Rick Schmitt has been a long time SEALgrinderPT (SGPT) athlete and has put in the hard work day in and day out for years. It is no surprise to now see Rick reaping the harvest reward for all of the discipline and sweat that he put in. Rick has big burly goals that scare the hell out you (in a good way).
Check out the SGPT Interview with SGPT Athlete Rick Schmitt as he stepped up to the plate and finished the Barrier Island Ultra Challenge 50 mile race. Hooyah Rick!
SGPT: Tell us about yourself? Where are you from and where do you train?
RS: I’m 53 years old, widowed, I have two kids, two granddaughters and my youngest kiddo is in High School and plays softball year round. I’ve been a diesel mechanic for 35 years (worked part time in a diesel shop in High School) and a Navy veteran. I’m also active in the church and preach 3 Sundays a month.
I’m originally from Green Bay, Wi, my family moved to South Texas when I was in 8th grade (1981). I currently live in West Sinton, Tx which is a small farming community in South Texas.
Most all my training is done at home because the gyms in the nearest towns aren’t open when I train which is usually early morning and late evenings. I have a spare room in my home that has my weight bench, wooden step box, sandbag, portable workout mats, pull-up stand with arms rests for doing dips and raised push up grips on the base. I also have a wall mounted white board for WOD logging.
My workout grinder area is outside on the front walk, in the backyard or farm field unless the weather is really bad, then I’ll use my living room. For running I’ll use FM roads, caliche windmill roads, farm fields and the interstate feeder road hills. When my daughter has softball practice I’ll train at the ball fields while she practices.
SGPT: Did you have an athletic background growing up?
RS: Yes. I played sports (football, baseball, basketball, hockey, running long distance) all while growing up and then played on softball teams after my military service and continued running long distance. I was on a relay marathon team for about 7 years and then the team members moved so I went back to running solo. I’ve been an outdoors guy all my life and always will be as long as my body allows me to.
SGPT: Tell us about your recent finish of the Ultra event?
RS: On Nov 5th I ran the Barrier Island Ultra – 50 mile ultra marathon on the beach of Port Aransas, Tx. I have previously run 5ks, 10ks, 1/2 marathons, full marathons, and rucked a 50k(Extortion 17) but this was my first 50 mile ultra marathon.
This ultra experience was awesome! I now understand why athletes get hooked after running their first ultra. The Ultra Expedition staff and volunteers were freaking awesome! They were very kind, uplifting, supportive, and took great care of all the athletes. I can’t say enough about the staff and volunteers.
At the start of the race, myself and two other runners were keeping the same pace, 170bpm. One of the runners, Joey was 24 years old, from Houston, Tx, an A&M graduate and worked in the construction industry as an engineer. This was his first ultra, too. His training buddy caught the flu a few days before the race and couldn’t go.
The other runner, Angel, was 23 years old and recently moved to Houston, Tx from Venezuela. He has completed many triathlons but this was his first ultra also. The reason Angel kept pace with me and Joey was because I was the only one with the headlamp, lol.
All three of us ran together for the first 12 miles, then Angel went on ahead because he was running at a faster pace. At about mile 22 Joey stopped at an aid station and I continued on.
A cool thing I learned about Joey was, him and his friends were part of the pre bud/s qual program at A&M. Joey wasn’t able to continue because of stress fractures in his knee (he wore a knee support band for the ultra). He said he just spoke with his friends recently and they just completed hell week in bud/s. For the rest of the ultra, everytime we passed ways on the beach we did the fist pump and a good ol Hooyah?⚡⚓.
From about 1430 on, the only runners left were the ultra runners. From mile 22 to about mile 31 I was running solo. Every once in a while I would see another runners.
At mile 32, my sister, brother in law, nephew and my daughter arrived at the beach. My daughter and nephew walked 4 miles until they found where I was at.
Having family there late in the race was awesome because they took turns pacing me for the last 8-10 miles. My goal in this race was to complete the 50 miles in time and not get tagged DNF. I didn’t care about the podium, I didn’t train for the podium, I just wanted to finish with no DNF.
When I reached just past mile 49, my family was waiting for me and my brother in law (who was keeping track of time, distance and pace for the last 10 miles of the race) told me I was exactly .7 of a mile from the finish line. When he said that, my response was f$#@n A, and I started running faster!
My daughter, 15 years old, ran me to the finish line and that was definitely the icing on the cake and the highlight of the race! I don’t think I have the right words to describe how awesome it was to have family there supporting me and what it was like crossing the finish line. The Ultra staff and my family were there cheering, cow bells making noise and it was just awesome! Especially when I told myself, “I did it!”
SGPT: How did you get the inspiration to try an event like this?
RS: I’ve been a runner and physical training (PT) junky pretty much all my life and I enjoy challenging myself. When I completed Extortion 17 challenge I started thinking about what challenge could be next. Then I saw an advertisement for the Barrier Island Ultra.
So I started looking into it a little more and watching videos about Ultras. There was one key element that kept popping up in the videos I watched including coach Jeff Grant’s and that was ultra runners saying if you’re thinking about running an ultra, find a race, sign up and commit to it. Don’t put it off or you will regret it later. So I signed up. I committed. I’m so glad I did. All the hard work was worth it!
SGPT: How did you train for the Ultra event?
RS: I kept the mindset of my favorite Mike Tyson quote, “Everyone has a plan until you get punched in the face!”
Once I signed up for the Barrier Island Ultra, committing to the race, the first thing I did was contact SGPT nutrition Coach Danielle Gordon. To properly be prepared for a 50 mile race I needed to make sure my body was ready for the training and the race with proper nutrition.
Before contacting Coach Gordon for assistance, I’ve always journaled all my nutrition and thought I was doing well with it. Then, I was asked for specific kcal, protein, carbs, and fats data. I was asked for calories burned during workouts, amounts of rest, and more and more data, lol. Needless to say, I didn’t truly understand nutrition and how it affected training and being prepared for race day, before speaking with Coach Gordon, lol. I started using EZ Calorie Counter app and that was a great game changing start. Now I had a base to work off of.
Next in my training was research. I watched lots and lots of YouTube videos on ultra marathons, athletes from beginner to professionals, podcasts, audiobooks and more videos. I watched success videos and DNF videos. I wanted to learn why and how athletes achieved their goals. I also wanted to learn why and how athletes DNF ‘d. I completely immersed myself in all aspects of ultra. I ate, slept, and breathed ultra.
I also purchased Coach Jeff Grant’s Ultra Running Training Guide from the SGPT store. I picked out the key training ideas that I thought would fit with my training according to the timeframe I had until the race, which was only 11 weeks and 4 days. The one element from Coach Grant’s book that really made a difference for me was journaling all the possibilities that I could think of, that could go wrong on race day.
I wrote them out on the page on the left, and on the page on the right I wrote a solution for each. This totaled up to be 3 pages of failures and 3 pages of solutions. I then read and studied the possibilities and solutions everyday. Sometimes multiple times a day. This prepared me for raceday when things went wrong, I would go straight to the solution and keep moving forward.
I used a training cycle of 3 days of work, 1 day of active recovery. 2 days of work, one day of rest. During the week I would run 8-10 miles 2-3 times a week, sometimes with weighted vest, sometimes slick, and work on strength and conditioning. I knew my knee and torn & retracted bicep femoris tendon (tendon that holds the hamstring to the hip bone) would be my weak links. So I focused on strengthening the surrounding muscle groups.
Saturdays were my beat down work days. This is the day I would work myself the hardest. Every Saturday I would simulate raceday as best as possible. I did this so when raceday came, which was on Saturday, my brain and body would be expecting a beat down, and it would be a normal day.
My Saturday training days were performed in a farm field that was a 1/2 mile from the house and hadn’t been chisel plowed or cultivated yet. So the dirt was really soft, just like the beach. Sometimes I would run the field in the mornings and sometimes during the heat of the day. I wanted to be as prepared as possible for all conditions. The humidity, the sun, and no breeze made the field really tough to train in. Except for the last Saturday training day, every Saturday sucked! I knew it was going to suck but that’s what I needed because I knew the 50 miles on the beach was going to be tough.
Since we have no hills where I live, I went to the feeder road of the interstate that leads up to the rest stop. That was the only thing close to being a hill to train with. So I parked my truck at the bottom and would run the feeder road for hill training. Occasionally I would get honked at or hands held out the windows of vehicles telling me I’m number 1 runner, lol.
There were days I didn’t feel like training, but I trained anyway. If I didn’t stay disciplined in my training, I was going to suffer for it on raceday.
SGPT: What was the hardest part of the Ultra event?
RS: This race had several ups and downs. It was a constant change of events, change of emotions, and you never knew what was lurking around the corner.
Two weeks before the race I caught the flu, in a bad way, so that set me back a bit. So I was only 70% on raceday and still had sinus and congestion.
On race day I woke up at 0320 to start getting ready for the 0600 start time. Well, a cold front blew through, with rain. The start and finish line of the race was located on the North end of Port A. We would run South 8.3 miles, turn around and run back. Normally, there is a constant South East breeze.
Well, because of the cold front, we now had a sustained 40mph wind out of the North that we ran against for the 8.3 miles after the turnaround, 3 times. That wind was TOUGH! The first 8.3 into the wind caused a little knee and bicep femoris pain, but no injury.
At the start of the race, we had to be very careful of foot placement while running in the dark (even with my head lamp I had to be careful) because of washouts from tidal movement, sink holes, raised spots, logs laying on the beach, dead cut up fish parts that we had to jump over, and holes that were dug in the sand by people enjoying the beach the day before. I stepped on the edge of one of those holes but quickly pulled my foot back up. Other runners rolled ankles because of the holes.
There were some parts of the sand that were super soft. It wasn’t powder soft, but wet soft from the rain. We would sink ankle deep in those parts, so it took a bit of extra effort to get up out of that soft stuff, this is where the training in the farm field helped because I knew how to position my feet going in and out of the soft sand.
About mile 27, there was a group of, “we’re going to save our own border” people who blocked off a section of the beach for their rally. So we ran about 1/4 mile out of the way each time we went past the gathering, to get around it.
Around mile 30 something, the beach goers and fisherman were in full force on the beach so our run pattern turned into a zig zag pattern from the up hill down hill we were running. The high tide was constantly moving in pushing our running path towards the softer sand with up and down hilly parts. So the runners started moving up to the dunes where the sand was packed down, better.
At mile 45, still running into the wind, both of my sides (ribcages) were hurting, bad. If you’ve ever had bruised ribs and remember what it felt like when you took a breath, that’s what both of my sides felt like for the last 5 miles of the race and the evening after.
Then all the beach goers started lighting their bbq pits. The smell of burning lighter fluid at this point was choking me out. I was getting so sick of the smell.
Then at mile 47 my calves were smoked. They were cramping to the point that I didn’t have ankle movement of my feet, they were stuck in one position. While researching Ultras I kept hearing the athletes talk about reaching the pain cave and pushing through it. I reached a pain cave that I’ve never experienced before.
It sucked, and it hurt, but that’s Ultra Running. So I kept telling myself, “Everyone else out here is hurting too. If I tap out or if I finish it, either way it’s going to suck, so I might as well finish it! Hooyah!” “Everyone has a plan until you get punched in the face” (Mike Tyson). “Keep going, don’t stop moving!”
The last 15 miles I kept falling back on your mental toughness teaching, Coach Brad. That’s what got me through the pain cave!
SGPT: What kind of trail running shoes / boots did you use for the event?
RS: I used my favorite go to running shoe. Lalo Zodiac Recon AT.
SGPT: Did you use body glide on your feet to prevent blisters? Trail running /hiking specific socks?
RS: Yes, I used Body Glide anti-chafe balm all over my toes and in between my toes. I used a large square band aid on the ball of my foot.
Then a 4″ rectangle band aid on the bottom of the heel, the back of the heel, and on the side of the inside of my foot.
I wore Randy sun water proof ultra socks. They are three layers of socks in one sock. With the foot prep and these socks I didn’t get any blisters and no swelling of my feet.
I also used AONIJIE Running gaiters to cover the ankles above the shoe. This kept all the sand out of my shoes.
SGPT: What kind of ruck did you use for training and the actual event? Did you use sand bags in your training?
RS: I used my Wolf Tactical weighted vest, GoRuck sandbag and Alice pack for training. But, for the long distances the Alice pack was too bulky, so I switched to a camelback (a prize that I won at work) with a 3ltr bladder. It has 3 large zipper compartments – one for the bladder, and one large flexible pouch. This camelback is what I mostly trained with and used on raceday.
I also wore an UltrAspire waist belt for carrying my phone and earbuds recharging case. This waist belt was awesome and had no bounce.
SGPT: What is one thing you wish you would have done to get ready for the Ultra event?
RS: I wish I would have studied ultra running form, more, and worked harder on perfecting the form. Ultra Running is completely different than marathon running. I will be better prepared, next ultra race.
SGPT: Any tips for up and coming athletes that want to finish a GORUCK event or start training for one?
RS: First, don’t hesitate and commit to the event right away. Committing is the foundation to start training smartly.
Secondly, ask for help from the SGPT coaches and other athletes who have experience in the event you’re committed to. The more knowledge and tips you can get, the better your chances are of attaining your event goal.
Third, don’t skip training days (unless sick or injured) and don’t cheat on nutrition. If you do, you will definitely pay the man on event day.
Fourth, keep an open mind and be flexible. Plan for everything to go wrong so when something does it’ll be no big deal.
As you have taught us Coach Brad, “80% of all plans fail at first contact!”
Most of all – don’t stop, don’t quit, always keep moving forward.
SGPT: What good book or audio/podcast are you listening to?
RS: I’m currently listening to “Team Never Quit” podcasts and “A Runners High” audio book.
SGPT: Thanks for the interview Rick. Much appreciated.
RS: Thank you Coach Brad. I really appreciate your guidance and teaching of mental toughness, Coach Gordon for her nutrition expertise and Coach Grant for his ultra training book. I greatly appreciate all you and your staff of professionals have done to guide me through this huge challenge. Thank you!
About the Author:
Are you training for a SEALFIT 20X, GORUCK or Spartan Race? Want to climb a local peak or finish a long endurance trail run?
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