By Tim DeBoom
Dread is probably not the appropriate word. It’s more of an amused resignation. Since the beginning of time (or for as long as I’ve raced pro), I have yet to experience an interview, sit on a pro-panel or complete a Q&A at a club meeting that has not included certain inevitable, predictable questions.
Let’s just say that I could probably drop off an answer sheet ahead of time, but what fun would that be? The masses have spoken, not once but many times. You all want to know the same information, so here are my definitive answers to several of the most common queries I’ve received over the years. The first is by far the most overused question in the sport, and I’m sure almost every other professional triathlete will back me up on this one.
What is your typical training week?
As a professional, who has always been self-coached, I take pride in my daily, monthly and yearly plans. I like a little bit of routine, but I always emphasize that every single week, throughout the entire year, is unique. There is a base season, a pre-race build season, the true race season and the Kona season. I constantly evaluate how I feel and how my body is responding to my training.
This vague answer generally doesn’t satisfy the crowd, so when pushed for a more concrete answer, I say that I usually swim six days, ride six days, and run six days each week. In addition, I lift weights consistently all year, work on my stretching and get a weekly massage. I try to complete at least one speed session even during base time but the level of speed varies. And yes, after 14 years, I am also adding a complete day of rest each week. I’ve heard that can be good for me.
I am sure most of my peers would answer similarly. Thus, my typical training week will probably never provide any great insights into the world of winning races. I train hard, rest harder and have some good genetics to help along the way. The next question is a staple at every appearance. It is easy to answer, but someone is bound to disagree with me every time.
What is your race-day nutrition like at Ironman?
I believe most athletes make nutrition a much bigger dilemma than it needs to be. The same products are available on the course at almost all Ironman races, even those held overseas. I am lucky that PowerBar, a sponsor of mine, happens to be a global partner with Ironman, and I sincerely love the product. However, I would train and race with the product on the course even if the company were not my sponsor. It makes things that much easier on race day. I know I would not want to carry an entire day’s worth of alternative nutrition out there.
People complain that a certain product does not work for them. My advice in that situation is to do anything possible to make it work. I recommend developing a “steel gut.” Basically, train yourself to handle anything. That way you can always get something down on race day. This also makes for some very fun long training days when the only thing available on the road is gas station food.
The complaint I hear the most after races is, “I was throwing up all day and couldn’t keep anything down.” Believe me, I’ve been there too, but I learned quickly that it was not caused by the food. It was the effort. I was going too hard. I had never thrown up during training, so why on race day? I was a little overzealous with my pacing. Next time you are having trouble keeping anything down, just slow the pace slightly, sip a little water and let your body adjust. I’m sorry to say there are no magic bullets when it comes to nutrition on race day. It is all about fueling the body. Most companies have scientific research to back up their products, but I still highly recommend using what is on the course. An Ironman is really a long, catered training day. Take advantage of it. The next question used to got me fired up, but now it usually makes me laugh. However, it does imply a lack of respect for some of our efforts out there as professional triathletes. Keep that in mind the next time you raise your hand to ask this one.
How much time do you think you can “give” the great cyclists during the bike and still have a chance to run them down?
If anyone thinks I, or any other athlete, is just “giving” this time away and letting them go, they are really mistaken. It is not as though I watch Normann ride away, give him a few minutes or 20, then pick it up and keep him in check. It’s kind of an insult to Normann to suggest that we could all just ride with him, but it would hurt our run. I am not sure I could ever ride with Normann or Torbjorn [Sindballe] when they are “on”, even if I did not have to run afterwards.
The bottom line is that I train myself to be the first to the finish line in the race. I have always thought Ironman is won on the bike because you have to be strong enough on the bike to get off and then run fast enough to win. The win goes to the strongest athlete on that day. Yes, there are strategies involved, but riding with the super cyclists is usually not even an option, just like running with me would not be an option for them.
The last question is a great one, and my answer will never change.
What is it like to run down Ali’i Drive in first place?
Are you kidding me? It is the greatest feeling you can imagine multiplied by a million. In triathlon, and all sports for that matter, accomplishing the pinnacle of your dreams is one of the most amazing experiences you can ever have. The finish line of the Hawaii Ironman is hallowed ground and sacred to me. It is a huge part of my life and will undoubtedly be prominent in my memory forever. Maybe the only thing better was winning it a second year in a row. While the first year was filled with such newness and shock, the second time around I felt true appreciation. The only thing that could top both would be to add another title this year.
I hope you all never stop asking this one. Reminiscing certainly does not get old. Honestly, I always enjoy doing interviews and giving talks. Each one is unique in its own way. I feel that I have earned a PhD in triathlon, and I am happy to share my opinions whether you like my answers or not.