Costa Rica Coastal Challenge 2017 Stage 3
Words by Niandi Carmont. Images by iancorless.com
Stage 3 of The Coastal Challenge 2017 #TCC2017 started at Playa Dominical, a tiny Costa Rican seaside resort. At 5.15am sharp the runners gathered at the start to follow the Race director’s crew vehicle to the beginning of the infamous riverbed section. Until CP1 the runners had to contend with a 10-km stretch of boulder-hopping, swimming and basically weaving their way in-between massive boulders, slipping on mossy riverbed stones on an unmarked course. After CP1 the course took the runners up a steep relentless climb to reach CP2 at 23.2km and 900m+.
During this section the runners were rewarded for their efforts by two of the most scenic waterfalls on the course, allowing most the opportunity to cool their bodies as the heat set in. Even Jason Schlarb stopped racing to take in the breath-taking views: “This was my favourite stage. I enjoyed running up the creek bed. It was incredibly scenic and challenging. The waterfalls were awesome. I just had to stop and look even though Erick Aguero was chasing me.” CP2 was followed was followed by an even steeper technical and dusty descent from 800m+ to sea-level in 4km, taxing already tired legs from the boulder-bashing and climbing. At CP3, 32.5km into the race, the runners reached the “the tail of the whale” an exposed beach section on firm sand.
The 6km beach stretch was followed by a last steep jungle climb, where even the leaders had to dig deep into their last remaining reserves before reaching CP4 on the road home with 4km to go. A final right turn onto a stony dust road led them to the finish line at Bahia Ballena, “the bay of whales”.
Tonight’s camp-site and tomorrow’s start is adjacent to the Pacific Ocean and shaded by tall trees, home to indigenous monkeys and scarlet macaws. The total distance of Stage 3 was 43.9km and is considered one of the most technically gruelling and challenging of the race.
In the men’s race Tom Owens dominated the stage as expected smashing Ian Don Wauchope’s course record from 2016, looking surprisingly fresh on the finish line. He was first out of the river-bed at CP1 followed by Ecuadorian runner Francisco Pinto. Jason Schlarb exited the riverbed in third position. By the waterfall Tom Owens had already opened a big gap with his pursuers. Jason overtook Francisco and made it in second position to the first waterfall.
“I jockeyed between Ashur Youssefi and Erick Aguero. I broke away after the second waterfall and felt super confident on the descent. Then suddenly Erick came cruising by and gained 800m on me when we hit the beach. It was painful but then I caught him and next thing Chema Martinez flew by. Erick blew up on the beach. It was so hard getting up on the last hill before the road but I still managed to secure a third place after Chema.” – Jason Schlarb
Although there were no Costa Ricans on the podium today, Stage 3 was marked by a very strong Costa Rican presence led by Erick Aguero and Ashur Youssef.
In the Ladies Race Anna Frost dominated from the start, leading the ladies race to the river-bed. She was first at the first waterfall. Despite a strong lead, she had to push hard. “I twisted my ankle and my legs really felt it on the descent.” Second lady through the river-bed was Elisabet Barnes, which was a revelation and proved just how much her technical skills have improved since 2016 when she lost time on this section.
“I felt a lot better. The past 2 days I have had stomach cramps. Today I felt great. I was apprehensive about the river-bed and was happy to come out second. Funnily enough I enjoyed it. As I had anticipated Anna Comet passed me on the climb. I knew then that if I made it to the riverbed nobody would overtake me. Unfortunately, I got lost between CP2 and CP3 but this didn’t impact too much on my overall time. The near vertical climbs were killers and I found myself hanging onto branches. There were some really steep downhills and I just got on my butt and slid down the dusty descents.” – Elisabet Barnes
Elisabet kept her third place until the finish. Anna Comet finished in a strong second place. First Costa Rican lady was Katlyn Tocci.
Tom Owens (Scotland) – 4:55:52
Chema Martínez (Spain) – 5:16:22
Jason Shlarb (United States) – 5:21:35
Erick Aguero (Costa Rica) – 5:26:28
Francisco Pinto (Equator) – 5:28:56
Anna Frost (New Zealand) – 5:53:55
Anna Comet (Spain) – 6:05:23
Elisabeth Barnes (Sweden) – 6:20:14
Ester Alves (Portugal) – 6:30:00
Katelyn Tocci (Costa Rica) – 6:34:00
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