Tamarindo Beach Marathon 2016 race recap

I ran my very first race in beautiful Costa Rica! Half marathon (13.1m or 21k) part of the Tamarindo Beach Marathon. It was an amazing course, race was very well organized, with a lot of participants from all over the country and abroad. It was my first time visiting Tamarindo, and I fell in love with the town. The beaches are beautiful, people very friendly, food was great and entertainment lively.

However, the actual race was pretty bad for me. I wasn’t in best health, and ran my very worst time, crossing the finish line struggling in 2:15 minutes. But I had a blast and would definitely recommend this race. As I’m writing this recap I’m contemplating signing up for a full marathon in Tamarindo beach 2017. (UPDATE: I took advantage of 50% off sales and did sign up for the full marathon in 2017!)

Happy, sweaty and tired runners

My finish time was almost 20 minutes slower than my half marathon PR of 1:56. That PR is a couple of years old, and after I began running longer distances and longer triathlons, I stopped focusing on running half marathons in that pace. However, this was way slower than I anticipated.

I’m writing this recap a bit later, and I had time to reflect. It’s always good to know what went wrong and what I did well, for future racing and training. I remember feeling disappointed after the race, as I usually do if I don’t perform well. It’s such a negative mental pattern we runners suffer from, and it seriously serves no purpose. But after you put all this energy into your training and race, and don’t come out with a result you hoped for, it’s hard to let it go right away.

Start of the race was bright and early at 4:30! Runners were excited and ready to go

One thing that seemed to have affected my race was my health. I felt well the day before the race, although it took us a long drive from Manuel Antonio to get to Tamarindo. On the way there, we stopped at the beautiful AmaTierra retreat center to break up a long ride. We enjoyed a mini one night retreat, as I got to teach yoga, enjoy the mountain views and reflect. The overall ride was enjoyable and a great road trip.

We settled in, went to the expo at a beautiful fancy local hotel, ate well and rested early. I still felt ok in the morning of the race, but during the run I felt sluggish, slow, and developed some belly pain and cramps. Well, as I finished, I had to run to the bathroom immediately. I developed some crazy belly issues! I even threw up twice, and laid down in pain for a few hours after the race. Although I wasn’t aware of it during the run, apparently I was sick! After the whole ordeal passed, I had some minor headaches and felt somewhat dehydrated the rest of the day.

Race Training and Preparation

To be perfectly honest, I didn’t train for this race in mind. I was planning on running San Jose half marathon in July, and was waiting for my husband to come to Costa Rica from the states to sign up so we can do it together. However, by the time he came in June the race got sold out! Second race in 2016 that was on my running schedule but didn’t happen.

Running in Costa Rica usually means chasing behind these two guys

After July, I didn’t train with Tamarindo half marathon in mind, and we signed up only a couple of weeks before the race, in early September. I worked out regularly at the gym, and my trainer developed a strength training plan with running in mind. But I didn’t get to run many long runs or speed workouts before the race. Manuel Antonio is very hilly, I’m talking crazy steep! It’s so hard to run there, and my training has been affected by it.

However, two weeks after running the Tamarindo half, I ran a full marathon in Eindhoven, Netherlands, and PRed by a good 20 minutes (4:32)! I ran the full basically at the same pace as I ran the half in Tamarindo. I concluded the half marathon race served as great training for the full. I also believe that strength training did wonders, as my legs felt less tired than ever in a full.

Race organization and Expo

I love running big and small races equally, as they both have their charms and benefits. Tamarindo Marathon was a big race, one of the most popular ones in Costa Rica, and for a reason. A few thousand participants happily poured into this beach vacation town to run the beautiful course, enjoy the tropical climate, and soak up the sun. The expo was held at the Daria hotel right at the entrance into town, and a few steps away from the Start/Finish line. Daria hotel is a luxury resort-style destination, and it offers special prices to race participants.

Beautiful medals and great race swag overall

The expo wasn’t as large as I am used to seeing in some US or even European races. The vendor tables were organized around the pool, the music was blasting and people were in a good mood, so it was an overall great experience. Packet pick-up was super easy, and the race swag is good. We got tech tank top shirts in a pretty orange-y color, that is now by far my favorite running tank ever! The material is super light and breezy, great for running in hot and humid weather. We also got flip-flops, though they didn’t have my size so I’m stuck with a pair a couple of sizes too big. And maybe most importantly - the race medal is gorgeous too!

Race course and overall experience

Tamarindo Beach Marathon offers distances for everyone: Marathon 42k (26.2m), Half Marathon 21k (13.1m), 30k (15m) and 10k (6.1m). I opted for the half marathon distance in 2016, and am gunning for the full marathon in 2017. Acyuta signed up for the half marathon with me, but downgraded to a 10k at the expo because he felt he didn’t log enough miles in the training for the half. I too wasn’t really well trained, but that never stopped me from running a race (don’t learn from me).

Tamarindo beach is a popular vacation destination and a great location for a race

I of course took the opportunity to do some yoga on the beach

The race begins and ends in the entrance of Tamarindo, very close to town center, and right by the beach. The course takes you out of town and is a there and back type of a course. I personally prefer circular or point to point courses myself, for a few reasons. I don’t like to run the same path and see all the people on the other side and know exactly how far I am from the turn around point and from the finish, but rather just run and enjoy. However, because the course was beautiful, I didn’t mind it was on the same one street the whole time.

The course isn’t flat! It’s rolling hills throughout, and it became hillier as I progressed in the race. Although the race began at 4:30 am, I was soaking wet very early. September is still considered rainy season, which is let’s say a tad cooler than dry season, and the Guanacaste province is also supposedly less humid than some other areas of Costa Rica. However, I felt the race hot and humid.

Walking in the finish line area

Our hotel was walking distance from the race start, and I luckily got ready quickly in the morning and felt relatively awake and ready, for such an early start. The first hour or so of the race was pitch black, and besides some funky night owls leaving a party, there weren’t many spectators on the roads past the town center. As the sun began to rise, we enjoyed beautiful views of the Costa Rican country side, with rolling green hills, cows and horses enjoying their pasture in the distance, and exotic birds flying over our heads. The race doesn’t boost any ocean views, but I didn’t miss them as I felt it very nice, calm and pretty overall.

The water stations were a good distance apart, and they offered water and gatorade. I carried my own gels and fuel, but felt uncomfortable in my belly. My cramps got worse, and I got my infamous heavy cramp at around mile 9-10, and had to walk it off. I felt slow and heavy, so I didn’t want to look at my Garmin at all the whole race. I knew I was slow but I was still surprised with my time when I crossed the finish line. I felt like I was pushing it, though I ran a slow long distance pace.

My face says it all... ah the race picture fail is strong with this one! What was I thinking?
I soon put a smile on my face when I reunited with my hubby

As I mentioned before, as soon as I finished I reconnected with Acyuta, who ran the 10k (and did a great time himself, though not a PR), and decided to sit down and chow down some watermelon to refuel. I started to feel very weird and my cramps just wouldn’t go away. I soon had to rush to the hotel room, and straight for the bathroom! Runner problems.

My belly was a mess, and I threw up too a couple of times. I took a few hours to just rest, closing the curtains and trying to rehydrate, as I was getting a bad headache from a hot race and loss of liquid.

Recovery time was well deserved and enjoyed to the max
Great hotel choice

Luckily, I recovered with a combo of coconut water and fasting from foods. Once my belly was ok, I had to refuel properly and went to find some healthy vegan foods, and chilled by the cool pool as well. Tamarindo itself was beautiful and I loved it. We stayed for only one night after the race, as I had to go back to teaching come classes and events the next day, but I am planning on staying a tad longer next time we visit.

Healthy foods to the rescue
Re-hydrating with juices and smoothies

Besides Tamarindo Beach Marathon 2017, I haven’t signed up for any other races in Costa Rica. They aren’t as many, and there are a lot of trail races that seem pretty difficult, technical, and long distance as well (some popular ultra marathons happen here). Although I would love to run those, I don’t think I’m up for the task. Overall training and racing has been quite Challenging so far - hilly, hot and humid would sum it up.

Have you ever run a race in Costa Rica? If so, what was your experience?