More than Mud - Nele Schulze
More than Mud is an article and interview series dedicated to documenting the incredible characters and stories that we come across in the world of OCR and outdoor adventure and endurance racing events. They range from everyday heroes to extreme athletes but all have unique and engaging stories to tell.
What are the highlights of your race and event resume?
I think the events I am most proud of, have to be Death Races and the Survival Run. I am definitely more of an endurance athlete, the longer the better! I absolutely love being broken down and having to get myself out of some dark moments. In 2013, I was the Winter Death Race female champion. Only 2 women finished (7 people total), it was such an honour to be part of that. I think it was during that race that I realized I am far more capable than I've ever imagined. Team Death Race was also an amazing experience. I was lucky to have the best team ever. The Survival Run opened my eyes to just how hard these races can be; I think it was the closest I’ve ever been to drowning.
Your standing at the starting line moments before running, if you could play any song at that moment to pump you up, what would it be?
I like fast paced music. Levels by Avicii is definitely on my list, not too sure why. I like electronic music to get me pumped up. As long as there is a good beat, then I am a fan.
Have you always been fit? and If not, what was the turning point for you?
Far from it. Before 2012, I could not run a mile. My boyfriend (now my husband) found an OCR online and I thought it would be fun to join him and his friends. His friends cancelled but we decided to run it anyway. In April 2012 I went to run my first mile; and I ended up having to sit down because I was pretty close to throwing up. The 4 mile OCR was in June, I had 2 months to get fitter. It was the first time I ran 2 miles without stopping, and I was so proud! After my first OCR, I immediately wanted to do another. I also realized how much I loved to exercise. I had never felt better than when I was training for my first OCR. I wanted to remain fit and improve my performance. This led to a long process of fiddling with nutrition, listening to my body, learning about muscles and different types of exercise, and trying out new sports like CrossFit and rock climbing (both of which I absolutely love).
What makes you different from other athletes?
To be completely honest, I’m not sure. I don’t think there is anything about me that is different from anyone else. I just want to push myself to be the best athlete I can possibly be. This kind of stuff makes me happy.
Who are you outside of racing, and what are you passionate about?
I work full-time as an autism provider, which means I do intensive early intervention with autistic children up to the age of 3. It is important for me to have a job that helps people and cares for people. Before I was an autism provider, I worked with adults with developmental disabilities. I am currently applying to physical therapy programs, because since I started exercising, I have realized how much this makes me happy and I want to help other people who have problems with movement. I specifically want to work inpatient at a hospital with brain injury and neurologically impaired patients. Right now, I am taking classes at Massachusetts General Hospital and this takes up a lot of my time. My general day consists of waking up at 5am, training, going to work from 9am-5pm, spending about 3 hours after work studying, and then in bed around 9pm to do it all again the next day. I cannot wait until the semester is over and I can go back to training twice daily, and having longer training sessions at the weekend. I think physical activity is probably my biggest passion. I have been so busy lately that I haven’t really had time for any other hobbies.
Do you practice specific obstacles before an OCR event?
I try to include specific obstacles in my training, like rope climbs and walls, but I don’t really practice an obstacle. I tend to work on movements related to obstacles, such as pull-ups for walls, and crawls for barbed wire. And I love carrying heavy stuff, that’s great general training.
What is the favorite race experience you can remember?
This is such a difficult question to answer. I have honestly had some truly amazing experiences. The view when I was climbing Maderas on Ometepe in Nicaragua was pretty amazing. I remember being on top of Joe’s mountain in Vermont eating lasagna with my dirty hands and stuffing it into my face during team death race with some pretty awesome people. In Wales for the unnamed, my team enjoyed a beer and cake in the middle of the night in a trailer park because a lovely old Welshman gave it to us. In Vermont I carried a 60lb sandbag on a tough mudder course with my husband and our very close friend and taking it over all of the obstacles together. Also some of the road trips I have been on to races were hilarious, especially with my reload fitness teammates. But I guess one of my favourite race experiences was during winter death race. It was my first big event. I cried when I finished, and afterwards I saw online how much support I had from my New England Spahten teammates. There were so many updates and words of encouragement. That will always remain with me.
What has been your toughest race? What's next for you - what are your goals in 2015?
Another tough question! I think the Fuego Y Agua Survival Run has been my most difficult race so far. Not many have finished. It is a combination of strength, determination, specific skill sets, and speed. I never realized how fast you had to be. That race is definitely on my list for 2015. I am hoping to get the money together to go compete in Worlds Toughest Mudder in 2015. It’s in Las Vegas so the flight and hotel are going to cost a fair bit. I am planning on racing the Fuego Y Agua Hunter Gatherer race in Texas. I am also going for the mileage award of the New England Spahten “race local” series over 2015. And I will definitely be at Shale Hill’s 24 hour race. I have several goals I am aiming for, but cost is a huge factor for me. We’ll see!
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