’re there for yourself and you’re there to win.

Pete and I did one on one training together in the offseason and in our build up to Kona, but where that stopped was when we started to realize that we were using that against each other. Pete’s one of my good friends to this day and I was super-proud to see him inducted into the Hall of Fame.

Listen to the entire interview with Tim DeBoom on our TriathlonWorld.com podcast

Throughout your career you seemed to be very balanced and down to earth. How much of that can be attributed to your wife Nicole?

I know I wouldn’t have accomplished anything that I did without Nicole. She gave me a lot of perspective and a lot of stability in my life that helped ground me and give me the focus I needed to compete at that level. The fact that she was an amazing athlete herself and understood what it took, but didn’t want the same things for herself – she was more motivated by the short course racing than the long course racing. And now she knows that I need days all by myself in the mountains getting lost and I come back a different guy. It’s my grounding point. She’s so driven by her community, her business and her friends and getting her message out, so we’re a good balance for each other. Then you stick a kid (daughter Wilder) in between us and it makes us kind of perfect at this point.

Bob Babbitt talks about the amazing feeling all Ironman finishers have - that they have a "card" in their back pocket that they can pull out whenever things are tough because they got themselves through an Ironman. What's it like to have a "card" that says you're a two-time Kona champion?

It’s taken a long time to appreciate that I accomplished that. Now, being removed from the sport a little bit, doing some new adventures that have been humbling – teaching myself guiding, climbing, skiing where you’re back to square one – it’s nice to be able to look back and realize I was best in the world at one point. I’m probably not going to have that again. I’m not going to be the best in the world no matter what my next job is.

I’m actually proud to be able to say that I’m the only person who has been able to win Ironman (Kona) and Norseman. Because Norseman is up there, along with Kona, as my favorite race. They’re close. I had more fun at Norseman and it was more challenging, but that to me set the stage for the next stage in my life. That’s why I got into the sport of triathlon – I went into Norseman wondering if I could finish it.

Listen to the entire interview with Tim DeBoom on our TriathlonWorld.com podcast