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Captains of Performance: Katie Schide and Jason Koop’s Coach-Athlete Voyage

Corrine Malcolm

May 7th, 2024

10 min read

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In the world of ultra running, where the trails are often winding and the finish lines seem to disappear over the horizon, Katie Schide isn’t just chasing distance – she’s chasing excellence. As an athlete, she’s quietly determined and steadily redefining what it means to be a professional in the rugged realm of trail running. Two years ago when she ran into the heart of the city center in Chamonix, France, the 2022 winner of the hotly contested 170km Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc (UTMB) I texted her coach Jason Koop “Congratulations!” – the text I got back simply read, “Her life just changed forever.”

Photo by Mathis Dumas

There Are No Shortcuts

While I’m sure there are more asks of Katie’s time, back home in the tiny hamlet of Mercantour where she lives with her partner Germain Grangier, far away from the fanfare and spotlights life continues as before. Life remains simple, and at the end of the day, the training won’t do itself. I asked Jason Koop what sets Katie apart as an athlete, and his answer might surprise you. “She’s a consummate professional in every sense. Katie is equally talented as everyone else out there, but what really sets her apart is the professionalism she brings to the table with the logistics, travel, planning for training sessions, and all the duties as otherwise specified.” Simply put, Katie nails the little things, the minute details, a trait, I would learn, that follows her everywhere. A trait she shares with her coach.

Read “We Have Nothing, But We Have Everything, Katie Schide on life, love, and the pursuit of happiness” a profile by Doug Mayer.

I was curious, when you pair two very detail-oriented individuals together, who steers the ship? At the heart of their approach lies a profound sense of self-determination and ownership from the athlete side of the coin. When asked, Katie emphasized the pivotal role of personal agency saying, “I think the first step, that all of my goals come from me, is really important as an athlete. That I am the one bringing the race, or objectives to the table.” Schide’s words underscore the intrinsic connection between her aspirations and her identity as an athlete. By being at the helm, and anchoring her own ambitions, she assumes full responsibility for her journey. For Schide, this relatively self-directed approach isn’t just a matter of logistics – it’s a source of motivation. As she reflects, “Because at the end of the day, it’s your excitement that is going to get you out the door in the morning.”

Evolving as a Team

That level of transparency and ease of communication doesn’t come right away. “At the beginning, it was more about me just following the plan, I didn’t really know him as a person, he was just this coach figure… the biggest change has been getting a better sense of each other’s personalities – getting to know who the other person is. That brings a lot more of a personal dimension… it’s not just somebody responding to my Training Peaks comments. Now I have more things to make fun of him for, and I think he has a better sense of who I really am. And I think that plays an important role in the day-to-day.” It might seem simple but what started as checking the boxes has gradually turned into an invested relationship from both sides.

By being at the helm, and anchoring her own ambitions, she assumes full responsibility for her journey.

“One of the cool things about [Jason] Koop is that he’s onsite for so many big events, that I feel like I get to see him at almost every single race I do. He’s crewed me at some big events, and I think that’s been one of the biggest changes… just getting to know the person better.” That invested energy from both Katie and Jason has turned what could be just green messages on WhatsApp or email notifications into a true partnership. The proof, and podiums, speak for themselves.

Building Confidence as Copilots

Photo by Mathis Dumas

But it’s a dynamic partnership between this athlete and coach duo, and effective communication serves as the cornerstone to its success. A moment last year underscores the pivotal role of open dialogue that goes beyond metrics and numbers. “An example of this is last year before Western States [100 miles] I was dealing with a medium-sized injury while training in Flagstaff [Arizona]… I had enough people I could call on the phone and be sad to, but I think talking to Koop was more grounding. It was like, ‘Okay here are the facts. This is what’s happening, this is what we can do.’ In the end, that’s actually what gives me more confidence.” This moment highlights a coaching relationship that thrives on honesty and authenticity, lacking pretense of embellishment. Schide values this genuine exchange, noting, “I am someone who overthinks and analyses everything, I know there is some truth somewhere – and I appreciate hearing it. I think that’s the way our relationship has evolved and works well, is there is no bullshit. There’s no fake news. It’s all real.” It’s a symbiotic partnership – a trust they share.

In a separate conversation, Koop shared that same sentiment, “We have a lot of trust built up so we can communicate on a more transparent level. Globally, she’s upfront about what her goals are but day-to-day she’s just as forthcoming about how the sessions went and what’s going on in her life in general.  And in return, I can be honest about how she needs to get to those goals, how the training is going, etc.”

Thriving Together with High-Performance Coaching

Now into their third season of working together, the dynamic continues to evolve. A change in that day-to-day has been what Jason Koop calls High-Performance Coaching. An all hands on-deck approach that he is implementing with a number of his athletes, and an approach that is blending into how he coaches in general.

Coach Jason Koop

This team approach embraces the expertise of specialists in various domains to ensure his athletes receive tailored guidance and support. He explains, “Long story short it makes the athlete better. Both because they have the right advice from the best experts but they also have the confidence that they’ve done all the right things.” Recognizing the complexity of ultra running and acknowledging his own limitations, he emphasizes the value of integrating specialists. “Ultra running is long overdue for this. I realize that I am very limited in my capacity in certain areas of expertise and people spend decades in niche areas of nutrition, injury rehab, etc. and I can’t recreate that. So bringing in the real domain experts makes all the sense in the world where that level of precision in the advice makes a material difference.” And as Katie put it, not only is this new approach giving her peace of mind that all the boxes have been checked, but it’s saving her time and energy in the process, “…there’s a lot more connection between players of the team, which I think has been cool and makes it feel a bit more fluid. I now have one group chat to send updates to instead of filling everyone in individually, and now they are talking more directly too.”

Practice Makes Permanent

Shortly after landing stateside in April, Katie put practice into action at the Canyons Endurance Runs by UTMB 100-kilometer blowing away the field – winning by 50 minutes and finishing sixth overall. But if you talk to her crew, Kim and Topher Gaylord, what they’ll tell you isn’t that she’s fast (we know that), it’s that she is a world-class communicator. It’s not fancy, it’s really simple, she and Jason Koop keep practicing nailing the little things.

Canyons kicked off what will be a two-month training block leading into her second appearance at the Western States 100 mile at the end of June. In the High-Performance Coaching process that CTS and Jason are bringing to trail and ultra-running, Katie’s object remains simple –she’s hopeful to get to the start line feeling her best. “I’m trying to approach it with the mindset that I take into any race, which is I want to stand on the start line feeling like I did everything I could to be my best on that day, and then see what happens. Take control of everything I can, but then accept that I can’t control everything. The obvious goal though, is there is only one place on paper that is better than second, and that would be to win.”

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