Blisters, Anyone? AR Panama Race Tests Mettle (Including 145KM of Sea Kayaking)


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With Covid concerns slowly easing, Adventure Racing, with its finger-blistering and shoulder-blowing sea kayaking component, is coming back bigger and better than ever.

Case in point: The 500-km (yes, you read that right) AR Panama Race, which takes place Sunday, Feb 20, at 10 am in the charming town of Boquete at the base of Panama’s Baru Volcano.

“We’re finally heading back to the adventure racing race track after an almost three-year obligatory hiatus,” says longtime racer Mélida Barbee of Team Costa Rica Pura Vida. “It will be 500+ kilomters to the finish line in Pedasi, on the Central Southern Panamanian Coast.”

So far there are 22 teams registered for the race, including the current world champions from Estonia, and several other very experienced teams like Bones from the U.S., VidaRaid and a couple others from Spain, and BOA from Brazil.

Barbee’s Team Costa Rica Pura Vida  is made up of her, Alexander “Pongo” Baker (captain), Marco Gamboa (navigator), and Gerhard Linner (packhorse). “We are the only Costa Rican team of the original five that signed up that made it to the event,” says Barbee, who also owns and operates outfitter Adventures Under the Sun. “We’ll also be one of the oldest teams on the racecourse—but our racing experience and the lives we’ve lived training in the tropics will hopefully allow us to finish the entire race course feeling strong.” (Follow their team on Facebook:

A Brutal Course

The race course is, indeed, 500+ km divided into 8 stages:

Stage 1: 32-km trek (includes climbing to the top of Volcan Baru at 3,480 meters above sea level)

Stage 2: 50-km mountain bike (mostly downhill towards the Pacific)

Stage 3: 25-km trek with a rappel included

Stage 4: 85-km sea kayaking (“We’ve been informed to watch the tides so we don’t get stuck in the mangroves and watch out for crocs!”)

Stage 5: 70-km mountain bike (a lot of up and down)

Stage 6: 60-km sea kayaking (“Again watch for crocs!”)

Stage 7: 70-km trek (going to be extremely hot!)

Stage 8: 118-km mountain bike (a big climb, some sections on beaches and challenging navigation)

And racers don’t know anything else about the course until the last minute.

“We’ve been briefed with just enough information to prepare all our gear, pack our gear boxes and head to the starting line,” says Barbee. “The official racecourse maps will be given to us on Sunday about 1 hour prior to race start.”

To follow the race live visit:





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