A little rain is never a great way to start a day, particularly when you have 55km of tough, challenging and mountain terrain to get over – the Ultra Skymarathon Madeira, the next race in the Migu Run Skyrunner® World Series started today at 0600 from the town of Santana.
Hillary Allen had flown in from USA and after placing 2nd last year was looking for some sun and the top rung on the podium. Obstacle racing world champion and Skyrunner Series World Champion for the Extreme distance Jon Albon, was looking for a little mud, colder temperatures and was more than happy with a little rain.
Weaving up and down mountains, around beaches, through dense undergrowth, up a riverbed and of course plenty of climbing and descending, the USM course is a unique one – It’s not an ordinary Skyrunning course!
The USM has a brutal start to the day, just 1km to warm up and then a climb of 1400m. Head torches illuminated the trail and light persistent rain followed the runners until they broke through the cloud – on the other side, blue skies and a different day.
A section of via ferrata at around 6km was followed by a little descending and a final push for the highest point of the day. Aurelien Dunand-Pallaz from France was the first to arrive and yes, it was somewhat of a surprise. He was closely followed by Russian Dimitry Mityaev and Jon Albon.
For the ladies, Hillary Allen was making her presence felt with a convincing lead of Ekaterina Mityaev and then Anna Frost followed some time later.
Descending over the summit, the cloud inversion was clearly visible – the landscape awe-inspiring. It was quite special to see so many mountains and trails all above the cloud.
Running the ridges and several more climbing sections, the front of the race didn’t change until they returned to the coast.
A descent to the sea was followed by a steep short climb and then another descent which was followed by a section of riverbed littered with boulders. Albon made his move, the obstacle course world champion was in his element and he pulled away from the Frenchman with ease. At first opening a slender gap but on the steep climb that followed, the Englishman who lives in Norway but the hammer down realizing a course record was possible. Albon crossed the line obliterating the old record of 6-hours 28-second setting a benchmark 5-hours 45-minutes.
Dunand-Pallaz held on for 2nd also breaking the old course record in 5-hours 55-minutes and Mityaev placed 3rd in 6-hours 7-minutes.
Allen’s wish came true – in the closing kilometers from the river bed, she extended her lead over the Russian and took top honors in 7-hours 4-minutes, her time just outside the course record.
Mityaev placed 2nd but looked exhausted and dehydrated when she crossed the line – a great weekend double for her! The previous day she had won the Santana Vertical Kilometer. Frost was expected next but news came in she had withdrawn on the beach section therefore opening the doorway for Catalan runner Eli Bertran. Mityaev and Bertran finished in 7-hours 34-minutes and 8-hours 35-minutes respectively.
‘USM is one of if not the hardest race I have ever done. It was relentless terrain of ups and downs, the variety is incredible and I loved the river bed section,” said Albon. ‘This race is up there with my all-time favourites. I will definitely be back!’
Attention now turns to Lugano next weekend were the Migu Run Skyrunner® World Series continues with the Scenic Trail K113.
Ferran Teixido (Andorra) and Ekaterina Mityaeva (Russia) took top honours at the Santana Vertical Kilometer® on the island of Madeira. The VK is part of the new 2017 Vertical Kilometer® World Circuit – an off-spin from the Skyrunner World Series.
Starting the Vale da Lapa at an altitude of 780m, in the heart of the Laurissilva forest, the 4.8km course goes all the way up, 1003m to be exact through the impressive Madeira Natural Park.
Departing at 1-minute intervals on the stroke of 0900, the runners pushed their legs and lungs to the max as they took on this impressive race – a first for the island of Madeira.
The final part of the route consisted of a technical and demanding climb that culminated with a short section of via ferratta before reaching the emblematic point Encumeada Alta at an altitude of 1785m. From the summit, incredible views all over the island are possible.
VK specialist Ferran Teixido was one of the last competitors to start and he completed the course first in 41:48 gaining valuable points for the Vertical Kilometer® World Circuit. Vitor Jesus and Romeu Gouveia placed 2nd and 3rd.
Regular Skyrunning competitor Ekaterina Mityaeva showed great form and strength winning the ladies race in 51:37 and Salomon International athlete Anna Frost was a surprise last minute entrant – she placed 3rd.
The 2017 Migu Run Skyrunner® World Series and the 2017 Vertical Kilometer® World Circuit progresses with two stunning races on the island of Madeira this coming weekend.
The SVK – Santana Vertical Kilometer®
The SVK (Santana Vertical Kilometer® ) covers a course 4.8km in length and a total vertical gain of 1003m and follows on from the most recent VK at Zegama-Aizkorri just last weekend where Stian Angermund-Vik and Laura Orgue took top honours.
The SVK takes place within the Madeira Natural Park, inside protected ecosystems areas that are part of the Natura 2000 Network – an ecological network that has the objective to contribute for ensuring biodiversity through the conservation of natural habitats and wild fauna and flora in the European Union. Starting near the Vale da Lapa at an altitude of about 780m, in the heart of the Laurissilva forest, a Natural World Heritage Site of Mankind, the course covers 4.8km. Participants can experience the amazing views of Madeira Island and feel nature at its most beautiful. The final part of the route consists of a very technical and demanding climb that culminates in an emblematic point called Encumeada Alta (1785m), in the central mountain, from where you can enjoy superb panoramic landscapes on the highest peaks of the island.
A total of 78 runners will take on this tough course with Saul Antonio Padua Rodriguez heading up the race. Other runners to watch are Ferran Teixido, Ekatarina Mityaeva, Anna Frost and more.
Runners depart at 1-minute intervals
The USM – Ultra Skymarathon Madeira®
The main event of the weekend is the USM (Ultra Skymarathon Madeira®) – a technical mountain race that consists of steep slopes and trails covering a distance of 55km and 4000m of vertical gain.
Comprised of passages which require technical climbing expertise of grade 2, stunning mountain scenery, mountains, sea cliff landscape plus the addition of an up river boulder hopping scramble; yes, the Ultra SkyMarathon Madeira is a unique race – It is no ordinary race and one that combines mixed elements in a wonderful natural playground.
“This place is incredible. The diversity of nature, the amount of vertical that you get immediately from the sea is breath-taking. The colour of the water is like nothing I have ever seen. I have stopped so many times to say “wow”! The organisers and community runners have made me feel at home already. I don’t want to ever leave…” – Anna Frost
The ladies race will have a tough battle with last years 2nd and 3rd place ladies, Hillary Allen and Anna Frost.
Add to the mix Elisabet Bertran Mesanes, Ekaterina Mityaeva, Eva Maria Moreda, Katarina Lovrantova and Laura Pratt Merino.
In the mens race it’s wide open, the hot favourite may well be 2016 Skyrunner World series Extreme Champion Jonathan Albon who will love the technical nature of the Madeira course. However, Italy’s Franco Colle will be tough competition along with Pere Aurell Bove, Dmityr Mityaeva, Nuno Silva, Roger Vinas and Xavier Teixido.
A full line-up of the start list can be viewed here.
Cristofer Clemente (6:00:28) and Gemma Arenas (6:59:51) took top honours in 2016, who will stand atop the podium in 2017?
The Madeira Ultra SkyMarathon®, now in its fourth year, embodies the sea-to sky concept that personifies Skyrunning.
The “2017 Migu Run Skyrunner® World Series”
The 2017 Migu Run Skyrunner® World Series features 22 races in 11 countries and will reward the champions in the various categories a € 60,000 end of season prize purse.
The Chinese company Migu Run, the creator and owner of an advanced online and offline exercise and health management platform, has been announced as the new long-term title sponsor of the Migu Run Skyrunner® World Series beginning in 2017.
The Series is structured in three categories, Sky Classic, Sky Extreme and Sky Ultra, counting 22 races in 11 countries stretching from April to October.
The rapidly expanding appeal of climbing 1,000 metres sky-high has prompted the creation of this circuit to showcase some of the best races across the world – for starters, sixteen races in eight countries.
The circuit is a Skyrunner® World Series spin-off, launching with double the number of races. They include the world’s shortest and fastest races, the first and only triple VK, some 20-year-old classics and some exciting new ones. With the aim of expanding in the future, the number of races may be increased throughout the season.
Please get out of the new one if you can’t lend your hand
Cause the times they are a-changing
– Bob Dylan
Anna Frost is arguably one of the most famous mountain runners in the world. Striking good looks, a huge smile, an insatiable addiction for fun and an ability not to take herself too seriously has made her the no1 all over the world – from a runner and fan perspective.
Recently she returned to Costa Rica and ‘put the record straight’ by finally winning The Coastal Challenge at her third attempt. In year one she was unable to start due to doctors’ orders. In year two she was forced to retire due to injury on the penultimate stage whilst in the lead. In 2017 though she nailed it by winning five-stages and cruising the sixth and final stage knowing the job was done!
It had been an emotional ride and one that was clear for all to see as she sobbed on the shoulder of race director Rodrigo Carazo on the finishing line of the final stage.
“Wow, that has been some ride and I am pleased to put the record straight. I love everything about The Coastal Challenge. The organization is amazing, the place is fabulous, the layout of the course is so challenging and rewarding. Contrast that against the communal environment of camp and you have just the perfect race. For me, will I come back? – absolutely! Will I race again? Probably not – but volunteering, helping at aid stations and marking the course appeals.”
Frosty, as she likes to be known is at a new point in her career if you hadn’t guessed. The turmoil, stress, back-to-back travel and the pressure to perform has taken its toll. “It’s a great problem to have and I have been very fortunate. But there are so many places and events to go to – I can’t do them all and in the past I tried. I am now very careful and I listen to my body. My health is far more valuable than trail running.”
A balanced approach has taken time to learn. Of course, Frosty has made some huge mistakes on the way but that is how one progresses, develops, learns and now with experience, the lady from New Zealand seems to tick along nicely. No doubt helped by her long-term relationships with Braz who Frosty has now developed a series of camps and adventures with.
Relaxed, philosophical, balanced – these are not the words I would have used to describe Frosty when I first met her in 2012 on the island of La Palma. She is still the same force, still the same glowing and open personality but then she wanted it all and of course she had it. Her run at Transvulcania in that edition was legendary and it elevated her onto the world stage.
“Social media placed a great deal of pressure on me and I relate that to my downfall if you can call it that? I didn’t respond well to trail running all of a sudden. I ran trail because I loved it and then suddenly I was ‘professional’ with eyes on me. When it became ‘a thing,’ I wasn’t prepared for it. The pressure got too much an I went to a dark hole. Now though, there is no pressure!”
Community, the spirit of running and running on trail is what this lady bought into and that is what she wants moving forward.
“I want to be part of the community and not separated from it with a ‘professional’ tag. This week in Costa Rica I have watched people race, challenge themselves, learn on the trail and they have got the job done – that is so awesome!”
Trail running is booming and female participation in the sport is growing and growing. Frosty has been clear to emphasize that a woman can be a runner and feminine, after all, she has her own clothing line with sponsor, Salomon.
“Clothing is a lot more feminine now with a great deal of bright colours, we have skirts, dresses and all sorts of products that are specific to make us feel great on the trail. Let’s face it, running is an accessible sport – you just need shoes and an outfit and you can join in, let’s embrace that!”
Despite a feminine side, Frosty doesn’t see herself as a woman, at least not when she is running.
“When I am on the start line, I am just there – a human. Obviously, I know that I am racing the women but I never think I am a girl therefore I can’t run up hill fast, or that I can’t compete with the men – I just race and I race whoever I am near, male or female.”
Maturity comes with age but it also comes as boxes are ticked and life becomes more settled. Frosty has a man in her life and a transition is taking place.
“We met at Hardrock – a Hardrock love affair! The last couple of years of coming home to someone has been very settling. I have always searched for home. It would be New Zealand in winter after months on the road but when I met Braz, I was home! That was very satisfying, very fulfilling and I now feel like I can do anything.”
A new outlook on running, a man, home, the patter of tiny feet may well be the next thing in the ultra, trail and mountain world?
“I have dreamed of being a mum since I was 13-years old. With my travel and work a child has not been an option, but now, my mind is shifting focus. I have Hardrock 100 again this year and a few other races and events, but yes, in the close future it’s something that I will put an emphasis on. Nothing is guaranteed though. I would be privileged and lucky to make my own little baby. However, if not, I sponsor a charity called ‘Children of Uganda’ – if I can’t have my own child, I will help other children in the world that are so much in need.”
Inspiration takes many forms. You may well know Frosty as ‘the runner,’ but think outside the box, step back and see the person. A person who has inspired so many by climbing mountains, running fast over trails but I can’t help but think her best work is to come. Be it her own child or someone else’s, Frosty will lead by example. She will blaze a new trail and I can only hope you follow – we all need to be inspired and I can’t think of any other lady in the sport who can do the job better.
Many thanks to Niandi Carmont who produced an extended interview with Frosty in Costa Rica post the 2017 edition of the race. You can listen HERE.
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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.
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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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
Daily reports and images will be posted on this website when connection allows.
You can also follow on Facebook HERE, on Twitter HERE and on Instagram HERE
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.
Heat, humidity and hydration warnings by race director Rodrigo Carazo signified the start of the 2017, The Coastal Challenge – now in its 13th edition.
Time to cool off…
The start of the 34.6km stage was on the beach at Playa Del Rey and temperatures were already soaring at the start where runners were dropped off after a 4-hour coach journey from San Jose. The first section until CP1 was extremely runnable fire trail. Many were still adapting to the heat and held back. In the men’s race Tom Owens set the pace and literally flew off with Chema Martinez hot on his heels. Local Costa Rican Erick Aguero followed closely. In the ladies’ race Elisabet Barnes took the lead on the flat fire track followed by Anna Frost and Ester Alves.
“It was hot,” Frosty said. “I felt terrible for the first 15km on the flat. As soon as I got to the hilly section I felt better. I didn’t want to blow up this first day so I tried to be sensible. Elisabet was flying on the flat section. I passed her after CP1 on the climb. We ran together until CP2 and then I took the lead.”
Ester Alves and Anna Frost chasing Elisabet Barnes
Ester Alves tried to keep up with the duo but was soon outdistanced and overtaken by Anna Comet who looked surprisingly fresh and unaffected by the heat. Frosty won the first stage with a 5min lead on Elisabet Barnes with Anna Comet completing the podium just 2min behind. Ester, defending 2016 ladies’ champion was philosophical about her performance today: “It’s the first stage and I had lots of fun. You have to accept the good days and bad days. I haven’t planned a strategy for tomorrow. Just having fun.”
With her preference for technical courses and Stage 2 being much more challenging than today, she will be well-served. Elisabet Barnes was very happy with her second place and performance, finishing the stage 25min faster than last year.
After CP1 the course took the runners on a climb to 450m with a drop down to CP3 at 29.5km. It was on this first climb through jungle undergrowth and in the heat that novices and those who had forgotten to pace themselves and keep body temperatures down, really suffered.
Tom Owens in the early km’s after the start
In the male field Tom Owens had a small gap over Chema Martinez . At CP2 and 19km into the race, they arrived together and then Chema, who boasts a 2:08 marathon PB, left first in an attempt to open a gap on the fast and dusty roads on what was very runnable downhill fire trail. However, Tom managed to hold on to him.
The course ended with a hilly single track shaded forest section, a little add-on and alteration introduced in 2016 to avoid too many fire trail and road sections with a slippery river crossing to the finish near Rafiki Lodge along the river.
Jason Schlarb in the rainforest section after CP1.
The day was not without incidents with Jason Schlarb missing a turning and the bright pink fluorescent markers just after CP3 and taking a big detour, adding on extra miles and ending up 25min behind Chema Martinez. “I was 10min behind Chema Martinez and in 3rd place after CP3,” Schlarb said. “I missed the turning and ran along the river and back onto the road where a crew vehicle pointed me in the right direction. I went from 3rd to 6th position and lost 15min.” 2015 ladies’ champion, Veronica Bravo from Chile also went off course after CP3 finishing 6th today.
Veronica Bravo just before going off course.
Tom Owens: 2:44:45
Chema Marinez: 2:47:55
Erick Aguero: 3:02:42
Anna Frost: 3:14:49
Elisabet Barnes: 3:19:24
Anna Comet: 3:21:23
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