Kernow Vertical KM 2017

Report by Hana

The last race I ran was the Solihull Half Marathon some two weeks ago, for which I penned a race report. I also sent the race director of this event an email to congratulate him on such a smooth running inaugural event. I also suggested he might like to take a look at TRC’s web page and read my report on the race, pointing out that it was tongue in cheek. An email arrived in my “In box”

“Can you phone me please?”

My first words were, “Oh Sh-t” or something similar in length”

Who have I gone and offended or what trademark had I infringed?

I pick up the phone with some trepidation and say “Hi Paul, its Hana”

He greets me cordially and actually thanks me for the constructive comments that I placed in my email to him, then explained why there were no baggage labels (Printer error). He even liked the race report, so all was good and I’m now about to give my account of the Kernow Vertical Kilometre instead of being in fear of litigation.

So it started with a post on TRC Face Book page, probably posted by Wendy C and my immediate response was “No way” as the RAT 20 of 2016 had left me traumatised. Why would I even contemplate a coastal run with a KM of elevation over 15 miles? Well I’ll tell you why, firstly I’m completely barking and secondly it was going to be a new event in my race diary. My challenge for this year is to try and complete races I have not run before. Another enticement had to be the thought of coming away with the race medal that had been described in postings as a COW BELL. Never had one of those before!

So what training did I do for this event (note, I have removed the word RACE, the only ones who would be racing would have names other than Hana on their entry form)? Well to be truthful, just my normal weekly road running and a few 13 milers at the weekend. Did I go out on the cliffs for a run? No I did not, but I walked them a few times and also spent a week walking up fabulous volcanoes, and up and down sheer cliffs on the beautiful Island of Lanzerote at the end of March, so the legs were capable of hills, running them was debatable.

Now I have a very straightforward routine for Sunday morning events, get up, eat porridge, drive to event and run, but this one is on a Saturday afternoon. Eating therefore is going to be a challenge for me. What should I eat and when?

My get up, eat porridge goes OK. The farmers market is my next port of call where I purchase my usual Saturday midday treat, a large Saffron bun.

Back home I clean the house, Brew some lovely fresh coffee and chomp on my daily chocolate fix before sorting out the washing and speed washing dear “Sydney Skoda” so he looks all prim and proper for his jaunt out to St Agnes.

Saffron bun smothered in butter is then washed down with a glass of don’t panic, I’m not going to say WINE, no a glass of milk. I have 2 hours to go before the start of the event and that delicious saffron, food of the gods, bun has landed in my stomach and seems to have expanded a bit like a sponge soaking up water. I’m starting to wonder if my choice of pre- race food might have been a little misguided, but too late now and I’m not going to try anything drastic to alleviate my self-induced problem.

So with kit bag packed, sun out and not a cloud in the blue sky “Sydney” and I drive off to St Agnes where I decide to park not at Trevaunance cove, but on Trevaunance road, where I feel I won’t get caught up in traffic congestion and tight parking spots. From this location above the cove I take the foot path off wheal Friendly lane and I’m joined on my walk by Wendy C. From Wendy I ascertain that we will revisit this path twice during the event/racer. “Lovely” I may have uttered but I wouldn’t describe any of the gradients around this area as lovely in a normal sentence/conversation.

The race HQ is in what must be a beer/fish and chip garden just down from the Driftwood Spars Pub and opposite the Driftwood Spars Brewery and a fish and chip shop which is currently closed possibly for a refurb.

There is a gazebo there with race memento T-Shirts all lined up for us to collect along with our race numbers. They did say in the race info that when you give your size for the T-shirt on the entry form, to put one a size bigger than normal which is what I did. Looking at the T-shirt I have been given (medium) and my “good child bearing hips” I think XL would have been a better option.

I have no pre-race nerves today as I have given myself a stern talking to and have decided that the only option for today is to attempt to complete the event without:

  1. Falling off a cliff.
  2. Breaking a wrist.
  3. Suffering a cardiac arrest, all of which was going to be a possibility.

Still the toilets must be checked out and down towards the beach I walk, where I find some very good quality council toilets which are unlocked and ready for use. There are three family size cubicles where you could actually fit a small pushchair in with you. The toilet roll was not abrasive on those delicate areas that need attending to and they had those all in one wash basins where if you press the wrong button you get soap not air to dry your hands with. I didn’t even have to queue, so 10 out 10 for these facilities.

As for a baggage drop there was none, unless you wanted to leave your valuables in the open gazebo for anyone to help themselves to whilst you were away running. I decided that perhaps I shouldn’t leave my phone etc. in this location, so back up the footpath I trudge, the footpath I would later have to run (ha bl—dy Ha) at the start of the event, to “Sydney Skoda” where I secure my worldly goods away, returning to the race HQ with only a warm top and some loose change.

I mingle with the other TRC runners of which there aren’t very many.  Wendy, Issy and I are representing the Ladies of TRC. A discussion about what food they are taking with them starts with Issy producing a small Mars bar from her back pocket which appears to have turned into a molten goo. Maybe the producers of energy gels are missing a treat as I’ve yet to see a “Mars bar” flavoured gel.

Before long it is time to muster at the start line, which is on the road leading up from the beach, on a SLOPE, the first SLOPE of many.

A quick pre-race briefing takes place and as the race organiser had forgotten to bring his air horn with him, he has to count 1, 2, 3 and we are off.

Some fit looking athletes shoot off and the rest of us plod along, turning right into Rocky lane before turning left onto the footpath taking us up our first steep climb to Wheal Friendly Lane. We then come out onto Trevaunance road where we are directed into Wheal Quoit Ave and then Tregease Rd, a cul de sac. A nice piece of “Andy Goundry” product placement comes into view, a “Goundrys” For Sale sign, right at the point where we are directed out onto another footpath.

This footpath has a muddy surface which thankfully is dry and involves the crossing of a couple stone styles that were not built with obesity in mind. We cross a couple fields still with a gentle upwards gradient before popping out onto Beacon Rd at Higher Bal. The kind marshal even told us we had a short section of flat to traverse and they were correct but it didn’t take long before we turned right up a rough track that took us to the top of the Beacon. I chose as did many others to conserve energy on this section and speed walk. I wouldn’t have got there any quicker if I had tried to maintain a slow running pace.

At the top of the Beacon where you reach the Trig point the wind hits us full on which made me please I had two layers on. A woman of my age has to be very careful when it comes to chills reaching the mid-section of the torso or of a single untucked area suddenly flapping in such a way as to reveal aged pale flesh to the unsuspecting public.

We are directed onto a downhill gradient along a narrow path cut thorough ankle snatching old heather. This is where you really need to keep your eyes down. We wind around a rocky outcrop where a bench nestles under it with a fantastic view towards Towan Cross and Porthtowan. This is the spot where when my children were about 5 and 7, I would stop with them for a bribery break. If I promised milk and cake on a walk, my kids would walk miles. They still do, but now its beer and lunch.

I’ve digressed once again. I manage to stay upright, trotting down this first section and the steep stony section that follows but not without deep trepidation and much flailing of the arms. At the bottom I can see and hear the lovely Rob C from TRC who is a marshal about to assist this Old Croc across the road and onto another footpath, a very beautiful footpath I might add.

I feel as if I have drunk the same potion that Alice in Wonderland had and shrunk to the size that fits into a rabbit warren, but this warren has a path of soft dark soil bordered by dark green leaves and the white flowers of wild garlic. It was encased in a tunnel of branches which I had to be mindful of in case one decided to poke an eye out. It was picture perfect and if I had my camera with me I would have stopped and taken a photograph, instead I trotted on in a very relaxed style with a big smile on my face.

The smile didn’t last long as at the end of this path we turned right once again and started the trek back to the top of the Beacon and walking this stony uneven path was the required pace. I had almost got to the top when I felt a hand on my back and a little weight lifted off my feet for a second or two. It was Andy G who sporting a big smile trotted by. Someone at the top suggested I should try and catch him up. I thought about it for a while whilst the path we took was level-ish but then it started to descend steeply down a path where dry soil and stones like marbles made for an interesting 5 minutes. Once again I managed to remain upright, reaching the next section of tarmac turning right before a left turn down a dusty vehicular access lane heading towards Bawden Farm.

Along this road were some very nice, very new luxury houses in what must be a very quiet location. I could quite happily have moved there but an injection of cash might be required first.

Before long this path dropped down onto the coast path with views out over bright yellow gorse, an azure Atlantic Ocean and clear blue skies. I was smiling once again, but my eyes needed to keep looking down as the cliff path is narrow, uneven and very stony in places. My fear of heights is not being tested thankfully as otherwise some poor runner nearby may have been forced to hold my hand and get me past the sections that make me freeze.

The cliff path descends down steep, granite, and uneven steps then levels out passing holiday cottages before returning to the point where we started this race where a large gathering of supporters were cheering us all on. This is the point where we start a smaller loop with bigger hills. A point where my inner torment has to come under control and just get on with it or just go in the pub and grab something soothing……maybe a G&T?

We start with a long stretch of steps up the side of the cliff, where it is possible to deviate right into the Driftwood spars beer garden or left onto a lovely seating are with fantastic views over the cove. I have to say it was really tempting especially as the other person on the steps was heading for the garden with beer in hand.

These steps lead not to heaven but to an uneven cliff path and a steep very uneven path down to Trevellas Porth. It made my knees ache and my speed was almost at a walking pace. At the bottom you squeeze around a gate, then bear left along a flat section before the stairway from hell.

Oh my god, these steps are steeper than the last, they go on for ever and ever so I started to count them, reaching a total of 93, but I’m sure I missed a few.

They make your whole body ache but somehow I reach the top and attempt to start running again along an undulating path which although it looked at first close to the edge, was not. Before I entered this race I actually dragged my son, who was home on leave, out for a walk along this section of the cliff path just so I could see if vertigo would reduce me to a quivering wreck but it didn’t so here I am quivering through altitude sickness instead. I’m sweating like a pig but the breeze coming off the sea soon puts a halt to that.

My Father

We turn inland and I hear another lovely TRC marshal, Jade call my name out. She is wrapped up in a warm coat as although the skies are blue and the sun is shining that breeze is keen and not nice to stand still in. she is stood by a concrete ex WW2 looking building which we run though and out onto the very edge of Trevellas Airfield and some hard Tarmac. My father (sadly deceased) was a Spitfire pilot with the Czechoslovak squadrons and was based here briefly during WW2.

We are running on a flat surface on the very edge of the airfield which comes as a shock to the legs before turning right, squeezing past a large gate and out onto a steep narrow lane with a vehicular hazard in the shape of a tree that has grown across the road in an archway. If you approach this hazard from the opposite direction in a car there is an advance warning sign stating the road narrows? That is all well and good, but if you drove my sons Land Rover up there with its roof rack and tent on it, it doesn’t warn you that unless you carry a chain saw as well, you won’t get up the hill. Hopefully this road doesn’t feature on any Articulated Lorry drivers sat nav.

At the bottom of this hill we have to squeeze back through the gap in the gate before staggering back up the steep rocky and even slope which will take us to the first set of steps we climbed up next to the Driftwood Spars. At least we will run down them this time which isn’t always kinder to the knees.

I make it to the bottom, upright, uninjured and smiling, but guess what, this is a two lap, figure of 8 route and I am about to run/walk/stagger it all over again. Am I still smiling? Well I think what my mother use to tell me as a child has come true. “If you pull that face again and the wind changes you’ll stay like that”?

The second half actually starts fine, with me actually passing younger men who had been ahead of me, which is always a big ego and morale booster. I feel tired but relaxed and in a sick sort of way actually enjoying this event. My head isn’t over ruling my legs and I’m still smiling but even with me taking a big glug of orange coloured energy drink at a feeding post just before Trevaunance, the thought of the Trevellas steps x 2 almost broke me.

One large kick to my large arse and I started the final slog. The faster fitter runners were running towards me, and the finish line. Some even looking quite fresh including Issy. At one of the marshalled points a lady had said I was the 7th lady to go through and since that time no ladies had actually overtaken, but that all changed on the final uphill of the day. By that point all I wanted to do is finish and as any female runners approached from the opposite direction we cheered each other on and high fived.

As the last set of steps down to Trevaunance arrived, I hobbled down with every part of my body protesting. That last step onto tarmac and the final few meters to the finishing line was wonderful. The supporters had adjourned to the pub and who can blame them. I had completed the event in 2:43:50 and somehow I appeared to be in the top 10 females to cross the line. I had a cow bell around my neck and a bottle of beer in my hand, what more could a girl want? A cup of tea but I think that would have been a hard ask in the pub.

One very tired elderly runner enters the said pub with her £4 and enters into negotiations with the busy bar staff and manages to obtain a pint of Orange and tonic and a packet of crisps. I go outside to find that Trevaunance is in the shade so it isn’t time to hang around and get cold.

I walk very slowly up that bl—dy first hill once again, the hill with footpath off Rocky lane. I have my Cow Bell medal ding-a-linging around my neck and I suddenly realise what my Donkey Dixie must have felt like, having one of these bells tied around her neck all day making the same sound. She had to wear one as she was an escapologist and without the bell we would never have found her in the long undergrowth she liked to disappear into. The only place I want to disappear to is the warmth of my dear “Sydney Skoda” and then the shower.

I start my drive home and take the narrow road that runs through Goonbell where I have the delight of meeting the local bus. One very miserable bus driver wants me to reverse. No problem. I depress the clutch start to engage the reverse gear when from nowhere I am crippled by the most horrendous knotting cramp in my left calf. All I can do is squeal in pain, bend over and grab my calf. Reversing is not an option.

Pain eases I try to mouth “sorry I have cramp” to the bus driver who isn’t smiling. I depress the clutch and try to engage reverse gear once again, when Ahhhhhhhhhh the cramp returns with even more vengeance. I again bend over, grab calf and squeal. When I finally manage to move my car the driver of the bus had the look of “f***ing woman driver shouldn’t be on the f***ing road” about him. Running the KVK was far less painful!

So all in all:

  • The race HQ: Just a gazebo so if wet you would have to shelter in your car if you had parked it close by.
  • The Toilets: Faultless
  • Parking: there were I believe two car parks but as I didn’t use them I am unsure if you had to pay or not. The spaces are limited though.
  • The route: Very hard in places but very manageable if you walk those sections. There were no vertigo issues, altitude sickness was always a possibility.
  • Marshals: Brilliant. They cheered us on, signed us in the correct direction and the markers in other locations were easy to follow. I didn’t get lost.
  • Race memento: the Medal was brilliant, the beer well received by “Husband who plays golf” but the T-Shirt supplier should be reviewed. They were men’s length not child bearing hips wide.
  • Will I run this event/race again? First answer was NO, but there is 12 months to think about it.