The Coastal Challenge 2018 #TCC2018 – Stage 2

It was a 0400 wakeup call this morning and an 0530 start. It may sound super early but believe me, the runners weren’t complaining! Most had been in bed before 8pm. The advantages of an early start are simple, it gives the runners a good 2-3 hours before the heat starts to take its toll.

Today’s stage was a tough 39km kicked off with a climb. Tom Evans, Hayden Hawks and Timothy Olson dictated the pace for the men, matching each other stride-for-stride. At the summit they could be heard talking actively, so, it’s fair to say they were easing into the day! For the ladies, Ragna Debats stamped her mark on the race by pushing immediately and opening a huge lead over the chasers.

The course rolled up and down with a series of hard, stony and dusty access roads that connected sections of rainforest. At 16km another high point was reached, just over 700m and then it was all pretty much downhill before reading the beaches of Dominical and a flat but hot run to the finish.

Debats was in a league of her own today, she pushed and pushed eventually crossing the line in 4:24:25. To put this in perspective, 2016 TCC winner Ester Alves, finished 2nd lady in 5:15:58, 3rd lady was Suzanna Guadarrama and Mirta Reaple and Josephine Adams were 4th and 5th.

Hawks and Evans pushed the pace for the men, finally pulling away from Olson. The duo ran side-by-side and although they tested each other, the duo crossed the line together in 3:41:52. Olson had a good day, relishing the more technical and hilly terrain to finish 3rd in 3:48:17 with Marcus Scotney and Michael Wardian placing 4th and 5th.

Tomorrow’s stage and 47.4km is a tough one that runs from Dominical Beach to Bahia Ballena.

Stage Results:

  1. Tom Evans 3:41:52
  2. Hayden Hawks 3:41:56
  3. Timothy Olson 3:48:17
  4. Marcus Scotney 4:00:28
  5. Michael Wardian 4:21:41

 

  1. Ragna Debats 4:24:25 (6th on stage)
  2. Ester Alves 5:15:58
  3. Suzanna Guadarrama 5:30:26
  4. Mirta Reaple 5:42:18
  5. Josephine Adams 6:01:35

 

Full stage results HERE

Overall classification HERE

Follow the action as the race unfolds #TCC2018

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Sondre Amdahl to run The Coastal Challenge, Costa Rica 2017

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Sondre Amdahl has been on a roll over the last couple of years running amongst the best runners in the world and on multiple occasions excelling with a string of consistent top-10 results.

I guess the journey really started in 2013 when Sondre placed 4th at Transgrancanaria (83km) and 10th at the CCC. In 2014, the Norwegian runner stepped up to the 125km Transgrancanaria race and placed 6th, ultimately though, the breakthrough came at UTMB with 7th followed up with a 17th at Diagonale Des Fous on Reunion Island.

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The 2015 season started really well with 2nd at Hong Kong 100 and moving up the ranks to 4th at Transgrancanaria – a race Sondre loves! 15th at Western States and 4th at UTMF set the stage for 2016 and Sondre’s first attempt at the Marathon des Sables were he placed 9th amongst a highly competitive field.

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“The main attraction with multi-day racing is that it takes longer! When I travel to the other side of the world, I appreciate that I can run more than “just” one day and night, like in a typical 100-mile race,” Sondre said when I asked about the appeal of the Sahara and MDS. “Multi-day racing also has a more social component to it. You meet more people and have more time to hang out with other passionate runners. Even though I’ve only done one multi-day (MDS in April 2016), I find the lack of recovery/rest and sleep makes it hard to race hard day-after-day.”

Sondre is hooked on the format of racing for multiple days and as I write this he will head to Oman to race in the desert once again. However, never wanting to stand still and always seeking a new challenge, the heat, humidity and varied terrain of Costa Rica has lured Sondre to The Coastal Challenge.

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“Of course it will be a challenge, but I love technical trails and elevation change. I think the TCC course fits my running style. I guess the biggest challenge for me will be the heat and the humidity! I live in one of the coldest places in Norway and in February the normal day temperature is minus ten/fifteen degrees Celsius. My heat acclimatisation needs to be spot on.”

Costa Rica is a magical place and so different to the baron almost featureless Sahara Desert. Having raced all over the world in stunning mountains, on isolated trails, I wondered why Costa Rica?

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“The tropical climate is a real attraction and it will be a great escape from the cold winter in Norway. I can’t wait to run on the beach and explore the rainforest.”

Renowned for specific training, Sondre often immerses himself in preparation for a key race. As he has said, Norway is not going to be the ideal training ground for a high humidity race with hot temperature. It begs the question, how will he train for this challenge?

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“TCC will be my main target for the winter/spring of 2017. I have had a couple of easy months after a DNS at the Tor des Géants (due to injury). I feel a lot better now, and I’m ready for a good block of training in November, December and January to prepare for TCC. This training block will include the Oman Desert Marathon and a 115 km race in Hong Kong on New Years eve. I will also train in Gran Canaria in January to be 100 percent prepared for TCC.”

Sondre is leaving nothing to chance and peaking for a race so early in season can bring with it some risks, the racing calendar is so full and long now! I therefore wondered what his 2017 schedule will look like and I also wondered would we see more multi-day races?

“I will run the Jungle Ultra in Peru (6-day stage race) in early June of 2017. And may be Hardrock? I also want to go back to Reunion and run the Diagonales Des Fous in October.”

Marathon des Sables provided an opportunity to test equipment and be self-sufficient. It’s a challenge carrying ones own kit and I know only too well that not having enough food can be a real test, especially when racing hard. TCC is not a self-sufficient race and so therefore calories shouldn’t be an issue, however, I wondered about equipment such as shoe choices and other details for the race?

“I haven’t thought too much about this yet, but I guess I’ll use the Superior and/or the Lone Peak shoes from Altra. TCC will be fantastic as I just need to run with liquid and some food. I wont be weighed down by a 6.5kg pack. Being in my own tent but with all the other runners also provides a great compromise over a race such as MDS. I can have some privacy if I need it but I can still share the community spirit that a multi-stage race brings. I think for those who are looking for a challenge but also some comfort, TCC is perfect for this. I can’t wait!”

TCC and Costa Rica has a reputation for being a relaxed and enjoyable race – do you think holidays that combine a race are a good idea?

“For me personally, the race and holiday combo is just perfect. I will be racing for sure, that is my DNA But I know that when I get back home again, I will remember (and appreciate) camp life and the social aspect way more than the race result.”

The 2017 TCC is just a few months away, the ladies’ line-up is already looking incredible with 2016 champion Ester Alves returning. 2015 MDS champion and 2016 TCC runner up, Elisabet Barnes will also return. Add to the mix Everest Trail Race two-time winner, Anna Comet, and one thing is for sure, Sondre may need to watch out for the ladies’ as competition, never mind the men…

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A multi-day race over 6-days starting in the southern coastal town of Quepos, Costa Rica and finishing at the stunning Drake Bay on the Osa Peninsula, The Coastal Challenge is an ultimate multi-day running experience.

Intense heat, high humidity, ever-changing terrain, stunning views, Costa Rican charm, exceptional organisation; the race encompasses Pura Vida! Unlike races such as the Marathon des Sables, ‘TCC’ is not self-sufficient, but don’t be fooled, MDS veterans confirm the race is considerably harder and more challenging than the Saharan adventure.

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Hugging the coastline, the race travels in and out of the stunning Talamanca mountain range via dense forest trails, river crossings, waterfalls, long stretches of golden beaches backed by palm trees, dusty access roads, high ridges and open expansive plains. At times technical, the combination of so many challenging elements are only intensified by heat and high humidity that slowly but surely reduces even the strongest competitors to exhausted shells by the arrival of the finish line.

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The Coastal Challenge which will take place Feb 10th – 19th, 2017.

All images ©iancorless.com – all rights reserved

Entries are still available for the 2017 edition

Email: HERE

Website: HERE

Facebook: HERE

Twitter: @tcccostarica

More information:

Read the full 2016 race story HERE

View and purchase images for the 2016 race HERE

Follow #TCC2017

The Coastal Challenge 2016 #TCC2016 – Stage 4 Results and Summary

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Images available for personal and commercial use HERE

The 2016 ‘TCC” (The Coastal Challenge, moved inland today for 35km’s of relentless climbing, at times technical trail and a brutal descent that hammered tired legs all the way to the finish line. The early morning start of 0530 guaranteed the runners a good 1-hour window of cool temperatures but as they climbed higher and higher, low cloud sheltered them but eventually the cloud burned away and searing heat punished the runners.

Ester Alves made her mark on the race today by extending her lead by over 30-minutes, however, the winning margin doesn’t tell a true story. Elisabet Barnes fought very hard early on the keep Alves in sight and hopefully pull away, however, technical trail and a long section in a very technical river bed ruined any chance.

Alves was in her element; comfortable with Skyrunning and mountain races, she pushed at a comfortable pace and never looked in any discomfort on the challenging terrain. Although she had a 10-minute lead in the river bed section at approximately 30km covered, it was on the final descent (almost 1000m) were the real gap was opened. Barnes said post race:

“I hated that final descent, I was out of my comfort zone and I knew any chance of catching Ester was over. I took my time and made my way down without injury.”

Alves finished the stage and many commented how relaxed she looked and how well she has adapted to the heat after a tough day 1. A real point of topic is how little she has been drinking… a no, no for the local but it has worked for Alves.

“Every stage I have anticipation, I never know what to encounter… roads, forests, rivers or trails. It has been amazing. I wasn’t ready for the heat but as the days pass I am getting better and better. I love the heat. I trained before the race for 30km run sessions on little water and that has worked well here. Everyone has been amazed how little I am drinking but it has worked. I like to go simple; fast and light! The competition with Elisabet has been great. She has won MDS and that inspires me, she has been a great competitor. I think if we were in the desert I am sure she would pull away from me but here I love the technical trail and that has been a great advantage for me.” – Ester Alves

The overall standing in the ladies’s race are now:

  1. Ester Alves
  2. Elisabet Barnes
  3. Amy Gordon

Full ladies’s results HERE

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The men’s race looked all set for a group run to the line with Iain Don-Wauchope, Gonzalo Callisto and Chema Martinez running side-by-side over all of the first 25km. Don-Wauchope safe in 1st place, Callisto safe in 2nd and Martinez no threat to the overall standings. But where was Sa?

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Sa was trailing a few minutes back.

When the trio entered the river bed, Sa apparently flew past like a man possessed. It was a last ditch effort to secure 2nd place ahead of Calisto.

“We were having a great run, relaxed, chatting and just a great day on the trails and then Sa flew past us,” Don-Wauchope said. “He really mixed things up and as he pulled away I went with him. He was really motoring. We started to pull away and I felt good. Eventually I pulled away and Calisto bridged the gap back to Sa. The downhill at the end was tough as it was so rutted but I was glad for another stage victory” – Iain Don-Wauchope.

All credit to Sa for making a move and throwing it all on the line. Tomorrow is the longest stage of the week and I wonder if Sa will have another go? The longer the stage, the better he gets and heat is no issue as he proved by winning Badwater 135.

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The overall standings in the men’s race are now:

  1. Iain Don-Wauchope
  2. Gonzalo Calisto
  3. Carlos Sa

Full men’s results HERE

Stage 5 starts is the longest day of the week and leads into the stunning Drakes Bay. Everyone is tired now, no exhausted! It’s going to be a tough day.

Full race results HERE

The Coastal Challenge 2016 #TCC2016 – Stage 3 Results and Summary

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Images available for personal and commercial use HERE

Today was always gone to be a tough one and it lived up to expectations. Departing Dominical beach, the runners very quickly entered a river bed that lasted for km after km. Rock hopping, running through flowing river water with slimy slippery rocks, it was just perfect terrain for South Africa’s ‘The Otter’ previous course record holder, Iain Don-Wauchope.

Running in his element, Don-Wauchope opened up a gap almost immediately and by the time he reached the stunning waterfalls, he had time to dive in the lagoon and pose for a photograph before moving onwards and upwards on the trail. Running with apparent ease Don-Wauchope continued to open up a gap on Gonzalo Callisto and Carlos Sa. This course and its variety is made for Don-Wauchope’s running style and just as in 2015, he pushed the pace all the way to the long and lengthy final beach section before climbing through a small hilly section of rainforest and finishing a triple of stage wins.

“I made sure I covered myself with water every 5mins or so on the beach. It was so hot and it seemed to go on forever. The highlight of the day was the waterfalls though. In 2015 I was too busy racing and I didn’t have time to soak up the location. This year I promised myself I would take a swim and climb on the rocks.” – Iain Don-Wauchope

Sa and Calisto weren’t hanging around, not at all. They were gently running the climbs and pushing as hard as they could under the intense heat and humidity. Running side-by-side, they have most certainly become good friends on this TCC journey.

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From Calisto’s perspective, his lead over Sa is enough to secure 2nd place and I am sure he plans to just mark Sa and respond to any surges. Will Sa try to take 2nd away? His best chance will come tomorrow on the very undulating 4th stage.

The overall standings in the men’s race are now:

  1. Iain Don-Wauchope 11:42:01
  2. Gonzalo Calisto 12:32:18
  3. Carlos Sa 12:38:08

Damian Hall from the UK moved up into 5th place after a great  run today, his overall time is 13:45:36

Full men’s results HERE

The ladies race was always going to be exciting today and as expected, Ester Alves opened up a gap on Elisabet Barnes in the opening riverbed section. At the waterfalls, Barnes trailed by 7-minutes. It was a good result, the gap could have quite easily been larger. After the climb out and following the 2nd waterfall, Barnes started to pursue Alves and eventually caught her 3km before Cp2.

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“I caught Ester just before the Cp but unfortunately it was followed with a s series of technical terrain and she started to open up a gap again; all the handwork to a certain extent was wasted. By the time I reached Cp3 just before the beach, the gap was 6-minutes,” Barnes said post race. “I felt good though and I thought to myself, this is great, it’s a long beach section that is runnable and I was convinced I would close the gap and with luck, I may catch her. But unfortunately she ran well and I didn’t run to expectation. It was just so hot and relentless. Thank goodness the small lagoon was at the end so that I could cool down.”

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Alves ran a great race and looked strong on the beach maintaining a good pace and cadence. She was obviously very happy with her day once past the finish tape:

“It was a beautiful day and I am really happy. The course was stunning and the variety was just incredible. The beach was beautiful but too long… I couldn’t wait for it to end!”

Alves now leads Barnes but anything can happen. It just takes a bad moment or a bad day for all the good work to be lost. Day 4 has plenty of climbing and day 5 plenty of running. It’s wide open and very exciting.

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The overall standing in the ladies’s race are now:

  1. Ester Alves 15:59:12
  2. Elisabet Barnes 16:10:38
  3. Amy Gordon 21:06:44

Full ladies’s results HERE

 

Full ladies’s results HERE

Stage 4 starts with a tough climb and finishes with a steep technical descent. Between the two are rolling hills and pastures made of runnable trails.

Full race results HERE

More images to follow when I have suitable wifi – apologies

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The Coastal Challenge 2016 #TCC2016 – Stage 2 Results and Summary

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Images available for personal and commercial use HERE

It was an 0345 start to day 2, a 0400 breakfast and then a 0530 start with the rising of the sun. Camp 1 bivouac was in an idyllic location next to the Savegre river and it appeared that everyone had had a good night, if not a little too short for some!

Departing camp, the course went immediately up with a long climb that was at times technical. Iain Don-Wauchope feeling very content after day 1 unfortunately rolled his ankle very early on and was forced to tike some time out due to dizziness. This allowed Carlos Sa and Gonzalo Callisto to pull away. However, as the summit of the climb approached, Don-Wauchope had clawed his way back to the duo and was looking strong.

In the ladies race, day 1 leader Elisabet Barnes was well aware that day 2 would be a battle due to the technical uphill start. Ester Alves comes from a Skyrunning and mountain running background and therefore, the early sections of the course played into her hands. At the summit, Alves had a lead of approximately 7-minutes and the ladies race was on!

The heat had arrived and with it the humidity. It was going to be a hot day and with no clouds in the sky, the conditions would be relentless for the runners.

Don-Wauchope bided his time and decided at Cp2 it was time to apply the pressure:

“I rolled my ankle on day 1 and protected it. To roll it again on day 2 was just annoying. Having taken some time to compose myself and close the gap back to Sa and Calico, I decided that my moment to extend my lead was from Cp2. I upped the pace and Sa went with me. He held on for quite sometime before I finally make the gap. I was protecting my ankle all the day though. To win again feels great. I still think the racing is not over, Sa and Calico look strong.” – Iain Don-Wauchope.

Don-Wauchope pulled away and Sa and Calico ran together in pursuit. Calico looked relaxed all day and was often seen running with a GoPro. He is racing, no doubt but he’s also enjoying the journey.

The overall standings in the men’s race are now:

  1. Iain Don-Wauchope 6:30:56
  2. Gonzalo Calisto 7:05:14
  3. Carlos Sa 7:10:56

Full men’s results HERE

Alves was in her element on the mountain terrain and used it to her advantage to slowly close the gap between her and Barnes. As the running became more consistent, Barnes started to slowly cut away at the gap Alves had created. We all soon realised that we had a real race on our hands.

“I felt much better in the heat today,” Alves said. “This course and place is amazing, the views are incredible and I am loving the race. To win today’s stage is a real bonus.”

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It was a sentiment echoed by Barnes, “The course is incredible but extremely tough. Combined with the heat and the humidity it’s just brutal. I knew that I was always going to lose time this morning on that technical climb and I have to accept that Alves is stronger than me on those sections. I used my running speed to close the gap today but over the final km’s on the beach when I had hoped to push harder, I had nothing left to give. It’s very close now with another very technical start to tomorrow’s stage; I have a race on my hands.”

Alves looked strong over the final 10-15km’s of today’s route, several river and sea crossings spiced up the race and the action but she didn’t waiver.

The overall standing in the ladies’s race are now:

  1. Elisabet Barnes 9:01:20
  2. Ester Alves 9:02:53
  3. Amy Gordon 11:15:53

Full ladies’s results HERE

Stage 3 is a tough day and the longest so far. The early stages of the race are very technical with a long run through a river bed that includes scrambling. The crossing of a waterfall and an extremely tough climb and then a long descent to the beach with a short final road section to camp. It’s a day where Don-Wauchope will be put under pressure but the real race will come between Alves and Barnes. Expect Barnes to lose time early on and then the big question will be, can she close the gap and reel Alves in.

Full race results HERE

Iain Don Wauchope (aka Gandalf) writes about winning The Coastal Challenge 2015

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On Sunday, 25 January, at 15:30pm I departed my home in the Drakensberg, South Africa, and embarked on the longest and most challenging trip of my life. I finally arrived in San Jose, Costa Rica, on Wednesday, 28 January. Actually, I only arrived at my hotel at 17:30 after taking 3 local buses from the airport to Poasito where I had booked a hotel room for the next few nights. In total, 82 hours had elapsed since I had left home! Not only was this trip long and testing in duration, it was extremely stressful and proved to be a bigger challenge than the actual trail running race that was the purpose of my trip to Costa Rica.

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The Coastal Challenge is a 6-day, 225km, supported trail run through the tropical rainforests of the South Western region of Costa Rica, Central America. All runners bring along their own tents, sleeping mats, sheets, mosquito nets etc. The organisers provide the meals, the overnight camping venues, transport for your bag, a well-marked route, aid stations on each day’s route and the usual back-up crew of media, medics, volunteers and logistics people. All runners are treated the same whether you are an international trail running legend or a local Costa Rican that the organisers haven’t even heard of before.

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For me, this race was a true test of perseverance and a reminder of how important it is to maintain a positive mental outlook no matter how bad the situation seems. I struggled for the first 2 days with headaches, my legs feeling lethargic, without rhythm and generally out-of-sorts. It felt as though my body was fighting off a bug or possibly still recovering from my arduous trip. Nevertheless, I kept plugging away and just tried to enjoy the journey and the beautiful surroundings. Despite how I was feeling and the results of each day, it was a privilege and honour to be in Costa Rica running through forests, rivers and beaches that most people would never get to experience.

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As it turned out, the final result of day 1 was not bad. Mike Murphy, the Canadian, was galloping off ahead in the lead, looking mighty fit, when he failed to see the course markings and continued in the wrong direction. As a result, I found myself in the lead and somehow managed to maintain that lead all the way to the end. It was extremely hot towards the end of the stage and it required a lot of mental effort to keep going all the way to the finish. I only had about 6 minutes on Ashur Yousseffi, a local Costa Rican, but about 14 minutes on Mike. There was no doubt that Mike was in great shape and the fastest runner on the day. I would have to keep an eye on him. As expected Karl Meltzer had started slowly and make good progress towards the latter stages. Joe Grant struggled in the heat, as did everyone else. I just seemed better able to adapt to the conditions and get to the finish quickest despite not feeling great.

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Day 2 started with a steep climb from our lovely overnight campsite at Rafiki Lodge. Mike immediately took the lead closely followed by Joe and I. While I kept an eye on Mike and Joe, I remained focused on myself maintaining a constant pace that I was comfortable with at that stage. By the top of the climb Mike and Joe had a few minutes on me and I was pretty sure I wouldn’t see them again. So I continued to slog away up and through an overgrown track through the jungle, not feeling great but moving forward. By the 2nd check point / aid station, another local Costa Rican, Jeffrey Portuguez, had caught up to me while Mike had extended his lead to about 10 minutes. Joe was only 3 minutes ahead so I was hoping we could reel him in at some point. The section towards checkpoint 3 was flatter along a good gravel road but it was also getting very hot. Jeffrey dropped off the pace along this section but I was also suffering, so I stopped to buy a coke at a local shop. Shortly thereafter, at checkpoint 3, I was surprised to catch Joe; he had rolled his ankle badly and was hobbling along. We headed off together to tackle the last section along a long open beach; it was hot and we were both suffering a bit. It was great to have some company for this last stretch and I was very relieved to finally reach the end of day 2 alongside a new friend. Mike had a stormer of a run; he set a new stage record and finished almost 30 minutes ahead of us. That evening I mentioned to someone that the only way to beat Mike would be to chop his legs off! He had a 16-minute lead, I still wasn’t feeling 100% and he looked like he was ready to take on the world! Little did I know that he was having a few issues of his own that would soon escalate into more serious problems.

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Day 3 started in much the same way as the first 2 days. Mike sped off from the start and the rest of us followed. I needed a few minutes to warm up and then started feeling okay. I soon realised that Mike wasn’t gaining any more distance on me and I slowly caught up to him. I knew we had a rocky river section ahead of us and I suspected that I would be able to negotiate the slippery rocks better than Mike. As it turned out, this was a critical part of our race and the turning point of our dual. We arrived at the river section together. I focused on just getting over the rocks and through this river section as efficiently as possible. Mike, on the other hand, was struggling over the rocks and kept falling and slipping. He lost his sunglasses and most of his pre-mixed race juice. He grew increasingly angry with himself and I knew I should keep the pressure on by moving swiftly through this tricky section. After 10km, we arrived at checkpoint 1 together. The big difference was that Mike had expended a lot of energy up until this point. He was battered and bruised with numerous cuts on his legs, he had lost his sunglasses and his pre-mixed race fuel and, more importantly, this was now playing on his mind. Incidentally, I had also lost my cap but I didn’t worry too much about it. I filled up my bottles, grabbed some delicious fruit and then ducked off into the bush to alleviate a bit of diarrhoea.

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Soon thereafter, we trotted off from checkpoint 1 together and immediately started a climb out of the valley. Mike dropped back half a stride and then a full stride. I was feeling good so I increased my tempo slightly. I knew I had to take advantage while I was feeling good and Mike was struggling. Even though I was aware of Mike, I remained focused on myself realising that it was still a long way to go to the finish on day 6. I got into a comfortable rhythm, kept myself well hydrated and as cool as possible. Towards the end of the day we had a long beach section to negotiate. It was very hot and, without my peak, the sun felt more intense than usual. I attempted to make a plan with a large leaf to provide some protection from the blazing sun, but it only lasted about 500m. Despite feeling good at the start of the beach section, by the time I reached the other end of the beach I was suffering and really feeling the heat. To everyone’s relief, including mine, there was an Eden-like freshwater stream and plunge pool as the route left the beach and entered the forest. I submerged by body in the cool water, gulped down some oh-so-refreshing water and then started the slog up the steep forest track towards the final checkpoint. From there it was a blistering hot 4km stretch along tar towards the finish. I didn’t want to over-exert myself but I also didn’t want to lose any advantage that I had built up over Mike. Keep in mind that you have no idea of the time gaps between yourself and those behind you; I didn’t know whether Mike was 3 minutes or 30 minutes behind me and how he was feeling or moving. So I just kept trudging along towards the finish. I was pleasantly surprised to arrive in a new stage record time of 4:43, beating the previous record by almost 33 minutes. Mike arrived about 16 minutes later, also under the old stage record. Overall, I was now leading Mike by less than 2 minutes. The race was on!

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Day 4 was another big day starting with a long, steep climb and ending with a very steep descent with a total ascent of 2950m. Mike was a little more tentative at the start and didn’t go tearing off as usual. As soon as we hit the first climb he fell off the pace again. I applied the same strategy as in the previous stages; I kept going at a good, steady pace that I knew that I could sustain all the way to the finish. My body was feeling better each day and I was now in the groove of running on a daily basis in the hot and humid conditions. Interestingly, the long and steep descent towards the end of the day was actually very dry.

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It reminded me of running back home in South Africa with brown, dry grass and dusty paths. My legs felt very good over the last few kilometres and I had a nice spring in my stride. This was a good place to be after 4 days of tough running. In contrast, Mike was taking strain and had fallen again on his elbow. This elbow later became infected and added to his health issues. Nevertheless, he wasn’t giving up and kept persevering all day long. My time of 3:58 was more than 20 minutes faster than the previous stage record and almost 40 minutes faster than Mike. I know had a comfortable lead but anything can happen in a multi-day event so I didn’t want to take my foot off the accelerator.

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Day 5 was the last tough day and the longest in distance of the race. We were greeted overnight with some rain and started the day’s run in a gentle drizzle. The road conditions were good for the first 16 kilometres and with the cooler temperatures this made for a relatively fast pace. I was happy to tick along at my pace and soon found myself running alone up front. Shortly after the first check point the route headed onto a smaller forest road that had recently been graded. In fact, I passed the grader and other trucks at the start of this forest section. Consequently, the next section was very muddy and slippery. Even gentle gradients became almost impossible to run up. Instead of fighting through this section of about 16 kilometres, I once again focused on getting through the mud as efficiently as possible. Once I was through the slippery quagmire, I was able to pick up the tempo again and head towards the finish at Drake Bay. Despite the testing conditions I was very surprised to beat the previous stage record by 3 minutes. Unfortunately for Mike, this was the day that his body starting shutting down. He put in a huge effort just to reach the finish line unassisted but he was clearly in some serious trouble. The medics were very quick to attend to him and he was ultimately admitted to hospital the following morning with multiple health issues.

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Mike’s withdrawal from the race left the door wide open for Ashur and Roiny to fight it out for 2nd and 3rd place overall. The final day’s stage was only about 24 kilometres and in the end Ashur secured a well-earned 2nd place with Roiny about 10 minutes back in 3rd. I decided to run the last day just like I had run all the other stages and managed to set another stage record.

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In summary, I won 5 out of 6 stages, I set records in the last 4 stages and I set a new overall record by almost an hour. I surpassed all my own expectations and was very grateful that I did not experience any major problems. What appeared to be problems for me in the early stages were, in fact, minor in comparison to what others endured, especially Mike. The beautiful setting of the finish at Drake Bay, the wonderful people and fantastic weather (despite the humidity it’s great to be in the sun!) made my victory even more enjoyable.

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While any stage race over this distance requires careful body management, a distinguishing feature of this particular race is learning to deal with the very high humidity and high temperatures. As expected, correct hydration, nutrition and recovery are vital components of this jungle race. And don’t forget to look after your feet and to avoid infections from cuts and grazes while negotiating the trails! Most importantly, remember to maintain a positive attitude and enjoy the beautiful surroundings; Costa Rica has tremendous biodiversity and is a paradise waiting to be explored.

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All in all, The Coastal Challenge is a great event that tests your physical fitness and mental toughness to the maximum. However, what I will remember most about this unique event are the wonderful people that I met along the way. The local race organiser, Rodrigo Carazo is a gem. This guy has done some of the most amazing backpacking trips, adventure racers and explorations that I have ever heard about. Furthermore, he has a fantastic team of workers and volunteers, from the cooks to the medics to the aid station crew to the sweepers. A bunch of great people who have a single purpose, to make The Coastal Challenge as enjoyable as possible for each and every participant.

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Entries for the 2016 The Coastal Challenge are now available online.

Please go to tcccostarica.com and thecoastalchellenge.co.uk

 

The Coastal Challenge – Summary

iancorless.comP1070278All 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. For others, they seemed sad that another day on awesome Costa Rican trails didn’t await.

iancorless.comP1070268Some 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. A unique story, personal to themselves that they would hold within them 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.

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The logistics of mobilizing 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

iancorless.comP1070256Marking 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… tough wor

iancorless.comP1060485Base camp had a full medical team and feet specialists to ensure that everyone could 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 fin

iancorless.comP1060512Stage races are not meant to be easy! Was the The Coastal Challenge too hard? No, of course not. Was it hard? Yes, without doubt.

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

iancorless.comP1070292A 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.

But it was time to l

iancorless.comP1070293The excitement and beauty of the six previous days was repeated with an incredible journey by boat to our bus that would eventually return everyone to San Jose and a comfortable b

iancorless.comP1070344It 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!

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