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