Tom Owens to race The Coastal Challenge 2017 #TCC2017

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Tom Owens is without doubt one of the most inspiring runners from the UK who performs consistently on the world stage. Fell runner, ultra runner and Skyrunner, Tom has pushed the world best.

Back in the day, Tom forged a reputation for himself with Andy Symonds at the Transalpine run where the duo were a formidable force. In recent years, Tom has mixed fell running and Skyrunning. In 2012, Tom placed 2nd behind Kilian Jornet at the iconic Trofeo Kima, he looked set to dominate the Skyrunning circuit but injury hit. Time away and keeping fit doing cyclocross, it was 2014 when the Glasgow based runner finally re-emerged at Transvulcania.

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Transvulcania was a surprise return… renowned for running shorter races, Tom stepped up to 70+km – an unknown commodity. Class shone through and he placed 6th. A 3rd at Ice Trail Tarentaise and then 4th at Trofeo Kima and we all knew – Tom was back.

2015 started really well with a win overseas at the Buffalo Stampede in Australia, 6th at Matterhorn Ultraks and arguably his best result came with 4th in the IAU Trail World Championships in Annecy.

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Roll on to 2016 and Tom focused on the Skyrunning Extreme Series that combined all the elements that make Tom, the great runner that he is. Technical trails, altitude, distance and an ability to adapt to an ever-changing landscape. Victory at Tromso SkyRace and 5th at Trofeo Kima set Tom up for a potential overall title.

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Going into the Glencoe Skyline, a head-to-head being Tom and Jon Albon whet everyones appetites. On the day, Albon excelled and it was 2nd for the Scot.

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As 2016 comes to a close, Tom is looking ahead to 2017. Not known for his ability to handle heat and humidity, I wondered why Costa Rica?

“It looks beautiful, exciting and warm! I always like to escape the Scottish Winter for a week big volume warm weather running in January or February –  it seems to set me up well for the rest of the year.”

And what about the heat and humidity?

“The heat and humidity will be massively challenging. I’ve not worked out how to run well in these conditions. It will be my first big block of running in 2017 and so interesting to see how the body holds up. I also find running in sand really tough…”

Costa Rica may well prove to be much more of a test of running. We all know Tom can handle the rough and technical stuff – the river and bouldering sections will put the fell/ Skyrunner in the terrain that he loves. But Costa Rica will have sand too, albeit not soft sand. It may well be a whole new learning curve.

“It’s going to be  real challenge for sure but that is what makes it interesting! I will be at a disadvantage against pure multi-day runners but I will embrace it. Running day-after day is not really a problem, I love the technical stuff but it’s the heat and humidity that will really test me as I have already mentioned. I have really suffered in such races with cramps (I’m a big sweater) such as at Transvulcania, Buffalo Stampede and the recent World Trail Champs.”

Scotland and the UK is not going to be the ideal place train for a Costa Rican race in February, I wondered if Tom had any specific training plans to be prepared?

“I’m looking forward to trying some different strategies to cope with the heat – I hope the TCC will help me with the some of the other objectives that will take place in remainder of the year. In regard to training, I will aim to get back into regular running mid/late December or early January and build up some endurance. Beyond Coastal Challenge I have no 2017 plans yet. I only ended the 2016 season a couple of days ago – it was a really long (from Feb till end October) and fun season but now i’m enjoying a break and not doing any planning at the moment.” 

Competition in the men’s race will be fierce, the recent announcement of Sondre Amdahl’s participation will no doubt focus the mind of Tom and the other male competitors. But a physical and mental rest is required before thinking about 2017. One thing is for sure, Tom always races to win and he will be prepared come February.

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About the race:

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.

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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.

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

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Tom Owens – Is the SKY the limit?

Tom Owens running a ridge at the stunning Trofeo Kima copyright Ian Corless

Tom Owens running a ridge at the stunning Trofeo Kima copyright Ian Corless

Tom Owens  is a British runner who I guess in ultra terms, as Tom keeps telling me, is not an ultra runner. But when you are on the podium repeatedly in Skyrunning races in 2012 and push Kilian Jornet, the term ‘ultra’ can be loosely used. I caught up with Tom just as he had finished a run in a gale force wind on the fells near his home in Scotland.

IC: Welcome Tom.

TO: Thanks Ian, great to be here.

IC: Thanks for finding the time to chat. So, you say you are not an ultra runner but it is fair to say that when we look at some of your 2012 races like Zegama and Trofeo Kima they are tough races aren’t they and when we look at how long it takes to cover these races they do drift into ultra category.

TO: Yes I agree with you. You are on your feet for a long time. A race like Zegama can take 4 hours and that is considered a ‘runnable’ Skyrunning race.

IC: Lets go back to what got you into running. You told me that at the age of 22 you ran London Marathon.

TO: Yes I was at University and I entered the ballot for the marathon not thinking I would get in. Ironically I got in first time. I did a little training and joined a cross country club. I had a year of running but it was very much a sideline. I was much more interested in Football and having a good time. I ran the marathon and then got addicted.

IC: In 2004 you ran 2:42 at London.

TO: Yes, correct. I learnt so much in the first two years. I met some great folk at Bristol Uni and I learnt how to train and recover. I was very pleased at the time.

IC: What do you mean pleased? Any of us would be ecstatic with 2:42 marathon.

TO: Funny, I didn’t know what time to go for so I wrote splits for 2:42 on my hand and it went well. My first time was hopeless and I bonked. I made changes for the second year but that was pretty much the end of my road running.

IC: Yes, you met Andy Symonds and I guess your friendship with Andy has dictated both your careers. You have almost run in parallel.

TO: I met Andy and he introduced me to hills. He is a great guy, super talented and enthusiastic. So he encouraged me to try hill races and I loved the vibe. Really different. Very challenging but no pressure. So varied. Andy encouraged me throughout and I kept with it.

IC: What would you say was the point when the focus started to shift? You lived in New Zealand and you met the Scottish team who were out for the world trophy. Was that a pivotal point?

TO: Yes it was I guess. I travelled and then I settled in New Zealand and it had a great running community. I lived in a brilliant city surrounded by hills. It’s an outdoor way of life and I ran more. With the World Mountain Running Champs taking place I saw Jonathan Wyatt and that inspired me. To have the English, Scottish and Welsh team over was brilliant. I hung out with them, did the ‘open’ race and yes, I guess I just continued that momentum in the UK.

Tom Owens behind 'Hernando' in the early stages of Zegama 2012 copyright Ian Corless

Tom Owens behind ‘Hernando’ in the early stages of Zegama 2012 copyright Ian Corless

IC: In 2007 you won your first British Championships beating Rob Jebb.

TO: Yes that was a surprise. A race up in Scotland. Wasn’t a big field but it was a tough race and it has two or three big hills. I can’t remember the distance but it took about 3 hours. I just pipped Rob by about 7 seconds on the line. It was a huge confidence boost. Luckily most races I do finish downhill so it gives me a chance to catch back up after loosing time on the climb.

IC: I guess this is a perfect opportunity to discuss and explain what fell running is. As an exponent of fell racing would you like to give us an overview.

TO: They are very low-key events. The race will visit checkpoints, typically hill summits or passes. You often start at a village hall or pub. You run to to the hills carrying basic equipment such as waterproof, whistle, compass and map and then you make your way to checkpoints as fast as you can. It’s often horrendous conditions; after all it is the UK. You can need map and compass work but you can ‘follow’ as I do. More often than not it is usually wet and very slippery. In a nutshell you basically go straight up and straight down as fast as you can

IC: It’s a key point isn’t it that fell running is not about sticking to the worn path, it’s about the quickest route from A to B.

TO: Yes. That is the beauty. You have a hill, you get up as quick as you can. That is often ‘hands on knees’ power walking and then the fun bit is hurtling down as quickly as you can in a direct line. I guess in the UK we are lucky. The hills are open and we can pretty much go where we want. Especially in Scotland with the right to roam act.

IC: You mentioned going up ‘hands on knees’ I think for most of us we can get our head around that, what I find with fell running is the coming ‘down’ is just crazy. It’s such a skill. Is that God given or do you have to practice.

TO: Like anything you need to practice. You have to get confidence on all terrain and build up ankle strength. If you relax it is so much easier. Particularly if you fall over, most of the time you get up and carry on. Racing is in the head, relax and enjoy it and the rest will follow!

IC: In 2007/ 2008 you got involved with Salomon and eventually you ended up adventure racing and multi stage racing. What was the process involved in that?

TO: I started as a reserve for the Saab/Salomon Adventure Racing Team. In 2008 adventure racing was a big sport. It was certainly one of Salomon’s big focuses. I would say it was probably the last year of racing too as the economy crashed. I was called up as a reserve and I raced a six-day race. Probably one of the best races ever…  two mountain days on foot, mountain biking, climbing, paddling and canyoning. In addition, every evening we had a trail race that was really competitive. It favored runners.

IC: Your team was 2nd overall, yes?

TO: Yes that is right. I was with Andy Symonds again and a guy called Ben Bardsley. We are mountain people. We lead for most of the race but lost time on the water.

IC: That combination of multi stage racing and time with Andy, was that instrumental in what brought you guys together to take on Transalpine.

TO: Yes, it was a race I had heard about. It looked amazing. Andy was in Scotland at the time and we trained together so it seemed logical that we should undertake this as a team and give it a go. Again, another brilliant race!

IC: The race is typically about 160 miles over 8 days and alternates direction?

TO: Yes, 8 days. It has two routes and they alternate. An easterly route and a route that is more western which is more alpine. Actually we did both. We did the west route in 2009 I think and the other the following year.

IC: And you won both!

TO: Yes, Andy and I run together so well and the format suits us. You run hard and then you get to recover and do it all again the next day.

IC: Just like that!

TO: Yes, it is a battering race. Definitely good that it is late in the year as you really need to recover afterwards.

IC: You see, you say that you are not an ultra runner but 8 days in the mountains on those tough courses running a marathon a day is ultra running. That is severe, head to the ground hard work.

TO: Yes, challenging days. Brilliant days. Some of the passes and tracks are breath taking. It’s a delight to be involved but you get it done as quickly as you can. It does take its toll. It definitely has an ultra element to it.

IC: In 2010 you raced ‘Giir di Mont’. You came 6th. Was that the point that Skyrunning really started to appeal or was it before that?

TO: To be honest the first Skyrunning race was 2006, it was La Plagna, A huge race. It was 55km with 3000m up and 3000m down. Certainly the hardest thing I had ever done at the time, I hadn’t been running long. In 2007 I did a couple more and similar in 2008. I started to build up and as more opportunities came I snapped them up.

Crowds supporting at a Skyrunning event copyright Ian Corless

Crowds supporting at a Skyrunning event copyright Ian Corless

IC: Well, we are at present day and 2012 was a stunning year. We seemed to bump into each other all year. Sometimes we saw each other consecutive weekends. What impressed me was right from Zegama to the very end you were always there or there abouts with Kilian Jornet. You pushed him. Great to see a Brit pushing at the front… from a world perspective also, Tom Owens became a name to reckon with. It must be great for you to have Kilian on your Salomon Team but also to be able to race him.

TO: I don’t actually think I pushed Kilian. I may have been second but he was usually 10 minutes clear.

IC: It’s all relative Tom!

TO: Certainly seeing Kilian at the start and finish is great. He is on another level. He is so dominant at all distances, VK to ultra. We can’t get close to him. He is so chilled and he recovers so quickly. I certainly can’t do it week after week. After a hard race I can’t walk for 4 to 5 days.

IC: If we look back at 2012 what was your highlights?

TO: To be honest I was really pleased with the year actually and the consistency. I did so much and it was never straightforward. I had some wonderful opportunities. The highlight though was Trofeo Kima in August. It’s a really technical Italian Skyrunning race that has passes, via ferrata and scrambling. It’s a small race but absolutely brilliant experience.

Tom Owens  'running' at Trofeo Kima copyright Ian Corless

Tom Owens ‘running’ at Trofeo Kima copyright Ian Corless

 IC: I have to say that it was a highlight for me too. I had never experienced a course like it. To be able to witness the action unfold and capture it on camera was really fantastic. You say it was a small race, you are right, the race is capped at around 125 people but it had a stacked field; Philipp Reiter, Kilian Jornet, Andy Symonds and more. What was obvious at the end was the level of fatigue you all had. That course required 110% concentration.

TO: Absolutely, it had so much rock hopping and you followed painted markers so you had to be focused not to go off course and also not to fall. The last descent was bonkers. A 2000m descent on slippery gnarly terrain. To be running that long on such technical terrain that included ladders, chains and ropes is a big concentration exercise. I was happy to get to the road at the end to be able to relax. It was full on.

IC: What are the plans for 2013? Is the Skyrunning series going to figure again?

TO: I really want to do the Skyrunning series again. Races like Zegama, Chamonix and the Matterhorn excite me. Also the race at Limone. All being well I will try some of those and also mix in some new races. It will be an adaptable schedule and I will see how I go and feel.

IC: What about UK races?

TO: I fancy the British Fell Running Championships, so that will be three, maybe four races in addition to everything else. I will try to mix it up like I did in 2012.

IC: Any temptation to move up to any longer distances or will you establish yourself around the Sky marathon distance.

SKY Marathon races for 2013
1. SPAIN: Maratòn Alpina Zegama-Aizkorri – 42k, Zegama – May 26
2. FRANCE: Mont-Blanc Marathon – 42k, Chamonix – June 30
3. USA:  Pikes Peak Marathon – 42k, Manitou Springs, Colorado – August 18
4. SWITZERLAND: Matterhorn Ultraks – 46k, Zermatt – August 24
5. ITALY: Skyrunning Xtreme – 23k, Limone sul Garda – October 13

Tom Owens at Sierre Zinal being chased by Joe Symonds (Andy Symonds brother) copyright Ian Corless

Tom Owens at Sierre Zinal being chased by Joe Symonds (Andy Symonds brother) copyright Ian Corless

TO: I think it would have to be a course I really wanted to do. I would like to try the Ice Trail Tarentaise. That looks brilliant. I am not sure of the distance but I will have to see. I am not avoiding them but I wouldn’t do an ultra for the sake of it!

IC: You know your skills and ability and as such you choose the races were you know you can perform.

TO: As long as I am enjoying it I run well. We shall see.

IC: Thank you so much for freeing up time to chat, Tom. I am really looking forward to seeing you at many races in the coming year.

TO: Thanks so much. It’s a pleasure. Keep up all the good work!

This article was first published on Mud, Sweat and Tears in March 2013.

Links

  • Skyrunning events can be found HERE
  • Salomon Running HERE
  • Tom Owens HERE

Tom Owens -is the SKY the limit?

You can read the full article on Mud, Sweat & Tears by clicking HERE

Episode 30 – Owens, Reiter & Bottger

TU30

Episode 30 of Talk Ultra – We bring you interviews with Philipp Reiter and Julia Bottger from Gran Canaria. We have a main interview with Brit, Tom Owens. Talk Training is about nutrition and was recorded live with an audience in Lanzarote. We have all the usual features, the news, up and coming races, ‘A Year in the life of…’ our MDS special, Speedgoat Karl and of course the up and coming races.

SHOW NOTES
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000044 start

000408 ‘A year in the life of…’ with Tyler. It has been a while since Tyler was on the show. He has an excuse though… a wedding. His own!

001218 News with Karl Meltzer

002315 An interview with Salomon athlete Philipp Reiter just before he ran an incredible 2nd place at the 83km race at Transgrancanaria. Website HERE

005510 News

005600 An interview with Julia Bottger. Julia was 3rd lady at the 2012 Diagonale des Fous (Raid de la Reunion)  and this year plans to run Ronda del Cims. Website HERE

012300 News

012956 Trail Atlas Tafraout had it’s first edition race in February and Niandi Carmont attended to feed back how this inaugural event.

014015 News

014126 Blog – http://sebmontaz.com video blog. The man behind so many incredible films about adventure. Of course many of you will know him from his efforts with Kilian Jornet and Salomon running but take a look… he is quite the inspiration.

014210 Talk Training – On this weeks talk training Marc Laithwaite and myself took advantage of being in the same location at our training camp in Lanzarote. We decided to do a talk on nutrition and include the audience…. We hope you enjoy!

022415 Our main interview is with Brit Tom Owens. Tom Owens is at home in the fells or the mountains. In 2012 he achieved new heights with a series of impressive results in the Skyrunning series.

Achievements:
1st Senterio delle Gringe Skyrace 2011
3rd Transrockies Race 2011
4th Giir di Mont Skyrace 2011
1st Salomon 4 Trails 2011
2nd World Long Distance Mountain Running Challenge, Slovenia 2011
2nd Zegama Skyrace 2011
1st Yorkshire 3 Peaks Race 2011
1st Mournes Peaks Race 2011
1st TransGrancanaria Marathon 2011
1st Carnethy 5 Hill Race February 2011
1st TransAlpine Race 2009 & 2010
1st SkyRaid®World Championships 2010
6th Giir di Mont Skyrunning World Championship
1st Trail du Ventoux 2009
1st Scottish Hill Running Championship 2009
2nd British Hill Running Championship 2009
2nd World Long Distance Mountain Running Challenge 2008
2nd TransRockies Race 2008
2nd Mountain X Race 2008
3rd in British Hill Running Championship 2007
1st ToughGuy Race 2006

  • Occupation: Ecologist/ Environmental Advisor
  • Based: Glasgow, Scotland
  • Coached by: Malcolm Patterson
  • Type of Runner: Persistent!
  • Favourite Salomon Shoe & why: Speedcross. Super comfy & good grip. Ideal for trails.
  • Favourite distance: 2 – 5 hour hill races
  • Favourite race or event: Multi-day mountain races e.g. TranAlpine Race
  • Favourite Training session: Recce of a long hill race
  • Favoured pre- race meal/ snack: Flapjack
  • Best piece of advice for beginners and young athletes: Try to run with others – even better join a running club.
  • Interests and Hobbies: Cycling, racket sports & football. Travelling.

025500 A Meltzer Moment with Speedgoat Karl

Video link – Is ultra running bad for us? – HERE

030130 Mds Special with Tobias Mews – just less than 4 weeks to go….

030850 Races – Up and coming races for the coming two weeks.

031038 Close

031353 End

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Website – talkultra.com