Sunday 23rd February 2014
I am a woman of advancing years and body part failure appears to be a common occurrence. I would probably fail an MOT if I was a car. Currently it is the right hip and right outer leg giving me grief. The hip has been a problem for years causing me to give up firstly playing Squash and then Hockey, but as far as running has gone, it has only occasionally caused discomfort. This week though, has been different, with pain starting at the top of my right buttock and then running down the leg to the ankle. I’ve been stretching each day to try to relieve whatever feels trapped and with a few days of rest I decide to not pull out of the CFR Half Marathon, a race I had been looking forward to and the first Half in my growing list for this year’s running challenge.
I check the weather forecast daily and it isn’t looking very good. Saturday looks OK but Sunday it is supposed to be rain all day. Gradually the forecast changes for Truro, showing a window of dry weather between 9am and midday but when I switch to Bodmin’s forecast and not Truro, it all gloom and doom. It isn’t even worth getting out of bed for rain all bl—dy day. I start to look at the “pull out due to injury option” once again, then kick myself up the arse so to speak and pack my running bag for all eventualities.
Sunday morning’s 6:30 am alarm sounds. I get out of bed, and the right leg is not causing any discomfort thank god, then I peer through the curtains to find it isn’t raining, ah but this is Truro not Bodmin. Breakfast today is porridge and blueberries with some brown sugar on top. It tastes so good, but will it behave later on during the race?
My bag is all packed with clothing for all weather options plus flask of coffee and “Snickers Bar”. At this point I would like to add that it was most definitely a “Snickers Bar” and not a cheaper imitation of this product. I say this as I don’t want the running club to get anymore letters/electronic communications accusing us of committing some sort of trademark offence once again. Anyway I digress, “Sidney Skoda” has come out of hibernation and the two of us head off along the A30 to Bodmin and the Dragon Leisure Centre, the race HQ.
No Julie today, just Sidney, me and gale force winds for company. The wind made keeping the car in a straight line down the road a challenge, but we make it to a very overcast but DRY Bodmin with masses of time to kill before the race. This was intended, as I found out that last year, if you arrive early you can get prime parking places. My spot involved turning my car around and reversing back into it. This would have been easy if it wasn’t for another person wanting to park in a spot nearby and moving into my turning zone. Can’t drivers just wait? I know this driver was male and would never have expected a mere female to make such a manoeuver, I mean reverse, whatever next? We’ll want to compete against men and have the vote.
Car parked safely, so I headed over to the race HQ on the ground floor of the leisure centre. I collected my race number 17 today, (I must have been keen to enter this race) and race memento a red technical T. Last year they were huge unisex ones in white and today they were once again a tad large but in Fire Engine Red. I put the size small up against me and decided that unless I use it for a nighty (something I never wear!) this too would end up in the pile of unworn Race shirts that are gathering dust in my wardrobe, so I smiled sweetly at the lady behind the desk and she found a nice XS one for me, which fits brilliantly. I will point out that there is no way that I would normally fit an XS shirt, but it does boost this old crocs moral.
I meet up with Helen and then spot Izzy the only other TRC female other than me at the race today. Izzy though, is running in her “Mud crew” vest, but we won’t moan. We are joined by another 3 TRC males and one who may join TRG soon. We have our photo taken by professional looking photographer but from what tabloid who knows as none of us actually asked.
Time to check out the loos I think. I follow the signs which lead down to the basement and the ladies tennis changing rooms. Two cubicles located with two people waiting ahead of me. They are typical sports centre toilets, no luxury soap and hand cream, but they had enough toilet roll for all so they were absolutely fine. As I came out of this room I poked my head in an adjoining room and found SHOWERS and lockers, Fantastic. I quickly found Helen and we now had a secure place to stash all our surplus running kit and only carry the locker key instead of the car keys, which I always worry I will lose. Helen suggests that we should find a “Cleaning in Progress” sign and place it outside this room, so we can keep this room to ourselves. Sadly there are none to be found, oh well, one to consider next year.
Pre-race briefing is held in the basement on the indoor tennis courts. Last year this included some smelly canines in the mix, but today I see none. Thank goodness for that. Dog breath in the tight confines of a race briefing is not one of my favourite pre-race aromas. I look around the room and see a few friendly faces I recognise from other clubs including one from Newquay (DE) who has been absent for many months. I think Cubert was the last time I saw him and I receive a nice hug today, thank you……………what? I am a race tart you know!
I note that there is a man to my left with race number attached wearing jeans short mac and walking trainers. Surely he isn’t running in that kit? (He did.) In front of me are two rather tall males in very bright matching yellow shirts and very clean and very new looking trainers. Do they not realise just how much mud is out there? Also one of these males has long dreadlocks which I would have thought would be a pain whilst running. They are like octopus tentacles and I find myself studying them too intently and not paying attention to the race briefing which had just started. I’ve gone into “mum mode” and head lice alert! How do you wash your hair when you have dreadlocks or dry them, come to that? Anyway the briefing warned us of mud, fallen trees, unsafe trees, fast flowing water etc….. The runners competing with dogs would have to gather at the rear of all the other runners. Throughout this my Garmin will not load which could cause a slight panic outside for a few of us?
So the weather forecast said RAIN, RAIN all day, but on looking outside it doesn’t look too bad. My dilemma is coat/windproof or just long sleeve T and race vest. IQ reducer or Buff? Gloves or no gloves? Oh what decisions. I plump for long sleeve T, Buff and Gloves. Izzy has nice new arm warmers instead of gloves, very smart they are too and on a good runner look fab, on menopausal woman, I’m not so sure. I’ll leave that option for the younger models.
We gather outside the main entrance and organised in quite a polite gaggle. Izzy is on the front row; I head about quarter of the way back along with Helen and try to get my Garmin to load. Waving your arm above your head as Garmin wearers do, makes absolutely no difference whatsoever. So woman next to me then states, that in Cornwall we have poor GPS reception and mobile reception. I ask where she comes from and she replies “Plymouth”. So I put her straight on the matter. To my left was a rather nice young man so into race tart I reverted and engaged him in conversation. He was wearing a Royal Navy top and came from Plymouth and that was about as far as I got because although they suggested the start would be announced by Fire Engine Sirens, they must been called to a chip pan fire, as I didn’t hear them or anything else for that matter. What I could hear was baying from the dogs at the rear of the assembled crowd. This noise could make many run faster for fear of being the equivalent of the fox being chased by the hounds.
So off we run, uphill…Grrrrr, out of the leisure centre grounds along a pavement before turning right towards the cycle come footpath come road to Lanhydrock. I’m in run not race setting and because of the hill, my legs can’t get carried away with any speed other than fairly slow. The road levels, goes downhill for a good distance but you have to be mindful that this section is also run in reverse and forms the last mile of the race. We go upwards again then cross the wooden bridge over the A30 which when you run on it must wobble slightly as your head goes all giddy for a moment or two. We are still on tarmac on a path through the millennium woodland before being directed down an access road into the Lanhydrock estate.
As we progress downwards I can see we are being directed off to the left onto grass to avoid the unstable trees. Just how unstable are they…..psychotic or just hormonal? No, wind damaged and they may fall at any time, so I believe. We are still running downhill turning right to run across the front of the beautiful Lanhydrock house and then left down onto woodland tracks. Oh how I love the downhill sections, where your ankles almost turn on the uneven surface which thankfully isn’t too muddy at this point.
At the bottom of this hill is mile 3 and the first water station. I decline any liquid and follow the route which has turned right again along more tracks which gradually climb ever upwards and then back down past the front of the house again, passing an area which in just over a months’ time, will be awash with masses of Rhododendrons in full bloom, if this wind and rain ever stops! I am also in close proximity to a male in a reversed IQ reducer who I seem to remember running next to either at last year’s race or the Lanhydrock 10. He was back then in need of incessant conversation and this irritated me no end, thankfully today he felt no need to talk to me and jogged off into the distance never to be seen again. Oh how antisocial I am whilst actually running.
So we pass the house once again, running up the estate road before turning right and downhill passing the estates offices. Downhill is great but we are soon directed left and back uphill along a road then right and into the woods.
The track here is wide and to my left are new mountain bike trails which are twisting and turning just below where I am running before they join the track I’m on. They look fab and a must for anyone who wants to get off road on their bikes. The “Mud crew” website did have a U tube type film of someone cycling along these trails if anyone is interested?
The mud is getting thicker but isn’t causing me, the woman who hates the stuff, to panic or moan. I’m just ploughing through and marvelling at how well my legs are coping, especially the right one. From time to time on these paths I have to run with my arms flailing about in a stabilising mode but I haven’t fallen or twisted my ankles. This is the advantage of running in daylight Claire. How are your knees by the way? Oh and I’m not tempted to enter “The Beast”.
We are at mile 6.5 when we once again level out, turn right and we are running on tarmac again. This is the path that leads from Bodmin Parkway railway station to the long drive up to Lanhydrock house. It’s at this point that the lead runners are now running towards us. A few men pass by, and then a female who I do not recognise passes followed shortly by Izzy. I cheer her on and she sort of smiles, oh to be as fast and fleet of foot as she is, and as young.
Mile 7 arrives and we are on rough tracks and mud again. We are passing the mile 3 drinks station once again before turning left and down towards the river section. The paths have been levelled out slightly with what looks like builder’s rubble, but you can see where all the heavy rain of late must have turned these paths into raging torrents.
We pass mile 8, I’m playing cat and mouse with 3 other runners. One Newquay lady, a male in a bright blue top and another male dressed all in black who is disappointed that this race doesn’t have obstacles to climb over, swim through etc…if this race was held about a week ago he could have had all of that and a few near death moments thrown in for free. Personally I like normal races and they can keep the obstacle ones for team bonding days.
We now have to run through the car park at Respryn Bridge and I can see an elderly driver going into panic mode. Surely he doesn’t think we are going to run over the top of his car like the baboons at Longleat, mind you that might cheer up the male dressed all in black. Ahead there are a couple of steps to climb to get out of this area, and I’m in a race with a lady in a disabled buggy going up the ramp alongside. Phew, I beat her and head back along the road towards the railway station.
Mile 9 brings yet another long climb uphill through a farm yard and mud which may well be tainted with manure of the bovine variety. A few Heifers peer out of their barn at us as we all pass by. I do walk about 200m somewhere along this section due to legs that are getting stiff and achy, but I soon return to running, even across a soft grassed field where energy is sucked out of your legs. Just where does it all that energy go?
At the top of this field we turn left along a very muddy section where some puddles have to be navigated around to stop anyone drowning or losing a shoe. I manage to run to the end unscathed and at mile 11 we are running alongside a play area and then into Lanhydrock’s car and coach park. A short section of road follows before we are running once again over the bridge that makes your head go funny and the last mile of the race beckons.
Now I have been running with a lady in a blue top for the last two miles and she is desperate to be ahead of me at all times. This isn’t a problem but she keeps running right in front of me causing me to have to change my path. As we approach a slight downhill I decide enough is enough and overtake. She is breathing hard and I think I may just be winning this battle. This downhill is short before the hill back up that we ran towards the start of the race. At this point I’m not only still ahead of the lady in blue but I pass Katie’s husband who has slowed to walk, due to stiff legs. I ask if he is OK and he says “yes”, then I think to myself, what would I have done if he said “no”? Answers on a post card please.
It is now all downhill to the finish, along footpaths that at times are the sort of steep that hurts your legs. In my case they hurt my big toe nails, which have never really fully recovered since the Eden Half and should not be seen in public. The finish line beckons, there is no one close behind and I cross the line just over a minute slower than last year. I’m actually happy with that as with the dodgy hip/leg I thought I might have had to give up half way round.
I won’t win any prizes today, but this is a great race which is both challenging and scenic. It isn’t an overcrowded race and the facilities are brilliant. Even the weather behaved.
So after crossing the line I went and checked out the showers. Hot, hot, hot, but not so hot that you couldn’t enjoy them. I could take a leisurely shower and ease all the aching muscles, before heading back upstairs to drink my coffee, chat with Helen and eat my Snickers Bar.
So all in all:
- A great race but you are not going to get a Half Marathon PB.
- Toilets: enough for all and no queues.
- Showers: what a bonus at any race venue, but these had buckets full of water at the optimum temperature. FAB.
- Race memento: technical T but the sizes are all male sizes so XS for us ladies or for some a small but you would be swamped in anything larger.
Will I run this race again? Probably, but if you haven’t, then put it in your calendar for next year, it’s great!