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 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.
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.)
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?
- 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. 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. Rainforests are also responsible for 28% of the world’s oxygen turnover, sometimes misnamed oxygen production, 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 ofvines, shrubs and small trees, called a jungle. There are two types of rainforest, tropical rainforest and temperate rainforest.
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.”
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
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.
- Single Track Hayasa Shoes
- GTD shorts
- GTD LS top and SS top
- Waterproof Pack
- Enduro 13 Pack w/ bottles
- Mica 1 Tent
- Incendo Short
- Motus Shirt
- Neutro Vizor
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
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
- 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.
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.