Humidity hovering near 84% with temperatures in the 80s were the biggest concern for race officials and the more than 400 athletes leading up to the October 28, 2012 Costa Rica Skyrunning Race. However, overcast skies, intermittent breeze, and lower temperatures were on tap race day which made the race much more enjoyable for everyone involved with the event.
Top U.S. trail runners Jason Delaney and Amber Moran were among the athletes on the start line for the 20 kilometer event, the first race of the three-race schedule which also included a 10K and a 5K.
“We had more runners than we expected and are very happy with the turnout,” said race committee member Francisco Oviedo, “Trail Running has become more popular in Costa Rica with one to two races every month. Most of the runners in this race are from San Jose.” In addition to Costa Rica and the U.S., several other countries including Venezuela, Colombia, Germany, France, Honduras, Mexico, South Korea and Panama were represented.
At 8:05 a.m., the 20K runners set off on the challenging course which included a very fast start with Delaney leading the way.
“I took the lead from the start. Some guys were with me for the first mile, then I was all alone,” said Delaney, “I went out too hard and slowed down a lot during the race. I sprained my ankle about 35 minutes into the race on a rocky section of the road – a light sprain, not a bad one – then I fell, but managed to win.”
Delaney finished in 1:38:59, well ahead of second-place men’s finisher Andres Fernandez who crossed the line in 1:56:26. Third place for the men was Mainor Ramirez who posted a time of 1:56:47.
Asked about the course and his favorite sections, the 32-year-old from Golden, CO, said, “It was mostly graveled roads and double track, though some areas were covered with weeds and grass – some knee high. A lot of the road was cobbled with rocks 6-8” in diameter – it was one of those rocks that caused me to twist my ankle. I guess I got to daydreaming and stepped wrong. When I fell, I was about 2K from the finish and I stepped on what I thought was grass and it wasn’t. My foot sunk into the ground, and I just slipped.
“I liked the first climb, because I like climbing and I also enjoyed going through the forest. We ran through farm fields and I saw cows, horses, pigs, goats, and dogs – every house had a dog. I heard something in the trees screeching at one point, but never saw anything making the noise. Towards the end, the muddy, clumpy grassy stuff was kind of tricky – a different kind of footing from the rest of the course.”
Since Delaney hadn’t gotten a chance to preview much of the course – which included 1,591 feet of climbing — he was glad to have an ATV leading the way. “Most of the race I didn’t see the ATV, it went ahead of me, but stopped at every place there was a turn. Philippe (Bukovec, the race director) was on the ATV and had a bolt cutter just in case the fencing wasn’t opened. I don’t know if he ever used it.”
About his experience in Costa Rica Delaney reflected, “It’s been wonderful. People have been very friendly. It was a lot of fun. I liked the course…it beat the crap out of me.”
Moran, like Delaney, led the women’s field from the start. In fact, Moran finished second overall, just ten minutes behind Delaney
“I was probably in fifth to the first mile and started passing the men after that,” said the 34-year-old from Asheville, NC, “About 4K in, I had passed all the other guys, but Jason. There was one guy that ran behind me and we talked for a little ways. We ran together until about mile 8. After the climb, he faded and I ran the rest of the way alone.”
Second woman was Maria Rivera who ran 2:16:34 while Zenith Rodriguez rounded out the top three with a time of 2:30:51. There were 102 finishers in the 20K.
Asked about the course Moran said, “I enjoyed the race. It was fun, but it did beat me up. It was either up or down – no real flat spots. It was neat to run through the farm lands taking in the sights and smells – it opened up all the senses. There were three creek crossings and a river crossing. We went through some puddles and bogs. My socks were totally soaked by the end of the race, but the water did cool my feet off. The good thing about the shoes I wore (Inov-8 Talon 212), they don’t hold the water – it kind of squishes out.
“I liked the creek crossings and the river crossing was probably my favorite part of the course. That…and the unknown. I wasn’t sure what we’d see and experience. It was an adventure.”
The 10K and 5K runs started at 8:30 and 8:35 respectively and were run over the first part of the 20K course. The 5K runners went to a turnaround point and then looped back to the finish on a steep climb on a rocky and leaf-strewn trail gaining about 900 feet of elevation from start to finish. The 10K course made a keyhole loop which included a steep climb before rejoining the 5K course to the finish.
The top three male and females in the 10K were all Costa Ricans. The men’s and women’s champions were Agustin Carvajal and Jennifer Moscoso who ran 47:47 and 1:03:33 respectively. In second place for the men was Sebastian Fallas in 52:52, followed by Federico Pacheco in 53:43. For the women, Veronica Tamez finished second in 1:09:10 with Pamela Brenes rounding out the top three in 1:09:21.
The men’s 5K champion was Costa Rican Osualdo Munoz who ran 37:00, while the women’s champion was Nancy Hobbs, Colorado Springs, CO, who crossed the line ahead of the men’s winner to post a time of 31:39. Hobbs was the liaison between the U.S. athletes and the race organizers and traveled with Delaney and Moran to the event.
The 10K was the most popular distance with 247 finishers. There were 94 finishers in the 5K. Both the 10K and the 20K had ATVs as lead vehicles on course while the 5K had a lead horse and rider, unique for most trail running races though a mainstay in Costa Rica.
Leading up to the race awards ceremony, a number of participants and spectators wanted to have their picture taken with Moran and Delaney. “That part was really fun,” said Delaney, “I had some people asking to take their picture with me after Pikes Peak this year (Delaney won the Pikes Peak Ascent in August), but nothing like this.”
Awards were presented to the top three men and women in each of the three races. The prizes were unique hand-carved balsa wooden painted with bright colors to highlight the flora and fauna of the region – toucans, monkeys, and snakes amid the rainforest.
Asked whether she’d like to do more international racing, Moran, like Delaney responded with an emphatic, “yes,” and added, “Definitely. It’s such a unique experience. You meet and make friends from all over the world.”
Plans are already underway for the second edition of the event to again be held in October 2013. In addition to the 5K, 10K, and 20K, there will also be a 120K run around Lake Arenal. “We are very satisfied how everything went this year, but we are looking to make improvements to the courses for next year and to move the start/finish staging area to a different hotel,” said co-race director Josue Fernandez. “It was great to have the U.S. athletes at the race and we want to invite them back for next year.”
Fernandez also organizes another race in Costa Rica, the Challenge Irazu, which celebrates its third running in July 2013. The event includes a 5K, 10K, 20K, and 42K and is part of the Costa Rica Skyrunning program.
Additional details on the 2013 events as well as race results for this year’s events will be available at www.costaricarace.com.