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.
How Did You Get Into OCR Racing?
I have been an athlete for the majority of my life. Being involved in low level soccer, gymnastics and ultimate from a young age. I was always looking for ways to push myself and try something new. I had done several of the local mud runs here in Winnipeg like Dirty Donkey and after my first one I knew I had found something special. Two years after my first mud run I met my boyfriend, Mikhail Gerylo.
After 2 months of us dating, he asked me if I wanted to register for the Spartan Beast in Ottawa over 6 months away. It would be both of our first Obstacle Races. After thinking for about 30 seconds I decided why the heck not. Taking a chance on this new relationship and the under taking of a whole new type of training was one of the best decisions I have ever made. The race changed me and changed my life, that was 2 years ago and its safe to say it was the start of an addiction.
How do you describe what you do to people outside of the OCR community?
When telling people about the races and what its like I find myself constantly telling them that no matter what I say, they will never fully understand until they do one themselves. As you cross the finish line, you are never the same person as when you started. You always push yourself and find some new level of comfort, you do something you never thought you could do, you push your boundaries and leave everything on the course.
What's been your most interesting or memorable moment in your OCR career so far?
Crossing the 2015 OCR World Championship finish line. That race was the one that I grew the most from. I tear up after every race, however as soon as I crossed the finish line to this one I collapsed to the ground crying. The announcer came over and I remember hearing him say into the microphone "Ellie Schwartz everyone, showing us what its all about." And he couldn't have been more right. These races push us past who we were when we started and shape us who we are after. I have never laughed more, cried more, or pushed harder than I did during the race. I left it all on the course.
What's the best training or racing advice you've ever received?
The best advice I ever received was indirect. Someone very close to me always says that you need to "find your why". When you are tired and don't feel like going to train, find your why. When you have that "why" nothing will stop you from working hard towards being a better and bigger person than you were the day before.
What personal challenges has OCR has helped you overcome?
Three years ago, I developed chronic cold urticaria induced by heat of exercise induced anaphylaxis. I know that is a mouth full. Essentially, it's my body's inability to regulate its internal temperature versus the external temperature during exercise which causes my body to release histamine.
I've been hospitalized for it several times, I have had to change the way I train, where I train, what I eat, and what gear I wear many times before finding the right balance. It has been my personal like obstacle for many years, but I have never let it stop me from doing what I want to. Some call me stubborn and stupid for trying these races with what some call a lethal risk, but I have never been one to let anything control my situations other than myself.
What inspires you?
My inspirations are the people I surround myself with. I chose to surround myself with fierce strong men and women who inspire me to be a better person every day.
Any race stats you'd like to share? Any goals for this year?
My goal for this year is to get top 10 in my gender in every race that I do, stay at top 3 in my age group, and podium at at least once, or twice. Because of different commitments this year I am only doing 5 OCR races this season so the stakes are high!
What's something about you that others might find surprising?
I am extremely clumsy. During my first race I did three somersaults down a very steep downhill run on Mont Sainte Marie, if there wasn't a little lede I am honestly not sure when I would have stopped rolling. I love sports and being active, but I never said it looked pretty when I do it!
What are your thoughts on the current state and future of OCR?
I think that this is only the beginning! The sport is growing so fast and is only picking up speed. I am so excited to be a small part of its growth and I cannot wait to see where it goes, maybe the olympics one day!
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