HOT! Hot racing and hot temperatures. The 10th edition of The Coastal Challenge was always going to be a competitive race and stage-1 did not disappoint.
Departing from the beaches just outside the center of Quepos at 0930, the heat of the day was already beating down. Broad smiles, arm waves and cheers were immediately followed a rush for the head of the race.
As expected, the elite runners dictate the early pace with Mike Wardian immediately taking the front of the race closely followed by Martin Gaffuri and Nick Clark.
Jo Meek started conservatively finding her legs after the long journey from San Jose. However, once she had found them, she pressed on the gas pedal and didn’t let up. Entering the dense forest canopy at just over halfway into the days stage she had that ‘glare’ I had witnessed at the 2013 Marathon des Sables. Completely focused on the task at hand, Jo was calm and relaxed and looked surprisingly in control despite of the oppressive heat. “It pays to get adjusted to the heat before you come out here” said Jo, “I have been doing heat chamber session in the UK to prepare myself; it works!”
At the same point in the course for the men’s race, Mike Wardian had a 45-second lead over a pursuing Martin Gaffuri and Nick Clark…. Less than a minute in arrears, Carlos Sa and Vicente Juan Garcia Beneito chased.
Dense jungle, the noise of the wildlife and the oppressive heat tested each and every participant. “I wasn’t prepared for that,” said Martin Gaffuri, “I was running well and then suddenly just felt a switch turn off. I knew it wasn’t liquid or food as I had kept on top of both; it was the heat… I was overheating and I just needed to cool down”
Crossing the river to CP3, Mike Wardian had taken the lead once again after a little toing and froing with Nick and Vicente. Carlos Sa was running in fourth and Martin Gaffuri was fighting the pressure of the heat. At the line, Mike had pulled out 3-minutes over Nick and Vicente. However, the big looser of the day was Carlos Sa. With just a few 100-meters to go he made a disastrous navigation error and somehow managed to do an extra 20-30km…. missing from the finish he arrived several hours later.
Jo Meek dominated the ladies race on the first day putting 30-minutes in to Julia Bottger and Veronica Bravo.
Day-1 at The Coastal Challenge is always a tough day. It may only be just over 30-km’s but the travel, early starts and oppressive heat really do take the toll. In camp post run, runners unpacked tents, ate food and raised their legs just with one thing in mind; recovery.
Stage-2 at just under 50-kilometers with two tough climbs will be a challenge. However, a 0530 start will allow everyone an opportunity to ease into the day. The sting comes towards the end of the day as participants enter a long stretch of beach that takes them to the finish. For many, this will be just when the sun is at its highest and most harmful.
1. Mike Wardian (USA): 3:03:30
2. Vicente Juan García (España): 3:06:23
3. Nick Clark (UK): – 3:06:23
1. Jo Meek (UK): 3:31:45
2. Julia Bottger (Germany): 4:13:20
3. Verónica Bravo (Chile): 4:29:48
Anna Frost followed the race route offering support and encouragement. Obviously frustrated and not being able to run but embracing Costa Rica….