After winning the 85-kilometer race at last year’s Madeira Island Ultra-Trail, this year the USA’s Katie Schide is racing the 115k, trans-island MIUT. In our first interview with Katie, we talk about her background in trail ultrarunning, her day job as a geology PhD student, living as an ‘expat’ in Switzerland, and her thoughts going into this weekend’s race.
Katie Schide Pre-2019 Madeira Island Ultra-Trail Interview Transcript
iRunFar: Meghan Hicks of iRunFar and I am with Katie Schide. It is the week of the 2019 Madeira Island Ultra-Trail. Hey Katie, we are on Madeira Island.
Katie Schide: Yeah, thanks Meghan.
iRunFar: It’s kind of a pretty exotic location to have an interview and to have a race.
Schide: Yeah, it’s definitely a really cool island and we were here last year so we are excited to be back again and have a bit more time to explore.
iRunFar: Yeah, and you are staying for a week or a week plus this time?
Schide: Yeah 10 days this time.
iRunFar: Fantastic, just perfect. Have a little vacation and wreck your legs next weekend.
Schide: Exactly, yep. And then a few days to recover the legs before taking the flight again.
iRunFar: Always the hardest part after an ultra is the plane ride home.
Schide: Yeah definitely. It gets pretty crampy sometimes.
iRunFar: All right, so you are American, I’m American, but this is my first time watching you race and our first time interviewing you. You are an American living abroad though, you call yourself an ex-pat?
Schide: Yeah I think at this point it’s safe to say I am an ex-pat, it’s been two-and-a-half years now, almost three, so yep.
iRunFar: So what’s your story? You are pursuing a PhD in Switzerland?
Schide: Yes, so I am doing my PhD in geology at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zürich.
iRunFar: And I think you said before the interview you are studying geomorphology, specifically what are you working on?
Schide: So I actually study landslides that are caused by the 2015 earthquake that was in Nepal.
iRunFar: Oh wow. Does that mean you are spending time in Nepal or are you using mapping and satellite technology? How do you do your work?
Schide: So both of those things. We traveled to Nepal, I’ve been four times since I have started at UTH and we also use satellite imagery and we take drone imagery when we are there to reference back.
iRunFar: Are you working in the Langtang Valley or a more discrete area?
Schide: Yeah, we work a bit in Langtang, mostly in three different valleys and one of them is Langtang, the other is the Annapurna range. It is a popular trekking route. But we go there by car and wave to all the people who are walking.
iRunFar: “We go there by car.” That sounds like a really interesting PhD and we are on a pretty geologically amazing island so I just have to ask your quick thoughts on Madeira geology and how much you are looking at the rocks as you are running around here?
Schide: Well I definitely am always looking at rocks when I am running. Here it is a volcanic island so it’s a lot of basalt so it’s actually, it’s interesting but there isn’t a lot of variety. In some ways it is exciting and in some ways it is kind of boring.
iRunFar: I love that volcanic geology is quote-unquote, “kind of boring.”
Schide: Well it’s all the same thing.
iRunFar: That’s amazing. And so you previously lived in Utah, the Salt Lake area, while you were getting your Master’s degree and kind of looking at race results, that looks like when and how you got into trail running?
Schide: Yeah, I was actually hiking a lot and I school and then when I was in college in Vermont I was spending all of my summers working in Mountain Hudson New Hampshire. And we did a lot of fast hiking there, which I would now look back and call trail running but then, to us we were just hiking. Because the terrain was so technical you couldn’t run like you would on the road. So I was really into these big long day hikes and then when I moved to Utah I was just looking for a kind of just running because I always liked running and realized that this hiking was called running. And that there were also these things called races where there was like official start times. And I just signed up for a few just as a challenge just to see, more just to see if I could finish and found some success there and really likes of the community and kind of stuck with it after that.
iRunFar: So looking at your early race results, early we are talking about circa 2015 so it’s really not too long ago. Do I have that right?
Schide: 2015… Yeah, I think my first race that would be a real result was in 2015, yeah.
iRunFar: And you were kind of doing like the big races in Utah. Like Red Hot Moab 55k and Speedgoat 50k, did you know that you were kind of entering the big races and then actually doing well at them? Was that part of the mentality?
Schide: Yeah, I didn’t really know that Speedgoat was a big race, I just saw it as a big challenge and it was close to where I was living so it was more convenient. The same with the Red Hot. I think I was more just picking all the races near me in Salt Lake. So that I didn’t have to travel not much, it was all driving distance. But yeah, looking back I see that they are actually bigger races.
iRunFar: And just to sort of set the record straight, did you do collegiate sports or high-school sports or anything before trail running?
Schide: Growing up I played every sport we had but I focused more on field hockey, and I played field hockey at Middlebury College just my first year and then decided to spend more time–I just found a different community of people that were more into going hiking on the weekends and I just wanted to pursue that more. And take sports a bit less seriously.
iRunFar: Do you consider yourself someone who takes sports seriously now or pretty un-seriously?
Schide: I mean honestly yeah, just to even fly to a race, I think when you are flying to a race you are making a commitment to something. So yeah, I definitely take running seriously in some ways like when I am focusing on a big race or preparing for something then, yeah it matters to me. But I also try not to make it the focus of everything, there are other things to do like enjoy the island, then just race.
iRunFar: Have a vacation in addition to running.
Schide: Exactly, exactly, yeah.
iRunFar: So you, in the last couple years of living and working and running in Europe you have found some success. You ran Les Templiers two editions ago and you are in the top 10 there. And then last year you had a great showing at CCC and you won the 85k distance here in Madeira. How are you feeling about your growing results over the last couple of years looking toward now and this race, this year?
Schide: Yeah, I think since moving to Zürich I have definitely been improving each year and I feel that just in my day-to-day runs and I think it shows in my race results to. I’m still trying to figure out what types of races I like and I have done–I did a few shorter sky races when I first moved to Europe because I had a friend–I have a friend who does that a lot. And then I tried some longer stuff and I still feel like I am moving around trying to figure out what works. But it is also fun to try new things and not really know what is going to happen each time.
iRunFar: Speaking of sort of trying new things, you ran the 85k distance here and full disclosure, I did that race a couple years ago. I thought that was plenty of kilometers on this island, it took kind of a long time. You are pretty worked at the end of the day. But you are back a year later to do the longer addition, the 115k. You’re increasing your time out by 50% with this race, what’s made you not only come back to the same place to race but go for the longer one?
Schide: I still remember last year when I was pretty close to the finish. I didn’t feel awesome obviously, I was pretty exhausted.
iRunFar: Like 10 hours in. “We’re going to be a little tired.”
Schide: But I remember thinking, I really want to do the longer race next year. More for me, I really like maps and we didn’t draw a line across the whole island so I feel like there is this chunk that needs to be finished. And I really like these point-to-point races where you traverse something. At UTMB, pass around a mountain range. So I think I need to draw the full line.
iRunFar: Which you are going to do in just a couple days. Now an interesting element of this race is that it is a midnight start so you start by going through almost the full night and we are pretty far out in this time zone so it gets light really late. It’s barely light at 7 a.m. so it is literally a full night of running.
Schide: Yeah I think it will be around seven hours in the dark which I have never done before. I’ve never done a night start actually so yeah, that’s a new, exciting aspect, a new thing to try. See how it goes.
iRunFar: And you have been out on the part of the course that is new to you, going to see the first bit of trail. What are your thoughts about night running up there?
Schide: Well actually two days ago it was all fog so I feel like that is a good prep–no views.
Katie Schide: Yeah. I think it’s a bit of a bummer to miss some of those sections at night but there is a bunch and the trees but I guess we wouldn’t be missing too many views. And certainly the end of the race as you know is really beautiful along the cliffs. So I’m not sure that I would want that to be at night either. So there are some trade-offs.
iRunFar: You have to do something in the night.
iRunFar: We are in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, off the coast of North Africa. It is just a really interesting place to be culturally and food wise and people wise. What are some of the things that you are really enjoying this week?
Schide: Well my favorite thing about Madeira that I remember from last year is the bolo [do caco], the bread that is like–it’s kind of like an oversize English muffin and then it is filled with garlic and butter. I’m pretty sure it is fresh garlic from the island because I have seen garlic all over the place. Those are really good. I think that is definitely easily the top of my list.
iRunFar: Is that going to be a pre-race fueling up or a post-race indulgence?
Schide: I think both. Maybe during. I can’t remember if they had them at aid stations last year but if I see one at an aid station I will certainly be eating it.
iRunFar: All of it.
iRunFar: Well that’s a great way to end this interview, it’s great to get to know you and good luck this weekend at Madeira Island Ultra-Trail.
Schide: Thanks. Nice to meet you too.