The 2023 The Coastal Challenge concluded today in Bahiá Drake on the north side of the Osa Peninsula located on the coast of southwestern Costa Rica.
In many respects, the 2023 race concluded in regards to general classification after stage 5 when Didrik Hermansen opened up a 20-minute gap over race leader, Mathieu Blanchard.
It was clear as day 6 started that there would be no racing, instead a victory loop with friends.
For the women, the same applied, Katie Schide ran conservatively enjoying the day. Tomomi Bitoh ran in 2nd place and Paolo Herrera took it easy finishing in 3rd with a 2nd place on GC confirmed.
Stage 6 is a highlight of TCC with a loop that manages to encapsulate a little of everything that has gone before in the previous five stages. Gravel roads, river running, waterfall crossings, water crossing, beaches, rocks, coasteering and of course, heat and humidity.
It was a day to run slower, with friends, enjoy the views and get ready to relax and recover.
As with all races, there was plenty of emotion at the finish line, tears, joy and relief.
Now it’s time to relax, hang up the run shoes and enjoy some down time. Next year is the 20th edition of TCC, already the plans are being made for a special edition.
Crossing the Sierpe river at dawn with a new sun welcoming the day, stage 5 of TCC is always a key day due to large amounts of gravel road, a technical and steep descent, the iconic estuary crossing and the heat and humidity that punishes the runner’s when they leave the shade.
Of course, all the talk was about Mathieu Blanchard and Didrik Hermansen, we and they knew it was going to be a key day. The writing was on the wall when Didrik offered Mathieu his hand before the start, it was a clear statement of let the best man win.
In the early stages the duo were matched but it didn’t take long before Mathieu dropped back on one of the early climbs. As the race progressed, this gap opened and at first it was difficult to ascertain if this was a tactic by Mathieu?
At CP2 the gap was 3-minutes, at CP3 it was 6-minutes. Didrik was pushing hard and looking relaxed and in control.
Mathieu by contrast seemed to be off his normal relaxed look. The toll of 4 hard stage was taking its toll and it was clear to see.
Didrik came to the estuary crossing, 4km to go. He jumped on the boat, crossed and pushed for the line.
It was over 20-minutes later when Mathieu arrived. It’s fair to say, the 2023 TCC was decided today. Didrik’s effort, pace and consistency has been text book stage racing.
“After yesterday, I would not have been happy with 2nd. So the plan was to push the pace. Mathieu was having a bad day and he let me go early. I pushed and kept it steady. I opened a gap and more, and more minutes. It was motivating. I had considered taking it easy and saving something for stage 6, but, if Mathieu was having a bad day, I decided to push and get more time. It’s not over, we still have a day to go.” – Didrik Hermansen
“Yes a tough day. But last night I had already decided to go easier. Yesterday I witnessed Didrik push the downhill at an incredible pace. I little bit mad maybe? But for me, it’s February, I have a long season and I can’t risk it all here in Costa Rica. Today we had another downhill like yesterday, he took many minutes again and it’s just not possible for me to get that time back when he runs so well. I came here for an adventure and fun, I didn’t expect these first 4-days and such a pace. I am very happy.” – Mathieu Blanchard
For the women, Katie Schide had a controlled and relaxed day. Her lead is far in advance of 2nd and 3rd and still she was able to take another stage win.
Behind, Tomomi Bitoh started strong leading Paolo Herrera. But as the day passed they switched places and although close together at the end, it was another solid 2nd for Paolo.
Tomorrow, the final stage at 35.7km and with 875m+ is to all intents and purposes a victory loop, if you can call running 35.7km a victory loop. With GC places decided, I don’t anticipate a charge from Mathieu, so, let’s expect a Pura Vida loop of enjoyment.
Stage 4 of The Coastal Challenge and today, the runner’s move away from the coast and climb high on the relentlessly rolling terrain that is backed by the Talamanca range.
Steep climbs, steep descents and technical terrain. It’s a tough stage, especially when you add heat and humidity.
Today, was an anticipated key stage for Mathieu Blanchard and Didrik Hermansen, the duo have been closely matched each day and despite Didrik’s best efforts, Mathieu has come 1st each day.
The duo today once again went head-to-head, it’s stunning to watch and also exhausting. The pace is unbelievable and between them it’s impossible to tell who is the most tired.
At each point along the route they were never more than meters apart but for those watching, and knowing the course, the crux would come at the end of the day with a very steep and technical descent to the line.
Didrik threw caution to the wind and attacked. The gap opened and opened and he crossed the line in 4:39:23.
The clock ticked, 1-minute, 2-minutes and Mathieu crossed in 4:42:23, exactly a 3-minute gap. Wow! Seriously exciting racing and then the calculations, had Mathieu held the overall on GC?
Yes, 16:48:32 for Mathieu and 16:49:16 for Didrik. Before stage 4, the 19th edition of the TCC was witnessing an epic race, now stages 5 and 6 are going to be epic. Who’s your money on?
Dani Jung once again placed 3rd looking relaxed despite a sleepless night. He had questioned wether to start, gladly he did.
“I had to do something, I felt during the days I was better than him on the downhill and I was willing to take the risk, I couldn’t believe I would take 3-minutes… It’s a real fun battle, we are neck-and-neck, we are so similar in strength. It’s fun, it’s cool. Nice to finally take a stage. I feel as though I could have pushed harder. I wanted to win and obviously reduce the gap. I am prepared to fight and compete, if I come 2nd so be it, but I will fight!” – Didrik Hermansen
By contrast, Mathieu looked relaxed post-race and he was candid with his thoughts.
“Didrik went down the last decent like a mad man. It was steep, technical with many potential problems. I have a long season ahead and I wasn’t prepared to risk everything here. I feel good, so, let’s see what happens.”
For the women, Katie Schide was a long way clear of any other competition and looked relaxed on the trail. Victory in the 2023 The Coastal Challenge is hers to lose, so, she just needs to run smart over the next two days.
Tomomi Bitoh today ran strong and finished 2nd ahead of 2nd on GC, Paolo Herrera. The gap between the two only 6-minutes.
With no ocean and beaches, today was a contrast of farms, farmland, animals and epic rural vistas. It felt like ‘real’ Costa Rica.
The ‘Queen Stage’ of The Coastal Challenge at 49km’s is for many, a highlight stage. Have no doubts though. it’s a tough one!
A rollercoaster day, the early km’s are spent boulder hopping through a river bed and then the impressive Nauyaca Waterfalls.
Fire roads, steep climbs, brutal descents and eventually a beach section arrives before several water crossings and then a very demanding road section leading to camp 3.
It may come as no surprise that Mathieu Blanchard and Didrik Hermansen dominated the day. The duo battled it out foot-for-foot in an impressive display of tenacity, grit and endurance.
With less than 10km’s to go they were neck-and-neck, the final sections of road certainly would play in to the hands of Didrik.
But no, the strength of Mathieu is currently off-the-scale and he managed to apply pressure and win by 2-minutes, 4:51 to 4:53 respectively.
Dani Jung ran a solid day, with the withdrawal of Sebastian Krogvig and now Peter van der Zon, Dan’s 3rd place is secure and so he ran a smart race.
For the women, Katie Schide set the pace early on and by the waterfall she already had a huge lead. When Marianne Hogan finally arrived, all was not well, she was suffering… Marianne would eventually drop at CP2 with a sprained ankle.
This opened the door for Costa Rican, Paola Herrera to move into a strong 2nd place.Tomomi Bitoh now in 3rd.
Katie once again clinched victory with a huge margin, she just needs to now run smart for the remaining three days. Paolo is on a strong 2nd and Tomomi a secure 3rd. However, we are only halfway through TCC and the first three stages have only confirmed one thing, anything can happen!
Stage 4 tomorrow at 35.5km and with 2434m+ is considered ‘a very tough day’ by the race organisation
It was a 0330am wake-up in camp this morning with race start at 0530am. It may sound early, but trust me, the earlier hours pay dividends for everyone. Body clocks are now reset, bed between 1900-1800, wake-up 0330.
Sebastian Krogvig unfortunately succumbed to his sickness and did not finish day 1. He will rest and recovery and hopefully rejoin the race in the later stages for fun.
Mood in camp was buoyant, however, nobody was under any illusion of the severity of the TCC. The heat and humidity are one thing, but the fire roads, climbs, technical trails and long stretches of no shade a punishing.
“They say Marathon des Sables is hot, it’s nothing in comparison to this. I was in the ‘notorious’ October MDS that had intense heat, trust me, it’s hotter here!” – Mathieu Blanchard
Climbing out of camp, mountain man Dani Jung was in his element and he lead Mathieu Blanchard and Didrik Hermansen. Peter van der Zon was a way back, it was obvious he was struggling… As he passed he mentioned tight hip flexors.
For the women, Marianne Hogan had a very small lead over Katie Schide. Katie looking strong, the previous night she had questioned if she should withdraw from the race as illness from previous days had returned on stage 1 making for a tough day.
Didrik and Mathieu set a relentless pace, they are very well matched. Running at this pace and in this heat and humidity, victory may well come down to the one who manages effort the best, it’s a fine line.
In the final 10km Mathieu opened a slender lead and Didrik chased. The gap remained and it was another victory for Mathieu.
Dani was 3rd, he looked relaxed and in control, he is running a smart race.
In the women’s race, Katie opened a gap on Marianne and in the final 7km that gap opened, post-race on the finish line Katie discussed her race:
“I was so happy to recover from yesterday, that was helped by cooler temperatures and a climb to start the day today… I had planned to run with Marianne but on one of the more technical sections I opened up a gap. When I eventually looked around Marianne was not there, I hope she is okay?”
Marianne was okay and finished strong with a smile looking relaxed and at ease. With 4-days to go and a long day tomorrow, there are no guarantees, the men’s and women’s races are still wide-open.
The biggest change of the day was with the 3rd place woman, Paolo Herrera. She ran an incredibly strong and consistent race to finish with a good margin over Tomomi Bitoh, this making the local Costa Rican contingent very happy.
It was an early start (0300) leaving San Jose and heading to the Pacific Coast for the stage 1 of the 2023 The Coastal Challenge starting at Del Rey beach, Quepos.
This year, the shorter Adventure category and the longer Expedition category would run different distances for stage 1. In the past, they have run the same course.
Expedition would run 41km with 1071m vertical gain and the Adventure, 32km.
Getting underway before 0800, the rewards were blessed with cooler’ temperatures for the first hour, however, cooler is all relative when on the coast, it was still hot!
Overnight, Sebastian Krogvig unfortunately had picked up some sickness, although feeling generally okay, it was clear as the stage started he was not 100%. He struggled with any pace, it was a tough day…
Didrik Hermansen though set his stall out from the start setting a strong pace. He was followed by Dani Jung, Mathieu Blanchard and Peter van der Zon.
It wasn’t long before Didrik and Mathieu broke away.
For the women, Katie Schide and Marianne Hogan ran together and behind, Tomomi Bitoh followed.
Checkpoint 1 and there was no change, the pace by Didrik and Mathieu was fast.
As the race progressed, Didrik and Mathieu took a wrong turn and lost in the region of 1.5km allowing Peter and Dani to take the lead. They chased, caught them and then once again pushed ahead in 1st and 2nd.
Peter started to struggle in the heat and Dani started to hold on to the duo. However, Mathieu found the energy to break away and take victory on stage one, closely followed by Didrik and Dani.
“Very happy, a hot day. In Canada it was -40, today 40-degrees here, that is a big change…. My body handled the waether today. It’s a big Tropical environment, wonderful trees, amazing bridge and waterfalls.”– Mathieu Blanchard
Katie and Marianne finished together, Katie looked happy to be done, she had also struggled with some illness and fought hard throughout the day.
Tomomi came in securing 3rd place, all smiles. Last year, Tomomi caught Covid one day before the race and had to miss four stages, this year, she is so happy to be back.
Faces told the story at the finish, the heat and the humidity had taken its toll, it always does on stage 1, it’s such a shock to the system without pre-acclimation, something that Marianne and Mathieu had done.
“I heard the sound of animals in the jungle, I turned to Peter and said this is incredible, ‘This is much more atmosphere than UTMB!” – Dani Jung
Runner’s have arrived in San Jose, Costa Rica ahead of the 2023 edition which starts on Sunday February 5th.
Admin day, pre-race protocols and race briefing will soon be completed and then an early morning journey to Quepos and the start line of stage 1 awaits.
For 2023, the runner’s in both Expedition and Adventure categories will experience some new route changes and distances. Notably, the expedition category, on paper, appears to be a tougher race.
Stage 1 is always brutal as for many, the heat and humidity really takes a hold and exhausts the un-prepared body. In the past, this stage has hovered around the 30km mark, for 2023 it will be 41km with 1071m+ for the Expedition category.
Stage 2 40km and 1828m+
Stage 3 49km and 1884m+
Stage 4 35.5km and 2434m+
Stage 5 40.6km and 1670m+
and the final stage 6 35.7km and 875m+
This makes a total 0f 241.8km and 9762m+.
For the shorter Adventure race, unlike in past editions, stage 1 will be shorter than the expedition at 32km.
Stage 2 17km
Stage 3 16.5km
Stage 4 12.5km
Stage 5 22.3km
Stage 6 35.7km
The Adventure race totals 136km with 4032m+.
With an International line-up, all eyes will be on the front of the race with a stellar male and female line-up.
For the men:
Mathieu Blanchard, Didrik Hermansen, Sebastian Krogvig, Dani Jung and Peter van der Zon will go head-to-head for the TCC crown. Sadly, local ever-present and multi podium finisher of the TCC, Erick Aguero will not start due to injuries sustained in a fall.
For the women:
UTMB one and two, Katie Schide and Marianne Hogan will once again do battle along with Tomomi Bitoh from Japan.
Departing from San Jose around 0330am, the journey to the coast will be undertaken in darkness. The hope is that runner’s can start the stage as early as possible, therefore taking advantage of cooler temperatures before the heat of the day arrives.
The TCC is the ultimate Costa Rican multi-day adventure. The route hugs the coastline of the tropical Pacific, weaving in and out of the Talamancas; a coastal mountain range in the Southwest corner of this Central American country. The terrain is ever-changing and challenges each participant, from wide, dusty and runnable fire trails to dense and muddy mountain trails. Add river crossings, boulder hopping, swimming through rivers, passing under waterfalls, and long and relentless beaches, TCC is a unique experience. Finally, the finish will come in the incredible Corcovado National Park, a Unesco World Heritage site with a stunning final loop around Drake Bay. After an evening relaxing, the runner’s will depart for their journeys back to San Jose via speedboat to Sierpe and then a follow on coach trip.
“TCC has always grabbed my attention, February is early in the year, so, there are not many races. For me, it will be a challenge, I’m usually home skiing in Norwegian winter and in 2023 I will be in an exotic race in the Jungle – it’s exciting! The landscapes and nature looks spectacular! The trails look challenging and fun, a perfect mix of racing and adventure.” – Sebastian Krogvig
Countdown to the 2023 ‘The Coastal Challenge’ begins and today, we announce the elite line-up that will travel to Costa Rica to experience six days, 230.5km of racing and 9543m of vertical gain.
The ultimate Costa Rican multi-day adventure hugs the coastline of the tropical Pacific, weaving in and out of the Talamancas; a coastal mountain range in the Southwest corner of this Central American country. An ever-changing terrain challenges each participant, from wide, dusty and runnable fire trails to dense and muddy mountain trails. River crossings, boulders, swim through rivers, pass under waterfalls, survive long and relentless beaches and finally finish in the incredible Corcovado National Park, a Unesco World Heritage site with a stunning final loop around Drake Bay before departing for their journeys home via speedboat.
UTMB 2022 champion Katie Schide (The North Face) is no stranger to the challenges of distance or terrain. In recent years she has shot to fame with a string of high profile results with victories at Mont Blanc 90km, Val d’Aran by UTMB, MIUT 85km and of course, the most recent, UTMB. With results that date back to 2025, Katie is the ‘one-to-watch’ at TCC 2023.
“I’m very excited to explore Costa Rica on foot, to share a big week with so many other runners, and to challenge myself in a new place!”
Swedish athlete, Mimmi Kotka (La Sportiva) is excited to leave a cold and wintry Scandinavia to join the TCC line up. Victory at CCC in 2016 made Mimmi a star and since that start, she has topped the podium at Gran Trail Courmayer, Marathon du Mont Blanc, TDS, MIUT and recently, Lavaredo.
“Costa Rica is one of my bucket list destinations and the possibility to go there and run a stage race at the same time; a perfect combo! I have never done a multi stage race and this is also something that excites me. New experience, a new place and a new race format.”
Tomomi Bitoh joined the TCC line-up in 2022 but unfortunately contracted Coronavirus in the days before the race started. Once clear, she did join the race for a couple of stage but there and then, the Japanese athlete confirmed she would toe the line in 2023.
“I was able to run through the very beautiful ocean at TCC2022 but I only experienced a small part of the route. I’ll be running through it again this year, enjoying the scenery and appreciating the full point-to-point journey that TCC brings.”
Peter van der Zon (Hoka) is no stranger to Costa Rica or TCC. He toed the line in 2022 and placed 2nd to an inform Hayden Hawks. With experience and now an understanding of the route, the conditions and what it takes to win, Peter will no doubt be returning looking for the top spot come Drake Bay and the conclusion of the 2023 race. He has recently placed 7th at Mozart 100 and won Istria by UTMB.
“I am looking forward to going back to TCC, the racing was hard but it felt like a big family adventure and of course i want to try to be number one this time. But seeing the competition I am up against, that will not be easy!”
Didrik Hermansen (Hoka) has been an ever-present on the ultra scene dating back to 2010. A breakthrough performance with victory at Lavaredo in 2015 paved a way to victory at Transgrancanaria and a 2nd place at Western States. Didrik is known for his fast pace and for sure will be one-to-watch at the start line in Quepos.
“Costa Rica looks so amazing. I have never run in that area and be able to combine running in a beautiful terrain over several days at new locations seems awesome. I will run the World Championships in Thailand this November, the climate will quite similar so that will be a good benchmark what to do and what to use come February 2023.”
Dani Jung (Scarpa) in recent years has gained attention due to a string of high profile results, victory at Raid de la Reunion and 4th at Hardrock 100. But Dani has been ticking of impressive results for many years, particularly in the skyrunning calendar with races such as Mega Ultraskymarathon, Hamperokken Skyrace, Royal Ultra Sky Marathon and USM. The distance of TCC will not intimidate this Italian, however, a multi-day format is very different to one long race.
Sebastian Krogvig (Dynafit) heads up a Norwegian double act with Didrik. The duo will also be racing at the World Championships in Chiang Mai, so, as Didrik mentioned, they will both get an invaluable ‘heads-up’ on racing in heat and humidity ahead of TCC in February 2023. Sebastian had a breakthrough season in 2021 with 3rd at Lavaredo and victory at TDS during UTMB week. Recently he placed 2nd at Trail 100 Andorra by UTMB.
“I heard about TCC many years ago, I think first from the book “Running beyond” by you! TCC has always grabbed my attention, February is early in the year, so, there are not many races. For me, it will be a challenge, I’m usually home skiing in Norwegian winter and in 2023 I will be in an excotic race in the Jungle – it’s exciting! The landscapes and nature looks spectacular! The trails look challenging and fun, a perfect mix of racing and adventure.”
Stage 1 34.6km 1018m of vert and 886m of descent
Stage 2 39.1km 1898m of vert and 1984m of descent
Stage 3 47.4km 1781m of vert and 1736m of descent
Stage 4 37.1km 2466m of vert and 2424m of descent
Stage 5 49.8km 1767m of vert and 1770m of descent
Stage 6 22.5km 613m of vert and 613m of descent
It’s a tough day! Runners depart San Jose early morning (around 0530) for a 3-hour drive to Playa Del Rey, Quepos. It’s the only day that the race starts late and ‘in the sun!’. It’s the toughest day of the race, not because of the terrain or distance, but because of the time of day! The runners are fresh and feel great. That is until about 10km and then they realise the heat and humidity is relentless. It’s a day for caution! The 34.6km is very runnable with little vertical and technicality, it welcomes the runners to Costa Rica.
From here on in, it is an early breakfast, around 0400, the race starts with the arrival of the sun! The only way is up from the start with a tough and challenging climb. It’s a tough day with an abundance of climbing and descending and a final tough flat stretch on the beach, just as the heat takes hold.
It is basically 25km of climbing topping out at 800m followed by a drop to sea and a final kick in the tail before the arrival at camp. For many, this is a key day and maybe one of the most spectacular.
It’s another tough start to the day with a relentless climb, but once at 900m the route is a roller coaster of relentless small climbs and descents, often littered with technical sections, rain forest, river crossings and boulders. At 30km, it’s a short drop to the line and the finish at 37.1km.
The long day but what a beauty! This route was tweaked a couple of years ago and now has become iconic with tough trails, plenty of climbing, sandy beaches and yes, even a boat trip. The finish at Drake Bay is iconic.
The victory lap! For many, this stage is the most beautiful and memorable. In just over 20km, the route manages to include a little of all that has gone before. It’s a stage of fun and challenges and one that concludes on the beach as a 2018 medal is placed over your head – job done!
“The Coastal Challenge was lucky to continue through the pandemic, of course we had restricted fields with 2022 signifying a return to normal. TCC is a unique race and one that we are passionate about. We created this race to show of Costa Rica and this beautiful coastline. The race travels in and out of the stunning coastal 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.”