2015 and 2017 Marathon des Sables ladies champion Elisabet Barnes will join 2016 Cape Wrath Ultra and 2017 Dragons Back Race champion Marcus Scotney on the start line in Quepos for the 2018, The Coastal Challenge.
TCC as it is affectionately known is a multi-day race starting in the southern coastal town of Quepos, Costa Rica and finishing at the stunning Drake Bay on the Osa Peninsula. It is an ultimate multi-day running experience that offers a new challenge even to the most experienced runner. Taking place over 6-days, the race hugs the coastline of Costa Rica, traveling in and out of the stunning Talamanca mountain range. Even the strongest competitors are reduced to exhausted shells by the arrival of the finish line due to the combination of technical trails, dense forest, river crossings, waterfalls, long stretches of golden beach, dusty access roads, high ridges and open expansive plains.
The 14th edition of the race is set to be a classic in the making with the confirmation of Barnes and Scotney. Barnes is a two-time winner of the iconic Marathon des Sables and is a two-time finisher of the TCC – 2015 and 2016.
Bitten by the Costa Rica bug and the ‘Pura Vida’ lifestyle, Barnes has repeatedly said that the Central American race is her most favourite.
“Costa Rica is a magical place and the TCC is spectacular in so many ways. I work hard in this race because technical running is not my strength, but I love the fact that I get to push my boundaries and challenge myself. The course is just breath taking with great variety, always interesting but not always easy! After a tough day on the trails you are rewarded with yet another stunning campsite, a warm welcome by the dedicated volunteers, and excellent food provided by the hard-working catering team. It’s a race that every runner should add to their bucket list.”
The race looks set to elevate itself to new heights in with the confirmation of Marcus Scotney. Scotney is a highly-respected runner within the UK who has on multiple occasions represented his country on the world ultra-stage. In recent years, he has participated in multi-day races – The Cape Wrath Ultra in Scotland and The Dragons Back Race in Wales. Both races are tough, technical races with many 1000m’s of vertical gain. Scotney won them both and now looks forward to testing himself in the high heat and humidity of Costa Rica.
‘The Coastal Challenge has been on my bucket list of races since 2014, it looks like an amazing beautiful race with a stunning mixture of trail, beach and jungle running. I can’t wait to visit Costa Rica and experience the culture and run a multi-stage race which has a brilliant reputation. I am sure it will live up to that reputation and all that I expect; I feel very privileged to run the race.’
Unlike races such as the Marathon des Sables, TCC is not self-sufficient. Don’t be fooled though, the racing, terrain, heat and climbing make the stages considerably harder and more challenging than the Moroccan adventure.
“Not carrying equipment is convenient, as is having access to your gear so you can run in fresh clothes every day and change for camp,” Barnes says. “However, the terrain is at times far more difficult than in MDS, and when adding to that the high humidity, you really have a challenge on your hands. Still, I couldn’t think of a better way to spend a week”
Will it be third time lucky for Barnes in Costa Rica, who knows? She certainly has knowledge of the course, an understanding of how to run in the heat and yes, she also knows how to maximize her time to make the most of her racing experience. For Scotney, the challenge will be a new one. He will love all the faster sections of the course where he will be able to unleash his natural running speed. The challenges will come with the technical terrain and of course the heat combined with the humidity.
The 2018 edition of TCC is already looking like a stunning race and in the coming months, several other elite athletes will be announced who will participate in this classic race.
Please get out of the new one if you can’t lend your hand
Cause the times they are a-changing
– Bob Dylan
Anna Frost is arguably one of the most famous mountain runners in the world. Striking good looks, a huge smile, an insatiable addiction for fun and an ability not to take herself too seriously has made her the no1 all over the world – from a runner and fan perspective.
Recently she returned to Costa Rica and ‘put the record straight’ by finally winning The Coastal Challenge at her third attempt. In year one she was unable to start due to doctors’ orders. In year two she was forced to retire due to injury on the penultimate stage whilst in the lead. In 2017 though she nailed it by winning five-stages and cruising the sixth and final stage knowing the job was done!
It had been an emotional ride and one that was clear for all to see as she sobbed on the shoulder of race director Rodrigo Carazo on the finishing line of the final stage.
“Wow, that has been some ride and I am pleased to put the record straight. I love everything about The Coastal Challenge. The organization is amazing, the place is fabulous, the layout of the course is so challenging and rewarding. Contrast that against the communal environment of camp and you have just the perfect race. For me, will I come back? – absolutely! Will I race again? Probably not – but volunteering, helping at aid stations and marking the course appeals.”
Frosty, as she likes to be known is at a new point in her career if you hadn’t guessed. The turmoil, stress, back-to-back travel and the pressure to perform has taken its toll. “It’s a great problem to have and I have been very fortunate. But there are so many places and events to go to – I can’t do them all and in the past I tried. I am now very careful and I listen to my body. My health is far more valuable than trail running.”
A balanced approach has taken time to learn. Of course, Frosty has made some huge mistakes on the way but that is how one progresses, develops, learns and now with experience, the lady from New Zealand seems to tick along nicely. No doubt helped by her long-term relationships with Braz who Frosty has now developed a series of camps and adventures with.
Relaxed, philosophical, balanced – these are not the words I would have used to describe Frosty when I first met her in 2012 on the island of La Palma. She is still the same force, still the same glowing and open personality but then she wanted it all and of course she had it. Her run at Transvulcania in that edition was legendary and it elevated her onto the world stage.
“Social media placed a great deal of pressure on me and I relate that to my downfall if you can call it that? I didn’t respond well to trail running all of a sudden. I ran trail because I loved it and then suddenly I was ‘professional’ with eyes on me. When it became ‘a thing,’ I wasn’t prepared for it. The pressure got too much an I went to a dark hole. Now though, there is no pressure!”
Community, the spirit of running and running on trail is what this lady bought into and that is what she wants moving forward.
“I want to be part of the community and not separated from it with a ‘professional’ tag. This week in Costa Rica I have watched people race, challenge themselves, learn on the trail and they have got the job done – that is so awesome!”
Trail running is booming and female participation in the sport is growing and growing. Frosty has been clear to emphasize that a woman can be a runner and feminine, after all, she has her own clothing line with sponsor, Salomon.
“Clothing is a lot more feminine now with a great deal of bright colours, we have skirts, dresses and all sorts of products that are specific to make us feel great on the trail. Let’s face it, running is an accessible sport – you just need shoes and an outfit and you can join in, let’s embrace that!”
Despite a feminine side, Frosty doesn’t see herself as a woman, at least not when she is running.
“When I am on the start line, I am just there – a human. Obviously, I know that I am racing the women but I never think I am a girl therefore I can’t run up hill fast, or that I can’t compete with the men – I just race and I race whoever I am near, male or female.”
Maturity comes with age but it also comes as boxes are ticked and life becomes more settled. Frosty has a man in her life and a transition is taking place.
“We met at Hardrock – a Hardrock love affair! The last couple of years of coming home to someone has been very settling. I have always searched for home. It would be New Zealand in winter after months on the road but when I met Braz, I was home! That was very satisfying, very fulfilling and I now feel like I can do anything.”
A new outlook on running, a man, home, the patter of tiny feet may well be the next thing in the ultra, trail and mountain world?
“I have dreamed of being a mum since I was 13-years old. With my travel and work a child has not been an option, but now, my mind is shifting focus. I have Hardrock 100 again this year and a few other races and events, but yes, in the close future it’s something that I will put an emphasis on. Nothing is guaranteed though. I would be privileged and lucky to make my own little baby. However, if not, I sponsor a charity called ‘Children of Uganda’ – if I can’t have my own child, I will help other children in the world that are so much in need.”
Inspiration takes many forms. You may well know Frosty as ‘the runner,’ but think outside the box, step back and see the person. A person who has inspired so many by climbing mountains, running fast over trails but I can’t help but think her best work is to come. Be it her own child or someone else’s, Frosty will lead by example. She will blaze a new trail and I can only hope you follow – we all need to be inspired and I can’t think of any other lady in the sport who can do the job better.
Many thanks to Niandi Carmont who produced an extended interview with Frosty in Costa Rica post the 2017 edition of the race. You can listen HERE.
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Episode 131 of Talk Ultra and we bring you an interview with TCC winner, Tom Owens. We also speak with Jo Meek who recently placed on the podium in Hong Kong at Translantau 100km. Niandi brings us a ‘one-on-one’ interview with Inge Nijkamp. We have the news and ultra-chat!
Niandi still is injured but back in the pool
Ian has been to Bulgaria w/ Dean Karnazes, Sean Conway and more…
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Rand Hayley, Simon Darmody, Mike Hewison, Tom Flummerfelt, Rupert Hitzenberger, Derek Doran, Dan Masters, Steve Milne. Daniel Weston, Andi Dunn, Sam Wilkes, Ron van Liempd, William Sichel, Jonni Suckling, Ally Spiers, Lindsay Harmoudi, Rene Hess, Mathew Melksham, Jamie Oliver, Kent Keeler, Aaron Aaker, David H, Brian Wolfkamp, Neil Catley, Craig South, Melissa Bodeau, Mark Moromisato, Sarah Cameron, Kerstin Palmer, Nicola Scott, Rohan, Aurora, Thomas Mueller, Fredrik Rantarkyrl, LostTrailRunner, Neil Staveley, Philippe Lascar, Marc Mills, John De Martin, Brian Walters and Martin Gray.
Niandi is joining me and yes, her foot is still in a moon boot. How’s the fracture?
Lets kick off with Niandi’s next ‘one-on-one’ interviews, this week she talks with Inge Nijkamp who attended our training camp in Lanzarote. In early April, Inge will toe the line at MDS and here Niandi discusses balances life, children and how you fit it all in…
INTERVIEW with INGE NIJKAMP
Max King once again showed his speed ahead of Hayden Hawks. However, both went under to old CR! It was close with Hawks just over 30 seconds back. Max gets an auto qualifier for the IAU Trail World Champs. Sage Canaday placed 3rd.
Ladia Albertson-Junkans (?) won the race in 4:17 and the IAU slot ahead of Yiou Wang and Rachel Jaten
Trail du Ventoux
Marc Lauenstein and Caroline Chaverot too top honours in a race that also gave IAU qualificition. Lauenstein from Switzerland didn’t qulify (obviously) for the French place and this went to UTMB winner Ludovic Pommeret.
Kilian announced his year! Everest figures and an attempt at the Bob Graham Round.
Surprisingly, his run calendar is full, no doubt due to the run series that is currently a little under the radar…. Mont Blanc Marathon, Sierre Zinal, a return to a super stacked UTMB and of course Hardrock 100 and Ultra Pirineu figure. From a UK perspective, KJ will race at Glen Coe which is awesome news.
Antelope Island Buffalo Run
Great to see Sondre Amdahl take the win for the men and Sage Balloock Dixon for the ladies – 6:45 and 8:087 respectively.
Harry Jones from the UK took the win ahead of Jacky Leung and Jeremy Ritcey, their times 12:47, 13:28 and 13:44. Marie McNaughton 14:10 once agin won the ladies’ race ahead of Brit Jo Meek 15:05 and Wei-Ling Tseng 17:42.
Please support Talk Ultra by becoming a Patron at www.patreon.com/talkultra and THANKS to all our Patrons who support us. Rand Haley and Simon Darmody get a mention on the show here for ‘Becoming 100k Runners’ with a high-tier Patronage.
Packs for a multi-day race or a running multi-day adventure were once the domain of Raidlight. Of course, other brands ventured into the arena but it was only really the arrival of WAA that made everyone start to stop, look and see what else existed.
Packs are personal.
I think a pack becomes even more personal when one requires something to be comfortable for multiple days and also when carrying 6.5kg or more.
Salomon have now extended their ‘vest design’ to the S-LAB PEAK 20 and in doing so, they will turn the head of many a runner and make them question, is this THE pack for them for their next multi-day adventure or race.
Shape, gender, size, height and so many other variables dictate if a pack is comfortable or not and this depends on you, so, when looking at this pack I try to be impartial and when possible I always try to cross reference with a female perspective. The plus of this pack is it comes in S, M, L and XL so no compromising to be made. I am 38/40 chest and I have a medium which fits perfect.
If you are heading to the mountain for an overnight adventure, I am pretty sure the Peak 20 will work for you. However, would the pack work for a race like Marathon des Sables, Grand to Grand, Everest Trail Race or one of the 4 Desert races when one is completely self-sufficient for multiple days?
Let’s look at the packs highlights:
1 main compartment with a full length zip (double slider) that open up allowing easy access and organisation of what is inside.
Fabrics that wick and are quick drying.
Three sizes – S, M and L.
Soft trims so no chafing.
Sensifit is a Salomon buzz word that ultimately means it should be the Rolls Royce of bags when coming to fit and comfort.
Front hydration pockets x2 (designed for 500ml soft flasks).
Adjustable front straps for customized fit.
Zipper pockets – It has 2 large pockets on the front, 2 expandable pockets on the shoulder straps and 2 top zipped mesh pockets.
Will take a bladder.
Ability to carry poles or ice axes.
Lightweight at 484g +/-.
This pack will work for an overnight adventure, mountain marathon race or an adventure when an excessive mandatory kit will be required. But, the big question for many will be, can this pack work for a 6-day self-sufficient race?
In a word – Yes!
Simple reasons why:
Yes, it can hold 2 x 750ml of liquid at the front
Yes, it has 4 pockets on the front that will allow immediate access to anything you will need whilst running a stage.
Yes, it can hold another liter to 1.5 liters on the rear in two external pockets.
Yes, it can hold everything you need for 6-days self-sufficiency.
The pack has a 20L capacity (typical for Marathon des Sables and comparable with the competition from Ultimate Direction, WAA, Raidlight, OMM and others) and has one large external zip on the rear that works two ways so that you can zip down or zip up depending on preference. Once open, it’s possible to access the pack easily and arrange contents. Internally there is a small mesh panel so that you divide the large compartment in two – a good thing for maybe an overnight jaunt but not required for a multi-day adventure.
It’s light, very light! It has a vest style that echoes and follows on from the designs from Salomon’s other models.
The front of the pack has two stretch pockets for soft-flasks or bottles. On top of these pockets sitting a little lower are two large pockets with zips that hold a surprising amount. On top of the shoulder straps are two stretch zip pockets that provide additional storage.
On the sides of the vest are adjustable cords that pull the pack closer to the body or allow the pack to be looser.
On the top of the rear of the pack above the zip, is a central cord pull. Pull this and the yellow cord that wraps around the pack pulls tighter and compresses the contents. Great when the pack is full to make everything tight and secure but especially useful as the days pass when racing and the pack contents become less.
The pack tapers and as you can see from this side-view is narrow at the bottom and then opens up wider as one gets closer to the top. On both sides is an open topped stretch pocket that will take a bottle or other items.
The pack has thin blue padding that does not sit inside the pack but on the outside and underneath the mesh back. The is ingenious as it has been designed so that it can be removed.
It is held in place by small metal buckles that attach to web loops. I removed the padding and used my sleeping mat inside the pack as my padding. Ingenious – not only do you save weight but your mat doubles up as protection when running and sleeping.
The two-way external zip is great to allow access to upper items or lower items in the pack without having to un-zip the whole pack. Importantly, when un-zipped it’s easy to access the inside and arrange items. An internal mesh panel can be used to split the pack into two halves. For some this may be useful but if like me you use the sleeping mat inside, you can only have one large compartment. It’s a great space and like any pack, you will want to play around with how you pack your contents to find the correct balance. As a tip I recommend you leave your sleeping bag out when packing. Put all the contents in and then add the sleeping bag filing in all the empty spaces – you will be amazed how a lightweight down bag will compress.
The external cord the wraps around the pack is designed to be pulled tight and compress the contents. This is adjusted on the rear of the pack just above the zip.
Simply hold the buckle and pull the cord. The cords pulls tight and compresses to make the pack smaller and tight – perfect! You can make this even tighter by pulling the cords on the side and then taking up the the slack by the top adjustment. This on days 3, 4, and 5 will be just incredible at making the pack smaller and smaller as contents are used up.
On the shoulder straps, the yellow cord is also present under the two shoulder zip pockets. Pull the cord here and take up the slack and you pull the top of the pack closer to your back.
On the sides of the pack between the bottom rear and the front lower pockets there is a yellow cord on each side – again this allows you to pull the bottom of the pack as close to your back as you require.
In a nutshell, this level of adjustment is just perfect and is the best of all packs I have tried.
The front of the pack is classic Salomon vest design but with some differences. Fitting to the torso comes via 3 straps. Two go right to left and one goes left to right. These attach via a black plastic hooks to a yellow cord.
They can be moved up or down and they can also be made tighter or looser. In particular, this will be useful for lady runners who need to adjust the pack to fit around their chest. It’s a method that works and the on-the-go adjustment is welcome.
There are two stretch pockets that are designed for soft-flasks. This for me caused concern as I was under the impression that they would only hold 500ml. Not so! These pockets will take the Hydrapak SF750 soft-flasks and you can drink from these without the need to remove them.
Prefer straws? The Hydrapak 600ml bottles with straws will fit.
Prefer hard bottles? This is where I needed to think outside the box… OMM make very slim 500ml bottles and they fit like a glove.
Have no fears, you can carry enough water up at the front. Also, lets not forget the two external pockets. In my tests, I had 2x 500ml OMM flasks on the rear too. So, at a minimum you could carry 1litre or 2litres with 2 bottles on the rear. At a max you could carry 3litres with 1.5 up front and 1.5 at the rear.
UPDATE on the bottle situation. I finally obtained 2x 750ml Raidlight bottles with straws and they fit like a glove to the front pockets!
The two pockets that sit below the bottles are a real welcome addition. They are easy to get at. They have great capacity, trust me, you need no more additional space up front, especially when one considers the two additional sip pockets on the shoulder straps. These pockets are less spacious but they will take a phone, snacks or other essentials.
There is an attachment system for poles that comes over the right shoulder. I personally though would probably attach to bungee cords to the front of the pack so that I can place the poles across my chest when not in use.
Fit is sweet and with all the adjusters you can really get this pack close to your torso. It fits like a piece of clothing and there are no rough edges – all the seams are soft. Salomon actually say that the pack may be worn against the skin and it will feel like apparel.
At 484g it’s light.
This pack is still under test and things such as longevity, strength, weaknesses, durability and so on have not been tested as it’s too early to say.
However, what I can say is that this is the best pack I have tested for running when the contents are heavy and I require 20L capacity.
I have long been a fan of the Ultimate Direction Fastpack as I loved its simplicity and no nonsense approach to the task of carrying many items and weight. The Salomon S-Lab Peak 20 has now become my new favourite.
It’s not without flaws – what pack is? The yellow cord compression works like a dream but it can be a little tricky to set up – it’s a small price to pay though.
The front bottle pockets almost certainly require soft-flask use or using the OMM 500ml bottles. I personally would always caution against soft-flasks for a multi-day, if they puncture, you are screwed. However, the Hydrapak soft-flasks are more durable than much of the competition and they have never let me down. The 600 or 750 versions work with the vest – perfect.
We will follow up with some action shots of the pack and an overall summary from a male and female perspective in the coming weeks, for now, this pack gets an ‘A’ for awesome.
Photo below is copyright Ricky Gates – he’s currently using a prototype Peak 20 with front pack. Interesting!
You can read Ricky’s specs and the contents of the pack on his Facebook page #transamerica
In use at Everest Trail Race, November 2016
Paul WilsonUsed one on the spine race. It was ace. Did most of my training with an ultimate direction fast pack then seen got the Salomon pack. Which proved to be far better.
Jana StudzinskaTested on fully self supported solo running trip across Serra de Tramuntana. Can’t recommend more.
Sito Castelloperfecta para la Everest Trail Race.
Robert KampczykCool bag. Like it because my complete Photo Equipment can insert.
What Salomon say:
Ideal for alpine running, superlight mountaineering or fast hiking, the streamlined S-LAB Peak 20 set uses our trail running knowledge to move fast in the mountain, with stretch fit and complete stability. With convenient access to the 20L compartment, both the pack and the load are easily compressed for maximum stability under partial load. It includes front storage solutions for two 500ml soft flasks and essentials and possibility to carry poles, ice axes…
Soft Twin Link
Compression quick lace
Top and bottom sensi load lifter
Pockets & compartments
2 front soft hydration elastic pockets
2 front zipped large pockets
2 shoulder expandable pockets
2 top zipped mesh pocket
4D Pole holder
Opening & closure
Wide front opening with double sliders
Stage 6 of the Costa Rica Coastal Challenge 2017 aka “The Victory Loop” and epilogue to this gruelling multi-stage race started at 7am. This allowed runners to “sleep in” a little and get some much-needed recovery before the final sprint, well, half-marathon! The final stage is always relatively short and the same distance for Adventure racers and Expedition racers. Many take this final stage easier as by now the podium is pretty much a given. An additional incentive for outsiders to race this stage is guaranteed free entry to the winners of the stage in both the male and female categories as well as the winners of each category in the overall ranking. Some race volunteers also like to join the runners in the final stage as a gesture of solidarity.
The final stage is a 22.5km representation of the whole race with all the course elements thrown in: fire trail, a magnificent waterfall, forest single track, more fire trail, beach sections and a lovely final 10km along the coast on shaded single track. With a total ascent of 613m and a descent of 613m it is a relatively flat route. There was only one CP at 22.5km.
In the men’s race Tom Owens seemed relaxed chatting at the start and not too worried about racing. However, Chema Martinez had his race hat on and chased Tom right from the start egging him on. Chema had a lot of competition from the Costa Rican field especially Jorge Paniagua who joined the two leaders, battling it out with them until the final sprint, where the 3 finished barely a second of each other. Jorge was first, Chema second and to complete the stage podium Tom Owens in third position. The Costa Rican was delighted to gain a free entry to the 2018 edition and has promised to be back to perform even better.
Tom Owens was crowned 2017 champion and he was full of praise and thanks on the line.
“This has been an incredible journey. It’s a stunning and magnificent part of the world and the course, terrain, views and the racing has been world-class. I have been blown away by everything – the final stage was just stunning and it managed to compress the whole TCC experience in just 22km. I’d be back to TCC and Costa Rica in a shot…!”
In the Ladies field, Ester Alves led the race. She needed to defend her third overall position. Anna Comet followed in hot pursuit to secure her second position and not allow Ester to close the gap significantly in the overall ranking. Anna Frost then also gave chase. Elisabet Barnes who had intended to race this final stage very hard in a final attempt to secure third felt weak and tired.
“It is only once I started running hat I realized my body wasn’t responding and that my legs were tired, that I wasn’t going to be able to race this stage. I decided to consider it a recovery run as my focus is on MDS 2017 which is just round the corner. I didn’t want to compromise that.” – Elisabet Barnes
Ester Alves did not even stop at CP1 to replenish her water supply or drink.
“I decided not to waste any time and ran the last 10km full out skipping the water point. I had run out of water before the checkpoint but I wanted to gain as much time as possible. I squeezed my soft flasks but not a drop came out. It’s amazing what the body can do in this heat, running 10km on no water, when the mind takes control and the drive is there. I must admit it was very stressful and it is a stage I enjoyed last year.” – Ester Alves
Ester led the race until the finish completing this stage 9min ahead of second lady Melanie Langer (9th lady overall) who had run hard all day.
In the closing stages, Melanie took advantage of Anna Comet and Anna Frost relaxing into the finish with Sondre Amdahl – the trio had run together from half-way enjoying the closing of the 2017 TCC. Elisabet Barnes completed the stage 30min behind Ester in 6th place and 4th overall.
Anna Frost cried on the shoulder of race director, Rodrigo Carazo on the finish line.
“This has been a tough and emotional journey, three editions in the making. I have finally won the race I love! I think I am done, not with Costa Rica or the TCC – next time I will be watching and spectating though!” – Anna Frost
Nothing can describe the emotion of those finishing this tough 6-day multi-stage in some of the hardest conditions or the joy and relief on their faces on being handed the well-deserved finisher medal. Many have vowed to return to better their performances or tick this box.
Tonight (or this afternoon), will be a long night of post-race celebration where the ‘Imperial’ will flow and spirits will be high.
Jorge Paniagua 2:04:33
Chema Martinez 2:04:38
Tom Owens 2:04:39
Neruda Cespedes 2:06:54
Erick Aguero 2:14:39
Ester Alves 2:23:41
Melanie Langer 2:32:17
Anna Comet 2:32:33
Anna Frost 2:32:36
Katelyn Tocci 2:43:03
Overall Results for the 2017 The Coastal Challenge #TCC2017
1. Anna Frost (New Zealand): 27:08:41.9
2. Ana Comet (Spain): 27:58:45.4
3. Ester Alves (Portugal): 28:23:27.5
4. Elisabet Barnes (Sweden): 29:00:11.2
5. Katelyn Tocci (Costa Rica): 29:58:09.1
1. Tom Owens (Scotland): 22:29:45.2
2. Chema Martínez (Spain): 23:43:36.2
3. Jason Shlarb (USA): 24:34:57.0
4. Eric Agüero (Costa Rica): 24:57:43.3
5. Pancho Pinto (Ecuador): 25:43:37
Stage 5 of The Coastal Challenge saw the main players battling it out in a final attempt to put minutes in the bank and secure those desired podium places. The day started at 4.45am for the Expedition runners as they were transported by buses to the depart on a river in Sierpe. The Adventure Category runners who were doing 30km of the 49.8km course were taken by bus to catch a speedboat and were dropped of near CP2 on the course. None of the adventure racers complained about the “shorter” distance as they enjoyed a 40min speed boat ride with a refreshingly cool breeze and the river spray hitting their faces. Flocks of white egrets nestled in the trees along the early morning river and amphibious “Jesus Christ” lizards skimmed the surface of the river.
For most it was a tough day out. The course had been slightly modified since last year to include a longer beach section and more technical accents and descents in the jungle.
The race started with the first steep technical climb in jungle undergrowth to 300m, followed by an equally steep descent requiring runners to watch their feet for twigs, branches, vines and overhanging branches. Instructions had been given prior the race not to grab hold of anything like trees covered in sharp needle-thin thorns. After the first climb, a little respite at CP2 (Sabalo) at 17km and then a second very steep climb to 450m in 3km, followed by a 400m drop in 1.5km. After the technical jungle sections, the runners reached CP3 at 24.6km. Then the course took the runners on some fire trail, a right turn back into the jungle and climbing and descending in what felt like a pressure cooker in suffocating heat. After this followed a soft sand shaded track along the beach, a river boat crossing, some road and a finish on the beach in Bahia Drake Bay.
In the men’s race today, Tom Owens and Chema Martinez took the lead and ran together until CP1 at 9.1km. Chema had to work very hard on the technical climbs which are Tom’s playground. Tom seemed surprisingly relaxed as he ran effortlessly and nimbly up the dense jungle climbs. Chema, in contrast was struggling to keep up with the British fell-runner.
“I wanted to start strong today. The two climbs were tough. I was chasing Tom. This stage had changed since last year. I tried to keep up with Tom but I was battling. I kept him in sight until 25km and then I lost him.” – Chema Martinez
The two lead runners were followed closely by Jason Schlarb, who confessed he was starting to feel tired today and hadn’t got the miles in in preparation for the event. “I’ve been focussing mainly on ski-mountaineering.” Tom maintained the lead until he crossed the finish line, with Chema in second position and Jason Schlarb 3rd. Costa Rican Erick Aguero, who had been vying for 3rd overall, finished 6th today, which counts him out for a podium finish as tomorrow’s stage will be 22km. 2nd in the overall ranking, Chema was happy with performance today, feeling that he has improved his technical running skills since the 2016 edition.
“From September to December, I suffered from a Baker’s Cyst, due to a knee problem. I had it treated but could train properly for 3 months. Basically, I’ve had 2 months training for this and it’s a mix of road and trail, shorter distances and track. A week before the Costa Rica Coastal Challenge I did a half-marathon in Barcelona in 69min so I am back on form, even though my training hasn’t been race-specific.” – Chema Martinez
In the Ladies Race, Anna Frost and Elisabet Barnes set the pace at the start. Elisabet decided to run hard from the beginning and dropped Anna Frost before CP1. At CP2 she was well in the lead, followed by Anna Frost and Anna Comet. A few seconds at CP3 (24.6km) and Elisabet, who was still in the lead, was off looking very fresh and focussed. She was followed by Frosty, who spent a bit more time at CP3 before picking up her pace. Ester Alves entered CP3 looking surprisingly relaxed and unhurried.
“It was a good stage. I spent my time chatting with a Spanish runner from Barcelona. I was feeling very positive. Just after 25km, I overtook Anna Comet who was suffering from a stomach bug, then Anna Frost and on the second technical climb I overtook Elisabet. Raphael and I decided to nail it on the beach section. At the end of the beach section, we came to the river-crossing and had to wait for the boat which had just left to ferry across some runners. I was so frustrated thinking of all the time I was losing. We made it across and nailed the last 12.5km to the finish. I am happy with my second place today. I don’t think I was particularly strong today. I just think the other girls were tired. I’ve learnt to pace myself since my cycling days.” – Ester Alves
The overall podium for the men is almost a foregone conclusion with tomorrow’s stage being only 22km. In the Ladies Race, Anna Frost has a comfortable lead, as has Anna Comet who is second. The battle will be on for 3rd as Ester Alves has an 8min lead over Elisabet Barnes. Tomorrow Elisabet intends to wear her racing hat and attempt a podium finish.
Anna Frost 24:36:05
Anna Comet 25:26:12
Ester Alves 25:59:46
Elisabet Barnes 26:08:10
Katelyn Tocci 27:15:05
Tom Owens 20:25:05
Chema Martinez 21:38:58
Jason Schlarb 22:10:43
Erick Aguero 22:43:04
Francisco Pinto 23:27:30
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Stage 3 of The Coastal Challenge 2017 #TCC2017 started at Playa Dominical, a tiny Costa Rican seaside resort. At 5.15am sharp the runners gathered at the start to follow the Race director’s crew vehicle to the beginning of the infamous riverbed section. Until CP1 the runners had to contend with a 10-km stretch of boulder-hopping, swimming and basically weaving their way in-between massive boulders, slipping on mossy riverbed stones on an unmarked course. After CP1 the course took the runners up a steep relentless climb to reach CP2 at 23.2km and 900m+.
During this section the runners were rewarded for their efforts by two of the most scenic waterfalls on the course, allowing most the opportunity to cool their bodies as the heat set in. Even Jason Schlarb stopped racing to take in the breath-taking views: “This was my favourite stage. I enjoyed running up the creek bed. It was incredibly scenic and challenging. The waterfalls were awesome. I just had to stop and look even though Erick Aguero was chasing me.” CP2 was followed was followed by an even steeper technical and dusty descent from 800m+ to sea-level in 4km, taxing already tired legs from the boulder-bashing and climbing. At CP3, 32.5km into the race, the runners reached the “the tail of the whale” an exposed beach section on firm sand.
The 6km beach stretch was followed by a last steep jungle climb, where even the leaders had to dig deep into their last remaining reserves before reaching CP4 on the road home with 4km to go. A final right turn onto a stony dust road led them to the finish line at Bahia Ballena, “the bay of whales”.
Tonight’s camp-site and tomorrow’s start is adjacent to the Pacific Ocean and shaded by tall trees, home to indigenous monkeys and scarlet macaws. The total distance of Stage 3 was 43.9km and is considered one of the most technically gruelling and challenging of the race.
In the men’s race Tom Owens dominated the stage as expected smashing Ian Don Wauchope’s course record from 2016, looking surprisingly fresh on the finish line. He was first out of the river-bed at CP1 followed by Ecuadorian runner Francisco Pinto. Jason Schlarb exited the riverbed in third position. By the waterfall Tom Owens had already opened a big gap with his pursuers. Jason overtook Francisco and made it in second position to the first waterfall.
“I jockeyed between Ashur Youssefi and Erick Aguero. I broke away after the second waterfall and felt super confident on the descent. Then suddenly Erick came cruising by and gained 800m on me when we hit the beach. It was painful but then I caught him and next thing Chema Martinez flew by. Erick blew up on the beach. It was so hard getting up on the last hill before the road but I still managed to secure a third place after Chema.” – Jason Schlarb
Although there were no Costa Ricans on the podium today, Stage 3 was marked by a very strong Costa Rican presence led by Erick Aguero and Ashur Youssef.
In the Ladies Race Anna Frost dominated from the start, leading the ladies race to the river-bed. She was first at the first waterfall. Despite a strong lead, she had to push hard. “I twisted my ankle and my legs really felt it on the descent.” Second lady through the river-bed was Elisabet Barnes, which was a revelation and proved just how much her technical skills have improved since 2016 when she lost time on this section.
“I felt a lot better. The past 2 days I have had stomach cramps. Today I felt great. I was apprehensive about the river-bed and was happy to come out second. Funnily enough I enjoyed it. As I had anticipated Anna Comet passed me on the climb. I knew then that if I made it to the riverbed nobody would overtake me. Unfortunately, I got lost between CP2 and CP3 but this didn’t impact too much on my overall time. The near vertical climbs were killers and I found myself hanging onto branches. There were some really steep downhills and I just got on my butt and slid down the dusty descents.” – Elisabet Barnes
Elisabet kept her third place until the finish. Anna Comet finished in a strong second place. First Costa Rican lady was Katlyn Tocci.
Tom Owens (Scotland) – 4:55:52
Chema Martínez (Spain) – 5:16:22
Jason Shlarb (United States) – 5:21:35
Erick Aguero (Costa Rica) – 5:26:28
Francisco Pinto (Equator) – 5:28:56
Anna Frost (New Zealand) – 5:53:55
Anna Comet (Spain) – 6:05:23
Elisabeth Barnes (Sweden) – 6:20:14
Ester Alves (Portugal) – 6:30:00
Katelyn Tocci (Costa Rica) – 6:34:00
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Heat, humidity and hydration warnings by race director Rodrigo Carazo signified the start of the 2017, The Coastal Challenge – now in its 13th edition.
Time to cool off…
The start of the 34.6km stage was on the beach at Playa Del Rey and temperatures were already soaring at the start where runners were dropped off after a 4-hour coach journey from San Jose. The first section until CP1 was extremely runnable fire trail. Many were still adapting to the heat and held back. In the men’s race Tom Owens set the pace and literally flew off with Chema Martinez hot on his heels. Local Costa Rican Erick Aguero followed closely. In the ladies’ race Elisabet Barnes took the lead on the flat fire track followed by Anna Frost and Ester Alves.
“It was hot,” Frosty said. “I felt terrible for the first 15km on the flat. As soon as I got to the hilly section I felt better. I didn’t want to blow up this first day so I tried to be sensible. Elisabet was flying on the flat section. I passed her after CP1 on the climb. We ran together until CP2 and then I took the lead.”
Ester Alves and Anna Frost chasing Elisabet Barnes
Ester Alves tried to keep up with the duo but was soon outdistanced and overtaken by Anna Comet who looked surprisingly fresh and unaffected by the heat. Frosty won the first stage with a 5min lead on Elisabet Barnes with Anna Comet completing the podium just 2min behind. Ester, defending 2016 ladies’ champion was philosophical about her performance today: “It’s the first stage and I had lots of fun. You have to accept the good days and bad days. I haven’t planned a strategy for tomorrow. Just having fun.”
With her preference for technical courses and Stage 2 being much more challenging than today, she will be well-served. Elisabet Barnes was very happy with her second place and performance, finishing the stage 25min faster than last year.
After CP1 the course took the runners on a climb to 450m with a drop down to CP3 at 29.5km. It was on this first climb through jungle undergrowth and in the heat that novices and those who had forgotten to pace themselves and keep body temperatures down, really suffered.
Tom Owens in the early km’s after the start
In the male field Tom Owens had a small gap over Chema Martinez . At CP2 and 19km into the race, they arrived together and then Chema, who boasts a 2:08 marathon PB, left first in an attempt to open a gap on the fast and dusty roads on what was very runnable downhill fire trail. However, Tom managed to hold on to him.
The course ended with a hilly single track shaded forest section, a little add-on and alteration introduced in 2016 to avoid too many fire trail and road sections with a slippery river crossing to the finish near Rafiki Lodge along the river.
Jason Schlarb in the rainforest section after CP1.
The day was not without incidents with Jason Schlarb missing a turning and the bright pink fluorescent markers just after CP3 and taking a big detour, adding on extra miles and ending up 25min behind Chema Martinez. “I was 10min behind Chema Martinez and in 3rd place after CP3,” Schlarb said. “I missed the turning and ran along the river and back onto the road where a crew vehicle pointed me in the right direction. I went from 3rd to 6th position and lost 15min.” 2015 ladies’ champion, Veronica Bravo from Chile also went off course after CP3 finishing 6th today.
Veronica Bravo just before going off course.
Tom Owens: 2:44:45
Chema Marinez: 2:47:55
Erick Aguero: 3:02:42
Anna Frost: 3:14:49
Elisabet Barnes: 3:19:24
Anna Comet: 3:21:23
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Runners have arrived in San Jose and the 2017 of The Coastal Challenge is now building up to what is anticipated to be one of the most competitive editions of this race ever.
Chema Martinez – San Jose
The men’s race sees the return of Chema Martinez who raced in 2016. He has experience of the course, the heat and the humidity and that will prove invaluable. However, Sondre Amdahl from Norway and Tom Owens for the UK arrived in Costa Rica one week ago to spend time on the coast and adjust to the heat – they will provide strong competition.
Hardrock 100 winner, Jason Schlarb arrived just 1-day before the race from the snows of Colorado, he may be in for a surprise on day 1 as the heat hits.
Jason Schlarb loosening up on San Jose trails.
Local competition is expected to come from Ashur Youssefi-Dizagetakieh who has raced at TCC on several occasions, he knows the course, is adopted to the heat and will be a strong presence at the front of the race.
An unknown to Europe audiences, Erick Agüero from Costa Rica will take part in his first multi-day experience here at TCC and race director, Rodrigo Carazo says, ‘he’s one to watch!’
Of course, a surprise can come from anywhere… the 2017 edition of the race has the most Costa Rican’s ever entered in the race and strong representation comes from Spain and the UK.
For the ladie’s last minute entry of Anna Frost has certainly made the other female competitors, stop, look and ask questions about the form of the New Zealand. This is ‘Frosty’s’ third time racing at TCC and is third a charm?
2016 champion, Ester Alves has returned and without doubt she will be looking for repeat victory. She will have her hands full with the return of the 2015 champion, Veronica Bravo from Chile and 2015 Marathon des Sables champion, Elisabet Barnes who also raced here in 2016.
Anna Cometi from Spain has won the Everest Trail Race on two occasions so she knows how to race over multiple days, the big question will come in regard to her adaptation to the heat and humidity. One last name to look out for will be Katelyn Tocci.
With 22-countries represented, the 2017 edition of TCC is going to be a classic! Will it be the most memorable? Time will tell.
With registration taking place today, Saturday 11th. Runners have loosened up on the local trails to freshen up from travel. Race briefing is this evening and then tomorrow it’s a 0400 start to head to the coast and the start of the race.
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Anna Frost to join the line-up of the 2017 The Coastal Challenge
The 2017 was all set to be the most competitive edition of the race with a stunning line-up of both male and female competitors. The male race has Hardrock 100 winner Jason Schlarb, Sondre Amdahl, Chema Martinez, Vicente Beneito and so many more.
The ladies race has two previous champions with Ester Alves and Veronica Bravo joined by Elisabet Barnes and Anna Cometi.
Well, the ladies race has just been blown off the scale with the 11th hour confirmation that New Zealand’s Anna Frost will toe the line in Quepos.
This is not Frosty’s first time in Costa Rica. Her love affair with the country and the race started several years ago. In 2014 she arrived to race but due to health issues was forced not to make the start.
“I learnt a lot about the course and was able to see the challenges without putting myself through them. Although nothing really prepares you like the experience itself. I hadn’t expected such long beach sections so I will be prepared.”
In 2015 while leading the race she was forced to withdraw with foot issues leaving the doorway open for eventual race winner, Veronica Bravo. I refreshed myself of a moment from the 2015 edition:
“In the ladies race, Anna Frost ran a smart day matching Veronica Bravo step-by-step. From the moment they started, till the moment they crossed the finish line, the duo never left each other’s side. In many respects, Frosty can run this way all the way to the end now and play safe. The question mark will come if Veronica feels strong one day and takes a risk to pull back the time between the two of them? This is always a risky tactic, push too hard and you may blow up opening a doorway for third place to gain time.”
In the ladies race, Anna Frost’s injury woes came to a head when she sprained an ankle causing a muscle sprain in her soleus muscle. Frosty tried to push on but it was no good. The plantar issues, ankle and muscle sprain brought an end to the 2015 TCC at Cp3.
”I could run in pain no longer and sometimes you just have to stop and look at the bigger picture.”
Cut to 2017 and it may well be third time lucky for the lady who has pioneered the way for female runners in the trail and mountain world.
Like Schlarb, Frosty won Hardrock 100 in 2016, she also won in 2014. She has won races all over the world and many remember her iconic victories on the island of La Palma at the Transvulcania race.
Currently in Colorado amongst the snow, Frosty admits that it may well not be the best preparation for the heat and humidity of Costa Rica, however, the opportunity to run raised its head and she could not refuse!
Speaking from Colorado, Frosty told me,
“I am so excited to come back, 3rd time luck?”
Race director Rodrigo Carazo in conversation with myself whilst trying to put logistics in place confirmed for me,
“We need to make this happen, this will be, without doubt, the best ladies field ever at the race.” I confirmed, my thoughts exactly! Rodrigo went on to say, “We have surprises in store for 2017 – new sections, more hills and more jungle!”
The stage is set, the 2017 edition of The Coastal Challenge is going to be epic. Runners will start to arrive in San Jose from Thursday 9th this week and they will then transfer to the coast for the start of the race in Quepos.
“I had a serious case of fear of missing out when I saw the ladies line-up,” Frosty went on to say. “Costa Rica and the TCC is just full of great people, stunning trails, water, heat, more water, wildlife and running, it all equal Coastal Challenge love!”
The Coastal Challenge is 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.
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.
The Coastal Challenge which will take place Feb 10th – 19th, 2017.