Endurance Athlete Katie Spotz Runs Across Maine:
Keeping the Mindset of Constant Exploration
By Christine Simmonds
Katie Spotz is not your average 33-year-old. Katie is an endurance athlete who views life as a challenge. Originally from Cleveland, Ohio, she moved to Maine in November of 2019, and she is currently a member of the U.S. Coast Guard stationed in South Portland. Prior to her Coast Guard service, she was a firefighter in New York.
Katie’s journey to Maine began when she was 29. A friend told her about the Coast Guard, and Katie was interested. “They help people,” Katie says. “It’s a challenging environment. It’s all about service.” When she learned the cutoff age was 30, Katie told herself, “Then I guess I should do it now!”
Katie’s latest challenge is a run across Maine that starts on Labor Day weekend at the border of Canada. She says she has driven the course, and it is a straight 130 miles to Belfast. “As I’m training, people are asking me, ‘Who is telling you to do that?’” She says for her, it’s about adventure and endurance.
“Think about kids,” she says. “Kids are constant explorers of the universe. They are constantly doing things for the first time.” Katie says she experiences a spark of joy when she is able to continue that mindset of constant exploration. “Remember, you were a baby once. You didn’t even know how to talk or walk or crawl!”
Katie’s main purpose behind this run, however, like many of her endurance feats, is to bring attention and funds to the global water crisis. “I’m for clean water all the way!” she says. Currently 780 million people in the world do not have access to clean water. Katie feels strongly that it does not have to be that way. “If anyone feels so inclined to change the number with me, Lifewater International has been around for 40 years and has helped 2.5 million people.” Katie also pairs with the organization Run4Water in her endurance runs.
Katie’s longest run to date was 100 miles, though she adds that it depends on the terrain. Her run across Maine will require about 30 hours of running. “I hate the first five miles,” she says. But then, the endorphins kick in, and she feels what is commonly described as the runners high.
Katie can still remember her first 60-mile run. She says she would get shots of energy every so often, and then get completely depleted and feel like a zombie. “You get highs and lows. The drama!” she laughs.
To prepare for this challenge, Katie says her training is similar to standard protocol for endurance training. She was up to a 40-mile run in May and says the human body can usually handle a 10 percent increase in volume once a week overall.
Katie does her “long runs” on the weekend, and every four to six weeks she does a run of 30 percent less. “Those are my designated recovery weeks,” she says. Even if she feels like she is fine, she says these lessened weeks are important for her recovery. “When you’re running for 10 miles, your brain is done because you’re focusing so much. If you’re not focusing, you’re going to fall over,” she says.
“Because my long runs are so long, the rest of the week is about recovering,” Katie says. She usually waits two days and then does some strength training, with a focus on not injuring herself. “I know what I’m doing is excessive,” she says. On Wednesdays she does a three- to five-mile recovery run, so she does not “forget how to run.” She also calls it a “shakeout run.”
While Katie has been training for this event on her own, she will have a friend crewing with her to make sure she has enough fuel for the entire run. And what about staying up for more than 24 hours? “After doing these endurance challenges, the last thing I can do is sleep!” she exclaims. “With the endorphins, I’ve never had a hard time staying awake.” She does include caffeine intake around mile 50, though.
This run across Maine is hardly Katie’s first extreme sport. At the age of 22, Katie became the youngest person to cross the Atlantic alone in a rowboat. She was also the first woman to row mainland to mainland.
Katie was 19 when she first began thinking about crossing the Atlantic. She learned that there were more people who have been on the moon than there are who have succeeded in crossing oceans by rowboat, and her curiosity was piqued. “It wasn’t an immediate thought that I had to do it, but it was a never-ending curiosity to know more,” she says. She exhausted all the online resources she could find on the topic, and she knew she wanted to know what it was like.
While Katie had no rowing or boating experience, she had a sense that if she did not do this, she would always wonder about it. In the end, Katie says it was about “choosing between 70 days of rowing or a lifetime of regret. I couldn’t carry the weight of an unfulfilled and unrealized calling.”
“I agreed that it was crazy,” Katie says with a laugh, but adds that she “couldn’t erase the call.”
Katie was able to complete the journey across the Atlantic Ocean unsupported on her first attempt. It ended up being exactly 70 days, and she spent between 10 and 12 hours a day rowing. “My boat was like a self-contained universe,” she says. She had some technology that “usually worked,” including a desalinator, solar panels, RADAR, and a satellite phone.
The rowboat was 19 feet long, with a cabin in the bow for storage and another she slept in to protect her from the elements. Katie experienced 25-foot waves and visits from sharks, dolphins, sea turtles, and flying fish. She witnessed glowing plankton and had fires on board from electrical shortages. “It was this beautiful mix of absolute boredom mixed with sheer terror and excitement, with not much in between,” she says. “It was like living a National Geographic experience.”
For more information on Katie’s journey, check out her website www.KatieSpotz.com. The website includes a blog and information on the charities and how to donate. Katie can also be found on social media.