Nicole DeBoom was a swimming natural from age 5, an Olympic hopeful, half of a professional triathlon power couple, and a champion triathlete in her own right. After inspiration struck at the height of her triathlon career, she left it all behind to start a business, inspire women, and build a community. Now, 15 years on, she’s sold the business, started again and continues to support women, tell stories and create community.
Nicole is a ball of joyful energy, offering fantastic advice based on her own experiences of being an athlete, an entrepreneur, and a storyteller.
Nicole is @nicoledeboom on Instagram and Facebook
She has 3 podcasts:
- Run This World with Nicole DeBoom
- She Runs It with Sarah Ratzlaff
- Aesop Nation- for more info about the race report option mentioned on the podcast, go here: https://aesopnation.com/pricing-detail/p/race-report and use the code thesecondchapter20 for your 20% discount!
For other things we mentioned on the podcast:
- Real Fit podcast with Pam Moore: Listen on Apple Podcasts: https://podcasts.apple.com/gb/podcast/real-fit/id1558691679
- For more on Blue Zones and longevity: https://www.bluezones.com/live-longer-better/
- For more on Ross “It Doesn’t Have to Be Fun To Be Fun” Galitsky: https://www.trilife.org/the-trilife-way-of-coaching/coaching-staff
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- Twitter: @slacklineprodu2,
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On The Second Chapter, serial careerist and founder of Slackline Productions, Kristin Duffy, chats with women who started the second (or third… or fifth!) chapter in their careers and lives, after 35. You’ll find inspiring stories, have a few laughs, and maybe even be motivated to turn the page on your own second chapter!
Hello and welcome to Season FIVE of The Second Chapter!!
I’m your host, Kristin Duffy, and I am absolutely thrilled to be back with a whole new season of inspiring, informative, energetic and often hilarious chats with women who have changed their lives and or careers after 35.
I don’t know if I’ve talked about loving coffee on the podcast- but I do! And if you like listening, you can buy me a coffee at ko-fi.com/thesecondchapter
See what I did there? 😉
And of course please like and subscribe to the podcast so you’re first to know when a new episode is released!
Today I’m talking to Nicole DeBoom. They say don’r meet your heroes, but Nicole is one of mine and I couldn’t be happier that we’ve met. Nicole was a professional triathlete, turned women sports clothing pioneer, she supports women in all kinds of ways, especially through sport, a public speaker and is a podcasting genius. Her latest venture, Aesop, like the fables, was born “to help preserve and share the stories of your life. In your voice. Before the details fade. Sometimes with a lesson. Sometimes just for fun.”
For any athletes out there, she’s offering a race report interview as a great way to preserve race memories, so stick around or check the show notes for details about how you can get a discount on your Aesop race report personal podcast![:[:[:
So I feel like I'm talking to my early triathlon career hero. So thank you for being.[:[:[:[:[:[:[:
And you were featured on that and I loved the conversation. She talked about your electrifying energy, which I, in the few minutes we've been talking already is so apparent. But you talked about your four chapters of sports. And what I find on the second chapter is nobody has just two.
So if we could do quickly what your four chapters of sport. I guess[:[:[:[:[:
I grew up actually outside of Chicago suburbs, and my parents threw me into the pool very young. Like they didn't literally throw me into the pool, but I have this distinct memory of going to swim lessons when I was probably like five.
And you started at like the shallow corner of the pool. That was the very first level of swim lesson. And then as you graduated, you like moved down the lanes and then up the side of the pool and the most advanced kids were in the deep end. And I remember this is, there are very few times in our lives when we do something for the first time and we are naturally gifted.
And at five I have this vague memory of this. Of course, I didn't know what it meant now, looking back I do. But in that very first day, I graduated from the very first group all the way to the deep end I was in natural swimmer. It was very clear. I floated, I got it. It was a natural instinct.
I knew what to do with my body in the water. And I will say that going on 50 here, I'll be 50 next month. I feel also very grateful that there is a place that I always feel at home and that is in the water.[:[:
And it's like you were born there, mermaids.[:[:
But every day I also went to swim practice. It's I don't know how my parents did it, but I did not realize until I was pregnant with my daughter at almost 40 years old, that when I went under water and just gave myself the opportunity to relax and let go, it's quiet.[:[:
It wasn't quiet, but there is a, it is really cool that you can have an evolution or new chapters within the same thing that it, you just, it becomes a different version of what it was when you first found it kind of like we humans do right.[:[:It was at junior nationals in:
And I think now looking back, like you make your decisions and you think they're the right decision. But I generally tell people that having a little more diversity in their life usually allows them more success in the end. And I don't know why that is. Maybe the pressure's off. Maybe you just have a different perspective, but that was true for me.[:[:
And I think that's healthy, but it does make you go through periods where you feel like a failure or how come I can't figure out my purpose, how come I can't figure out what I'm supposed to be doing? How come I don't have a passion that I love so much. That's one of the hardest things.[:[:
Um, it is about longevity in life and longevity in life. And it this, I forget the guy's name. Amazing guy wrote this blue zones.
They did a study on pockets in the world that had very large populations of very old people, like a hundred plus. And they're like, what is it? Why are there like a hundred hundred plus people living in this tiny village, in Costa Rica or in Greece, or, they identified these seven places.
At least that's what they based the book. And there were all of these different trends. And one of the things was that they believe that having multiple careers throughout your life can lead to a longer life because you're more stimulated. You, these people are still worth literally like chopping down trees.
And many of these cultures, they live very simple lifestyles and they also had a lot of community and they felt like they had a purpose within their community. So there were a lot of different things, diet, exercise, all of that. But like the coming back to this idea that we have to find one thing and be passionate about it for the rest of our lives. I think it's crazy.[:
There's nothing wrong with it. It just, for me, it was not the end.[:
There's lots of hormones and all of that fun stuff at the beginning, but what you're really marrying is one version of a person. And it's a snapshot. If you go back in time, it's like a balance sheet, in business, it's a snapshot and that person and you too, you are also, from that person's perspective, you're the person who is never going to be the same as the day you met them.
So these versions, we keep changing, we keep evolving. It makes sense that our passions would change and evolve, too. And it makes sense that when you do find passions or careers or things that are calling to you, that there's going to be a honeymoon period where you're really excited. And then some people are born to crave routine and they do want to stick, in this, it gives them comfort.
It fulfills them in a certain way. Some people I'm not one of those.[:[:
rabbit hole if you want.[:[:
I was so dedicated and intense, in my high school years that in college, I was just letting loose, like crazy. And by the time college ended, I had Quit swimming once or twice come back to it. And when I was 22, I didn't have any kind of major or a career path that I was passionate about.
So I graduated from Yale university, Ivy league school have this degree, but no idea what to do with it. And what I was really good at was being an athlete socializer, but there's no career for that. And when you're not good enough for the Olympics and there's no professional swimming and I just was pretty lost, actually[:[:
because maybe sometime when I was in middle school, a seed had been planted when I was watching on the wide world of sports[:[:
And then you did a marathon at the end and she was winning out of nowhere. And everyone was like, how is she doing this very end? Her body just fell apart. And she crumpled to the ground. She's crawling crossline. And a woman pastor, she didn't even win. And as I watched that, even as a young kid, I was like, wow, that is so cool.
I was like, I want to do that someday.
I want to push[:[:[:
That's a thing like I want to do that. I can do that.[:
I don't know what I'm doing. I have this degree. I have no purpose. And my counselor was like How about this is normal. You don't have purpose because you don't know what you're doing right now, but why don't you maybe think about doing this little exercise and maybe it'll just give you an, a little kernel to take the next step.
And she said, why want you to go home and write down every time in your life when you felt the most alive? When you have been happiest with yourself and I'm writing all these things and she goes, just write it all and then see if anything bubbles up. And after I made this big old list, a few days later, I was looking at it.
All those times that I felt the best I was fit and strong. Like I was in good shape. It wasn't the times when I had quit swimming and was drinking too much and partying and doing all the things, it was the times when I'd get a great workout and go play with my friends afterward and it was so I decided I created what I call a founding core principle for myself.
And I made this little mantra and it was when my body is fit and strong. My mind is fitter and stronger to. And just by saying that and writing it down and putting it out there in the universe, I was like, you know what this says to me, it doesn't give me a career path, but it tells me that no matter what I'm going to do in my life, it need, I need to make sure that I always prioritize fitness because when I am not fit and strong, I do not feel good about myself.
And I don't want to get depressed and I don't want to go down those, into that dark rabbit hole.[:[:
See how it goes.[:[:
It wasn't. Yes. And no I think it's gone in waves. Like those early years, there was a lot of money in the sport. I think I entered the sport in the mid nineties. So I graduated in 94. I did my first triathlon that year. I remember crying afterwards, but it had nothing to do with being sad. It was like a total just like release.ome more. So the next year in:
I'm going to go move to San Diego because that's where all the pros lived and I'm going to go see what else I can learn. Maybe I could get good enough to to do this at a higher level. So that was. Turning point in my entry into triathlon.[:[:
And my room was like the size of a closet. And I just ended up living with them. And I hooked up with all the triathlon crowd in town and started swimming, biking, and running. And it was just, it was like this crazy, like three month, literally three month blip on my radar. And it just had such a huge, profound impact on my future.[:[:
And I just looked at him and I was like, this is the guy something's going to happen. And a year later we got married and Tim DeBoom, for anybody who's listening, who is a triathlete, he's a legendin our sport. He's in the hall of fame. He's won the Hawaii Ironman twice. And even at that age, he was already racing pro he was 25 and. I was just like this guy, he special he's got something.[:[:[:[:
Oh my gosh. Every relationship is it's got its ups and downs, and I believe that the higher, the more ups and downs you have, like the bigger swings in your careers, most people's relationships swing alongside that. And ours did for sure. So we're both grateful that we're here. We're both in a totally different chapter of life.
Neither of us are competitive in sport anymore. We're competitive in other things and we have different priorities. So Yeah.[:[:[:[:
Even it wasn't to make money in every race. Although that is what actually happened for the six years I raised
that's like my claim to fame,
earned money and every race[:[:
And so I think there's also a thing like momentum, right? You get in the money once you raised some people and you're like, I'm actually racing I'm with this person who I'd never thought I could hang with. And and if you let it that momentum can really carry.[:[:
I had an amazing career. I loved my career.areer. So I started racing in:[:[:
So like, when we say you're a legend and you're also a legend, but he was a bigger legend. There's no denying. Like I saw what it took to win the Hawaii Ironman. The thing that Julie Moss was crawling across, the thing that makes a career and it takes sacrifice on levels that I was not willing to go for this sport, but also I'm realistic.
I was a great triathlete. I won a lot of really cool races, including that Ironman in Wisconsin. That actually jump-started my next career, but I just knew that. I had this to give to something and I was passionate about triathlon, but it didn't check all my boxes. I am a very relationship-driven person.
Triathlon is a very solitary is the wrong word. Maybe self-centered pursuit that could be you're pushing yourself. People say, I'm so inspired by you, or I'm getting something out of watching you do this X, Y, or Z, but you're doing it for you. So for me doing triathlon taught me a lot, allowed me to explore the world, but it became a stepping stone and I knew there would be something for me.
And when I found that passion, I would probably go all in. Like when I was a high school swimmer and decided to go all in. And it was my life and I wanted to give it everything and push beyond and sacrifice. Even my marriage, relationships like I was, it just wasn't going to be triathlon, but I did find it.
And I found it. I found it sooner or at a time that I never expected.[:[:[:[:
I look like a boy, what am I doing out here? I'm still an inspired, I'm dressed like a boy I'm actually wearing men's clothing. Like, Why can't I change this? And it was one of those things where I'm like why I can change.[:[:
wasn't a push, then it became like an exclamation. And I just said maybe I could make something that would make me feel like I'm not leaving my feminine side at home.
When I went and worked out and trained and raised. And at that time in the early two thousands triathlon clothing was very unisex. It was not cute. Everything was black. Like you literally bought men's clothing sometimes. and the things they made for women, they didn't even have tri suits. Women were actually racing iron mans in swimsuits bikini's and one piece swimsuits, not even a pad in those things.[:[:s. I tested my concept at the:
I pulled it out the other day. It's on a little board and it I won the race and while I was in the iron man, I'm clipping people off on the run with this little skirt is like flowing. So cutely in like it's trickling the cold water down, keeping me cool. It was like a magic weapon and people on the course.
Cause it was a two loop course, went from yelling at go third woman to go skirt it's the skirt. It was like, we go through life in these chapters, creating identities for ourselves. My identity changed that day on the course from third woman or pro athlete or pretty darn good or a legend in triathlon to the skirt. I became the next version of myself that day. It was so cool.[:[:
like it became this really polarizing item of clothing. I had no idea this would happen. You, most things that happen in business when you're an entrepreneur and you start stuff and you have an idea, pretty much everything else happens, except the idea, the path you think it will go.
And there was a big camp of women who did not like this idea. They thought they were like, why should I have to look cute? This is. like hardcore athletes could never wear skirts. And I'm like, did you see the finish line photo? I wasn't that Ironman, I'm wearing a skirt. It's hard core.
But there was definitely this camp of women who just, they were not embracing it and it took a long time, but there was a much bigger camp who was like, oh my God, what took you so long? I didn't know that I needed this all my life. And honestly, going back to this idea of mat, the idea of magic ideas is that you deliver somebody, something at exactly the time they need it when they didn't know they needed it.[:[:
It's a frame of mind,[:
Hey, I do look really cute.[:
We grew our pockets every year, but it's really funny. I definitely was at the very front end of this women's empowerment movement in sport. We the wave, the tsunami was starting. It was coming in and we were right there at the right time. And we just took this idea when.[:[:
for sure. And you being a baby triathlete when this was all happening, you were also at the forefront of this wave of women's sports empowerment. It was like, yeah, we can do iron mans, but now we can do iron mans, like looking. However we want to look you choose, what's going to give you the most confidence on race day.[:
Maybe it's other way around. Oh my gosh. I'm trying to quote a statistic, bad news, but basically it hasn't grown here as an endurance sport. If anything, I think the numbers have gotten smaller for women and it just makes me so mad. Cause I'm like, what are you? What are you people like? This is an awesome distance to race.
And I think there's still a little something in women going. I like triathlon, but I don't know if I'm ready for an Ironman.[:
That takes a commitment, man. lot of time and, I will venture to say that women still take on more home caretaking childcare duties. Then often a male partner might, and therefore may find themselves feeling like they have less time to pursue things like this.
Then I'm hoping that is shifting all over the world. You talk about, talked about like community of women and women coming together through something as simple as like a piece of clothing that did happen with skirt sports. It does happen with sports in general. My true joy has always just been seeing women do things they didn't think they could do and find communities where they felt safe, accepted, and supported.
And. Watching elite triathletes compete in skirts, sports was fun, but watching a woman who maybe is plus size could never find clothing that fit her, always pulled her old, her husband's old gym shorts out, hated walking or going, working out in their neighborhoods. People might see her watching her break through those barriers because she found something that she actually excited her to get out the door way more fulfilling[:[:
And we know the power of fitness and empowerment and confidence has a ripple effect to everybody in our lives.[:
You are going to do it like you absolutely can.[:[:[:[:
So yeah, I do. That's nobody's ever asked me that, but it's[:
And I only could have learned that skill from doing that previous career. So a lot of people get like anger or resentment or, things that are negative when certain jobs or careers end. But the truth is that if they can be patient and accept, they will look back and be like, oh duh, that brought me to the better place.[:[:
all as I went. But over the time I was there, we did over $40 million in sales. We were not like[:[:
We put on races, we create, I started creating shit halfway through because I was like, I can't just do the same thing every year. I can't just be like, let's plan a season. Let's sell a season. Let's do the next season. I was like, I need more, so we, I was constantly coming up with new things and I realized part way through that. I w I needed to open my mind to the next chapter at some point, but. I didn't know when it would be and business, you can keep going forever because there are always things that happen. You can always try growing more. For me, I took investors on. I knew that I needed to give them an exit at some point, and that would probably be selling the company.
And I had a few cycles of the company where we were on a growth path and then there's a recession. And then everything went backwards for a while. And then you got to regrow. And every time I went through a cycle, it was three years. These aren't fast cycles. They take a while and you don't realize that until you go through a couple.
And I was like, I'm ready. I can't go through another three-year cycle. So when COVID hit, a couple of other things were going on, I was like, I don't have three more years in me to completely turn the thing around, again, get back on a growth track. I'm just going to make it happen. And. There's power in making those decisions that even if the timing isn't right.r it. So I made a decision in:
I had to shut down the business as I knew it, but as I was shutting it down, I found the most amazing partner to take it forward. And we're we do, we are still partners today, almost gosh, a year and a half later. And that partner is woman named Sarah rats live. She owned a women's running race series in the states.
Actually she worldwide called the Zuma women's race series. And I was like this is perfect. You have a lot of women runners, they need clothing. And she had been thinking about starting her own clothing brand. And I was like how about I just wrap one up for you? And we work out some kind of cool deal and we made it happen and she is continued the mission of empowering women.
So it's really cool.[:[:
I've got to figure out what I'm doing next. But I kept returning to the advice a friend of mine gave me, which was Nicole, you cannot start something new until you fully give yourself. The chance to let go of this beautiful thing that you it's like a baby to you, that you birthed and reared and for so many years, you've got to do that justice.
So I gave into the fact that I may not have a new thing that I would be letting go with nothing on the other side. And that was scary. But but it, everything brings us to where we are. So there are times when you feel overwhelmed with like indecision or purposelessness, right? You got to keep coming back to those core values and know that you can't sit in that place of discomfort forever.
You can't, the universe won't let you something will happen either. You'll do it or somebody else will or something else. Fall out of the sky and your life will not stay here forever. So except the discomfort from time to time, we're endurance athletes, we know how to run around in a comfortable state of discomfort.[:[:[:[:[:[:[:[:[:[:
So I decided that what I did next would not involve inventory. Would not involve seam allowances would not involve sizing And grading and pricing and clearance and all the things. I decided to use a skill. I learned from podcasting to start a new business. And I started a company a few months ago called Aesop, like the fables, right?
A E S O P. My a website is Aesop nation.com. And what I do is I help people share and preserve the stories of their lives by interviewing them and creating these like little personal podcasts.[:[:
Like you could book an interview as a triathlon coach and put it on your, about me page on your website because it's people read a paragraph. They're like, oh, she did a bunch of stuff. But do I like her, like hearing someone's voice and listening to their stories gives you greater connection. We know that through podcasting, people are booking these as a bereavement gift to somebody who wants to hear stories about a parent, they lost.
So I'll interview their family members and then they can go back and listen, people are just booking these because they want to document a moment in time. Having that 15 minute episode of my daughter's voice when she was nine. Yeah. I've got videos on my phone and here and there, but to really just be able to play that or while you're out on a Walker or a workout, like it's pretty powerful.
So anyway, so I start this thing and literally weeks later, I'm like, I need to have a major surgery and I am the sole operator of this business. Like I have to put this business on hold while I go and fix my body that has broken down after so many years of endurance sports. So in December, just a few weeks ago, I had a spinal fusion, which is a big deal.[:[:[:[:
So yeah, we're sitting here and I'm recovering, I'm getting to the story about my kids, quote I'm recovering from the surgery, spinal fusion, my back broke basically. And I needed to get it surgically fixed. I could not fix it through massage or, like you can't move your vertebrae back into place by stretching, and my, I couldn't.[:[:
And I never wanted to have surgery night hate drugs and all of the things, I have myself like substance abuse issues from my college days in my younger years. Like I didn't want to be on any drugs that would make me too excited to be on those drugs, but so I had all these fears going into the surgery, but I come out of it and I'm dealing the first few weeks. The first few weeks were hard. There was a lot of pain. I had to manage it through meds. But the fourth week, which was literally last week, I started to feel good. And then I felt this thing. I haven't felt in a long time.
I was bored last time. Any of you? I felt bored. And I was like, I don't have any purpose. Like my business. I don't have anything to do right.
now. I'm not interviewing anybody right now. And maybe it's just not going to, I'm not going to be busy enough. And I started going down this like crazy thought cycle and my daughter was there and I was like, Wilder, her name's Wilder.
She's so awesome. She just turned 10. And I was like, why is there? I'm just feeling I don't know what I'm supposed to be doing. And I started this new business and it's not like busy right now in first thing, she looked up at me and she goes, you want it to be busy? And that thought right there just stop me dead in my track.
And I was. No, I don't want to be busy like this last thing I want, but why did I feel like, so I think this is just a very human thing. We go through these crazy moments, right? And I'm like, I don't want to be busy, but I want something. And then I started saying ridiculous things. You don't say to a kid. I was like I like, I want to make money.
This is the dumbest thing to say to a ten-year-old. Because I want us to be able to be happy and have fun and do the things we love. And she just looked at me and she goes mom, money's not going to get you any of that. And I said, how low? Isn't this what I've told her? Isn't this what I've been preaching?
Like how did my head even get there? And I think what was so beautiful about it. Is that, we say things to our kids and other people in our lives and we think they don't hear it. And every once in a while they throw that shit back at us and we need to hear it at that exact moment.[:[:[:[:[:
If you overheard it, snack time, I think is what it is. And it's just these kids saying the most ridiculous things, but it's their wisdom is so far beyond their years. And for whatever reason, that's hilariously funny as.[:[:[:[:
You think, god, I could have more than half my life still left. There's a lot still to do. Why would I not change my career? Or why would I not try new things?[:
why? Because it's scary and there's fear in change and not having stability. And I often say like, if money wasn't involved with making this decision, what decision would I make? Money clouds, everything, but you can't deny that it is part of our human condition. It's just part of the culture.
If you don't have any kind of sense that money needs to be involved in your life. I don't know if you can survive. Maybe you can go live in one of those blue zone villages and chop wood. But most people aren't willing to make that big of a change. So it's there, but if you can often step back from it and just go, what decision would I make from my heart?
And my core, not my head[:[:[:
The fact that you can interview someone and help pull out their stories and really share that. And like you said, that moment in time, so beautiful.[:
Is. And when you are continuing your evolution in your path, we all have different processes on how we find the next thing that we are called to do. And mine kept coming back to connection in the times of COVID, which is hard empowerment, helping people feel like they did something meaningful and at the end of the day, just giving yourself a little purpose because I could be very happy going out and having outdoor recreation all day.
But I need just a couple hours of those things. I just mentioned in order to refill that part of my pot. You know, If I was just going out and having outdoor recreation all day, I'd be doing the self-centered triathlon thing that I did before. And that didn't fulfill me. And at the end of the day, once you get old enough to see the perspective and maybe take some of the pressure off, this might not be where I end up.
This could just be a stepping stone to the next thing again.[:[:[:[:[:[:
And then I like it came back. It just came back into my lap and was like, you need to continue me please. So I've relaunched it. I just decided I'm not going to edit any episodes. I'm doing them all live, like whatever. I'm just going to make it easy because it's really, for me, it was about getting those stories out.
And then I, I started a podcast with the new owner of Skirt Sports. It's called, She Runs It ,and we did it for like a year and it was getting harder and harder to make it happen. And I always see that as a sign, when you cancel and you can't reschedule and it's harder and harder. And finally we took some time off and we said it needs a new focus and we're both excited about it.
It's going to be about women in business. Women's business empowerment.[:[:
We both own clothing companies. I did. She does. And so our market or our audience might shift a little bit, but it doesn't really matter because now we're going to speak about something that is really pulling at our hearts.
And that's when I think you're going to see success, who cares if less people, listen, if more people are impacted by the listening, do you know what I mean?[:
Every once in a while I get down, oh, I don't have as many listeners yet as I would like and all this kind of stuff. And then I realized the same people are coming back to Instagram and talking to me and I'm getting these, the numbers though.
They're growing. There's that core number that I'm like, I know these are the people that are listening again and again. So it is making some sort of an impact. So thank you. Thank you people. But it makes me really happy because this isn't triathlon. I'm not meant to be just sat here talking to myself.[:
That's what we're all looking for.[:[:[:[:
So for everybody listening, you know, whatever you got out of this, maybe you got one thing, just take it with you and open your heart, open your mind and keep on your run or your workout, or however you're listening. And just remember that it doesn't have to be the end thing, but it can be your stepping stone to whatever comes next.[:[:[: