Jon Tofts – Green Man Ultra 30 mile ultramarathon

Jon Tofts – Green Man Ultra 30 mile ultramarathon

Jon Tofts lives in Taunton, UK. On March 5, 2016 he finished the Green Man Ultra 30 miler as his first ultramarathon. Congratulations Jon!

Fun fact: For running fuel, Jon loves something that sounds amazing – chocolate covered flapjacks.

Jon’s favorite book on running is Everything Will Work Out in the Long Run by Dave Urwin (Amazon here).

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Paul Kellio Green Man Ultra Report (2016)

Paul Kellio Green Man Ultra Report (2016)

Written by Paul Kellio –

I remember as I lay on the pavement just after the car hit me thinking that ‘The Green Man Ultra might be a DNS’ but roll back towards the middle of February and I was thinking ‘The Green Man Ultra is probably going to be a DNS because of this horrid chest infection’. To complete the tale of woe UltraBaby decided she would choose the night before the race to stay awake all night and keep both the GingaNinja and I up.

So rather miserably on Saturday 5th March at about 5.30am I got up and got ready for The Green Man Ultra. To say I wasn’t ready is an understatement.

I rocked up with rather grumpy GingerNinja and even grumpier UltraBaby to the awesome starting facilities at Ashton Gate – not far from where the Parkrun kicks off from.

Then came the first positive of the day, as I was collecting my number a familiar, yet new face came beaming towards me – @knocker73 – awesome. After a number of near misses over the years we finally got to meet and what an awesome, humble and tremendous young chap he is. The start line was filled with lots of familiar faces, many of them from Twitter and I managed to say hola to lots of them – especially once I’d found the ever brilliant Roz Glover. But there were also those I missed like @razzledazzlemark (another day buddy).

It was a cold and crisp morning but it was also bright and there had that hint of moisture in the air – lots of the runners had chosen to go out in waterproofs but as is normal for me I chose my standard combo of Ronhill and lovely Eco Green top from the Snowdonia Marathon. I’d chosen my Ronhill shorts too but this was a practical issue as the pockets on the outside would allow me to safely stow my GoPro and run without fear of loss. Having checked conditions with some of the local runners it was suggested that it was going to be a mud bath – I looked down at my Altra Lone Peak 2.0 and I feared for my safety.

Regardless of kit issues the briefing was over and we were off. I started, as has become my custom, at the back of the field and gently wandered through the field picking up my pace to stay just behind Ira Rainey (the 10hr timekeeper) – I figured if my body was okay I’d probably run something like about 9hrs and I’d push on past him once I’d figured the route out.

Conditions though were muddy and the hundreds of runners going through prior to me had cut it up nicely so it was as much mud sliding as it was running and each of the ‘hundreds’ of stiles meant that by the time you’d gotten into your stride there was another gate to clamber over or get through. However, after the first few steady ascents and descents I had relaxed into the race and found myself warming to the possibility of running a decent time. The trouble was that I could feel the niggle of the previous weeks car crash and by mile 3 it was a raging burning sensation through my groin, my right leg and lower back.

The pain was preventing me eating much as well and so at about mile 5, as I ran into a lovely gentleman called James, I started to chow down on food and drink to see if that would get my mind off the more problematic things. It worked while I was eating but nothing more.

The good news though was that Bristol and North Somerset are replete with beautiful scenery and as I looked up I could see nothing but fantastic views of our fantastic countryside. This was why I was here today.

Pulling in to CP1 I stopped for 2 or 3 minutes, watched Ira Rainey leave the checkpoint with his band of merry runners and then quickly followed. By now I realised I was slowing so my aims had to change and so I focused on staying ahead of the 11 hour pacer.

Through gritted teeth now I ran harder between CP1 and 2 than I had the first section but I was slower, my effort wasn’t being rewarded with results but pushing on I stayed ahead of the pacer. Here though it turned sweet and sour, firstly I could see Roz in the distance and so I put a spurt on to see if I could make CP2 before she did and then I came across ‘real mud’. I’d seen the previous pair of runners clamber across on a metal fence like a pair of monkeys but I felt with the right combination of pace and effort it was runnable.

How wrong can you be? My Clarkson-esque ‘more power’ gave rise to a defining moment in the race.

Slop! Slop! Fart! Fart! My feet became stuck but my body continued its progress forward and I was sent straight into the muddy abyss. Thankfully my Lone Peaks stayed on my feet and the dirty girl gaiters kept me locked in but I was covered from head to toe in crap. I wiped myself clean with all the buffs I had and then used what areas of my clothes that remained clean to wipe the rest off me. I climbed over to the fence and fought my way through the bog.

I don’t know if Roz was laughing at me, but if she was I hope she enjoyed it because had I seen me do that – well let’s say I’d have been amused. We ran together for the next 20 minutes too which was lovely as I often only see her at race starts and finishes or as she’s going past me. But Roz as ever looked every inch the legend she is and powered on to CP2 a little ahead of me. By the way, as an aside if Roz ever mentions ‘Dickslam’ or ‘Cockslam’ rest assured she’s talking about races and not knackering your knacker projectile launcher.

I pulled into CP2 – ate delicious jam sandwiches (no crust) and then promptly left heading straight to CP3. Alone now I was contemplating the DNF or my preferred RTC (refuse to continue), I was in agony but I faced the mental demons and reminded myself I was here to collect a medal and so I pushed on.

About 6 miles in to CP3 the 11 hour pacer finally caught me and so I used this as an opportunity to find my time bearings – how close to the right pace was he going, etc. He thought he was around 5 minutes ahead of time and he had a significant group with him – I stayed roughly with them for the next hour but eventually as we hit Tarmac my body failed and I slowed letting them go past – I was going to be timed out. All this way, all this pain, all for nothing.

‘Pain, time, effort, illness, sleeplessness and I will finish because I’m more than halfway there’ I told myself and then something happened that would change the course of my race and her name was Elaine.

Elaine. A very youthful forty-something (be rude to give an exact age) ultra running lady who was having a mentally challenging time. It’s fair to say, having lost the 11 hour pacer, she looked like her race was over. However, Elaine gave me the opportunity to focus on problems that weren’t my own and we chatted for a little while. Within a few moments I had warmed enormously to Elaine and we ground out the distance to CP3 where we both had support waiting for us. She had the awesome Gary, husband and supporter extraordinaire and I had the GingaNinja, UltraBaby and the Continental Trio.

I gulped down milkshake, said Adios to the support and threw on a waterproof after being hail stoned. Grabbing my running buddy, Elaine we set off. We’d agreed that we would aid one another for the remainder of the race, effectively we’d pace each other to the finish knowing that time was now against us.

She was calm, understated and brilliant and I was upbeat, frantic and woefully inadequate but it was a good mix of temperaments. It was when I found myself feeling leaden and she turned and said to me, ‘anyone’d think you’d been hit by a car!’ that I realised I was going to make it and in the best of company. 

We pulled apart the next section in good time and that was because (I hope) that we were inspiring one another to go that bit faster and that bit harder. Suddenly inclines and mud seemed a little less difficult and we covered a wide range of topics in conversations as the miles drifted away. I won’t say that the journey to CP4 was easy but it was a more balanced effort. It was all just coming together and the problems that had plagued me earlier in the day, while still there, seemed less significant. I hope the same can be said for my partner.

Tim. It was here that we met ‘Tim’. I know that lots of you will have met him, he was just a guy with a car, by a church, handing out goodies just when we needed them – he’d done the race the year before and we appreciated him taking the time to sit in the cold and wait for the exhausted runners to give them food and drink (and in our case a hug). I had lots of fizzy haribo. Yum.

Once we had passed Tim we started to focus on the final jaunt to mile 39. It was the grind now but actually good humour was holding it all together and nothing highlights that as much as our enclounter with a group of youths …

The VCR Tape Gang. We passed by a group of youths on the road, nothing unusual about that you might say, however, they had been unfurling the contents of old VHS tapes and I couldn’t help but advise them that ‘VHS has had its day, it’s old technology’. This was greeted by a torrent of abuse suggesting that we hurry up and the like. Having had my fun with them and a bit of a laugh I concluded the discourse with the following statement ‘I’m related to Jimmy Saville you know!’

It raised a titter in the running ranks and our young friends promptly left to get on with it.

At CP4 there was just time for a weewee stop for one of us – I’d drained the lizard just beyond CP3 so used the opportunity to give a progress update to the GingaNinja and suggested that we were about 10km and at current pace we’d be done in about 80 minutes. CP4 also gave me an opportunity to chat to a first time ultra widow and her family, we had a few gentle laughs about being stuck in the cold and waiting around for runners that might never appear. Her partner was several miles behind us and as I left I wished her and her runner well knowing that he was rapidly running out of time.

We pushed on uphill and back through the mud, only stopping for an enforced ‘headtorch breakout’. Fully lit we pushed on, watching the map, watching the Suunto and most importantly, watching the clock. Onwards through to Bristol and we could finally see things we knew (well things I knew) and the Tarmac hills felt heavy under my feet – the pounds of mud that caked my Altra was now starting to become strewn across the city, I could taste the finish line.

The GingaNinja passed us in the car and waved us on – we were nearly there. Entering the final uphills, each step started to feel like a winning step and the night became illuminated as we crossed the Clifton Suspension Bridge – a truly magnificent sight.  

A little further and Elaine egged us onwards, I egged us onwards and we reached the summit of Ashton Gate and into the deer park. Boom!

There was no time for messing around – we had momentum and we hurled our bruised and battered bodies to the fore. Through the final gate and in the distance we could see the small group of people lining the way. We grasped each other’s hands and began our ‘fast’ finish – the GingaNinja and Gary (Elaine’s excellent other half) waiting to congratulate us.

Over the line! I was delirious.

I felt like dying, every pain that I’d held back simply coursed through my veins, I was suitably broken. But I’d made it and the Green Man Ultra was

beaten, even if it was, in my case, a narrow points victory.

The Route.
What can you say? It’s undulating, there’s a few steep bits, there’s mud (up to your eyeballs in my case) and there was some stunning scenery to admire. The Green Man is a pretty route – a shame about the amount of gates and stiles you need to get through but these are a very minor distraction to a great course. You should do this just for the course.

Marshals/Volunteers/Support. As with all ultra races the support tends to be checkpoint based and this was no different and it was universally excellent. Everything from the casual ease of the registration through to the handing out of jam sandwiches, medals and certificates this was one slick operation. A mention must go to the people on the course too – Tim, with his unofficial checkpoint, the cowbellers with the pretzels and the family at the park with jelly beans – they all made me smile. There was also the genuine and heartfelt congratulations from the Bristolians as ultra runners invaded their city. This was a good old knees up. For me though I’d like to say a big thank you to Ian, the 11 hour Timelord who put up with my wittering about getting extra time for far too long. So thanks you everyone you made this a very friendly experience.

Value for money? Always a bone of contention for me. Do you get your money’s worth? Let’s break it down; entry to the race with a stunning course to run, a bespoke medal, bespoke T-Shirt, included race photography,  certificate, food on the course, hot food afterwards, showers, good change and toilet facilities and all the usual gubbins! Yep this was a value for money ultra.

Elaine. If you know her, if you’ve met her, if you see her then always pass on my good wishes and thanks. She’s a tremendous runner with a great future in the sport and for me personally she was the perfect antidote to day I was having. I’ll always be incredibly grateful to her as her spirit was so incredibly strong. If you read this young lady – recover well and start your preparations for the next one soon!

Kit? I chose mostly the right kit and the altra LP2.0 despite being slip slide actually help up amazingly well and combined with my drymax socks kept my feet in good condition. The Ronhill shorts with the gel pockets also worked a treat as a secure location for my GoPro and extendable reach stick – so lots of steady footage shot of the race and me running it. The thing I got wrong was good and I’ll need to assess that for next time – the sweet and fruit options were fine but my savoury choices made me choke and that’s not what you want.

UltraBoyRuns? Don’t run an ultra on no training (chest infection), no sleep (naughty UltraBaby) or having just survived being hit by a car mere days earlier. I was foolish to think about starting but I wouldn’t have missed it. I finished bloodied, bruised and injured and in a rubbish time but eventually all that fades and what’s left is I ran the 45 miles.

Conclusions? The Green Man is fun, friendly, beautiful, intimate, tough and brilliant. It has something for everyone and I highly recommend you add this to your race calendars – it’s one I’d go back to. Don’t let the fact it’s a shorter distance ultra put you off, the mud makes this a challenge, the route is a challenge and the time of year is a challenge. Give this a go, you won’t regret it.

Name: The Green Man Ultra Organisers: Ultrarunning Ltd Location: Bristol Distance: 45 miles approximately Course: Muddy, undulating, runnable

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Chasing the Green Man by Nick The Ultrarunner

Chasing the Green Man by Nick The Ultrarunner

A run round Bristol

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Ashton Court the start line

The Green Man Ultra is efficiently organised by Ultra running Ltd and having completed it in 2014 and not clashing with Crufts this year, I wanted to give it another go. So, there I was stood on the start line for a second go fully knowing what was to come.

The 2014 version had a nice downhill start, from a country club, down the tracks Ashton Court Mansion and past the deer parks. This year the start was Ashton Court Mansion and uphill! They had also introduced two new elements: –

  • Chip timing
  • Time lords

My ultimate aim was to keep in front of the 12 hour time lord but try and keep up with the 11 hour time lord.

After checking in, coffee drunk we were ready for the race briefing then we were off. The Canicross runners held back, their dogs weren’t very impressed and were baying to set off. Canicross runners have the added advantage of 4 paw traction uphill, but the disadvantage of heaving or encourage their running companion to jump over the stiles and stopping their running companions from going full speed downhill!

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Four paw traction

The first section pottered down through the park, through the local woods and tracks eventually after passing through a local housing estate we hit the community forest path proper. The mud trail had started good and proper and was a local feature for the rest of the race.

A short word about mud – believe it or not mud has a very wide spectrum, from liquid which can come in a verity of colours, squelchy to clod hopper. It all sticks no matter what and in various depths. Being at the back of the mid to back pack it was nicely churned up all the way round. In some places, navigation in places consisted of following the mud trail!

However, back to the race, the hills round Bristol are to say the least, Yorkshire undulating in style and after several climbs the first aid station came into view. On offer was water and malt loaf. Toilets are always welcome and I needed them! The countryside we ran round is stunning with a nice mix of fields, tracks, woodland and a small amount of tarmac road.

Nice path

My strategy was to try and keep at least 1 runner in view at all times as the navigation could be tricky and I eventually hooked up with 3 local runners doing it for the first time. They were being very ably supported by their local club and families, with the welcome addition of pop-up aid stations on-route.

The weather was very pleasant for most of the day with the exception of a 10 minute rain and hail shower – this prompted a few choice words from my companions.

Aid station 2 eventually arrived and there was a good choice of sandwiches and cake, with the usual cold drinks etc.

A short word about stiles – normally these aren’t a problem and are an easy way of crossing a wall or fence. The stiles on the community path are different and very evil. Short they are not, high and vertical in many different styles, they become worse the longer the race with tired legs that refuse to lift any higher than 6 inches.

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Evil stiles

Onwards and upwards was the theme and we crossed and recrossed 3 motorways (M4, M32 and M5) along the way. You can always tell when a motorway is getting closer, the noise gradually increases. Several train tracks are also crossed.

With 3 miles to go before aid station 3 we had the fright of our lives – the 12 hour time lord had caught us up! However, his strategy was to keep the pace higher than the 12 hour pace to allow for tiredness at the latter stages. Game on, keep up or try and keep a small safety window ahead of him. So, on we pressed and the pace crept up. We were in a reasonable sized group, one person even had a go-pro camera. It did give us a chance to swap notes, what future ultras we were doing, as it turned out, the time lord was doing the SDW100 (snap so am I again), another was doing the TP100 and using the GMU as a training run.

The section from aid station 3 to 4 was a fairly lengthy stretch (approximately 11 miles) with uphill and down dale continuing. After crossing the M5 for the second time and a clear view of Bristol airport to the right I knew the final aid station wasn’t far to go.

However, whilst coming through this local town, some local lads were mucking about with an old video tape – stretching it across the road to slow cars down. I did comment to them that they could get hurt, surprise surprise, a car stopped with threats to pull them from limb from limb came out of open windows. Needless to say I didn’t hang around!

Aid station 4 was the last one and the legs were holding up rather well, protesting (to be expected) and the feet joined in during the last few miles. That’s ultras for you.

A quick coffee (with 3 sugars), 9 bar and cake consumed, head torch on and up through last section of woods and tracks to the Clifton Suspension bridge. As before it was brilliantly lit up and rather romantically a couple who were running with me had very fond memories of it. It had been their first date on one of the viewing platforms.

Once I’d crossed the bridge I had less than half a mile to go and then the 12 hour time lord caught me up again, moaning that had been a lonely 4 miles. There was nothing left but to trot down the path, through the deer park and the finish. Nicely under the 12 hour limit (just).

On reflection I messed around with the mud too much, trying to avoid the stuff and should have gone straight through. I packed my running poles and never used them – this would have saved 900 grams in weight. I didn’t drink as much as I should have, but I didn’t suffer the consequences. Perhaps having a dog to run with me might have helped with the hills. The phone tracker didn’t work, but I hadn’t finished registering it correctly, me and technology!

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Mission completed

All in all I enjoyed it and a might be back for a 3rd go next year.

Nick The Ultrarunner

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Green Man Ultramarathon by blindcider

Green Man Ultramarathon by blindcider

For some reason I thought signing up for an Ultramarathon would be a good idea. The Green Man Ultra is something I’d been tempted to enter for a few years but had never been brave enough to do. After completing the Outlaw though I was up for another challenge.

The Green Man Ultra is a 45 mile race circumnavigating Bristol based mostly on the Community Forest Path. This is mostly on of road trails and quieter country roads. Anyone completing a circumavigation within 24 hours as part of the Green Man challenge is entitled to call themselves a woodwose

I’d not managed anywhere near enough preparation runs and was concerned that my body and particularly my troublesome calf muscles wouldn’t stay the distance. Only 4 weeks before I had written the email to defer and was about to send it but didn’t for some unknown reason after yet another twinge.  As such I was putting no pressure on myself and my run strategy was just to listen to my body and not worry too much about time. Keep moving forward and not stopping.

As it had worked so well during last years Iron distance triathlon I was going to follow the same nutrition strategy of an energy gel every 45 minutes and other food whenever I could get it. I’d started the day with a bowl of porridge and a couple of bananas

Section 1 – Ashton Court to Norton Malreward

The first section of the race is probably the most physically demanding – it is mostly offroad and contains the ascent of Dundry Hill. The start is a very strange experience, a few people dash off into the distance but the majority just plod along at a slow jog unwilling to push their bodies early on. The course helps with the slow pace start with some bottle necks at stiles/gateways and single file paths which take a while for the 300 runners to filter through. There is one quick descent through some woods where the ground is quite slippery


Some of the Emerson’s Green Running Club victims (and Angus)

As the course weaves through Long Ashton it starts to widen out before narrowing again on a narrow muddy path along the Monarchs Way. This swiftly rises to a very muddy slippery set of fields that go mostly uphill. The field of runners spreads over quite a wide area trying to find grip. At this stage runners are still dodging puddles and the muddier patches trying to keep their feet as dry as possible.

The route drops down a horrible set of stairs to go under the A370 and I nearly end up in a heap at the bottom where the number of runners in front of me have churned the corner up into a muddy mess a short jog and we cross the A38 and ready ourselves for the monster climb. This is uphill over a couple of fields and then up a stony path, my calves and quads are burning by the time I reach the top and despite walking the ascent I am breathing quite hard.

My friend from EGRC Pav, catches me on the ascent having started slightly further back than I did and its good to have someone to natter to as we go. This first part of the race has been difficult to get into any sort of rhythm, however from the top of Dundry the next part is much easier to get into a decent rhythm. We see Meryl Grimshaw at the top, she’s there primarily supporting for Anne and Steve from EGRC  but she has some stuff in her car for me if I need it later.

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Wrist Malfunction but smiling near CP1

The fields here are much drier underfoot and there are some road sections so the pace improves – This feels like a long section and I am immensely relieved to have reached the first Checkpoint in decent shape. It is also much quicker than I had run on my recce of this section as I hadn’t needed to stop to do any navigation. I don’t hang around for long here and start out on the next phase

Section 2 – Norton Malreward to Keynsham

On my recce run I had found this section quite hard and the race was no exception, it starts with a slog across some exposed fields and a grass runway before a long and tricky descent down a very rocky and muddy path.


Still smiling (Pav’s photo)

The major thing in this section is that the route at Woollard is diverted up and over a hill rather than the ‘normal’ route – having recce’d the normal route I am very happy at this as it is a very nasty section with a treachorous sheep path up a steep hill followed by a breakneck descent through some woods.

I nearly go the wrong way here but another kind gentleman of a runner calls me back and we go the right way. This is another monster climb that is walked up but when you reach the top its about a mile of descent on roads which is quite quick.

The route then turns North along the Chew river, this was flooded on my recce run only 3 weeks earlier and the fields are still hard going. The muddier patches are walked through and I catch up with Pav again. We are both finding it tough going at this point and are relieved to go into Keynsham, The route as it leaves the fields goes through the centre of an old mill that’s been converted to posh apartments. By the time we had got there the nice brick driveways were covered in a nice splattering of mud.

Running through Keynsham park is odd having to avoid a number of pushchairs and bemused onlookers confused as to why a bunch of muddy people wearing race numbers are slowly thundering through the park. Then we have made it to CP2.

I refill my bottle and am horrified to find my electrolyte tabs aren’t where I left them, fortunately Pav lends me a couple to see me round. I grab a slice of cake and a handful of sweets and waste no time in starting the next section.

Section 3 – Keynsham to Hambrook

Leaving the Brassmill pub without partaking in a nice cold beverage was tough but that’s just one of the hardships us endurance types experience. This section starts off flat alongside the river Avon along some fields, again this was flooded fairly recently but the footing isn’t too bad and as it diverts temporarily along the dramway the footing is good. As you reach Wilsbridge Mill the path is mostly uphill until you meet the Bristol-Bath railway path, this is good for a breather.

The railway path is a hard section as its not so interesting and fairly straight and people are starting to walk parts of the sections as well as the hills. As I reach the end of the path I see my lovely wife and son with a big bowl of sweets and some hand made signs cheering on Daddy and the other runners. I have been starting to feel some blisters and my one sock is starting to bunch up under my sole so I take some time here to sort this out.


Family impromptu aid station

I had been dreading this point as mentally it would be so easy to quit and wander the short distance home but surprisingly no such thoughts surface and I start off again. I know this next section very well and know that if I can make it to the top of Shortwood Hill its mostly downhill from there for a while.

Warmley forest is the same bog as it has been all year round and then you have to deal with the enormous stiles that wouldn’t look out of place in a tough mudder event, I’m sure the last one was about 8 foot tall. Hamstrings are starting to cramp with the effort on these stiles. The sun comes out at this point but paired with a cold wind so I am sweating and shivering at the same time. I see Adrian Grimshaw going the other way to meet some of the other EGRC runners just as I start the descent towards the landfill site.

I’m now feeling surprisingly good and I run for large parts of this section making decent progress whilst the going is good. The next bit from the golf course until just after CP3 is the only part of the route I haven’t recced so I am slightly worried about getting lost. Just before the golf course I pass Ira’s walking tour – He’s the 10 hour time lord so I am very surprised to be this far up the field. Neil Newman is cheering on here and I grab an extra energy gel off him.

I carry on making decent progress until it gets to Park lane – this is only 100m or so but it is such a nasty climb I feel I need climbing equipment and supplementary oxygen. This path then follows a stream on a very muddy and slippery path, I keep going hoping to stay ahead of Ira’s group until at least the next checkpoint, I am very relieved to reach CP3 as my feet are hurting.

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Taking it easy near CP3

Unfortunately Meryl hasn’t reached CP3 yet so after a quick phonecall to ascertain that she isn’t far away I decide to wait for her to change my shoes and socks and fix some blisters. The amount off offroad running from CP3 onwards is far lower than the first sections so I want to change into road shoes to save my feet a little bit. Ira’s group leaves about 5-10 mins before I do and I don’t see them again.

There are a few EGRC folks around here and its nice to speak to Ed, Andy and Pete as well as guzzle some rocket fuel cola. This is now the furthest I have ever run and will be breaking new ground with every step.

Section 4 – Hambrook to Blaise

My first thoughts on this section are “Oh crap what have I done” as I nearly fall into a stream several times on a very narrow path, maybe changing my shoes wasn’t such a good idea. Soon though the course goes into Stoke Gifford and Bradley Stoke and I am thankful for the additional cushioning. I struggle through Bradley Stoke walking most of the way as I try to refuel and dog my way through a bad patch. The bad patch continues until the bridge over the M5 and a hilariously fast slippery descent gets my body working, I am now mostly seeing the same faces now, Tash and Rich who I’ve been helping with directions through Bradley Stoke and Wayne are the names I remember although there are a number of people I remember chatting too along the way but have forgot their names.

I have a disaster in Bradley Stoke as I look at my Garmin only to find its turned off. A bit of panic later and I turn it back on to find the battery has plenty of life left so it must have switched itself off. I’d been using the map function only and deliberately not looked at time, pace or distance so I now reckon I must have forgot to press start and it turned itself off after a set amount of time. I have no garmin record of the first 50km which is a little bit frustrating but at least I could set the map going again although I do know the route from here its nice to have confirmation.

A few mental calculations suggest I could walk the rest of the way and still make the cut-off which is both demoralising and cheering, as it encourages me to walk but I know that barring physical failure I am going to make it. The question is how long will it take?

Once over the M5 and down the hill there are a number of fields to contend with where the gateways are pure bogs and tough going, My trail shoes wouldn’t have helped much but my road shoes are sliding everywhere. The path goes through Easter Compton and past an impromptu aid station where I eagerly have some cola before the climb of Spanorium hill. This is both steep and slippery and its tough to appreciate the view when you’ve been out for so long.

I reach the top and decide to run as much as possible – each step forward is one step less. My feet are hurting and now every time I bend either leg more than necessary to move forwards my hamstrings are cramping. One last big field and then its tarmac until CP4. Approximately 10km left, about an hour at normal pace – probably 90 minutes or so at the pace I’ve been managing.

A quick stop is all I take at CP4, a bottle refill and a can of red bull before starting again not wanting to stand around and risk bits seizing up

Section 5 – Blaise to Ashton Court

I start the slog and soon get caught by Rich and Tash who want to stick with me for my knowledge of the route. A series of forest steps at Blaise are utter agony before the long slog along the plateau.

Descending Shirehampton golf course is okay as the descent across the nice golf grass takes the pressure off the feet a little bit but soon its time to climb from seas mills to the downs. At this stage of the race this is pure evil. The hill goes on climbing for ages and the surface is rocky and harsh on tired bodies.

Pushing as hard a walk as I can I finally make it to the top and see the downs, Rich clearly has more left than us and runs into the distance. As we make it to the far side of the downs Rich has caught up with another runner who is struggling badly but then has waited for us.

There is a final climb up to the observatory where there is a lovely view of the suspension bridge all lit up. It is starting to get dark but if we push on we can get to the end without needing head torches. On the bridge I pass another EGRC member Stewart and keep going.

Finally there is the gate to Ashton Court we turn left and go past the Green man  statue and there’s only about 500m left. I take this part fairly easily not wanting to slip and fall at this late stage and my two companions push on ahead. There are some people watching and applauding as I cross the line and I am utterly surprised to be given a blue medal for being one of the top 150 finishers.


Dinner Plate

I collect my woodwose certificate and finisher t-shirt before gleefully taking my shoes and socks off and devouring a nice spicy plate of Chilli-con-carne. Vicky and Patrick then turn up missing my moment of glory by about 5 minutes as seems to becoming a habit.

Its then time to go home and dump myself in a nice hot bath

The butchers bill from the run isn’t too bad, I have a few blisters and one particularly manky toe. I have also battered my immune system and have developed a nasty cold. Given I didn’t think I would make it round I’ll take it thanks.

As an event it is without any doubt the hardest thing I have ever done. Training for an Ironman may be harder but the event is easier as you use different bits of your body for the different sections.

Final position 109th Male in 10:26

I owe thanks to lots of people for helping complete the GMU, all the marshalls, supporters, impromptu aid stations, and of course all the other runners. Please  accept my thanks even if you aren’t mentioned above

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Green Man Ultra – 5th March 2016 by Marcus Bosano

Green Man Ultra – 5th March 2016 by Marcus Bosano

Only one person can win a race we all know that yet so many of us enter races knowing we have little chance of being within the same hour as the winner let alone top the podium. Running is different, people run for so many different reasons and winning isn’t necessarily one of them. Nowhere is this more true than in ultra marathons. So it was on the morning of Saturday 5th March that 184 hardy souls almost exclusively clad in Salomon running gear nervously prepared kit, checking and double checking the details. Chatting excitedly with friends or just pensive waiting for it to start. The it being the Green Man Challenge, a 46mile ultra marathon with in excess of 4,000ft of climbing using the Community Forrest Path and Frome Valley Way path that circumvent Bristol.
The route was predominantly on trail and with the weather that we have experienced over the previous week was a boggy, muddy mess. There were puddles that were knee deep, fields of thick mud that made running impossible, fields with thick mud and then a covering of freezing rain water across the top creating something akin to a paddy field. From the start the route went up hill, knowing this I decided to start very cautiously, this is good advice in any ultra. It’s a long way, you will be out there a long time and a lot can happen.
After a slog up through muddy fields in the cold morning, the race started at 8am, there were then runnable sections across fields and through wooded sections. After starting cautiously this did feel a bit like having the leash let off. I was though very aware of my effort and trying to keep under control. Running slow when you are not used to it feels like you are not really moving. The field was quite bunched at the start, once it became runnable it strung out.
I settled into a pace that was matched by a lady from Northern Ireland, Susan. We ran together for quite a few miles chatting about running and the races we have done. That’s the other thing about an ultra you’re generally running at a pace where talking is easy, if you can’t talk then you’re going too fast. We hit the first checkpoint quite quickly, it was only 9 miles after the start, there was drinks and malt loaf. A quick grab and off again. The next checkpoint was a further 7 miles away.
Off again and there was a self imposed target to get to the next checkpoint ahead of the start of the 30 mile race. The GMU has two races the 45 miler and 30 miler. Both use the same course with the 30 miler starting 15 miles into the course. The checkpoint here was better stocked, coke, lots of cake and sandwiches. I grabbed a handful of food and it was, once more, off again. At this point I was feeling great and got a little carried away, I started running quicker, the ground was now compacted trail more akin to the tarmac that I normally run on. Checkpoint 3 was 12 miles along and i started to lose my zip.
I was in a group of runners and as we passed a pedestrian we were told that the next aid station was just around the corner. As it came into view there was relief, it turned out though that this was not an official aid station. I stopped and asked for some help retrieving my blood test kit out of my race vest. The lady that helped me asked if I needed anything, i replied that I might do and would know shortly. She hovered around me as I tested my blood. It was 4mmol which is at the bottom of the good range which is between 4-7. she asked me what I needed then got me food – a lot of sugary calorific food. With a handful of mini-eggs and flapjack I set off walking towards the next official checkpoint. Whilst this interaction may seem trivial it wa actually very significant.
When you have diabetes your brain plays tricks on you, you can have a low blood sugar and yet not deal with it or not want to deal with it. It’s the ultimate in denial. I have been in this position before and it does take an intervention sometimes. The action of asking me if I needed anything or if there was anything I needed to do made me do it. Without that I might have been tempted to just continue. that would have been a mistake.
At the next checkpoint, which was at 28 miles, I went to town with the food. A red bull (which I later found out was sugar free!), a handful of sandwiches, a stack of cake all carried and eaten. I also grabbed some gels and a couple of 9-bars which I stashed for later. I was feeling revitalised for having eaten and set about running again. The next section of the course felt weird in that it was the footpath but woven around the Bradley Stoke housing estates. We were sharing the footpaths with dog walkers, kids on scooters and bikes, everyone was encouraging but interacting with normal people was a little surreal. A reminder that it was a Saturday and people were going about their business.
At this point I settled in running wth a couple of Welsh chaps that were going at a pace I could maintain. We helped each other out, chatting, taking the mickey and passing the time. It made the running feel easy. We continued to walk the uphill sections and run where we could.
As we got closer to the 4th checkpoint at Blaise Castle they pushed on stronger than me and the elastic snapped. At the checkpoint I made a decision to be quick through. As I entered I saw Matt, he was volunteering and knocking off, we had a quick chat and he was going to run the final 10km with me. I set off, we were now being followed by the 9hr timelord and a further group of runners. Over that final 10k I must have a lost maybe 8-10 places but I didn’t care. My quads were trashed and it was just about finishing. I couldn’t have responded even if I had wanted to.
Across the Downs and towards the Clifton Suspension Bridge. It was now a glorious sunny afternoon so there were tourists, day trippers, dog walkers and kids on scooters. All gave me and the other runners a wide berth. Across the bridge and then down into Ashton Court. The finish was insight.
I crossed the line so pleased to finish and be in daylight. Once across the line there’s a lift in spirits that’s almost euphoric. Not 5 minutes earlier I had been struggling and heading towards a dark place, now it was all smiles and a return of energy. Relief, happiness and adrenaline all combining.
I was helped out of my muddy shoes, took off my socks and calf guards and went inside the race HQ to get my t-shirt and bag. A change of clothes, some vegetarian chilli and a cup of tea and I felt like me again. My legs and feet were sore but in no way was I broken.
Some numbers…
Total distance run – 47.6miles (race is advertised as 46 so I clearly went wrong somewhere!)
Total elevation – 4,006ft / 1,221m
Avg. pace – 10:59 per mile
Slowest mile – mile #5 in 14:40 with 459ft of climb
Fastest mile – mile #20 in 08:01
Calories burned – 6,600
Position – 32nd/184 (there were 168 finishers)
Finish time – 08:42:59.
Diabetes Management…
I use levemir (taking 3 units at 0830 and 2030 daily) and novorapid insulin (with meals). For this race I had 1 units of novorapid with breakfast for which I would normally have used 5 units. This meant that just before the start of the race at 8am my blood sugar was at 19mmol, this is very high but I knew it would be reducing steadily all day, plus the insulin was still active in my system. Before the race start, at around 7:30, I took 1.5 units of levemir.
I tested my blood sugar once on course, a little over half way, where it was 4mmol. At the finish my blood sugar was 11.5mmol.
Where I struggled was in the hours and days after the race. I would expect to need vey little insulin for quite a period afterwards yet seemed to need more. I was running much higher than expected. This race seeming to have little effect. I got this back under control around 3-4 days post race.
I always stress about kit but got it right for this race. If anything I was probably wearing a little too much. It is though, of course, easier to take stuff off than put on what you don’t have!
All my kit had been used before but I took a bit of a risk with, of all things, my shoes. A little while ago I bought some Salomon Sense 3 S-Lab shoes. I have worn Salomon before and never had any issues with them. I wore these shoes on two training trail runs that together were maybe 11 miles. The shoes fit like a slipper, weigh nothing and so I was confident they would be ok come race day. Conditions were perfect for this shoe, it was soft and muddy and these shoes coped admirably with the terrain. I had zero issues and for the first time ever not a single blister following an ultra. They were a little hard underfoot when running on Tarmac but we’re really an excellent shoe. I made a good choice if a little risky.
The rest of my kit was pretty much my standard running kit. Inov-8 Ultra socks, Compressport calf guards, The North Face trail shorts, an Adidas Techfit compression t-shirt, Nike running fleece, Salomon S-Lab Hybrid jacket, Buff reflective, Salomon beanie, topped off with a Salomon race cap. To carry my gear I wore my 5ltr Salomon race vest.
The success of the shoes aside the biggest plus was the Salomon hybrid jacket. This is the one that fits over the race vest so everything is kept under cover. The best thing though is the elastic waist band that when you don’t need it you can roll the jacket into. With changing conditions this is a really great feature. While it didn’t really rain on Saturday it was windy, particularly early on, I used the jacket as a wind cheater and then as it warmed up tucked it away into its waist band.
I was carrying enough food to feed a small army mainly in the form of gels. I had Gu and SIS gels. The Gu gels were packed with caffeine, electrolyte and amino acids so a great gel for an ultra. I packed the SIS gels that are the ones you don’t need water with.  I was also carrying a couple of energy bars and some glucose tablets.
On course there were sandwiches, cake, squash, coke, red bull and some salty goodies too. I ate an increasing amount at each aid station and had no issues with the stomach at any point despite the amount of sugary junk I had thrown into it!

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