Anna Frost, Nick Clark & Michael Wardian join the line up for the 2014, The Coastal Challenge, Costa Rica

Gemma Slaughter, The Coastal Challenge, ©iancorless.com

The words are still ringing true in my ears, ‘the tenth edition of The Coastal Challenge is going to be special, very special indeed’.

Just two months ago we announced that Philipp Reiter and Julia Bottger (both Salomon) would join Jo Meek (2nd lady at the 2013 Marathon des Sables) and 2013 ladies TCC winner, Gemma Slaughter in the line up of the 2014 TCC. Today we go one step further…

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Anna Frost (Salomon), Michael Wardian (The North Face) and Nick Clark (Pearl Izumi) have confirmed participation in the 2014 edition of the race making it one of the most competitive multi day races on the calendar for 2014. Rodrigo Carazo, race director for the TCC confirmed that it is a ‘dream come true’ to have such a quality field at the race.

‘I have raced in Costa Rica before doing The North Face Endurance Challenge Costa Rica in 2013 and I was lucky enough to have won it and I love racing in heat and humidity, makes me feel like home as Washington, DC gets sweltering in the summer months.  I just try and stay small and move fast…’ Mike Wardian

The warmth of Costa Rica, blue skies, varied terrain; it’s a wonderful way to start a new year. The multi day format of the TCC allows all involved an incredible challenge.

Anna Frost ©iancorless.com

Frosty (Anna Frost) when I spoke to her was really excited at the challenges that would lie ahead. ‘Costa Rica is exotic to me. A place I have never been but it intrigues me with images of its beautiful coast lines, native bush that seems a little bit like home (NZ) to me and the bright clear blue sea that is so luring. So when I heard there was a stage race that covers this coastline I wanted to know more.’

Frosty has raced over multiple days before, in early 2013 she participated in Chile and as we chat, she is currently in Nepal at the Manasulu Trail. One of the best female runners out there she is also a threat to many of the men she races as she proved with her stunning victory at the 2012 Transvulcania La Palma.

Anna Frost ©iancorless.com

‘Stage racing is so fun. You are really going somewhere and you get to see so much along the way. The camps between stages are wonderful for spending time with new and old friends. It is really a challenge to get up each morning with aches and pains and stiffness from the days before but you know the whole team feels like that too so you just get moving and really enjoy the day.’

Michael Wardian is equally no stranger to multiple day racing. He is the highest ever placed American at the Marathon des Sables securing 3rd overall at the 2010 edition. He is also a prolific racer, he has been a 50km champion three times, he has held multiple world records, raced the 135-mile Badwater Ultra Marathon in Death Valley and by contrast ran 2:21 at the US Olympic Trials in Houston, 2012.

Mike Wardian iancorless.com‘I definitely enjoy the challenges of multi-day races as there are a lot of factors to account for besides just running and that intrigues me and inspires me. I think of all the things I learned in my previous outings at multi day races; to be as light as possible and balance your energy expenditure throughout the race but also, and this is a little contrarian, but to push more than you think possible because it is possible to recover quicker than you think. I also, take care of the small things because over a week of racing they can make all the difference.’

The Coastal Challenge ©iancorless.comThe Coastal Challenge is not self sufficient, it’s about covering distances in an efficient manner and as fast as possible but at the end of the day, your food is prepared and you can sleep and relax in your own tent, does that mean we can expect some fast running?

‘I actually have only done one multi-day without having to carry a kit, the Himalayan 100 Mile Stage race in India and without the responsibility to carry all you gear for the week, I expect the pace to be wicked fast and I am looking forward to pushing it.’

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Michael will not have his own way at TCC, for sure Philipp Reiter will also be keen to push the pace but 2013 Grand Slam participant, Nick Clark will be joining the party in Costa Rica and if anyone knows how to run hard over multiple days, it’s him! In 2013, ‘Clarky’ raced Ian Sharman over four 100-mile races in 12-weeks. It was an incredible battle and one that made everyone in the ultra world turn around with open mouths. Not only did Sharman and Clarky beat the previous best accumulative time but they both each had victories and in the end it came down to the wire for the overall title. A title, which Sharman just won.

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I asked Clarky about Costa Rica and how he will adapt for the heat and humidity for the 10th edition of the TCC?

‘I actually haven’t been to Costa Rica before. Last year I raced in Nicaragua at the Fuego y Agua 100k. Nonetheless, I’m sure conditions will be much the same. Coming from mid-winter in Colorado, the transition to 95+ degree heat and high humidity in Central America is very tough, but I felt like I handled it decently last year. January and February have always been base-building months for me as I prepare for goal races in the summer, so I definitely won’t be sharp, but any time I toe a start line I have my race face on. That will be the case in Costa Rica for sure, especially as it looks like there will be good competition to race against.’ 

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You have a reputation for being one of the best 100-mile runners out there, but what about multi day racing, is that something you have done before?

‘I’ve never done a multi stage race before, so I’m excited to work through some new race dynamics and strategies. I have also never been to Costa Rica, so I’m really looking forward to the vacation aspect too, especially as I’m planning on bringing out the whole family.’

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That is a great aspect of the TCC race. It’s possible to bring families and the team are able to provide logistics and entertainment outside of the racing. It’s a fantastic selling point. As a runner you can fulfill your passions and desires but not at the expense of family time.

The Coastal Challenge, Costa Rica ©iancorless.com

On a final note, I asked Clarky and Frosty what plans lie ahead for 2014. TCC is in February, so, a full year awaits!

‘Firstly, fingers crossed my body is healthy! And then I have so many things I want to achieve. I really want to race Hardrock 100 so I need to qualify with a 100-miler. I haven’t decided which one yet but maybe Wasatch. The new Buffalo Stampede Sky Run, Transvulcania, Mt Blanc 80km are all on my list, it’s very exciting!’

Frosty has a passion to run but her running is so much more. It’s about experiences, making friends and spending quality time, something that she is convinced she will find in Costa Rica.

Clarky loves to race and race hard, having consistently been close to winning at the iconic Western States, I wondered if that would become a primary target for 2014, after alI, he wouldn’t have three 100’s to follow it?

‘I plan on running Western States again in June, Hardrock 100 if I get in through the lottery, and then the Steamboat 100 in the fall. Other than that, I’ll be looking to take on a couple of FKT (Fastest Known Times) adventure routes in the mountains.’ 

The stage is set for the 2014 edition of the race. It will, without doubt be the most spectacular edition of the race and possibly the fastest. It’s not too late to get a last minute entry before the prices go up.

Steve Diederich, the UK agent for The Coastal Challenge has made several places available to coincide with this announcement. In addition, a 5% discount will be offered to the first five applicants.

Steve had this to say, ‘The TCC in 2014 is a vintage race in the making. Joining an exclusive club of iconic multi-day ultras, the excitement of what the 10th edition has in store really is something that we all can’t wait to see unfold’

Race dates: 2nd to 9th February 2014

If you would like to attend the 2014 event and take advantage of a 5% discount, please use the contact box below.

The Coastal Challenge website HERE

IMAGES FROM THE 2013 EDITION ARE AVAILABLE HERE

Grand to Grand Ultra 2013 – Stage two

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Marathon des Sables – Trail Magazin

Really pleased to have a six page photo article on the 28th edition of the Sultan Marathon des Sables in Trail Magazin.

http://www.trail-magazin.de

The magazine is available for download for just 4 euros from this link: HERE

Trail Magazin - Marathon des Sables. iancorless.com

Trail Magazin – Marathon des Sables. iancorless.com

SNAPPED – Running Fitness June 2013

One of my images from the 2013 ‘The Coastal Challenge’

“Some races have mountains; some have dense forest; some have beach running; and some, like Costa Rica’s Coastal Challenge, have it all!”

The brainchild of Costa Rican architect and adventure racer, Rodrigo Carazo, the ninth edition of this epic race covered 236k over six days. Starting in Quepos on the coast, and travelling down the coastline of Costa Rica, moving in and out of rain forests and covering a total vertical gain of over 30,000 ft to finally arrive at the stunning Drake Bay.

Entries for 2014 are now available at: www.thecoastalchallenge.co.uk

Running Fitness, June 2013

Running Fitness, June 2013

Marathon des Sables – a race in images

A portfolio of selected imagery from the 28th edition of the Sultan Marathon des Sables is now on line in individual galleries for each day.

Please follow the links for each gallery.

Before the race – link HERE

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Stage one – Link HERE

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Stage Two – Link HERE

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Stage Three – Link HERE

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Stage Four – Link HERE

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Stage Five – Link HERE

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Stage Six (non-competitive charity stage) – Link HERE

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Patrick Bauer – The Interview

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Patrick Bauer has a passion and a love for the Marathon des Sables that the passing of the years has not suppressed. Back in 1984 he ventured into the Algerian Sahara to cover 350km’s alone in a self sufficient manner. Little did he know that his journey would not only change his life but also so many lives of so many others…

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Translation services provided by Niandi Carmont

IC Patrick, welcome. In 1984 you took a solo journey across the Algerian Sahara. Why, what inspired you?

PB In 1984 I decided to take a self-sufficient journey of 350km. It took me 12 days; because of my self-suffiency my pack weighed 35 kilos. I needed enough food water for the whole journey. I had no help. It was an incredible undertaking.

IC What was the motivation, It must have taken some planning?

PB I had lived in West Africa for two years. I was employed to sell Encyclopedias to teachers and books on medicine to doctors and pharmacists. Returning to France was difficult. I had no desire to stay… I just wanted to leave again. During my 2 years in Africa I had crossed the Sahara five to six times by car but I wanted to cross on my own, on foot. I remember it well, I had returned to France, I had no apartment so I returned to my parents. I was back sharing a room with my brother. I woke up one morning and said

“I am going to cross the Sahara on foot”

My brother said, “Ok, go to sleep… you had a nightmare”

I said to my brother you must help with a camera and sponsors. Just three weeks later I left to take the journey.

IC That journey influenced the rest of your life but importantly it changed your immediate life in the mid 80’s. In 1986 you decided to share that experience and create Marathon des Sables. What gave you the confidence to create such a race? How did you know you would have a market?

PB I realized when I did a presentation to my village. I had friends and sponsors present. It was a thank you but I had awoken curiosity and interest. Local runners did not want to make the journey alone, so, I decided to organize it. No other event compared, maybe Paris-Dakar. It was a ground breaking moment.

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IC In the early years, was participation mainly French?

PB Yes, French with the exception of one Moroccan. We had 23 runners at the first edition. It took 24 months to plan and create. Little did those 24 know that they would be the pioneers of one of the most beautiful stories that will soon be 30 years old?

IC In the early 1990’s you contacted ‘The Best of Morocco’ to introduce British and Irish runners, was this a long term plan to expand the race?

PB We already had contact with this agency (Best of Morocco) but by 1990 I had already done 5 editions of the Marathon des Sables. I wanted to expand internationally and I wanted as many countries present as possible. We started in a tentative way and today we have as many English runners as French and potentially more in the future.

IC British entries have reached 250+. The race is known worldwide. Did you know it would become so big?

PB I would never in my wildest dreams have imagined it would be what it is today. When a race is over, I start immediately on the next year. I have a passion and I don’t think about it all the time.  I want to be more strategic with my long-term vision. 2015 is the 30th edition; I like to plan 3 years ahead so I already anticipate higher demand for 2015.

IC What is it that makes the race so special. You appeal to novices and experienced runners. It is a difficult balance but you do it so well.

PB I think it is the concept. The cocktail of the desert, running and the self-sufficiency. Nobody at the beginning thought it would be possible to run with a pack. The expedition was an extra bonus…. You need to manage everything; calories, water, clothing, rest etc. All these elements combine to create the ultimate experience. It was new! Today we have additional security. Runners tell us that the safety element is key. Believe it or not, the average age is 40yrs+. These participants have families and children so risk is not negotiable. We want to offer security and safety for all these participants. We have helicopters, planes and insurance to make sure everyone is protected. Finally, it is about testing your limits; in our busy lives we find going back to basics a wonderful experience. Under the stars with friends, sat around a campfire, simple conversation and no luxuries. It is primal. It brings out true values that we may have forgotten. Because the desert facilitates all that is around us, the stars, the universe, you don’t need a book to tell you that ultimately we are all insignificant.

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IC What is it that makes runners that go back year after year?

PB Yes, we have some people returning for the 22nd or 23rd time. But it is not the same for all. If everyone came back we would have the same race, this would not be good. But we have a faithful family that we have created from the start. We have affinity and we love to find each other in the desert. We are also happy to find new friends. Maybe we have people return years later to celebrate a key moment such as a 50th birthday. We have a fraternity side, we share values. We have a respect for difference and other countries. All the languages that are spoken. These are the experiences that make the event. It is the combination of so many elements that make it great. We have an edge I think and that brings people back.

IC What is the future of the race? Will the race become bigger with more runners?

PB Yes, I think we will have more participants in 2013. We will have 350 from the UK. We had a meeting with worldwide representatives some time ago and it was decided that we would all work together on a communication strategy and we discussed the 30th edition. We have had great demand; we have refused more than 2,000 entries. I get messages about the 30th edition asking if it will be 300km as the 25th edition was 250km. Because of the worldwide economic crisis we may need to take more entries so that we can ensure the quality of the race such as safety. This is why we prepare 3 years ahead.

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IC As a race director can you give us an insight into the Marathon des Sables?

PB The advise to the runners is repeated every morning, like, hydration, protecting your head, sun block and more specific advice concerning the course. Storms can just arrive and then last a half-day or even 4-5 days. A few years ago we had floods… that year we had to plan from day-to-day. It wasn’t easy. The biggest problems are usually weather related. For the rest of us, it is a safe country. We have government backing should we have a problem, for example we have military assistance. We have trucks and soldiers who transport the tents everyday and we have 400 people who work on the event. If you add journalists, drivers, volunteers etc. then we have more like 450 people.  I have 110 people who directly report to me.

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IC It is so impressive, the tents, the staff, and the helicopters. A circus!

PB It is a little like the circus. Up and down, load up and move. I am always impressed. It is fantastic.

IC Since the beginning can you pinpoint any highlights?

PB The feeling you get from every event. We have an extraordinary experience. We share values with participants and it creates a bond. Some say ‘never again’ and then two years later we see them again. We all strive for equilibrium to balance the experience and we all strive for positive thoughts. If we have them then we can share beautiful things.

IC In 2005 you had an Opera singer to sing before the start. A magical experience.

PB Yes, for the 20th anniversary we had a spectacular start with an Opera singer and musicians. She was Japanese. It was a moving experience. Classical music is in harmony with the desert. At the beginning the runners are still fresh so they can enjoy the experience.

IC What do you think of Olympian James Cracknells performance at Marathon des Sables, he is not your ‘typical’ desert runner?

PB He was an excellent champion, a top-level athlete who understood how to test the limits. So I think he had a new experience in the Sahara. He asked himself what he was doing at the race several times I think. Discovery Channel did a documentary on him. He demanded respect as an athlete. As a man I did not get to know him but as a sportsman I am sure he has great values.

IC Has the race become easier over time or have you made adjustments to make the experience more challenging?

PB The race is not easier. The distance has increased over the years but water can be a key issue and we now have great water supplies which was not so in the past. In the past water was an issue. But we all have short memories. We forget the hardships. Every year has new demands. We now have more positive incline. We used to spend time in the valleys.

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IC True, we all forget hard times very quickly. We always remember the good times and they are our memories.

PB At the end you have sore feet and blisters… but your mind is selective. We filter the negative to retain the good. The human and sport experiences. We forget the soreness and remember the positive.

IC Do you still run, do you have the time?

PB Yes, I run after the sponsors, I run after my planes, I run after my trains… I started cycling a little and I do a little running. It’s not a good time for me. But then again, I always have an excuse. It is difficult but I am motivated to try to be more regular with my own exercise.

IC Patrick, it really has been excellent to get an insight into such an iconic race. Thank you so much.

PB Merci beaucoup

2013 RACE PREVIEW HERE

Patrick Bauer, Marathon des Sables copyright www.lest-eclair.fr

Patrick Bauer, Marathon des Sables copyright http://www.lest-eclair.fr

The Coastal Challenge – RUN247

Race report: Talk Ultra’s Ian Corless recently travelled to Costa Rica to cover the The Coastal Challenge 2013, a six day stage race

All things must come to an end…. the atmosphere around camp was a little subdued. Some participants looked relieved that they didn’t have to squeeze a pair of shoes onto blistered feet. Others seemed sad that another day on awesome Costa Rican trails didn’t await.

Some required quiet time away from the camp to walk Drake Beach as the sun welcomed a new day. Others huddled in groups telling stories of water crossings, quad busting descents and dehydration.

Ultimately every person had a story. Unique stories, personal to each participant, stories that they would hold within themselves forever. No matter how low the low points, the day after never seems so bad. If it was easy, everyone would do it. The Coastal Challenge offers some very testing terrain with relentless heat and humidity to provide an overall race experience that will test each and every person. To cross the line on the final day requires commitment, dedication and some luck.

The Coastal Challenge 2013

Photos © Ian Corless

The logistics of mobilising a camp and moving it everyday in tough terrain is nothing short of remarkable. The course marking and dedication from the TCC crew was available for all to see. This is no easy race to run, but it is certainly no easy race to coordinate. The catering team showed a dedication not often seen, rising at 0200 to have breakfast ready for 0400, break down camp, move to the next location, set up and then cook lunch ready for the runners arrival. Clear lunch and then prepare dinner all for the process to be repeated again. Respect!

Marking the course was done before the race and then every stage had TCC crew heading out in front of the race to ensure that nobody would get lost. While the race was underway, the camp crew would mobilise moving luggage, tents and all other elements of base camp and then set up again. All this in searing heat – it was tough work.

Base camp had a full medical team and feet specialists to ensure that everyone would be in the best shape possible to start the next day. It’s a really important aspect of multi stage racing and without it, many would not see the finish.

Stage races are not meant to be easy! Was the The Coastal Challenge too hard? No, of course not. Was it hard? Yes, without doubt.

The Coastal Challenge 2013

Photos © Ian Corless

Several runners at TCC had participated in Marathon des Sables several times, on questioning they all said that The Coastal Challenge was a much harder race. The combination of heat, humidity, climbing and tough technical terrain was a much greater test of mind and body.

A key aspect of this race is camp life. An opportunity to relax in beautiful locations, make new friends and sleep under the stars. Strangers by the end of day 1 became best friends by day 2. The comradeship, the willingness to sacrifice time to help another is a great thing to see. One persons’ suffering was taken on by others and the burden shared.

With the race over these friendships will continue and no doubt be renewed at other races in the future.

The excitement and beauty of 236km’s, with over 30,000ft of climbing in South American rainforest over six days was a joy to behold and conquer. The journey came to an end by boat. We left Drake Beach speeding through the ocean to our bus that would eventually return everyone to San Jose and a comfortable bed.

It was time to switch off, let the experience soak in and remember what had been achieved.

Congratulations to Dave James and Gemma Slaughter for the respective wins in the Expedition category.

Ultimately though, the credit goes to every participant who battled and endured the TCC Expedition or Adventure category. Tam Miller from Vancouver Canada summed it up for me when she said: “I feel whole and complete and I have no unfinished business”

Pura Vida!

The Coastal Challenge 2013

Photos © Ian Corless

You can read day to day blog posts here: Day 1 | Day 2 | Day 3 | Day 4 | Day 5 | Day 6

And you can view images from each day here: Day 1 | Day 2 | Day 3 | Day 4 | Day 5 | Day 6

Click here to check out the event website

Men’s results

1 David James 26:54
2 I. Dris 29:17
3 Jose Lopez 32:59

 

Women’s results

1 Gemma Slaughter 39:42
2 Angela Meyer 41:32
3 Irene Hale 41:38

The Coastal Challenge – Day 5

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Not sure if it’s a good thing or a bad thing, but 3-4 hours broken sleep seems to be no problem here in Costa Rica. The catering team were crashing pans and chatting at 0200 as they prepared our 0400 breakfast. No animal sounds or crashing waves to break the slumber, today it was the pitter-patter of rain. Not large quantities, it was splash, splash, splash, splash; big drops of rain. When I opened my tent a mist covered the camp providing an eerie feeling to glow of headlamps.

TCC stg 5

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Today’s stage required a short bus transfer and then a ferry to the race start. We transferred, waved the runners off and then had the use of a speedboat to make our way to CP2. No roads to this location…. I have to say the boat trip was a real treat. We saw the sunrise and wildlife emerge for a new day. The driver showed off a little by opening the throttle and weaving from right to left. At our stop point we transferred to the grounds of a private house and set up. I ran into the trail heading toward CP1 to pick my spot and await the front-runners.

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At 0600 the runners departed. Dave James had had rough night with broken sleep and was feeling a little under the weather. Would this provide an opportunity for Ismael?

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Todays course had less elevation but some of the most beautiful scenery. Dense rainforest with muddy/clay trails, single track that widened to double track and fire trail. Farming fields with long grass and lush vegetation. Water-crossings of varied in size and length. Just before the finish, a small section of road and a few hundred meters of idyllic beach. It had everything.

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Running a little behind predicted time, Dave arrived with Ismael just behind. This was about 1km before CP2 and just over 2 hours into the race.

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“Looking good Dave” I shouted… no response! Mmm he’s not having a good day I thought to myself. Despite what internal dilemmas he may be having he moved from left to right foot with ease. As Ismael passed, he waved with a big smile. He was obviously enjoying the day and course.

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Next to arrive was Jose Lopez who is currently placed 3rd overall. He was certainly finding the tough and slippery clay trail less to his liking than James and Dris. I ran into CP2 with him and then left ahead to capture additional images.

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The sun was rising high now and provided greater light as it broke through the patches in the dense canopy above. A small descent with slippery clay provided an opportunity to get an image of Henry Monestel. I then decided to run with him through to the next CP some 10km away.

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The canopy provided some great shade but when you moved out into the open sections, the sun hit and it hit hard. The difference between the two must have been 20 degrees! The logical thing is to run the shade and jog/ powerwalk the sun sections. It worked well. Every now and again I went ahead, captured an image and then ran with Henry again. The many streams provided an opportunity to completely submerge us and reduce our core temperature or take of a hat and soak it, so important when the heat and humidity is so high.

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CP3 arrived and no other runners were in sight. I decided to push on keeping Henry for company. Up trail and down trail, Palm trees everywhere. The diversity and difference in the vegetation is incredible. In no time CP4 arrived and I waited a little while in the hope I would see some other runners.

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Rodrigo Curazo, RD for the race told confirmed that Dave was struggling. He had arrived at the CP just behind Ismael but they had left together. Lopez currently in 3rd was also struggling. Ultimately the overall positions in the race wouldn’t change but certainly the fight for overall 3rd place was on.

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A steep climb straight out of the CP and then the trail dropped to a small village, a right turn and then a water crossing. It was the final section of the race now and a short stretch of road provided access to an awesome stretch of beach and the finish of stage 5.

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Dave and Ismael ran the beach together with Ismael taking the stage win by 1 second. Lopez held on to 3rd place despite his issues.

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For the ladies, Gemma Slaughter did exactly what she said she would do and attacked! Behind Hale and Meyer worked together to hopefully pull back some time but it was all to no avail. Gemma ran onto the beach beaming safe in the knowledge that had she not only won the stage but also confirmed that her consistency will almost certainly secure her the overall win now. By the time Hale & Meyer crossed the line (together) they were another 35 minutes behind giving Slaughter a 1-hour margin.

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The setting for today’s stage was a remarkable testament not only to the diversity and beauty that Costa Rica offers but also a testament to Rodrigo and his team who provided access to trails that nobody runs on. The final setting at Drakes Beach is a picture postcard setting and our campsite is little more than 100m from the waters edge.

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Days running and relaxing afterwards don’t get much better than what The Coastal Challenge have offered today. Apparently, tomorrow’s stage, a circular loop back to our campsite is also ‘special’. I can’t wait. We also get another night at this incredible campsite.

Pura Vida!

Tomorrows stage is the final of the race and a loop circuit back to our day 5 campsite.

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 A full set of images from day 5 can be viewed HERE

Results for stage

  1. I Dris 11:11
  2. D James 11:12
  3. J Lopez 12:17
  1. G Slaughter 12:57
  2. I Hale 1:32
  3. A Meyer 1:32