Kelowna's Dan and Toni Crockett on the beach at the end of the Trans Coastal Challenge Rain Forest Run

Kelowna couple conquers Costa Rican challenge

It was among the most difficult physical and mental challenges either Dan or Toni Crockett had ever taken on.

It was also the most satisfying.

The 60-something Kelowna couple returned home recently from Costa Rica where they successfully completed the Trans Coastal Challenge Rain Forest Run, a grueling six-day foot race along the Pacific coast of the Central American nation.

Dan was entered in the 233 km expedition race with an elevation change of 9,000 metres, while Toni competed in the 150 km adventure run with an elevation of 6,500 metres.

With daytime temperatures in the 35 to 40 degree Celsius range, and all forms of terrain to cover, Dan was required to run 30 to 50 km per day. Toni had to cover between 20 and 30 km daily.

An experienced ultra runner, Dan had never competed in an event nearly as challenging or with so much variety.

“There was no easy running at all,” said Dan Crockett, 64, who has competed in no fewer than 20 ultra marathons.

“It was on trails, in the mud, there were potholes, in cattle pastures, through the jungle, on the beach and, of course, a lot of climbing. We had to barge through an alligator-infested river. It was tough, it was hot, humid, steep, and muddy…(the organizers) wanted it that way. It was incredible.”

So difficult was the expedition race that as many as 25 of the people dropped out, for reasons ranging from heat exhaustion to blisters.

Dan came dangerously close to seeing his race end of Day 4 when he ran out of water more than 90 minutes from the finish and was close to being overtaken by heat exhaustion.

“There was 10,000 feet of elevation on that day, and I was in trouble. The doctor was going to pull me out of the race, but I put up a case that I had been in this situation before. So he mixed me up a concoction and Toni had to keep waking me up to drink it though the night. By morning I was getting better. I just forced my mind and body to do it. My overall fitness really got me through.”

Dan regained his strength over the last two days to finish sixth overall and fourth among all male competitors. He was named the event’s most competitive racer and won the spirit of competition award.

As for Toni, 63, she placed sixth overall and third among women in the adventure race.

Toni, a two-time breast cancer survivor, once again drew the admiration of her husband for her courage and fortitude.

“Toni was the real hero,” said Dan. “Given what she’s been through, she had the perfect mindset. A lot of people went out too hard, but Toni went at the right pace and fought her way through everything. It was great that we were able to experience this together. It was so much sweeter that way.”

Dan also made sure the experience was well-documented as he took 120 videos and more than 200 pictures while in Costa Rica.

The combination of the country’s natural beauty and its people made a lasting impression on the Crocketts.

“We saw snakes, sloths, macaws, monkeys…the vegetation was unbelievable, it’s such a beautiful part of the world. The people were wonderful,too.”

And on the subject of their overall experience in Costa Rica ?

“It’s the most satisfying thing I’ve ever done in my life,” said Dan. “The organizers said they couldn’t wipe the smiles off our faces. It was more of an adventure and more difficult than we thought, but it really exceeded all our expectations.”

So taken was he by the event and the people involved, Dan is considering traveling to Costa Rica next year to serve as a volunteer assistant to the race director.

As for Dan and Toni’s next athletic challenge, the Kelowna couple is planning to run this summer in the Knee Knacker, a 50 km ultra run along the North Shore.