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Athletes

Jun 26, 2017

2017 Mission: Race 717 km at 17 Marathons to raise $17,000

Chris White has raced 8 marathons over the last couple of months.

WRITTEN BY

Adelina Storkaas

With his eyes set on raising $17,000 for diabetes and heart disease research, the running coach will take on another 9 marathons before the end of this year.

“I have always said to people that if it doesn’t scare you slightly, then it’s probably not the right challenge for you. It needs to be something that makes you a little bit nervous. Excited. Makes you plan. Makes you react differently,” says Chris White, determined to tackle 17 marathons in 2017.

Despite an impressive pile of medals, the British running coach hadn’t taken on more than two marathons in a year’s time before embarking on his 17 mission: “I could realistically see myself doing 12 marathons, but with 17 I thought ‘oh’. That scared me a bit,” he admits, recalling contemplating this year’s challenge to explore a variety of running events around Australia.

Completing the Great Ocean Road Marathon (in under 3 and a half hours), and the Ultraman Australia’s run in Noosa in May, he also just completed the Surf Coast Trail Marathon from Torquay to Faihaven this past weekend. Even though he was not one of the 50 triathletes taking on the entire 515 km Ultraman challenge in Noosa, he paced one of his mates at the race and approaches his own mission with similar preparations.


Previously, when he trained for Ironmans and half Ironmans, he noticed the benefits of complementing his running with swimming and biking. He became stronger, fitter and less injured.

Now, Chris trains almost like a triathlete, but for running events. He focuses on endurance, flexibility, and strength. He keeps swimming and a bit of biking in his routine and adds pilates and yoga to move his body in different ways, to get to know his body better and break the monotone training in the running tracks.

He hopes this varied training will keep him from getting injured and give him indications if he is about to: “My tips [to runners] would definitely be to cross train and start to listen to your body. It doesn’t really lie that much,” he laughs. “It is just us, ignoring the signs.” For example, if he is cramping a lot in the pool it means that his calves are really tight from running. A signal that he should address.

But on racing days, he better switch off and ignore some of the body signals that inevitably come when pushing the body to its limits: “You get to maybe 30k 35k and you kinda want to stop,” he says “Your body is telling you: ‘Look it hurts. Your body is aching, your feet are aching. It is time to stop this, we need to go home’.

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As he pushes his own limits, he gets to know his body better: “I think that the learning that I’m getting from it [the 17 mission], is kinda like pushing the fast forward on my learning as a running coach and also runner,” he says and encourages people to do some funky challenges, that they don’t think they can do: “Do the research and speak to other people about how to do it,” he says and stresses “But don’t be afraid to try, because it teaches you so much that you didn’t even expect.

“I’m currently trying to manage the emotional ups and downs from running all these marathons and the spaces between them. I knew that might be an issue, but it hits me quite hard,” he admits.

He wants as many people as possible to join him on his mission to raise $17,000 for diabetes and heart disease research, and to learn from his experiences along the way: How he eats, paces himself on the marathons, recovers, and train.

Even though he is only a few months into the challenge, he already tunes into his body more: “I think that if I fast forward to January 2018, when I’m finished, I think that one of the biggest learnings that I’ll have is that I will be able to trust my judgement on what is going on with my body and notice the signs a lot earlier.

“Even as a running coach, you feel pressure to do similar things or copy people,” he says, adding “People that I have talked to have said: ‘You must be doing 100s of K a week’ and that is just not the case.

“I’m definitely one of those people who believes in cross training, rather than just running, running, running. I tell the guys I coach: ‘It makes me nervous, if you just run’”, adding from his own experience: “When I’m training for a half-marathon, a marathon, or whatever, and I concentrate purely on running, I get injured.

“What is appropriate for me is actually to do the swimming, the pilates, the stretch and all of that, rather than going out running lots and lots of Ks. Even though most of the people I know are doing lots and lots of Ks. So it’s actually to trust yourself, know your body and listen to it. Do what is appropriate for you, rather than copying everybody else.”

“Your body doesn’t really lie that much,” he says, adding with a laugh “It is just us, ignoring the signs.”

Acknowledging these signs will be vital for him. If he gets injured, the whole 17 mission will stop. A mission that seemed far away when he set off on his first 20K race in a baggy cotton T-shirt and Newcastle United soccer shorts in Brussels.

Back then, becoming a serious runner had never crossed his mind: “I trained and trained and trained. And I was useless. I was slow and I was really self-conscious. And I was really nervous about the whole thing,” he recalls.

Five years ago, when he moved to Melbourne, referred to as the sporting capital of the world, he got more serious about running: “Melbourne had an instant impact on me. I started running more, signed up to races and all our friends became runners,” he says. “You can’t help get influenced by all this activity that is going on.

“I never set out to be a runner. My dad probably instilled in me the initial spark and interest. And then Melbourne has probably given me the push and the motivation and environment to do it more seriously.”

He has worked as a running coach over the last two years and recalls how it all started. He was 12-year-old and joined the old man and mates on their weekly Sunday run: “Even if it was snowing, if it was raining, sunny, whatever. These guys would meet up and they would go for their run. I always remember that I thought that was really cool and I was quite impacted by these guys running,” he says, adding “I used to go on bike with them.”

This year as he takes on his 17 mission, it won’t be on two wheels. You can follow his journey on Facebook, Instagram and Gorunaustralia’s website.

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Travel

Mar 19, 2019

Is ‘Sidecountry’ a Four-Letter Word?

A team of Avalanche experts define the word, and discuss how to deal with the phenomena. Do we attempt to stop the sidecountry locomotive, or shape the definition and attempt to harness its power?

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This article originally appeared in The Avalanche Review, a trade and scientific journal serving the American Avalanche Association Membership. It was written by Scott Savage, Simon Trautman, Ethan Greene, and Doug Chabot.

Riding in the sidecountry is fun, and it is marketable. Google ‘sidecountry’ and you get 438,000 search results. As more people recreate in the sidecountry, ski areas promote it, equipment manufacturers capitalize on it, riders benefit through new technology and increased availability, the media eats it up, more people want the experience and WHAM! – we are lost somewhere in a very successful feedback loop. Ski area avalanche professionals and backcountry avalanche forecasters, however, are scratching their heads about how to deal with the phenomena; do we attempt to stop the sidecountry locomotive in its tracks or do we embrace the term, shape the definition to benefit our mission, and attempt to harness its branding power to educate the various user groups that recreate in terrain adjacent to ski areas?

One of the great slopes on Gornergrat with plenty of sidecountry opportunities, near the top, with the ever-distracting Matterhorn in the distance. Location: Zermatt. By Doc Searls Santa Barbara, USA

Currently, defining sidecountry is similar to defining pornography; people disagree on a formal definition but you know it when you see it. In our opinion, sidecountry is very useful term for describing a certain combination of human behavior and geography. It is intuitive because most people understand that sidecountry refers to the terrain adjacent to ski area boundaries. This terrain is easily accessed, easily “lapped”, and in many cases highly visible. Observing this reality and thinking about the term in a geographical and behavioral sense is important because it showcases the idea that sidecountry terrain is used differently than backcountry terrain, and as such, suggests that sidecountry users may have different needs than those traditionally addressed in avalanche education. We believe that using the term benefits avalanche professionals by allowing them to relate to audiences and be succinct when speaking, writing, or educating on sidecountry topics.

“Sidecountry is backcountry”

“Sidecountry is backcountry” is a recently coined phrase that is also highly descriptive and accurate regarding particular aspects of sidecountry. Sidecountry avalanche rescue is effectively a backcountry rescue – regardless of the proximity to a ski area, organized rescue may not arrive in time. Since ski areas do not perform avalanche hazard mitigation work in sidecountry terrain, the phrase is probably an effective tool to communicate avalanche danger, especially to novice and casual sidecountry users. “Sidecountry is backcountry” is a simple message that is easy to understand. There is power in this: power to educate, power to simplify, power to feel that one is addressing the problem. Unfortunately, we are not dealing with a simple problem or a singular, simple user group.

Ski areas do not perform avalanche hazard mitigation work in sidecountry terrain.

Novice, casual, and experienced sidecountry users have different levels of expertise, attitudes, decision-making techniques, and educational needs. In addition, novice and casual users are highly influenced by experienced users. A cursory look at recent sidecountry accident and near-miss reports reveals that experienced sidecountry users appear to be involved more frequently than the less experienced individuals. The experienced group generally visits the same sidecountry terrain frequently enough to become familiar with terrain features, may actively manage or mitigate avalanche hazard (slope cuts, cornice drops, etc.), and at times may have more intimate knowledge of the slope-scale snowpack structure and stability than local avalanche professionals. Most importantly, an “I’m going there because it’s there and I want to ski” attitude seems to be common; experienced users access the terrain and then decide whether to mitigate or avoid hazard or just forge ahead. Will telling these more risk tolerant individuals that “sidecountry is backcountry” reduce their risk? Will it help us communicate with them? Sidecountry may be the same as backcountry in some ways, but routine sidecountry users and backcountry users are disparate user groups.

Skilled, experienced professional avalanche educators can create effective sidecountry-specific educational programs and presentations. As we have learned while reaching out to snowmobilers, relevancy is everything. Just as force-feeding traditional avalanche education to someone who never gets off their sled is ineffective, so too is drawing a “backcountry box” around someone who skis out-of-bounds 50 days a year, but rarely or never uses skins or established backcountry stability evaluation and decision-making techniques. Sidecountry is a growth market for snow sports equipment and clothing manufacturers, and these companies may be interested in supporting educational and outreach efforts to sidecountry users (their customers). Instead of abandoning or over-simplifying the term, maybe the ski and avalanche community would be well served to take advantage of the strong, established sidecountry brand by partnering with the media and outdoor gear retail industry to accomplish the following:

  1. Define sidecountry as the unique geographical and behavioral issue that it is, focusing on the specific dangers associated with sidecountry recreation
  2. Identify and define specific user groups
  3. Tailor, market, and promote user group specific educational programs

The term ‘sidecountry’ is descriptive, intuitive, and useful. We agree with the recent NSAA Journal Editorial “There’s No Such Thing as ‘Sidecountry’ ” that the avalanche and snowsports communities must better communicate that riders are on their own when they leave ski area boundaries. Our common goals are to educate the public on the inherent risk of avalanches outside that boundary and to help users reduce their risk in this terrain. In our opinion, we can enhance communication by acknowledging the difference in behavior and risk tolerance between user groups, by identifying and targeting the needs of those groups, and by partnering with those that have the marketing and promotional power to deliver the message.

Read Next: Charge Hard, Stay Smart: Guidebook Guru, Fritz Sperry, on Safety in Avy-Prone Backcountry.

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