The Coastal Challenge (TCC) is a 6-day multi-stage running event on the Pacific Coast of Costa Rica. I did this in 2016 and 2017 and will return in 2018. You can read more about the race in my blog from the 2016 event. This article is a recommended kit list based on my experience of the race, I hope you find it useful. As always the caveat is that everyone is an individual and you may want to tweak things to fit your particular preferences and also consider whether you are a runner or a walker or anything in between. Also note that any mandatory kit will be specified by the race organisers so always check the official pre-race instructions.
It is suggested to use an “action packer” for your gear, however this is not really practical for most people travelling from overseas. A waterproof duffel bag is a great alternative and a popular choice. Personally I like the Ortlieb waterproof duffel bags but similar bags will be just fine. I take the 110l as I think it is better to have a little bit more room than not enough. That saves your tent mates from having to cope with all of your gear spread out in the tent as well… Due to the high humidity I advise packing your gear inside in dry bags or plastic bags.
You can bring your own tent or rent a (shared) tent from the race organisation. If you bring your own tent make sure that it is one that is well ventilated and suited to warm and humid environments. You will easily get condensation build-up otherwise. If you bring your own tent you will carry it in your race bag and put it up and take it down yourself. If you rent a tent the race organisers will put it up and take it down for you.
The nights are warm and a sleeping bag is not really necessary. A sleeping bag liner and perhaps a fleece or thin blanket for the early morning hours will be more than sufficient.
The Black Diamond Moji Lantern or similar is a great little light to have in the tent for late evening and early morning.
Ear plugs are a good idea!
In camp you will have access to toilet and showers. Some camp sites are on the beach and you can go for a swim. For camp I recommend:
- Travel towel (quick drying fabric is essential)
- Swim wear
- Some clothes for camp such as shorts + T-shirt or similar
- Flip flops or other comfortable shoes to walk around in
- Wash line + pegs to hang up your wet racing gear
- Head torch as it gets dark in the evening
- Charger (charging facilities available in camp) or spare batteries for head torch
- Toilet roll in case this is not supplied at all camp sites or in case of it running out.
The terrain varies a fair bit but the common theme is hot, humid and wet underfoot. When you run in a hot and humid environment the sweat doesn’t evaporate from your body so you don’t cool down as well as in a dry environment. I have found that wearing as little as possible helps and to choose shoes that drain well. Because your luggage is being transported you have some flexibility here of adding some choices to your kit. I recommend:
- Running shoes with good grip on wet rock (essential for Day 3) and that drain well (essential for all days). I suggest you take at least two pairs of shoes. I will not recommend a particular model as everyone has different feet but for next year’s race I am personally likely to go for something like HOKA Speedgoat 2 or HOKA Speed Instinct 2.
- Small race vest primarily for carrying water. I used the Raidlight Responsiv 3L which is perfect as you can choose whether to use hard bottles or soft bottles and still have a bladder. It is light weight and with just enough storage capacity. Note that even though it comes supplies with two 350ml bottles it can take up to 2 x 800ml hard bottles.
- Bottles or bladder or both for water (I suggest you have capacity to carry 2l of water). There are plenty of streams so as an option you can carry a filtration system or water purification tablets. If you do take soft bottles, be aware that they can be more vulnerable than hard bottles and consider taking a spare.
- Running clothes. Preferably fairly minimal and thin. They will get soaked from sweat and from crossing streams so pick clothes that don’t soak up too much water as this will make them heavy. You may want to have a couple of fresh sets of kit for the week or maybe even a fresh set for each day. Up to you.
- Socks, as per above. I chose the X-socks Marathon socks, one of my favourites. Another popular option is Injinji.
- Hat or visor can be good to protect from the strong sun light that you will encounter when your running on the fire trails in the mountains or on the beaches.
- A buff to soak in the cold streams and use to cool yourself down with.
- Sun glasses can help with sun protection and avoiding bugs getting in your eyes. Just be aware that the lens will get wet frequently.
- Poles are personal choice. If you plan to walk/hike they are a good idea. There are places in the jungle where it will be difficult to use poles due to all the vegetation but equally a lot of undulating dirt roads where they might come in handy.
- One of my personal favourites are the Raidlight Trail-Touch mitts with half fingers. They are great in the jungle if/when you need to grab on to trees and branches or support yourself on rocks. If you were to take a tumble they protect your hands.
- Small first aid kit consisting of a dressing and some bandage (packed in a waterproof sealed bag) could be good in case you take a fall or scratch yourself on rocks, trees or branches. As you are constantly wet a regular plaster is unlikely to stick.
Risk of blisters and chafing is quite significant due to the humidity and frequent water crossings. I highly recommend using an anti-chafing cream such as Gurney Goo which will do an excellent job of “water-proofing” your feet and preventing trench foot, plus can be used anywhere where you might risk rubbing.
The sun is strong so a good sun cream suitable to your personal needs is recommended. I take Tingerlaat. At times you are sheltered in the rain forest but there are also some very exposed sections on roads and beaches.
Check points stock water and some food such as salted peanuts, potatoes, fresh fruit and similar. You may want to consider your personal needs and bring your own supplies accordingly including electrolytes. Meals in camp are catered for and you don’t need to go hungry!
The route is well marked and GPS route is not supplied. If you wish to use a watch for the purposes of tracking time and distance that might be useful and is of course personal choice. In the rare event you would get lost a watch recording your route could be useful as you can then backtrack to where you came from. I must however add that although it is possible to get lost it is rare and you would notice pretty quickly due to the lack of markers.
There is a medical team but the more self-suffcicient you can be the better so some first aid supplies and foot care items for blister treatment might be a good idea.
Insect repellent is recommended for camp as there can be mosquitos, flies and spiders.
There may be a massage team travelling with the race and you can sign up for massages after each stage. They would take cash payment (in the region of $30 per massage) so bring cash if you want to make use of this service.
Some camp sites have bars and restaurants so you may want some cash to spend there. Particularly for the last two nights in Drake Bay.
If you wish to bring your phone to the race, mobile reception is generally available and you can buy a local SIM card on arrival at the airport to save money on data roaming (provided your phone is unlocked). Charging facilities are available in camp or you can bring your own USB charger (the charging slots do get full quickly!). Remember cable and adapter.
If you want to bring your phone or a camera with you when running, remember to store these in sealed water proof bags unless they are water proof. If you listen to music, similarly protect your iPod (or whatever you use) from getting wet. In the last race I used a water-proofed iPod which worked really well. These are available from Underwater Audio.
Finally, it has been mandatory in the past to obtain a medical certificate prior to the race along with an ECG report. Check the pre-race e-mails from the race organisation.
I think that was it. if you have any questions or if you have done the race and think I forgot anything essential, do let me now: firstname.lastname@example.org
If you are interested in a 1-1 consultation for more personalised advice, or in coaching for the event, check out my coaching website for options: https://ultra.coach
Best of luck with your next adventure. Hope to see you in Costa Rica!