The Kernow vertical kilometre by Freedom racing is a 15 mile race with 1000m of ascent. The route consists of two specially designed 7.5 mile loops from the picturesque village of St Agnes in Cornwall.
The cowbells rang out and we were off. It begins with a climb from Trevaunance Cove, through a tunnel of supporters following a steep road out of the village. A marshal directed us off the tarmac and onto the footpath. Rocky and muddy, we continue our ascent on towards the beacon. The terrain is mixed in this section, including a couple of road sections and a particularly sodden field that already begins to suck the energy from your limbs.
I quickly settled into second place behind Adam Quinn. I was working pretty hard to keep him in my sites, hoping that I would ease into the race and start to feel a bit more comfortable and not just huff and puff, swinging my arms and legs as fast as I could. I became aware of another runners footsteps behind me and began to worry, that I was not only struggling to keep hold of Adam but that the others were catching me. The KvK actually has two races running simultaneously. The 15 mile solo route that encompasses both loops and a relay event where each runner in the team only has to complete a single loop. I looked to my right and saw Tom Carthey pulling up next to me. I had previously finished behind him last year at the Haytor Heller and knew that he had won the Plague, so was aware the man had some wheels. Luckily for me I remembered that we were not actually racing because he was a part of a team. I used him as a marker, knowing that if I could keep close to him when I was doing two laps as opposed to his one then I must be running well.
I followed Adam down our first descent of the Beacon, and became aware here that he was constantly pulling away from me on the downhill. We ran through twisting lanes before ascending the beacon again, I couldn’t see Adam ahead, or from the top of the beacon. The second descent is really fast single-track that takes you all the way down to the coast, where you encounter more technical rocky sections. This brings you back into St Agnes, where you venture out onto another coastal loop. We Climbed out of St Agnes through a muddy lane which opened up to a stunning rocky coastal section, with views over the cove back to where we came from and the surrounding vista. I felt settled into the rhythm of the race now, and felt confidant that I could at least keep hold of second resigned to the fact that Adam had escaped because I hadn’t had a sniff of him since the first descent of the beacon. I opened up my stride down a jagged track, the feeling of reckless abandon you feel when the thrill of speed overcomes the fear of falling capturing me completely. Bearing down on a stile at full tilt that crossed the entire trail, I tried to gracefully bound over, land and continue my adrenaline fuelled descent. However my leg buckled on impact with the earth and I crashed spectacularly. Right knee, right shoulder then a full body tumble down the rocks. This was my first totally out of control fall in a race and like many of you, I sprang straight back up, smiled at the marshal who was shouting ‘are you alright, that was a proper roll down the cliff’ went red with embarrassment and pretended all was fine. However I continued running, not wanting to look down, as I could feel a trickle of blood meandering down my shin. As is the nature of the event, I began to climb again. This was a perfect opportunity for me to check in with my body and assess whether I was actually hurt or just a little cut and bruised. Thankfully it was the later. I checked my watch, and one my plunge down into the village and that would be loop number one complete. I settled back into my breathing , found a rhythm, still confidant that 3rd was a few minutes behind and heard footsteps. I panicked and increased the pace, putting a bit more pain through my knee but resolved to the idea that I was happy with 2nd but not 3rd. No use, the sound was definitely getting closer. I turned and saw a tall figure bound along side me. Glancing back I thought that they looked familiar. It was Adam. He had taken a wrong turn on the first descent of the beacon and unbeknown to me I had been leading the race ever since. My subsequent tumble and reduction of pace had been all that was required for him to make up the lost ground and rejoin me. I was surprised to see him, but relieved that it wasn’t the phantom man in 3rd that was charging past me.
I followed him down into St Agnes and we set off up the steep road climb to begin our second loop. Through the fields, up the beacon, a sense of deja vu to proceedings. Emphasised completely by his acceleration away from me on our first plummet through the heather, around and back up. At least this time I could see him as I reascended the beacon for the last time, Adam not making the same navigation error twice. Off he trotted and I chased, to no avail, his blue ghost around the cove. Historically I have faired better in longer races, and devoted more time in training to the relentless forward progression required. These short fast events are something that I often do not do particularly well in or enjoy, but after reaching the 12 mile mark, it became just that. Enjoyable. It was helped immensely by my lack of a dive when heading down the blue hills, but the loop around cross coombe was a delight. By the time I turned for home and passed all the runners on my way back up to the finish I wished I could go around again.
The atmosphere of this event was unlike any other I have experienced in the UK. Supporters lined the roads around the Driftwood Spar and the cowbells rang out throughout. As you passed runners going in the other direction they were all so encouraging and everyone had a massive smile on their faces. The post race vibe was great as well, really relaxed and I found conversing with other competitors really easy, and as we tend to be a crowd of introverts who prefer solace on the trails, that shows how relaxed everyone was. I got some Hoka goodies and a voucher for At your pace running for second and used it for some new trail shoes. They were incredibly helpful and although they don’t run an online shop posted them to me with next day delivery. I have not repeated many races but this is definitely one I shall be returning for.
This race only required the bare minimum so I went for my most breathable light clothing and grippiest shoes they were.
Compressport racing split short
VJ Sport Xtrm shoes
All photos taken by No limits photography