New Zealand’s Anna Frost and the UK’s Tom Owens dominated the 2017 edition of Costa Rica’s 13th edition of The Coastal Challenge – a six day race that follows the coastline stating in Quepos and culminating at the iconic Drake Bay.
The Salomon sponsored duo grabbed the race by the scruff of the neck on day one and neither looked in danger of relinquishing the lead despite intense heat, high humidity and a tough and challenging course that weaved in and out of the Talamancas for an overall distance of 250km.
Spain’s Chema Martinez, a participant in the 2016 edition of the race had spent several months specifically preparing for the race but despite his speed (he’s a 2:08 marathon runner) he could not handle Owens technical prowess not only climbing but descending.
Hardrock 100 winner, Jason Schlarb placed 3rd with a strong performance. His ability to transition from the cold and snow of Colorado to the heat and humidity of Costa Rica was impressive. The race was not without its challenges for the Altra athlete, on day one he made a navigational error losing him valuable time.
Notably, Costa Rican athletes came to the fore and impressed, the highest place going to Erick Aguero who just missed the podium placing 4th after fighting hard with Schlarb.
“I am very motivated and proud of my performance so far. I turned on my phone yesterday and was amazed at all the messages of support I’ve had from the Costa Rican running community. I will give it my all to complete this race 3rd overall. A podium finish has been my objective from the start.” – Erick Aguero
The ladies’ race had arguably the strongest line-up in the history of the race with 2016 champion, Ester Alves returning to defend her title. In addition, 2015 Marathon des Sables champion Elisabet Barnes toed the start line with mountain specialist and two time Everest Trail Race winner, Spain’s Anna Comet.
Frost, a last minute entry to the race, dominated from beginning to end with five stage victories, the only lapse coming on the last day when the New Zealander could ease off the gas and enjoy the Corcovado National Park. It was an emotional journey!
“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
Elisabet Barnes placed second on day one and looked set for a strong race, however, her technical running could not match Alves and Comet. Finally finishing 4th a podium place had maybe been a possibility had she not made a navigational error on day four.
Anna Comet started steady and looked relaxed and strong as the day’s passed. She had a battle on her hands on day five when sickness and a stomach upset scuppered her otherwise consistent running. Her margin though over Alves was enough to allow her to lose time and still place 2nd overall.
Portugal’s Alves looked to struggle through day one and most definitely improved as the day’s passed. She excelled on day five and opened up a gap of 9-minutes on Barnes thus taking the final podium slot. Barnes was not willing to give up without a fight and vowed she would fight the last day. Alves was like a tornado on the sixth day and from the gun pushed hard leaving the rest of the ladies’ in her wake.
“I decided not to waste any time and ran the last 10km full out skipping the water point. It’s amazing what the body can do in this heat, the mind takes control and the drive is there.” – Ester Alves
Dense rainforest, technical trails, stunning beaches, palm trees, a plethora of wildlife and relaxed campsites in amazing locations make the ‘TCC’ one of the bucket-list races for the runner who is looking for the next challenge.
Race winner Tom Owens summed it up as he flexed in Drake Bay after the last stage, “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…!”