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The 2014 edition of The Coastal Challenge, Costa Rica gets underway in less than 1-week. Runners from all over the world will arrive in San Jose in preparation for the journey down to the coast to Quepos and the 10th edition of the “TCC”.
“It’s a decade of exploring, adventuring and discovering Costa Rica and the beginning of a bright new decade to come!” Rodrigo Carazo
Rodrigo Carazo (Costa Rican architect and adventure racer) and Tim Holmstrom (race director and Lost Worlds Racing founder) have pulled together an incredible field for the race and without doubt it will arguably be one of the most competitive multi-day races of 2014.
“Reaching the 10th edition is a milestone that is both humbling and gratifying. It is a privilege and not to one to be taken lightly. It represents a massive amount of work over those 10-years by all those involved. As it transformed from concept to a fully realized dream, we had no idea it might weather all storms and remain 10-years later as a race that could attract runners from all over the world. We are happy and grateful to have made it this far, accomplishing much with little more than hard work, persistence and vision. We look forward to many more years to come and making many more new friends from around the globe.” Tim Holmstrom
Elite runners will toe the line in Quepos with everyday runners, they will all have one purpose in mind, to embrace the tough and technical challenge that lies ahead of them and enjoy every moment. For many, to be on the start is already a victory; the journey will provide the icing on the cake.
Steve Diederich (http://www.thecoastalchallenge.co.uk) the UK agent for the TCC had this to say, “The Coastal Challenge has come of age and has joined the exclusive club of iconic multi-day ultras – with the added twist of a backdrop of some of the most breathtaking rainforest and coast on the planet and accompanied with now legendary catering that outclasses any other event. The TCC in 2014 is a vintage race in the making.”
Known locally as the Rainforest Run, the TCC is a 236km stage race over 6-days that weaves in and out of a lush and tropical Pacific coastline. The Talamancas – a coastal mountain range spread across the southwest corner of the country – provides not only a stunning backdrop but also many of the tough and technical challenges that the runners will face on a day-to-day basis.
Beaches that last km after km are interspersed with dirt tracks, mountain paths, dense jungle, ridges, water crossings, open plains and highland; Costa Rica is bursting with variety. In addition, add 40deg temperatures and high humidity, the TCC is no easy challenge.
Unlike other multi day races, the TCC is supported. Each day camp is moved ahead and awaits the runner’s arrival at the finish. Running light and fast, runners are able to keep equipment to a minimum and as such, racing is extremely competitive. The 2014 edition of the race is proving to be extremely exciting, particularly when one looks at the line up of runners.
Gemma Slaughter from Canada is returning as defending champion of the race. By her own admission she is a newbie to ultra running. One year on, Gemma has embraced the challenge to return to coastline of Costa Rica for what she calls, “the opportunity of a lifetime”. However, Gemma will have her hands full. Julia Bottger (Germany), Anna Frost (New Zealand) and Jo Meek will create a stunning spectacle and highly competitive race. To put this in perspective, we only need to look at some of the career highlights of these incredible ladies:
Julia is a strong and fierce runner. By her own admissions, she may not be the fastest runner on a course but she brings great strength, endurance and grit. Julia loves tough and challenging courses, without doubt she will embrace the TCC. Career highlights: TranMatinique winner 2013, Ultra Trail Atlas Tarabouki winner 2013, 2nd Sardona Ultra Trail 2013, 2nd Grand Raid des Pyrenees 2013 and in addition to these incredible results, Julia has placed 2nd at the super tough Tor des Geants in 2010 and placed 3rd at Diagonale des Fous in 2012.
“My training is going very well. As our winter is not really a winter this year I could run a lot in the mountains and do some cross training. But I noticed that my winter break was a bit too short. Last race in Martinique is not long ago. As well as I would like to focus on the Transgrancanaria race in march I have a bit of a problem on what kind of training to focus on.. But I feel great and healthy – that’s the best. I am really looking forward to the warm temperatures, beaches, new country and new people. And I am excited about doing a stage race again – has been a while. It is different from Ultratrails and very challenging. I love sleeping in a tent, having a very simple life out in the nature – so the Costa Rica Coast Challenge sounds like great fun.”
Anna has had a tough 2013 fighting recurring injuries but the end of 2013 and the beginning of 2014 has allowed Anna to find a great place, not only physically but mentally. It’s going to be a pleasure to have ‘Frosty’ on the trails of Costa Rica. Career highlights: Transvulcania La Palma winner and course record holder 2012, winner Speedgoat 50k 2012, winner La Maxi Race du Lac d’Annecy 2012 and 2nd Cavalls del Vent 2012.
“I am just super excited to be in a new and wonderfully exciting place – Costa Rica – with new and old friends. got my bikini and snorkel packed, oh and I guess some running gear would be good too!
Jo Meek comes to the TCC as a relatively unknown runner, however, a stunning and strong performance at MDS in 2013 confirms that Jo will be pushing hard at this race and for me, she is a hot favourite for victory! Career highlight: 2nd overall 2013 Marathon des Sables.
“I am busy packing my bag ready for this amazing experience that lies ahead of me. I am a little nervous because I want to race the best I can but more excited than anything else. As I reflect back on my training I am pleased. It has gone really well and because of it I qualified to represent my County (Devon) and then the South West Region which was a privilege with these ageing pins of mine.”
On a final note, we have just had news that Veronica Bravo (Chile) will attend the race. This adds a new and exciting element. Veronica is famous or should I say infamous for suffering frostbite in 2006 and then returning to running after fourteen operations. After 19-months of recuperation she returned to racing.
The men’s race is looking to be a classic in the making, defending champion and multiple TCC winner Dave James is not returning to Costa Rica, this therefore leads the door open for not only a new winner of the TCC but maybe a course record… who knows.
Philipp Reiter (Germany), Nick Clark (UK), Martin Gaffuri (France), Mike Wardian (USA), Carlos Sa (Portugal) and Vicente Juan Garcia Beneito (Spain)
It’s a top quality field!
Philipp is an incredible talent. His growth in the professional ranks for such a young age has had many look twice and draw comparisons with his Salomon teammate, Kilian Journey. Philipp races hard but knows how to relax and enjoy the experience too. Costa Rica is going to be a dream come true for young German. Career highlights: Winner Salomon 4-trails, multiple winner of Zugspitz, winner of the TransAlpine and many more.
“I am very excited – in exactly ONE week I am sitting in the plane to central America! This year the winter here in Bavaria (south Germany) is unusual warm and almost no snow, which is very bad for skiing but good for trail running. As I usually barely run in winter time (1-2 times a month) I have done more km’s than the years before and it feels much better (if my feeling is right). I am worried about the climate change and the jet-lag of the long travel (27 hours from door to door) as I have only ONE day to make my body adapt to the 30°C and the high humidity. But I am so looking forward to explore jungle trails, see the beauty of the rainforest and to get to know new runners from all over the world! The tropical plants and wildlife is said to be unique, no need to mention the beaches of the Pacific ocean. Another thing I am afraid are snakes (brrrr) and I don’t hope to see any of them.”
‘Clarky’ comes to Costa Rica and the TCC as one of the most respected 100-mile runners in the world. His 2013 performance in the Grand Slam of ultra running (4 100-mile races) was nothing short of spectacular. His consistent performance at Western States 100, Hardrock 100 and other tough and challenging events places him at the ‘to-watch’ list irrespective of the race or the distance. TCC will be no different. Career highlights: Wasatch 100 winner, 2nd Leadville 100, 3rd Vermont 100, 1st Fuego Y Agua and that is just 2013
“I am very much in base-building mode for the summer season right now, and really only starting get back after it in late December after a long break post Grand Slam. That said, I have been trying to put together a few longer back-to-back runs the past few weeks to try and replicate a bit the daily grind of a stage race. Other than that I’ve been logging lots of easy paced mileage with a focus on vertical gain. I feel like I’m in decent shape, if not particularly sharp, which should be just fine for a longer stage race like the Coastal Challenge.”
Martin had a breakthrough in 2013 participating on the ISF Skyrunner® World Series. Without doubt, Martin will add a surprise element to the racing and who knows, he may just turn a few heads. Career highlights: 7th Ice Trail Tarentaise, 8th UROC, 13th TNF50 and 21st Transvulcania La Palma
“So, one week to go… training only just started again after a 3 weeks break in December and all my long runs have been performed in the snow. I’m just coming home from a night out so at this very moment I’m feeling pretty… drunk. I’m most looking forward to catching up with good friends and make new ones and I’d say my only concern about this week will be to deal with mosquitos!”
What can you say about ‘Wardian. He is a prolific runner from anything from a 5k to the 135m Badwater Marathon. He is unstoppable; racing week in and week out he will often race 2-3 times a week. He has speed and endurance and in addition knows how to race over multiple days as he showed by placing 2nd overall in a previous edition of the Marathon des Sables. Career highlights: 3rd JFK50 2013, 2nd UROC 2011, 2nd IAU 100km 2011, 3rd Badwater, 11th Comrades and 3rd Marathon Des Sables plus many, many, more.
“I am most looking forward to pushing my body for a week straight and to see how it does with the terrain, heat, climbs, descents, and for course the recovery…that is always interesting me. I am also looking forward to exploring the countryside, mountains and Rain forests of Costa Rica, I have been to Costa Rica a few times but never for very long and each time I go I know I am missing a lot so this time I hope to get an even fuller and more robust experience.”
Started running ultras in 2008. In a relatively short period of time, Carlos has established himself not only as one of the top multi-day racers in the world but also as great runner in the mountains. Repeated top-10 performances at Marathon des Sables and TNFUTMB will without doubt mean that his presence will be felt a the front of the 2014 TCC. Career highlights: 4th UTMB 2012, 5th UTMB 2011, 8th Marathon des Sables 2011 and 1st Grand Raid des Pyrenees.
“I haven’t done any special preparation for the TCC. I am currently doing my normal day-to-day training for a mountain race. My objective is to enjoy this hard race, and have an adventure in a different environment. I have been told Costa Rica is unique. I would like to be in the first 5, but we shall see, I have not run any race since the last UTMB and I’m far away from my optimum capacity.”
Vicente Juan Garcia Beneito
Vicente may well not be a runner you know… however, you should! Coming into the TCC he is arguably the most prolific and successful multi-day racer around. Just recently he was the winner of the Grand To Grand Ultra in Utah and winner of Ultra India Race 2014. He has raced in Chile before and I can’t help but think he will make his presence felt each day as the racing unfolds at the 10th edition of The Coastal Challenge. Career highlights: Winner of the 4 Desert Races in 2012 – Atacama (CETRhile), Gobi (China), Sahara (Egypt) and Antartica. NB* Ryan Sandes is the only other under to achieve this but Vicente is the only person to do this in one year!
The stage is set for the 2014 The Coastal Challenge. The action starts on Sunday February 2nd and culminates at the incredible Drakes Bay 6-days later.
Daily updates will be available on via iancorless.com website and on twitter @talkultra
In addition, the TCC Facebook page HERE will have updates.
READ THE ARTICLE IN SPANISH HERE
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
You can read the full article The Coastal Challenge at TrailRunner online HERE
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.
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.
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”
Photos © Ian Corless
Stage 6 Drake Beach to Drake Beach
The last stage of any multistage race is always going to have a party atmosphere. For many runners, six tough days in Costa Rica comes to end. For others, some sadness that one of the most incredible journeys they have experienced comes to an end.
A later start of 0715 allowed the runners some additional sleep. No change for me. I was out on the course at 0500 with the race team to mark the course. After just a couple of km’s I stopped on the river section. Here the participants had to run several km’s straight down. It was always going to be a great photo opportunity.
My plan today was to run the whole stage capturing as many images in as many locations as the race unfolded. Once the lead lady caught me, I would then run in to the finish with her, leap frogging her to allow for as many photos as possible.
Today’s course? I N C R E D I B L E. Wow, it was all that I had come to expect of South America and Costa Rica. In just 23.7 km’s it managed to encompass everything from the previous five stages and then add more… a long run down the river was followed by a short technical climb and then a beautiful waterfall. From here the course slowly climbed up through rainforest and then we circumnavigated our way back to the coastline to make our journey back to Drake beach by running along beaches, through rocky coves, forest and then the finish line on the beach. It was a beautiful course, echoed in the words of Marcelo Jimenez Roqhuett ( from Cartago, Costa Rica)
“It was hard today but inspirational. We are tired and weak at this stage of the race. Every time you reach you find more energy to carry because the surroundings are so beautiful. I forgot my pains today and had so much fun on the course. Pura Vida”
In reality the overall top 3 in the men’s and ladies categories was not going to change today. So, if they wanted they could kick back and enjoy the stage. I am not really sure Dave James knows how to kick back… either that or he is so quick that his ‘kick back’ is way faster than anyone else.
In the early stages when he ran to me he was smiling. Dave’s stomach issues of the previous day had gone. Behind Ismael was chasing and then the usual suspects, Jose and Henry. It’s worth pointing out that on this stage many of the ‘race staff’ take part too, so you often get some fresh-legged runner mixing it up at the front.
I waited till about ten runners came through and then ran with them. It was tough going with the water level getting above waist height in places. Lead lady Gemma Slaughter was obviously kicking back a little and planned to enjoy this stage to the max… she was whoop whooping as she ran, keen to maximize the last day.
The waterfall section certainly added some difficulty as tired legs tried to navigate rocks and slippery surfaces. Race staff helped out as and when required. I moved on ahead running quite hard to gain an advantage of the runners behind me. Now running up forest trails surrounded by lush vegetation the trail moved in and out of shade. The canopy makes the running temperature so much more preferable.
Then some gravel road with a couple of water crossings before finally making the first beach section. The remainder of the run now was all about weaving in and out of coves. Soft sand allowing our feet to sink before the next stride is made. At all times lush green vegetation lines the beach to our right. On the left the waves lap the beach making that wonderful sound.
I keep leap frogging runners all the way back to the finish but ultimately always caching back up to Gemma.
Any opportunity on the beach to dip in the water and cool off is taken. Not sure if finally everyone is starting to acclimatize but certainly the heat seems less brutal today. Our hydration and sweat rate contradicts this.
The midway feed station arrives and it’s welcome. A liter of liquid does not last long out here! Back on the trail a small climb awaits. I run ahead, get a vantage point, and capture some images and then chase.
Two Scarlet Macaw are heard. We stop, look up and see these two magnificent birds in the canopy. Wow. Flashes of red and yellow and that noise… it’s quite special.
After several more coves the finish straight awaits. Just a hundred meters or so down the final stretch of beach. It’s an emotional moment for every participant. Six grueling and beautiful days in the Costa Rican heat and humidity come to an end. The local cheers, the Coastal Challenge crew applaud and whoop whoop. Every runner is a winner on a day like this. All races have a top 3 but it makes no difference today. The line today is all about the experience; the friends that have been made, the suffering, the high points, the low points, the struggles, the views, the scenery and ultimately the memories.
The Coastal Challenge has tested every participant in so many ways. For many the experience was considerably harder than they had initially anticipated but the mind is a wonderful thing. When the legs won’t work, the mind can take over and will you to the finish. Many participants have had to dig deep multiple times to conquer the terrain and humidity that has been placed in front of them.
Only last night, at the end of stage 5 one runner battled with fatigue, exhaustion and darkness to make the finish line. As the final meters of the course lay ahead of her she received a standing ovation from every member of the race team and every other participant. Ultimately, these runners are the heroes and the story of The Coastal Challenge. It’s about the battle within that makes the medal around the neck that so much more rewarding.
A full selection of stage 6 images are available HERE
MEN: 1. David James, USA (26:54) 2. Ismael Dris, España, Equipo Trail (29:17) 3. José López, Costa Rica, Talamanca Health Center (32:59)
LADIES: 1. Gemma Slaughter, Canada, imagine1day, (39:42) 2. Angela Meyer, USA (41:32) 3. Irene Hale, USA (41:38)
Coronado to Palmar Sur 37.5km
It’s routine now… the camp comes alive at 0330 as runners rise to prepare for a day ahead. Breakfast has been on the go since 0200. The catering team really are troopers!
Last nights sleep was awesome. The sound of the ocean accompanied us throughout… waves making a watery nursery rhyme to help us all drift off. The soft splashing of waves was interrupted by the chatter of Monkeys! We had invaded their environment and they were letting us know.
At 0500 the runners departed by bus for a short transfer to the race start some 20 minutes away. Temperatures were much cooler today, for sure, it would mean the early running would be much more pleasureable.
I headed up the course to CP3 approximately 20km from the finish. My intention was to run in from here and capture images from strategic locations as the race unfolded. With my first spot found; I waited. The early morning mist that had engulfed us started to burn away as the sun started to heat the atmosphere.
Dave James appeared on the horizon and danced his way towards me and then past me “I had forgot how beautiful it is up here man” he shouted.
“Your looking good Dave”
“Yeah, I feel good, just trying to enjoy the day”
Over twenty minutes later, Ismael and Henry arrived. Dave was killing it once again… he really is head and shoulders above the completion here and that is saying something, Ismael is no slouch!
After a short section of single track; a tough, technical and twisty descent dropped to a stream and then a tough long climb waited. The heat started to beat down. It was tough.
At the top of this section it was then mostly wide fire trail. Like a roller coaster it went up and down. A beautiful vista on the left with rolling hills and green pastures. To the right, dense jungle and an assault of noise. Terrain is good underfoot, to all intents and purposes its easy running. A right turn and then a long tough and technical descent through dense jungle to the final few road kilometers that would lead to the finish line.
I waited at strategic points, captured images and slowly moved forward to my own finish line. It was a tough day. I wasn’t doing much running today but even so; it took some time for runners to come to me. By the time I reached the finish only 10 had arrived.
I was fortunate to see Gemma Slaughter (Canada) arrive at the finish. She had placed 2nd on day 1, 2nd on day 2 and gave away the lead on day 3 in the final km’s (due to fatigue) to finish 4th. She put the record straight today though. She had not only won the stage but with a combination of her having a ‘good day’ and the other ladies have a ‘less good’ day she had taken the overall lead by 25 minutes.
I caught up with Gemma on today’s win:
Tell me about your strategy for today. You had a tough day yesterday, after leading pretty much all day you relinquished the lead in the final 6km?
You had no more aspirations?
“I knew how much I struggled yesterday. I have no objectives, as I don’t know my potential. I thought I had to make the most of the day and see what happens”
So you lead from the front today, did you keep looking behind?
“I looked for the first 4km and then I was on the trail… I was shocked at how tough that climb was. It was scrambling, knees on chest; wow!”
So at the top of the climb you then hit the rolling terrain, it is like a series of dippers?
“I walked the climbs and probably ran 80% of the flats and shuffled the downs”
Was your body hurting?
“My quads felt like they were being stabbed by knives, it was so painful. I was with Bryce and Brent from Canada”
Did they help pace you?
“I ran the downs faster but they climbed quicker, it evened out”
From checkpoint 3 what happened?
“I pushed on after eating and drinking. I walk at first and then ease myself back into running.”
How was the final descent?
“I felt like Kilian… arms in the air bouncing from rocks. It’s like dot-to-dot. My feet join the dots. Its so mental concentrating on the terrain I thought I need to push it and maximize time”
And did you find that descent difficult?
“ For sure, I thought I may hurt myself but hey, that’s the race…”
So, the final stretch was a couple K of road. Did you have it sewn up?
“No, it’s like dangling a carrot. I had no idea how far the finish was. I also had no idea how far behind the next lady was. I kept my pace and pushed on to the finish. Kids came out and waved and smiled. I took that energy and used it”
So you got the stage win today but you are now in the overall lead by 25 min?
“It doesn’t feel real. I don’t know how I feel. My friends are sharing all this on Facebook. I am so shocked… it hasn’t sunk in. I am done now.”
So tomorrow, defend or attack?
“Attack, always attack”
Finally Gemma tells me about the special story that brings you to The Coastal Challenge?
“Graham Snowden. He put our team together. About 10 months ago he asked me if I wanted to take part and I said yes. I am really new to running. This is my first race…”
Tell me about the other reason?
“Two things. My team, Tam, Tony, Graham, Shawn, Pavel and Marissa. We all want to support each other and that motivates all of us. The other one is test my own physical ability”
The men’s race barring a disaster is over. Dave James has a convincing lead that will not be relinquished. However, with two days to go and tomorrows long stage, anything can happen for 2md and 3rd.
The ladies race is far more open. Gemma now has a strong lead but as stage 4 shows, it only takes one person to have a good day and another to have a bad day for things to change dramatically.
Images from stage 4 can be viewed HERE
Stage 5 is one of the most beautiful. The start can only be reached by boat so it’s an early start for everyone at the camp… I can’t help but think tomorrow’s blog my start with stories of fatigue and mosquitoes.