The 2021 ‘The Coastal Challenge’ is upon us! A six day, supported, 230.5km journey that takes runners from Quepos to the UNESCO heritage Drake Bay.
Over the years, TCC has grown in stature with an incredible list of athletes from all over the world, in 2020, Kaytlyn Gerbin and Cody Lind took the top honors. Unfortunately, due to Covid-19, the 2021 TCC will see a reduced capacity race that will primarily see local participants with only a very small contingent coming from other locations.
It’s fortuitous for TCC that 2018 participant and adidas Terrex athlete, Timothy Olson now bases himself in Costa Rica and therefore he will toe the line for the 2021 edition. The last time he raced at TCC he battled with Michael Wardian, Hayden Hawks, Tom Evans and Marcus Scotney. Unfortunately, Tim’s race was cut short after a bad fall on stage 4.
I caught up with Tim to get his thoughts ahead of the race in February.
How was 2020 for you and how did you survive and motivate through the pandemic?
What a year, 2020 was a challenging year all around. It changed the way of life for many, I was extremely fortunate to enjoy running, good food and family right where we were living in Costa Rica. I shifted my focus from training for any particular race to just appreciating each moment I had, using running as a way to give thanks, praying for and uplifting humanity. Instead of focusing on fear and the unknown I felt motivated to spread encouragement and love.
Priorities have shifted in 2020, what changes have you personally made?
I could definitely feel many major shifts in 2020, it was solid confirmation that my priorities were in the right place. I value time with family and loved ones, supporting local/organic & regenerative farming practices, deepening my meditation and running practice and continuing to do the internal work to be the best human I can be.
Mindfulness is important for you; how did this help in 2020?
Mindfulness was the foundation in which I set my focus on daily. I started each morning of 2020 with meditation and mindfulness practice cultivating what I wanted to see in the world. I would contemplate all the drama in the world, notice how I felt and what would arise internally. Then I would take time to just sit with it no matter what arose. There were definitely dark times, I aimed to learn and grow through really feeling my emotions, taking the time to integrate life’s wild ride. I am grateful for it all and feel calm, grounded and confident as I embark on the next adventure of 2021.
You are back in Costa Rica, it’s like a 2nd home – tell me why?
Right now, it is home. We fell in love with the tiny community where we live. The community here is family to me. I have some really good friends here and feel very fortunate to spend time with the working with and appreciating this rich valley. Not many trails but really challenging dirt roads to keep the training rolling. I’ll run in and through the little mountains all the way to the Ocean and then back home, stacking up lots of vertical gain and some hot kilometers onto my feet. On the way I will cool off in a waterfall enjoy a platano and take in all the beauty around me. I’m so grateful for all the amazing places I am able to run and explore but the community of mindful people makes it home.
You raced TCC in 2018, what brings you back?
Taking care of Unfinished business while celebrating this beautiful country and the joy of running. I sprained my ankle really bad here in 2018 and was not able to complete the final day. I was bummed but new I’d be back. I’m really looking forward to completing all the days. A few of the days we run through Dominical, near Nauyaca and to the Whales take and Uvita. I have run all over this area, I run close to Nauyaca daily and looking forward to sharing the trails with the local Ticos.
2021 is going to be a year of more questions, if all goes well with Covid, what are your hopes and priorities?
Lots of questions but I will keep running and doing what I love no matter what. I’m hoping to return to the US and run a long trail. I’ve been thinking about doing the Pacific Crest Trail, a 2,650mile trail that goes from Mexico to Canada through some of my favorite places in the US. The pct means a lot to me and I look forward to completing it one, I’m hoping to do this on 2021 but with Covid I have other ideas if this falls through. When I run it, I want the adventure to uplift people, motivate, raise awareness and encourage people to get outside and do whatever makes them come alive. I want to do what is nest for humanity so we will see what happens this year, but I’ll continually keep spreading good vibes.
- 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
- Total 230.5km
- Vertical 9543m
- Descent 9413m
Hugging the coastline of the tropical Pacific, TCC is the ultimate multi-day experience that weaves in and out of the Talamancas, a coastal mountain range in the Southwest corner of this Central American country.
The terrain is ever-changing from wide, dusty and runnable fire trails to dense and muddy mountain trails. Runners will cross rivers, boulder, swim through rivers, pass under waterfalls, survive long 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.
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 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 – mark my words! The 34.6km is very runnable with little vertical and technicality, it welcomes the runners to Costa Rica.
From here on in, it is early breakfast, around 0400 starts with the race starting with the arrival of the sun! The only way is up from the start with a tough and challenging climb to start the day. 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. Puma Vida.
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!
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