Ragna Debats to join the 2018 The Coastal Challenge #TCC2018

Ragna Debats had a stunning 2017 racing all over the world in multiple Skyrunning events and distances – surprising that someone born in the flatlands of the Netherlands can run so well in the Mountains. It was a full year and one that at times could have so easily pushed her over the edge. However, Debats managed her time well and concluded her racing year with an epic journey to Nepal.

A break over the Christmas period and a return to consistent training, Ragna now sets her sights on Costa Rica and The Coastal Challenge. It will be a new challenge and one that should suit the Skyrunner well, the mixed terrain and technical challenges should suit her skill set.

In May, Ragna has her sights set on the IAU World Trail Championships.

I caught up with Ragna, with 1-month before Costa Rica it is all systems go.

You have had a great year – Skyrunning Champion, IAU World Trail top result and recently racing in Nepal – what has been a highlight?

For me personally, my highlights have been the Olympus Marathon where I won and set a new race record, High Trail Vanoise where I became EU Champ. The Rut, USA, I won and set a new race record too whilst having fun – a dream! However, I have enjoyed all of the races, 2017 was a great year!

Racing in Costa Rica will be very different but it will suit your skill set, what are you looking forward to?

I am looking forward to racing in a completely new scenery! I can’t wait to see the tropical rainforests and the beaches, it is going to be incredible.

Are you doing any specific training for the heat, humidity in Costa Rica – if so, what?

I have just started training again after a break over Christmas. Basically, I am working towards the IAU World Championship in May and during January and February I will mainly focus on strength training and volume, Costa Rica will work well in this plan, however, adapting to the heat will be difficult.

You have just done a multi-day race in Nepal, is multi-day something you’d like to do more of in the future?

Nepal was a great experience, mainly on a humane level and because it was a real cultural adventure. From a running prospective I was a little disappointed, but Nepal offered so many new challenges it was always going to be a learning curve. Also, the race concluded a long and hard year of racing.

Do you have a plan or strategy for Costa Rica, or will you take each day as it comes?

I hope I will feel like when I ran the Pyrenees Stage Run in 2017 where I could push every day and enjoy the race from the beginning until the end. We shall see what happens!

You will have strong competition from Ester Alves, Elisabet Barnes and more… does that excite you?

Yes, definitely! I’m always looking for good competition and I will revel in it. It’s exciting. 

Tell me a little about your preparation for Costa Rica – what are you doing at the moment?

At the moment, I am just getting back to regular training sessions after my running break and my Christmas holidays in Holland. But I feel really motivated to get into a good shape for 2018.

What will a multi-day race bring you for your plans later in 2018?

I think it will give me a good base for the season. After the race, I will start with specific speed work which will lead into the world champs!

What are the plans for 2018?

Until May I will be mainly focused on the Trail World Championship and afterwards I will follow the ISF World Series and the ISF World Championship.

Finally, what is your lifetime, long-term dream race or goal?

I would love to win the UTMB, the Trail World Championship and to become the overall World Champion!

TCC as it is affectionately known is a multi-day race starting in the southern coastal town of Quepos, Costa Rica and finishing at the stunning Drake Bay on the Osa Peninsula. It is an ultimate multi-day running experience that offers a new challenge even to the most experienced runner. Taking place over 6-days, the race hugs the coastline of Costa Rica, traveling in and out of the stunning Talamanca mountain range. Even the strongest competitors are reduced to exhausted shells by the arrival of the finish line due to the combination of technical trails, dense forest, river crossings, waterfalls, long stretches of golden beach, dusty access roads, high ridges and open expansive plains.

You can read and view images from the 2017 edition HERE

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The Coastal Challenge

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Website (UK) HERE

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10 Top Tips for Multistage and Multi-Day Racing

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Running is running yes? Anyone can do it! Well I guess the answer is yes. However, variables come in to play. Running is broken down into many different distances, from 100m to 100-miles and beyond. The longer we run, the more the challenges and requirements on a runner change. Running for multiple days or running a multistage race on mixed terrain throws up many different scenarios. Over the years I have spoken with many champions who have raced in the sands of the Sahara, the forests of Costa Rica and the mountainous paths of Nepal. They all provide me with similar hints ’n’ tips to a successful multistage race.

Here is a top 10.

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1 – RUNNING IN THE SAND

Desert races are very popular. Marathon des Sables for example is the father of multistage racing and over the years, many races have followed in the MDS format. A desert race is never all dunes but some races have more soft sand than others, so, be prepared. To avoid getting tired it’s important to read the terrain. Carve your own path running on fresh sand and when possible, run along the ridges. In smaller dunes (dunettes) it can be beneficial to run in tracks left by others, at all times, run light as though running on ice – you don’t want to sink in the sand!

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2 – HYDRATION

Dehydration is a real risk in any race, particularly a self-sufficient race where water is rationed. The risks of dehydration increase when the mercury rises and a lack of cover comes. A desert for example will be open, have intense heat but humidity will be low. By contrast, a jungle such as those found in Costa Rica may well have plenty of tree cover and streams to cool off in but the humidity will be through the roof. In both scenarios it’s important to drink regularly. Take small and regular sips of water and supplement lost salt with salt tablets. Races like Marathon des Sables provide salt tablets at aid stations and they recommend dosage. Other races you will need to think of this and plan accordingly. Also think about food choices on the trail and when in camp – food rich in minerals and salts will also help you. Importantly, multistage racing is about management from day-to-day and this is what can trip people up. Think about the event as a whole and make sure you recover after each day – rehydrating is as important post a run as when running.

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3 – BLISTERS

Many a multistage race is ruined by bad personal management of feet. Think about this well in advance of the race by choosing socks and shoes that work for you. Also choose shoes appropriate for the terrain you will be racing on. A shoe for MDS will be very different to a shoe for the Himalayas for example. By all means take advice on shoes from previous competitors BUT you are unique and your needs are unique. Do you pronate? Do you supinate? Do you need a low or high drop? Do you prefer a cushioned shoe or a more minimalist shoe? What about grip, do you need any? Do you need to fit gaiters? The questions can go on and on and only you can make a choice. If all this is new to you. Go to a running store that understand runners and can provide expert and impartial advice. They will assess you and your run style and provide advice. One consideration for multistage racing is that your foot ‘can’ possibly swell due to variables such as heat, running day-after-day and so on. Your foot will not go longer, but it may go wider. So, think about shoes that have some room in the toe box. Don’t purchase shoes that are 1 or 2 sizes larger – this is poor advice. Larger shoes will only allow your foot to move… a moving foot causes friction, friction increases the risk of soreness and soreness will lead to a blister. Also think about walking. Many people choose a shoe because they are good to run in… But how do they feel when you walk? Remember, a multistage race can involve a great deal of walking!

Do you have sensitive feet? If so, you can prepare your feet in the run-up to an event by hardening them with special products. Also make sure your nails are trimmed back. While racing, if you have blisters, stop and get them treated as soon as possible. Take responsibility and learn basic footsore before an event. You need to make sure you can make any necessary treatments. Finally, many races have a medical team that are provided to look after you and your feet. Don’t hesitate to use them, but remember, there may be a big line waiting. Self-care is an excellent way to make sure that you are ready to run in your own timeline.

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4 – BALANCED PACK

Not all multistage races are the same. The Coastal Challenge in Costa Rica, for example, is not self-sufficient so a runner only needs to carry liquid, snack food and any ‘mandatory’ kit. By contrast, a self-sufficient multistage race requires you to carry everything. A simple rule is keep everything as light as possible and keep your pack balanced. Luxuries really are luxuries in a race over multiple days so really ask yourself, do I need to take that? You will need mandatory kit as specified by the race and in addition you will need (as a guide):

  • Sleeping bag
  • Sleeping matt
  • Warm layer
  • Spare socks
  • Food (minimum calories are specified per day)

Clothes, shoes, hat, sunglasses –  but you will be wearing these so they don’t go in the pack.

That’s it. Keep it simple and if at all possible, get your pack with its contents as close the minimum weight as specified by the race.

By general consensus, a luxury item is considered a music player (or 2) such as an iPod shuffle.

Also remember that minimum pack weight will be without water, so, if your pack weighs 6.5kg, you will have to add 1.5kg on the start line on day 1. This is where a front pack or a pack where bottles sit on the front works really well. Bottles on the front help balance the front and the back and provide a greater running experience. Also, think about items your need whilst running… it’s not a good idea having them in the back, they need to be at the front so you can access them ‘on-the-go!’

Many packs are available to choose from and you will see two or three are very popular – WAA, Ultimate Direction and Raidlight. Choosing a pack is light choosing shoes; we are all personal. However, keep a pack simple, make sure it’s comfortable and make sure it has little or no bounce when running/ walking.

Consider joining a multistage/ multi-day training camp in Lanzarote with Elisabet Barnes – winner of the 2015 Marathon des Sables, Oman Desert Marathon and 2016 Big Red Run and podium places at the 2016 The Coastal Challenge, Richtersveld Wildrun and Grand to Grand. Information and dates on our next raining camp HERE

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5 – PROTECT FROM THE SUN

The sun can be a killer in any race, single stage or multistage – use sun protection and apply it daily. Also use products like arm coolers, a hat and a buff. At aid stations or whilst racing, you can keep these wet which will help cool you. Particularly the buff. If you overheat, slow down and apply cold/ water to the back of the neck. Use UV protective clothing and the jury is out on if clothing should be tight or loose. This often comes down to personal preference.

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6 – EAT WELL

Any multistage race is quickly broken down into three phases – running, eating and sleeping. Food is a really important part of any race as it has to perform many functions. Most importantly, it has to sustain you so you will need carbohydrate, protein and fat. Individual requirements will vary but carbs will restore energy, protein will repair and fat is essential as this is one of the primary fuel sources for a multistage race. Remember though, our bodies have an unlimited reserve of fat. It’s important to understand that your diet whilst training may well be very different to when racing. In training you may well have eaten less carbs to teach your body to use fat, but when racing, you need to recover and be ready to run/race again the next day. Have variety in your food as your palette will change with fatigue, dehydration and heat. Real foods are good but dehydrated food also has a place. You also need to decide if you will require a stove for heating water? Don’t think twice about stepping up a little on the organization’s requisite minimum daily dose of 2,000 calories a day, remember though, it’s all weight!

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7 – REST

Rest is crucial and how much you get will depend on how fast you run. Front runners have no shortage of rest time, however, those at the back of the race get minimal rest. Make sure you have a good sleeping bag that is warm enough for you and is as light and packs small as possible. You can save weight by not carrying a sleeping matt – general consensus says that carrying one is worthwhile as sitting and sleeping is much more comfortable. Matts come in two types: inflatable or sold foam. Inflatable matts work really well, pack small but you run the risk of a puncture without diligence. Foam matts won’t puncture but they can be bulky.

Make sure you have a warm layer for comfort, temperatures drop with darkness. A jacket (usually down) will also allow you to add warmth while sleeping if required. A lightweight sleeping bag and down jacket is preferable (by general consensus) over a combination sleeping bag that turns into a jacket. A jacket and bag offers flexibility, weighs less and packs smaller but will be considerably more expensive.

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8 – PACE

Remember that you have entered a race that lasts multiple days. Spread your effort and have the big picture in mind – pace yourself. Don’t set off too quickly and consider race profiles, distances and cut-off times. YOU take responsibility of when you need to be at checkpoints. A day with a great deal of climbing, soft sand or technical train will take longer, allow for this and be prepared. Most multistage races have a long day and it’s fair to say it is the most feared day – keep some energy back for that day. Remember, the long day often has a generous time allowance so don’t be worried by taking a sleep break midway through.

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9 – KEEP ON TRACK

Most races will have markers for you to follow but be sensible and self-aware of the challenge. If a race requires you to carry a map and compass, then please understand how to use them. Carry a Spot Tracker for safety and if you use a GPS such as Suunto or Garmin, remember that these watches plot a route that you can use to backtrack. In a race like MDS it is difficult to go off course due to the volume of people, remember though that dunes are not way-marked and you will be given a bearing to run off. If you are alone or in the dark, an understanding of how this works is a positive.

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10 – ENJOY IT

A multistage journey often offers so much more than any single-day race. It’s an experience like no other and friends made in the desert, jungle or mountains will stay with you forever. Also remember that this journey is a hark back to a more primitive and simple time – embrace that. Leave your phone at home, leave gadgets at home and live a simple life for a week – I guarantee it will change you!

contributions from

Elisabet Barnes, Danny Kendall, Jo Meek, Nikki Kimball and Laurence Klein

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

Gemma Slaughter, The Coastal Challenge, ©iancorless.com

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

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

TCC 2014 iancorless.com

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

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

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

Anna Frost ©iancorless.com

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

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

Anna Frost ©iancorless.com

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

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

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

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

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

Michael-boys 2013-big sur

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

ForesthillWS2013 Nick Clark iancorless.com

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

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

NickClarkLS50_2012 Nick Clark iancorless.com

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

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

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

The Coastal Challenge, Costa Rica ©iancorless.com

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Race dates: 2nd to 9th February 2014

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

The Coastal Challenge website HERE

IMAGES FROM THE 2013 EDITION ARE AVAILABLE HERE

Great Himalayan Trail – Philippe & Anna Gatta

Philippe & Anna Gatta iancorless.com

Ultra runners and climbers Philippe and Anna Gatta started a major expedition on the 20th September that will travel the length of the Great Himalayan Trail in Nepal. Philippe and Anna are well into the journey that will change both of them, not only from a physical perspective but from within. You can read the daily blog here

Philippe Gatta aims to run the 1,700km route in under six weeks, completing the equivalent of 40 marathons in 40 days.

Anna Gatta will also be running long sections of the route with Philippe, covering 670km, with 39km of ascent and completing the equivalent of 16 marathons. In addition, she will provide essential logistical support to her husband on the sections when he is running solo.

Philippe Gatta iancorless.com

The Great Himalayan Trail (GHT) extends for 1,700km and includes over 88km of vertical gain. The route includes many passes at an altitude higher than 5,000m and two that are at 6,200m, and it navigates through some of the highest mountains in the world, including Everest, Makalu and Kangchenjunga.

The Gattas are facing temperatures ranging from -25 degrees Celsius to +35, will run at altitudes from 880m to over 7,000m, and in jungle terrain, forests, deserts and on glaciers.  To add even more to the challenge, on the 30th day Philippe is planning to complete a speed ascent and descent of Baruntse (7,129m).

Philippe Gatta, Anna Gatta iancorless.com

“It is amazing to look back at the last 18 months, since we decided to run the Great Himalayan Trail.  After all of the expeditions and races I have done in the past 15 years, I never thought that this would be so complex to organize.  When we climb a big mountain, we establish a base camp with all the gear we need for the following weeks.  Of course, there are limits to the amount of things we can take but that’s nothing compared to the challenge of running 40km every day, carrying all we need in small packs and across the Himalaya. There are still areas of uncertainty – about the trail in several sections and about the conditions on the trail and mountains after the monsoon – but that’s all part of the adventure.  We have both set new personal records in term of training intensity and volume and are very confident and happy about our preparation, the kit and the logistics.”

Great Himalayan Trail Map - GHT - iancorless.com

Philippe and Anna are sponsored and supported by Berghaus for this journey and will be sending updates which will be posted on the Berghaus community, Facebook and Twitter.

The journey has been troubled due to heavy snowfall and difficult conditions; here is an outtake from the 18th October, day 24.

“Yesterday Philippe called from the sat phone. He was devastated since he realized that after 10 hours of opening up a path in extreme conditions to Tilman Pass they had advanced only 2 km due to snow up to waist and hidden crevasses. Despite very hard efforts they simply couldn’t continue. Philippe said it had been harder than the summit day of Everest. He and the Sherpa return back to the Kyangin camp and have decided to not take more risks and turn back to Katmandu to analyze what parts of ght that are still possible to realize. Another pass he was supposed to do, Tashi Labsta 5800m, is not doable now neither and the 3 cols had avalanches…”

The Ultimate Trail – facts and figures

– Distance – 1,700km across Nepal

– Vertical height gained – 100km

– Temperatures ranging from -25 degrees Celsius to +35

– Altitude from 880m to 7,220m

– Jungle, glacier, forests and desert

Key sections

– Dolpo – 300km with eight passes at over 5,000m

– Philippe will be self-sufficient for seven to eight days in a remote area where he is unlikely to meet anyone.

– Philippe will use a pack with a maximum weight of 10kg, which will hold all of his equipment and food for the section.

– The Three Cols – from Everest to Makalu

– Four days above 5,000m with two technical passes at 6,200m

– Challenges will include glaciers, crevasses and abseils.

– Kangchenjunga

– 230km in a very wild region

– From rain forests to a 5,160m pass

– Lacking in good trails but littered with landslides

Follow the blog here

GHT, Great Himalayan Trail info iancorless.com

The Coastal Challenge – RUN247

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

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

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

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

The Coastal Challenge 2013

Photos © Ian Corless

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

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

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

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

The Coastal Challenge 2013

Photos © Ian Corless

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pura Vida!

The Coastal Challenge 2013

Photos © Ian Corless

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

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

Click here to check out the event website

Men’s results

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

 

Women’s results

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

The Coastal Challenge – Oxygen

TCC RAINFOREST ROUTE V1

December 20th, 2012

Question“Ian, are you free the first 10 days of February?”

Answer “I leave Spain today and I am back in the UK late tonight. I have a busy morning on Saturday and I have some interviews to do Saturday afternoon but I will be free around midday to chat if you are? Alternatively drop me an email. Hope you are well? February should be okay, lets discuss.”

Reply “Great, so you can go to Costa Rica for the multistage ‘Coastal Challenge'”

Answer“Erm, yes! of course”

So, with just 4 weeks to prepare I was suddenly thrust into a week in the jungle. A whole new experience for me but one that I am so excited about! The Coastal Challenge.

I would normally be thinking to myself this is awesome. I get to go to Costa Rica, take part in a 6 day multistage, take photos, write an article and of course get some interviews. Unfortunately my long term knee injury is going to stop that… 225km over 6 days will just be too much and of course, I am not fit! Well, not race fit.

But as I said to my client and the RD, I think it is important to go these events and see it from both sides. If I am taking part, I wont see what is happening at the front of the race. I wont see ‘the race’ for the win. I also wont see the logistics and planning that go into a race like this. My trip is all about understanding every aspect of this race. So I am happy. I plan to dip in and dip out of stages but ultimately report on and bring back a whole series of images and stories that I can relate back to readers and listeners worldwide.

The Coastal Challenge, Costa Rica

The first question I had was, can I die?

Heat Illness and Dehydration

Individuals who are not well conditioned traveling in hot, humid environments are susceptible to both heat illness and dehydration. Heat illness includes both very benign conditions such as heat rash as well as life threatening conditions including heat stroke. Participants should carry enough liquids to ensure hydration during the event. It is important to eat and drink appropriate amounts of liquids with electrolytes during the event to reduce the incidence of hyponatremia. Water has not been an issue in previous Coastal Challenge’s, however, this year portions of the race will be through agricultural areas that will require purification before drinking.

Plants and Animals

There are 135 species of snakes in Costa Rica with 17 being considered dangerous. Mostly these are members of the Viper, Coral and Boa families. The best prevention is watching your path and being aware.

Water Safety

While the water in Costa Rica is generally considered among the safest in Central America, traveler’s diarrhea does occur. It is advised that any water be treated prior to drinking unless its safety can be guaranteed. Speak to your Family Physician about treatment issues (Pepto Bismol, Antibiotics, etc.)

Sun

February is considered the dry season so expect warm temperatures with average highs of 20-25C/70-85C depending on altitude. Furthermore the race will be going through some of the driest areas of Costa Rica. Proper sunscreen is essential (SPF 15 or greater) with enough to last multiple daily applications for the entire race.

Okay okay, that sounds okay… the chances of survival are pretty good. So then, what is The Coastal Challenge?

  • 225km
  • Costa Rica
  • Supported stage race
  • 6 stages
  • February 2013

The “Rainforest Run” promises to be spectacular and challenging. The course has been designed to emphasize point-to-point racing, which will put the “finish line” at or near camp at the end of each day’s race. The course is measured and will be marked. You will be given accurate course measurements and maps (Google Maps, Nat Geo maps) with route profiles for terrain, approximate distances and elevation gain or loss.

Set along Costa Rica’s tropical Pacific coastline and weaving into the Talamancas, a coastal mountain range in the southwest corner of Costa Rica. The race finishes near the border of Panama in a small and serene fishing village that until recently was only accessible by fishing boat.

Mountain, trail, rainforest, single track, across ridges, highlands and coastal ranges. We will run along beaches, rocky outcrops, reefs, river estuaries and the race finishes in the Corcovado National Park, one of the premier rainforest experiences in the world. A Unesco World Heritage site it defies description.

The course has a total elevation gain of more than 34,000 feet.

What is a Rainforest?

Rainforests are forests characterized by high rainfall, with definitions based on a minimum normal annual rainfall of 1750–2000 mm (68-78 inches). The monsoon trough, alternatively known as the intertropical convergence zone, plays a significant role in creating the climatic conditions necessary for the Earth‘s tropical rainforests.

Around 40% to 75% of all biotic species are indigenous to the rainforests.[1] It has been estimated that there may be many millions of species of plants, insects and microorganisms still undiscovered in tropical rainforests. Tropical rainforests have been called the “jewels of the Earth” and the “world’s largest pharmacy“, because over one quarter of natural medicines have been discovered there.[2] Rainforests are also responsible for 28% of the world’s oxygen turnover, sometimes misnamed oxygen production,[3] processing it through photosynthesis from carbon dioxide and consuming it through respiration.

The undergrowth in a rainforest is restricted in many areas by the poor penetration of sunlight to ground level. This makes it easy to walk through undisturbed, mature rainforest. If the leaf canopy is destroyed or thinned, the ground beneath is soon colonized by a dense, tangled growth ofvinesshrubs and small trees, called a jungle. There are two types of rainforest, tropical rainforest and temperate rainforest.

Logistics

The race is supported. This makes a big big difference. Although the race has a similar format to the Marathon des Sables, the big difference is that you do not need to carry your kit whilst running. This multistage is very much a race from the sense that the runners can race light and fast. The top runners will keep it minimal, hand bottles or a small pack. However, for most participants they will carry a pack with some ‘essentials’ and of course a bladder or bottles.

Base camp is set up by the race team. They transport the participants baggage to the finish of each day. Runners can sleep in a hammock or tent.They provide food (apparently excellent) and they also provide a series of check points and feed stations during the race.

After asking several questions, I was told by Rodrigo Carazo the following:

‘In regards to the race, it is a VERY HUMID race, plus it is also VERY HOT, if you have been to MDS, our conditions feel worse in terms o humidity, it rarely gets above 35 degrees but he humidity factor makes it feel hotter. But dont worry the sights and race course and race atmosphere really make the heat a minor issue in regards to the experience, but nonetheless it makes for a very demanding race and it is very rewarding once the race  is finshed!!!!
 
Once the race begins we provide everything you need for the next seven days except your specific racing food. We provide all meals, a highlight of our race you will see, and on course we provide water gatorade, fruits , nuts, sandwiches and cookies, but we dont provide energy bars or similar. At night you will be staying in campsites so bring your tent-with rainfly just in case ( its the tropics!) and a sleeping mattress. Some people bring sleeping hammocks.
Also bring plenty of running and beach clothes, you will need them as after every stage you will end up full of mud and bathed in sweat!! Do not bring shoes or socks you haven’t tried or raced with, this is because your feet will be constantly wet and humid, and blisters could be your worse enemy! Also bring a lot of sun protection, we see a lot of people coming from winter in their home countries leaving back with very sexy ruby red tans!!!!
 
We transport all you gear daily in a duffel bag or action packer plus your tent.”
 
Simple!
Okay, loads of run kit, loads of beach clothes, mattress, tent etc etc etc… I have 4 weeks!
I make a couple of calls and send a few emails and BIG thanks need to be expressed here to The North Face and Arc’teryx.
Both companies have stepped in at the 11th hour and have provided me with a selection of kit that will help me on the trip.
The North Face have provided a tent, luggage and a selection of run clothing. Arc’teryx have provided travel and relaxation clothing.
The North Face
TNF Mica 1 Tent

TNF Mica 1 Tent

The Mica 1 tent will be excellent as I can pitch just the ‘inner’ allowing me to potentially remain a little cooler in the ridiculously hot and humid climate.

The North Face

  • Single Track Hayasa Shoes
  • GTD shorts
  • GTD LS top and SS top
  • Waterproof Pack
  • Enduro 13 Pack w/ bottles
  • Mica 1 Tent

Arc’teryx 

Arcteryx

  • Incendo Short
  • Motus Shirt
  • Neutro Vizor

Race Schedule

TCC stg 1

TCC stg 2

TCC stg 3

TCC stg 4

TCC stg 5

TCC stg 6

One’s to watch

  • Dave James from US – interview with Dave James on episode 27 of Talk Ultra HERE
  • Jen Segger from CA
  • Roiny Villegas from CR
  • Ligia Madrigal from CR
  • Ismael Dris from Spain

Footnotes

FEET CARE by John Vonhof

Conditioning Your Feet

In the same way you train your legs and cardiovascular system, you need to condition your feet for the rigors 150 miles of The Coastal Challenge in Costa Rica. In short, that means training your feet in simulated race conditions. Train on somewhat similar terrain—sand, rocks, trails, hills, and in water. Knowing in advance how your feet will respond to these conditions will help you anticipate problems before they occur. Strengthening your ankles will help prevent sprained ankles common to uneven terrain and trails. Add in some walks or runs of longer amounts and vary your distance. The more miles you can get on your feet the stronger your feet will be.

Shoes

When selecting shoes, make sure your toes have wiggle room and your heels are snug with little up and down movement. Shoes with mesh may be cooler but tend to allow trail debris and sand into the shoe. Don’t start the race with worn out shoes. Make sure the shoes fit well and have space for swollen feet and toes.

Socks

Athletes should wear moisture-wicking socks. Try a few types of socks and decide whether a single sock, a thin liner with an outer sock, or two socks are the best for your feet. Remember if wearing more than one pair, more space is required inside your shoes so be sure your shoes are sized big enough. Plan on several changes of socks. The Injinji toe socks place each toe into its own little sock and might be a good move if you are prone to toe blisters.

Gaiters

Gaiters keep sand, grit and gravel, and trail debris out of your shoes and socks. There are many commercially made gaiters available to purchase or make your own. Those with a breathable material are preferred. Styles which attach to the shoe’s upper are preferred over those with the strap under the shoe since they make it easier to change socks.

Skin Preparation

The most beneficial step you can take to prevent problems is to reduce your calluses. Treating blisters under calluses is difficult and sometimes impossible. Use a callus file after showering or use callus remover creams to soften the skin.

Toenail Preparation

Untrimmed nails catch on socks putting pressure on the nail, causing blisters and black toenails, and cut into other toes. Toenails should be trimmed regularly, straight across the nail. Leave an extra bit of nail on the outside corner of the big toe to avoid an ingrown toenail. After trimming, use a nail file to smooth the top of the nail down toward the front of the toe and remove any rough edges. If you draw your finger from the skin in front of the toe up across the nail and can feel a rough edge, the nail can be filed smoother or trimmed a bit shorter.

Blister Prevention

If stopping to rest on the trail, take your shoes and socks off to air your feet, elevating them if possible. If near water, cool your feet with a quick soak. Use a silicone-based lubricant, like Hydropel or Sportslick which helps drive moisture away from your skin and reduces friction between your feet and shoes. Empty your socks of rocks and debris that can cause blisters, sores, abrasions, and cuts. If prone to blisters, consider taping your feet before problems develop.

Blister Treatment

Attend to hot spots when they develop to prevent them from turning into blisters. Cover these with tape to eliminate friction. Blisters should be drained and covered with Spenco 2nd Skin, Blister Block, or Compeed, and then tape. Your feet must be cleaned of all lubricant and oils for the patch to stick. If using a pin to drain the blister make several holes. If using a small scissors, make two small “V” cuts. Make the holes or cuts at a

point where foot pressure will expel any additional fluid build-up. Try to keep the skin on the roof of the blister. After applying a patch, roll your socks on and off to avoid disturbing the patch. Practice applying blister patches on areas of your feet most prone to problems.

Your Foot Care Kit

Wise competitors carry a small foot care kit in their packs. It doesn’t have to be big but it has to be right for your feet and small enough to fit in a Ziplock bag. I’d recommend a small container of Zeasorb powder or BodyGlide lubricant, alcohol wipes to clean oils off the skin before applying a blister patch, tincture of benzoin wipes, a small Ziplock bag with 1-inch Spenco 2nd Skin patches, a sewing needle and thread to drain blisters, and at least two yards of Leukotape wrapped around a small pencil. Duct tape can be substituted for Leukotape if you prefer. Of course it goes without saying that carrying a blister kit is useless if you don’t know how to use the materials. Use the time between now and the race to learn how to patch blisters and tape your feet before an event.

Foot Care at the End of the Day

After each day’s segment, proper care of your feet can help prepare you for the next day.

Using lightweight flip-flops around camp will allow your feet time to air and heal. If possible, soak your feet in cool water. Elevate your feet when resting. Rotate your socks to keep your feet as dry as possible and wash dirty socks. If your feet swell, you may have to remove your insoles. Use Super Salve, Bag Balm, Brave Soldier Antiseptic Healing Ointment, or a similar ointment to keep your feet as healthy as possible.

John Vonhof – Fixing Your Feet: Prevention and Treatments for Athletes, 3rd edition, June 2004
www.footworkpub.com

Essential Medical Kit

  • Alcohol hand rub or equivalent. Have 2 X 100ml bottles available.
Take one with you on run or event.
Use on every occasion that you use the toilet/ wash room. Use before and after eating food.
  • Use often Moist toilet tissues or baby wipes
  • Friars Balsam (Tinc Benz Co) 100mls in leak proof bottle.
  • Cotton buds around 20 kept in a plastic zip bag
  • Fleecy web in rolls or sheets
  • Zinc oxide tape or duct tape.
  • Compeed
  • Antiseptic liquid 100ml in leak proof bottle
  • Antiseptic dry spray 200ml
  • Sterile large bore needles x 10
  • Alcohol wipes, small x 20
  • Zinc oxide tape x 1 roll 5cm wide
  • Steristrip various sizes
  • Vasaline or Sudacrem
  • Adhesive remover or Zoff
  • Zeasorb powder or talcum powder
  • Small pair of dressing sicissors
  • Latex gloves
  • Gauze swabs
  • Sun screen and lip balm
  • Rehydrate salts or equivalent
  • Antibiotic cover
  • Just to clarify a point about running shoes, running shoes should be good fitting and not too big. You can bring a size bigger just in case your feet swell but do not start with them. Bring sandles/ flip flops for around camp in the evening.

Finally….

Spiral

The Coastal Challenge chose the spiral symbol because of its simple and transcendent beauty. Many of the most universally recognized meanings attached to the spiral seem relevant to the adventure in which you are about the take part. To many cultures the circular motif signifies centeredness, tranquility and balance.

Also a basic element in Western ideography, the clockwise spiral is strongly associated with water, power, life, the earth or sun, time, a journey, independent movement, and migrations of tribes, all things that will most definitely shape your life over The Coastal Challenge

 Visit the race website HERE

I will be updating my blog daily with a report and photos. Also check the Talk Ultra Facebook page and Twitter feed for any updates as they happen…..

Providing I can get a signal in the rainforest.

The North Face Single Track Hayasa

TNF Single Track Hayasa

Fresh out of the box, The North FaceSingle Track Hayasa‘. I am a real fan of TNF products, the ‘Flight Series‘ in particular offers a great range of products that transfer to so many disciplines. Light, functional, well fitting, breathable and ultimately great quality. It’s nice to remove them from the packaging, put them on knowing that they will do the job.

In regard to run shoes, The North Face I guess are still ‘newbies’ and in the past they have received mixed reviews about the footwear they have created. I have to say I had the original ‘Single Track’, you know, the really great looking shoe… black, red & white. Not only did it look good but it felt good.

The ‘Single Track Hayasa‘ is a shoe designed for speed. Greatly influenced by TNF athlete  Tsuyoshi Kaburaki from Japan, Hayasa actually means ‘Speed’ in Japenese.

Tsuyoshi Kaburaki

Tsuyoshi Kaburaki

It is a shoe ready for racing and as such sits low to the ground with a 10mm heel to toe drop (8mm toe /18mm heel). Weighing in at just over 8 oz for such a lightweight shoe protection has not been compromised.

At the front of the shoe we have a puncture resistant toe cap and on the tip of the shoe, you do have additional rigidity. This will add some protection from kicking rocks etc. But in real terms and in comparison to other brands the toe bumper is relatively small. When we move to the rest of the upper, we can see that there is basically a lot of mesh. The shoe will drain really well and breathability will be excellent as you might expect.

TNF Single Track

Seams are extremely low in the upper and the TNF have used welded seams. The lace loops attach to an internal cage (see the silver/white). This fabric is on both sides of the shoe. When you lace up, it pulls on the fabric in and it wraps around your foot to create support.

The shoe when on with laces adjusted feels very snug and the tongue is gusseted and attached to the upper. It is very padded and in conjunction with a plush heel box the shoe is a pleasure to wear.

The toe box is wide and has plenty of room. Maybe too much room for some so it would be wise to check on sizing to ensure that you get the correct feel. I personally went a half size larger but I do wonder if I may well have been better going ‘true to size’.

TNF Hayasa

Starting just behind the toes and going to the back of the shoe is the ‘Snake Plate‘ (green). The snake plate is an alternative method to the standard ‘rock plate’ that you find in many trail shoes. Instead of one large plate, as the name suggests this one snakes in and out. The idea being increased flexibility. Ultimately, protection and flexibility combined that also means a saving in overall weight. The rear of the shoe has a ‘cradle‘. The cradle is created, like a bucket I guess for your foot to sit in. It provides stability and security. I have to say this is one key feature I initially like. Just walking around you immediately notice a firm hold.

Without doubt a neutral shoe with a 10mm drop. You have 8mm of foam at the front and 18mm at the rear of the shoe. In this ‘low drop’ and ‘minimalist’ environment 10mm may very well be snubbed by many but this shoe sits low to the ground and as such provides a very natural feel with protection and cushioning.

My initial concerns with this shoe are with the outsole. It has low profile lug which is ideal for road, hard pack trail and/ or rocky trail but in any mud they will be pretty much useless.  The front of the shoe has directional grip so when going uphill you have traction as and when required. In the heel the lugs are reverse facing which will add grip when going downhill (if required). The middle of the sole is void of grip.

Testing?

Well, that is to come.

I have been provided with these shoes to test in a Jungle environment so please keep an eye on my blog for an update in February. Until then I will be running on some road, hard trail and even some mud to see how the Hayasa perform before heading deep into a rainforest…

SPECS

Upper:

  • Lightweight, minimal upper construction
  • TPUwelded support overlays
  • Lightly protective toe cap
  • Perforated EVA Northotic™ footbed

Bottom:

  • TPU and EVA CRADLE™ heel-cushioning and stability technology
  • 18 mm/8 mm heel/forefoot heights
  • Dual-density, compression-molded EVA midsol
  • Blown rubber forefoot
  • High-abrasion rubber heel
  • TPU Snake Plate™ forefoot protection

Shoe Technologies:

NorthFit: The mission of NorthFit™ is to scientifically provide the outdoor athlete with the most precise fit between the human foot and a footwear last, as they both relate to the demands of the specific activity for which the shoe is worn

Snake Plate: The Snake Plate™ consists of a plate that winds back and forth in the forefoot, allowing the foot to flex in a natural manner while delivering protection and rigidity.

Northotic: Biomechanically engineered Northotic™: The North Face® has taken the conventional footbed and elevated it to a superior level with enhanced stability, support and cushioning.

Cradle: The North Face® CRADLE™ technology is engineered to naturally absorb impact, stabilise the foot and promote an anatomically correct stride by supporting the perimeter of the heel and ensuring the fatty tissues under the bursa are biomechanically positioned. CRADLE™ achieves the perfect balance of protection, control and comfort to inspire confidence for any foot on any terrain.

Tenacious Grip: Tenacious™ Grip is a high-abrasion, sticky rubber designed for maximum off-trail traction that will also withstand the rigors of rough off-trail surfaces.

X-Dome: X-Dome™ functions as a heel-cushioning and propulsion mechanism that propels the foot from heel-strike into the subsequent stride stages.