Report by Hana
I like to prepare for a race a couple days in advance and so on Friday evening “Husband who plays golf” agreed to help me in my preparation by walking me down to “The Art of Wine”, a small establishment in the centre of Truro that strangely enough sells wine. You can buy it by the bottle to take away or drink in, they have dispensers where you can sample an assortment of red or white wine in 3 different measures and they also serve delicious tapas style food, but on this evening we were booked into their Portuguese wine tasting event. Not a single bottle of Mateus Rosie in sight but 7 other glorious wines arrived in generous measures and a very convivial evening was had by all. Thankfully the after effects were nothing like the whisky tasting event we attended about a month ago, where all I will say is that “Straight line” and “Clear head” were two comments that could not be used!
Sunday’s early morning alarm sounded, porridge and fresh mango consumed and with bag packed the previous evening “Sydney Skoda” and I headed off along the quiet roads to East Cornwall to the fishing town of Looe.
Now followers of my ramblings over the past 5 years might remember that I spent my formative years living at Polperro and my teenage years attending Looe secondary Modern (I was an 11 plus failure) where I reached the dizzy heights of Head Girl. I use to walk the cliff path and Lanes around this area but running was purely confined to the Hockey pitch back then, which meant that the first time I ran this event I wasn’t quite prepared for just how hellish it was going to be.
Anyway, I pull into the Mill pool car park armed with the £2:30 that the race instructions stated we would require in order to park our cars without receiving a parking ticket. Now I can remember the registration number of my first car, a dear little Ford fiesta W578ADR but Sydney Skoda’s number refuses to embed in my brain. So I put the coins in the ticket machine and it spits them back out in disgust. I find myself asking it why it has done this, and it flashes up on the screen “type in your registration number first, you dozy mare”
“Sh-t” I announce, and jog over to Sydney then back to the machine and type in the reg number. “Have you put the correct number in?” it flashes up. I panic, jog back to my car and find myself sternly telling the machine “yes I bl—dy have” green button pressed and one personalised parking ticket finally materialises. I am now legally parked so I can finally go off to collect my race number, except I am interrupted by a certain male TRC runner with mobile attached to his ear who asks “have you got any change?” “Did you not read the race instructions?” I reply smugly and leave him trying to pay by phone. Apparently a far more charitable runner helped him out…………I am a grumpy old Croc who has to maintain this standard. Sorry Adam.
Time now to do the pre-race toilet review and although it has been two years since I last ran this race, the public toilets in this car park are a good as ever. No queue to use them, spotlessly clean, toilet roll in abundance and if you didn’t fancy using these then a neat row of toughened plastic temporary toileting boxes were placed nearby for our use.
Inside the race HQ I grab my Race number along with 4 pins out of the communal pin box and then collect my race memento, a bright green technical T-shirt. I walk back to the car to start the “What type of running shoe should I wear?” Dilemma. I’ve brought both road and multi terrain shoe with me as I know there is one section of this race that we cross twice which consists of slippery grass/mud but as I try the multi terrain ones on the tarmac they feel a tad too slippy slidey, so road shoes it will have to be. Just so many decisions so early in the morning.
Time to strut around, mingle with the growing crowd and try to revive my “Race Tart” persona. I manage one snog with a male of a certain age and that was about it. I spot the lovely Jenny Mills from Launceston road runners in the distance, but it was a “too late Ethel” moment, the race compere, who we had been warned about in pre-race emails, with a request from the race directors to not be too offended by anything he said, had pounced on her. With his microphone in his hand he announces to the world that he had just been talking to a male runner who was 74 years of age “are you in that age category?” he enquires of Jenny. Well if he had said that to me, I would have decked him. Jenny like me has light coloured hair untouched by colouring products and although she maybe older than me, she is NOT 74 !!! I believe she suggested he had just dug a huge hole whilst the rest of us just gasped. I on the other hand would have pushed him into it.
By now a small band of TRC runners had gathered and a team photo was required which the “out of action” Pete S snapped for us. Then a few more TRC members turned up with one male sporting what I thought was a new style club shirt only to realise that he (bib No 439) had his vest on back to front. A mad scramble ensued to unpin his race number and reattach it before the start time of the race. Thank goodness he is a “4 pin runner” and not an “8 pin” one like Colin of CAC.
I have run the Looe 10 twice before (2013 and 2014) and it was a race that wasn’t attended by the masses at that time, but today as a result of it being included into Cornish GP calendar there are hordes of runners all jostling for a reasonable starting position. I wriggle through the throng till I’m about a third of the way back and bask in the warmth that it radiating off everyone snuggled around me. Today the air smells untainted by bodily odours which isn’t always the case, but I break out in goose pimples at the sight of so much bare flesh on display on such a chilly February morning. I’m glad to have my cheap and cheerful Aldi long sleeved compression type top on to stop any nasty draughts venturing where they aren’t wanted. My “IQ” reducer is firmly placed on my head in case of rain, light weight gloves on hands and “security hanky” at the ready, I’m set to go and off we jolly well do go.
The start of the race is in the road close to the race HQ and we are directed out, passing gift shops, across the A387 and onto Quay road which runs along the quayside at West Looe. The tide is out and there are numerous fishing boats resting on the mud at jaunty angles. This road is flat so the pace is reasonably quick for me and fast for the runners ahead. Due to the throng having not thinned out, there is a constant threat of either being felled or falling over people’s feet. The odd elbow comes a tad too close for my liking but I make it as far as the bottom of the first HILL where we turn right up North Road without any adverse consequences.
North road is a grind rather than a full on slog and I’m able to plod my way up steadily. Both Mike and Liz steam pass looking fleet of foot and far fitter than myself. Maybe an 8th wine would have been helpful on Friday night?
At the top of North road, we reach the off road section which on the map is marked as West Looe Downs. We have to first negotiate a slippery mud path which if you were one of the first runners would have been fine, but as more and more runners traverse it, so it gets slipier. The path is only a couple metres long and then it’s out onto grass with a slight camber downwards to the left. Again I am able to keep traction, but heaven knows what it will be like on the way back. My choice of road shoes are doing well so all’s good.
A short section of residential road now leads us downwards where we pass the first water station before bearing right onto country lanes in the area known as Portlooe. The pace is good as we are on a flatter gradient with a long downhill to follow. Gradually the lane gets steeper and steeper and I’m flapping my arms around in an effort to stay upright. I lean forward slightly but I can feel my knees bracing acting as brakes. I just can’t let myself free wheel down this slope past Talland Church, and others who are braver pass me by. What the uninitiated don’t realise, is that they will revisit this hill at about mile 7, but this time they will be going up it instead.
Once the bottom is reached we are back at Sea Level, the level we started this race at. We have Rotterdam beach to our left and wafting through the air is that lovely fresh clean salty smell of the sea. I breath in deeply, taking in the luscious scent and head along the short section of flat to the next small beach at Talland Sand. Sadly the beach café is shut, so no coffee pit stop here today but children are stood in the cold with trays of sliced Mars Bars that we runners can snaffle as we run by. Even though I am a confirmed chocoholic there is no way my stomach could cope with any type of food let alone chocolate during this race so I pass by without taking up their offer. It was a kind thought though.
We now have the sea behind us and we start the gradual climb up Bridals Lane which appears to have been recently re-surfaced. This is a very narrow lane where you really don’t want to meet any traffic and thankfully we didn’t. This section is misleading, the gradient is really quite kind at first but I know what lies around the corner and many others don’t. This will be the start of what the locals call “CORONARY HILL”. I’ll give you three guesses why?
There is only one way to tackle this hill, and that is to WALK IT. Any fool who tries to run it soon runs out of steam. Even the elite runners have been seen walking it, so there is no shame in adopting speed walking. If it was a hot sunny day you might be thankful of the shade this lane provides but today there is a strong breeze blowing to keep my fluctuating thermostat under some sort of control. At the top of this mountain are a couple marshals and a strategically placed AMBULANCE. Hopefully it was never utilised.
What follows is a section of flat pavement running alongside the A387 Polperro to Looe road where overtaking anyone slower than yourself is awkward. I manage to pass two runners but no more before turning right along Sclerder Lane and a gentle downhill gradient greets us once again. This lane passes Sclerder Abbey a former Carmelite Monastery which now offers Ignation retreats but as I have no idea what these are, I’ll leave it at that.
We turn right along muddy lanes where I notice the occasional very long worm slithering upon the road surface and I try very hard to not tread upon them. A pleasant relaxed style of running has taken over as I continue to Porthallow and The Talland Bay Hotel. It would be lovely if it could continue like this where breathing is easy, the heart remains inside your rib cage and your eyes don’t bulge at the gigantium effort taken to keep running, but no we have reached sea level once again and this only means one thing. PAIN!
We bear left and continue our journey up the next bl–dy hill. The other horrendous hill passing the church which we ran past earlier in this race. A male runner who has been playing cat and mouse with me for the last 3 miles announces that he is going to attempt to run to the first corner. “Really” I think, and as he overtakes me I wonder just how far he will make at a running speed. My answer came very quickly and the first corner was still some way ahead, he was walking just like me. Some runners attempted to carry on running but even they gave up by half way. I just speed walked from the start and saved myself from requiring medical intervention. The hill does go on for what seems an eternity but you are rewarded with a little downhill afterwards before a short climb at Portlooe where a marshal will tell you, you have just started the last upward gradient. Thank god is the usual thought that crosses my mind. It’s a bit like child birth and the part when the nurse says, “I can see the head crowning”.
Before you know it, West Looe Downs appear and the slippery grass section which has by now been churned up by all the faster runners has to be crossed. I follow in the footsteps of the lady ahead who seems to be able to stay upright and I attempt to catch her up. I check my Garmin and we have just over a mile to go and my time is looking reasonable for one so old. The muddy path we need to traverse to get off the downs is now a mud fest so I slow to almost walking in a damage limitation move and successfully remain upright without twisting or pulling anything which is very good news.
From this point it is back down the first hill we ran up to the Fire Station and a road crossing manned by men dressed as fire fighters. Now for some this might be the highlight of the race, but personally having spent a lifetime surrounded by men in uniform it left me quite unmoved. Sorry boys! I also still have flash backs to a male kiss-o-gram dressed as a fireman armed with a banana and whipped cream.
Time to pick up any speed left in the legs as the last 800m approaches along Quay road next to the harbour and under the bridge that spans the Looe River. We run through a small tunnel and pass an amusement arcade where familiar traditional seaside noises waft out onto the street. No, not the sound of seagulls or children making sand castles but the sound of a one armed bandits, pinball and air hockey being played. All that was missing was the sickly smell of candy floss.
I turn the last corner and there ahead is the finishing straight. I can’t catch the lady ahead but I sprint for the line and cross the line with my Garmin showing a time some 2 minutes faster than my previous PB for this race 4 years ago. I am chuffed with myself and this will be reward enough as I have no chance of an Age cat prize with so many fantastic V50 ladies now entering the races.
I collect my free pasty and bottle of water, perform a sort of striptease/strip wash with baby wet wipes in the back of my car and emerge almost a new woman apart from “IQ reducer” hair (hair that has flattened into weird shapes under a cap). Time for a large mug of tea I decide, but no Julie to share it with today as she is on “Looking after elderly mother duties” sadly.
I can’t face eating my pasty and a lady overhears me say this, stating her daughter has been begging her for one, so her daughters wish was granted and I settled down with tea and cake instead.
Now when you are a woman of my age and alone at a sporting event, it’s no good being shy and retiring if there is a seat unoccupied, you just have to go for it. Today there is one next to a male who I have never met before so many minutes of pleasant conversation passed and apparently I looked as if I hadn’t even run the race. God those wet wipes must have work miracles or he needs to visit Spec Savers. Maybe the Cornish GP should introduce a runner’s speed dating event. Run a mile and chat to whoever has reached that point before you then move on to the next mile marker etc……..My daughter found her future husband when she joined a running club……..just a thought?
So refreshed by two large mugs of tea and a Caramel shortbread I wait for the presentations when new dad “8 pin Colin” is crowned champion once again. Liz from TRC is awarded a bottle of wine for 3rd place V50 and her other half is also awarded a bottle of wine but sadly I wasn’t paying attention so didn’t catch what category he won. Party time in the Trebillcock residence I believe?????
So all in all:
- Looe 10 is a great if exhausting race which is extremely well organised. There was no way you could get lost and it challenges all abilities.
- The parking is plentiful but has to be paid for.
- There are no changing/shower facilities so change of clothes and a plentiful supply of wet wipes are recommended because you are going to sweat during this race.
- Toilets were in plentiful supply and very clean with no queue with a few portable ones added for good measure.
- The Race memento T-Shirt in bright green technical fibre is very nice but as it doesn’t come in a woman’s fit then girls you may need to choose a size smaller than maybe you would normally have.
- Will I run this race again……..I think so. It sets you up for the year mentally, because if you can cope with these hills then all that follows will be fine.