Archive for December, 2007

Green Man Record Smashed

December 26, 2007

Ex-TACH member, Mark Vogan, snuck down from Glossopdale Harriers to smash Chris Smart’s Green Man record on Christmas Eve.

Chris established a record of 11hrs and 38 mins on Sunday 30th September 2007. We all thought that was a remarkable achievement, but we all thought it was do-able, maybe. But fell-runner, Mark, has beaten us all to the punch.

He started in the dark at 6-25am on Christmas Eve from the Blaise Estate car-park – the thinking being that it would be a good idea to get the climb up Mariners’ Walk out of the way, and to make the most of the street lighting. The timing was good and he was able to turn off his headtorch as he reached the end of the first leg at the Green Man at about 7-30. There was a full moon behind him as he descended the deer park with the beginnings of a glorious sunrise peeping over Dundry Ridge.

Mark was fresh as a daisy when I met him at the end of the second leg at the Dundry car-park with a banana and some of Sue Baic’s patent isotonic brew. I relieved him of his head torch and  told him where he could pick up refreshments in Pensford and Keynsham.

I met Mark again at the end of the fifth leg on Shortwood Hill. We had agreed that this was the best place for me to join him, when he would have done the equivalent of a marathon, the furthest he had ever run before. I was taken there by Mark’s wife, Sarah and we scanned the distance looking for his expected arrival. I gave him a call on his mobile and he was soon seen bouncing over the grass towards the end of the fifth leg. It was about 12-30, and he looked in good nick, so it seemed as if Chris Smart’s record was there for the taking, provided that Mark could complete three more legs.

Mark changed his top and his socks and discarded his maps; and I put on my back pack, filled with drinks, Halal Haribos, bananas and walking poles. We set off at the walk up through Shortwood Hill Wood, the last climb before Spaniorum Hill.

I made Mark lead the way, because I wanted him to set his own pace at this stage. This set a pattern that lasted through the sixth leg across the fields, around the golf course and along the Frome Walkway to Hambrook. We walked up the road under the motorway but broke back into a jog as we went down Sunnyside Lane to the Old Gloucester Road. We kept going on the surprisingly rural suburban trails through Bradley Stoke to the A38, where Sarah met us next to the Patchway Community College. Mark was getting really tired by this stage, but there was only one leg to go and he could pretty much walk all the way to the finish from here and still beat the record.

In the fields around Easter Compton, Mark was feeling a lot more like walking than running, but I was feeling cold, so I began to jog on ahead, with the intention of looping back for Mark, as is the custom in TACH, but Mark had enough left in the tank to jog on after me. We walked up Spaniorum Hill, as had always been intended, but managed a jog along the ridge and down Berwick Lane. We could now see the woods in the Blaise Estate, so there was a definite lifting of the spirits as we went along the Henbury Trym (or Hazel Brook) through the Churchyard and past Blaise House. Mark was definitely back in front as he jogged the last stretch back to Sarah’s arms in the Blaise car park. My wife Libby was also there to see us in, together with Antony and Jan Clark with their brand new twins.

Mark’s stopwatch showed that he had completed the course in 9 hrs 48 mins and 57 secs, which knocked 1hr 49 mins off Chris Smart’s record.

To pole or not to pole

December 22, 2007

After the last long run, I decided to read up on the web about technique. Apparently, I need to adjust the straps so I can let go of the poles at the end of the backswing and they will come to hand for the next one.

I wondered what the adjustment screws were for!

The bad news is using poles uses up 25% more calories than walking. How that translates into running I am not sure. The problem is whether the gain from inflicting less wear and tear on your joints is offset by the increase in energy use. Can I make up for it by taking in more calories on the hoof as it were?

Rob has found out that ultra-marathon runners use ibuprofen at regular intervals to keep them going. Is that a good idea?

Running with Poles

December 18, 2007

I first came across the idea of running with walking poles at the North Somerset Show, whenever that was. I thought at the time that they might have a part to play in completing the Green Man Challenge, but I thought no more about it until last Saturday, when I happened to be in a shop that sold them while on ‘Christmas shopping’ duty. They weren’t exactly cheap, but I justified buying a pair of top of the range Leki telescopic poles on the grounds that even if I didn’t use them on the Community Forest Path, they would come in handy when I couldn’t run any more.

Sunday’s long run seemed an ideal opportunity to try them out.

The Bristol Triangle Run on Wednesday had been a great success, so I decided to adapt the Bristol Ramblers’ other route, The South Circular Walk, so I could run it from home as well. Admittedly, I live in North Bristol, but the unnecessarily winding nature of the published route around Temple Meads, gave sufficient scope for altering the 23-mile route without making it unfeasibly long.

I set off for the river crossing at St Anne’s with the poles neatly tucked away in my backpack at 9-15, taking the familiar route up Wellington Hill West to the Muller Road recreation Ground, where I decided to try them out.

I adjusted the poles to 120cm, which took the handles up to waist level. I don’t know how you are supposed to time the arm movements on the run. But the poles are too unwieldy to move at the same pace as your feet, so I ended up swinging my arms in time to my breathing – IE R,2,3 – L,2,3. At least I think that is what is what i was doing. It is hard to analyse yourself as you run!

Whatever I was doing, it seemed natural by the time I had gone up and over Purdown, past Stapleton Church, through Eastville Park, across the Bristol and Bath Cycle Path, past St George’s Park Lake and down Strawberry Lane to the footbridge over the Avon to the site of the old St Anne’s Board Mill.

The route through St Anne’s Park and Nightingale Wood was familiar due the regular TACH run from the Lock and Weir at Hanham Mills, but the route from ‘The Rock’ was new. The instructions were a bit ambiguous and I did not understand why it went down Clayfield Road, which is an undistinguished suburban street. I think it should have gone down a footpath alongside the Brislington Brook, but I am not sure that it is a right of way as it comes out next to an OP’s home. Perhaps the Ramblers were similarly uncertain?

The route through Victory Park, round the village church and across the Bath Road were clear enough, and I shortened my poles to carry along the tarmac up West Town Court and along West Town Lane and Hungerford Road to the open space leading to Stockwood.

The section through Stockwood was the real reason I had chosen this route, because I had been looking for a circular route exploring Stockwood Vale. The paths through the new estate are not shown on the OS map as rights as way, so the the Ramblers’ research and accurate instructions was invaluable at this point, providing an extremely useful green link.

On the edge of a field separating Stockwood form Whitchurch, I found cover for a pee and stopped for a banana because I had been going for about 2 hours and phoned home. It was then that I learned that Jane, my brother-in-law’s wife, was close to death. This put a dampener on things, but there was nothing I could do except carry on.

I had already decided to go across the fields to join the Forest Path at Norton Malreward, because I dislike the climb on the road – actually, I just don’t like running on roads, if I’m honest! Consequently, I had a lot of practice using the poles to get over stiles. They work really well except when you are getting over really high stiles, of which there are a few between Norton Hawkfield and North Wick.

I walked up the road and a steep field onto the Dundry Ridge njear the corner of Mannings Wood, which was probably a mistake, because I lost my running rhythm. This was the point at which I rejoined the South Circular on the RUPP that serves as the East Dundry Bypass. It must have been a proper road at one time, but the surviving stony strop down the middle was too narrow to run up comfortably. There were views down to the left through the hedge towards Blagdon Lake, but there would have been little to see if it had been summer. This is also the problem with the route along the road from Whitchurch, which the SouthCircular follows. The panoramic views are only available if the hedges have recently been cut.

I ate another banana on the way from the radio mast towards Withywood, so I must have been going for more than 3 hours at this point.

This part of the route has little to recommend it. It is longer than the alternative through Mannings Wood; it misses out the views over Hartcliffe and it is no better underfoot.

I was definitely getting slower by the time I got onto the familiar track of the Community Forest Path as it approaches Dundry Church past the squalor of the view-point by Hill Farm. And I was in no hurry as I made my down Ham Lane. I was glad i had already worked out the route through the fields on the map before I set off, as the instructions are confusing at the bottom of Ham Lane.

I found I had to stay on Highridge Road, rather longer than I thought before I found the footpath past the Peart. I could not see the point in following the South Circular back onto Hisghridge Road, so I stayed on the footpath through the fields towards the A38. I rang home again, as my watch seemed to be making better progress than I was. I kept the Circular Path as it crossed under the A370, but I took advantage of the entrance to the new car park to find a new line towards Ashton Court mansion.

At this point, I was definitely walking rather running, because my right ankle and left knee were playing up, so I rang home again and asked Libby to meet me beside the Susoension Bridge.

I was not expecting to have to use my poles to help me walk quite so soon!

Trying out the Potion

December 14, 2007

I was sufficiently recovered on Wednesday morning to try another long one.

I decided to attempt a version of the 18-mile Bristol Triangle Walk, which was designed by the Bristol Ramblers’ Group and passes close to my front door. It seemed an ideal opportunity to try out one of Sue Baic’s magic potions, so I made up a litre of Recipe No.2 to put in my camel-back. I made it out of backberry and apple squash and attempted to estimate 2/5 of a teaspoon of Lo-salt to go in it. (Apparently I should have used ordinary salt, because it is the sodium that enables you to absorb water quickly.) I had loaded up with a bowl of banana and rice crispies before I set off at about 9am.

I joined the route at St Ursula’s School and followed it across the northest fringe of the Downs and across Coldharbour Road to Redland Green. The route instructions were slightly out of date here, due to footpath improvements and there was a small error after the church, but this did not cause a problem. There is another green bit after Redland High School, which took me up to Cotham Road and Kinsdown Sports Centre. This led through to the top of St Michael’s Hill with its views across towards Bath.

The descent was a lot easier than trying to climb the hill, but it was necessary to  take it easy down Christmas Steps. Once through the St John’s gateway into the old city, I was dying for a pee, so I took off for the covered market, where I knew there was a public toilet. Whilst I was there I thought I would say hello to Anders, but he wasn’t there.

It is a pleasant jog through the park to St Philip’s Bridge, but Temple Back was closed because of building work, so I had to divert past the Cornubia. This led to a path through the churchyard of the Temple Church and down to the riverbank. Once there, the route passed under a road bridge to the Square next to Temple Meads railway station and the start of the published walk.

From this new beginning, the route makes its way through St Mary Redcliffe’s churchyard, over the road and down to the Ostrich. Then it was along the harbourside to the SS Great Britain, across the New Cut and along the Avon to wooded path up to the Clifton Suspension Bridge. The published troute follows the Circular Road around the Downs, but I preferred to run across the grass to the top end of the Mariners’ Walk. Somebody ought to do something about the stretch below the Church, it really is quite treacherous when you are trying to run! The Triangle Walk diverges from the Community Forest Path at this point, sending me down Roman Way (although not as far as the Roman remains!)

The path beside the Trym is very familiar, but the Triangle Path differs from my normal route by following the ‘highway’ alongside the Hazel Brook to Stratford Mill and up to Blaise House. There it picks up the path to the secret tunnel out of Henbury Churchyard, across the brook and up the meadow to the bark hovel on the carriageway. I was pleased that it took me along the Rhododendron Walk, which I do not use that often; and I was delighted that it took me along the high path through the golf course as i have not used it for ages. It also made a change to use the path up Dark Lane and through Badock’s Wood.

At the finish, I felt as fresh as a daisy. There was only a smidgin of potion left, which I finished off as I entered my garden. It was much more palatable than the plain squash that I had used on Sunday, as it tasted a little salty (as it should do, according to Sue.)

Sue’s Running Potions

December 10, 2007

 Recipe 1

Measure out 250ml pure unsweetened fruit juice (any flavour)

Add 250ml water to make a total volume of 500ml

Add a pinch of salt ( about 1/5 teaspoon)

Mix together and stir or shake well. Chill.

Recipe 2

Measure out  100ml squash (any flavour – full sugar)

Add 400ml water to make a total volume of 500ml

Add a pinch of salt ( about 1/5 teaspoon)

Mix together and stir or shake well. Chill

Carbohydrate snacks like dried fruit, bananas, jaffa cakes, malt loaf, fig rolls are perfect. Jellied sweets and sports drinks are ideal towards the end.

If you need more dietary advice, why not check out Sue Baic’s website

Doing it anyway (20 miles)

December 10, 2007

I had arranged a 20-mile training session with a couple of other TACHers, Pete de B and Mike on Sunday, and I was a bit anxious about the state of my knee. But it held up on a shorter 5-mile run from the Inn on the Green on Thursday, so I decided I would give it a go anyway.

So, after a bit of 2-ing and fro-ing, we assembled at the car park at Eastville Park not much more than 1/4 of and hour late for an 8am start. It was 8-25 by the time we were ready to set off into the wind and rain.

The route was the longest one from ‘Out from the Centre’ my first book of routes around Bristol, off-road, on foot, but I thought, as we were running it, it would be better to do it anti-clockwise to avoid the steep climb up to the chimney on Troopers Hill towards the end. Consequently, we set off over the Fishponds Road to take in our first nature reserve by crossing the Royate Hill Viaduct. We crossed the Bristol to Bath Railway Cycle Path, which provides a convenient means of dividing the route into 2 more modest ‘halves’, and made our way by back lanes to St George’s Park. I think I remember a chink in the clouds as we descended the grass past the dog walkers and ducks by the lake and ascended the hill on the other side, making good our intention to take it easy uphill. Across the A420, a terraced road took us to the top of the escarpment above the River Avon, where we followed the contour along a green path to the Troopers Hill Chimney. Unfortunately, the viewpoint only offered a grey prospect with any distant hills obscured by mist. Also, the descent to Crews Hole was little better than the climb would have been due to the slipperiness of the dripping wet steps.

The River Avon was high, but not yet over the footpath. I was reminded of a January run, some years ago, when Dan and Dempster braved the floods on the tow-path, whilst the rest of us took the higher path. We were in no danger of wading ouselves, but we eventually decided to take the higher path through our 3rd nature reserve to avoid the mud and puddles. Actually, there was plenty of mud and puddles on the top path as well, but I suppose it added a bit of variety.

AT the Lock and Weir public house, we noticed that the weir had disappeared under the rising water and the exit from the Chequers car park was obstructed by a small lake. Consequently, we kept to the riverside footpath into the meadows opposite the Cadbury Factory, which had no useful effect, but the meadow grass made a change underfoot.

We began to think about taking on some calories. I had consulted dietician, Sue Baic on Thursday, and she had suggested that I might try squash instead of water, jaffa cake and malt loaf, as well as the usual bananas. So, after we had passed a man with a dog (it is amazing how early dog-walkers seem to have better control over their animals than others) I decided to try a jaffa cake. I have to say I found it a bit cloying in the mouth. It might have been better if I had had water to wash it down instead of squash.

When we reached Londonderry Wharf, our statistician and wearer of the Sat-nav, Pete de B, pronounced that we were making good progress and well on our way to achieving a speed of 6 miles in 1 hour and 10 mins. Pete and I also saw a sparrow hawk at this point, which was attacking a flock of sparrows about 4-feet in front of Mike, who missed it!

We left the river along the Dram Way, which at this point is to be preferred to the Community Forest Path and followed the Siston Brook up past Willsbridge Mill (4th Nature Reserve) to join the Bristol and Bath Railway path alongside the Avon Valley Railway from Bitton. There followed 1500m of tarmac, marked at 100m intervals, which increased our rate of progress to South Way Drive in North Common, where we invested the time we had accumulated in adjusting our packs, removing excess clothing and eating some snacks, as the weather had taken a turn for the better.

We diverted back onto the Dramway Path, which has been much improved on the stretch leading to London Road Warmley and on into Warmley Forest Park (no. 5). We kept to the dramway until it emerged on Siston Common, where we swapped back onto the Community Forest Path, which keeps to the Forest Park. There we passed a small woman struggling with an enormous great dane (muzzled) and a doberman (not).

After Goose Green, we noted the spot, where Chris Smart (Woodwose 1) went astray. I think he was probably misled by the Forest Path sign, which suggests a diagonal right as opposed to a sharp right turn. This is sufficiently ambiguous to attract ones attention to a kissing gate onto the golf course, which is where he went.

We were happy enough to walk up the hill away from the golf course and jogged up under a much more cheerful sky to the Shortwood Hill woodland reserve (no. 6). Form here the route is premoninently downhill, although my legs were beginning to get too tired to appreciate it. I found the descent to the quarry next to Brandy Bottom colliery particularly difficult.

Back on the Dramway Path, we went under the M4 onto grassland, where we were rewarded with good views of roe deer (either 2 or 4, it is hard to say whether we saw the  same pair twice). Round Kendleshire golf course, I was really beginning to hang on at the back, and the situation was not improved on the road section past the Golden Heart, which we opted to take to avoid the probability of a chest high wade along a section of the Frome, which is known to flood frequently.

So we eventually gained the Frome Walkway, which we have often run along before. I was really feeling my legs along this section and the other 2 were getting further and further ahead. The Frome was living up to its name, which means ‘rushing torrent’, but there was only one short section where we had to splash through floodwater on the bank.

Nearly in sight of home, Pete de B was inspired to lead us on a devious alternative route, which led to us getting stuck in an overgrown jungle of a churchyard, but we eventually got back to the car park in about 4 hours.

According to our statistician, the route is not 20-miles, but 21.5. Job done!

This morning, my knee is fine, but the opposite ankle needed an ice pack!

A Gammy Knee

December 5, 2007

I was supposed to be doing another long one today, but I am suffering from a mysterious gammy knee, which came on whilst I was runing on the pavement. I always said road running was dangerous!