The Coastal Challenge 2018

“Vamanos Suzanna” I can hear Ester from a distance, beckoning me to continue running with her and Ragna. I catch up but can feel my right quad begin to tense up when I increase my pace, a pace I cannot keep. I press my hand against my quad hard enough to hold it off from seizing up. “Do not cramp now, Sawna, you’re almost done” I say. "I have nothing left, my body weak, my muscles sore, thirsty for rest" I think to myself. I’m running on fumes, I just can't do it anymore. 

Day 0

IMG_2948.jpg

I arrive at the Best Western Irazu in San Jose where the race registration was held the day before the race. Although it was a relaxed affair I felt completely out of my element. Instantly I spot elite runners branded by their sponsors; Hoka, The North Face, Salomon, Merrell, making me question what I'd gotten myself into. Sitting in the conference room, I notice that there were people of all fitness levels, sizes, shapes, and ethnicity- this seems like a well rounded bunch of athletes, I instantly sigh with relief. At the same time I couldn’t help but gawk at some of the women’s bodies. "Close your mouth, Sawna, you're drooling" I say to myself. These runners radiate confidence and look prepared for the test at hand.  Rhea, who is in Costa Rica for the Run Like A Girl retreat starting tomorrow, was thankfully by my side as I looked over at her in awe. Somehow knowing what I was thinking she quickly says “Don’t worry, Sawna! You’re strong and you’ll do great!” She assured me "They don't know, but you are someone to watch" she ended with. I’m nervous, obviously, but more so because I don’t know what I’ve gotten myself into. Despite working several jobs, sometimes three in a day just to afford this race, last week was the first time I had even looked at the course profile and sat jaw open as I googled meters to feet- they have some pretty tough climbing sections that I didn’t anticipate. Well, it’s not like I trained anyways. I’ve made my bed, so I may as well lay in it. Later that night I prepare myself for the weeks adventure, anticipating my body acceptance to whatever pain is in store. “This will be fun”, we’re my last thoughts as I drifted off to sleep. 

Day 1

I wake with a jolt, thinking I’ve overslept. My phone read 2:50AM, 5 minutes before my alarm was to set off. I quickly brush my teeth and wash my face before making coffee. As I begin the coffee, my roommate Carrie, tooth brush in mouth, nonchalantly mentions that there is a scorpion by the toilet. 

Oh. My. Dog.

I silently go through all the scenarios of the scorpion attacking my foot while I peed or whilst brushing my teeth. I snap back to reality, grab the glass cup on the bedside table and went to the bathroom and trapped the sucker underneath it. The day is starting off on the right foot! 

 Before the miles.     Photo by: Hilary Ann 

Before the miles.     Photo by: Hilary Ann 

The adventure began with a 3 hour bus ride to the start of the race. A girl with beautiful red hair quickly sat next to me and introduced herself as "Josie", from her accent I could only assume she was from the UK. We conversed the entire drive, with two long pit stops for the bathroom we finally arrived at bumpy dirt road and both walked off with a new friend. This is as far as the bus will take us, the final 2k we must walk. The runners chatted along the road as we swayed from side to side, avoided the large puddles of deep mud before the road opened to soft sandy beach and cobalt blue skies. Welcome to the starting line of 235 kilometers.

 RLAG Super Squad Photo by the talented: Hilary Ann

RLAG Super Squad Photo by the talented: Hilary Ann

Several photographs, a few pee stops in bushes, and before you knew it all racers lined up behind the starting line. This is reality, I signed up for this. In "Cinco, Quatro, Tres, DOS, UNO" and we were off! 

"Do not push the first 8 miles" I remember Hailey repeating to me. The race begins with a flat section to the first aid. Your initial course of action is to sprint- opportunist would think so, but when it's 10am and the days heat and humidity at an all time high, you must conserve your energy. I quickly set into a comfortable pace and continued forward. The heat, although extremely hot, did not faze me and I noticed quickly, that I actually enjoyed it. I ran alongside farms of palm trees for what seemed like ages, passing several runners along the way who looked as though they may have pushed themselves too much in this heat. I was in a good groove, singing to myself as I drank my sweet Gu hydration water, tablets I had never used before but seem to be working very nicely with my stomach at the moment. Fingers crossed it continues that way. 

 At the first aid station, my first of 193,743,289,259 sips of Poweraid. Photo by: Hilary Ann

At the first aid station, my first of 193,743,289,259 sips of Poweraid. Photo by: Hilary Ann

The first aid station came and went and I found myself running alone. The dirt road quickly gave way to a hilly single track. "Welcome to the rainforest" I thought as my body is completely drenched; my boa shorts sag a bit from the weight of the water as I wring my shirt and the sweat pours down. The hilly single track turns into some steep climbing and my running turns into a hike as I begin singing "Come what me" as both Ewan McGregor and Nicole Kidman just to entertain myself. Although alone, I'm in a great mood.

The beautiful single track that, come on, really was never a trail but a bushwacked section, spit you out onto another dirt road. We followed the dirt road down to the second aid station and it continued on, gifting you more of the rain forest, its vegetation and small waterfalls from the safety of the small road your feet traveled on. This is where I spotted Josie again. I was ecstatic to find a friend to chat with even if it was for a few seconds. I pressed on. 

I had made the mistake of grabbing a banana at the last aid station and my stomach almost immediately started rejecting it. Through the opposite end. I quickly glance behind me to see how far Josie was and quickly took a pit stop on the side of the trail. Relief. 

 Photo by Ian Corless

Photo by Ian Corless

 Photo by Ian Corless

Photo by Ian Corless

The miles seemed fairly easy during this stage, we had a beautiful single track that climbed up to an overlook of the river and our campsite just below. Which means, we are almost done. The trail, blanketed with leaves, was soft under the feet, allowing a speedy descent straight down the trail. The tree covered descent opened up to a river, one you must cross, twice, to get to the finish line. It was cool and welcomed, passing a few photographers as the stage came to an end. 

 Happiness in the moment. Photo by Hilary Ann

Happiness in the moment. Photo by Hilary Ann

The stage ended in Rifiki lodge. This is where Cicadas were made known, and where I truly understand that, no, the wet stuff isn't a light rain, but these bugs peeing on you. 

Camp was nestled on Rifikis lodge property, an 843 acre private reserve on the pristine Savegre River. Tents lined up with tired runners as we all gathered for dinner and listened to the Cicada males singing their mating call. The cicadas song didn't end as I laid soaking in my tent. It was hot, humid, and I sticky from constant sweating. I laid there, begging for sleep to come, waiting, wishing, hoping.

Day 2: 

Sleep never came, I lay in my tent hoping for my alarm to sound soon. I can hear people start to rise around me, notifying me that the day is beginning. 3:30 am and I didn't sleep a wink. The easiest morning tasks seemed daunting and difficult to manage. I sat at the breakfast table, eyes half opened as the coffee washed away the Trail Butter I had just eaten for breakfast. A ritual I will soon find everyday, I put my pack on and prepared for the days journey.

My eyes fight to stay open as we begin our first ascent. I can't manage to keep up with Josies pace as I linger farther back. I'm huffing and puffing, unable to catch my breath, my body begs for rest. It's only the second day, yet I am first aboard the struggle express. I continue to grind up the trail, unable to find balance. My shoes, the inov-8 trailroc 285 are my absolute favorite shoes to date, however, without tred, they are worthless. But alas! They are what I am currently wearing and are not managing to keep grip on anything. I'm frustrated beyond belief, tripping, falling, sliding, rolling ankles, unable to stand properly. My body yearns for sleep and yet here I am, pushing it far far away from what it needs. I'm hiking with fellow RLAG participant, Kerri as we converse on races we've done and trails we've experienced. It was a nice distraction from the fatigue my body was feeling. 

 'twas a booty-full day in the end. Photo by: SeekTheWild (Andres Vargas)

'twas a booty-full day in the end. Photo by: SeekTheWild (Andres Vargas)

There was a climb, a ridge line, and then a dirt road descent, back to a climb, back to a descent into a field. I couldn't push my frustration away as I continued to trip and roll my ankle as I pressed forward. What was my issue? The negativity flowed as quickly as the streams we were passing and I was merely a fish unable to swim against the current. Aware of my negativity, I make my best attempts to stop them immediately. There was a point, running along with a local Tico that I realized the problem wasn't the "trail" or my shoes, those were all but simple excuses, but the issue was just me. All I needed to do was change my attitude and my energy, form and my running would adjust accordingly. And that's exactly what I did. I pictured being back in Los Angeles, dealing with traffic, rude people, sirens and was instantly thankful for the situation I was currently in here in Costa Rica. I reminded myself that we were running toward Dominical, a town I've spent countless days at the previous week and some time last year during the RLAG retreats. I'm running toward a familiar place. At that very moment while hoping rocks to cross a stream, I slip (surprise, surprise) and my feet fly straight up and my back straight down on said rocks. "Hold back the tears, Sawna". I did a quick body check, felt a jolt a pain in my lower back but everything else seemed fine. "I'm ok!" I assure the Tico that was running with me. At this point, the stoke was too high to let a simple fall bring me down. 

I found my groove, and I ran with it. The heat of the day finally arriving and I savored it. I don't know if it was the sun or finally arriving on even terrain but I was thriving. Fatigue long gone, I was overwhelmed with a sensation I hadn't felt all day; power. Cue Kayne West 'Power' song...

 I get by with a lot of help by the rope, trying not to get pulled by the current. Photo by Ian Corless

I get by with a lot of help by the rope, trying not to get pulled by the current. Photo by Ian Corless

Power in my heart, power in my legs, power that motivated me to push forward. I began singing Queen "Don't stop me now" as I quickened my pace on the road, inevitably passing both Josie and Mirta, leaving me in the third place female position. Needless to say, finishing it Dominical I was beaming with happiness. I chugged my Vega Protein/Chia/Flax seed/Super Green concoction and immediately walked to Mongo Congo Cafe for a Vegan burger. 

IMG_2978.jpg

It was just after 11am and I had the rest of the day to eat, recover, rest and maybe go for a sunset swim with friends.

The Coastal Challenge, I could get use to this.

c2a9iancorless-com_tcc2018-07958.jpg

Day 3

Every cuss word ever imaginable currently going through my head and out my mouth. Cursing at The Coastal Challenge and everyone who created this specific route. One step, two step, three step, FALL. The vines are booby traps that yank you in every direction that is not the direction you intend on going, the trees covered in sharp pricks warning you of your unwelcomeness. The trail- oh the “trail”, doesn’t exists, merely an area bushwhacked that vertically drops off a cliff. 

One step, two step, slide on butt. 

One step, two step, slide on stomach. 

I’m beyond frustrated by my failed attempt at running today. My attempt only left me face planting on the ground or slipping backward. I continue to walk forward, slowly and with high knees, trying to avoid all the vines of deadly traps. I blame Vince, my best friend and evil trail finder that recently moved from LA to Colorado, for this, a “trail” I know he’d absolute love and it makes me undeniably mad and happy at the same time. 

 Chasing Waterfalls Photo by Hilary Ann

Chasing Waterfalls Photo by Hilary Ann

One step, two step, FALL as I grab a branch, holding on so tightly I see my knuckles turning white, my feet dangle beneath me as they desperately try to find the ground. I begin questioning my choices, and as always, my sanity. “Why am i doing this”. “I’m not good at this”. I made the mistake of not purchasing both new shoes before this trip and have suffered the consequences ever since. My Salomon Sensepros and Inov8 trailrocs on their last leg. The price I pay to save a bit of money was not worth it. The tred on both shoes completely worn off, hence the constant slipping, falling and unstableness. I swear I’m not this clumsy. Well, sometimes. Finally reaching a section of trail with a view, my movement stops and I stand straight to take in the view. As I’m almost breathless from the view, or possibly the trail, my body is graced with a sweet cool ocean breeze. I close my eyes, inhale deeply, and am reminded why I’m here. This; The constant adventure, the views, the heat, the people, all of it, is why

Today started off surprisingly well, for the first 3 miles. I was running next to Ester and continued forward in a similar pace. Although I knew my pace was not fast, I felt as though running next to Ester was a red flag. A warning that perhaps I'm pushing too hard and need to back off. A thought that soon became a reality once the river and rocks became the next few miles and hours of sheer torture. OK, I'm being quite dramatic. It was only sheer torture because I couldn't go as fast as I wanted, or am capable of. The past two years I've struggle with injury after injury with, of course, my ankles. The idea that I could possible do that again today, was terrifying. With other runners already running with blue and purple ankles, I refused to be one of them and by doing so, I took it slow. I lost a lot of time and that's OK. I continuously assured myself that it was OK to take the section easy, but with that came loss of motivation for the entire segment. I didn't try to move fast, I just took my time, crawling over rocks, swimming across the river as I gazed at what beautiful sights surrounded me. We passed by two very large waterfalls and continue out of the river area, HALLELUJAH, and continued onto a road that would inevitably lead us to single track of bushwhacked trail filled with fern booby traps, steep drop offs, slippery logs that made it a continuous obstacle course.  

 Photo by Andres Vargas

Photo by Andres Vargas

One step, two step, FALL. A cycle that repeated only to my frustration. I find myself questioning the idea that I actually paid to do this. I put myself in this situation and will continue despite my current frustration, no matter what things always get better. 

And they did. I jogged down the trail as best I could and onto a road to the next aid station. After this aid station there was the last miles all on the beach, I couldn't help but be excited. After the day of endless adventure I was excited to be in the sun and on soft terrain. My spirit began to lift as I cruised the beach passing the infamous whales tale, enjoying a slight breeze with only the occasional thought that I could possibly be lost. I remind myself that we are supposed to run to the end of the beach but it didn't stop me from searching for the pink flags. My search ended as I could see the large green coastal challenge flag off in the distance, a sign of the day coming to an end. Almost the end, the beach section ended with a mini climb before spitting you out to the highway. I'm not a huge road running fan however todays highway section was welcomed. I quick section that sped me straight to the finish and only 6 minutes off the 3rd female. I sigh with relief. Welcome Marino Ballena National Park, our campsite for the night.

Everything is sore, my feet, my quads, my arms. Why my arms? Probably from the few times i held onto trees for dear life as my feet lost balance and my body slipped from under me. As I laid on the massage table I held back the tears. Not because anything hurt but because it was so nice to be touched(that sounds weird). A hug would've sufficed but the massage was a welcome treat after a day of loneliness. I laid there as she worked on the kinks of my calves and quads while being treated to a show of howler monkeys and their family just above me.  Despite the days unfortunate discomfort, it ended surrounded by 100 of my new friends and that is probably the best part.

Day 4

If I were peanut butter, this climb would be the jam to my sandwich. I can't help but sing "Bohemian Rhapsody" by Queen ever so softly as we continue our biggest climb of the week. "Is this it?" I think to myself. I eat mountains for breakfast, and this is easy compared to some of the mountains I train on back home. I try to back off Ester who is hiking in front of me. Obviously I have a big fat girl crush on her, who wouldn't!? She's confident, strong, fierce, and later I found out she is extremely nice. At the beginning of the race I was too nervous to make conversation as we ran together. Since we got off the boat and began running, we kept the same pace and all I wanted to do is talk. As we continue climbing up, I couldn't help but think of those days on Jones peak, North Backbone and even Bear Canyon, all in worse condition and more technical than the trail I'm currently on. I play to my strengths and steep climbs are my specialty. I try to back off Esters heals as I continue singing Queen acapella. I held back from pushing on the climb despite my love for a jog straight up a steep ascent. Before the first aid station we began conversing, she began asking me what races I've completed, who my sponsors are, where I was from, trying to get a grasp on who this girl was attached to her hip. Time flew by as we were engulfed in conversation. I felt as though our pace was fairly easy but with such great company I didn't want to push it further. I was having the most fun I'd have all week! 

 Photo by Hilary Ann

Photo by Hilary Ann

We ran the hills, the ridge line, the descent and even after going off trail on accident for a bit, straight into the river. "Oh boy, not another river navigation segment" I thought instantly. As much as I wanted to stick by Ester, I couldn't help but slow down as my feet constantly slipped underneath me. I accepted that perhaps this technical section would be my weakness, but I knew there would be more climbing sections and that I could catch up. I didn't' let the river bring me down, I stayed positive and persevered. It wasn't long until I caught back up to Ester, as we both continued to climb up the rolling hills. Our conversation consistent, I couldn't help but feel gratitude toward this beautiful person, letting me join in her days run was just what I needed this week. After spending most of the challenge running alone, spending an entire day running along side someone I extremely admire was a dream come true. 

The trail rolls along a dirt road for a bit before you descend steep technical switchbacks. Ester, knowing how much I slip and perhaps can be a disaster waiting to happen offered to lead the run and I could follow her footsteps. Having someone in front gave me to confidence to trust my feet and gain some speed as we hoped, skipped and jumped over logs, around ferns, through rock piles all the way down to the next aid station. We had begun running on the road and I couldn't help but think I didn't want this segment of the race to end. Today didn't feel as though we were racing but two friends running together having fun. Perhaps this isn't how you "race" but it was a nice distraction from the weeks loneliness on trail. 

We finished Palamar Sur Central Park and then transported the few kilometers to camp. The area was large and enabled campers to spread out their tents a bit. I immediately scheduled a massage and went to take a shower. If you know me, you know my feelings toward showering. This week I've showered everyday and sometimes twice a day, probably the most I've showered all year. My schedule back home is normally packed with work hours and training, normally my extra minutes between the two are either for cooking my meal or showering- guess which one I normally prefer. Showering during the Coastal Challenge is a necessity. The heat and humidity leave you constantly wet from sweat and sticky, a cold shower is the only reprieve. 

One of my favorite things about The Coastal Challange is that it's a small race, a little over 100 runners creates an intimate vibe. It's not just a days affair but a week of camping, eating, running alongside the same athletes. At one point I was sitting next to the top 5 males, eating and chatting for a few hours. This would never happen in any other race atmosphere. 

After chatting for what seemed like hours, I grabbed a pizza to myself and finally found my blow up pillow. Tomorrow will be our longest day yet, 50k to Drakes Bay and after today's run, I am quite looking forward to it.

Day 5

 Photo by Hilary Ann

Photo by Hilary Ann

The issue I have with stage racing is knowing when to push, when to hold back and when to cruise. At what point do you know what to do? At this stage in the race I know everyday was merely an attempt to just finish without too much effort, guaranteeing energy for the days miles going forward. Today was no different, the idea of having someone to run with is ideal however I promised myself I'd go at my own pace, whatever that may be.  

 Where's Sawna Photo by Ian Corless

Where's Sawna Photo by Ian Corless

Wake up time is 3am to be able to pack my belongings, eat breakfast, go to the bathroom and board the bus by 4:45am. Sleep was very minimal due to the heat and my poor choice of eating an entire pizza that just sat in my stomach, my body making its best attempt to digest it all night long. Every morning I've packed my belongings and with the incredible help of RLAGs Courtney and Dayna they've helped take down/put up our tent. Godsends those two were during the week! After packing my items I made my best attempt to eat my morning amount of Trail Butter for breakfast as I washed it down with coffee. I could get use to this morning ritual. Trail butter has been an instrumental asset to my training as I am not one to eat breakfast, the pouch of nutty goodness is nutrient dense in just a few bites and super easy to store. It can be a bit pricey at 6 dollars a pouch but being over 700 calories, that's well worth the cost. At least that's what I tell myself when I look at my bank account and go to trailbutter addiction meetings. HA. 

The bus ride dropped us off at Sierpe river entrance, we had to take a ferry across to the other side to begin the days 50k travels. From what I hear of the today, the course is very runnable on wide gravel roads. Playing to my strength of keeping a consitent pace, it felt great to just run. Ester and I ran together for very little time before I broke away and continued forward at my own pace. If there is one thing I know I'm good at, it's running hills at a consistent pace and today I was going to run my own day. 

After the first aid station the terrain stayed the same, gravel roads led to more gravel roads, the heat making more an appearance in this fully exposed terrain. The entire time, my stomach screamed with unhappiness. Perhaps by the pizza, or maybe, just maybe, because this is my 5th day running in the heat. I had stopped several times to pee and felt as though I was needing more and more water as the day pressed on. My stomach issues growing more apparent and my pee stops being more frequent- almost feeling as though I was getting a bladder infection, things got a bit painful. Despite the discomfort, I kept my pace and pressed on. Finally after over half the miles passed, technical forest section break up the gravel road and things got a bit interesting. 

I felt a bit dizzy running through the technical rainforest, thinking I needed to pee every few minutes but nothing but pain occurred. I continued to drink my gu hydration flask, hoping it would help this pain simmer down. Running through the rainforest created a more humid atmosphere as I tried to navigate my way around the branches and ferns when suddenly I heard some movement in the bushes ahead. Taking my eyes off the trail for a second, my feet trip on a something on the trail and my body plummets forward crashing into a tree alonside the trail. I hug the tree as if thanking it for saving me from a complete fall when I saw it. The thing that distracted me from running just ahead finally made an appearance as it slithered across the trail for what seemed like 15 seconds. A very large, fat, black snake. I hold onto the tree for dear life as it continued past the trail and across to the other side, away from me. I've always been a Gryffindor fan and perhaps this is the day I get punished for not choosing Slytherin. Harry Potter humor brings me back to reality as I carefully ran by the trail and sprinted past the snakes previous path. 

Well if that didn't wake me up, perhaps another snake encounter would, or something else. Before arriving at the estuary and aid station, you run along the beach and a short trail behind some houses. To my surprise these house do not have gates to protect you from guard dogs. Pretty vicious dogs may I add. As I run by these two dogs, one small and one rather big come at me barking and growling. The large dog begins to bite at my feet as I increase my pace, yelling at the dog to get away. He didn't ever bite me but was able to remove my left shoe as we play dug a war and I am able to run off, relieved and shoe in hand. The days adventure only continues.

After running around the peninsula and crossing the boat to avoid, you know, crocodiles, I finally arrived at the next aid station. From there you run a bit more forest trails, and at this point in the day the heat is blasting. I can see the beach from the trail, excited about how close I am, when I see something on the right side of the trail ahead of me. This time thin, brown with white diamonds on the back. A fleur de lance,  a highly venomous and deadly pit viper species. My stomach drops, heart racing as I see the snake slowly slither away in the opposite direction. I wait a moment before passing the trail in the opposite side and pick my speed up, trying to leave this area as quickly as possible. Arriving at the beach my heart rate begins to decrease and I settle into a slow rhythm, "I'm so close" I think to myself. I put another Gu Hydration tablet into my Salomon flask as I feel my body aching for something other than water, Gu being a great alternative but lets be honest, I dream of an ice cold coke. My bladder only feeling worse I continue forward, rest and a soda is in the near future. 

I arrived in Drakes bay 6 hours and 1 minute and in 2nd place later, heated, bladder pain but full of happiness. Stage 5- CHECK. The camp, hustled and bustled around me, not yet set up yet as I sit and reminiscence of the week so far. 5 days and over 130 miles done and I feel great. Despite perhaps having a bladder infection or whatever may be going on, I'm quite happy with my performance and ability to stay consistent. We are in Drakes bay! Ask me 5 days ago, I couldn't imagine today, being at the finish line, one more day to go. I had the rest of the day to relax, recover, swim, eat and enjoy with fellow racers and now friends. 

One more day, 14 more miles to go!

Day 6:

“Vamanos Suzanna” I can hear Ester calling me to keep running with her and Ragna. I catch up but can feel my right quad tense up when I increase my pace, I pace I just cannot withhold. Just before mile 6 I begin to back off, slowing enough to hold off my quad from seize up. “Do not cramp now, Sawna, you’re almost done”. "I have nothing left", I think to myself. I’m running on fumes.

 Photo by Hilary Ann

Photo by Hilary Ann

I see them both leave the aid station as I quickly approach it. I notice Coconuts surrounding the table as the volunteer handed me a cup of coconut water. I declared my love for him as I chugged the sweet nectar and pressed on. I could see both Ester and Ragna off in the distance still on the beach, as I tried to push my pace, my quad quickly reminding me of its violent situation. 

 Stellar group to be lined up with! Selfie by Kevin

Stellar group to be lined up with! Selfie by Kevin

Today, the 6th and final stage of the Coastal Challenge, is a mere 14 miles that incorporate a little bit of each terrain we had experienced the last 5 days. I remember sitting on the bus on day once and the main advice Josie had given me is to live in the moment, take each day at a time. I couldn't imagine being here, day 6 and 145 miles later. 

This morning were given the opportunity to sleep in, with a 7:30 start time we all took the morning activities at a leisurely pace. Lining up at the start line you could see everyone smiling from head to toe, excited that they've made it this far- the victory lap. Talking to Ester we had agreed we'd try to keep Ragnas pace. "I don't know if I can maintain it, but I'll try" I confirm. 

I couldn't keep pace, and that's ok. Perhaps if my quad wasn't seizing up, I could have. I do not know. I inevitably went back to my leisure pace, after 5 days it didn't falter. And just like that, 6 days 143 miles 33k in elevation gain, 30 hours 41 minutes and 3rd female- DONE. 

I've ran the miles, built relationships and created memories that will last a lifetime. The Coastal Challenge isn't just a stage race, it's an epic adventure that continues on, despite the miles ending. 

 Photo by Hilary Ann

Photo by Hilary Ann

 Photo by Hilary Ann

Photo by Hilary Ann

 Photo by Hilary Ann

Photo by Hilary Ann

 Photo by Andres Vargas

Photo by Andres Vargas

The finish line was a party, the cooks were making a feast, a small bar stand set up for cervesas while runners reminisced on the last 6 days of adventure. Beer in hand, the second beer I've had all year (had one right before the race) and well worth the wait!

Thank you to The Coastal Challenge for an incredible race. Thank you to the cooks who woke up EVERYDAY at 1 am to start  breakfast and worked till way after I went to bed each night, the food absolutely incredible. Thank you to the Run Like A Girl team, Hailey for "forcing" me to sign up and to Court and Dayna for their endless dedication and hard work to make racers more comfortable during the week. Thank you for the massage team for their countless hours and magic hands that helped ease my sore muscles. To the RLAG, Gu Energy, Goodr, Territory Run Co and Choose Mountains team for their constant support! 

Now as I sit beach side, between surfing and running I'm able to type my heart away in Santa Teresa. I can reflect on the last week, my experience and my want for more. Immediately I want to sign up again, obviously, but it'll take some time for me to pay off this current trip before I can think of investing in another race a year away. 

If I were to sign up again, a few tips on things to bring/not to bring:

  • Hammock (plenty of trees to hang from, away from the ants of death)
  • Blow up mattress (LUXURY) It's nice to bring out of tent and lay in the shade, away from the ants
  • A bigger tent (bringing your tent helps, there's bit of a mess trying to find your tent everyday when you don't set it up yourself)
  • Your own recovery shake-> Key to faster recovery and dense nutrition. I brought Vega performance protein and mixed it with chia/flax seed and a superfood green powder. Drank it everyday after each run and sometimes 2X.
  • More nut butter. I ate a jar of nut butter during the RLAG retreat I worked the week prior and didn't want to eat Trail butter other than for breakfast in hopes to conserve what I had. Next time I'll bring more!
  • More snacks, nuts, dried fruit, healthy alternatives to get more calories as a vegan. 
  • Did NOT need my sleeping bag, created more hassle to pack things and took up too much room. 
  • Brought too much leisure clothing. All you really need is one bathing suit, one comfy shorts/tank and maybe a dress for last day. 
  • Heavy duty bug spray. The bugs are no joke. They will eat you alive and cause extreme discomfort. 
  • 2 pairs sunglasses incase yours swim away/fall off the side of a cliff. 
  • extra socks that you know your feet like. I re wore a few pairs of stance socks because my feet never blister in them and was nervous to wear anything else!
  • Ear plugs are a necessity during the night and/or headphones. 
  • Waterproof phone case
  • Your own fuel for the race, do not depend on aid stations

DAY ONE

DAY TWO

DAY THREE

DAY FOUR

DAY FIVE

DAY SIX

Till next time! 

Peace, love and happiness