It's time for another athlete feature! Today, we sat down with Katie Purcell - she's a friend, colleague, and a fierce competitor.
Katie competes worldwide in Spartan Races, and although she is very humble in this interview, she has some seriously impressive accolades.
Somehow, Katie finds time to train and compete while also completing her MBA. Katie has been instrumental for us as she gives us insights into the mind of the competitive athlete. She has helped us communicate the product ingredients and find creative ways to engage different members of the fitness community. She's also a celebrity of sorts within the Spartan community, and has really helped us better understand the mentality of the competitive athlete.
Read more below to learn more about Katie's inspiring story and some of her goals for the future!
Tell us a bit about yourself – where you grew up, what you were like as a kid,
when you got into Spartan Race, other passions, etc.
I grew up in Connecticut and went to Fairfield University for my
undergraduate degree. The way I got into Spartan Race is pretty interesting. When I was growing up, I had an eating disorder, and I probably could have died from it.
I was very un-athletic, and I was one of those people who was on the treadmill for a certain time to burn certain number of calories – I didn’t have any concept of fitness.
Then I got into treatment and one of my friend’s asked me to try out this race she had heard about and I reluctantly agreed - It was the Fenway race in November and I began training. This gave me a healthy reason to focus on the gym, and after this, I started taking health and fitness seriously – a type of fitness I fell in love!
Wow that is an incredible story - we love to hear how people have used fitness and goal-setting to help inspire change in their life. What about OCR resonated with you most? Why do you think you were able to get into it so quickly?
The COMMUNITY. Everyone is supportive, encouraging and friendly.
The other thing I Iike about it is you get to be this big kid – it’s fun to play on the monkey bar, to get in the mud and climb over the wall – the stuff you haven’t done since you were 8 years old, and all of a sudden it’s like a big playground and is really fun.
That definitely sounds like a lot of fun - this aspect of adult play definitely factors into all sorts of workout trends. With regards to the athletes themselves, what makes Spartan Racers different?
OCR provides a holistic view of fitness. You can’t just be good at one thing. Due to the nature of all the different things you have to do, you have to be good at all disciplines. This leaves you constantly working on a different skill set and you need to find the right balance - this diversified approach is what makes us so unique.
We first met you through Babson where you're currently studying for an MBA - when you talk about this holistic view how do you balance your school, training, and US National team duties?
I get up really early – at 5 AM, and I work out from 6 to 8. So I’m done with my workouts by 8 and have plenty of time for other stuff during the day. I try to go to bed early and get plenty of sleep.
That's quite a routine! What about your diet and training schedule?
I train 5 days a week. I do a combination of long distance and incline training. I also do plenty of HIIT and grip strength training.
For nutrition, I’m all over the board due to a sporadic lifestyle. I eat plenty of vegetables, protein, and calcium supplements. I tend to avoid carbs – breads and all those stuff. It’s a lot of salad and protein bars!
How do you deal with recovery and body care?
I do yoga occasionally and I stretch. Sometimes, I get a massage after a long race. And I get a lot of sleep.
Most of your race photos show you with face paint on. What’s the story behind
I have a self-conscious thing where I think, when I smile, that one of my eyebrows is higher than the other - Spartan Race takes a lot of photos and they get to keep them, haha. I thought if I did a face paint, it would be a cool photo no matter what!
So I tried a few different things - eventually my friend came up with this one and I have kept it ever since. Slowly, people started recognizing me because of it and it took off from there.
I’m not trying to be famous or anything, but it is fun and becomes a subject of conversation. I have met so many people just because I’m wearing a face paint and now I’m stuck with it. It’s going to be on for the future races and I have no plans of changing it!
What other OCR races have you tried? Do you want to talk about your race in
I’ve tried a few such as Fitchallenge, Dead End Race – in Canada, Bermuda Triple Challenge, and Savage Race as well as another local race called Goliathon. I will be trying the City Challenge Race soon along with a few others. I’m also preparing for an Ultrabeast which is a 30 mile OCR.
Of all these, Spartan Race is my favorite – they have the most events, and the best logistics –
it’s like a well-oiled machine! I’m a brand ambassador for them and I love it! I got a chance to talk to the CEO when he had a video-call at Babson once. We got lunch and he knows me now, and will hopefully remember me when he comes to school this year!
I felt more proud when I finished first my first race than when I won in Japan. It was one of the most proud moments of my life!!
Do you have any advice for first time Spartan Racers?
Start running. It’s fun to do the first one with the team. After my first race, I realized I needed more cardio and upper body strength. My arms were sore for a week. Start
with sprint. And just HAVE FUN! There’s always someone to encourage you – all finishers get a medal and a beer at the end.
Are there products that you’d like to see us make in the future? What do you think would be most applicable to OCR competitors?
During races every hour you need calories – so something like energy gels, energy
Pre-workout: Something like a Beetelite. I'm looking for a sugar rush before the race.
Post-workout: Recovery oriented products. Something like a Fit-aid.
One last question: Where do you see yourself in the future? How do you want to bring your training and eating habits into your adult life?
I’m deciding that right now. I have goals for every OCR season. Initially it was just to complete the races. Later it was to get a bunch of Trifecta – I got five of them. This year, it is to do an Ultrabeast.
Going forward, I want to focus on a single distance and specialize. I haven’t decide if I want to focus on the short or the long format.
I think OCR will always remain a hobby of mine, but never a professional pursuit. One of the most important things for me is balance. I believe balance is an important part of living a healthy lifestyle. I don’t want to give up the things like – going drinking or going dancing with my friends, eat a big slice of cake if I want to – and become a serious athlete. I don’t want to feel like I have to workout 3 hours a day – that’s not my goal. I want to keep it a hobby and encourage other people to take it up!