Checkpoint Zero/Inov-8 Team Blog
presented by Inov-8

A wife's perspective: AR gear -- a love/hate relationship
posted Friday, February 23, 2007 by Team Checkpoint Zero @ 4:42 PM - 0 comments

I have blogged before about my husband's gear cluttering up the basement, and complained on-line and in person about his constant "need" to replace old gear and upgrade whenever something new, better, faster, or lighter comes along. So, in all fairness, I should mention that occasionally his gear comes in handy in a non-AR way.

Headlamps, for one, have proven to be very useful for me. My family uses them for taking our dog for walks after dark, searching for lost toys in dark, deep closets and for extra light during nail trimmings or splinter removals (in photo at right).

Glow sticks, too, are wonderful for those walks in the dark so cars can see us (They're invaluable on Halloween night). We also have taken them to the roller-skating rink. They are a huge crowd pleaser during "special skate" when all the lights are turned off except for the black lights and the disco ball.

So, go ahead and spend your money, Paul. Just don't assume the equipment you bought will be there when you need it!

Lisa Cox

Question: What's behind crawling oak number 3?
posted Monday, February 19, 2007 by Team Checkpoint Zero @ 12:45 PM - 0 comments

Answer: Unfortunately for us, NOT the checkpoint we were looking for in the swamp.

Checkpoint Zero / GoLite would like to thank Kip, Jessica and Shawn from WeCeFAR as well as all the volunteers for putting together a fantastic Swamp Stomp race this weekend. From left in our finish-line photo are Peter Jolles, Jon Barker, Michele Hobson, and me (I apologize for the Bee Gees look with the shirt but it got a little warm on the bike to the finish line).

They forced teams to make route choices throughout the race and sent us to some extremely beautiful areas. Even the mega-long paddle to start the race mixed things up with a couple of land navigation sections along the way down the beautiful Withlacoochee River. And making teams figure out how to best split up teammates and still get the canoes down the river quickly was a nice little surprise -- very Kip-Jessica-Shawn -- like.

Unofficial results had us finishing 5th behind Eastern Mountain Sports and GPMS (tied for first), Bill Jacksons AR, and Congrats to them and all the teams competing in the race as it was FREEZING in Florida during the night and at times rainy.

We'll post a full race report this week, but in short ... we had a great paddle and were in first place off the water after 9 or so hours (Michele's dining room chair cushions duct-taped to our canoe seat really saved my fanny "cushion"), then lost a few spots on the bike navigation section (Jon and Peter navigated perfectly but we misread the part about NOT having to get the mandatory CPs in order), then had a little trouble finding checkpoints on the foot Rogaine in the swamp during the night. It can be mighty hard to find those little orange and white orienteering flags in the swamp, even with the clue sheet featuring hints like "crawling oak," "grandmother oak," "edge of cypress swamp," etc.

Thanks again WeCeFAR. I've raced in all four Swamp Stomps, and I have to say I liked this format the best!

- Paul Cox, feeling a bit swamped this morning

PS - Yak just uploaded a few pics our support crew took during the race.

It's Fr...Fr...Freezing in Fla...Fla...Florida
posted Friday, February 16, 2007 by Team Checkpoint Zero @ 9:03 PM - 0 comments

We've just finished the pre-race meeting and are plotting our course for the beginning of the Swamp Stomp tomorrow. Temps reportedly will be in the 20s when we put on the river in the morning for a 16-mile paddle. Brr. Thankfully, we'll be a bit warmer by mid-afternoon when the Florida sun gets to full strength.

The course will be a modified Rogaine format. There'll be CPs we'll have to get in order, but many bonus CPs along the way that can be punched in any order. That'll mean we'll have to do lots of strategizing on route choice tonight before hitting the sack and along the way tomorrow. Plus, it's pretty dry down here, so much of the "blue" on the maps probably won't have any water. That could make navigating a bit more tricky than usual.

Stay tuned for a report after we finish early Sunday afternoon.

- Paul

Freezing in Florida?
posted Thursday, February 15, 2007 by Team Checkpoint Zero @ 7:58 AM - 0 comments

Surely not? Apparently the race start will have temperatures dipping below zero for this year's Swamp Stomp in Bushnell, FL. Team Checkpoint Zero / GoLite with Jon Barker, Michele Hobson, Paul Cox & Peter Jolles will be heading down to take on the swamp and the elements this coming weekend. The big question is: Will subzero temperatures kill the Leptospirosis virus lurking out there?

Look for a race report next week...


The Coastal Challenge: Day 6 - The Finish
posted Saturday, February 10, 2007 by Team Checkpoint Zero @ 6:45 PM - 0 comments

It's hard to believe that we have been running for 5 days straight.

The day started out late, our wakeup was around 7:00, not late out of kindness on behalf of the race staff, but out of the need to work with mother nature. We had to be sure the tide was out so we could complete the days run. The mood of the pack was a mixture of relief, joy, and maybe a touch of sadness. The relief was from the fact we were almost done, and today was the last 18.5 km of the race. Joy from the fact that nearly everyone had made it this far, but sad to know that all the new friends and experiences were soon go our separate ways. It isn't often that you meet such a diverse international crowd of runners that come together for a week to punish themselves, and pay for the privilege at that.

Mother nature had shown us an amazing sight this morning. It started with a few people on the beach pointing at the sand and making some comments so I grabbed my camera and headed down to see what it was. There had been a turtle nest and at least 3 of the little guys had dug their way out of the sand and were headed down to the water. It was interesting to see the little 2 1/2 inch baby turtles struggling over each little mound of sand in their first 40 foot trek to the beach. Several of their brothers and sisters had not been so lucky and hadn't made it much farther than the nest, but all three of these guys eventually made it to the water with a large cheering section to encourage them along the way.

As we got close to the 9:00 AM start, we gathered on the beach for the final countdown. I was a little worried about todays run as I didn't eat much last night, and was a little dehydrated from some intestinal discomfort. Hopefully it would hold off long enough to get to the end. As we started for the final time we headed up the same beach and road we came down yesterday. The sand was reasonably hard, and made for decent running, but I was feeling weak and knew it would take all I had to make it to the finish. The first half of the run took us along more dirt roads like we had seen the last couple of days, the best part being that there was no major elevation gains to be had. I hit the days only CP and was treated to ice cold water, and even offered a cold beer. I am ashamed to admit I did not have a beer, as my stomach was still uncomfortable and I was already struggling to keep up with the runners around me. Excuses, excuses, I'll drink one when I get home.

About 15 minutes after leaving the CP, I caught sight of the tour buses and a large crowd down by the beach. I was really hoping for the finish, but I knew it was too soon and we hadn't done any coasteering yet. While not the finish, it was the start of our short coasteering section. We scrambled over sections of rocky beach, making our way along the coast and this was one of the few times of the day that I felt good. I had to concentrate on foot placement because one wrong step would mean shredded palms or knees, or both. It was a great little section, my only complaint is that I could have done more of along the coast. As it was, we left the beach onto another dirt road. At this point I couldn't see anyone ahead of me, my legs were heavy, and I was questioning whether I could even make it the last several km. The road took an upward turn and wound out of view, and I cursed it. I was so close, but couldn't even muster a run.

After what seemed like an eternity, I crested the hill and found the strength to slowly jog down the hill. I quickly caught a glimpse of a thached roof rising above the trees, this must be the finish. My pace quickened as I knew I was nearly done. I reached a small intersection and headed straight towards the resort. I heard a voice coming from the grass saying turn left. What? The resort was in front of me. I didn't want to run away from the finish. reluctantly I backtracked a bit and turned left. I could hear the cheering, but couldn't see the line. As I reached the beach I saw the flagging tape and turned back towards the resort and the finish line. Ahead I saw the finish banner being held across the path and the cheering section. The last 30 yards was a struggle as I wanted to finish strong, but didn'[t have it in me. I barely could raise my arms as I crossed the line and quickly found a shady spot to lay down.

After a few minutes of recovery a flood of relief passed over me. After 220 km of running, several blistered toes, muscle aches and pains, heat and sunburn I was finished. I had blisters on my skin where I had burned previously, but I didn't care. We were sitting at a resort on the sea with a view of the ocean and Nicaragua. The pool is refreshingly cool, and they have cold beverages. Staying here a few days might not be so bad. Alas, I have to make it back to San Jose to catch a plane back to the states.

Stay tuned for a final blog entry when I get a little more recovery and am able to walk normally again. It's been a great trip, but I haven't had much time to reflect yet. Right now, I've got to go get lunch.


The Coastal Challenge: Day 4 - The Surprise
posted Thursday, February 08, 2007 by Team Checkpoint Zero @ 5:31 PM - 0 comments

Getting up at the usual ungodly hour today was a little harder than usual. It felt so good to sleep, especially because that beer I had right before bed did a lot to knock me out. The extra adventure hike we did yesterday helped as well. Since yesterday was a short day, we had an optional side trip to go and see some waterfalls that were near by. It was a 45 minute buss ride, followed by a 1.5 km hike. The trip was well worth it as the falls were a couple hundred feet high pouring into a pool at the bottom. Because of certain suspended particles in the water it had a very blue color. The water was cold, but most people took a dip anyway. On the way back our animated bus driver stopped beside some old man with a bucket on the side of the road. He turned to us and said something in spanish which basically came down to "coconut bars, 100 colones." That's about twenty US cents. I got one and it was a nice little treat. Tasted sort of like the center of a Mounds bar.

Todays run was the second longest of the week, just under 50 km. I had taken it easy yesterday because I wanted to make sure I had enough to get me though today. As we gathered for the start by moonlight, daylight finally broke and with another "OK, time to go" we took off towards the mountain we spent the night under. It was a grueling hike to the top on the gravel road that wound back and forth as each switchback took us higher. This kept the pack reasonably close together at first, as even the strongest could only muster a fast walk up most of it. As we reached the top we were greeted to another beautiful view of the valley that spread out below us. I tried to take it really easy on the downhill here as I didn't want to blow out my quads this early in the game, we'd barely been out 40 minutes.

At the bottom of the hill we were greeted by the volunteers of check point 1 serving up wonderful fresh fruit and room temperature water and sports drink, the norm for most of our check points. We followed the road it took us by some residences, rolling up and down and I happily clicked away the kilometers under the cool morning light.

Most of the run today was road, the best view of the day was after coming out of a small town where we were treated to a great view of (what I assumed to be) an inactive volcano. Today was one of the few days that I ran with anyone for more than a couple kilometers and I rather enjoyed the company while I had it. As we left CP 3, I was left by the fellow I was running with who was having a breakout day. Most of the rest of the day I ran alone along country roads, passing the occasional family sitting on their porches probably wondering what the heck would posses us to run in the heat that set in as the day wore on.

After what seemed an eternity I finally made it to the last CP of the day, at which point we were supposed to have only 7 km left. The guys manning the point were excited as they said the "surprise" was coming up, although they hadn't seen it. The racers had been asked the night before if everyone knew how to swim, so it was obvious we were doing some kind of river crossing. As I left the CP I was pretty excited, as the trail turned from the road and got onto some small single track which wound down through the woods. "Why couldn't we do more of this?" I wondered. As I came down a little hill I saw a fence line that had a decent trail beside it so I took off down the fence. I hadn't seen any marks, but it seemed like the best way to go. I was running for about a minute and I saw a foot long lizard streak off the trail and into the woods. I thought it was a little odd as there was a guy right ahead of me and he should have scared it off. I went a few minutes further and saw another lizard. Something was wrong. At this point I still hadn't seen a mark and was very nervous so I decided to turn around and make sure I didn't miss anything. As I headed back I wound up on some other trail, and I knew I hadn't been there before. I had a split moment of fear that I would get lost in the woods of Costa Rica and never find my way out. Not a pretty thought especially as I was feeling good today and was having a good run. As I turned back around I finally saw the marks that I was looking for, trail had taken a left turn onto a freshly cut trail through the woods.

As the trail scrambled up and down some steep little hills all of a sudden I heard water. "I must be close!" I thought. As I made my way to the water I was met by a volunteer who told me to follow the small river upstream and there would be more people to guide me along the way. What followed was a really cool section of canyoneering. We crossed the river at least 5 times, wading through parts, hopping on rocks for others. Coming around the final bend I heard a waterfall and stopped for a moment to snap a picture. If only we could have ended there. Instead, we took a short trail up to the parking lot for the falls and followed a very dry and boring road. Getting in the water was great, but as I got out on the road and looked at my watch I kept think that I'd already run 7 km and I should be done now. I thought that about 4 times. Finally I got to a small dusty orchard of some kind where I saw the trucks and runners that finished before me.

As I made my way over to the lunch table to get some more water and some food I was surprised to find some excellent ceviche the cooks had prepared. It was wonderful cool treat for such a long hot run. I talked with the other runners and they also thought that the finish was a little more than what was stated, but I made it, and it wasn't that far off. Soon after finishing we were presented with another treat, Coca Cola on the rocks. That was the first ice I had seen all week. I savored my small cup and when I was done dumped the ice into my sport drink to cool that off.

When enough other runners had made it in we got on one of the little tour buses and rode back to the falls, this time for a nice swim. It was enjoyed by all and was much better than the very weak showers that they have at this camp. On the way back, we convinced the driver to stop and let us buy some more cold drinks. As we stopped and people started filing off the bus the announcement was made that the place was closed. Drat. We went a little further and found a second, this one was open. We were rejoicing. As we made our way off the bus the second time the announcement was made that they didn't have any cold drinks. Back on the bus again. We tried 2 more places but no one was open in this small no light town. Dejected, we headed back to camp to more luke warm water.

Tomorrow (Thursday) will be our only shuttle during our 6 day run. The buses leave at 4:30 AM, so that means breakfast at 2:00 or so. Not much sleep to be had tonight. Good thing it's a relatively short day at only 32 km. We're going to be ending at the beach tomorrow, I can't wait.

Many of the racers have mentioned to me that they really enjoy the shout outs, so keep them coming. The race staff printed out each persons and handed them out mail call style last night. It was a great motivator for many people, including myself. We've only got 2 days left, but it's been a great race so far and a fantastic experience for everyone.


The Coastal Challenge: Day 5 - Trying to Beat the Heat
posted by Team Checkpoint Zero @ 4:56 PM - 0 comments

On this second to last day we were all excited to have a relatively short 20 mile run, and have an ending on the beach. We started out early, although not as early as I had feared, and were served breakfast at 4:00 AM. Today's treat was some fantastic pancakes to go along with the usual eggs, beans and rice. We quickly broke down camp and patiently waited for the bus that was to take us from the camp ground we were at to the actual start of the days run. Bus showed up late, as we had expected, but overly so. As we piled on it was clear there was not enough room so several people were put on the volunteer buses that were traveling with us. I think they had the comfortable ride.

The bus dropped us all off in front of a closed restaurant and we shuffled around waiting for the start. Today we had a little more formal start, we had a line drawn in the dirt, and a real count down. The only thing missing was the gun. All morning, before the start, I felt remarkably fresh, with very little stiffness in my legs and I was hoping it would be an easy run for me. Within 10 paces after starting all the soreness I was missing rushed in and left me wanting a new set of legs. With the prospect of a difficult day ahead of me, off we went down a dusty dirt road, which was only one of many for the day. About 1 km after we started we saw a table being set up and the familiar orange coolers being filled with water. The first CP was supposed to be at 11 km, so it must be a loop. We followed a farm road that wound through the valley and crossed a dry river bed more times than I remember. After a little more than an hour of this, sure enough, we came right back to where they were setting up the aid station the first time we went by. I still had a mostly full water pack, so I grabbed a couple pieces of fruit and kept on going. There was a small group I had been running with and I figured I'd just get a little head start, they would catch up soon enough.

We ran right back to where we started the days run, and took off through town in the opposite direction. As the town passed behind us we got onto some gently rolling country roads that were much the same as the previous day. The main difference for me, was that since we started at 7:00 in the morning, we were feeling much more of the hot dry climate in the north west of the country. The whole day was hot, with a moderate amount of shade, but not enough to cool one off. The thermometer on my watch said it was 93 F, but it felt warmer than that. Every creek bed was dry, the grass was brown, and there was very little green on the trees. Each car that went by kicked up a plume dust that choked us, as the wind was much slower to clean the air for us today.

As we made a gradual incline and turned a corner about 14 km into trail we were treated to the first view of the ocean. It was a welcome sight, but I knew I still had half the day ahead of me yet to come. The remaining distance for the day wound us around the valley and over a few small hills. As time wore on I started to get very hot, and was trying not to run out of water. Even though the aid stations were close together, my thirst was getting the better of me. The whole time I was accompanied by 2 other runners, which made it slightly harder for me, as we were trying to stay together and work as a little team to get to the end. Each small incline we would all stop running and transition into a walk, and as we crested each small hill we would pick up the pace again. I felt like I was being pulled along and wanted to stay with them as long as I could, knowing that I would probably be the one that broke. Sure enough, about 4 km from the end my body said enough and I started walking and let them run off up the road. As I finished the run I tried to maintain a good pace, but I was starting to feel pretty miserable.

As I climbed what I hoped was the last little hill and came over the top I spied the ocean and knew I was close. I mustered what little energy I had left and made it out onto the beach. I saw lots of foot prints, but no trail markings, had I made another wrong turn? There weren't any turns. I figured if I made it to the water I would probably be able to see the end. Just before I made it there, I saw a head bobbing over the dune headed left which told me two things. The first was I had to go that way, and the second was that the guy I saw went the wrong direction. After a final 800 meters or so down the hard packed sand I was at the end.

The runner I had seen had gone the wrong way ended up losing about 10 minutes. He eventually asked some sun bathers if they had seen people with numbers, and to his relief and disappointment, was directed the other way. I would have been pretty pissed, but he took it well. The finish line and camp ground was at a beach front park which gave us a fantastic view of the sandy beach and cool blue water. Setting up the tent was again difficult because of the wind, and I hope I have enough rocks on the corners to keep it weighted down, I'm hoping I don't blow away in the night. Coming up tomorrow is our final run down the beach to the resort, a clean bed, and I hope a great shower. So far this has been a fantastic experience, and probably one of the most difficult races I've done in my life so far.


The Coastal Challenge: Day 3 - Short and Sweet
posted Wednesday, February 07, 2007 by Team Checkpoint Zero @ 4:31 PM - 0 comments

After yesterdays hard run I had hoped for a good nights sleep, as did a lot of the other competitors. Unfortunately the camping spot we had was almost as bad as sleeping in a wind tunnel. Setting up camp was comical at times as entire tents got caught by the wind and were blown away. I managed to get several hours of sleep as the tent creaked, groaned, and flapped around me. We did however get to sleep in a bit longer as day 3 is one of the shortest days.

As I got up the stiffness from the past 2 days had not left my body and I think I have resigned myself to feeling a dull pain in my legs for the rest of the week. I knew coming into this run it would be a suffer fest, but I didn't know how much. Not only are my legs sore, the 3+ hours in the blazing sun yesterday fried the few patches of skin I had missed when applying sunscreen. I've now got some pretty bad burns on the back of my arms, and on the top of my calves. And if that isn't bad enough, I've also got some bleeding under a couple toenails, one on each foot. It feels like someone had put each toe in a vice and is gently crushing it. The doctors said if it gets bad they can take a hot needle and burn right through my toenail to relieve the pressure. I'm looking forward to that possibility.

Today's run started with a paved road leading out of Tierras Morenas, towards the rolling hills to the north. We were quickly diverted to a dirt and gravel road where we could see it rise and fall with the terrain. We passed another row of wind turbines, although they seemsed to be moving slower than yesterday. Maybe the wind would be easy on us. Maybe not. Through the entire run we were presented with winds from all 4 corners of the earth. I've never been in a place where the wind blows in so many different directions.

My most memorable view of the day came as I rounded a bend in the road and I was greeted with a little sprinkle from the spotty couds. As I looked up I could see the runner ahead of me running right into a vivid rainbow. Quite an amazing sight.

The remainder of the days run was a mixture of some pavement and more gravel road, ending in a small cluster of homes called Rio Chiquito. Today's camp site doesn't appear to be a lot better than yesterdays, there is a constant shifting wind which is making it difficult to set up tents. It's not all bad though, as the reward for todays run is the option for an extra hour hike to get to what we have been told is one of the best swimming holes in the world. I'm going to try and make it, hopefully it won't take too much out of me because tomorrow we have another long day, 50 km. If our gide book is any indication we have some big climbs again. I can't wait.

The Coastal Challenge: Day 2 - Complete Transformation
posted by Team Checkpoint Zero @ 4:29 PM - 0 comments

Around 2 AM I woke to what I thought was the sound of someone banging pots and pans together. I knew we had an early start, but that's just crazy. I rolled over and got in about another hour and a half before I could hear most people rummaging around in their tents. It was still dark, but we had to get packed up and ready for that 5:30 AM start. More importantly was breakfast at 4:30. We were served a simple, but effecient breakfast of eggs, rice and beans, along with cold cereal and sandwuches if you were so inclined.

Under the nearly full moon poking out from time to time between the clouds we broke down camp and got ready for the days run. Today was to be the longest of the week, at just a hare under 60 km. It would be my longest ever run today, but I was feeling pretty good from a decent nights sleep and some good food. As we gathered at the starting line daylight finally broke and we were off. Not to make the days run too easy, the first thing we had to do was run down to the river and wade across. I don't like starting a run in soaking wet shoes, but we didn't have a choice. We followed a very rough trail along side the lake which gently rolled up and down giving us some spectacular yet misty views. I was hoping to see Arenal again before we left, but the clouds were low and would actually be a blessing as the first half of the day was cool with the occasional sprinkle of rain.

Coming off the rough jeep road and out of the jungle like forrest, we got onto a few slightly more traveled roads, but after a while we were directed onto a trail running up the hillside beside a beautiful field. The footing was firm, but the road was mostly grass, with a few rough spots where the livestock had torn it up. In a couple secitons you couldn't see more than 40 feet because of the clouds, but the scenery was amazing. I already think that this section will be my favorite of the whole week. I felt strong, relaxed, and ready to run. I passed about 4 people on this section before it came out to a radio tower where we were greeted by the volunteers of check point 2.

I refilled my hydration pack and set off down the hill towards a town and what looked to be a row of wind turbines. As we decended the wind continued to blow, but got a little drier, and the sun came out. The run through town was on road, and was largely unmemorable for me, as I was still thinking about the last section we did. The climb out of town was pretty tough, as we seem to take the most direct route up all the hills around here. Add to that the heat from the sun and I was starting to feel a little fatigue.

As I had suspected, we were climbing up the hill on which I had seen the row of wind turbines 10 km back. As we crested the ridgeline the few I had seen were only one of a large wind farm which stretched out as far as I could see. Obviously it was pretty windy there. Several times I nearly felt myself being blown off the road. I had to lean sideways into the wind to keep it from knocking me over. The ridgeline went up and down over a series of hills, which really started to sap my strength. I was well hydrated, and had plenty of food, but yesterdays run left me with sore legs and I wasn't sure if I would cramp up like yesterday.

Like an answer to my prayers we broke away and headed down into a wide plain that looked completely different from where I had just been. Climbing up had brought us through dry but tropical vegetation. This other side looked like a very dry savanah. The clouds disappeared from the sky and the sun beat down mercilessly. I found myself emptying my 3rd 70 oz bladder and hoped I would be able to get more liquids soon.

The road we were running along was dirth and rock, the kind that drinks up any sweat as soon as it falls, if any was actually able to make it to the ground. I finally reached the 4th and last checkpoint of the day relieved that I less than 8 km left. Great, I'd be done in less than an hour, get some real food, and some much needed recovery. I felt a little quickness in my step and took off down the road, excited to be nearly done. Unfortuantely, it was not as easy as I might have believed. The downhill turned into a climb, then a steeper climb, and I realized I was headed right back up to the ridgline that had the wind turbines on it. I told myself, walk the steep parts, jog the not so steep parts. By this time the sun had been beating down on my for at least 3 hours, and I was starting to wonder how much I had left in me. I started talking out loud to myself and saying hi to the horses and cows. I imagined them as my personal cheering section and tried to run by them so I would "look good". It didn't provide me the motivation I was looking for. I told myself to run for 20 paces, walk 20 paces, the faster I go the sooner I get done. In the end, that was the longest 8 km I've ever done. It took me 80 minutes and the finish didn't come a moment too soon.

I headed straight for the food table and wolfed down some solid food as I sat down and watched the runners behind me come in. All in all, a great day. By my estimates we climbed 2400 meters, almost twice what we did yesterday. It seems a lot easier today, at least until the very end. I'm looking forward to sleeping in tomorrow and a nice short 18 km leg.a


The CP Zero race is gonna be great...scout's honor
posted Tuesday, February 06, 2007 by Team Checkpoint Zero @ 12:08 PM - 0 comments

This past weekend, race director Tony Berwald and I took map and compass in hand to scout checkpoints for the upcoming Checkpoint Zero Adventure Race near Helen, Georgia.

Racers will be treated to a first-rate event in a truly beautiful and rugged area. About 4 inches of snow remained in the upper elevations, so we enjoyed crunching through the icy stuff as we bushwhacked up and over high passes and down steep re-entrants into the night. We obviously can't give much away, but the picture at right (that's me crossing one of the many creeks on the course) should offer a glimpse of what racers can look forward to.

Maybe by race time, Mother Nature will drop a few more inches of the white stuff on the course. I'm betting so. Isn't this a Berwald-designed event?

Paul Cox, team member and race volunteer

The Coastal Challenge: Day 1 - And we're off!
posted Sunday, February 04, 2007 by Team Checkpoint Zero @ 5:53 PM - 0 comments

If I had to sum up todays run in one word, it'd be "difficult". Most of us had no idea what we were in for. The day started out early, really early, 3:30 AM early. As I groaned to myself "what am I doing" I went about stuffing all my posessions into the 24 gallon action packer I was impressed that I actually got everything into it. The boxes really aren't that big when you consider you have to fit a tent, sleeping bag, running clothes, camera, food, laptop and all the other things one needs for 6 days of running. But I digress. Around 4:30 dutifully file onto the charter bus they have hired which will take us to the start, a supposed 3.5 hour drive.

We don't even get out of San Jose when we have the first casualty. The gentleman sitting behind me has a head cold and is prone to motion sickness and doesn't feel well as soon as we start moving. I help him open the window and use the curtans to divert some air to him but it is not good enough. He rushes to the front of the bus and gets the driver to stop. The rush of fresh air is a welcome relief, but prolongs the inevitable. Several minutes later the driver just barely opens the door in time to make way for lost breakfast.

The next hour and a half is a relatively good ride, and we get to a roadside cafe and stop for a bathroom break. We spend a few minutes there and everyone piles back on the bus. Not more than 10 minutes later we crest a hill and see a series of wires in the air and signs for zip lines. The bus pulls over and we wonder if we get a suprise start. Unfortunately one of the smaller busses has a flat tire. They transfer everyone off that bus and we continue on to Rancho Margot. We arrive with about 2 hours to the start, so people start milling around taking advantage of some of the local bathrooms and concessions. As the start time comes near we gather and get a few last minute instructions and prepare to run out of the little park procession style and onto the course. With a somewhat unceremonial countdown we start our 220 km run.

As we run out of the small town of Fortuna, we are treated to a gentle climb toward some hills. This serves to spread the pack about a bit, I can see the leaders about 400 meters ahead of me. As we get closer to the hills, I realize they weren't kidding when they said we would warm up quickly. Not only was I drenched in sweat in the first 15 minutes, we turn a corner and see the road go up. Nearly straight up the biggest hill around. Still feeling good, I tell myself to take it easy, pace myself, there's lots of time. As we climb through the fields, and onto a private ranch, the humidity keeps rising and the slight breeze we picked up is not very comforting. The road turns into a trail with stairs as it really gets steep. Finally, we reach the tree line and plunge into the rain forest. It was a spooky transition, as I've never been in a forest like that before. The light grows dim, the mist settles in, and the slight trail we had turns into a web of tree roots and chanels where the water has eroded what little trail there was (see photo).

We go up, and up, and up, and finally when we can't go up any more, the trail turns into a thick soupy mud. The kind every hasher dreams about. I felt a little second wind kick in as it felt like I was at home in Atlanta on some Black Sheep trail. We traverse the top of the hill we are on and the trail takes a sharp turn downhill. As steep as it was going up, we are now going down the other side. It's a very wet and slippery decent, but much faster than the climb up. I think it took an hour to go up the 900 meters we climed, but less than 20 minutes going down. As we reached the bottom the trail turned back into a road, which I had hoped would take us to a nice easy finish. I should stop hoping now. We get to a small town on the lake under the Arenal volcano, and trail starts to go up again. I see signs for museums and butterfly conservatories. That would be a nice place to finish I think to myself. Instead we head for the hills again, and climb another 300 meters to a hill which gives a beautiful view of the lake and the cloud shrouded volcano.

At the top I hear faint cheers and figure I should be close now. I crest the hill and see a river snaking through a valley, paradise. I am inspired by the cheering and try to pick up the pace, as I've started cramping pretty badly, my legs completely lock up in protest and I am forced to walk down to the finish. Threes hours and twenty minutes after I start, I cross the finish line. that is the longest 1/2 marathon of my life! It's only an hour behind today's stage winner, but I feel good about it. I quickly plunge into a cool pool and wash off the trail that decided it have more fun staying with me. It's much welcome relief for this tired body.

As I sit here in the local bar and drink a beer and make this entry, I ponder what lies in store for us tomorrow. At 65 km, I hope it's not as hard as today was. I want to wish all of you reading this around the world thanks for all the shout outs, keep it up! All the competitors appreciate it as they are printing them for us to read.


The Coastal Challenge: Final preparations
posted Saturday, February 03, 2007 by Team Checkpoint Zero @ 10:26 PM - 0 comments

I've packed and re-packed everything 3 times now, and I'm getting a little nervous. I checked Checkpoint Tracker yesterday and they had what appear to be the actual daily distances listed for The Coastal Challenge, that 50+ km day, yeah, that "+" is actually 15 km! 40 miles in one day will be a long haul.

After quickly double checking everything this morning, I jumped in the car to get to the airport. After Passing Jon Barker on the road in Marietta my first hassle of the day is when I get to the airport and find out that my luggage is 4 lbs over weight. I quickly rummage through it and grab out a bag of protein shake mix. That takes off 3 lbs. One more to go. I hastily grab my toiletries bag and it makes weight.

Making my way to the security checkpoint and instantly regret my last decision. The line is short so I breeze right up to the x-ray machine and apparently miss the notice that you can take gels and liquids, but they have to be in a 1 quart plastic bag. Of course they catch my bag and kindly inform me that I'm not complying with the rules. Luckily I had a few plastic baggies in my kit for bandages and such so I shuffle things around enough that they let me through. The best part about all this is that in the same bag as the toiletries, I have my hydration pack filled with water and they never said a word. Go figure.

Arriving in San Jose uneventful until I make my way out of the airport and start looking for the shuttle. As soon as you step out of the airport there are 100 cab drivers all waiting to part me and my precious dollars. I ask for the shuttle bus and get blank stares like I'm asking for foie gras at the cinema. One gentleman looks at his watch and says it won't be here for another hour. Just as he says that, I look up and the shuttle comes round the corner. Stepping onto the bus I am greeted by 3 other participants of this years race. I make it to the hotel, find registration, and my room.

At the race meeting we get a little introduction to the race, get introduced to the team putting it on and are then presented with a local dance troupe that does some juggling with fire. It's a nice welcome to Costa Rica. We are informed that tomorrow will be an early day, we must have our boxes out front no later than 4:00 AM! Then we board buses for a 3 1/2 hour drive to the start. Our first day of running is 21 km, and starts at 10:00 AM (9 EST). Let the fun begin!