The Coastal Challenge 6-day ultra race (Costa Rica) ends at a beautiful place called Drake Bay in the Corcovado National Park. I really recommend spending a couple of days down there after the race as there are loads of cool things to do!
Look up the Surf and Turf guys down on the beach, we went on a beautifully breezy quad biking tour to the waterfall we ran through on the last day of the race, and we also chartered a fishing boat and fisherman/captain through them, combining catching Jacks and Black Tuna with snorkelling at Cano Island. The colourful fish and coral will keep you enthralled for hours, swimming in bath-water seas. On our return, our guide gutted the fish and took us to the restaurant next door and instructed the chef to cook it just how we liked it, for a hugely reasonable price! It was DELICIOUS. Nothing better than catching your own fish and eating it, yum! (Unless vegetarian or vegan, sorry if you are!)
We also did a nighttime frog and spider tour which was excellent, you can book these from pretty much all the hotels and self catered accommodation in this tiny village. Just take a walk about and choose your tour!
Trail Running mag reader Chris Unger from London (originally Oz) won a race place on The Coastal Challenge just 6 weeks before the event started! Despite never running more than 19 miles before, and no back to back race experience, I was totally and utterly impressed with Chris’ never say die attitude and quietly dogged determination during the entire 6-day race this Feb. If anyone can give advice about how to succeed in your first multi-stage race, it’s Chris.
With around only 6 weeks of training dissected by two lots of minor surgery on my back and hip I had to make the training that I did effective. My training was exclusively running with a little bit of Yoga. I did have a training plan, though this was built up from a foundation of family and work commitments. i.e. running when I had a gap in my diary. Prior to finding out I was going to the TCC the furthest I had run was 19 miles. In my mind I needed to have a least one marathon distance run in my legs before the race.
I don’t think there is any one thing that enabled me to finish and many of the things that I believe helped me finish may also be the same things that others who didn’t finish also utilised. Though it wasn’t necessary a conscious decision I seemed to have a balanced management of both my physical and mental resources over the 6 days. I had nothing left by the time I finished the race which was a wonderful feeling as I knew I gave it all that I could, a proper 100% effort, which is something we generally don’t do in our daily lives. I slept well, but again this isn’t something we can necessarily control. My motivations in running the race were intrinsic; I wasn’t pushed by anyone and didn’t need to validate myself to anyone. I wasn’t there to compete against other runners but rather to compete with myself. I was there for an experience for which I hoped would have a positive impact on my life in a context beyond just running. Having a head full of things to process that are not necessarily related to the run helped me during the dark periods where I needed not to be thinking about running. I frequently reminded myself to enjoy the experience and visualise what it was going to feel like to finish the race.
The experience has blown my mind. My top tip for other multi-day racers is to listen to those who are more experienced than you, take on board the advice that works for you, but at the end of the day you have to run the race your own way.
I ran quite a few miles with Lynden Kemp from West Sussex, an experienced multi-stage racer from whom I learnt a great deal. His answer to my question, “Don’t you get bored?” has made my longer training runs since The Coastal Challenge way more interesting, following his advice to listen out for the wildlife, look at birds, and focus on the surrounding scenery whatever it may be. And also to think of long runs as a privilege rather than a chore. Thanks Lynden! He has also done Marathon des Sables, so I asked him how it compares to The Coastal Challenge as obviously both are super hot – the main reason I found it so tough.
I signed up for TCC only 8.5weeks before the start of the race. The reason for my training being so short was that I tore ligaments in my left ankle at the end of August. My first ankle recovery training was in mid November, when I did a trip to the Cairngorms to bag a few new Munros. On my return my ankle felt much stronger, so I started running on it again and continued with my race prep. I never did a huge amount of training for the race (I never do), mainly due to family commitments and work. I got my weekly mileage to peak at about 40ish miles per week.
They are both very different races and thus very hard to compare, but here’s my MdS v TCC:
· one is hot and dry the other hot and humid.
· one has 750+ competitors the other has approx 50 competitors.
· one has you running in a procession of runners the other you maybe running on your own for several hours.
· One you have to be self-sufficient the other you get fed like a king.
· One is cold at night the other is the same temp 24 hours a day.
· Both races I picked up a couple of blisters.
· Both races there was amazing camaraderie amongst fellow competitors.
· After both races the first beer tasted divine…
On the MdS I had trouble keeping the sand out of my trainers and probably didn’t have the correct gaitors for myself.
On the day 1 of the TCC I forgot my race snacks for the stage. This really put me on edge and unsettled me for the majority of the first stage. But banana and fresh pineapple at their aid stations made a very good substitute.
For me the thing I love about all the races I’ve done is the scenery you see during each stage, its my motivation each day, it keeps me pushing forward. Humans have genetically evolved as persistence hunters, which means we’re designed to do multi day ultras. You just have to convince your brain that it can do it. Not finishing isn’t an option…so don’t ever consider it!
Be content in your own space and don’t let your inner demons ever get the upper hand.
Now that the clocks have gone back, it’s easier to get out of work in time for an indescribably beautiful, peaceful run at sunset.
Tonight I ran from about 7:15pm to 8:30pm, through the woods to Elton (popped in on a colleague who was just back from the pub!) and back through Fotheringhay. Don’t you just love it when you can feel the warmth of the trees as you pass by them? And the whisper of a faint breeze whooshing past your Buff-covered ears?
I’d been looking for inspirational photos for the front section of Trail Running magazine today and twice, when I looked left to the sunset, I felt like my brain clicked a picture of the scene for those pages. Number 1: A Turner-esque swirl of faded dusky blue sky muddled with two bright pink brushstrokes of cloud swooshing off into the sky. Number 2: A bristle of tall, pencil-straight trees, no leaves yet, so the soft peach of sunset made a remember-forever backdrop behind. The pink made them stand out spectacularly and I kept snapping my head away so I could turn back again and again to renew the scene in my mind. Amaze balls.
I was also doing what Lynden from The Costal Challenge in Costa Rica does. Listening to the wildlife and really looking at everything. I noticed the lichen on the bridge by Elton lock and a heron glancing off the water, and a funny-looking tree just out of Warmington Mill. And the birds. At sunset they go mad! Who needs an iPod when you’re listening to their calls and tweets and yowls. Loved it.
This is one of my best times of day to run in spring. What’s yours?