My invitation to race the Jungleman Marathon in Costa Rica came in early February, just as I was emerging from a full month of injured restlessness. In addition to getting hurt, my enthusiasm had suffered from a mixture of Rocky Mountain winter and a lingering hangover from my heartbreaking shortfall at Bandera. Nevertheless I was overjoyed to regain the ability to enjoy moderate amounts of suffering each morning, and the invitation certainly helped to relight the fire under my newly fat ass.
When I landed in Liberia last Thursday I was greeted by RD Roman Urbina, his partner from La Ruta Adventures, Erica, and crazy, stifling heat that would become a point of major difficulty for me over the next couple days. Roman and Erica were amazing ambassadors from the beginning and they spent the hour long drive to Tamarindo educating me on the race and all things Costa Rica. It was a true privilege to meet these two even though I constantly felt like I was playing the role of ignorant gringo.
After setting up in my luxurious beach side accommodations, I laced up the sneaks for a quick 60 minute tour of the course we were to run on Saturday. I returned to the hotel an hour later awkwardly sweaty and quite nervous about my prospects to run well during the race. I came to find that the course was literally 100% sand and slippery reef with very little opportunity to find a legitimate rhythm. Still though, I was beyond stoked to be there and embraced the fact that I was well out of my comfort zone, while still honing my craft in a beautiful place. Life is good.
Race day was quite memorable and the energy at the start line was fantastic. Runners competing in every distance were dispatched simultaneously onto an endless expanse of soft sand and, since I had no way of knowing who was in the marathon, I decided to just run with the leaders from the beginning. About two miles in, runners encounter a pretty interesting river crossing that was neck deep due to the morning high tide. I successfully negotiated the crossing using a surprisingly skillful two-bottle freestyle stroke and soon found myself running alone down a pristine strip of white sand beach. Pretty fun stuff.
The running was truly sloggish but still supremely enjoyable. Very similar to a really snowy winter trail run. By the time I left the aid station turnaround at 21k, I determined that my lead had already grown to twelve minutes. The win was all but sealed up but I was determined to stay focused and crush the second half, if only for mental practice. With Bandera memories still fresh in mind, it was not hard to stay motivated all the way across the river and back to Tamarindo.
Being at sea level certainly made me feel like a monster aerobically, but the heat was a really tough variable to deal with. I crossed the finish line with my arms raised and, without breaking stride, ran directly to the water and dove headfirst into the Pacific, much to the delight of the gathered spectators. It was a great way to cool off after a really tough effort.
I spent the rest of the day chatting with other racers and locals while enjoying several Imperial cervesas to rehydrate. I am enormously grateful for my experience in Costa Rica and was humbled by the reception I received from those who call Tamarindo home. What an amazing place in the universe. Roman and his team have it totally dialed down there. I would encourage anyone looking for a true running vacation to give his events a look.
The running community is truly a global family, which I more fully realized this weekend. It’s always fun to meet new people and make new friends in such a supportive and inspiring atmosphere. Costa Rica was no different. It was great to see such a vibrant bunch of folks out there for some shared suffering. I hope I can return soon.
Next up is the Leona Divide 50 on April 28th. Major stokage. Fire it up.