Ragna Debats of the Netherlands returns to the 2019 Trail World Championships as its defending women’s champion. In the following interview, Ragna talks about how her recovery and training went between the Transvulcania Ultramarathon four weeks ago and this race, what it’s like to defend her title at a race that changes its distance and location each year, and how it feels to compete for her home country.
Ragna Debats Pre-2019 Trail World Championships Interview Transcript
iRunFar: Meghan Hicks of iRunFar with Ragna Debats, it’s a few days before the 2019 Trail World Championships. We’re in the hills of Portugal, good evening.
Ragna Debats: Good evening, Meghan.
iRunFar: How are you doing?
Debats: I’m fine, just arrived. I had a good trip and I’ve seen a bit of the scenery driving up here and it’s really opened my eyes. It’s waking me up. I’m looking forward to the race, yeah.
iRunFar: I am seeing you all over the world this spring. Two months ago it was at Marathon Des Sables [in Morocco], one month ago it was at the Transvulcania Ultramarathon in Spain, and now we’re here in Portugal. Do you feel like a world traveler, too?
Debats: Yes, this season I’ve traveled a lot to very different places, for competition but also for other issues. I’ve been at home very little days.
iRunFar: You’ve forgotten what your own bed feels like?
Debats: Yeah, it feels like my house is kind of a warehouse where I just pop in every now and again–to change my stuff and then go out again. I do some washing, yeah.
iRunFar: Take a different color shirt with you when you leave?
iRunFar: You’re the reigning Trail World Champion, but I think it’s got to feel really unique because you were in a different country last year on an entirely different course. It’s not like you’re coming back to defend your title on the exact same course; everything is now different.
Debats: Yeah, it actually it feels for me as if there were two championships. I think I’ve won the long-distance championship and now this is the middle-distance one, I think. Yeah, I did both of them once [in 2017 and 2018] and in the second round, I won the long-distance one [in 2018]. I didn’t do too badly on the on the shorter one last time [in 2017], I came fourth but I had some real mistakes, I feel. I think I can do better, and I’m looking forward to try and have a go on this distance as well.
iRunFar: Four weeks ago, you were at the 74-kilometer Transvulcania Ultramarathon. What have the last four weeks of your training looked like, to convert to racing a little over half that distance?
Debats: First of all, I had one week of rest. That doesn’t mean that I was sitting on the sofa all day, but active rest. And then we just started working again, lots of hard work. I got really tired again. I had to pass through these moments that you say, “Uh, I don’t know if I’m going to recover from this, but I think I will.” And I went to Holland so I did part of my training in Holland. Then afterward I went to the U.K. and I did lots of training in the U.K., on different kinds of terrain. Soft terrain, hilly terrain, a little bit of altitude as well. And now yesterday I just came back from the U.K., changed my suitcase, and I’m here. You know, I’m curious. As the hours and days go by, I feel more confident every time. So it’s a good sign.
iRunFar: You’re Dutch, you’re representing your country [at the Trail World Championships], but you live in Spain. Is it kind of weird to switch jackets once a year and do this?
Debats: Yes, it is. Yeah, it’s quite different. I don’t know how I should feel really, because I feel Spanish. At Marathon des Sables for example, I was in a tent with the Spanish people even though I’m Dutch. As a runner I think like I’m more Spanish because all my running and everything is in Spain. It’s always nice to be amongst my fellow people and run for Holland because in the end, my nationality is Dutch. But I have to admit this well, I feel more like a worldly person so I don’t really like to classify people by their nation.
iRunFar: I have to make a little joke because both your sponsor and your country’s colors are orange. You don’t even get to change out your kit colors once.
Debats: Yeah that’s true, I really like this. Because orange, I do like it.
iRunFar: You had better like orange, right?
Debats: No, I’m really pleased for example and I think the last couple of years the world championships were even marked with orange rope. I liked it, the orange.
iRunFar: It’s yellow this year, the markings.
Debats: That’s not very good [for me]. [It’s good] especially for the Spanish.
iRunFar: This course has some interesting features to it. You showed me your printout where you’ve been studying the profile and the map. Have you been thinking tactically about how Saturday is going to go in terms of the layout of the course?
Debats: I’m not sure on my strategy yet because this year I haven’t actually run on the course. I am going tomorrow to look at some parts of it so hopefully after that I will have a better idea. But overall I think it’s going be a fast race, so I just have to run it fast. I think not too much strategy, but a lot of just running.
iRunFar: Put your head down and do it.
Debats: Yeah, just do it.
iRunFar: I mean, the course is essentially behind us right now. We were kind of looking at it a minute ago. To not know the course on which you’re going to race and defend your championship title, do you like that sense of mystery?
Debats: I do. Yeah, I do.
iRunFar: Keeps it fresh?
Debats: Yeah, I think that’s why I usually don’t like to race the same race every year because I like this part of it, the new part and the new impressions. You have to deal with things very quickly, adapt. I like that part.
iRunFar: Stay on your toes. Awesome. Well, best of luck to you on Saturday and we look forward to chasing you around those hills.
Debats: Thank you very much.