Local triathlete Jillian Raab has always sculpted her own pathway through determination, hard work, and living every day to the fullest. This approach hasn’t always been easy, but it has put her in a position to excel in school, work, and triathlons. Mountain Man co-director Sean Ryan met this young athlete as a student in his class, and she was one of his running club participants at DeMiguel Elementary School. She continues to participate in, and has moved up the leaderboards at Mountain Man, and just about every race she participates in these days (shown below on the podium for 2nd in age group and 8th overall at Cactus Man).
The Mountain Man team got a chance to catch up with Jillian and her family and have her story to share with you today.
How did it all begin?
“Believe it or not I did my first 100yd backstroke at the age of 2. Yes, I was thrown in for survival reasons. We lived in Florida with water all around. Also, both of my parents were collegiate swimmers. It was in my blood. My actual first triathlon was the day after my 5th birthday in Valdosta, GA. I still had my training wheels on my bike, but it didn’t stop me.”
When did you realize you were hooked on tris?
“Because I was a club swimmer, my coaches would always tell me that I had to choose. It was either swimming or another sport, but not both. I loved to bike and run as well. I would sneak little extra workouts here and there without them knowing. Swimming is my first love but getting lost on a 16-mile run or enjoying the wind on my face while biking are ranked way up there. When they would find out that I did a tri, I would get the lecture of how I could get injured. My junior year of high school this all changed. The cross country, track and swimming high school coaches (Northland Preparatory Academy) worked together along with my new club swim coach (Sedona Race Pace). I was able to do it all. It was amazing. I had the best of all three sports, and plenty of support to excel at all of them. Of course, I began to bike when I had time. That was the year that I did my first half. It was the Mountain Man right here in Flagstaff.”
What does the Mountain Man Triathlon mean to me?
“I have been participating in the Mountain Man every year since 6th grade. I wouldn’t miss it for the world. I hold a special place in my heart for the Mountain Man. Not only is it home turf, at altitude, and challenging, but it is run by a great group of people. Sean Ryan (Race Director) just happened to be my 4th grade teacher at DeMiguel Elementary. Mr Ryan was one of the best teachers that I ever had. He taught me the life lesson to be the best that I can at whatever I am doing. He has watched me grow up over the years and develop into who I am. In fact, the entire Mountain Man family always has encouraging words. The energy of Rebekah Ryan is contagious on race day. She is out there cheering for everyone with this huge smile on her face, all while helping to run the event. When I am training, I seem to run into Brian Buzzard (Co-Director) quite often. He doesn’t hesitate to ask me what I have been up to and how I am doing. He often shares what Rachel, his wife, has been accomplishing in the world of tris. These four have continued to keep the Mountain Man events alive through some hard times. I am thankful for that as well as their support towards me throughout the years. If you haven’t done a Mountain Man event, I would highly recommend it.”
What do you want to accomplish this year?
“Wow, it seems like this year has just begun, and yet so much has happened. I started school at NAU last fall majoring in Geophysics and French with a minor in Chemistry. I was accepted into the honors program as well as the IGP program. While studying hard, I have maintained a rigorous workout schedule. With the help of my father (coach) and fellow lumberjacks in the triathlon, biking and running clubs it has been enjoyable. I could have gone to college anywhere but decided to stay in Flagstaff and train. I don’t think that there is a better place to train in the United States. So far, I have managed to qualify for Age Group Nationals in Milwaukee in the Olympic distance (August), Age Group Worlds in Abu Dhabi in the Olympic distance (November), and Age Group Xterra Worlds in Italy (October). You read that right. I have now picked up mountain biking. I was also thrilled to do my first Ironman this April. Training for the others will seem small after that.
My goal is to have fun, continue to keep improving with each race, stay as healthy as possible, and represent Team USA and NAU the best that I can. Who knows? Maybe one day I will be able to go professional.”
Calling on The Community for Support
It is hard to believe that Jillian is just 19 years old. She is a full time, double-major student with multiple jobs, who has qualified for opportunities to travel the world and represent her country and her community. Jillian has set up a Go Fund Me page where anyone can make a donation to help her on her quest to compete at Nationals in Milwaukee and Worlds in Abu Dhabi. Mountain Man has started with a $500 donation, and asks you to share her story and do the same. No donation is too small, and together we can help Jillian to change the world and achieve her goals!
Visit her Go Fund Me Page HERE and share her story with friends.