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Going the Distance with Katie Spotz

Without a doubt, Katie Spotz possesses a heart of a champion! (Photo Credit: Katie Spotz)

Without a doubt, Katie Spotz possesses a heart of a champion! (Photo Credit: Becca Dunn)

By all means, Katie Spotz embraces the human adventure with passion and love. Certainly, for over the past decade, Spotz defies limits with confidence, inner strength, and courage.

Moreover, Spotz finds constant motivation with her adventures by helping others. In 2010, she rowed the Atlantic Ocean solo, an incredibly powering two-month odyssey. Since then, Spotz has competed in various marathons, Ironman competitions, and triathlons, all for great causes.

Simply put, Spotz’ optimism and her devotion to her faith prove quite inspirational even during these times. All in all, Spotz embodies the champion’s spirit while being a great ambassador with humanitarianism.

For the past 10 years, I’ve had the pleasure of knowing Spotz and chronicling her adventures. However, Spotz’ latest endeavors bring her to the confines of New England and for the U.S. Coast Guard.

As I wrote in 2010, the “Big Apple” is often billed as “the city that never sleeps.”  Well, Katie Spotz likes to keep at it, ready for the next big sporting challenge! No doubt, Spotz never ceases to amaze, an admirable trait at any time! Without further ado, let’s start “Going the Distance with Katie Spotz!”

Tiongson :  It’s been quite some time since we last talked. But you’ve done some incredible things since our last conversation. Catch us up on what you’ve been up to in the past nine years and what you’re currently doing.

Without a doubt, Katie Spotz is truly strong! (Photo Credit: Katie Spotz)

Without a doubt, Katie Spotz is truly strong! (Photo Credit: Becca Dunn)

Spotz :  Life is full of adventure! Some of the highlights since my solo row across the Atlantic include starting a nonprofit called Schools for Water to help 10,000 students in Kenya get clean water. To celebrate, the students joined to break their own world record for the most people carrying jugs of water on their heads!

As part of a Rotary International Ambassadorial Scholarship, I was able to study Social Entrepreneurship to equip myself with knowledge on how better to solutions to social and environmental issues.

Through a partnership with an amazing nonprofit organization called H2O for Life, we reached more than 100,000 students across 150 schools to become engaged global citizens through service-learning opportunities.

Adventures and endurance challenges have also kept me fulfilled like Race Across America, a nonstop bicycle race across the states. Although I broke my pelvis before it, I was still able to race on a hand-bike. I also competed in 5 Ironman triathlons (1.2-mile swim, 112-mile bike, 26.2-mile run) and 3 100-mile ultra-runs with my fastest 100-miler in 19 hours.

Tiongson :  I’d like to thank you for your service to the U.S. as an Ensign in the Coast Guard. Given all that you’ve done as an athlete, what catalyzed or fueled you to join the Coast Guard?

Spotz :  Some of the best ideas come to me on my run. Joining the Coast Guard was no exception! I was chatting with a dear friend during an early morning run. And the question of “what’s next” came up after transitioning from one job to the next.

I expressed my desire to serve something greater than myself and doing something that left me feeling both mentally and physically challenged. I knew the answer when she asked me, “Have you considered joining the Coast Guard?” but left it far in the back of my mind behind all the other pursuits and passions.

Once I found out that I was at the age limit for enlisting, I knew that the time was now. I enlisted with the intent to join as a rescue swimmer. And I was honored to be given the opportunity to earn a commission as an Officer. I graduated from Officer Candidate School last November after being a Fireman at Station Buffalo and will be here at Sector Northern New England in Portland, Maine until 2022.

Tiongson :  One of your most celebrated feats includes your two-month journey in the Atlanta across from Senegal to Guyana in 2010. What was that experience like being in solitude and prepare for the unknown elements in that journey?

By all means, Spotz's incredible journey across the Atlanta in 2010 remains quite memorable. (Photo Credit: Katie Spotz)

By all means, Spotz’s incredible journey across the Atlanta in 2010 remains quite memorable. (Photo Credit: Katie Spotz)

Spotz :  What amazed me about being alone for 70-days was how rarely I felt alone. I learned to view that big-scary alone feeling as more a choice not to see the deep interconnectedness and interdependence we all have simply by sharing this planet. Even one-thousand miles away from land, I still felt supported by friends, family, and followers rooting me on along the way. Love has no boundaries!

Admittedly, as someone who is extremely introverted, I do quite like to spend time in solitude and find that to be more my comfort zone. Plus, with all the wildlife to visit me, I made friends easily at sea!

Tiongson :  Recently, you ran 61 miles across New Hampshire from the Vermont border to the Maine border. This distance accounts for 15 people collecting clean drinking water for those without it. How did you train for this and push through, especially during the more rugged, elevated portions of your run?

Spotz :  I started training at the beginning of this year for Run4Water, my attempt at running nonstop 130-miles across Maine for clean water. My training is similar to a marathon plan, in that I build my mileage about 10% each week and take a “recovery week” in the fourth week of the training cycle.

The miles can build up fast even with taking only increases of 10% each week. But the body is amazing if given gradual increases and rest. It’s only two runs a week now with my one long run on the weekend and mid-week shakeout run. If I were training for a marathon, I would typically be running five days a week. But since I am running an ultra-marathon every weekend, my body needs the time to heal.

Aside from the long-run on the weekend and short shake-out run, it’s a bit of foam rolling, stretching and body weights focusing on upper body and core.

Usually in ultra-running, it’s not worth the energy to power up climbs. You burn out quickly, and the time difference from power-walking and running on mountains is not very much. If it’s super steep, I power-walk and switch my focus on drinking lots of water/re-fueling, and shaking out my hands/arms to avoid blood pooling.

Tiongson :  One of your next adventures will be running across the entire state of Maine on September 5, 2020. How excited are you for this 130-mile run and the incredible sights and towns with your run?

As can be seen, Spotz really loves her life in New England! (Photo Credit: Katie Spotz)

As can be seen, Spotz really loves her life in New England! (Photo Credit: Katie Spotz)

Spotz :  So excited. I mentioned to my friends that helped me during my last long run across the state of NH, that the night before the run was the same excitement of being a kid on Christmas Eve. No matter how prepared you are for an endurance event, there are no guarantees. You are just running on hope and faith (and a bit of caffeine and a lot of sugar!).

The last 100-mile race I’ve done was in 19 hours. Ever since then, I have always wondered about pushing for 130-miles. Run4Water is not a qualifying event. But when I discovered that females need to cover 130 miles to qualify for the United States 24 Hour National Team, I always wondered if that distance could actually be achievable for me.

I am excited to…

  • Discover new parts of my new home state.
  • Start in the mountains and end at the ocean.
  • Know that the end result is that people are getting the water they need and deserve.
  • Share this journey with you!

Tiongson :  Given your past endeavors and journeys, New England has been your home. What’s been some of your favorite places in this region since making the move to this area?

Spotz :  A couple weekends ago, I had the chance to camp at Acadia National Park with its woodland, rocky beaches, and glacier-scoured granite peaks. It was breathtakingly stunning! I have built-in some of my training runs around exploring the area and some of my latest local faves are Peaks Island, Portland Head Lighthouse, and Old Orchard Beach.

Tiongson : The pandemic has certainly impacted all of us and everyone in the world. How have you pushed through these times and kept positive? 

Spotz :  I am tempted to say… running! While it is a healthy coping skill to face whatever comes our way, the rock on which I stand is faith. There may be a time that I can no longer run or swim or bike or row. But developing a relationship with God has given me peace, contentment, and joy in trying circumstances where I am being put to the test. I recently got baptized and the church I attend at Eastpoint was able to put together a video about my testimony here.

Tiongson : Years ago, we did a fun round of Free Association. Let’s do that again by talking about the first thing that comes to mind with the following:

Favorite running shoes.

It's all about good kicks! (Photo Credit: Katie Copple)

It’s all about good kicks! (Photo Credit: Becca Dunn)

Spotz :  Newtons. Always have, and likely always will.

Tiongson : Favorite bands to listen to when training.

Spotz :  Haha, I listened to this song or THREE hours during my last long-run!

Tiongson : Harmony.

Spotz :  Yoga! I used to go to a yoga studio in Ohio with that name….

Tiongson : A person that you still would like to meet.

Spotz :  Jesus!

Tiongson : Limitations.

Spotz :  Mental.

Tiongson : Inclusion.

Spotz :  Running.

Tiongson : Guilty pleasure meal.

Spotz :  Sweet potato fries with extra salt!

Tiongson : A country you would love to visit.

Altogether, Spotz's outreach helps great causes like Lifewater. (Photo Credit: Katie Spotz)

Altogether, Spotz’s outreach helps great causes like Lifewater. (Photo Credit: Lifewater International)

Spotz :  Tanzania! That is where the money raised for Run4Water will go on behalf of Lifewater International, and I’d love to visit and learn more about the people and their culture, as well as the work that Lifewater is doing to build community.

Tiongson : With all that you’ve accomplished and the platform that you have, what’s it mean to you when others connect with you? And how about when they cite you as an inspiration for taking charge of their lives again?

Spotz :  Perhaps the most humbling and important part of this journey is when my story ends and then another story begins. Inspiration is contagious! There were people who crossed my path and inspired me; whether is the story of the woman who rowed the Atlantic with her 55-year-old mother or the professor that educated me about the water crisis.

The inspiration that I can share is soon-to-be the inspiration that someone else can share with the next person on their journey. I am just humbled to be given the inspiration in the first place and will happily share the inspiration that has been given to me!

Tiongson :  You once said “we are all capable of achieving much more than we may think.” With some feeling the brunt of this untenable time, how important is it for each of us to believe that we can achieve much more than we think? Even when the going gets tough?

Ultimately, Spotz's ambition and drive leads to limitless possibilities! (Photo Credit: Katie Spotz)

Ultimately, Spotz’s ambition and drive leads to limitless possibilities! (Photo Credit: Becca Dunn)

Spotz :  Before I became a runner, I was a doubter. Before I ever ran a mile, I worried if I could. It is normal to have feelings of doubt, fear, and insecurity. But endurance has taught me how to focus. Sometimes, all we can do is focus on that next step in front of us.

What gives me hope is that we are in this together to encourage each other through these moments of uncertainty. Pain is real, but so is hope, and our world needs it now more than ever. We all have the opportunity to be beacons of light to remind each other that no person and no circumstance is beyond hope. Even if we have nothing left in this world but hope, that is enough.

Editor’s Notes

Special thanks to my good friend Katie Spotz! It’s a pleasure sharing her incredible and inspirational journey on The Podium Finish! For those who’d like to keep up-to-date with Katie, be sure to “Follow” her on Twitter, “Like” her Facebook page, “Add” her on Instagram, and “Visit” her official website now! Lastly, if you’d like to help donate to Katie’s fundraiser for clean water, be sure to visit this link and help with Katie’s wonderful cause!

Rob Tiongson is a 30-something motorsports journalist who enjoys sports like baseball, basketball, football, soccer, track and field and hockey. A Boston native turned Austinite, racing was the first sport that caught his eyes. From interviews to retrospective articles, if it's about anything with an engine and four wheels, it'll be here on TPF, by him or by one of his talented columnists who have a passion for racing. Currently seeking a sports writing, public relations, or sports marketing career, particularly in motorsports. He enjoys editing and writing articles and features, as well as photography. Moreover, he enjoys time with his family and friends, traveling, cooking, working out and being a fun uncle or "funcle" to his nephew, niece and cat. Tiongson, a graduate of Southern New Hampshire University with a Bachelor of Arts in Communication, pursues his Master of Arts in Digital Journalism at St. Bonaventure University. Indeed, while Tiongson is proud to be from Massachusetts, he's an everywhere kind of man residing in Texas.

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