Archive for April, 2010

Strider walks it in 11 hrs 35 mins

April 26, 2010
Rob Burrows was first spotted during the BAD Tri run to clebrate the Equinox, when he put pressure on the senior pair by striding past them to appear suddenly ahead when they slowed down to walk. Hence the name “Strider.”
We all wondered – was his claim that he could walk the Green Man Challenge inside 12 hours do-able? 4-mph was definitely possible, but could he keep it up over 45 miles? Opinions were divided.
I was curious enough to witness the event, even though that meant getting up for a 6-30 start. Libby even got up to take me to the start – an unheard of event!
I found Dan locked out of the Ashton Court estate, carrying what I thought was rather a lot of kit. Obviously walkers do things differently I thought. We were soon jpoined by Carl and Rob, who seemed to be carrying rather less. I was wearing shorts and carrying a camel back, feeling a bit under-dressed. We hopped over the wall and were soon ready for a 6-30 start.

Dan, Carl, Green Man and Strider

Rob set off at a very cracking pace, but I was able to keep up bywalking quickly unless I was held up by a gate or stile when I could only keep in touch by jogging like a terrier at his side. The other two trailed along behind, but more or less in touch at first. However, when I paused to turn around to show them the way after the Community Forest Path briefly joins the Monarch’s Way, they were nowhere in sight. Strider had the only maps, so I went back to find them while he strode ahead up the hill. I found them back along the trail. They had taken a wrong turning near the stables. I guided them up the hill where we met Strider on the Access land leading onto Dundry Down.
I took myself off to the side whilst they had a crisis talk. It seemed that only Strider could maintain the necessary 4mph pace, so he handed his detailed maps over to Carl and Dan and went ahead with me. Obviously Strider had a streak of steel about him I thought.
Later, we were both feeling uncomfortable about leaving the other two, so I left Strider to carry on from North Wick, whilst I went back along the trail to check they were alright. I eventually came across them a kilometre away below Walnut Farm in East Dundry. They assured me that they were content to play tortoise to Strider’s hare and thought they would would find him collapsed alongside the route later on. So I ran back along the trail to find Strider. I eventually caught up with him at the farm past Publow Church, nearly 5K further on.
We carried on without further incident until we reached the Lockkeeper at Keynsham, where Libby pulled into the car park just as we were hiding Rob’s last map behind a lamppost for Dan and Carl to pick up. This meant that Rob was going to have rely on his memory and waymarks to finish the challenge. I was going to wait for them, but it turned out that they were not much past Pensford an hour behind.
(In the event, Dan and Carl decided that 15 miles was enough, so they they took the train back from Keynsham – determined to come back and take on the challenge under their own terms.)
I was a bit worried about Strider, because he now had no map and was unsure about the stretch from the Banana Bridge into Easter Compton, where he did indeed go off trail a bit. However, he soon got back on track as I learnt from hourly updates during a family picnic on the Downs.
I eventually met him again on the Downs at the top of Mariners’ Walk and kept him company until we  met his girlfriend Millie at the Green Man. He had slowed down a bit because of his blisters, so it was a little easier to keep up, but he nevertheless finished in 11 hours 35 minutes, which is 3 mins inside Woodwose I’s time.

Strider pauses for a breather before the finish

So – we welcome another Woodwose – Woodwose XXIV, who qulified, appropriately enough, on 24th April. 

Woodwose XXIII’s Report

April 22, 2010

Green man report – John McDonough 10.04.10

‘When I left my home and my family I was no more than a boy..’

For some reason the lyrics to The Boxer played through my head as I stood at the start line in Blaise Castle at 7am. It was hard to believe that I had finally made it after 20 months. I had prepared for the attempt in November 08, only to be scuppered by calf injury. Despite 3 physio sessions in the week leading up to the attempt, my odds at finishing were put no better than 50/50, and I wasn’t prepared to try it with such a poor chance of finishing. Fast forward to a year later and after 5 weeks off to prepare, I got an overuse injury in my right knee on my last long training run on the course which put paid to that attempt too.

This current attempt too had its frustrations; I was aiming to go on 1 April (a Fool’s day challenge which appealed to Chris) the day before my 55th birthday, but the torrential rain had turned parts of the route into a quagmire. Then the gods smiled on me, and a week of dry weather and strong winds turned the course and the conditions into near perfect ones for an attempt. Looking to the upside, this meant that I knew the course backwards, which was the direction in which I intended to run it, on the basis that starting at Blaise I would go over Dundry at 30 odd miles and psychologically and largely physically it was all downhill from there. I had been assessed for, bought and briefly bedded in new shoes and tested nutrition variations. I had done the Grizzly 5 weeks before and survived, and a few weeks earlier spent 6 hours riding Marcus’ excellent Barry’s Bash for stamina without the impact damage. Nevertheless, apprehensive would have been a generous description of how I felt.

At the start

                I arrived at Blaise to find Chris waiting for me ready to document the start and generously offering to lend me his Garmin. Wife Ruth and daughter Sylvie had given up their day to support me round and every possible variation of kit, nutrition (carbo bars, liquid carbs, gels, bananas, jaffa cakes and fig rolls) and drink (16 pints of water just to be on the safe side!) along with my schedule on prominent display ,were laid out in the back of the car. Time to be gone. As Chris’  Garmin showed 7am and the sun peeped over the museum, the temperature perfect (Helly and gloves weather) I took my first step.

It was wonderful to be abroad at this time of day; little traffic, although ironically I had to wait for cars at my first two road crossings. I got into my regular running rhythm quickly, and was making good progress while I was feeling fresh. Coming over the top of Spanorium I had one of those ‘ God, it’s good to be alive’ moments; the light of the low rising sun carpeted the dew soaked ground with a million pinheads of exploding light whilst a solitary hare danced across the unmarked turf.

                I arrived at Patchway over 10 minutes ahead of schedule; changing down to just a singlet as it was already getting warm I justified it to myself on the basis that as I am crap in the heat it was perhaps best to be ahead now. The urban stretch to Hambrook passed with only one incident (a muzzled collie leapt at me but only managed to scratch me; I know from being bitten by an Alsatian a few years ago on an early morning run down by the river that early am is when all those people with uncontrollable dogs take them out for exercise) and I arrived there ahead of time too. Cathy and Andy arrived in short order having kindly volunteered to accompany me round the eastern stretches and we set off to enjoy the dappled light along the river and the challenge of navigating across the golf course. Andy did a fantastic job of holding me down to my prescribed pace whilst I did my TomTom navigation bit in his ear and Cathy, ever considerate, swept up at the rear and closed gates, electric fence hook ups etc to take the load of me. Pausing to refuel at Shortwood and for me to change my shoes again (the shoes I had bought weren’t giving me enough support but the change shoe I had with me gave me cramp under the ball of my foot after 5 miles or so) we pushed through to Keynsham where Andy stood down and PK joined Cathy and me (I think Isaac was ready to come as well by the way he was running round the car park but Michelle managed to get hold of him). Halfway; it was starting to hurt now and it would have been very easy to disappear into a void but the thought that people are giving up their time to help you and the solicitousness they show are ample spurs to keep putting one foot in front of the other. And the fact that I was the only person who knew where we were going…

Pensford eventually appeared with the welcome sight of Chris and Andy but no Ruth or Sylvie; the missed call on my phone was from Ruth but as I rang her back she appeared having been stuck in an enormous tailback. Cathy left us here but with Chris coming on board we were still 3 in number – and I was still on schedule. Dundry reared ominously on the horizon and walking was the order of the day up to the airfield then a steady trot up to Norton Malreward followed by more walking up to Walnut tree farm then a steady trot along the lanes to Dundry. Although it is only 5 miles for this leg I left 1 hour 20 minutes for it in my schedule, even though I had done it in 1 hour 5 on a training run with 20 miles in my legs. We arrived about 5 minutes outside the schedule, leaving PK with his family with my grateful thanks.

                Chris and I trotted on across the cowfield to the mast. Every step was a real effort by now and my left knee was giving me a lot of pain. Despite my intentions when planning the route, I now found it was most painful when running downhill, so I couldn’t take advantage of gravity. A cry of ‘Hail Woodwoses’ pulled me out of my torpor as the welcome sight of Chris Smart lifted my spirits. We crossed the fields running parallel to the A38, both Chrises showing the utmost consideration for the state I was now in, giving me space, opening gates, offering words of encouragement and gently reminding me that now it was just mental strength needed to get through. There was a moment of comedy too, where Chris B pointed out a success in getting a stile put in where previously there had only been a rusty red gate; when I tried to climb it my thigh immediately cramped so I tried the other leg and that cramped up too! My mind immediately went to a section I had read in ‘Feet in the Clouds’ where one runner was telling another that it was a blessed relief when he passed out with cramp because the pain was so great. It twinged again as I decided that the way to tackle it was to do it as quickly as possible – but no cramp so on we went. I was aware that Chris S had interrupted his holiday packing to come and help me so humbled by his generosity I gritted my teeth and  made myself go on. The Green Man came and went; the mountain bike trail in Ashton Court served as a further humiliation as I could not cope with the irregular surface underfoot and stumbled round like a drunk.

                A last replenishment stop from my support wagon as we cut back to Bristol at the end of the mountain bike trail. Chris reminded me to set off slowly and build up gradually; my knee was really painful now and Chris had the great idea of getting a lolly from the icecream van at the suspension bridge and icing it. Moment of comedy 2; despite Chris’ protestations that it didn’t matter what flavour it was, as I wasn’t going to eat it the vendor insisted on going through his full panoply of flavours and getting Chris to choose. A brief respite to ice with (then eat!) the lolly and we were off again. A steady trot across the Downs then a slow descent to Mariners Way; I knew I was well behind schedule now but just wanted to finish. Coming across the golf course Chris mentioned that there were a few people who had finished in the high 9 hours odd; weighing up the situation I was at Kingweston end of Blaise so I could crawl in from there if necessary so with encouragement from Chris I started to build up a head of steam and we came across the sward to Echo Gate at a lively pace (I suspect the first decent paced running Chris had done in the past 16 miles or so). Chris advised me to take it steady down the steps then we opened up across the grass with Chris talking me round the obstacles then telling me to stop the watch as I ran through the gap in the wall by the cafe where I had started.

45 miles dead in 9 hours 47 minutes; I’d done it.


Or rather we’d done it; it sounds trite but is none the less true for it- I couldn’t have done it without the help of the people who supported and encouraged me (otherwise I’d still be out there walking now).  So thank you to:

Andy ,Cathy, Chris B, Chris S and PK for towing me round on the day

Libby, Jan, Susie, Catie, Michelle and Isaac for support and encouragement

Ant, Rob and George for recceing runs.

Ruth and Sylvie for always being there

Things I have learnt 

You can’t spend enough time preparing, especially recceing the course

Get the right shoes

Don’t go off too fast; you can always put a spurt on when you hit 40 miles

Having other people doing it with you makes a huge difference

Carbo bars come out the same colour they went in; I won’t mention the taste, but let’s just say I went out for a steak that night because I wanted to feel I’d eaten some real food


Green Man Invocation

April 21, 2010

This is the Green Man Invocation discovered by “Wistman” Edwards to concentrate minds and spirits before the Spring Equinox Run:

I call to you now, spirit of nature, strong and free

Come and teach me, I am ready to honor you

I celebrate your gifts; I am ready to learn your truths,

As my ancestors did before me,

I see your power and your pain, beneath the green mantle

Of the scars on your body and the great sadness in your eyes.

You are no longer abandoned, we hear you again;

We are ready, to honor your ways.

Reveal yourself, Green Man,

Weave your spells of green magic.

Teach me and I will listen for your voice;

I will celebrate your sacred wisdom ways.

It is best to do a Green Man ritual outside, and if possible in a wooded place. Take your shoes off, sink your toes into the cool earth, and feel the energy of the Green Man move up through your body. Before you begin your ritual, take a few moments to listen to the trees, notice how they rustle, creak, and groan as the wind passes through them. Breathe in the oxygen they have produced for you, and know this is miracle of the Green Man’s magic.

By Abby Willowroot