Round 5 in the Cornish Grand Prix Series, or technically Round 4 following cancellation of last week's Falmouth Half Marathon, An Res remained on the calendar for 2018 thanks to the support of Carn Runners. Despite its position in a road running series, An Res is actually a multi-terrain race comprising some dirt track and sandy beach for good measure over its 10 mile course. For me, it is one of the highlights of the Cornish Grand Prix Series. Following leaden grey skies and a cold persistent rain the day before, race day couldn't have dawned with a greater contrast, as runners woke to bright blue skies, a strong sunshine and a real hint of Spring.
The race starts on the road next to the boating lake and the first mile is familiar to many runners, representing a significant portion of the popular Penrose parkrun. Just before the big house in the Penrose Estate however, runners turn off left, following a rough track which undulates along the western bank of the Loe Lagoon, heading for Loe Bar. After a surprisingly long climb, runners suddenly emerge on the coast path, greeted by a picture postcard scene of azure blue sea meeting a crystal clear blue sky, the surface of the ocean perturbed into a plethora of white horses, stretching out to the horizon.
A very rough descent leads to Loe Bar, a delicate strip of sand which separates the Loe Lagoon from the pounding Atlantic. The sand is soft and deep early on, sapping the energy from tiring legs, but gradually becomes more consolidated further along where it supports some limited vegetation. Across the other side, runners start a long climb inland on a dirt track, which really hurts after the beach crossing and for me was the most difficult part of the race and I lost a few places.
The climb seems to go on and on but eventually runners reach a road, turn right and descend on a nice fast section back towards the coast as far as Berepper. The multi-terrain section was over and it was tarmac from now all the way to the finish. From Berepper, there's another long climb back up to Culdrose airfield, another test on the stamina, and with the strengthening sun and wind protection offered by the roadside hedges, the temperature was also starting to rise uncomfortably high.
By Culdrose, runners have racked up 7 miles, with just 3 to go. I don't think anyone would describe the section along the tarmacked roadside path back to Helston as exciting, but at least it is fairly flat and allows runners to get into a good rhythm and pick off the opposition. Unlike last year, where a strong gusty tailwind felt like it was giving you wings, this year a headwind made for slightly more difficult progress, especially on the final section on the approach to Helston where it was really starting to become a hindrance.
The final mile back to the finish includes another nice downhill, almost too steep, before finishing in a muddy field in a similar location to the Penrose parkrun. A fun race on a stunning day and really pleased with my time considering I'd raced the KVK team relay the day before!