Jason Schlarb shot to notoriety after winning Run Rabbit Run 100-mile race in 2013. What has followed is a rise through the ultra ranks. A 4th place at UTMB placed Jason as one of the most successful Americans ever to perform at the big dance in Chamonix – a race that has proven elusive for Americans to crack until recently. The true sign of a true champion is when they go back to a race and win again… Jason did this at Run Rabbit Run winning again in 2015. However, all previous results pale into insignificance after Jason crossed the line hand-in-hand with Kilian Jornet at the 2016 Hardrock 100.
Hardrock, a low-key event in comparison to some of the big ‘hundos’ is for many the epitome of the mountain ultra world – with 100 miles to cover and relentless vertical gain at altitude, it is the grandad event that all other races look up to. For Jason to win it alongside arguably the greatest mountain runner in the world is a huge accolade.
However, before Jason ran the Hardrock 100 event, in winter of the same year, he covered the Hardrock 100 route on skis – a first! It was quite the event and experience and what followed was an immersion into the heat of the Sahara.
Jason raced the 2016 Marathon des Sables and found it a real challenge, I wondered, what was it about multi-day racing that appeals to him, after all, he has a reputation of being a single stage racer.
“One of the aspects of stage racing I appreciate the most, is being able to spend quality time with other athletes over multiple days. There are great opportunities to make life long friends at stage races. I really look forward to reuniting with my Norwegian Altra teammate Sondre Amdahl at TCC. Sondre and I have raced together on a number of occasions and we both raced at Marathon des Sables, he placed 8th and I was 12th. I wouldn’t mind setting things right and beating Sondre at the Costal Challenge in February :)”
But I wondered, is racing for multiple days harder than racing for one day?
“Stage racing creates prolonged drama, excitement and amazing entertainment for both spectators and athletes alike, what is there to not like about that? Stage racing, to me, is far more difficult. One must perform well day-after-day and juggle an extended game of being patient and balancing effort.”
At Marathon des Sables I had noticed that a lack of rest and a lack of calories made the Sharan challenge difficult for Jason, although TCC is not a completely self-sufficient race, I asked Jason what are the challenges he thinks he may encounter during The Coastal Challenge?
“For me, the Coastal Challenge presents a unique obstacle of performing well in a hot and humid climate while living and training in a snowy and cold climate. I will also need to focus on speed training this winter to be ready for faster, lower altitude running verse my usual high altitude, mountain running. Staying blister and generally injury free over multiple days of racing is also a big task at the Coastal Challenge.”
Snow and cold temperatures are not ideal preparation for the heat, humidity, rainforests, long stretches of beaches and technical trail of Costa Rica – is this going to be perfect running terrain or a real challenge?
“Traveling through wild lands is always a thing of perfection in my mind, but that perfection always presents challenge – that’s why we do it! I love Costa Rica. My family lived there for 2 years while I was at University, so, I always look forward to going back.”
You have already mentioned that you will have snow and cold temperatures to deal with in the build up to TCC. You have also said that you will need some speed but will you do any specific training for Costa Rica and what are the race plans for later in 2017?
“TCC is my only winter race this year, so most all of my training this winter will be geared towards performing well at TCC. Transvulcania in May will be my next focus race followed by a return to Hardrock 100 in July and hopefully Grand Raid/Diagonal des Fous in October.”
Have you thought about equipment, shoe choices and other details for the race?
“I have not figured out my race kit for TCC yet. While I almost always race in Altra Paradigms, I am pretty confident I will be racing in a different, higher traction shoe called the Altra King MT (coming out next year). I’ll use a Ultimate Direction racing vest, but besides that, I have some work to do selecting equipment.”
TCC and Costa Rica has a reputation for being a relaxed and enjoyable race – do you think holidays that combine a race are a good idea?
“Absolutely. I’ve paired holiday travel both alone and with my family my whole trail running career. Europe, New Zealand, Iceland, you name it! Importantly though, holiday and racing can be two in the same for me, but it isn’t easy to do. I have failed before at properly managing the balance (UTMB this last summer, for example) between traveling, holiday, fun, training and racing abroad. Balancing things with clear boundaries, a plan and discipline is essential. As far as enjoying myself before and after each stage, that just depends on the day, my mood, physical condition, performance etc…”
As one season comes to an end and Jason prepares for 2017, I ask what he is most looking forward to?
“I look forward to escaping winter for a fantastic world class event in Costa Rica. I am very excited to both prepare for and experience the Costal Challenge.”
The Coastal Challenge is a multi-day race over 6-days starting in the southern coastal town of Quepos, Costa Rica and finishing at the stunning Drake Bay on the Osa Peninsula, The Coastal Challenge is an ultimate multi-day running experience.
Intense heat, high humidity, ever-changing terrain, stunning views, Costa Rican charm, exceptional organisation; the race encompasses Pura Vida! Unlike races such as the Marathon des Sables, ‘TCC’ is not self-sufficient, but don’t be fooled, MDS veterans confirm the race is considerably harder and more challenging than the Saharan adventure.
Hugging the coastline, the race travels in and out of the stunning Talamanca mountain range via dense forest trails, river crossings, waterfalls, long stretches of golden beaches backed by palm trees, dusty access roads, high ridges and open expansive plains. At times technical, the combination of so many challenging elements are only intensified by heat and high humidity that slowly but surely reduces even the strongest competitors to exhausted shells by the arrival of the finish line.
The Coastal Challenge which will take place Feb 10th – 19th, 2017.
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ENTRIES ARE STILL AVAILABLE FOR THE 2017 EDITION
Read the full 2016 race story HERE
View and purchase images for the 2016 race HERE