The Coastal Challenge, ready or not, here we come!

With the Coastal Challenge only three weeks away, we decided it was a good time to talk about our journey, our feelings and our fears!

I remember one night I was browsing “Instagram” on the hashtag #trailrunning. I stumbled upon a girls feed by the name of Gemma Slaughter. She had amazing pictures of trail running near to where we lived, but she also had pictures of trail running in Costa Rica. Her comments said that she had ran 230km over 6 days along the coast, and through the jungle in the Coastal Challenge. Not only had she participated and finished the race, she had one first place female. I commented on her pictures since she was local, and after commenting back and forth on our respected Instagram accounts, we exchanged emails and then finally phone numbers. There was an immediate connection between us, and we decided to meet in person before hitting the trails together. We went out for sushi one night and talked non-stop. She shared her Coastal Challenge experience with me and I was blown away by her strength. I also could not wrap my head around running 230km through the jungle over a 6 day span. Courtney and Dayna and I loosely talked about the race, and headed to the website a few times but decided we weren’t ready but it was definitely something to add to our bucket list. Since Gemma won the race last year, she would be returning again this year to defend her title. The more and more we talked about the race, the more and more we were starting to consider it. We all sat down one day and talked seriously about it. Were we going to do it? This was August and Courtney and I had just completed our first ultras, the Squamish 50km. We decided that we should wait, get some more experience, and then do it in a few years. I went to work that night knowing that we were going to one day do the Coastal Challenge, just not anytime soon. When I came home from the shift, I turned my phone off so I could sleep all day. When I woke up that afternoon my phone was overloaded with text message after text message from Courtney and Dayna. Long story short, they had registered all three of us for the Coastal Challenge in February of 2014. We were going! They decided this was the best time to do it, it worked for all of us to get the time off, why should we put it off any longer!? We ecstatic and terrified!
 
Photo Credit, the Coastal Challenge
Trying to wrap my mind around running such a crazy race has been interesting. I had no idea how to train physically for such an event, nor did I know how to prepare myself mentally. The three of us teamed up with Oxygen Yoga and Fitness and started attending hot infrared yoga, pilates, boot camps and deep stretch classes to start preparing our bodies for the heat. We also registered for various runs through out the fall season such as the Around the Lake 30km in October and the Bellingham trail marathon in November so that we had motivation to keep our distance up. We ran 44km across the Grand Canyon in the heat and blazing sun with 2500m elevation gain and loss. We ran back to back long runs on the weekends on the north shore. We have watched our grocery bills increase, as well as our training time, and our time away from our families. Our friends and family have watched us pounding out mile and after, sweating through yoga class after pilates class, and scarfing down more food then you would think could fit into our bodies. (Seriously every time I go to my parents the first thing I do is open the fridge. Thank you for you patience Mum and Dad!!) Our friends and family have been nothing but supportive for us, even though I swear they think we are all crazy.
 
I think the hardest part of staying motivated for the race was that it still seems so surreal. It has been hard to imagine what we are about to embark on, and at times it has felt really, really far away. Training has also been harder now that it is winter and the days are shorter. Getting out for longer runs have been difficult at times, but we have stayed motivated. Most of our usual training friends are on rest mode for the winter so it has been harder to get group runs out together. We’ve logged miles alone, together, with new friends, with our dogs, in the rain, in the freezing cold, in the snow. We’ve been there to support each other when we voice our fears and concerns about the race. We have sent a million texts, made hundreds of phone calls to each other, and it has been amazing to have each other through out this whole journey. Gemma has been a huge help mentally preparing us for this. She keeps saying there is no sense in being afraid, just embrace the whole experience.
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photo credit, the Coastal Challenge
Now, as we start to lay out our gear, and check off the list of things we need, it is finally starting to set in. We’ve put in the hard work to get to this point, now it is time to enjoy it. We might never have another experience like this. On January 28th we are boarding a plane, the three of us plus Gemma, to spend 4 days in Costa Rica before the race actually starts. We will then touch our toes to the start line on February 2nd, representing team Canada in a race that has countries across the world participating! We will proudly wear our Canadian flags on our packs through out each of the 6 days of this adventure. When we registered for the race back in the summer, it seemed unfathomably far away. It was hard to believe it would ever get here, but now are just over three weeks away from touching our toes to the start line. We all have different stories to how we got to where we are right now, but we doing this together. We all see it not as a race, but as a challenge. We are in competition with no one but ourselves. Our biggest fear is the heat, and how it will effect our hydration and energy level. We have never raced in heat like this before, nor have we ran this amount of distance, over this amount of days. Staying on top of our hydration will be key. You are allowed 1 LITRE of IV fluid during the race before you are disqualified. All racers must carry 2L of water/fluid on them at all times. We are also bringing tons of the race food we know and love to stay on top of our caloric intake. The goal is to be eating 100-200 calories every hour while we are running. We will then stuff our faces and put our feet up at each camp at the end of each day. We are camping in tents on the beach, in villages and in the jungle for the 6 days. There will be no lush hotel beds, just an air mattress and a sheet inside a tent. This adventure is going to be like nothing else we have ever done, or ever imagined ourselves doing, but it is happening!!! We will hopefully have Internet connection at some stages of the race so that we will be able to post updates on how we are doing. We also all plan to carry a camera on us to take pictures and “have someone to talk to”, as Gemma said. We anticipate there will be a lot of alone time, a lot of time to think, and a lot of really getting to know ourselves. It is hard to imagine that much time alone, in a strange environment, running through somewhere none of us have ever been. I am also going to try and GPS the route so you can follow along each day how far we have ran.
 
The Coastal Challenge so far has taught us that we are much stronger than we ever thought possible. It has showed us that if you truly want to achieve something, you can set your mind to it and work towards it. When we cross the finish line, we will not be the same people. We will have grown so much, learned so much about ourselves and what we are capable of, and who knows what else. There is so much mystery in an event like this, so many unknowns, so many variables, so many things we can not be fully prepared for. But that is also the beauty of this event. There is so much excitement, nerves, fears, and a million things we have no idea to expect. I can not wait to experience every bit of the Coastal Challenge, all the ups and downs of the roller coaster of ultra running. The highs and the lows, the struggles and the triumphs. The tears, the hugs, the smiles. Bring it on Coastal Challenge 2014 and we will see you on the other side of that finish line!!!!!!
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