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Kona Confidential

  • By Holly Bennett
  • Published Feb 22, 2012
Photo: Nils Nilsen


Tim O’Donnell & Tim DeBoom
The Americans

America’s next great Hawaii Ironman hopeful, in his rookie Kona season, gets advice from the last American to win (2001 and 2002).

Tim O’Donnell: Nutrition was my biggest concern going into Ironman Texas [May 2011, O’Donnell’s first ever Ironman], and I think it will be my biggest concern going into Kona with the heat.

Tim DeBoom: My main focus was always to create a strong stomach to be able to handle anything that’s out there.

TO: I read that Peter Reid [three-time Kona champion] would eat a big plate of nachos before a run. Would you do that kind of stuff?

TD: Oh yeah. I’d go out for my second run of the day, shove a huge peanut butter and jelly sandwich in on my way out the door, just to get used to having that much food in my stomach. If you can get through that, then you pretty much know you can handle anything. I don’t think I’ve ever done an Ironman where I haven’t thrown up, or where I haven’t thought: Oh god, here comes a cramp.

TO: What’s the biggest difference I need to look out for in Kona?

TD: The hype leading into it. Turn your Internet off once you get over there. Watch bad movies or bad TV. Don’t read anything. Focus on yourself. And think of the word “strong.” Strong on the bike and the run—more than fast. I’d go do Austria or Frankfurt, and that was fast. Man, we were flying! But Kona—it was always just strong. Mentally strong and physically strong.

TD: I think the men would have broken eight hours by now if we paced it better. … I always preach to myself when I’m starting a run, even if I feel great: Hold back. Just hold back.

TO: That was the one thing in Texas—I felt fine at the beginning of the run.

TD: You usually do. If you’re trained right, you should.

TO: My heart rate wasn’t up, I wasn’t breathing hard. But then all of a sudden, at 18, 19 miles, the brakes went on.

TD: When you start the run, hold yourself back. A six-minute pace should feel pretty easy to run, compared to what you’re used to, but that’s a 2:36 marathon. People don’t do that in Hawaii. So run 6:30s. Pull back and then slowly build into it. I ran 2:43 there, and I started at a seven-minute pace.

TO: In terms of the pressure, it’s kind of the flip side for me, going in with Rinny as the defending champ. I should maybe ask Nicole [DeBoom, Tim’s wife and former pro] this, but what’s that vibe like? It’s going to be a circus around her.

TD: The best thing you can do is step aside and take care of yourself. As much as you’ll want to be there for her, you can do that back in your condo. On the outside, you need to take care of yourself. You’ve got to hold that energy of your own the whole time you’re in Kona. If you’re giving it out, if you’re walking around the expo shaking hands, all that stuff—you’re giving away energy. If you’re thinking about your competition too much, you’re giving away energy. You’ve got to just hold onto that for yourself.

TO: I remember you said before Texas, “It’s your first one, just have fun.” I guess it’s the same with your first Kona.

TD: Exactly. Have fun with it. Nicole taught me that. She’d say, “Just smile. If you’re feeling rough, smile.” It makes everything better. I had a shitty race last year, but I smiled a lot more than I ever have over there. That’s what made it a worthwhile day. Every picture you see of Macca he’s out there smiling away, grinning ear to ear. So there’s got to be something to that. Just have fun with it. And it will change you. You’ll want to do it again.

Read the complete conversation between Tim O’Donnell and Tim DeBoom.

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