To be an elite athlete is a big deal in any organized sport. To be an elite athlete in the world of obstacle course racing , well that says a whole lot more. There is not a sport in the world that requires all the attributes and strengths that one must acquire to compete at such a high level and where he/she can be considered elite.
To succeed, in the world of OCR, it is essential to be completely well rounded and possess enormous levels of stamina, agility and true dedication, which is unheard of in your average star athlete in any sport, let alone the average person. For the elite athletes, maintaining these qualities has to become a lifestyle they adopt, and one that continues 365 days a year, from exercise, training and diet.
For OCR athlete Debbie (Moreau) Koch, she not only succeeds on the course but even more so, off it. Her dedication and success in the sport is only part of what makes her an elite amongst the elite.
Debbie, age 43, was far from being raised with a silver spoon in her mouth, grew up “old school” compared to other kids.
She was raised on a farm in Maine with her 3 siblings. All of them had to work on the farm and couldn’t hold other jobs off the farm. Her parents raised laying hens as well as beef cattle. Chasing the cows when they got out is how Debbie states her running career began. Destined to leave the farm, she attended a local college and graduated with an Associate Degree in nursing at age 19.
Years later, while working in the field, she earned her Bachelor’s Degree. Truly passionate and dedicated to her craft, she continued her education and pursued her Master’s Degree in Nurse Anesthesia. With her career well on its way, starting a family was the next thing on her mind.
Debbie was soon married and had two kids. She was living the life she wanted until she and her husband divorced.
It took Debbie an extreme amount of work and dedication, similar to that of the training an elite athlete puts in, to continue and give her boys, ages 5 and 7 at the time, the life they deserved. She does share custody the kid’s father, but she does not take a day off when her kids are not at her home.
On the days she does not have the boys, she works late or stays on call, leaving little time to train for the next race. On top of her already demanding schedule, she must take the time to bring her kids for their medical checkups, dental visits, and optometrist appointments. As most would tell you, being a single, full-time and dedicated parent is one of the hardest things you can do in life, nevertheless, Debbie considers her children a blessing and are her motivation.
She has a family first mentality, which is considered an admirable quality, but one that makes it harder to dedicate time to training to be an elite OCR athlete. The fact she can still compete and excel at an elite level with all she does in life make her an elite amongst the elite, because not many could do what she does day in and day out with the level of success she finds.
Question #1- What inspires you?
What inspires me? I’m not 100% sure of the answer. I don’t really know exactly what my inspiration is. Ever since I was young I have always pushed myself and been competitive, maybe it’s that wanting to make your parents proud thing. Something inside me is always pushing for more, be faster and stronger. I work in health care and I see so many unhealthy patients every day. Many times, surgery could have been prevented if they just took care of themselves. I want to be able to enjoy life as long as I possibly can and not have to have someone care for me. I know the way to do this is through exercise and eating right. I only use an elevator if I have to. I figure someday I may have to and will not have a choice. I guess I’m afraid to be like that when I’m older, someone with health problems.
Question #2- Why and how did I get into OCR’s?
I have always been a runner. I was doing a lot of trail running because that is what I really enjoyed. Then I did this race called the Jay peak challenge. It was awesome! 32 miles with natural obstacles. I ran miles through the middle of a brook, ran through deep mud (worst smelling mud I have ever smelled!) and a beaver dam, almost all of it through the woods. It was after that race that someone said to me I think you would like this race and then they proceeded to tell me about a Tough Mudder race. That was my first OCR.
Question #3- What does it take to be a winner?
Determination, hard work and some natural athletic ability, and you have to want it. If you have a combination of any of these, you are on the podium. Of course any one that gives their best and tries without making excuses is a winner to me but I’m sure you mean to actually win the race.
Question #4- You seem more like the quiet type. Is it because you are shy and don’t like the spotlight?
I am quiet because I do not want people that do not know me to think I am a show off or think I am better than anyone else. Except for people I am close to or know me I don’t like to talk smack. If it’s someone I know I love to talk trash. I do like to win and I like attention as much as the next person. Being quiet is safe.
Question #5- How does it feel to be a steady Spartan podium winner?
Good! I wish I was doing even more. The competition has been tough.
Question #6- Having Norm…do you have a training advantage over the competition?
Yes some because he is very supportive of my training. Many times I am tired and really just do not feel like running or working out but he pushes me and gives me motivation. He has built obstacles in our back yard that I can practice, so that is definitely a help. Anyone that has run his races knows they are tough and what his obstacles are. I don’t know any secrets.
Question #7- What does a typical day look like for you?
A typical day I get up at 5:15, wake up with my boys and drop them off before I go to work for 7:00am start. I work until 4:30 and some nights, my boys have sports or music lessons, which I am there for. Like everyone else, there is always errands. I fit in workouts when I can. I really have no routine. I may do a CrossFit class or run. I have been trying to wake up early in the morning like 4:30 and either go to the gym or run. That is hard! I’m working on it. I try run on days when I get out of work early.
Question #8- What is the best race you have competed in?
It’s a tossup between the Jay peak challenge and the Spartan Ultra Beast.
Question #9- What does the ideal race look like for you?
Definitely something that is a cross of my two favorite races. Longer like 15-25 miles is good with lots of trails, mountains or hills with natural obstacles and manmade obstacles. I am a strong runner when it comes to hills.
Question #10- Can you tell me a quick story?
I ran a marathon once in Disney. I wasn’t feeling well at all before I started but it was in Florida and I flew from Maine just to attend this event. Against better judgment, I ran and vomited at mile 2, so I walked/jogged the rest of the way. It took me 6 1/2 hours to finish. I didn’t quit for 2 reasons: 1. I had nothing else to do except go back to the hotel and the reason I was there, was for that event. 2. I read this on the back of someone’s shirt in front of me “dead last finish is greater then did not finish, which greatly trumps did not start.” It really motivated me, still does! I couldn’t quit after reading that. I like that story. I’m not a quitter.
Debbie has run over 30 marathons, a few 50ks and many Spartan Races as well as other OCRs. Amongst these races, she has shined on the podium with impressive wins including: 1st at Mountain Raid at Sunday River in Maine, 1st at Tuff Scrambler in Rehoboth MA, 1st at Blizzard Blast, 3rd at Polar Bear Benson at Shale Hill. Her Spartan Race wins in 2014 include: 2nd at Miami Super , 4th at the Invitational, 2nd at Tuxedo, 2nd at Palmerton, 5th at Texas Beast on Day 1 and 2nd on Sunday and an epic 1st place podium finish in France. To add to her success, she was chosen to compete in OCR Warrior – Bone Frog and is currently a member of Team Mud and Adventure. Her race credentials/resume speaks for itself but let’s not forget her story. Debbie Moreau Koch is a 43-year-old single parent of 2 kids and full-time nurse. Against the odds of age and opportunity, she still manages to be one of the best OCR athletes in the country.