Last year I ran this race for the very first time and found it to be a small friendly race with fabulous views and hills to make your lungs turn inside out, but I couldn’t resist coming back for more. I even persuaded Julie to enter and so with an amazing weather forecast predicting Sunday 9th March to be warm and sunny, things were looking up.
Julie arrived at my house nice and early and we set forth in dear “Sydney Skoda” for a very chatty drive to the fishing town of Looe. The roads were almost clear of traffic but even at the early hour of 8am, there were plenty of road cyclists about. It was so good to be driving on roads that weren’t inches deep in water, mud and tree debris and the temperature outside was registering 6.5 degrees and rising.
We arrived at Looe ahead of schedule and with a huge council car park at our disposal a parking space close to the race start/finish line was very easy to find. Sadly a fee of £2 had to be paid, but that did cover us for up to 24hrs. Surely even us two could finish the race in less time?
The race HQ was in a brand new swanky building this year, with plush hardly used toilets. They were clean, standard issue lavatories with the usual porcelain fixtures and best of all, NO QUEUE. On top of this, you also had use of the council toilets at the edge of the car park, and so to be fair to all, I tried these as well. They were very good indeed. Clean and plentiful with standard white soft loo roll, tiled floors and no nasty aromas. So, there were no complaints in the toilet department at all. There would also be some council conveniences on the race route if required, which seeing as they were open on Christmas day (I know as I used them) I would be convinced they would be open today.
Julie and I collected our race numbers and the lady at the desk said, “Ah you are Hana, who use to go to school here” Yes I did, many many years ago with my only claim to fame being that I rose to the dizzy heights of being Head Girl and House Captain. It was now time to have a wander, get changed into race gear and mingle with the other competitors. In other words time to engage RACE TART MODE.
I spot one or two familiar faces, I.S from East Cornwall Harriers being one and as usual we engage in our usual pre-race banter. I spot Revis C and Sharon D so it’s a good thing that I’m not expecting to win anything today. This race in fact only has prizes for the first three men and woman, so NO CHANCE then for the likes of little old me. I also spot a third TRC runner, Pip and he has looked at the race map, stating that it doesn’t look too hilly. Do I or don’t I tell him the truth? I decide to tell him of the impending hills and that would be the last I see of him until the finish line. I find other people now asking me about the hills and what shoes to wear, trail or road. Road is the answer as only about 10% of the route is off road.
The sun is out, the sky is perfect cloudless blue and it’s time to race. I use that word very lightly as I’m in a “run and finish” setting. I want to enjoy today and not find myself retching at the top of each hill. The views will be good and the hills will be steep, in both directions. I then spy man with the IQ reducer turned back to front. The same male I mentioned in the CFR Half Marathon report. I’ve now got my dark glasses on, so hopefully he won’t realise who I am or have read my last race report.
We line up at the start line with a lovely man on the microphone giving a running commentary of what is going on and who is walking by, something he had been doing for almost an hour. Sadly I do not know his name, but he adds a wonderful friendly dimension to the build up to start. A few race rules are broadcast, the main one being the fact that iPods and headphones are not allowed. Both myself and IS who is stood next to me felt that whilst out running part of the real enjoyment was hearing the birds singing and more importantly cars approaching, and listening to an iPod would stop that.
Suddenly we are off. Garmin activated and my legs are moving. We head out of the car park up a slight slope and cross the A387 then head along the river’s edge in West Looe. This level of flatness will not last long, as soon we will turn right and start the climb towards the skyline above the town. It will be about two miles of climb before we finally levelish out. This road winds up and to enable us to leave the town, we cross the first off road section, a not too muddy field/park area. My road shoes are working fine and I remain upright.
We join a lane and head towards Portlooe and at mile two start our decent to Talland Bay. This is a very steep hill, a very steep hill we will revisit on our journey back to the finish line. I decide to adopt the “lean slightly forward stance and wiggle the arms around at hip level” in an effort to stay on my feet instead of my rear end. It works even if I look a tad stupid. I then gaze out onto the ocean, which is the most beautiful deep blue with waves lapping gently onto the beach. I could have almost been tempted to go for a swim but a gentle breeze dries the sweat pouring down each side of my face and into my eyes, so a swim is no longer required.
A small section of flat road follows and three small children are helping the marshals direct us the correct way. Time for a “high 5” I feel, and I proceed to high 5 all three small outstretched hands. Was I keeping them happy or vice versa?
Now it’s time to turn right and head along what is called Bridals lane on my OS map. There is a tarmac surface under our feet not that you could readily tell and to confirm this a bl—dy car now wants to go past. The road turns into a mud and stone track and takes a steep route up what feels like a mountain side but at least it is in the shade. There is only one speed to take here for this old lady and that is walking. I’m walking faster than some who are running and start to catch a couple of young girls I’ve been playing cat and mouse with over the last few miles, they don’t choose to walk, but keep running.
At the top we run alongside the A387 on a footpath. This is the main road from Polperro to Looe and I catch up and overtake the two girls who must be less than half my age. Quick ego boost, but this won’t last long. We are then directed right again along a quiet lane passing Sclerder Abbey before descending past the Talland Bay hotel and back down to sea level once again. The girls sail past me and I must realise that unless I have a sudden surge of untapped energy from a source that I have no knowledge of, I’ll probably not pass them again. I’m leaking like a sieve, this is early March and I’m sweating like a pig. My security hanky is sodden, I have large dollops of salty sweat on my cool dude shades……..I run faster in the cold, I remind myself, but I am not going to complain, I’m having a ball!
The hotel looks like a nice place for a romantic weekend or afternoon tea, but no time for this as I have to try and mentally prepare myself for the next hill, the worse one of the lot. It’s brutal, and once again I must walk. We pass a very old church to our right and a farm and to my left. This hill seems to go on for ever and ever, and I’m surrounded by the same runners that I have shared the race with for the last couple of miles. None of us are running but the one male who tries to, soon stops and reverts to walking. I wonder what Revis and Sharon D do at this point……..RUN I think don’t you?
We are now rewarded with a little section of flat before a cooling downhill section. I glance at my Garmin and I have about 2.5 miles to go. I can see the two young girls ahead but can I muster the energy to try to catch them up, like I did with a Looe Pioneer lady runner last year? “I’ll see where we are at, at 1 mile to go” is my decision.
We approach the playing field once again and I glimpse to my right, a great view out over the top of Looe and out over the hazy sea. It’s sublime, I smile and I know I’m having a great time. The race marshals all along the route have been wonderful. With no chance of getting lost and each one has encouraged us along the way. I’m now watching my footing on a downhill section of slippy mud before starting the final mile of this race.
I can no longer see the two young girls ahead of me but male with back to front IQ reducer is in my sights. He beat me at the CFR half marathon, could I beat him today. Time will tell. I pick up a little speed aided by the road tilting downwards and I overtake him, then as I reach the bottom of the hill I start hallucinating. There are Firefighters everywhere. Now, some girls would think they have died and gone to heaven if they found themselves in this situation, but I’m still traumatised by the male Fireman kiss o gram at a certain friend’s 40th birthday party (no names given, but I attend races with her on a regular basis). I’m flummoxed, I’ve lost all sense of direction then someone suggests I turn left. It’s all flat now to the finish line, I can leave the fire fighters behind.
The last ½ mile is along the road come pavement on the west side of Looe. We pass under the many arched bridge across the Looe river and find ourselves sprinting down the final straight. The man on the microphone announces my impending arrival, giving my name, number and club name, then he states “we like Hana, she wrote a race report last year”….no pressure then.
I cross the line, soaked in sweat, high on euphoria but 4 minutes slower than last year. I’m handed a pasty, a great Technical T in RED (must be the colour for 2014) a bottle of water and a 4 fingered Kit Kat. I go over and congratulate the two young females who beat me, see Pip who finished well before me, and then grab a photo of a smiling Julie coming into finish.
This is one of the friendliest races of the year. It also has quite a small entry of runners which I can never really understand, as the course is brilliant. Yes it is hilly, and I’ve never really been a fan of hills, but it takes you out of your comfort zone. This though gives you in return the knowledge, that if you can complete this race, then a Half Marathon will be no problem at all. It does clash with the “Grizzly” but has less mud and the post-race massage was wonderful, with once again, no queue.
Pasty, coffee and Kit Kat consumed, Julie and I took a stroll up to Hannifore point, soaked up some sun, then drove home feeling invigorated and pleasantly tired.
10 out of 10 Looe Pioneers!!!!!! I’ll be back, legs and hips willing.