Check out K-Man’s athletic resume: He swam to land from Alcatraz Island. He won the SLO Triathlon at age 45. And just last fall — at 57 — he climbed Mount Whitney. Impressive, right? But check out his wife’s resume: Cal Poly Athletics Hall of Famer. Qualified for Olympic trials twice. Ninth woman to cross the New York City Marathon finish line in 1987.
If you’re thinking, “This is one competitive couple,” then, ah… good call.
“We say we’re not, but we are,” Robyn admits.
And, if that wasn’t enough, their accolades go beyond sports: Citizen of the Year, Business of the Year, Champion of the Community.
Just imagine what their trophy room would look like — if they had one.
“We’re not much for showing off our stuff,” Robyn said. “There’s much more to it than just the trophy — it’s the satisfaction.”
Today, much satisfaction comes from the work they do for the community — be it donating shoes to the homeless or coaching kids or raising money for teachers.
Keith — a.k.a., K-Man — grew up in Atascadero where his basketball prowess earned him a scholarship. Eventually, he transferred to Cal Poly, where he turned to cycling, first as a practical matter.
“I didn’t have access to a vehicle when I was going to Cal Poly so I decided to ride my bike to school,” said Keith, who biked from Atascadero three times a week.
Meanwhile, Robyn grew up in Orange County where she was a high school gymnast and started college at Cal State Fullerton.
“I wasn’t a good enough gymnast so I started running,” she said.
Eventually, Robyn transferred to Cal Polywhere she became a five-time All-American — three in cross country and two in track and field — as a walk-on.
“I worked my way up from the bottom of the team to the top of the team,” she said.
Her 10,000-meter time in 1985 — 33 minutes and 12.86 seconds — made her a national champion and set a school record that remains unbroken.
The couple met in 1984 while Robyn was training for the U.S. Olympic qualifying race and Keith was training for a triathlon.
While Keith began his professional triathlon career the following year, Robyn finished ninth among 3,675 women and 193 out of 21,097 overall running the 1987 New York City Marathon.
Eventually, careers took over — Robyn working as a veterinarian and Keith as the manager of a bike shop for a decade before they opened Robyn Schmidt, which now has shops in Atascadero and Paso Robles. And with that shift came a realization:
“I spent most of my life being a selfish tri-athlete,” Keith said, “thinking about nobody but myself.”
The fire that drove their athletic endeavors soon led to community activities: coaching swimming, after-school bike programs, coaching track and cross country programs, basketball referee, directing the Hares N Hounds 5K — and much more. Once they donated 50 pairs of shoes to a local homeless shelter.
“I hate to see people suffering,” said Robyn, who works at Woods Humane Society. “Most of the people there are trying to get back on the right track.”
Standing in their Atascadero shop, a sign reads, “Free Hugs” as music by Elton John, the Bee Gees and Journey emits from a stereo. If you haven’t been inside the shop, chances are you’ve seen their Superman-inspired logo, which was created by a shop regular who was then a high school graphic arts student.
The shop gets requests for K-Man stickers nationwide.
“There’s a lot of people nicknamed K-Man,” Robyn explained.
While volunteering takes up much of their time, the competitive fire remains.
“She can still shred on a trampoline at 59 years old,” Keith said.
Robyn’s 5-foot-2 frame is a stark contrast to Keith’s 6-foot-4. But both are still fit. Which is why Keith — a novice hiker — could climb Mt. Whitney, elevation, 15,500 feet.
“A buddy invited me, said, ‘I have an extra pass to Climb Mt. Whitney — wanna go?’” Keith remembered. “I said, ‘Whoa, whoa, whoa — I don’t really hike.’”
Yet, he did.
“Like Alcatraz, I can’t say it was fun, but at least I can tell people I did it.”
Today, two managers handle most of the shop business, leaving the Schmidts more time with their kids, aged 15 and 20, and the kids of the community.
“You know, they say it takes a village to raise a child,” Robyn said. “We feel like we’re part of that village, raising lots of other children, and that village is also part of us, raising our own children.”