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

Posted by in General
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

Posted by in General
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!

Posted by in General
Tim Lambert Green Man Ultra Race Report (2015)

Tim Lambert Green Man Ultra Race Report (2015)

Written by Tim Lambert –

Entering CP2. Photo: Amanda Forman/ Ultrarunning Ltd

Entering CP2. Photo: Amanda Forman/ Ultrarunning Ltd

I made the fatal mistake of saying to the guy next to me, around halfway through the Green Man Ultra on Saturday, that “this is probably the easiest ultra I have done so far…”. Never a sensible thing to say on a course you don’t know, that you have to navigate yourself and you are 20 odd miles from the finish.

By the end of the race, I regretted that statement.

In terms of terrain, yes, it was the easiest ultra I have done to date, but with a finish time two minutes shy of 10 hours for a 44 mile course, it doesn’t take an astrophysicist to work out I averaged 4.4 miles per hour, or just under 15 minute miles. That is not quick, even by ultra standards.

To put it in context, I ran nine and a half hours at the 47 mile Brecon Beacons ultra, which is far tougher in terms of terrain or just 12 minutes slower at the North Downs Way 50 mile race when I was much less fit than I am now. Quite simply, this race threw me because it wasn’t marked and I didn’t have a GPS. Using the maps, navigation wasn’t a huge issue but it took a lot of time stopping, checking and making sure I was going the right way- even when I teamed up with Christian Maleedy for the last 20 odd miles.

One of the things that was toughest was even when having determined a route, I didn’t run with full confidence and therefore full speed, as I was second guessing myself a lot. The whole race I felt like I was holding back and never really running with a rhythm. I am pretty sure I wasn’t the only one who felt this way.

That said, I entered this race to get out of comfort zone. It is a classic British race now and one I have wanted to do for a couple of years, but hadn’t managed to squeeze in. I understand where we started from and finished this year, in Long Ashton, is new as a headquarters but you wouldn’t have known it. This is the first race I have done with Ultrarunning Ltd and I have to say they were fantastic. Certainly more low key than Centurion, but equally passionate and with great volunteers and aid stations that had everything I needed. Whilst the medal is already in the garage, it is one of the most impressive ones I have ever seen and was a big motivator when I was having low spots. I wanted that medal.

Once registered, I had the usual slightly nervous/apprehensive chats. I met Dawn Riden for the first time face to face as well as Roz Glover who I had seen the weekend before at the CW50K. Stu Wilkie was also there, last years winner, as well as Dennis Cartwright who I haven’t seen since the North Downs 100. But mainly I was chatting to Ian Walker.

Now, Ian has annoyed me here. Because he has ruined one of my excuses for a poor time at this race. I would have said that running a 50K the weekend before this race wasn’t sensible, but then Ian goes and comes 16th in 8:07 and Bryan Robb runs in 4th in 7:20. Both ran last weekends 50K with me. Inconsiderate bastards.

For the first 10 miles of the race, we headed South and then West around Bristol towards Keynsham and then headed North. The first 10 miles were by far the hilliest ones but even then, nothing like the Cotswold Way or the North Downs. Everything was very runnable, but very muddy. Navigation wasn’t an issue as we were still a big pack by then and it was also very rural, so there was only one or two paths we could follow. It was the urban sections that threw me where there were multiple route choices, but more of that later.

I got into a good rhythm here and was running well within myself and pacing fine. It was turning into a stunner of a day and I am probably one of very few people who can say they got sunburnt on March 7th in England. That is quite a skill, even for a ginger.

Somewhere in the early miles. Photo: Amanda Forman/ Ultrarunning Ltd

Somewhere in the early miles. Photo: Amanda Forman/ Ultrarunning Ltd

As always, I had a few chats but preferred to run alone and just enjoy some me time. I find running these races is one of the few times I am truly alone and whilst I like company, its nice just to be by myself sometimes. As I have learnt through some work psychological profiling recently, whilst I have a people oriented role in work, I am a natural introvert and I like solitude when the time is right.

Check Point 1 came and went in just over an hour, seven miles in, and I had a quick chat with Darryl Carter who was volunteering (and held the course record until later that day), before filling my bottles and getting back out. CP2 came an hour and a half later and I was well on for a circa 8:30 finishing time, which was way up on what I was expecting.

Between CP2 and CP3 is a bit of a blur but this was a much longer section with around 12 miles to cover. I only filled two bottles so had just over a litre of water for this, but had underestimated the time it would take so the last three miles I was dry. When I finally reached this checkpoint, I needed a few minutes to re-hydrate and get some calories in.

The one thing I am most pleased with during this race was how well I ate and digested. I absolutely stuffed myself at each aid station with typically having a few cups of coke, three cheese rolls, some cake, a 9 bar and taking a couple of gels with me. I didn’t once feel sick and ate between checkpoints with snickers that I was carrying. Energy wise, I felt great the whole day. One of the race sponsors was Red Bull and these were available at each aid station, but I wasn’t even tempted. I don’t even like caffeinated gels and the only caffeine I have at races is Coke, but I would prefer sprite if it were available. My heart rate gets high enough without caffeine and I don’t like mixing it with exercise. This is just a personal thing, but I did see others guzzling the cans and clearly it works well for some.

I arrived at CP3 with Christian Maleedy and we spent probably six miles before this together and then the rest of the race. Our pace fell in step and whilst I am not usually that talkative, we spoke a lot and it just helped the miles click by. I felt we got to know each other quite well during the race and from polite chat at first, that migrated to full on swearing and piss taking by the end. So much so that when I fell over a couple of miles from the line and with us chasing down a time still starting with a 9, he was laughing at me as I swore and laughed myself. We just had a laugh and neither of us took it too seriously.

One thing we did talk about a lot was that if someone handed us a headtorch and a refill of the bottles at the finish and said do it again (which still would have been 16 miles shy of a 100 mile race) there is absolutely no way in hell we could have. It is amazing that you really can run the distance you tell yourself you will in your head, but not a step further. That is why the piece of string run is such a fascinating concept. 44 miles was our limit that day and we were chasing down the daylight to get in by 6pm.

Between CP3 and CP4 was where things started to go array. We found ourselves lost a couple of times and backtracking or second guessing where we were. By now the field was spread out, but without a GPS between us Christian was looking at the written directions and I was following the map, trying to agree the route. The map provided was not hugely detailed so it was easy to miscalculate a turn. We ended up taking about 45 minutes longer than we expected because of these issues here and whilst we were both physically fine after 30+ miles, we were frustrated at times when lost but shrugged it off.

Neither of us are hugely competitive, but nevertheless we both wanted to get finished in the best time we could. Eventually we hit CP4 which was in a park with some beautiful features, especially by the gates as you entered by the manor house. There weren’t many things of beauty on this run, but this was absolutely one of them as the sun lit up the features here.

We refilled, had some soup and realised we had two hours and ten minutes to get to the finish, approximately 8 miles away. Sounds very easy, but we knew this was a very urban section coming up and would involve lots of concentration as we headed into Clifton and into Long Ashton to close the loop.

We took a while getting out of the park as, again, we were second guessing our instructions with where some other runners were going but stuck to our gut instincts. We mostly ran alone but followed a few others where we could until pace dictated we were either dropped or we moved ahead. Eventually, we found and crossed the Clifton Suspension Bridge commenting that whilst we were a little sore and jaded, we weren’t yet ready to call the Samaritans hotline plastered all over the bridge. Maybe on a second loop…

Here we entered a huge park and it was just two miles to the finish, maybe three. We met a guy here going the complete other direction to us and whilst we found this odd, we stuck to the map and then got a little lost. We should have followed him, but it just didn’t feel right and our gut had got us through most of the day. We came out of the park and realised we were too far south so had to follow the main road back up to where we should have crossed. By now we had just 25 minutes to get in under 10 hours and I was very focussed on getting in by that time. For some reason, a 9 was acceptable and a 10 was absolutely not. We both agreed on this.

This is where I tripped and cut my leg, we then decided the road was a little dicey in the dusk so crossed the road prematurely and climbed a steep hill. We then had to vault a wall and finally found ourselves on the wrong side of the right golf course. We crossed it and eventually joined the correct route with arrows spray painted for the last half a mile guiding us in.

As we found this path I remember shouting to Christian that we had 7 minutes to get in under 10 hours. He then did his best Kilian impression and bounded down the hill like a gazelle with me limping along in his slipstream. Finally we came out of the woods as I shouted “4 minutes” and we entered the finish turn as I shouted “2 minutes!”.

Scraping home under 10 hours. Photo: Amanda Forman/ Ultrarunning Ltd

Scraping home under 10 hours. Photo: Amanda Forman/ Ultrarunning Ltd

9 hours 58 minutes and 30 odd seconds. We had done it. 106th and 107th place respectively.

We both agreed we will return next year now we know the route and both with GPS watches. I firmly believe we could take an hour and a half off our time, but that said the weather was amazing considering it is only just Spring and on a wet and windy day, our times would have been pretty decent. In fact, prior to this year we would have been in the top 100 fastest times ever “hall of fame” on this course. It just shows how much slower this course is in bad weather.

Certificate and that fantastic medal.

Certificate and that fantastic medal.

All in all, a cracking race and I can’t recommend it enough. Now, just six weeks until the Thames Path 100 on May 2nd.

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Steve Worrallo – RD (2015)

Steve Worrallo – RD (2015)

Written by Steve Worrallo –

The Green Man Ultra 2015 – GIRL POWER

With the race capacity, which had been set this year to 300, and sold out some two months before the race (50% up on the previous year which was also sold out at 200), the Long Ashton Community Centre was bursting to the brim.

In spite of the numbers, everybody still managed to adhere to the bib registration deadline of 07:30, allowing for a punctual and somewhat humorous race brief by Simon Blackburn. Simon highlighted the fact that today was also the 60th birthday of Kes Aleknavicius, a great way to mark the occasion, with wife Carol having created a selection of unique and delicious cupcakes.

It was also impressive to note at the race brief how many “first-time” ultra-runners there were attending the event.

The 2015 race was different to previous GMU races in many ways:

  • This year we were strictly holding competitors to a 12 hour cut-off to achieve ‘Woodwose’ status.
  • We had introduced ‘Time Lords’ for completing the course in 9hr, 10hr, 11hr and 12hr. Obviously if you find yourself behind the 12 hour Time Lord it is likely you will fail to achieve the 12hr cut-off.
  • Chip-timing controls were in place with live feeds in real time so that friends and family could monitor progress and add comments of support.
  • The introduction of ‘5’ different medal types – Top 50, Top 100, Top 150, Time Lord and the Standard GMU which is equally as awesome.
  • Performance Green Man Tec T for finishers.
  • Unique Green Man Trophies.

The 9hr Time Lord was represented by Mark Ducker who sported a large balloon so he was easy to spot. The 10hr Time Lord was Dave Fawkner, the 11hr Time Lord Mike Karthauser. The most vital of Time Lords was Rob Dickson as he was aiming for a smidge under the 12hr limit. Fortunately Rob is a Green Man legend and completes the course several times a year so navigation for Rob is a formality.

Stu Wilkie, the 2014 champion, had volunteered to lead the runners through the initial series of streets before setting everybody free to run at their own pace.
So, with addition of the ‘Wings’ girls from Red Bull offering support and the clock ticking down to 08:00 the GMU 2015 was underway.
Brian Robb, who is current Green Man Midnight Express Champion, went off like a train and at CP1 he had already achieved a 4 minute lead. Following Rob was Clare Prosser, Campbell Murdoch, Scott Harris, Alan Tomlinson and Phil Taylor.

Indeed, everybody was doing well with all the competitors clearing CP1 well inside 2 hours.
The weather was forecast to hold dry with sunny spells and it wasn’t disappointing – conditions were ideal.
CP2 saw much the same with Brian Robb extending his lead to now just over 5 minutes.

In the process of setting the food and drinks out at CP3 we could hear cheers as the lead runner approached – but it wasn’t Rob! Clare Prosser had run an excellent leg and was now closely pursued by Scott Harris, just a minute off the pace.

Clare’s pace was now getting our attention. She was looking strong and her time was remarkable, being way inside the previous ladies record and right up there with previous course records.
All the entrants were doing exceedingly well on time restraints, with only a small minority having to drop out due to injury niggle issues etc,. Unfortunately for Aubrey Gardner, in the process of tackling a stile, she managed to break a finger resulting in a visit to A&E, but still she remained in good spirts with a smile. So too Steve Cox, who was forced to incur a hospital visit due to an electrolytic imbalance – which highlights to all of us the issues which can occur with our sport which we must always be aware of.
With tomorrow being International Women’s Day it was most fitting that we should have a little precursor to what that really stands for – Girl Power. We had expected a quicker course time this year, as the new location was some two miles shorter, but we never expected such an extraordinary finishing time of 6hr 25min! So well done to Clare Prosser who beat all the girls and all the boys to become GMU overall Champion 2015!

Scott Harris took the Men’s Champion place with a very credible 6hr 40min. Alan Tomlinson third in 7hr 17min and Brian Robb fourth in 7hr 20min.

Bryan Stadden was Men’s Veteran Champion in 13th place with 7hr 52min.

Claire Graham was Ladies Veteran Champion in 85th place with 9hr 30min.

Bruce Ballagher was Mens Canicross Champion in 87th place with 9hr 31min.

Venessa Hawkins was Ladies Canicross Champion in 84th place with 9hr 30min.

And the Individual Team Champions were ‘Potty Port’zed’, beating second place team, The Three Amigos, by just five minutes with an average time just under 9 hours each.

All the Time Lords did an excellent job and were appreciated by all that joined their groups. Rob Dickson, who was carrying the responsibility of just arriving inside the 12hr cut off, managed it with just 92 seconds to spare – perfect timing!

Congratulations must go to all of the finishers for taking on and completing the challenge.

I wonder what will be new for the GMU in 2016?
Entries will open soon for 2016

Posted by in General