2009 Coastal Challenge Opens With Heat, Rain and Pain
Fifth Edition of The World's Expedition Race Launches Competitors Across Lush Terrain in Southwest Costa Rica
By Matt Draper
Savegre Valley, Costa Rica (February 1, 2009) - The first day of the 2009 edition of The Coastal Challenge (TCC), a multi-day expedition race from Feb. 1-7, doused competitors with heat and humidity while pushing them through more than 33 kilometers of dirt roads, rain forests and rivers in Southwest Costa Rica. Seventy-five racers from nine countries traversed a gauntlet of hills under a scorching sun before crossing a rainy finish line at the Rafiki Lodge in the Savegre Valley. The 2009 course, coined "The Rainforest Run," marks the fifth edition of TCC and is set along Costa Rica's Pacific coastline.
"We were thrilled to have intense heat, cooling rain, and a challenging route that brought competitors to an oasis in the middle of the rain forest," said Tim Holmstrom, race director, alluding to the pool and tropical lodge at the finish line where competitors relaxed before setting up their tents. "From grueling trail paths to the final water crossing – where competitors could either cross by swimming or using a hand trolley – this was far from a typical long-distance run."
Rising before dawn, competitors, volunteers and staff embarked on a bus ride to the race start at Quepos, a small, palm-tree lined beach town nestled along the coast. At exactly 10 a.m. CST, the field stampeded through town before battling forested hills, dusty valleys, and tropical rain forest.
Costa Rican Javier Montero, the 2008 TCC champion, finished first in the men's expedition category with a time of two hours and 49 minutes. Americans David James (2:51) and Scott Jurek (3:01) finished second and third, respectively.
“I felt fully immersed in the jungle” said Jurek, a first-time TCC competitor and one of the world’s premiere ultra runners. Jurek said he found the “bushwacking” portion of the course challenging, and noted that the jungle was deafening in terms of the noise coming from insects.
In the women's expedition field, Jaclyn Greenhill of the U.S. cruised to the top spot in a time of three hours and 47 minutes. Kelly Ridgway, also from the U.S., finished second (3:58), while Costa Rican Ligia Madrigal (4:03) took third. The expedition run - the cornerstone of TCC - pushes competitors over 237 kilometers in the ultimate test of will and determination.
Greenhill, who was soaking in the lodge’s natural pool after finishing, said she most enjoyed the water section and “cow-patty trails” of the first stage. She also noted she was traveling with her mother, Janet, who is participating TCC’s adventure tours.
Javier Sanchez of Costa Rica and Bill Butcher of the U.S. finished tied for first in the men's adventure category (4:09), while Adrienne Gordon of the U.S. and Carla Cesaroni of Canada tied for first (5:35) in the women's field. The adventure category offers a shortened, yet extremely challenging 125-kilometer route along the same terrain and landscape of the expedition run.
Team "No Artificial Ingredients" from Costa Rica took first in the team category. Also of note is Team Project Athena, a non-profit organization founded by five female adventure athletes who have each survived life-affirming struggles. Athena formed to grant the adventure-oriented wishes, or "Athenaships," to women who have experienced medical or traumatic setbacks. Athenaship recipient Sara Jones, a two-time cancer survivor, leads Team Project Athena at this year’s TCC.
With the first leg of the race complete, competitors turn their attention to day two, a daunting 39-kilometer stretch that will feature 2250 meters of elevation gain. The course will move from the Savegre Valley to Dominical Beach, leading competitors through more hills and several bodies of water. Tomorrow's route also features the week's first cutoff.
Check out daily pics, route book, and the leaderboard at www.tccadventures.com.