WORDS BY LIKE THE WIND – RACE PHOTOGRAPHY BY MATHIS DUMAS. PRODUCT PHOTOGRAPHY BY THE NORTH FACE
No matter what kind of trail racing experience you face, preparation is vital for success. Katie Schide may have discovered trail running by accident, but she and her team at The North Face are meticulous in their behind-the-scenes prep for her racing challenges.
Completing the Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc (UTMB) is a huge undertaking. The raw numbers are breathtaking: 170km circling the Mont Blanc massif, with 10,000m of ascent (the equivalent of climbing from Everest Base Camp to the top of the mountain three times) plus many sections of technical trails and hours of running in the dark. It is a challenge that inspires thousands of runners from around the world. For many of the participants, the aim is simply to get all the way around the mountains and back to Chamonix before the 40-odd-hour cut-off.
But for a select few, their aim is not just to finish – impressive as that is. The aim is to win. To prove that they have what it takes to compete at the highest level. For these athletes, the only way they will be satisfied is to be among the fastest. For them, the proof is in the podium. Katie Schide is one such athlete. Born in Maine, USA, Katie discovered she had an affinity for rocky trails while working in the mountain huts that offer food and rest to hikers and runners exploring the White Mountains of New Hampshire. Initially, trail running as a sport was not on Katie’s radar. “I wasn’t seeking trail running,” she reflects. “I think I just realised that what I liked to do had a name.”
Katie worked in the huts during college summer holidays, but she had always enjoyed spending time outdoors backpacking and hiking with her dad. She met kindred spirits working in the huts and, once she left home, Katie hung out with this group of like-minded pals. “I just really enjoyed having the whole day to go and explore and be with my friends,” explains Katie. Together, they had created an unofficial competition that they called the Hut Challenge. The idea was to travel the 50 miles from one end of the chain of eight huts to the other in less than 24 hours. (The hikers staying in the huts would normally take a week to complete the traverse.) Katie set out on the 50-mile route alone and finished, at her first attempt, in almost exactly 24 hours. Being an unofficial arrangement, there was no podium or medal at the end for her. But the competitive side of Katie’s personality was lit up by this challenge.
Then, in 2015, Katie signed up for her first trail race, the 28-mile Logan Peak Trail Run. Training had not been specific – she had just been spending time in the mountains, where the trails were often too steep and technical for much running. Despite feeling nervous in the weeks leading up to the race, on the day Katie was first female home (and sixth overall). This convinced her that she was cut out for trail running. By this point, Katie had completed the Hut Challenge three times and, later in 2015, she toed the line at the 50km Speedgoat race. Katie’s seventh place, against a field stacked with trail running talent, was further confirmation that she had found the perfect sport in which to test herself.
In a relatively short time, Katie had gone from someone who didn’t consider herself a trail runner to an athlete competing alongside the best in the world. To someone who brands wanted to support. To having a potential professional career in trail running. Suddenly podiums were very much on Katie’s mind.
One of the biggest changes she faced following Speedgoat was in her approach and mindset. Katie wanted to get better, and that involved more shape and routine in her training.
“When you switch from just running recreationally, thinking: ‘OK, I’m gonna do my run before work’ to having a coach, there are set plans and you have targets on the calendar. That was a really great shift for me, because it gave me more structure in my running.”
In 2019 Katie moved to France… and her passion for racing on the trails deepened. In 2019 Katie finished sixth at the UTMB. Following the break for the Covid-19 pandemic, Katie raced the 2021 edition of the race, finishing eighth. Good results, but not good enough for where she wanted to be. Katie prepared better than ever for the 2022 UTMB. No stone was left unturned. As Katie says herself, her relaxed demeanour just before and during races is down to the fact that she knows that she has done the work.
While Katie was putting in the effort in her training, her sponsors at The North Face were doing their own work to give Katie and the other athletes on their dedicated trail team the best chance of reaching the podium.
A Covid-19 scare presented an eleventh-hour setback. But this did not detract from the solid work that Katie and The North Face had put in to her preparation. They had left no stone unturned. All that remained now was to see what was possible.
From the start, Katie’s intentions were clear. As night fell, after the 5pm start, Katie opened up a huge lead on the other women in the field. But as the sun rose the next day, Canadian Marianne Hogan had closed the gap and started to pull away.
But Katie did not give up and, with 30km left to race, she caught and overtook Marianne. Katie’s decisive move saw her take a 20-minute lead by the checkpoint at Vallorcine. A lead that she did not relinquish.
After just over 23 hours, Katie crossed the finish line as first woman and 22nd overall. The next day, in front of a huge crowd, Katie climbed the steps to the stage to collect her trophy. On display for everyone to see was the proof in the podium.
One particularly vital element of Katie’s thorough preparation was the right footwear – notably, the new Summit Series VECTIVTM Pro shoes, specially designed to be perfect for race day. The shoes are equipped with The North Face’s new foam technology and VECTIVTM 2.0 carbon-fibre plates, resulting in optimised stability, enhanced cushioning and updated fits that provide comfort, propulsion, stability and traction on the trail. The Summit Series Trail Running Collection is a curated, engineered range of shoes and apparel for men and women, and each product is packed with technology to ensure the kit performs as well as the athletes wearing it.
CREATED BY LIKE THE WIND IN PARTNERSHIP WITH THE NORTH FACE
Find out more at www.thenorthface.com