Friday, August 8, 2014

Runner Profile: Chris Roberts

When I first met Chris Roberts, a.k.a. Robbo, a.k.a. Surf Goat, I felt rather intimidated. He had just completed 3 loops of the Wild Wombat that day, and concluded his run by guzzling the a bottles of beer he had brought as part of his recovery fuel. I could only stare at him in awe, as I was still in pain after completing 2 loops.

The gorgeous hula dancers from left to right: Tim, Chris and Isaac.
Photo credit: Bin Wong.

He wore a grass skirt for Two Bays Trail Run 2014 to keep up with the Hawaiian theme, and a Super Mario costume for the recent Wild Wombat costume run. (A shame he didn't run the entire thing in it.)

Since then, I can't seem to take him seriously. Not sure if this will ruin his street cred, but he just cracks me up all the time!

Here's our little interview:

1. What is your weekly mileage like?
Hey, I might be old, but I still talk kilometres, not miles! My ‘mileage’ varies on whether I am training for a race, coupled with work and family commitments. I like to do at least 60km a week in the ‘off’ season, and this will build to 110 – 120km per week in the lead-up to a big long-distance (100km) event.

I have started looking at the quality of the running I do, not just the distance. For example, the 20mins of a Brewster’s Bullet Proof Legs session, although zero mileage, is worth more than a 12km ‘easy’ run. I couldn’t do what I do without the support of a very understanding family. I love them to bits.

2. Are you careful with what and how much you eat, or do you eat everything and anything (without putting on an ounce of fat)?
I may not look like it, but I can put on the kgs. I am struggling to weigh 68kgs when wet these days, but there was a time when I weighed 86kg. My wife once told me that I was ‘a bit chubby’ – and that was the beginning of the transformation. It started with drinking less Guinness, eating (slightly) better, and undertaking the occasional 3km run that exhausted me (and I needed to stop half way for a break).

I am a big eater – I’ll finish off the kids leftovers from their plates. So I do eat everything and anything, but if I wasn’t running it would rapidly begin to show.

Yvonne: Dion calls you a greyhound, you know.

3. We know you as one of the pretty fast runners in SCTR (Surf Coast Trail Runners). Do you feel pressured to take all your races seriously and finish at the top?
The only pressure to finish at the top comes from myself. I am not concerned if I come first or last, as long as I have given it the best shot that I could and left nothing in reserve. I don’t like going into races underprepared – I’m better off spending the time training and getting ready for some other race – there’s plenty to choose from!

I’m still learning – my first race was Mt Macedon last year, so I’ve only been doing trail runs for just over 12 months. I was previously a twice-a-year marathon runner (Melbourne and Great Ocean Road marathons). I’d still like to break the 3 hour marathon barrier. The closest I’ve got is 3.03 last year – and that was after a pretty slack month post Surf Coast Century. Trying to master both endurance (tick that box) and speed (cross) to get under 3 hours is hard to achieve.

Dan was caught helping Chris take a picture during Wilson's Prom 100 this year.
Photo credit: Paul Ashton / Running Wild.

4. I've lost count on the amount of selfies you've taken during some of your runs. Have you ever stopped a runner and asked him/her to take your picture during a race before, or is it best to run with a friend so he can act as your cameraman, whenever required?
One of the great pleasures of trail running is the friendliness of the people you run with. I’ve met so many great people that are willing to help out, even in the middle of a race. One of the best ultra-runners going around, Dan Beard, has on two occasions stopped mid-race to take a photo of me. In one race it may have even cost us a podium position, but hey, it’s not every day you get to run to Craig’s Hut of ‘Man from Snowy River’ fame.

As I start to repeat events, the volume of selfies will probably diminish – but the ‘live Facebook updates’ may continue...

5. It's been a major year for you so far, completing the Buffalo Stampede Ultra Sky Marathon, Wilson's Prom 100 and Macedon 50KM, just to name a few. What are your fondest memories of these events?
Each run is unique and has its own memories. Macedon will always hold a special place as it was my first trail run (and a baptism by fire with 4 degree temperatures and steep, slippery hills). I have to thank Kellie Emmerson for helping me through the last 20km of that one. If it wasn’t for her I might still be out there!

 My favourite run for the scenery though would have to be the Prom – running down to the tranquillity of Sealers Cove, the sweeping views of Waterloo Bay, the Southern tip of the Australian mainland, and the ruggedness of the lighthouse – you can only get there on foot, and not many people experience all of these sights in one day.

At Refuge Cove.

6. Gin and Tonic. You tell everyone that it's your pre-race fuel (or something), but is it REALLY true??
I did have a G and T before going out for a 3rd loop of the Wombat course in the Lerderderg. Bad move, and won’t be repeated. I don’t mind a G and T post-race. Pre-race is normally a couple of bits of toast with jam (no butter) and a cup of peppermint tea. I may also eat a banana in the car if I’ve got a bit of travelling to get to the start. I’ll drink some sports drink on the way too.

7. Besides running, what other sports do you play?
I used to be a competitive sailor, competing at a national level. It got too hard to get a crew organised, the logistics got too complex, and I didn’t have a place to store a boat. That’s why running is so great – you can do it pretty much anywhere, anytime. I had a great time recently exploring the trails of Italy on foot. I found some websites that had GPX files of trails (mainly dirt roads, but some single track). I simply loaded them into the Suunto, threw a pack with food and water on my back, and off I went.

A few selfies I nicked from his collection. :D

8. If you could organise a race, describe to us where and how would it be. I'd say a G and T run would be quite intoxicating!
I like the self-supported run concept, single track and hills. I’m originally from Gippsland, so a run on the Lake Tali Karng track would tick all the boxes. I reckon you could get a few different distance options in there, and it includes Victoria’s highest natural lake.

(Yvonne: See Google images for this place!)

9. Tell us something we don't know about you.
A long time ago I manned a stand at the CeBIT IT exhibition in Hannover, Germany. The Australian Prime Minister of the time, Paul Keating, was attending. In order to get some exposure for our products, I dressed up in a Ned Kelly suit of armour and shook the hand of a very startled Prime Minister. It appeared on all the national news bulletins. To this day I still don’t know why we had a Ned Kelly suit of armour over there.

Yvonne: I did request for a photo but he doesn't have it. What a shame, haha!

Chris recently finished 7th male in the You Yangs 50km Trail Run a few weeks ago, taking less than 5 hours to do so. I also found out (after flipping through Ultramag Dec 2013 just two days ago) that he was 7th male to complete Surf Coast Century 2013 in 10:00:17. 

Freaking amazing!

What's great about him is that not only is he fast, but Chris also takes the time to enjoy his run - be it taking pictures or hiding in a tree trunk with Isaac to jump out and scare Gregor and I off the tracks during a recce run!

L-R: Chris, Isaac, Gregor, Alexa, me and Bin.
Macedon, February 2014.

Other cool and crazy runners:

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