Archive for March, 2012

The View from the Front by Darryl Carter

March 13, 2012

GREEN MAN ULTRA RACE REPORT

Saturday 3 March 2012

The Green Man Ultra is a 47mile race organised by UltraRunningUK.   Its course closely follows the Green Man Challenge route around Bristol’s Community Forest Path (CFP). 

More details at www.ultrarunning.uk.com/green-man-ultra.html

I had been keen to do the Green Man Ultra ever since I saw its inception on the UltraRunning website.  It is quite an interesting course that loops around Bristol and has some fantastic views.  My only concerns were a) fitness and b) navigation.  I had spent most of February in Lanzarote working and getting in a lot of off-road (lava) running and scrambling.  As well as sea swims and the occasional bike ride I managed 50/110/70miles running over the three weeks.  My legs were completely shot when I returned home and I suffered a little ‘over-reaching’.  I spent most of race week resting and taking my Elagen supplements, and fortunately by Thursday I felt a lot better and ready to race.

At 3:45am on Saturday morning the alarm went off!  I wasn’t looking forward to a 2hr+ drive from Teddington (Middlesex), but at least it meant I could have a decent breakfast in advance of the race.  Once at the race venue (The Redwood Lodge Hotel & Country Club)  I had just enough time to sort myself out, meet the organisers and the Gaveller, some fellow competitors, and check out the OMM stand (I’m always looking for an upgrade!).

It was interesting to see a number of canicross competitors and their dogs for this race. At the start of the race one dog got a little excited, broke free from its owner and gave the leading runner a fright.  Only a few hundred metres into the race a group of four formed at the front – Martin Indge, Alex Foster, Liz Wiggins and myself.  I’d never met any of them before, but they all seemed quite comfortable with up to 7:15/M pace.  After just over a mile we joined the Green Man Challenge Route, heading south along the CFP.

Despite the cold and intermittent showers we were all in good spirits and Alex was doing a fine job of directing us along the route having recced it in advance.  I had also done a recce of the first 27miles of the route with a friend in January.  We were hoping to recce the whole route but ran out of time thanks to a number of small navigational errors.  It didn’t fill me with much confidence on the day, although I had a decent map and a garmin watch, so at least I wouldn’t get completely lost.

Miles 2-6 went over rolling fields of grass and mud, climbing over stiles and gates, and dodging the occasional cow and horse.  At the start of the race I was contemplating how quickly we were running and what it translated to in terms of an overall time.  It wasn’t until 6 miles into the race with shoes full of mud that I appreciated just how tough the 47mile course was going to be. I was already getting quite sore and stiff, particularly in the hamstrings and glutes.  I never expect to get through an Ultra run without some amount of pain but this was a lot earlier than expected, and I put it down to the training block in Lanzarote the weeks before.  It certainly left me somewhat concerned and uncomfortable.  In contrast Martin was running very comfortably beside me and seemingly enjoying himself.  He had a quick leg turnover and if he dropped back to do something he would sprint back beside me in seconds. This could be a long hard day.

I considered the first significant climb to be at Dundry Quarry and thought I’d seize the opportunity to test my fellow competitors out by running all the way up.  I didn’t consider it to be a risk as I’d run much longer and steeper climbs in the Brecon Ultra.  At the top of the hill, where the course starts to head east, I glanced back and didn’t see anyone.  I eased off on the run into Dundry but just as I reached the main gate I could hear the fast turnover of feet from behind and Martin was there once again, only probably in better shape from a more balanced effort!  There were a number of ladies with huge dogs in Dundry and for a moment I thought the canicross runners had taken a different route.

From Dundry the route continued east towards Norton Malreward and Checkpoint1.  Martin and I continued at quite a strong pace, but due to a few small navigational errors would find ourselves picked up again by Alex and Liz.  This was particularly the case at East Dundry where just like in my recce we took the wrong route down another path and had to backtrack.  This would happen many more times during the race, but thankfully I would become aware of my errors within about 10-15 seconds thanks to the Garmin watch and could either backtrack or divert.  The four of us made it to Checkpoint1 at the Norton Malreward town hall within 1 minute of each other.

The weather had improved over the first 2hrs of the race and it was now getting quite warm.  Martin and I kept up a strong pace through Pensford, Woolard, Compton Dando and Checkpoint2 in Kenysham at 16 miles.  I was struggling with a lot of stiffness at this point and decided that after the aid station I would take a short break to shed some clothes, drink plenty of electrolytes, stretch and take a toilet stop (not all at once of course!).  I didn’t mind giving Martin a couple of minutes lead as I was hoping I’d feel a lot more invigorated after the break and then entertain myself by trying to gradually bridge the gap.  However, it wasn’t until I turned the next corner near Londonderry Farm and the start of the Dramway that I noticed he had disappeared.  I didn’t know whether he had taken a wrong turn or simply speeded up, so I increased my effort past the Mill and along the Dramway before continuing along the CFP into the countryside once again. 

At 26 miles the course ran through the Kendleshire golf course and on exiting the grounds I heard a shout from a roadside (refreshments) van “You’re the first one!”.  It dawned on me now that Martin had indeed taken a wrong turn, and this encouraged me to work even harder.  At Damson’s Bridge I thought I had reached Checkpoint 3 when I spotted what looked like a pub across a stream to my left and a man in a bright yellow jacket bending over a crate of beer.  If only!  Although I did hang around for a couple of minutes double checking the map while salivating.  I weighed up the map against the Garmin and it seemed I was a little short, so continued.  At around 28 miles I finally reached Checkpoint 3.  I was tired, sore and stiff but it was good to know I now had less than 20 miles to go to the finish.  Checkpoint 3 and 4 were slow transitions.  It could be I was glad of the brief chat and something other than energy gel!

The next 10 miles to Checkpoint 4 involved a lot of running on roads and paths through residential estates and traversing the M4, M32 and M5 motorways.  Personally I don’t mind a few miles on tarmac in XC shoes.  The increase in muscle fatigue/soreness is off-set by the increase in pace – it’s nice to see those miles tick by a little quicker!  I vividly remember mile 32 at Bradley Stoke being a bad patch.  I really didn’t want to walk so I took another toilet break, drank a good 300-400ml and within 5mins I felt much better again.  Strangely enough I went through a bit of a rollercoaster ride of ups and downs for the next couple of miles.  The ascent of Spaniorum Hill at 36-37 miles was tough.  But despite a lot of pain in the glutes I didn’t want to break into a continuous walk so ‘ran’ as much as possible.  I started glancing back occasionally to see if I could spot anyone, but no-one was in sight.  I told myself that as long as I kept the pace up to the other side of the Clifton Suspension then I would be safe.  After 38 miles I entered Henbury and once again I ran with map in hand to make sure I didn’t take any wrong turns before Checkpoint 4. 

The reception from the volunteers at Checkpoint 4 was fantastic.  My only complaint (if it is one) is that they are ‘too friendly’ and you can get suckered into a conversation with cup of tea and slice of cake in hand!   I have to find a way of extracting myself from race checkpoints much quicker in the future.  

The Green Man route continues through the Blaise Estate on towards the river Avon.  There was another athletics XC event taking place, which may have caused some confusion to the marshals present, but as the last of the runners were finishing I nipped in and out without issue.  I was starting to get a little ‘lazy’ at this point.   I would find the excuse of checking the map, readjusting my backpack and/or taking nutrition to justify short walking breaks.  I’d been keeping an eye on my pacing and total distance at this point.  I thought I would be easily inside the green man course record and even break 7hrs.  However, I didn’t realise there was a lot of climbing still to come.  Miles 42-46 from Sea Mills through Sneyd Park estate and on to the Clifton Suspension Bridge were generally uphill and ate into the clock.  It was hard not to stop and appreciate the views high up over the bridge and the river Avon but I was leading a race, so immediately turned away and headed down to the bridge itself.

The final two miles over the bridge and back into Ashton Court were tough, going uphill into a headwind.  I would occasionally glance over my shoulder and take a few short strides to break it up.  I could now finally appreciate what I had done and enjoy the finish.  I’d taken part in a terrific race and enjoyed some wonderful views around Bristol.   The Gaveller was on hand at the finish to provide me with my Woodwose (‘wild medieval man of the forest’) certificate. 

My final time was 7hr8min, which was 11min quicker than the old record.  I made a number of navigational errors and perhaps wasn’t completely rested so I would like to come back later in the year when the weather is good, have less weight to carry and I’m more familiar with the course.

Darryl Carter  (Woodwose LIV)

Gear : 2XU compression calf guards and shorts, Ironman shorts, Helly Hansen LS top, Bjoern Dhaelie gillet, inov8 roclite 295 shoes.  I had a OMM race smock packed in my Olmo5 backpack along with compulsory race equipment and a couple of protein bars.  I started with 2 x 750ml bottles of electrolytes and added tablets to water at Checkpoints.

Official Race Results : http://www.ultrarunningltd.co.uk/results/green-man-ultra-2012

UltraRunningUK : http://www.ultrarunningltd.co.uk/

 

 

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A new direction

March 10, 2012

The Gaveller is taking the idea of the Green Man to a wider audience in a fortnight’s time with a walk arranged in conjunction with the Aro Ling Buddhist art and meditation centre. Could be one to take your partner on?

Earthen Spirituality Walk

with Chris Bloor

11am Saturday 24th March

from the Aro Ling Art and Meditation Centre

 127 Gloucester Road,Bristol

The walk will serve as an introduction to the theme

Is Green Buddhism theNaturalState?

which will be presented in a talk by Aro Lamas, Shé-zér Khandro and Namgyal Dorje, at 2pm at Aro Ling

alongside  

acclaimed environmentalist

Sky McCain

who will be answering questions and signing copies of his new book, “Planet as self”

‘An incisive and most helpful guide for developing an Earth-centred spirituality that is integral and holistic, collaborative rather than competitive, enabling us to become partners and co-creators of Gaia.’

Ursula King, Prof Emerita of Theology andReligiousStudiesUniversityof Bristol

The walk (up to 6 miles) explores Sky McCain’s idea of Earthen Spirituality, which teaches us that we have ‘no need to “go” anywhere to be with the powerful and sustaining spirit of the Earth’ through green spaces accessible from the Gloucester Road. The walk will be timed to get back to the Aro Ling centre in time for the talk. The exact length of the walk will depend on the abilities of participants, who will need appropriate footwear and clothing, and money for refreshments and the bus fair down the Gloucester Road if time gets short.

 

Ultra Running Report on Green Man Ultra

March 6, 2012

http://www.ultrarunningltd.co.uk/results/2012-race-report

Inaugural Green Man Ultra

March 4, 2012

The first Green Man Ultra was organised by Steve Worrallo and Ken Shivyer of Ultra Running, starting from Redwood Lodge Country Club. It was to have started from Cotham Rugby Club, but that fell through so these large premises not far down Beggar Bush Lane seemed a good substitute. However, it added quite a distance to the course, and the hall we were allotted seemed too large and draughty by the time the less quick people got back. I was yearning for a log fire and a foaming pint by the time I left in the evening.

At 8am, I set off in a pair of “barefoot” Merrills to keep the competitors company until  Pensford.

This version of the route left out the Green Man’s Head, but I noticed that the views over Bristol were particularly attractive from this angle.

From Colliter’s Brook, the instructions supplied by Ultra Running diverged from the map they had supplied and from the route of the Community Forest Path so people were milling about when I got there. People had found the CFP route away from the path mentioned in the instructions so I encouraged those who had found the CFP to persevere in that direction.

As I was not racing, I was able to pause before each stile of kissing gate to enjoy the view back towards the Suspension Bridge. In Dundry, the map and instructions again diverged. I was with Phillip Howells, who was determined to follow the “official” route, so we went along the escarpment to enjoy the tremendous views across Bristol. I think it is the best view in within 50 miles. Maria Davis said that she would bottle it in her mind to keep her going when things got tougher later on. There was a group of lads from “Community Pay-back” clearing up the rubbish that has disfigured this spot for some time, and I noticed that Adrian Walcott from North Somerset PROW team had installed some kissing gates to improve this section as well.

Across Broad Oak Hill (a well used B-road rather than a lane) the map and instructions again diverged. I followed the map taking a merry band with me. The attraction of this part of the route is the valley of the stream that rises at Maidenhead and runs into the Chew opposite Stanton Drew stone circle. It must have been a sacred stream from time immemorial. As we followed it down from North Wick I noticed how this valley is dominated by the bulk of the Maes Knoll hill fort behind Model Farm.

Beyond Norton Hawkfield, the path has been diverted and seats installed to make the best of the views downwards towards Whistley Wood and Hammerhill Wood, which conceal the junction of the Maidenhead Stream and the Norton Malreward Brook. On the other side Maes Knoll rises above Norton Court.

The first checkpoint was over the brook in Norton Malreward Village Hall, so I made use of the toilets instead of the usual hedge! At this stage I felt I could have carried on for ever, but by the time we had crossed the grass airstrip, I was very glad that I had arranged for Libby to pick me up in Pensford as my knees were beginning to play up, especially after the descent of the stony track down Guy’s Hill to the B3130. My Merrills offered little protection to the stones, but it was actually my calves that were complaining the most as they encouraged me onto the forefoot (which is why I had bought them in the first place.)

I got back to Redwood Lodge with Libby in time to see Darryl Carter take nearly 12 minutes off the record held by Martins Indge and Beale – finishing in 7 hours 8 mins. Martin Indge was hoping to get inside 7 hours, but fell behind when he made a navigational error somewhere between Warmley and Shortwood. Local man Bill Graham scooped the Veteran’s prize, finishing in just over 8 hours and Liz Wiggins took the women’s record in 8 hours 21 mins thanks to sticking with Alex Foster, who knew the course backwards having completed it in December.

Matthew Gilliard was the first to come in accompanied by a dog, having been inspired by Jim Plunkett Cole and Alfie who had run around in about 11 hours in 2009. Matthew was pleased to have taken an hour and a quarter off Jim and Alfie’s time.

It was nice to see old friends Bryan Stadden, Judith Chubb-Whittle and Woodwose I, Chris Smart turning in respectable performances, together with some new faces from Southville running club.

But the most heart warming response was from Sarah Sweeting and Rob Dickson, who had been exporing the course for the past five months and knew it thoroughly. They declared it the best race they had ever done.

Green Man Ultra Update

March 3, 2012

I have just entered the results so far in the Forestal Book of the Honourable Order of Woodwoses (see pages). The big news – two new records: Daryl Carter 7 hrs 8 mins and Liz Wiggins 8 hrs 21 mins. Anyone know the time of Stephen O’Callaghan?