Adventure racers in Costa Rica are getting more than they bargained for

18 international teams arrived in Costa Rica to compete on a 500km course starting 22nd August – a race which covers more than half the width of the country.

It was the attraction of Costa Rica’s incredibly varied terrain, equatorial climate and welcoming multisport culture which drew such an international field to this inaugural event, now part of the  nine Adventure Race World Series events that are held around the world.

The race covers a wide variety of landscapes, beaches, warm ocean, dry forests, rain forests, cloud forest, volcanoes, lakes, rivers, whitewater and a traditional local sport was to be  the surprise element in this fantastic race. The race course was carefully designed and scouted by de la Rosa and Baker: “We guarantee the racers to have a great time during the race. They won’t be bored with the same scenario, and the scenery changes constantly as you proceed the course,” they said.

Some of the most experienced racers in the world, like Bruno Rey and Jim Mandelli, have taken the chance to race in this new and exiting venue, adding to their list of racing destinations. Others, like Team Explore (Sweden) and Quechua (France), are perhaps looking for the win and a free place on the start line of the World Champs in Spain next month, but it’s a risk because with only a month to go to ARWC they are risking injury or fatigue. However, nothing ventured nothing gained, even the World Championship race director, Antonio de la Rosa, is there taking part!

The conditions have been difficult right from the start – rain, extreme humidity and heat. By the end of the first day the team from Finland (Finland – team 2) had had to withdraw although two of the team members have carried on, now unranked.

Adventure racing is a really exciting sport which is as much determined by the elements as by the stamina and teeth gritting endurance of the athletes. And they are supreme athletes, adventure racers. To remind you as to what adventure racing is about, here’s a quick snyopsis from Wikipedia:

Adventure racing is a combination of two or more endurance disciplines, including orienteering (if an orienteering map is used) and/or navigation (when non-orienteering maps are used), cross-country running, mountain biking, paddling, climbing and related rope skills. An expedition event can span ten days or more while sprints can be completed in a matter of hours. There is typically no dark period during races, irrespective of length; competitors must choose if or when to rest.

This video is not Costa Rica – just a look at this supreme extreme sport (SilverBullet1999):

Part of the appeal of adventure racing is expecting the unexpected and race directors pride themselves at challenging racers with unexpected or unusual tasks.

What race directors cannot take into account is what nature is going to throw at the athletes and in Costa Rica the unexpected has been thrown at them in bucketloads.  The extremely high humidity and heat takes an early toll on competitors, but landslides caused by the heavy rains was definitely unexpected causing Team Quechua (France), currently running second to the Swedish team, to seek an alternative route which cost them precious time.

Torrential rains have persisted causing many teams to have to assemble their bikes for the 171 km ride in pouring water.

To the delight of the locals, team Costa Rica Coastal Challenge was lying 4th in the final stages. Sweden’s Explore, France’s Quechua, and Colombia’s Bossi were lying in 1st, 2nd and 3rd place. They are into the final stretch… The race ends today and first place is still up for grabs. It’s anyone’s race…

Whilst I’m on the subject of Adventure Racing please remember that entries for the 500 km Extreme Arctic Race in Greenland close AT THE END OF AUGUST. The race itself is scheduled for May 2011. If you want to take part jump around now and follow this link to the Greenland Ice Cap Challenge!

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