Episode 129 of Talk Ultra brings you an in-depth interview with Anna Frost. We speak with the inspiring Fred Streatfield we talk with the Rocky Racoon 100 winner, James Stewart.
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This weeks show is full of inspiring interviews but you will have to forgive us for it being a little late… I blame a full-on trip to Costa Rica to cover The Coastal Challenge. It was an incredible race and full of brilliant racing and excitement. The UK’s Tom Owens dominated the men’s race ahead of Chema Martinez from Spain and the USA’s Jason Schlarb.
In the ladies race, Anna Frost from New Zealand made it third time lucky showing Spain’s Anna Comet and Portugals Ester Alves a clean pair of heals.
The 2017 edition of the race really was spectacular and on the next show we will discuss the race in detail and bring you interviews from the race.
Read all about and view images of the 2017 edition HERE
For Anna Frost it was a special race and significant in more ways than just winning. Frosty first arrived in Costa Rica in 2014 but didn’t even make the start due to doctors orders. In 2015 while leading the race, she was forced to withdraw on the penultimate day with injury. In 2017 she came back and put the demons to rest.
Frosty is an inspiring lady and it seemed only correct that Niandi had a ‘one-to-one’ with the Green of the trails.
00:03:50 INTERVIEW with ANNA FROST
Moab Red Hot 55K
On the last show we interviewed Hayden Hawks and he fulfilled his promise with a win and course record at Moab Red Hot 55k. His 3:39 bettered Rob Krar’s record by 5-minutes. Marie Hogan won the ladies’ race in 4:44.
The Coastal Challenge
Anna Frost won in 27:08. Anna Comet (Spain) and Ester Alves (Portugal) were second and third in 27:58 and 28:23, respectively. Tom Owens dominated the men’s in 22:29. Chema Martinez (Spain) 23:43 and Jason Schlarb 24:34 were second and third.
Max King beat the old CR by 37-minutes to win in 3:32. Yiou Wang took the ladies win in 4:18.
Black Canyon 100K
Alex Nichols is on a roll and gets a coveted WSER slot after his win 7:55 ahead of Elov Olson and Eric Sensman. Olov also getting a WSER slot. Nicole Kalogeropoulos placed 1st for the ladies in 9:30, Clare Gallagher was 2nd and Ailsa MacDonald 3rd. First two also get WSER slots.
On the last show we discussed our Lanzarote Training Camp and one attendee stood out with an inspirational story, Niandi caught up with Fred Streatfield.
00:58:05 INTERVIEW with FRED STREATFIELD
Join us in Lanzarote, January 2018 for our MULTI-DAY TRAINING CAMP HERE
RUNNING BEYOND BOOK – I will be also going to Sofia in Bulgaria on the 17th, 18th and 19th March for a trail, mountain and Skyrunning expo.
Rocky Raccoon has been one of those races that has always attracted a high quality field early in the season for a fast 100-miles. Just think Ian Sharman… so, it’s great pleasure to catch up with fellow Brit James Stewart on his impressive 2017 victory.
Berghaus Dragon’s Back Race™ 2017 Entries Confirmed
The 4th edition of the Berghaus Dragon’s Back Race takes place this May 22nd-26th 2017. The original race first took place in 1992 before being rekindled in 2012 by Ouea Events – the brainchild of Shane Ohly.
‘The toughest mountain running race in the world’
The 2017 edition of the race, sold out in less than 14-days and now, with just under 3 months to go, Ourea Events have a definitive list of those who will toe the line – 23 nationalities will be represented at the 2017 event.
Ourea Events are also delighted to welcome back the Berghaus Relay team who are offered the unique opportunity to split the 5-day race between 5 of their staff, handing over the baton at each overnight camp.
Berghaus’s commitment to both the upcoming 2017 and 2019 editions of the race allows organisers to further cement the event’s world-class reputation in delivering a superb participant experience, live GPS tracking for a worldwide audience, and in daily releases of film footage and photography.
Congregating at the start line at 7am on May 22nd inside the walls of Conwy Castle, 270 participants will take a first step on one of the ultimate running tests not only in the UK but the world. They will embark south on an incredible journey along the mountainous spine of Wales the Dragons Back!
The 2015 route will remain mostly unchanged,and features one of the most punishing first days of any multi-stage race, tackling all but 3 of the 14 Welsh 3000s. Day 2 once again heads into some of the roughest and most arduous terrain in the UK; the craggy, heather-infested Rhinogs. “Think like a sheep” was advice anecdotally presented to 2015 participants by Race Director Shane Ohly in order to navigate through the myriad of faint trods. Statistically, if participants make it through both this and the following (longest – 68.3km) day, they are most likely to finish the full race.
A 60-strong event team, a large proportion of which are volunteers, who take responsibility for campsite builds, checkpoint placing, mountain safety, media coverage, catering, and much more make this event possible, without them, there would be no event!
National Trust Wales, the National Parks, and landowners are equally valuable to the smooth progress of the race.
A full preview of the race and who we can expect to feature in the overall rankings will follow, however, as a teaser, here is a few names to whet the appetite.
Jez Bragg will return after running in the 2015 event and Marcus Scotney, winner of the Cape Wrath Ultra will also toe the line. Carol Morgan will without doubt be a name to watch in the ladies’ race as will Sabrina Verjee – this is just the tip of the iceberg. A full preview to follow.
Winners of the 2015 event were Jim Mann and Jasmin Paris.
Jasmin Paris – The Berghaus Dragons Back Race
Jim Mann – The Berghaus Dragons Back Race
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From the heat and humidity of Costa Rica and The Coastal Challenge to the the Canary island of Gran Canaria and the Transgrancanaria 125km.
This is my fourth year working on the flagship 125km race and once again it appears in the UTWT (Ultra Trail World Tour) calendar. The race starts on Friday evening, 24th February at 2300 hours’ local time. If it was ever in doubt, this race is a tough one! With over 8000m of positive gain, each and everyone of those 125km’s will be felt by the the time the runners reach the finish.
Starting on the north-west coast, the race travels south via the mountainous spine of Gran Canaria and then arrives at the finish, close to the sea in Maspalomas. The route is logical and therefore very appealing from a run aesthetic point of view.
Over the years, the race has had some stellar performances and 2017 will see the return of the 2016 champions, Caroline Chaverot and Didrik Hermansen.
Didrik Hermansen won the race last year with a high quality and well paced performance. He followed Transgrancanaria up with a stunning Western States and world-class 100km races. Didrik can mix running and climbing and therefore goes into the 2017 race as the hot favourite. Fellow Norwegian, Sondre Amdahl, tells me that Didrik is in great shape!
The UK’s Andy Symonds ran a stunning race in 2016 and placed 5th – I have a felling he will be on the podium this year! His 2016 season was solid one with UTMB being his only blip. A win at Lavaredo, 2nd at Buff Epic behind Luis Alberto Hernando and 4th at Transvulcania confirms that Andy’s stepping stones to longer racing is working – 2017 will be his year and I also hear he will be racing at Marathon des Sables.
Diego Pazos finished 3rd last year and what followed was a steady growth in the sport. I predicted he was a ‘one-to-watch’ for 2017 and I stand by that. His victory Mont-Blanc 80km confirmed that he is on the up.
Antoine Guillon placed on the podium previously and I have no reason to doubt that he can provide a repeat performance. In real terms, the podium may well be decided by those who pace themselves and come strong in the latter stages. Antoine may well be one of these guys – he will be able to bring the ‘long game’ to the race, something he learned when he won Diagonale des Fous (Raid de la Reunion) in 2015.
Yeray Duran is Transgrancanaria regular and is very popular within Spain and the Canary Islands. Arguably, it was Transgrancanaria that elevated his profile. He had a tough race last year but that blip is not indicative of how Yeray runs – I think we will see him up there this year.
Julien Chorier is always a tip for the podium and victory – he is one seriously classy runner. He was 2nd at Transgrancaria in 2014 and 7th last year. Mixing Hardrock and Western States shows that Julien can mix speed and climbing perfectly – one to watch for the top-5 for sure and maybe the podium!
Timothy Olson has raced on the island before (2014) and placed 3rd. He arrived in advance of this years race to train and prepare, something he has done on many occasions for multiple races. Normally, I would be pushing Timmy for the win but for the past year or so, the form has been missing. So, it’s difficult to predict the outcome here in the Canaries. Can Timmy win? Absolutely! So, lets cross our fingers and hope that we see a return to 2013 when this guy was on fire!
Pau Capell won the 85km event previously and last year held hands with Diego Pazoz and crossed the line for an equal 3rd place. He will be up there!
Fabien Antolinus is a runner I first met at Les Templiers and since then he has continually impressed with his ability to mix speed and climbing to great results. Two years ago he was 5th at UTMB but for me, his performances at Ice Trail Tarentaise were stand out. He’s a top-5 contender for sure.
Casey Morgan will keep UK interest high. He’s been up there at Transgrancanaria in the past and currently he is on a roll with a series of top quality victories. I last saw him race at Everest Trail Race and he was in great shape. He followed that race with another race victory in the Spanish mountains and just recently he raced in Hong Kong with great success.
Fulvio Dapit has come close in the past and is often let down with stomach issues. He won’t make the podium but he will be up in the top-10.
Ones to watch:
and many more…
This race has Caroline Chaverot’s name written all over it and no disrespect to the other female competitors but I don’t see anyone coming close to this French lady. Caroline was on fire in 2016 and was for me, THE, female ultra-runner of the year. She was unstoppable with a sting of high-profile victories. In summary, anyone who wins UTMB, becomes UTWT champion, becomes Skyrunning World Champion and IAU World Trail Champion all in one-year deserves the upmost respect. I think she will win the race by at least 1-hour!
I am going to throw a curve ball in and put my neck on the line with a stunning performance expectation from the UK’s Beth Pascall. She will be somewhat of a dark horse over in Gran Canaria but she has all the potential to produce a shock. She has with the UK’s Spine Race and the shorter distance, Challenge Race. She obliterated the ladies’ record at the Lakeland 100 and won the Hoka Highland Fling. One to watch! *Update 21st Feb, Beth will not race due to an injury to her foot.
Andrea Huser never stops. She is like Michael Wardian and each time she runs I am amazed with her ability to recover and race again. She doesn’t have the speed of Caroline and therefore, providing Caroline has no problems. I don’t see the Swiss lady beating her. However, she has a list of results that makes the podium almost guaranteed – victories at Lavaredo, Diagonale des Fous and Swiss Irontrail and let’s not forget 2nd at UTMB behind Caroline!
Azara Garcia and Gemma Arenas have set their tables out in Skyrunning races and we know that have speed and can climb with the best. However, 125km and 8000m of vertical is a long way and this may well be the downfall for the Spanish duo. Gemma probably has the edge over Azara as she has excelled at Ultra Pirineu with victory. For Gemma, I see 125km possibly being a real learning curve.
Lisa Borzani likes the long and mountainous races such as Tor des Geants and Ronda dels Cims – that will set her up well for this tough and challenging Transgrancanaria course. She may lack the speed but as others fade, she will continue to push strong.
Manuela Vilaseca was 5th at Transgrancanaria two-years ago and in this line-up, I believe the podium is a possibility – a win would only really come should Andrea and Caroline have bad races.
Ildiko Wermescher would be a long shot for the podium but a top-5 and certainly a top-10 is a distinct possibility. 2016 seemed to be a below par year but 2014 saw the German lady place 4th at Transgrancanaria.
Debbie Martin-Consani is my dark horse for a shake up in the ladies’ rankings. Like Beth Pascall, she is a Lakeland 100 winner and she has excelled at other 100-milers and races like Spartathlon, she ha s also raced in a GB vest. Word on the street (or the hills) is that Debbie has been going up and down those Scottish mountains to prepare for this 125km race.
Stage 6 of the Costa Rica Coastal Challenge 2017 aka “The Victory Loop” and epilogue to this gruelling multi-stage race started at 7am. This allowed runners to “sleep in” a little and get some much-needed recovery before the final sprint, well, half-marathon! The final stage is always relatively short and the same distance for Adventure racers and Expedition racers. Many take this final stage easier as by now the podium is pretty much a given. An additional incentive for outsiders to race this stage is guaranteed free entry to the winners of the stage in both the male and female categories as well as the winners of each category in the overall ranking. Some race volunteers also like to join the runners in the final stage as a gesture of solidarity.
The final stage is a 22.5km representation of the whole race with all the course elements thrown in: fire trail, a magnificent waterfall, forest single track, more fire trail, beach sections and a lovely final 10km along the coast on shaded single track. With a total ascent of 613m and a descent of 613m it is a relatively flat route. There was only one CP at 22.5km.
In the men’s race Tom Owens seemed relaxed chatting at the start and not too worried about racing. However, Chema Martinez had his race hat on and chased Tom right from the start egging him on. Chema had a lot of competition from the Costa Rican field especially Jorge Paniagua who joined the two leaders, battling it out with them until the final sprint, where the 3 finished barely a second of each other. Jorge was first, Chema second and to complete the stage podium Tom Owens in third position. The Costa Rican was delighted to gain a free entry to the 2018 edition and has promised to be back to perform even better.
Tom Owens was crowned 2017 champion and he was full of praise and thanks on the line.
“This has been an incredible journey. It’s a stunning and magnificent part of the world and the course, terrain, views and the racing has been world-class. I have been blown away by everything – the final stage was just stunning and it managed to compress the whole TCC experience in just 22km. I’d be back to TCC and Costa Rica in a shot…!”
In the Ladies field, Ester Alves led the race. She needed to defend her third overall position. Anna Comet followed in hot pursuit to secure her second position and not allow Ester to close the gap significantly in the overall ranking. Anna Frost then also gave chase. Elisabet Barnes who had intended to race this final stage very hard in a final attempt to secure third felt weak and tired.
“It is only once I started running hat I realized my body wasn’t responding and that my legs were tired, that I wasn’t going to be able to race this stage. I decided to consider it a recovery run as my focus is on MDS 2017 which is just round the corner. I didn’t want to compromise that.” – Elisabet Barnes
Ester Alves did not even stop at CP1 to replenish her water supply or drink.
“I decided not to waste any time and ran the last 10km full out skipping the water point. I had run out of water before the checkpoint but I wanted to gain as much time as possible. I squeezed my soft flasks but not a drop came out. It’s amazing what the body can do in this heat, running 10km on no water, when the mind takes control and the drive is there. I must admit it was very stressful and it is a stage I enjoyed last year.” – Ester Alves
Ester led the race until the finish completing this stage 9min ahead of second lady Melanie Langer (9th lady overall) who had run hard all day.
In the closing stages, Melanie took advantage of Anna Comet and Anna Frost relaxing into the finish with Sondre Amdahl – the trio had run together from half-way enjoying the closing of the 2017 TCC. Elisabet Barnes completed the stage 30min behind Ester in 6th place and 4th overall.
Anna Frost cried on the shoulder of race director, Rodrigo Carazo on the finish line.
“This has been a tough and emotional journey, three editions in the making. I have finally won the race I love! I think I am done, not with Costa Rica or the TCC – next time I will be watching and spectating though!” – Anna Frost
Nothing can describe the emotion of those finishing this tough 6-day multi-stage in some of the hardest conditions or the joy and relief on their faces on being handed the well-deserved finisher medal. Many have vowed to return to better their performances or tick this box.
Tonight (or this afternoon), will be a long night of post-race celebration where the ‘Imperial’ will flow and spirits will be high.
Jorge Paniagua 2:04:33
Chema Martinez 2:04:38
Tom Owens 2:04:39
Neruda Cespedes 2:06:54
Erick Aguero 2:14:39
Ester Alves 2:23:41
Melanie Langer 2:32:17
Anna Comet 2:32:33
Anna Frost 2:32:36
Katelyn Tocci 2:43:03
Overall Results for the 2017 The Coastal Challenge #TCC2017
1. Anna Frost (New Zealand): 27:08:41.9
2. Ana Comet (Spain): 27:58:45.4
3. Ester Alves (Portugal): 28:23:27.5
4. Elisabet Barnes (Sweden): 29:00:11.2
5. Katelyn Tocci (Costa Rica): 29:58:09.1
1. Tom Owens (Scotland): 22:29:45.2
2. Chema Martínez (Spain): 23:43:36.2
3. Jason Shlarb (USA): 24:34:57.0
4. Eric Agüero (Costa Rica): 24:57:43.3
5. Pancho Pinto (Ecuador): 25:43:37
Stage 5 of The Coastal Challenge saw the main players battling it out in a final attempt to put minutes in the bank and secure those desired podium places. The day started at 4.45am for the Expedition runners as they were transported by buses to the depart on a river in Sierpe. The Adventure Category runners who were doing 30km of the 49.8km course were taken by bus to catch a speedboat and were dropped of near CP2 on the course. None of the adventure racers complained about the “shorter” distance as they enjoyed a 40min speed boat ride with a refreshingly cool breeze and the river spray hitting their faces. Flocks of white egrets nestled in the trees along the early morning river and amphibious “Jesus Christ” lizards skimmed the surface of the river.
For most it was a tough day out. The course had been slightly modified since last year to include a longer beach section and more technical accents and descents in the jungle.
The race started with the first steep technical climb in jungle undergrowth to 300m, followed by an equally steep descent requiring runners to watch their feet for twigs, branches, vines and overhanging branches. Instructions had been given prior the race not to grab hold of anything like trees covered in sharp needle-thin thorns. After the first climb, a little respite at CP2 (Sabalo) at 17km and then a second very steep climb to 450m in 3km, followed by a 400m drop in 1.5km. After the technical jungle sections, the runners reached CP3 at 24.6km. Then the course took the runners on some fire trail, a right turn back into the jungle and climbing and descending in what felt like a pressure cooker in suffocating heat. After this followed a soft sand shaded track along the beach, a river boat crossing, some road and a finish on the beach in Bahia Drake Bay.
In the men’s race today, Tom Owens and Chema Martinez took the lead and ran together until CP1 at 9.1km. Chema had to work very hard on the technical climbs which are Tom’s playground. Tom seemed surprisingly relaxed as he ran effortlessly and nimbly up the dense jungle climbs. Chema, in contrast was struggling to keep up with the British fell-runner.
“I wanted to start strong today. The two climbs were tough. I was chasing Tom. This stage had changed since last year. I tried to keep up with Tom but I was battling. I kept him in sight until 25km and then I lost him.” – Chema Martinez
The two lead runners were followed closely by Jason Schlarb, who confessed he was starting to feel tired today and hadn’t got the miles in in preparation for the event. “I’ve been focussing mainly on ski-mountaineering.” Tom maintained the lead until he crossed the finish line, with Chema in second position and Jason Schlarb 3rd. Costa Rican Erick Aguero, who had been vying for 3rd overall, finished 6th today, which counts him out for a podium finish as tomorrow’s stage will be 22km. 2nd in the overall ranking, Chema was happy with performance today, feeling that he has improved his technical running skills since the 2016 edition.
“From September to December, I suffered from a Baker’s Cyst, due to a knee problem. I had it treated but could train properly for 3 months. Basically, I’ve had 2 months training for this and it’s a mix of road and trail, shorter distances and track. A week before the Costa Rica Coastal Challenge I did a half-marathon in Barcelona in 69min so I am back on form, even though my training hasn’t been race-specific.” – Chema Martinez
In the Ladies Race, Anna Frost and Elisabet Barnes set the pace at the start. Elisabet decided to run hard from the beginning and dropped Anna Frost before CP1. At CP2 she was well in the lead, followed by Anna Frost and Anna Comet. A few seconds at CP3 (24.6km) and Elisabet, who was still in the lead, was off looking very fresh and focussed. She was followed by Frosty, who spent a bit more time at CP3 before picking up her pace. Ester Alves entered CP3 looking surprisingly relaxed and unhurried.
“It was a good stage. I spent my time chatting with a Spanish runner from Barcelona. I was feeling very positive. Just after 25km, I overtook Anna Comet who was suffering from a stomach bug, then Anna Frost and on the second technical climb I overtook Elisabet. Raphael and I decided to nail it on the beach section. At the end of the beach section, we came to the river-crossing and had to wait for the boat which had just left to ferry across some runners. I was so frustrated thinking of all the time I was losing. We made it across and nailed the last 12.5km to the finish. I am happy with my second place today. I don’t think I was particularly strong today. I just think the other girls were tired. I’ve learnt to pace myself since my cycling days.” – Ester Alves
The overall podium for the men is almost a foregone conclusion with tomorrow’s stage being only 22km. In the Ladies Race, Anna Frost has a comfortable lead, as has Anna Comet who is second. The battle will be on for 3rd as Ester Alves has an 8min lead over Elisabet Barnes. Tomorrow Elisabet intends to wear her racing hat and attempt a podium finish.
Anna Frost 24:36:05
Anna Comet 25:26:12
Ester Alves 25:59:46
Elisabet Barnes 26:08:10
Katelyn Tocci 27:15:05
Tom Owens 20:25:05
Chema Martinez 21:38:58
Jason Schlarb 22:10:43
Erick Aguero 22:43:04
Francisco Pinto 23:27:30
Daily reports and images will be posted on this website when connection allows.
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The best way to describe stage 4 is a potpourri of running experiences. Stage 4 which was 36.2km long started with the runners being dropped off by coach at the start Coronado. At 5:30 the start was given and after an initial warm-up on flat gravelly road, the runners went up a steep descent climbing until CP1 at 5.9km.
After CP1, the climb continued on single track in shaded and dense forest undergrowth. At 10km the runners reached the summit and highest point of the course. From there on followed a succession of rolling hills on an undulating course to CP2 at 12.7km. The course was a mix of grassy trail and forest fire trail. Temperatures at this height were a lot cooler and there was a pleasant breeze and quite a lot of shade until CP3 at 19.1km where the adventure category started.
After CP3 aka Donkey’s Hill, the runners continued on a relentlessly hilly rollercoaster course. At 24km the course took them down a grassy descent to a shaded river-bed section where the runners had to contend with running on slippery stony riverbed and across moss-covered rocks on the embankment, ducking jungle undergrowth and overhanging branches.
This provided most with respite from already soaring temperatures. The riverbed section lasted about 4km and was followed by a very steep climb and a few long hills, which offered little shade from the sun which was starting to beat down on already tired runners.
After a summit at 1000m, the runners started the final descent in what looked like an earthy tobogganing slope – a downhill vertical VK to reach sea-level in 4km.
After that followed a final river crossing and 3km through Palmar Sur to the finish line. Buses took the finishers to the overnight campsite along a river. The total ascent of stage 4 was 1767m and the descent 1770km.
True to his reputation, Tom Owens took the lead from the start running hard and was first at CP2 at the top of the initial climb.
“It was the nicest of stages. There wasn’t much flat. Temperatures were much cooler and I didn’t need to drink too much. Today there were lots of different types of running. The riverbed was really fun and I really enjoyed running past the Adventure Category runners and get all their support.” – Tom Owens
Jason Schlarb was in second position, followed by Chema Martinez who was working hard. In fourth was Erick Aguero who was looking very strong. After CP3 Chema was closing the gap on Jason who was “enjoying the trail” until he looked over his shoulder to see Chema ominously threatening his second place.
Jason put his foot down and reopened the gap, dropping Chema. Then Costa Rican Erick Aguero caught up with Chema in the descent to the riverbed securing third, pulling away comfortably in the riverbed section and nailing it on the ensuing hills.
“I am very motivated and proud of my performance so far. I turned on my phone yesterday and was amazed at all the messages of support I’ve had from the Costa Rican running community. I will give it my all to complete this race 3rd overall. A podium finish has been my objective from the start. I will have to work hard to close the gap with Chema tomorrow.” – Erick Aguero
Tom crossed the finish line first, followed by Jason Schlarb and to complete the podium today Erick Aguero. Chema Martinez was 4th and although he said he felt better he had to concede that he struggles to keep up when the trails become technical and hilly.
In the Ladies Race Anna Frost took the lead from the beginning. However, at CP2 and CP3 she only had a couple of minutes over Anna Comet.
“I was tired but I was cautious because of my ankle. I needed to save myself. I’ve been here three times and never finished so I am back to settle a score. I was careful on the descents. My mind was on my ankle all the time. I was so relieved to get to the bottom of the final descent. Usually I wouldn’t even think about it. I love technical descent. The uphills were a lot of fun today and I loved the riverbed section. That part is new – it wasn’t there 2 years ago. It was great just being able to cool down before the hills and the final stretch through the town which always seems to go on forever. I also spent a couple of minutes in the river crossing just before CP4. All in all, I am happy with my day. I just hope my ankle holds.” – Anna Frost
Elisabet Barnes finished fifth today after Frosty, Anna Comet came in second, Ester Alves was third and Costa Rican Katelyn Tocci fourth.
“I was concerned about the initial climb but felt surprisingly strong. I started running hard at the top to open up a gap. I was third at that stage, running with Ester Alves just behind Anna Frost and Anna Comet. At CP3 Anna Frost and Anna Comet were just minutes ahead. Before the descent to the river Anna Comet was 1min ahead. I remember getting lost here last year so I was extra careful. As I entered the riverbed I noticed Ester Alves behind me. She had gotten lost. I then raced the riverbed and power hiked the climbs. I needed to take a painkiller for my knee. After that I was ‘in the zone’. Ester was still behind me but I missed the turn to the final descent and lost 2km. It was too late, I had lost precious time and Ester had passed me to secure third. I tried to go down the final descent as fast as I could and took a second painkiller. Just before CP4 Katelyn Tocci passed me. She was running with her husband who kept looking behind his shoulder. I sprinted for the finished in an attempt to place 4th but finished just 10s behind Katelyn.” – Elisabet Barnes
Stage 3 of The Coastal Challenge 2017 #TCC2017 started at Playa Dominical, a tiny Costa Rican seaside resort. At 5.15am sharp the runners gathered at the start to follow the Race director’s crew vehicle to the beginning of the infamous riverbed section. Until CP1 the runners had to contend with a 10-km stretch of boulder-hopping, swimming and basically weaving their way in-between massive boulders, slipping on mossy riverbed stones on an unmarked course. After CP1 the course took the runners up a steep relentless climb to reach CP2 at 23.2km and 900m+.
During this section the runners were rewarded for their efforts by two of the most scenic waterfalls on the course, allowing most the opportunity to cool their bodies as the heat set in. Even Jason Schlarb stopped racing to take in the breath-taking views: “This was my favourite stage. I enjoyed running up the creek bed. It was incredibly scenic and challenging. The waterfalls were awesome. I just had to stop and look even though Erick Aguero was chasing me.” CP2 was followed was followed by an even steeper technical and dusty descent from 800m+ to sea-level in 4km, taxing already tired legs from the boulder-bashing and climbing. At CP3, 32.5km into the race, the runners reached the “the tail of the whale” an exposed beach section on firm sand.
The 6km beach stretch was followed by a last steep jungle climb, where even the leaders had to dig deep into their last remaining reserves before reaching CP4 on the road home with 4km to go. A final right turn onto a stony dust road led them to the finish line at Bahia Ballena, “the bay of whales”.
Tonight’s camp-site and tomorrow’s start is adjacent to the Pacific Ocean and shaded by tall trees, home to indigenous monkeys and scarlet macaws. The total distance of Stage 3 was 43.9km and is considered one of the most technically gruelling and challenging of the race.
In the men’s race Tom Owens dominated the stage as expected smashing Ian Don Wauchope’s course record from 2016, looking surprisingly fresh on the finish line. He was first out of the river-bed at CP1 followed by Ecuadorian runner Francisco Pinto. Jason Schlarb exited the riverbed in third position. By the waterfall Tom Owens had already opened a big gap with his pursuers. Jason overtook Francisco and made it in second position to the first waterfall.
“I jockeyed between Ashur Youssefi and Erick Aguero. I broke away after the second waterfall and felt super confident on the descent. Then suddenly Erick came cruising by and gained 800m on me when we hit the beach. It was painful but then I caught him and next thing Chema Martinez flew by. Erick blew up on the beach. It was so hard getting up on the last hill before the road but I still managed to secure a third place after Chema.” – Jason Schlarb
Although there were no Costa Ricans on the podium today, Stage 3 was marked by a very strong Costa Rican presence led by Erick Aguero and Ashur Youssef.
In the Ladies Race Anna Frost dominated from the start, leading the ladies race to the river-bed. She was first at the first waterfall. Despite a strong lead, she had to push hard. “I twisted my ankle and my legs really felt it on the descent.” Second lady through the river-bed was Elisabet Barnes, which was a revelation and proved just how much her technical skills have improved since 2016 when she lost time on this section.
“I felt a lot better. The past 2 days I have had stomach cramps. Today I felt great. I was apprehensive about the river-bed and was happy to come out second. Funnily enough I enjoyed it. As I had anticipated Anna Comet passed me on the climb. I knew then that if I made it to the riverbed nobody would overtake me. Unfortunately, I got lost between CP2 and CP3 but this didn’t impact too much on my overall time. The near vertical climbs were killers and I found myself hanging onto branches. There were some really steep downhills and I just got on my butt and slid down the dusty descents.” – Elisabet Barnes
Elisabet kept her third place until the finish. Anna Comet finished in a strong second place. First Costa Rican lady was Katlyn Tocci.
Tom Owens (Scotland) – 4:55:52
Chema Martínez (Spain) – 5:16:22
Jason Shlarb (United States) – 5:21:35
Erick Aguero (Costa Rica) – 5:26:28
Francisco Pinto (Equator) – 5:28:56
Anna Frost (New Zealand) – 5:53:55
Anna Comet (Spain) – 6:05:23
Elisabeth Barnes (Sweden) – 6:20:14
Ester Alves (Portugal) – 6:30:00
Katelyn Tocci (Costa Rica) – 6:34:00
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Stage 2 of the 2017 The Coastal Challenge was 39.1km long with 1898m+ and 1984m-. Starting on the beach near Rafiki Lodge, the racing started just as the dawn was beginning – excited runners waited nervously for the start to be given.
A few waves to the drone flying overhead and off they went zigzagging on a sandy beach trail which took them past Rafiki Lodge and up onto the first shaded relentless climb through jungle undergrowth.
It was muggy and the climb was steep taking the runners from sea level to 700m in 4km. After that a steep technical descent on dusty jungle trail to CP1, then the second monster climb of the day on more runnable terrain to reach one of the highest points on the course at 800m waited. This was followed by a very runnable fire trail descent to CP2 and from there on the course was fast exposed fire trail to CP3 followed by the 6km beach section with 2 inlet crossings to negotiate. The finish was at Playa Dominical.
In the men’s race the mountain-running specialists Tom Owens and Jason Schlarb took the lead from the outset setting a gruelling pace in an attempt to shake off their adversaries. They were followed very closely by one of the Costa Rican favourites, Ashur Yousseffi. As predicted Tom, an experienced fell runner, shook off the group in pursuit, opening an impressive gap. Chema Martinez tried to hang on but was not in his element on the first section of the course.
He later tried to close the gap on the flat and downhill fire trail but Tom didn’t give in, finishing the stage with a 13min lead on Chema.
“I felt better than yesterday. The 600m climb was not my strong point. Tom is just so much more competitive on that terrain. Compared to last year I feel a little more in control.” – Chema Martinez
Completing the podium was Jason who took 3rd place, 7min behind Chema. A great result after his detour on day-1! Ashur ended 4th after spending considerable time trading places with Chema. The other Costa Rican favourite Erick Aguero who had placed 3rd yesterday, finished 5th just 2min behind his compatriot. All in all, it was a very good day for the Costa Rican favourites.
In the Ladies race Anna Frost and Anna Comet, both experienced skyrunners, took the lead from the start. Frosty held the lead till the end, finishing a good 3-minutes ahead of Anna Comet. The latter was second until the first summit. She held second place all the way to the finish.
“It went well. I felt good at the beginning up the climb,” Comet said post race. “I tried to go faster uphill to put time in the bank. My strong point is technical terrain –steep climbs and descents.”
Costa Rican favourite Kateyln Tocci was 3rd lady to the summit followed by Ester Alves and Elisabet Barnes. As predicted Elisabet Barnes lost time on the climb and summited out of the top 5.
“Yesterday was great. I enjoyed the flat running and the later start. Today the climbs until CP2 were difficult. There was a lot of hiking. I didn’t enjoy it. After CP2 there were nice flat roads until the finish and the second downhill was not too technical. I had to work hard on the hills and quad-bashing technical descent to CP1. Having said this, I enjoyed it overall. Tomorrow will be a big challenge with the river bed and rock-hopping. The second half and the beach section will be better. This year I feel fitter and more heat-adapted. I gained 11 to 12 minutes compared to last year but the female field this year is stronger and much more competitive.”
Ester Alves, also an experienced sky and mountain runner, had a better day today. “I felt better and preferred the course today. I am still struggling with the heat and hydration. I’m not used to it. Tomorrow my body will dictated my race. It’s only day 3.”
Located next to the sea, Dominical provides a wonderful overnight stop. It’s an early start again tomorrow for stage 3. The day starts with a tough river bed scramble and then passing the stunning Nauyaca Waterfalls.