Trail running champion Katie is an outdoor athlete who loves to move quickly through the mountains, whether it be running, skiing or biking. She is originally from Maine, US, but currently lives in Switzerland where she combines training in the alps with working on a PhD in geology.
You might know Katie Schide as an elite trail runner. As the 2018 UTMB CCC 100km runner up. As the sixth-placed finisher at the 2019 UTMB. Or as the 90km Marathon du Mont Blanc 2019 Champion. But it takes a lot of mountain miles to get to the summit of the trail-race scene. Katie’s ascendency began far from the Alps she’s now known for conquering, in the White Mountains of New Hampshire, US.
Originally from Maine, Katie hopped the state border to study at Middlebury College in Vermont. At the end of her first year, she took a summer job working as part of the crew running the Appalachian Mountain Club(AMC) Huts in the White Mountains. Katie soon found herself very much at home, forging strong friendships with her team members alongside an ability for traversing tough terrain at speed.
“The huts were like a second home,” Katie explains. Even on days off, I would just go to other huts and spend time with friends. Even in the winter, I would know people caretaking at the huts – if I wanted a weekend away from the college campus, I would drive up for three or four hours of hiking and stay with a friend.”
Over time, Katie’s hiking got faster, evolving into speed hiking and eventually, where the terrain allowed, full-on trail running.
“When I came back to Middlebury from working in the huts, I still really liked running, and there's plenty of trails in Vermont.
“So I was trail running a bit like road and trail running, just to catch up with friends and stay in shape, and then more when I was working in the huts again, and I got used to doing longer trails.
“Later I moved to Utah, and then the trails were more runnable. I realized, ‘Ah, I don't have to hike, I can run, I know how to run.’ Then it kind of all transitioned into trail running.”
The evolution from hiking to trail running eventually transitioned into trail racing and titles, spurred on by her partner, coach and fellow On athlete Germain Grangier. Katie’s geology studies took her from the states to Switzerland, where she’s currently studying for a PhD at the renowned ETH university in Zürich.
It was on a visit back to the White Mountains that Germain realized how special the region was to Katie.
“We spent a night in the hut and Katie had a lot of friends around and she was really excited about everything. I remember we were running on a trail, and in Europe we kind of go off trail when we want and so I went off trail.
“Katie yelled at me. She said, ‘No, don't step on that forest, it's like really protected.’ And I was like, ‘Okay.’ And she said, ‘I really care about this place.’
“Then, I understood that this place is really important for her, so we talked together and I said, okay, you should do something here and it’ll be great.”
A seed of an idea had been planted. Like in much of the US, the protection of the forests makes it more difficult to organize races than in Europe, where new events pop up all the time. So while Katie couldn’t enter a homecoming race, she could run an iconic FKT in the region.
An FKT, or “Fastest Known Time,” is simply the record for completing a specified route faster than anyone is known to have completed it before. The routes and times are submitted, tracked and logged at fastestknowntime.com.
FKTs are becoming increasingly popular in the trail community. The rise in trail racing has brought with it the crowds and commerce that many runners hit the mountains to escape from. FKTs make almost any terrain “raceable”, any time.
The obvious FKT for Katie to chase was the White Mountain Hut Traverse – a route linking the full chain of eight AMC huts. Running from Carter Notch Hut at its most western point, the traverse runs 80 (50 miles) km east to Lonesome Lake hut. Add in around 4,500m (15,000 feet) of elevation and rocky terrain and it’s not for rookies. But Katie was a hut kid. And this is not her first traverse. But it would be by far the fastest.
“The first time I did the Hut Traverse, we started at 1:00 in the morning, and I ended around 1:00 in the morning, so that would be a full 24 hours.” Katie recalls.
“If I'm able to take the FKT, it would be like cutting my first time for the route in half, which would be kind of crazy.”
The time to beat for the women’s FKT was 14 hours, 28 minutes and 6 seconds, set by a local runner, but not a member of the “Hut Croo”, which was another motivating factor for Katie to take on the challenge.
“Germain had kind of encouraged me to actually do this [the FKT]. It's kind of been in my mind for a while, but I thought that my friend Megan [from the Hut team] still had the record, and it's always been kind of like, ‘She's my friend, it would feel weird to take something from my friend.’ “
“But then I saw that someone else had beaten her time. And I was like, okay, it feels like clear for me to go for it now.”
“I think the crew really wants someone from the huts to have the Hut Traverse record, so I hope I can bring that back to them.
To find out if Katie could bring the Hut Traverse FKT back to the Hut Kids, watch the short film ‘Homecoming’ above – part of a series of On productions offering exclusive insight into the stories of On athletes.
How did you start running? I don’t remember a time when I wasn’t running. As a kid I played every organized sport available. Most notably I was a field hockey player, but on a rare weekend when I didn’t have a game or practice I was out hiking with my dad. While I was in college, I spent four summers working in mountain huts in New Hampshire and learned how to move quickly over technical terrain. I love that running doesn’t require a team or pile of equipment – you can just go!
Why do you run now? So many reasons… Running allows me to relax, think, and spend time alone. But it also brings me great friendships and a wonderful community. It brings structure to my daily routine, but also gives me the freedom to go anywhere. Most importantly it’s my excuse to be outside, travel, and discover new mountains, valleys, lakes and ridgelines.
What was the most important race you’ve run to date?
The most important race I’ve done was probably my first-ever trail race – a local 28-miler in Utah. I showed up by myself, having no idea what would happen.
In the end, I had so much fun and felt completely welcomed by the community. I fell in love with the sport that day and wouldn’t be here today without that experience.
What is your pre-race ritual? I usually end up pinning and re-pinning my bib on my shirt at least 5 times, I can be very particular about some things! Then I eat some cookies and fruit and always end up drinking too much coffee.
What do you think about while running? If I’m in the city I usually zone out or think about whatever I was working on that day. If I’m in the mountains I like to look around and try to spot animals or think about the history of landscapes I’m in.
What is your go-to training meal? In the summer a big bowl of veggies with some beans, falafel, tofu, nuts, seeds, olives, anything I can find in the kitchen. In the winter I like to make lots of soups with sweet potatoes, lentils, cauliflower, carrots, leeks, etc.
How do you recover after a tough run?
Lounging outside, reading a book, or trying to create a new dessert
What song is your go-to for the run? I don’t normally listen to music when I run, but when I need a little motivation before a particularly cold and wet run in the city I’ll crank some One Direction or Taylor Swift before heading out the door.
Who is your “team”? My partner (fellow On athlete Germain Grangier) is my A-team. But really all of my friends and family are so supportive, even if a lot of them are on another continent. A special shout-out to Germain’s parents though, who have crewed for us at nearly every big race and always go out of their way to help us.
Apart from endurance sports, what is your passion? My passion is being in the mountains – so I’m lucky that my work and sport all happen here! I also love baking, reading, knitting, yoga, and drinking a beer or coffee with friends.
What was the best piece of running advice you ever received? When I first got into trail running I read somewhere: “Ultra running is just an eating and drinking contest with some exercise in between”. I take this to heart during races!
What advice do you have for someone who wants to follow in your footsteps? Don’t!
Follow your own path – it will be more fun!
Why On? On isn’t afraid to try new things and take risks. It seems like On has no limits to where they want to go.
What’s your favorite On shoe and why? The Cloud X is so light and flexible, it’s my go-to for walking to the store or getting out for quick evening run.
What’s your favorite item of On apparel and why?
The Weather Shirt. It has a button to keep one of the shirt flaps from hitting your face when you need to unzip it. It’s almost as if On knew this was one of my biggest pet-peeves!