Sheila Rose Green Man Ultra Race Report (2015)

Written by Sheila Rose –

The Green Man Ultra 7th March 2015

Saturday morning just before 7am, seen Russ & I arrive at the Long Ashton community centre for the Green Man Ultra – it’s a 44 mile (but you always knew it was longer) circular route around Bristol – mainly following the Community Forest Path. Parking was limited within the community centre so we were advised to park on one of the many side residential street, no problem there you might say, but they all happened to be uphill which was fine & dandy first thing in the morning walking down hill to the Race HQ, but in the back of your mind was how the hell were you going to get back up the hill after running 45+ miles, now the organisers email offering a lift back to your car after the race made perfect sense J

The organisation for registration was excellent – numbers secured, toilet visit taken care of & time for race briefing – for some strange reason I was quite calm at this point, I’m usually a bag of nerves before a race, but I think the atmosphere at Ultras is a bit different somehow, it is a bit more like we are all in this together with a very positive vibe of really wanting everyone to succeed in the prime objective of reaching the finish line. I don’t know maybe that’s just me, let’s face it I’m still very much a novice at this Ultra stuff – before Saturday I’d only done two other ultra-distance a 30 miler & a 50k, neither of which were difficult terrain or self-navigation – so baptism of fire time.  Briefing over, 10 minutes to the start – another trip to the loo, even though it was entirely unnecessary and we walked the short distance to the start line.

Russ & I had walked the first half mile or so the evening before, trying to decide if Luna sandals were the best option, so we knew we would start winding through some residential streets before starting off road proper, along a narrow lane over a stile and into farm fields, there was a queue in the narrow lane as runners ahead negotiated the stile –  some with dogs, but the atmosphere was great no one in a particular rush and of course we had the usual chat about the lunas with runners around us.

So over the stile (the first of many) up a hilly field, through a gate, down a field – under a subway & into muddy forest bit – so muddy in fact that Russ & I took a detour in a stream to wash our feet, up another monster of a hilly field, more forest etc etc.

I’d love to say I can recall all of it, but frankly I think you would be bored to tears reading and I simply cannot remember, it’s a weird thing (no not old age) but the fact that in distance running you go into autopilot, you clearly see everything around you, but five minutes later would struggle to recall the details, I think it is a necessary shut down process to cope with the distance.

I know we were on a section of road for a while, we seemed to be on a constant climb & I remember some of the views were super, we got lost in a field – well we were in a field looking for a gap in a hedge which was nowhere to be seen, we were joined by another runner – but he couldn’t find the gap either, sounds really stupid now – we had taken a wrong turning and were in the wrong field – eventually we found the right path, the route was very difficult to follow. We caught up with the 12 hour Time Lord – the organisers had Time Lords who knew the route to help if people wanted to stay in groups, while we were running around like headless chickens in the field – we had been overtaken by the 12 hour cut off group and this was all before CP1. So we tagged along with this group and finally reached CP1 about 8 miles in, cheap coke x 2 cups and stodgy malt loaf and I was ready to go, the 11 hour Time Lord was still at the CP – so we joined his group and headed for the hills once more as it was – so more uphill, fields, mud, I think there were horses somewhere in the mix and finally CP2 just about 15 miles in, this one was in a pub garden, cheese rolls, coke & chocolate cake and loo break – although not sure sitting on the loo was such a great idea as of course it involved getting up again  – So off we go again, only this time the Time Lord had disappeared and the GPS on the watch decided to have a wobble, luckily a lady in a car asked if we were running (at first I did think she was taking the p*** as at the time we were standing around like lost souls wondering what direction to take) but bless her she pointed to a path just under a bridge by the river – and off we go again to catch up with the 11 hour guy.

CP3 was over 11 miles away, and I think that was the toughest one for me, I remember falling over in mud and bashing my left side on a rock, I actually took my sandals off and ran barefoot as I just had no grip – at the end of that muddy section, Russ & I stopped by an animal trough to wash our feet & sandals – of course we lost the group at this point again – which was fine as the GPS on the watch was working. We went through a mill type place which had a café, and couldn’t quite figure out which way we were to go, I asked some kids playing nearby if they had seen any runners, bless the little fellow he showed us exactly which was to go, into some wooded bit again with more mud, we briefly picked up another runner at this point, I remember the kid asking his mum if he could come with us for a while to show us the way and the other runner saying hell yes stay with us “it’s only just over 20 miles “– this was the first point I had a doubt in my head that we would not finish within the 12 hour cut off, I had a cut on the sole of my foot, which I should have taken the time to bandage up properly earlier, my butt / hip hurt from the fall and there was just a moment of panic, just  a moment it passed  – onwards and upwards just tick each mile off, and keep moving forward. (Unfortunately the runner we met at the mill didn’t finish).

So more of the same fields mud track & again we caught up with the 11 hour group, one of the group was feeling ill following an earlier fall – we waited with him while his wife came to pick him up, after a hospital check he was given the all clear.

This was a really long trek between checkpoints, a water tap at a golf club little outdoor café was a blessing to come across, this bit just seemed never ending, although I did a little cheer every time my watch blipped for another mile past 31 miles as that had been my longest distance up to that point.

Eventually we arrived in the 11 hour group at CP3 – jam & peanut butter sandwiches, cheap coke, 9 bars, cake and again depart! Over 36 miles in!

Last CP4 again bits of the journey here are a blur – I know Russ fell over on a narrow path by a river and I think I did too, by a gate – I kind of slid to a very particular halt hanging on to the gate, I was trying to protect my knee as was in danger of twisting it, there were giggles behind me at this point – I shall not name names! Again I know the terrain get very rough & boggy, I was losing patience with mud at this point, and I know at some point we emerged on a road which had a blessed downhill section – CP4 had been moved a bit further than its previous location, and was set in a park next to a play area, it was getting dark at this point and the view of the sun setting was very pretty. They has tea at this checkpoint and it was just about the best ever tasting cuppa – I was starving and eat the world, well more jam / peanut butter sandwiches and loads of cake. Again we were separated from the 11 group – so again we set off for the final in theory 8 miles on our own, although we knew it was more likely 10 miles.

Again uphill through woody bits & fields – it was at this point I felt sick & faint – again a big learning curve I think I’d eaten too much and was not digesting quick enough to start moving again so soon. It luckily passed within 30 minutes or so and I felt ok again, now at some point here after we had passed Long Ashton Golf Club, Russ’s watch decided to die even though it had 12% battery remaining, goodbye GPS – we were on head torches at this point as it was fairly dark, we hooked up with some people behind up who were running with dogs as they seemed to know the way, and I think we were both too tired to get the paper instructions out. This bit was really mean with two sodding great uphill’s – eventually we found the Clifton Suspension Bridge, it was all lit & pretty and on any other occasion I think I would have enjoyed running across it. Finally back to paved streets briefly and then another pitch dark field / forest  – luckily this one has some spray paint arrows on the grass and the forest path, again we lost the dog people at some point in the forest, its more tiring running at someone else’s pace I think – my watch had beeped 45 miles at this stage, so dark forest, Russ was suffering at this point with energy levels and my head torch was rapidly fading as I think it had been switched on in my vest accidentally  – I did have spare batteries, but I just wanted to get home at this point – I was trying to follow the lights of a guy we had come across in front of us, bless him he said it was only half a mile to go – we slowed briefly while Russ had a bar from his pack, and again headed downhill in mud and darkness & a sea of swear words – I have absolutely no idea where we came out of those woods, but I remember a lady standing clapping and seeing the LA Community Centre to our left, finally we crossed the finish mat – with about 8 minutes to spare. Watch stopped at 46.37 miles

Being handed the medal & tee shirt was surreal – walking into the community centre and having the runners and supports still there clap your efforts brought the first smile in a very long few hours.

The other bits I remember are someone in the 11 hour group asking if anyone knew the theme music for ET, why I remember that I don’t know, I remember sitting on grass wiping mud off my feet with a buff, while Russ washed my sandals in a river. I remember the cup of tea at CP4 and how bloody wonderful it was, I remember having a wobble at the mill. I will not forget the fact that Russ giggled at my gate fall.

So lessons learned – eat the food in your pack in between CP stations, remain positive and just tick one mile off at a time, smile and try not to dwell on time pressure, don’t worry that you don’t remember everything – zoning out is natural, if you fall in mud try to do so with grace and good humour!

Cuppa & veg chilli later – the walk to the car, ouchie – but we made it, pit stop in Sainsbury Swindon for wine, beer, ice cream…………….all well-deserved, but which both of us felt too sick to enjoy once we got home.

Would I do it again – WITHOUT A SHADOW OF A DOUBT?

Massive thanks to Green Man Ultra organisers UltraRunningLtd, fellow runners and of course my husband & bestest buddy Russ