Chris is an adventurous athlete from the mountains of North Wales. He talks to Sundried about training and racing.
Have you always been into sport?
I grew up in the hills of North Wales, and while I played the usual school team sports I was drawn more to the traditional outdoor pursuits. I played a little rugby, did some martial arts but it was the hills and outdoors, whether hiking, running or mountain biking that struck a chord.
How did you first get into triathlon?
I recall as a child seeing clips of early Ironman World Championship events and being fascinated. News and brief coverage on Trans World Sports. The feats of endurance and fitness, the (then) vibrant colours of the kit and clothing. In my twenties, as the itch to pursue a sport that pushed me grew started looking at activities that combined elements I enjoyed – not a natural runner, but enjoying hitting the trails a riding a bike, some sort of multi sport event seemed to answer the call, adventure racing and triathlon were solution.
What has been your favourite race to date and why?
My favourite organised event has to be Rat Race’s Man v Mountain, for lots of reasons, chief among which is the location. Growing up in the North Wales hills, it will always be “home”. MvM is based out of Llanberis in Snowdonia and is a foot race of some 24 miles starting at sea level in a medieval castle, summiting Snowdon and finishing back in Llanberis after a series of obstacles including an abseil and river crossing. A daunting but achievable event for everyone, it's one I’ve done every year since its inception, dragging friends along for a weekend of camping, trail running and competition.
What is your proudest achievement?
Although not race specific, the sporting achievements that make me feel most proud are when I hear feedback that challenges I have completed have inspired or motivated others to take a step out of their comfort zone and challenge themselves in a sporting or fitness context.
Two notable examples of this are my young son (7 at the time) telling me he wanted to run a 10k race with me, cue some frantic searching for an event that would allow him to run with me. The other was when a group of novice/non-running friends and I trained and completed the Cotswold Way ultra-challenge, each doing different distances from 50km to 100km. In both cases, being able to share the experience with my son and my friends gave me a great sense of pride.
Have you ever had any racing disasters?
I’m very fortunate that to date I haven’t suffered any disasters. There have certainly been instances, many, where things haven’t gone to plan but that’s part of the challenge, adventure and experience. Ask me again if I have a biggie, and I may feel differently!
How do you overcome setbacks?
The mental aspects of my endurance and adventure challenges are as interesting to me as the physical. Throughout the planning and training build up to a challenge, I spend time visualising the journey and the challenge, I have a structure I like to follow to help me prepare and have written in my blog about this.
Two of the key elements that help me overcome setbacks are the visualisation of the challenge or event, including asking myself questions about what could or will go wrong? How will I feel? How will I respond? Acknowledging these issues and planning responses in advance enables me to be more prepared if and when things go wrong. Additionally, is a conversation with myself about my motivations and reasons for pursuing a specific challenge, having to be honest about this and understanding what that means to the end goal better enables me to focus on the basic tasks needed for success once I’m at a point of exhaustion where success or completion could be in doubt.
What advice do you wish you'd been given when you first started out?
The key piece of advice or information I try to get across to others, and which I have over time figured out for myself is that there is no right or wrong or perfect time to start. It saddens me that so many people are fearful or apprehensive of starting to run, ride or be active because of perceived inadequacies based on long-standing sociocultural narrative – they feel they’re too out of shape, too slow, not strong enough, don’t have the right kit or knowledge. The toughest thing is often to just take that first step and start.
What are your goals?
I love conjuring up ideas for new challenges that push the boundaries of my physical and mental abilities. Traditionally, these have been endurance-based. My current training goal is to complete a half marathon pulling an 18-ton narrowboat, a challenge which combines endurance with strength and is definitely out of my comfort zone! I have a number of other challenge goals for solo adventures, and hope to be able to use these to inspire and motivate others to get outside and be active.
Who inspires you?
Growing up the names that inspired me to pursue these activities were Sir Ranulph Fiennes and Sir Chris Bonnington without a doubt, and I still devour their work. Today, those who motivate me are athletes who push the boundaries of what we think is possible in a range of disciplines. David Goggins and his pursuit of excellence in a range of challenges is very motivational, as too in a similar vein is Ross Edgely, often dispelling myths and pursuing success in sporting challenges that combine often conflicting disciplines. Courtney Dauwalter and Kilian Jornet too, pushing the boundaries of distance and time in ultra-running and mountain sports.
Why work with Sundried?
I found Sundried while researching minimalist style running shoes and came across the Sundried barefoot shoe. In truth, I found more than just a shoe. We live in a consumer-driven world; technology and technological innovation is all over the place, including some amazing innovation in sports and endurance equipment and clothing.
The technical innovation and detail in Sundried products ticked many boxes for me and places them highly against other established brands. In today’s marketplace, however, the things that separate one brand from another are often not the product or service; a business with innovative design and detail in its products whose ethos and social message is backed up and the cornerstone of their brand and product is so refreshing – I’m more than pleased to be associated with Sundried because of their ethos around ethical design and manufacturing, the wellbeing of its staff and design innovation.