x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Businessman tackles seven ironman titles - in seven days

Scott Ragsdale plans to align his 40th birthday with that of the UAE by competing in seven Ironman races in seven emirates in seven days.

Scott Ragsdale trains near the border between Abu Dhabi and Dubai for his gruelling seven ironman events in the seven emirates over the seven days leading to National Day. Ravindranath K / The National
Scott Ragsdale trains near the border between Abu Dhabi and Dubai for his gruelling seven ironman events in the seven emirates over the seven days leading to National Day. Ravindranath K / The National

DUBAI // To complete seven ironman challenges in seven days and in seven emirates requires a lot of dedication.

Scott Ragsdale, a businessman, believes he has it. Between now and December, he will rise at 3am and train for up to seven hours a day.

Ragsdale, 40, will undertake his challenge to coincide with the week leading to the UAE's 40th National Day, on December 2.

The races are not official or open contests, but a challenge he set for himself with the backing of the Government.

An ironman event consists of a 3.86km swim, a 180.2km bike ride and a marathon run of 42.2km.

"Its going to be a good challenge," said Ragsdale, an American who splits his time between Dubai and Monaco.

His main goal, he said, was to create inspiration for the population to be healthy and to create a culture of achievement.

"A fat, white guy like me can do it," he said. "If you put your mind to it, you can achieve it."

Far from fat, the strict vegan is 193cm tall and weighs 87kg.

Despite smoking two Cuban cigars a day, he has no doubt he will succeed. "I have to make it happen."

Ragsdale said a friend had suggested the stunt. "He was joking, but at the same time he was serious.

"That'd be cool if I could pull that off on my 40th year. That means I have to be in the best shape of my life, and more focused and mentally tougher than I have ever been."

No stranger to challenges, Ragsdale ran one of the world's toughest races, the Marathon Des Sables - a six-day, 243km endurance marathon across the Sahara Desert in Morocco.

Last year he swam 34km across the English Channel, a feat failed by 20 per cent of those who try to achieve it.

Before he swam the channel he went on a test swim in Dover harbour. A group also taking part watched him leave the water 30 minutes into the four-hour training swim. The cold got to him.

"They asked me how long I was training, which was only two months," Ragsdale said. "I lied and said I was training for four to six months. They told me I wouldn't make it."

Undeterred, he completed the swim four months later, with his 16-year-old daughter Marie following in a boat.

Ragsdale, who has been married for 10 years and has two daughters, attributes his success to his family and hopes his spirit rubs off on the girls.

"I was trying to inspire her [Marie] not to waste her time," he said. "She now runs on her own three times a week and she wants to do a marathon herself."

Ragsdale's training schedule was interrupted a few months ago when he had a knee operation after a long injury. He has since made a full recovery and now wakes at 3.15am every day.

By August, Ragsdale will be training seven hours a day. In between, he will be running his company, Naseba, which organises business conferences.

He will spend next month and August in the cooler climes of Monaco and Austria with his coach, Mario Huys. "He is best guy in the business," Ragsdale said.

As part of his training, he will participate in seven consecutive Olympic-distance triathlons next month. Each race consists of a 1.5km swim, a 40km bike ride and a 10km run.

He will also do seven half-ironman sessions in August, and by mid-September he will do a 4km swim, 180km bike ride and a half marathon all on his own.

Ragsdale has the backing of the federal Government and, closer to the date, he expects to talk to schoolchildren and inspire them to accomplish big things.

Always a fitness addict, he admitted to falling off the wagon for two or three years.

Now he does not consider failure an option.

"I am putting all this time and energy into this. I have the coach, the support and I make sure I do my programme and don't miss training," Ragsdale said.

Beyond the seven ironman challenges, he is already looking ahead to his next challenge: sailing around the world with his daughter.

He has even toyed with the idea of entering the Iditarod Trail sled dog race, which is definitely not for the novice.

"There's a few businessmen who have achieved it," Ragsdale said.

Dr Werner Leitner, the manager of Team Abu Dhabi Triathlon, said just a single ironman race was tough.

"It's more a mental challenge. Single ironman races are probably the longest competitions you can prepare for," Dr Leitner said.

He said Ragsdale would have to use a different strategy to make it to the end of the seven days.

"You cannot go to your athletic limits on the first days, otherwise you cannot finish the other ones," said Dr Leitner, who has competed in ironman races. "It is about finishing and that is the mental challenge.

"Especially, the marathon runs will be the tough things as they have a massive impact on the body. From day to day you get more and more tired and you still have to finish ironman races."

 

eharnan@thenational.ae