RADJournals: Jose Espinoza on Ultra Training and Racing in Costa Rica

A journey for an Ultra in Costa Rica

If you run frequently, at some point will you ask yourself why am I doing this? On paper, running is a pretty easy form to move forward, right? One step at time and then suddenly you find yourself somewhere far from home. Hey, wait! How can you cover so many kilometers or miles without hurting yourself - your lungs, your legs, etc.? The secret: desire. At the beginning of 2020, this cruel and strange virus came to us without warning. Some of us were planning exotic travel to places all around the world to run trails and roads. In my case, the Berlin Marathon, Black Canyon Ultra in Utah, UTG in Guatemala and other domestics races. Instead, the world shut down for a whole year in 2020! 

Then 2021 seemed promising as the virus was somehow more under control with the vaccine plan, etc. So, plans started to take form, the DESIRE to race remained the same high level and I traveled to Costa Rica to train for and race an ultra.  With several borders closed our plans were discrete and low. The training block was fun and we did all our runs wearing some new rabbit EZ perf shirts. The humidity factor is so high in Costa Rica, so the EZ Perf shirts are perfect to release body heat. The training block from my coach was smart due the short period of time when the 80k race was announced! Just 8 weeks before the race I was working hard. I did a 40k trail run with 3800 feet of climbing gained. My coach added some light workout sessions (2 per week) 3 double sessions of running and 3 road cycling sessions. Most of my training was built based on time and Heart Rate zones. Every week time increased but HR Zones remained steady. Before the race I covered 968 kms between running (road and trail) and road cycling in the 8 weeks leading up to my race. 

Race Day:

Like several ultras I have raced before, the race started at midnight. I was equipped with a headlamp, trek poles and at least 1 liter of liquid (mandatory by the race). Drop bags were also allowed. I was wearing my RADrabbit hat, the rabbit long sleeve from the Western States collaboration, my RADrabbit neck gaiter, fresh socks and used a jar of Squirrel's Nut Butter to avoid blisters. Running during the night is challenging even if you do so frequently, but running trail courses with rain and fog at night is another experience entirely. You need to be extra careful on the technical terrain. I felt more comfortable running in those conditions with another racer. We covered the first 2 PCs with no issue, rain started to fall between PC1 and PC2, the other guy was a bit stronger than me and willing to risk more so he took off after PC2. Between PC2 and PC3 there was gnarly single-track rather than gravel road and the fog became thicker. I fell hard, like a ping pong ball hit by a bat! I rolled down this downhill section, and I ended up sitting on the ground soaking wet, battered by nature and thinking on the nasty injury on the top of my left knee. The wounds were not severe, but the pain was great. After a few minutes, I managed to get up, grabbed my trek poles and slowly walked down where I was lucky to discover the pavement section started. This was 1 kilometer after the PC3 (lucky me). When I arrived at the PC at 3:00 AM the guy working the PC asked me if I was OK. I said "of course my friend!" I was a little beat up but fine, so I decided to continue.

I had pain in my knee, but I was able to run a bit faster. When I arrived at PC4 a medic inspected and cleaned my knee. He said it was only inflammation from the fall and nothing was broken or torn. I continued running. Dawn was coming, the rain stopped, and I was the witness to a wonderful new day beginning. I changed my clothes and into dry socks at the 45-kilometer mark (where my drop bag was). A long climb was the next section with some portions including 30% inclines during the next 17 kilometers. After 60 kilometers into the race, the rain appeared one more time but at least it was day light out.  I didn't bother me. My hopes were high, but the course was getting worse due the rain. Mud and potholes were forming and some deep jungle hikes were ahead. I crossed some deep muddy creeks and the pain was increasing in my body from the 65 kilometer mark until the finish line. By the end I was walking as fast as I could. I crossed the finish line in 14 hours and 40 minutes. The 80 kilometer course had 4000 meters of climbing. I placed 17th. 

So, why do I run? Because I have this deep DESIRE to run, to reach a goal, to have fun, to see friends and make new ones. I am grateful for the race volunteers including the staff on PC's. It's a gift to test myself in the unknown. We are born to run free. #RADrabbit





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