The Coastal Challenge – Day 5

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Not sure if it’s a good thing or a bad thing, but 3-4 hours broken sleep seems to be no problem here in Costa Rica. The catering team were crashing pans and chatting at 0200 as they prepared our 0400 breakfast. No animal sounds or crashing waves to break the slumber, today it was the pitter-patter of rain. Not large quantities, it was splash, splash, splash, splash; big drops of rain. When I opened my tent a mist covered the camp providing an eerie feeling to glow of headlamps.

TCC stg 5

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Today’s stage required a short bus transfer and then a ferry to the race start. We transferred, waved the runners off and then had the use of a speedboat to make our way to CP2. No roads to this location…. I have to say the boat trip was a real treat. We saw the sunrise and wildlife emerge for a new day. The driver showed off a little by opening the throttle and weaving from right to left. At our stop point we transferred to the grounds of a private house and set up. I ran into the trail heading toward CP1 to pick my spot and await the front-runners.

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At 0600 the runners departed. Dave James had had rough night with broken sleep and was feeling a little under the weather. Would this provide an opportunity for Ismael?

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Todays course had less elevation but some of the most beautiful scenery. Dense rainforest with muddy/clay trails, single track that widened to double track and fire trail. Farming fields with long grass and lush vegetation. Water-crossings of varied in size and length. Just before the finish, a small section of road and a few hundred meters of idyllic beach. It had everything.

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Running a little behind predicted time, Dave arrived with Ismael just behind. This was about 1km before CP2 and just over 2 hours into the race.

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“Looking good Dave” I shouted… no response! Mmm he’s not having a good day I thought to myself. Despite what internal dilemmas he may be having he moved from left to right foot with ease. As Ismael passed, he waved with a big smile. He was obviously enjoying the day and course.

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Next to arrive was Jose Lopez who is currently placed 3rd overall. He was certainly finding the tough and slippery clay trail less to his liking than James and Dris. I ran into CP2 with him and then left ahead to capture additional images.

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The sun was rising high now and provided greater light as it broke through the patches in the dense canopy above. A small descent with slippery clay provided an opportunity to get an image of Henry Monestel. I then decided to run with him through to the next CP some 10km away.

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The canopy provided some great shade but when you moved out into the open sections, the sun hit and it hit hard. The difference between the two must have been 20 degrees! The logical thing is to run the shade and jog/ powerwalk the sun sections. It worked well. Every now and again I went ahead, captured an image and then ran with Henry again. The many streams provided an opportunity to completely submerge us and reduce our core temperature or take of a hat and soak it, so important when the heat and humidity is so high.

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CP3 arrived and no other runners were in sight. I decided to push on keeping Henry for company. Up trail and down trail, Palm trees everywhere. The diversity and difference in the vegetation is incredible. In no time CP4 arrived and I waited a little while in the hope I would see some other runners.

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Rodrigo Curazo, RD for the race told confirmed that Dave was struggling. He had arrived at the CP just behind Ismael but they had left together. Lopez currently in 3rd was also struggling. Ultimately the overall positions in the race wouldn’t change but certainly the fight for overall 3rd place was on.

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A steep climb straight out of the CP and then the trail dropped to a small village, a right turn and then a water crossing. It was the final section of the race now and a short stretch of road provided access to an awesome stretch of beach and the finish of stage 5.

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Dave and Ismael ran the beach together with Ismael taking the stage win by 1 second. Lopez held on to 3rd place despite his issues.

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For the ladies, Gemma Slaughter did exactly what she said she would do and attacked! Behind Hale and Meyer worked together to hopefully pull back some time but it was all to no avail. Gemma ran onto the beach beaming safe in the knowledge that had she not only won the stage but also confirmed that her consistency will almost certainly secure her the overall win now. By the time Hale & Meyer crossed the line (together) they were another 35 minutes behind giving Slaughter a 1-hour margin.

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The setting for today’s stage was a remarkable testament not only to the diversity and beauty that Costa Rica offers but also a testament to Rodrigo and his team who provided access to trails that nobody runs on. The final setting at Drakes Beach is a picture postcard setting and our campsite is little more than 100m from the waters edge.

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Days running and relaxing afterwards don’t get much better than what The Coastal Challenge have offered today. Apparently, tomorrow’s stage, a circular loop back to our campsite is also ‘special’. I can’t wait. We also get another night at this incredible campsite.

Pura Vida!

Tomorrows stage is the final of the race and a loop circuit back to our day 5 campsite.

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 A full set of images from day 5 can be viewed HERE

Results for stage

  1. I Dris 11:11
  2. D James 11:12
  3. J Lopez 12:17
  1. G Slaughter 12:57
  2. I Hale 1:32
  3. A Meyer 1:32

The Coastal Challenge – Day 4

Coronado to Palmar Sur 37.5km

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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.

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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.

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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”

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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?

“To finish”

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”

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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

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Results

  1. Dave James 5:05
  2. Ismael Dris jnt 2nd 5:53
  3. Jose Lopez jnt 2nd 5:53 (now moved up into 3rd place)
  1. Gemma Slaughter 7:49 (now 25 min lead overall)
  2. Angela Mayer 8:45
  3. Irene Hale 8:46

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.

Pura Vida

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The Coastal Challenge – Day 2

Saverge Valley to Dominical Beach via Brujo, Dos Boscas and Hatillo

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The sound didn’t stop… a million ‘Chichara’ echoed into the night providing the most awesome soundtrack to a night in a tent! Believe it or not, most people hit the sack by 1930hrs. For a few adventurous runners it was 2000hrs.

The heat had subsided but it was still a warm and humid night. Tents are pitched ‘inner’ only so as to allow for more airflow and sleeping bag? No, no, no… most definitely not required.

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0330 alarms disturbed the now quiet beach. The Chichara had finally gone for some RnR, it was our turn to disturb them. The kitchen staff had once again done an incredible job. These guys are doing an endurance event themselves. Cook breakfast for 0400, pack up and load up, move to the next stage finish, unpack and set up and then start cooking ready for the arrival of the runners. Provide lunch and then cook dinner. The next day, do it all again.

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I went ahead of the race today, as I wanted to climb to the second summit at 760m and capture images on the way as the front-runners came towards me. This section of the course had dense forest, mud and a whole mixture of different terrain. It was ‘proper’ jungle! I was on the trail by 0630 and I anticipated the front-runners around 0815.

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Back at camp runners assembled and started at 0545 with the start of a new days light. The sky was red… it was going to be a hot day. Total distance for the day was 39km but CP1 and CP2 although only 11k apart on this terrain and with the heat, this is quite far. Carrying enough liquid was essential.

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Day 1’s eagerness was tempered with a little carried over fatigue and the realization that this was going to be a much harder day. Dave James in the lead by 46 mins overall was going to run with Ismael Dris today. He had said to me the night before “I have no need to run any harder that Dris wants too, it will be nice to spend time with him on the trail”.

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Like clockwork they arrived at my ‘hiding place’ at around 0825. Dave, looked very relaxed and in control with no shirt and two hand bottles. Dris looked less secure as he immediately fell behind. They sped past with Dave stopping for a moment “make sure you go up Ian, the trail is awesome, some really dense undergrowth” and they were off!

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Monestel and Lopez placed 3rd and 4th and held these positions to the end. Dripped in sweat they ran along the trail eyes focused on each step ahead.

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I headed up the trail and the undergrowth closed in. It was really great to see. Noises wrung out from all around me. You can’t pinpoint anyone sound, it’s just a carcophony of noise. However the roar I had heard earlier (twice) did prick up my ears.

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Just before I reached the summit a bunch of runners came through, obviously using the approach of safety in numbers. And then the first lady, Tricia Lopez from Costa Rica.

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I continued up the trail and then turned and started my run back to the finish line. The objective to track Tricia and get a selection of images and then leapfrog to get some images on the beach.

iancorless.comP1050662By this stage Dave and Ismael had finished the day in just over 5hr (5:01), 3rd place Monestel arrived 1hr and 20 mins later.

The beach section, although completely flat seemed to be the ‘gripe’ of the day. By this time runners were dehydrated, tired and just wanted to finish. However, it did have a couple of great water crossings to help cool everyone down,

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Tricia held on to her advantage and crossed the line first lady at 1:14 pm, some 2 hours and 22 mins after the lead men, Angela Mayer from the USA and Gemma Slaughter finished in joint 2nd just 10 minutes behind Tina. They had definitely closed over the latter stages.

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The Coastal Challenge is all about participation and as Kami Holtz, Pam Nielsen (both from Minnesota) and Helen Lavin (California) all first timers at The Coastal Challenge are as they say themselves, ‘middle of the packer’ but they had a great day finishing in just over 8 hours – “It was a challenging course, it was muddy, technical with tough climbs but we are rewarded with beautiful views. It is what we are here for. However, the beach at the end went on forever. Plus the sun was up at this point just beating down on us.”

You can see a full set of images from today HERE

Results and other additional race information are available on the race website HERE

Tomorrow

Stage 3 is a longer and tougher stage. Starting at Dominical Beach we head up and up to a highpoint of 800m but this terrain includes river running and some stunning waterfalls. At 48k it will test already tired runners and again, we have another beach finish.

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The Coastal Challenge – Day 1

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Not even a 4am start could dampen the spirits of the participants of the 9th edition of The Coastal Challenge in Costa Rica.

Leaving the Best Western in San Jose some 100+ racers, crew and staff made the 2.5 hour journey to the coast and the start of the first stage at Quepos. A total distance of just under 34k this day was billed as an ‘easy’ day to allow the participants to adjust to the heat and humidity. Believe me, they needed it…

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Quepos is a small town on the coast of Costa Rica and the arrival of several buses was certainly a point of interest, pre-breakfast in this little town. Runners congregated at the start and prepared for the challenge ahead. Filling packs, getting bottles ready and nervously laughing.

 

 

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At 0900 they left the town and the first 10k was on road or pathway. Unusual you would think for a rainforest race? But a flat 10k of consistent surface is maybe just what all the runners needed to ease them into the day ahead. As expected Dave James hit the front and stayed in that place all the way to the finish.

Dave James dominating the race from the front

Dave James dominating the race from the front

I had gone to checkpoint 1 at 10k and then left following the course and ultimately would make the journey to the finish line under my own steam. My plan was to get into the jungle and then capture the runners as they approached.

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Coming from a cold winter in the UK the heat and the humidity hit me straight away. Within minutes I was soaking wet and remained that way for the whole day. The front runners seemed in control but very early on it became apparent that if you pushed too hard it was going to be a tricky day.

Follow the pink ribbons

Follow the pink ribbons

The course was a mixture of rocky fire trail and jungle. Apart from the heat the most notacable thing was the noise from the canopy. Millions and millions of insects created a chorus that was deafening.

As the course progressed and we descended down to the river, a metal bridge facilitated a safe crossing and checkpoint 3. From here it was just 6k to the finish.

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The Coastal Challenge team was already busy laying out peoples tents and arranging luggage so that it was ready for our arrival.

I have to say I was pleased to see the finish line. The heat really drained and as runners arrived you could see the stress and the impact on faces.

“This is the easy day” one lady said.

“Yeah, tell me about it… today is gonna be so interesting” replied another.

Cool campsite on the beach next to the river

Cool campsite on the beach next to the river

With a river to cool off in and food available the recovery process immediately starts. The runners, the team and the location is excellent. What more could you ask…

When the running is done, the relaxing begins

When the running is done, the relaxing begins

Dave James finished in 1st place in just under 3 hours (tbc)

T Dris had an excellent run to pull back into 2nd place. He had early gone off course in the day and when he passed me he said he had run an extra 6k! A top 10 finisher at MDS he has now 46 mins behind James.

In 3rd J Lupez finished just a handful of minutes behind Dris.

Stage Results

Stage Results

You can view The Coastal Challenge website HERE

Tomorrows stage is 39k with 2250m of ascent and we get underway early at 0530.

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The Coastal Challenge – Costa Rica

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Pura Vida = Pure Life.

While embracing the spirit of adventure, discovery and camaraderie, The Coastal Challenge will afford you the opportunity to compete at your highest level against an international field in one of the longest, toughest and most memorable running events you will ever experience.

Our events bring together a community of like-minded runners, travelers, and adventure seekers, providing an opportunity to create life-long memories and lasting friendships one challenging adventure at a time.

For nearly a decade we have welcomed runners who embrace new challenges, tough terrain and a deeper connection with new cultures while on a journey of discovery.

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You will have many opportunities to visit small pueblos, sand swept coastal towns and remote mountain villages. Brushing up on your Spanish might embolden you to strike up a conversation and interact with the local culture. You might also find yourself enjoying traditional Costa Rican dishes and stepping back in time to simpler, more tranquillo (tranquil) approach to life.

The course is set along Costa Rica‘s tropical Pacific coastline but weaves at times into the Talamancas, a coastal mountain range in the Southwest corner of the country. You’ll finish near the border of Panama in a serene fishing village that until recently was only accessible by boat. Although simple in concept, the race will prove to be extremely difficult in terms of distance, terrain and the tropical climate. The heat and sun will take their toll and you may be severely tested at times. All that said, if you enjoy long distance running or multi-sport competitions, the Coastal Challenge will prove to be the most affordable, hassle free and personally rewarding event you can mark on your 2013 race calendar.

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Race Facts:
Event Dates: February 2 – February 9, 2013
Race Dates: February 3 – February 8, 2013
Length of Race: 6 Days
Distance: 225-250 Kilometers
Location: The course is set along Costa Rica’s tropical Pacific coastline but weaves at times into the Talamancas, a coastal mountain range in the Southwest corner of the country. You’ll finish near the border of Panama in a serene fishing village that until recently was only accessible by boat.
Terrain: jungle and rainforest trails, mountain trail and single track across ridgelines, highlands and coastal ranges; beaches, rocky outcroppings and reefs, river and estuary crossings, and ends in Corcovado National Park, one of the premier rainforest experiences in the world as well as a Unesco World Heritage site. Much, much more. It really defies description!

Watch a video HERE on Vimeo

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Expedition Run, Team Expedition Run & Adventure Run

Runners from all over the world will compete against each other in one of the most challenging and visually stunning trail running events on the planet. The course will take competitors on an unforgettable journey through dramatic and varied terrain.

Although simple in concept, the race will prove to be extremely difficult in terms of distance, terrain and the tropical climate. The heat and sun will take their toll and you may be severely tested at times.

It’s the diversity you will find astounding!

Total course elevation gain of more than 34,000 feet.

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Race Registration available HERE

Official Website HERE