Truro Half Marathon 2014 – Hana’s report!

All was going well in my Half Marathon challenge, of running 13 in 12 months, that was until a couple months ago when one disaster after another curtailed any chance of me running anywhere let alone a race. As a result of this I had to pull out of several races including the Indian Queens Half which has left me with only having 12 in total booked, instead of the 13 I desired.

So today is Half Marathon No 9 of 12 and race number two in two weeks. Truro Half was the one and only race I was ever going to complete back when I first took up this sport some 4 years ago, but as you well know I have completed a fair few other races in between.  Running is like a drug, it is very addictive and although at the end of each race my body feels wrecked and I question my sanity, just like child birth the pain and trauma soon disappears and the feel good factor kicks in. I must point out though, that I stopped giving birth after two children, and the post birth feel good factor soon disappeared. Races are much cheaper to enter even with the cost of new running shoes etc than bringing up kids. Oh and when you take all this into account, plus the fact that I can practically eat what I like and drink wine without impacting on my waistline, why wouldn’t I run? (I’ve missed out the bit about my dodgy hip and that I creak when I first get up in the morning, hey ho).

So no driving today, “Sidney Skoda” who is looking a little scruffy if I may say so, can stay on the drive whilst I walk down the hill to Lemon Quay where the race HQ is situated. As my place of work is not far from this area, I don’t even have to check out the toilets that are on offer for us runners today, as I can use my work ones instead. I can say though, that there will be no Porta……… {Oh my god, I nearly infringed that trade mark once again. I could have been indicted and stripped of all my assets if I had. Now that wouldn’t be a pretty sight!). Concentrate woman, what I meant to say was, there would be no toilets of the portable variety which are often Green in colour but occasionally sport different shades of blue, grey or pink (like the ones I used in Prague), for runners to use today. There would though be several public toilet options available, which are generally OK and “Wetherspoons” is always open, so I’m sure a few runners might sneak in there for a ………… wee not a pint I hope.

My first port of call was the race HQ which was housed in a marquee in the middle of the piazza. A flurry of activity was already under way with piles of race memento bright yellow T-shirts stacked on a long trestle table. I collected my race number from Julie who wasn’t running today, and find that this number could in fact be mistaken for my age…..65. Thankfully just in case you are wondering, I still have a few years to go before I reach that dizzy age category.

Before I know it, it’s time to check out my office toilets and as I approach the ramp that leads to the side entrance, I spy an athletic looking male doing some dynamic stretches against the railings. He looks up so I give him my best hopefully not too scary smile and he says, “Its Hana isn’t it?” I’m puzzled, as I don’t actually recognise this male, then he tells me he reads my race reports. I start to wonder if this is a runner I’ve offended and perhaps he has secreted himself down this alleyway in order to sort me out. Maybe he will make me write out 200 times “I must be kinder to people when I write about them in my reports” but no, I find out he runs for Plymouth Harriers and he enjoys reading these blogs. So that’s two fans I now have. I wish him well and he looks too good to be running anywhere near me in this race. Anyway it was very nice to meet you, if you are reading this report.

So with my race number pinned to my shirt and my baggage left at work, I wonder off to mingle with the gathering crowd. Quite a few TRC runners have gathered near the starting area and Izzy appears, but not dressed in running apparel. She gives us some lame excuse about how next weekend she is competing in a 24hr endurance race, where she will run around a race track for 24 hrs. 24hrs! She will also have to do this without the aid of headphones and music to take her mind off the monotony. I can think of many better places to run than around a race track and definitely not for 24hrs. Can you imagine what my race report would be like after doing such an event? Don’t! Good luck Izzy, you are stark raving mad girl!

Andy G is looking resplendent in his Day-Glo tabard which matches the hundreds of bananas he’s carefully spreading out across a couple of tables ready for the finishers to collect. He even confesses to being slightly OCD about the way the bananas are laid out, but I have to say that ¾ of them were facing in a westerly direction, and the rest were facing east. So Andy there is room for improvement in this department. Your report will read, “Could have tried harder”.

Andy and his bananas
Andy and his bananas

The TRC crowd gather for a team photo and then it’s off to the start line we all wander. Dave M is strutting his stuff, with microphone in hand, doing a grand job as the race DJ. I understand we are short of a DJ for the Club Xmas Dinner Dance Lynne; maybe you could entice Dave with the offer of a free meal and a glass of lemonade?

The TRC team
The TRC team

As Truro is not a chipped Half Marathon and all timings are therefore gun times, I decide to situate myself near the front of the assembled crowd. Not too far forward as to hinder the elite runners or get trampled on in the crush but not so far back that it takes me ages to weave passed those slower than myself. “Our Diane” now takes control of the microphone and gives us the do’s and don’ts of the race:

  1. Keep left.
  2. Do as the race marshal tells you
  3. No headphones or else the snipers situated around the course will shoot at you. Should they miss, then you will be DISQUALIFIED and your times will not appear on the race official timing sheets.

I think we got the message and with a very feeble sounding blast on an air horn we were off.

Although we were facing towards the subway leading to Garras Wharf the race proceeds left along Green Street passing the bus station then bearing left by the Old Ale house (too early to pop in for a glass of “Betty Stoggs” but why couldn’t we have a race based around beer and pubs in the Cornish running calendar?) and onto Boscawen Street and the cobbles. We did a loop around the town before going under the subway by M&S and along the River walk to Newham. I was actually feeling quite comfortable, unlike last year. My lungs weren’t protesting, my legs were going one in front of the other which is always a good sign and I was able to keep a reasonable pace for someone so old. The going was flat and hard under foot.

We soon reach the first slope, Gas Hill and onto the old railway line we all run. This is an off road section along a gentle uphill gradient that you hardly notice, well at my speed anyway. The scenery is verdant and tree lined and when strolled along on a sunny spring morning is really quite delightful, but during a race, it can become laboured, noisy and sweaty. So sweaty that I am having to remove my spectacles and engage my security hanky to mop my fevered brow. I then notice that a male to my left has also produced a similar man sized security hanky from out of his shorts pocket and is doing the same. He then has a bit of a struggle to put it back in this pocket but I am now reassured that I am no longer a freak of nature, I now know of two runners other than myself who carry the said hanky, Jenny (Launceston Road Runners) being the other one.

At the end of this track it’s a short downhill to Calenick, where I try to pick up some momentum before the dreaded hill passing Higher Calenick Farm on my right. The shortest racing line would be to keep left at this point but it is also the steepest section. It’s the sort of steep that make you get off your bike if you were cycling and cry. So with lots of huffing and puffing going on all around me, I slow to a walk, put my hands on hips and speed walk. Several people do the same, others grunt and groan as they jog pass, but as the road levels out just after Trethowell Cottage, I return to running and overtake all those who ran the hill and were now struggling, apart from Lynn (Newquay Road Runners who is an Old Croc like me but a faster Old Croc) and she disappears into the distance. Must have been that 3 week holiday and all that wine you drank Lynn!

We now wind along a lovely leafy lane where at the T Junction at Porth Kea we turn right. “8 pin Colin” points us all in the right direction with a lovely smile and cheers me on, calling me “4 pin Hana”. I can live with that name it’s far nicer than some of the things I’ve been called. We are now running with an uphill gradient and our first water station appears to our left. Plenty of eager small hands (the local scout group) hold out cups of water for us runners to take. As usual I refrain and overtake a couple of CAC runners who I have been playing cat and mouse with. Before too long this couple (one male one female) soon overtake me again and this routine continues throughout the whole race.

Before long we reach the metropolis of Playing place and run along Old Coach road then Holywell road and then onto Halvarras Road, which again has a slight uphill gradient. “Hill” does appear to be the featured word in this race along with “up” and occasionally “down”. “Gently undulating” doesn’t, but “Flat” pops up now and then.

Soon we are out onto the B3289, wait for it, a DOWNHILL section that heads towards the rather nice area of Feock. This is where you will find, but do not run past, the Cornish equivalent of “Sandbanks”. For those of you who have no idea what I’m rambling about, basically it’s a sticky out peninsula called Restronguet point, where most of the properties are well out of our price bracket and the views from them are to die for, if you like sailing and the sea. Dream on.

It appears that I have switched myself off at this point in the race or had some sort of power disruption in my brain. I don’t notice what the traffic is like on this section, I haven’t taken in the sights and smells of the countryside and my legs just seem to be doing their own thing. There are no men clearing their throats, peeing in the hedges just the CAC couple overtaking me once again. Finally my brain kick starts back into action and ahead of me I can see Claire and Jade, with Claire wearing a TRC vest for the first time.

The road levels out then it produces an unwanted short slope upwards, from which we turn left onto a dirt track through some trees. I have to hop and skip along this windy section to avoid tripping over any tree roots but it soon opens out into a field where ankle turning is always a possibility. I can hear very loud cheering not far away, in fact the sound of lots of very happy children making vast amounts of happy noise. As I drop down the steps at the end of the field, there before me are once again many small eager hands (the local scout group) handing out water to those in need and cheering us all on. Someone has suggested they are trying to attain their “Hydration Badge” do they do give out a badge for “Wine Quaffing”, which is very similar in my books?

The water station is at the start of Wrinkling Lane. This is also part of Cycle route 3 but is only suitable for mountain goats, sorry mountain bikes, not your pretty racing ones. The surface is dirt and stones, but with the weather having been so dry of late it was hard under foot and reasonably smooth. The first section is FLAT and shady, then it drops away so steep, that your legs automatically activate the brakes and with road shoes on, you have no real grip. Stopping is not an option. The surface keeps you in an uncontrolled slide, going ever downwards. Somehow I manage to stay upright, no mean feat I might add, passing Delabole Wood on my left and Namphillows Wood on my right, part of the Trelissick estate and so also part of the Trelissick 10K MT race.

At the bottom of this slope stands a race marshal and I hear him say, “Jelly Babies”. Strange I think, seeing as he hasn’t got any on offer, then it suddenly comes to me. Back in 2013 whilst I was marshalling at “Meet Your Max” and sporting a nice riding crop (whip to you and me) I proffered Jelly babies to all that passed including several men of a certain age that found this, let’s say interesting. I think he was one of these men??????? What a reputation I appear to have gained. Time to dye my hair, have a face lift change my appearance radically!

This path now goes upwards, and is rougher under foot. I’m glad I’m not the cyclist who led the race (James Alsept), because on this section of the route, the lead runners would have overtaken me. I would have been pushing the bike or flat on my face having gone A over T. At the top we turn left onto a narrow lane and tarmac where two males pass me complaining that with all these hills they really can’t get into a steady pace. “This is Cornwall for goodness sake”, I want to shout. Cornwall is all about ups and downs, not flat and monotonous. I may hate hills but at the same time I love them, because although I struggle up them they do give you some respite on the other side. Variety is the spice of life!

Our next turn is right along a very little used lane to Treloggas. This lane use to be a through road which as far as Sat Nav’s and the Ordinance Survey map is concerned still is. Take it from me, the only traffic that is suitable for this road, is pedestrian, animal, mountain bike or tractor. The surface changes where it meets the houses from tarmac to mud. It drops down through a wooded section where the undergrowth especially the brambles and nettles often reach out and try to grab you. At the bottom of the slope there is a small bridge over a stream before the lane climbs up to Higher Lanner farm. Two years ago all you could see under foot was mud and the bi-products of cattle, but with two winters of good quality rain, many years of brown slush was washed away, to reveal tarmac and that this is actually a road.

I and a few others walk the bottom section of this slope then I break out once again into a trot. Every part of my body has sprung a leak and my security hanky is limp and only just coping. If I sweat any more, I may have to take out a security tea-towel in future. Now that would look weird even by my standards.

My legs are tired, my sanity is being questioned by my inner self but I’m still moving forward. The route takes us back to Porth Kea, passing water station No 1 and the scouts. They are still smiling and eager to hand out water to us fatigued runners, perhaps one with a hose pipe on a fine spray setting would be an idea for next year, so we could run through a mist of cool water. Having said that, God might just decide to do that naturally instead?

I can still see Jade and Claire ahead of me and they are closely followed by Annelies.  I start to mull over the vague possibility of me actually catching them up. I don’t know why I start to have these fantasies when my legs are tired and we are at mile 10 ish of this race? They are so much younger, fitter and able than me, but I’ve always had moments like this throughout my life. As a child of 5 in a school PE lesson whilst the class ran around the school hall we were asked by the teacher to pretend to fly. I suddenly formed the idea that if I ran faster than the rest, leapt forward and took both feet off the ground, I might be able to do just that……fly. You can guess the rest…………needless to say it ended in tears and grazed knees. Please don’t try this at home kids.

We all run along Carlyon Road, then onto Old Coach Road where we enter the last 2 1/2 miles of the race. Believe it or not, these last miles are either FLAT or DOWNHILL….fantastic!

Oh, apart from a sharp nip at Calenick, prior to going back onto the old railway line and the last short slope out of the subway to the finish line.

I’m still toying with the idea of catching the three TRC girls ahead of me, but Jade has shifted up a gear and disappeared off onto the horizon. The distance between Claire, Annelies and me remains constant, so unless a miracle happens or I find a surge of untapped energy from somewhere my fate has been sealed.

Back down onto Newham Road we go and then along the pavement skirting Tesco’s with the river/mud flats on our right. The end is in sight, I try to boost my speed slightly down the slope and into the subway, and then give it one last shot at catching the two girls ahead. I go for a sprint finish, but there just isn’t enough distance left in which to sneak past. Claire beats me by 4 seconds, and Annelies by 1. This trio of TRC beauties are home safe and sound. Oh Ok, two beauties and one beast!

I cross the line in 1hr 54:50 some 1 min 44 seconds faster than last year. I think my end of year report should read “Must try harder”. I’m handed a goodie bag, with dear old “Betty Stoggs” inside and a bottle of water, and then I queue for a massage at the “Duchy Hospital” tent. I’m so tired that I don’t even have enough energy to rip up a tissue let alone open my bottle of water, so with my most pathetic look, I seek the help of one of the younger males in the queue ahead. Running has some benefits girls!

The massage is somewhere between heaven and hell with the occasional moan being uttered as they find parts of my legs that are really knotted. The hardest part is getting off rather than falling off the couch. How can someone make something so simple so hard? Easily is the answer in my case. I’ve also surfaced from this couch looking like a man who has had a bad day with a razor, as I’m covered in smalls bits of tissue which have stuck to my face, arms and anything else remotely sweaty.

Time for coffee! Here I am in a town with so many coffee shops we’re in fear of drowning in the heavenly stuff, so you would think it would be a chinch for me to get a mug to take away. No, I had to admit defeat. Each place I tried had long queues and with all the sweating I had done over the last 2 hours, I don’t think it would have been fair for me to stand in a warm enclosed environment polluting their atmosphere, so I gave up. Instead I went for the best recovery drink going, a pint of milk from M&S and boy did it taste good.  (I did however brew a large pot of coffee once I arrived home).

I stayed for the presentations and that turned out to be a good move. The Old Croc came 3rd in her age cat having been beaten by Lynn from Newquay and Di Roy, who looked as glam as ever. Maybe I should try wearing lip stick sometime? We all walked away with a bottle of red, thank you. Then when it came to the team prizes, TRC Ladies came third for the second year on the trot and guess what, I came away with another bottle of red. My long suffering husband will be very impressed.

So with tired legs I walked home, a heavy rucksack due to “Betty Stoggs” on my back and a bottle of red under each arm. RESULT!

So all in all:

  • Parking:  Plentiful but at a cost unless you were able to find on road parking for free.
  • Race HQ: A small marquee, but it wouldn’t be large enough to shelter in if it was raining.
  • Toilets:  Public conveniences dotted around the town
  • Marshalls: Fantastic. There was no way you could get lost, they all smiled and cheered you on and the Scouts at the water stations were amazing as well!
  • Goodie bag: Fantastic and the best one for 2014. Beer, water, banana, Technical T, and a medal.

So will I run this race again? Yes, but not in 2015, as I already have something booked in the Diary for the race date.

10 out of 10
Hana

Results are available to download here.