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February 08, 2010

Ring of Fire: The Coastal Challenge Continues

By Guest Blogger

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Ty_Stevens Editor's note: Ty Stevens continues to report from Costa Rica as he conquers the Coastal Challenge.

With the towering slopes of Volcano Arenal, an active volcano in northwestern Costa Rica, within striking distance, the Coastal Challenge racers had no idea what they were about to get themselves into on stage one of the six-day adventure race throug Costa Rica's lush countryside. Elevation alone was a big challenge, with a total of 4,100 feet of change.

Setting off from the city of La Fortuna, the racers and I left the safety of the city, the comfort of the cafés, and warmth of the cobblestone streets to trek through some very unforgiving and at times harsh landscape.

Pura Vida. This is what life is all about. Risk and reward.

The risk, blisters from wet shoes, sprains, strains, or broken bones from rocks and roots sticking out in steep inclines and declines. The reward, finishing each day and waking with the ability to run another.Sugarcane and cattle

Day One:Two-time champion Javier Montero of Costa Rica is in a position to take an unprecedented third win. While unmatched in the previous two races, Montero will have his toughest challenge yet with newcomer and local Costa Rican Ceasar Ortega. Ortega trailed Montero by less than three minutes, with a finishing time of 02:41:45.

Margaret Phillips (USA) lead the women’s division with a finish time of 04:01:42

Day Two: Despite heavy overnight rains making for tough muddied trails, I took a hefty lead over fourth place runner Victor Zuniga (CRC). My prior training in the Pisgah Mountains outside of my hometown in North Carolina had me well positioned for the multiple hill climbs. I am new to this type of stage adventure race, with a competitive background consisting of several marathons, a few triathlons, and a 30-mile ultra marathon. Until stage two, I had yet to run more than 30 miles. Pushing myself beyond what I've explored to date was a huge accomplishment for me today. Costa Rica has been the perfect setting for my first multi-day event.

Day Three: Leading the women's division through stage two and breaking into the top five overall, Canadian Judith Abbot overtook day one leader Margaret Phillips (USA) prior to checkpoint one. Flatter terrain and cooler weather made for a faster course on the third stage of the Coastal Challenge Tuesday morning, allowing for Judith Abbot (Canada) to lengthen her lead in the women's division. With a strong finish on day one and taking first place on day two, Abbot is poised for her first adventure race win.

"It's very exciting to watch Judith take on some of the most breathtaking, remote and challenging running routes in the world and come out with the will and ability to endure more," said Race Director and Event Founder Tim Holmstrom. "Her mental strength is very tough for her first stage race and we're very excited to see the outcome."

Day Four: I came into the first multi-day stage adventure race looking to finish with a decent time. After taking second on day four of The Coastal Challenge, I now find myself in competition for second place. After four days of hills, wind, rain, and more hills, I have all but closed the gap between first and second place race leaders Javier Montero (CRC) and Cesar Ortega (CRC). I didn't wake up and think I would take second. Those guys are tough and this was the second hardest stage of the race, but I took a risk and ran alongside Javier the entire race and it paid off.

Javier Montero (CRC) still continues to lead overall and finished the day with a time of 4:30:00. Running next to Javier, one of Costa Rica's finest runners, was a huge highlight for me today. Knowing that I'm keeping pace with him is very humbling and really makes me realize how small I am on this course and in this world.

Top three men's division finishing times: Javier Montero (CRC) 4:30:00, Ty Stevens (USA) 4:38:47 and Cesar Ortega (CRC) 4:44:34.

Top five women's division finishing times: Margaret Phillips (USA) 6:22:23, Judith Abbot (Canada) 6:52:34 and Stacey Shand (Canada) 6:52:41.

Stay tuned for more details as blogger Ty Stevens races through the Pacific Ring of Fire; through inland lakes, windswept highlands, dense Costa Rican forests, sharp ridgelines, bone-dry tropical forests, and actively spewing volcanoes. Check back for race results and lessons learned.  

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Amazing post. I really like the given pictures too. Good job!

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