The first time I met Nicole DeBoom was in the Skirt Sports booth at a retail show in Salt Lake City. I don't know what I expected from a champion triathlete, entrepreneur and CEO but 'chipper' didn't really come to mind. Her enthusiasm is contagious and I was immediately struck by her warmth and sincerity.
Hailing from the ‘burbs of Chicago, Nicole’s passion for fitness started at an early age when she qualified for the 1988 Olympic Swimming Trials in the 100m breaststroke at 16. She went on to swim varsity for Yale University and in 1999, Nicole made her professional triathlon debut. Over the next several years she raced around the country securing wins at major events in Boulder, Chicago and Memphis, and rocked three top-15 finishes at the legendary Hawaii Ironman World Championship.
In December 2003, Nicole was on a training run when her love for fitness, desire to feel feminine and entrepreneurial drive collided. After a run, she wrote the word “pretty” on a piece of plain yellow notebook paper, and the idea for Skirt Sports was born! In September 2004, Nicole raced on to victory at Ironman Wisconsin wearing the world’s first-ever women’s running skirt, and Skirt Sports was officially founded on September 15, 2004.
Recently, Nicole and her husband Tim, a two-time Hawaii Ironman World Champion, have been working on a new project together, parenthood. On December 30, 2011, they welcomed their daughter, Wilder Jette DeBoom into the world.
TriEdge: How were you introduced to the sport of triathlon?
Nicole DeBoom: I saw coverage of the 1982 Ironman when Julie Moss crawled to the finish line in dramatic style. Instead of thinking, "That's crazy," I said, "That is amazing. I want to do that race one day!"
TE: Has becoming a mom changed your perspective about triathlon? If so, how?
NDB: Yes, it sure has. The biggest change is that I feel absolutely no pressure to get back in shape fast and furious. I am taking my time, enjoying the daily grind. I think that when I can start training again, it will be more focused. Becoming a mom will actually force me to train smarter, not longer.
TE: What do you do like to do when you're not training?
NDB: It's always changing. Skirt Sports is my passion, so you will often find me doing market research, testing products, attending events and generally brainstorming! Tim and I also love to travel to the mountains. We envision living in a mountain town someday and raising our girl, Wilder, in the outdoors. Lately, I've been doing a ton of reading. I just finished "The Hunger Games" series and I'm now on book three of "Game of Thrones." Sad to say, I also watch some serious tv, with the surge of captivating cable series like "Shameless," "The Walking Dead," "Mad Men," and more, I get excited to hunker down and relax at night!
TE: What suggestions do you have for athletes looking to build mental toughness?
NDB: Some people are born with it. Others have to work on ways to develop mental toughness. I often think that it starts with an ability to get yourself in "the zone." If you've seen the movie, "For Love of the Game," Kevin Costner uses a phrase to tune out the thousands of distractions from the pitching mound. He says, "Clear the mechanism." He tunes out everything and develops a sort of tunnel vision. From his hand into the catcher's mitt. That's all that matters at the moment. When athletes need to dig deep, when they are feeling the pain, the number one step is to eliminate the distractions and take it step by step, breath by breath. You must practice your focus techniques in training so you can pull them out of your bag of tricks when you need them in a race.
TE: What was the motivation behind starting Skirt Sports?
NDB: I was racing professionally at the time that my inspiration struck. In a nutshell, I was uninspired by the existing apparel options for women athletes, most of which were very boring and not at all feminine. I had always found inspiration within the mantra, "When you look good, you feel good and when you feel good, you perform at your best." So, I decided to start a women's clothing company with a style that totally epitomized this mindset: a skirt for runners and triathletes. Fortunately, there were lots of other women who felt the same and our concept stuck! We're thriving 7 years later, and can proudly claim that we created a category with staying power!
And just for fun, a few short answers...
Favorite swim workout:
Masters practice because I don't have to think! My favorite sets always involve non-freestyle alternatives. I'm a true swimmer at heart and I love doing IM sets.
Go-to mantra when things get tough:
I count my strides. If I'm riding or swimming, I get into a rhythmic state with my breathing and let me body relax into the comfortable state of discomfort.
Favorite after race meal:
After a short-course race, give me a burger and milkshake! After an Ironman, it's all about the breakfast the next morning. I start with a doughnut and then dig into cheesy omelet and homefries with bacon. Salty and greasy!
Favorite race distance:
Olympic. LOVE IT!
Hill or sprint:
Hills all the way! Up and Down. Trails are even better!
All-time favorite race:
Running: Catalina Marathon and Vail ½ Marathon
Triathlon: IM Wisconsin (of course!), Wildflower ½ Ironman, Escape from Alcatraz (short course distance)
For more information about Skirt Sports, go to: www.skirtsports.com