Athlete of the Month: Debbie Ragals
Can you tell us a little bit about your sports background? Which sports did you do as a kid and as you got older?
I grew up playing a lot of tennis, snow and water skiing. I think I enjoy skiing more now then when I was a child.
What is your current job and what do you do?
I am currently a race manager for the Jarden Westchester Triathlon. I’ve learned so much about the sport through the job. I now look at registration, swag, sponsors, expo set up, timing, USAT officials, volunteers and the logistics of a course so differently when I am a participant. I think my favorite aspect of the job is getting to know the athletes before and after the race. I love hearing their personal stories about why they are doing our race or what has inspired them to be an athlete. During the summer, I move my office to the Adirondacks where I am the manager of a health center at a children’s sleep away camp.
Where do you live and what is the training like there?
I live in Pleasantville, NY, 30 minutes north of NYC and this is where I hold my favorite job, mom of twin girls, Emily and Arielle who will be nine in May.
In this area, we are very fortunate to have wonderful pools, state parks for running and hills to practice.
What was your motivation to get started in triathlon?
When my girls were just about two years old, a new friend in town asked if I wanted to train for the Danskin triathlon with her. I thought there was absolutely no way I could do this but I quickly learned how social and fun the sport could be. I’d love to see a video of that first race for a laugh down memory lane. But in all seriousness, it was so empowering and fulfilling to be in that particular race, for such an important cause and sharing it with a friend. I knew, from that moment on, that I was hooked, not just on the goal to finish but also racing with causes in mind.
Who is your coach? And how long have you been working together?
Amy Kuitse has been my coach for over a year and a half now. She has guided and trained me through 2 Ironman races and a few HIMs in such a way that it’s been truly enjoyable. She has given me a balance with my training that has allowed me to enjoy both the sport and my family even more. Thank you Amy!
You recently completed 2 HIM distances in a 3 week period — can you talk about that?
Pure pleasure is what they were. I convinced my family to go to Costa Rica for February break, a place that I have always wanted to experience. It just so happened that the inaugural Rev3 race was taking place our first weekend there. I highly recommend the race (if you like the heat). It was well-run, not crowded and a great early season race if you have had a very cold, long winter.
As for the second race… while watching Kona on the computer last year, I got antsy to have something on my calendar for the next year and next thing I knew, I was signed up for the inaugural San Juan 70.3 in Puerto Rico, that took place in March. This was another amazing race; the venue, the course, the people, the party afterwards, all added to the very positive experience. And to all of you women 40+, we were put in the first wave after the pros. It was a whole new world being up in the front. I love the early season races, they keep me honest over the winter and since I work at camp all summer, I can’t participate during the summer months.
What is your best triathlon moment?
I truly love what the sport has given me, the people I have met, the places I have traveled and the sense of accomplishment that I feel through my training and events. But, the time that probably stands out the most in my mind is when I put the number 179 on my body before IMLP 08 until I rolled across the finish line on that very wet rainy day. The day was so much bigger than the race itself. Jon Blais (The Blazeman) was a wonderful friend and will always be an inspiration. I had the deepest appreciation that day for being able to participate and complete the race, wearing his number gave me great strength.
What’s in your race future?
I promised myself that I would take this year off of Ironman and only do halves. I definitely miss the thrill and the goal but my mind and body needed the break and I wanted to do this for my family. I hope to do one more half before camp and then I’m planning on one in September. In the coming years, I’d love to continue traveling with the sport. I’ve made some of the greatest friends this way and experiencing a different culture with a race only makes it more exciting. Coconut milk right from the coconut at the end of Rev3 in Costa Rica and “You are an ironman” in Portuguese in Brazil, make it very special.
What is your favorite of the three sports?
I’m not a swimmer but in the longer races, the swim is always my favorite part. I just get into a groove with a song in my head and enjoy it. The bike is fun, I am looking for friends to cheer for but I always fear the dreaded flat tire so I am thrilled to get off of the bike. If this is an ego question, I probably like the run the most but the bike lets me feel like a kid again.
What are your long term goals in triathlon?
If I haven’t received a lottery slot to Kona by the time I am 50, I plan to celebrate 50 by volunteering. I have to experience that race at some point in my life.
If you could spend a day training with anyone, who would it be?
Of course Chrissy is the first to pop into my mind. But I would probably be so worried about slowing her down that I would be too stressed. One of my daughters has done a kids tri and she says she enjoys it. When she is older, I would love to be able to share this sport with her, even if it’s only for a day.
What are your other hobbies?
My other hobbies include, volunteering with various organizations and hobbies with my kids. Before triathlon, I raced cars.
What is the single hardest workout you’ve ever done?
When I think of “my hardest workout” the first thing that comes to mind is a 3-hour run in Vegas. Imagine going for the weekend to celebrate a 40th bday and as soon as you land, you have to lace up and hit the road. I didn’t do the math before booking. (4 weeks before IMAZ) Not to worry, I still went out dancing.
How do you reward yourself after a hard day of training?
One word, Compression! Actually, after a long bike and brick, I always offer to take my girls and their friends to the movies. Nothing better then sitting in a theater with hands full of sweet and salty foods, kids content and an activity you don’t have to clean up after.