After two prior outstanding runs at the Trail World Championships, Ragna Debats finally walked away with the win at the 2018 Trail World Championships in Penyagolosa, Spain. In the following interview, Ragna talks about how her previous experience at the world championships motivated her, how she tailored her training and her life to prepare for this race, and what it’s like to train at a high level as a mom.
For more on this year’s race, check out our 2018 Trail World Championships results article.
Ragna Debats, 2018 Trail World Champion, Interview Transcript
iRunFar: Meghan Hicks of iRunFar, and I’m here with Ragna Debats. She’s the 2018 Trail World Champion. Good morning and congratulations.
Ragna Debats: Thank you very much, and good morning!
iRunFar: You must have had most excellent preparations for this race. You looked so strong and smooth from start to finish yesterday.
Debats: Yeah, I think I was very focused. People said that to me, and I see it now in the pictures that I was just really focused all the time. Yeah, I prepared very well. I trained very hard during many weeks. Yesterday for me was like a celebration of all the work I’d done beforehand.
iRunFar: You have competed at the Trail World Championships twice before. Two years ago you were third. Last year you were fourth. Did you come back this year hungry for a higher placing?
Debats: Yeah, definitely. For me, this year is a good year because it’s the long distance which suits me better I think. The first year, I came in third and I wanted to at least come third. I wanted to do better.
iRunFar: It seemed like you were in charge of the women’s race pace all day long. You were at the lead nearly from the start. There were other women around early, but it seemed like you were setting the pace. Is that true?
Debats: Yeah, I think I was dominating. I was in control of it. I didn’t start in first position. I let three or four women go in front of me, but I just stayed very close to them. I passed them after awhile. They passed me twice at the control at first because I was a bit slower, I guess. Even once I lost about a minute, but I recovered very easily. I saw where I could recover the time I’d lost. So, I was in control of it.
iRunFar: Where was that? Where was it where you’d get the time back on the women?
Debats: It was on the small technical downhills that I just…
iRunFar: As we were walking over here to do this interview, you were explaining your very specific preparation for this race. You didn’t race for a couple months beforehand. You training was tailored for this. What did your block of training actually look like?
Debats: I started about seven or eight weeks beforehand with the proper preparation. In the beginning of the season I did a lot of volume training. Then this big block, I started with two weeks of very hard training with many days double training sessions and a lot of training in fatigue. Then we did a rest week, active rest week to assimilate all the work. We did another hard week. I did a race at the end of that week to test how I was doing. Then I did another recovery week and then we had two weeks left to adjust.
iRunFar: Sharpen up or see how you felt from the day?
iRunFar: Even though you compete for the Netherlands, you live here in Spain. Were you able to come and see the course beforehand?
Debats: Yeah, I did. I came here about one-and-a-half months before. One weekend I did the second part in two stages—Atzeneta to Vistabella and the next day Vistabella to the finish. Then the next week I came back and did the first 40k, in one go. That was it. I didn’t want to come too many times. Sometimes it’s also good if you don’t know it too well. If you’ve done it too often, it’s just like, again the same route.
iRunFar: A lot of people said yesterday this was a course you could do well on if you knew it a bit because there are so many different parts to it, so many runnable bits, so many rocky bits, knowing where to have some food. Do you think a little bit of course knowledge was to your advantage yesterday?
Debats: Yeah, I think so. I don’t think it was necessary, but I think the first half was more runnable than the second half. That was good to know because if you’re a flat runner, you could start really quickly and then get tired in the second half. That was something to take into account. Another thing, there were a lot of climbs toward the end that were very runnable, and I think it was important to get to those climbs with enough strength to be able to run them. If you had to walk, you would lose a lot of time. That was also something to take into account.
iRunFar: In the last part of the race when you were in the front around men and there were no other women around, were you getting reports on your gap, the gap between you and other women, or what was going through your head?
Debats: Yeah, I had somebody who tried to get me information. He didn’t get too many points. The last thing I knew was at Vistabella, I was nine minutes ahead of Laia Cañes. Then I didn’t know anything until near the end on the downhill. After Vista Veya, they told me when I was half way between Vista Veya and the next point. I didn’t know what had happened in that period of time. I decided to run just a little bit faster just in case they were catching up. That’s why I opened even a wider gap—just in case.
iRunFar: Just keep pushing just in case.
Debats: Yeah, actually, the whole race I felt like I was retaining a lot. I didn’t want to push too hard just in case I got tired. I was just running in a very controlled pace. Then toward the end I let myself go little bit more in case it was necessary.
iRunFar: Both you and the men’s champion, Luis Alberto Hernando, you both have full lives outside of running. You’re both parents. What a role model you are to other people out there who have full lives outside of running. How do you fit in your double sessions and your focused training and your recovery? Having a little girl around doesn’t allow much recovery.
Debats: Yes, especially recovery is more difficult because it’s easier to find the time to train because she goes to pre-schooling. I bring her to school and my routine is to train afterward. If I have a double session, I do the next session just before she comes back from school, but recovery is more difficult because…
iRunFar: Chasing her?
Debats: Yeah, she plays with me obviously, and I’m happy to play with her. I try to relax in that and to enjoy that.
iRunFar: Active recovery?
Debats: Yeah, active recovery.
iRunFar: My last question for you, now that you are Trail World Champion, this must be a goal you’ve been working toward for a long time. What else is in your head? What do you dream of?
Debats: For me this was really my dream, so I think for me, I think this is the best I could achieve in the sport. I have to find a new goal now really. I haven’t thought about it yet.
iRunFar: Sit back and dream a little.
iRunFar: Congratulations to you on your win yesterday and enjoy receiving your gold medal up on stage in just a minute. Congratulations!
Debats: Thank you very much!