Archive for the ‘fell running’ Category

The View from the Front by Darryl Carter

March 13, 2012


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

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 :

UltraRunningUK :



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.

My day of redemption in the mud and ice by Neil Banwell

February 13, 2012

My story starts many months ago when my friend told me about The Greenman Challenge. I attempted it in June last year with Mark Beveridge and pulled out at the half way point with ITB problems. So in August, I retried and completed but with nowhere near enough Reccie runs I made a terrible mess of it and eventually got in with Gavellers help in 12hrs 45m, Now anyone who knows me well will tell you that I was never going to be happy with that time.

I was extremely proud to be in the order but at the time being the slowest running Woodwose tortured me on a daily basis, so I set my mind to getting it right, Over the last 6 weeks, I would get up every Sunday at 06.00 and make my way to various points of Bristol to do out and back runs on the sections of greenman, I was enjoying doing this because most sections take in beautiful scenery and are very peaceful (both things I love).

In mid January, I looked at my calendar and looked at what races I had planned for the coming months and with WSM tough ten challenge being on the 19th Feb and Bath Half being early in March I was quite limited to my dates; but it was important to me to get it done before Ultra running’s Greenman Ultra took place so I chose the 12th. This is it no going back, I was aiming for a 9hrs but knew I would be happy with 10 so it was all in place.

The night before I didn’t sleep well and my chest was tight, which is a normal reaction before an important event; but never the less I went to bed early and as a result I woke at 4 am and decided to get up and spent the next hour on the living room floor doing various yoga poses and stretch-offs trying to ensure I was as supple as you can be at that time of the morning. So porridge eaten and coffee drunk, I jumped in the car and made the 25 minute drive to The White Horse at Hambrook to get this show on the road.

It was still pitch black so with head torch on I started the stop watch and the Garmin and set off to fulfil my destiny(this is how I saw it anyway). I got to Patchway in good time and only stopped to update my location on the Blackberry. By now the sun was coming up and I was at Spanorium Hill and knew there was  a reason I did the route this way, because I ran the whole hill with no bother. Then I made it to Blaise again only updating the BB and made my way up along Kings Weston ridge still feeling good and raring to go.

In my reccies I saw Blaise to Greenman as a challenge, if it had been the last section because it is nearly all climbing, but again I ran the whole section without drama until I reached the Downs. As the normal merry go round of Sunday morning runners went about their business, I started to feel very tired and my legs were very tight and, being so early in the course, I felt a little disappointed in myself and wondered if I had trained hard enough. I ate a Snickers bar on the move and carried on and, soon after North Road, I was at Greenman and I stopped with him for a minute or two; because I knew what was coming in the next section and asked for his help, as it was going to get very tough very soon.

As I made my way down through Ashton Court I was actually welling up with tears and feeling very emotional, I don’t know why, but the last time this happened was the first time I ran marathon distance so who knows. I got to the A38 and crossed and gritted my teeth and started the horrible climb. Because the hill was soaked with run off, and not knowing if it wanted to freeze or run, made judging where to step very difficult, and when I crossed Dundry Lane, the rocky path was horrendous as the stream had frozen making it very difficult to climb; but of course I made it to the church on time still happy with my progress.

The next section is normally my pleasure and favourite, but today it nearly broke me, going over the airstrip was awful, and I stopped at the top of the big rocky descent and took some Ibuprofen for my legs.

As I made my way through the bottom fields by the river with the viaduct in view I thought my race was almost over as both my calves were burning up and my tendons felt like they would snap at any moment, and I took a seat on the bench and gave my legs an impromptu massage and ate some of my magic patties (Peanut butter and mashed banana sandwiches with the crusts cut off and cut into mouth size quarters for ease of eating on the move). I could feel the tablets and the massage starting to work and carried on still happy with my progress.

The next section went well and even the Woollard Bull was in another field, so I didn’t have to worry about him, and, before I knew it, I was at the Lock keeper and knew it was going well so gave myself a minute to text Gaveller and update Facebook and take a couple more tablets. My hydration was going well and I judged I would have enough to get me home, as we all know that the minute you lose the option to hydrate it’s all over. I had a 2ltr Camelbak and a Hydro belt with three 170ml bottles on it, one of which had sweet black coffee in it for those ”darker” moments, when a kick up the bum is needed and this I feel was one of my secret weapons on the day.

I made my way along the Dramway Path still moving well but I knew there was pain on its way in the form of Warmley Forest Park and Shortwood Hill, both notoriously wet and muddy, but I surprised myself by keeping an OK pace through them, even though it was near impossible to grip at all through Warmley. I must also take the chance to warn people that as you pass through the horse fields at the bottom of Shortwood there is an electric fence crossing the CFP and the only way to negotiate it is to hurdle it!!! On my reccie through there, I actually got a shock in my undercarriage. I made it to the top of Shortwood and texted Gaveller and he replied “It’s pretty much all downhill from the top” I knew this; but I was 39-40 miles in and tired but I looked at my Garmin and it was maybe 4 miles to destination, I was pumped and went around the quarry and past the fishing lakes picking up masses of mud on my shoes as I went; but then it was back on the road into Kendleshire Golf Club and I knew I was getting very close. Those who know this golf club know there is a little half way café on it and, as I ran past it, I saw the coke machine and coffee machine and wished so much that I had some loose change on me for a can of coke but not this time.

I walked up Park Road and dropped down onto the Frome Valley Footpath, which was so muddy I thought it was a conspiracy against me so close to the end; but as always I dug in and kept moving. I looked at my watch .35 to destination and I looked in the distance and saw Gaveller with camera in hand as I approached him I called out” I can’t stop Chris, I have to get to the car,” which was officially my finish point. In a surreal end to the day I could hear Gaveller running behind me to see me in and I saw my car and that was that.

I turned off the watches and stopped, opened the boot of the car and mixed a recovery shake and chatted with Chris and his wife for ten minutes. I explained my bad points, my nutrition and my amazing shoes and of course I negotiated an update Honourable order of Woodwoses certificate.

Chris commented on how well I looked considering what I had just done, and I can say now that I wouldn’t have wanted to, but I am sure I could have carried on running had it been needed.

In the past year I have come to love the CFP and more so the honourable order of Woodwose and I will share this one piece of advice to anyone that wants to attempt the challenge….. Train hard, research the route until you know it inside out and get your nutrition right, and like I did yesterday, you can also complete all 45 miles without support, and maybe, just maybe, you’ll want to do it again. One last thing, I have looked, and I am sure Gaveller will confirm, but I think I am now the 12th 0r 13th fastest Woodwose, not bad considering I was the slowest six months ago!

Hail all!

Neil Banwell

Knowledge is power

February 12, 2012

“Knowledge is power,” said Neil Banwell as he hacked 3 hours off his previous time for the Green Man Challenge. His effort of 9 hrs 25 mins also beat my time by 8 minutes. The secret is thorough preparation, going out to check out the route and replaying the route obsessively in his head to avoid any errors and making sure the nutrition was right. I am sure he will share the details, but I hear it includes peanut butter and banana sandwiches!


November 27, 2011

So – Neil Bryant has not beaten Martin Beale’s and Martin Indge’s record, inspite of having the stamina to do so as a Lands End to John o’Groats winner. The difference is in the navigational skills; but it also has something to do with the defects of strip maps. When I mooted doing strip maps in the manner of the Round Rotherham Race, Martin said that were more comforting than reliable. What he did when doing the Round Rotherham Race was to use the strip maps to work out the course on a standard OS map and then use that. By going through this process before the race, he could visualise the course in detail and more or less knew it by heart before he started. In this way he was able to out-navigate those who relied on the strip maps alone. The main problem with strip maps or any set of linear instructions is that once you get off track it is very difficult to get back on track as Neil discovered. (See The time spent finding yourself is compounded by the way that uncertainty slows you down.

The first tranche of Woodwoses were all experienced mountain navigators, which means they had a lot of practice under their belts before they set out. Those of us without that experience probably need to reccie the route in stages or else do a lot of work with maps and satellite pictures beforehand. The alternative is to find a Woodwose or two to show you round.

Luke’s Green Man Challenge Report

March 3, 2011

Here’s my report about taking on the Green Man Challenge on Sunday 27th February 2011. Warning: It’s very long!!!

Much of what I’ve written is rather more factual than those of some other Woodwoses because this my attempt to document my personal experience in the hope that it may be of some help or encouragement to others thinking of putting themselves forward.

Before I go into the background and preparation for the Green Man, I would like to give some very special thanks.

Firstly to Chris Bloor, who is the Father of the Green Man Challenge, provides encouragement and enthusiasm about the challenge and who very kindly transported me to and from the start line (and provided tea at Blaise Castle).

I’d also like to thank Ian Ruck and Antony Clark for accompanying me from Ashton Court to Shortwood Hill. Their good company helped make the first half pass by relatively quickly.

Thanks to Ruth (Ian’s wife), who not only got out of bed early on a Sunday morning to transport Ian and Antony to the start, but was there at Shortwood hill with my drop bag, a deck chair (which I was too scared to use) and a wonderful smile.

Finally, I really, really want to thank Jonathan Gledson. Jonathan helped me round the whole of the second half of the course – putting up with my dwindling sense of humour, carrying sodden, mud soaked trail shoes and letting me raid his rucksack for snacks and drink.

OK, now a little about the background and preparation…

The Green Man Challenge was something that I quickly got to know about after joining TACH in about September 2009. I had originally planned to run the challenge in March 2010, but was prevented through a back injury which kept me out of running for the whole Summer.

Some of the reasons to attempt the Green Man Challenge were in part the distance – a proper Ultra distance but nevertheless not too daunting, and also because it is a personal challenge rather than a race. However, the main reason is that it has been a wonderful chance to connect with the countryside which bounds our city (we are so very lucky to have such wonderful countryside, so close by).

My preparation was based upon the following principles:
Don’t use any fixed training plan as the challenge could be attempted at any time
Specificity – The course is long, reasonably flat and quite uneven under foot. I needed to prepare accordingly
Always remember, it’s often the lack of recovery that causes injury rather than over training, and so always prioritise recovery over more training. Similarly, I read somewhere “Those that under-train will always finish. Those that over-train never get to the start line”
Judge long runs by ‘time on your feet’ rather than distance

Using the above principles, my training generally fitted the following pattern:
Long run every 1-2 weeks (building from 2-6 hours)
TACH training runs on Thursdays
Some treadmill intervals (to strengthen legs)
Core and upper body gym work
The treadmill sessions were pretty sporadic due to the combination of work commitments and recovering from the Sunday long runs. And looking back, I think I could have made more use of some of the very short ‘free’ runs that often present themselves if one puts ones mind to it. Like, for example, running over to where the swimming pool is for a family swim rather than going in the car.

A week in advance of the challenge, I completely abstained from alcohol and caffeine. The caffeine abstention was intended to give my body time to become more sensitised again to caffeine, such that when I really needed a lift, a caffeine hit would keep me going.

Also, on the Wednesday before the run I subjected myself to the pain of a thorough leg, hip and back sports massage.

My nutrition plan was to take just Hammer Perpetuem (in a sweet, gloopy mixture) and water (with Nuun) for the first half, and then move onto solid food in the form of homemade choc-chip and banana bread, muesli bars and finally caffeinated gels.

Finally, in terms of preparation, my strategy for the run was simple – run at a very easy pace on the flat and downhills, speed march any up hills or when other walk breaks were required, and try to limit the time taken at any stops.

So to challenge day…

I got up about 5:45am to give me plenty of time for a good big breakfast (muesli, yogurt, honey and toast), lots of water to drink and time to digest.

Chris picked me up at 7:40am and we met Antony and Ian at the Green Man in Ashton Court in good time for an 8am start. Any thoughts of nervousness were dispelled as our conversation strangely veered onto the relative merits of Deadly 60 and Horrible Histories, against the ever so slightly surreal Chugginton.

The off:

The first leg up to Dundry followed by legs 2 and 3 to Pensford and Keynsham were all pretty straight-forward. Although, by Keynsham I was beginning to feel a slowly worsening twinge in my right knee. I swapped socks here as my original ones were in a pretty sorry state, and I could feel a few large pieces of grit irritating the soles of my feet.

At Keynsham with the old Cadbury’s factory in the background

Throughout the whole course the going underfoot was varied – some good, some wet and boggy, and some sticky.

Leg 4 to Shortwood Hill progressed quite well, although I was beginning to feel a bit tired and my knee was still sore. Thankfully, Ian and Antony were good company which helped a lot, and also, Antony’s superior knowledge of the course proved invaluable on several occasions.

At Shortwood Hill, Ian’s wife Ruth was waiting with my drop bag. I refuelled with more Perpetuem and extra water, and departed with Jonathan as my support for the remainder of the race. Jonathan kindly carried a spare set of road trainers for me in his rucksack.

The next leg from Shortwood Hill to the White Horse at Hambrook was one of the hardest for me. I was beginning to feel really tired by now, and my knee was still pretty sore. So, as soon as we got to the end of the leg, I used the opportunity to take a couple of ibuprofen and caffeine tablets. Within 20 mins of the next leg (no. 6 to Patchway) I was in much finer fettle.

Jonathan was proving to be the ideal support, helping with gates and providing encouragement.

At Patchway, I had run out of fluid, and Jonathan kindly gave me a spare bottle he had of Lucozade Sport which turned out to be a welcome change for my palette which was getting sick of the over sweet Perpetuem.

I really enjoyed the route from Patchway to Blaise, the terrain is very mixed, with the contrast between the boggy flat land around Easter Compton and the views from on top of Spanorium Hill.

Just before Blaise Castle, I changed socks again and also moved to road trainers. I was surprised how heavy my trail shoes had got – they were caked in mud.

At Blaise we were met by Chris, this time with a very welcome cup of tea. I took a little more time at this stop, and had another couple of caffeine tablets, in preparation for the final 10k back to the Green Man.

As one can imagine, this final stretch was the hardest. By now my legs were pretty much spent. I suggested that perhaps Jonathan and I could swap legs, but he didn’t like the look of what he was going to get in return.

There were a lot more short walk breaks now as I could feel my hamstrings cramping. But I knew I would finish, so my spirits were high even if my body was a bit broken.

It was wonderful to see Chris and Ian at the Green Man. As you might expect, I felt rather emotional.

At the finish:

I believe that the Green Man Challenge is the embodiment of TACH, Bristol, and most importantly, the passion Chris Bloor has for connecting people with the countryside. I wholeheartedly encourage anyone who reads this to consider taking on the challenge in some form (run, walk, relay, one leg at a time, etc.).

Luke Taylor – Woodwose XXXVIII
(Green Man Challenge, 8hrs 31mins, Sunday 27 February 2011)

Latest Woodwose

February 27, 2011

Luke Taylor joined the select ranks of sub-9 hour Woodwoses today with a time of 8 hrs 31 mins to qualify as Woodwose XXXVIII. Luke said, “The support I got from Ian Ruck, Antony (Turtle) Clark and Jonathan Gledson made all the difference.” Jonathan said, “If wasn’t for the atrocious conditions underfoot, I reckon Luke could have equalled my time.” Ian Ruck agreed. “He looked really strong when he was running with us.” Luke said, “I felt tired after Shortwood Hill, but I felt fine again by the time I reached Hambrook…The worst bit was after Shirehampton golf course, when my hamstrings began to seize up.”

A letter from Wai Chan

February 22, 2011

Hi Giles,
A huge congratualtions and thanks to all those involved in organising and running the Green Man Challenge on the weekend. I thought the challenge itself was hugely novel, not often you get the chance to enter an off road ultra on your doorstep. The amount of off road running was great, very few bits of tarmac let alone road running which meant my joints were no-where near as sore as what they should be. The wet ground and mud only served to add to the entertainment and aura, the minor downside is the number of gates and stiles but that’s the nature of the beast to some extent (nice to get a rest too!).  Given it was a free event, I was astounded by the level of support Moti, Salomon, Gore and volunteers provided during the whole event – it put the Bristol/Bath entrance fees to shame. The trial gear offered at the start and at Hambrook were very welcome and the number of support stops in general was spot on. I thought the group leads did a tremendous job in pace and navigation especially once the runners settled down.  I really
can’t think of any improvements to the day.

To sum it all up, Fantastic job, really enjoyed it, can’t give enough praise to all involved in organising the challenge. Big thanks to Martin B for dragging us round!!!


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


Turtle’s Report

March 23, 2010

Antony Turtle Clark
Green Man Challenge Report – 6th March 2010

A minute to seven on Saturday morning and I got an unexpected phone call from the Gaveller.  I’m due to start the Green Man Challenge at 7am and he rang from the start line outside St Mary Magdelene Church on Mariners Walk to find out where I was.  I was putting on my shoes at home at the time but luckily live just round the corner and was able to trot over to the church in a couple of minutes.  It was nice of the Gaveller to come and see me off and even nicer of him to lend me his GPS watch to use during the day.  We waited for it to locate the satellites hovering over Bristol and, at 7:08am, I was off.

Waiting for Satellites

I was on my own for the first eight miles and gave the Green Man a friendly slap on the chops as I ran past, making good time up to Dundry across frost laden fields.  Fellow TACH runner Joe met me there and I dumped my gilet in the boot of his car before we headed off to Pensford together.  Joe was good company and it turns out he is keen to tackle the Green Man Challenge himself later in the year.

I was still ahead of schedule when we arrived at Pensford where we were met by Rob, Jo and baby Arthur.  They were in good form and Rob was looking forward to the Grizzly the following day.  Joe ran back to Dundry from here and I continued alone to Keynsham.  I started to get quite cold on this section and, although I was still well short of half way, I took a turn for the worse and started to feel sick.  I was running in base layer and club vest and seriously regretted leaving my gilet in Joe’s car at Dundry.  There was nothing I could do about it now but put on hat and gloves and push on as best I could.

Jan was waiting for me with Susie and Catie, our two year old twins, in a playground fifty yards off the route in Keynsham and seeing them lifted my spirits.  I picked up a spare waterproof jacket and more food and water and, after fifteen minutes being Dad, I was off again.  Jan reports that I had turned grey at this stage of the challenge and the photos she took of me show what looks like a zombie having an off day.

The sick chilled feeling in my gut didn’t improve over the next section and I was pleased to see the Gaveller waving from the top of a stile as I approached the Shortwood Hill checkpoint.  Libby was there too and after a quick hello, Gaveller and I were off.  The Gaveller was very understanding of my plight and attempted to take my mind off it with interesting conversation.  This kept veering back to chives which he pointed out were growing in abundance alongside the path (he later even munched on some).

I was still not great and had to do some walking but my mood improved at the next stop at Hambrook:

  • Jan was there with Susie and Catie and seeing them really cheered me up;
  • I dumped the 2 litre water bladder I had been carrying since the start and picked up a hand held 500ml bottle instead.  The bladder had fitted inside a large bumbag which was, with hindsight, probably a major contributor to my stomach ache.  As soon as I removed the heavy water bladder and was able to loosen the bumbag I felt instantly better.
  • I was now 30 miles into the route with only 15 to go.  I was nearly there really.

I was not much faster to Patchway where Jan and the twins were waiting again but felt much happier (all things considered).  The Gaveller was still with me (he ran with me 20 miles in total) but there was no sign of Luke who was due to meet me there.  I had talked with Luke a couple of times during the afternoon and he was having childcare issues so it was not entirely unexpected.  Anyway, the Gaveller and I decided not to wait for him and pushed on.

I felt great now (all things considered) and was able to speed up a bit.  Spanorium Hill rewarded the climb with great views of the Severn bridges from the top.  Still no sign of Luke and a phone call from him reveals that he’s taken an unplanned detour to Cribbs Causeway.  I hand the phone to the Gaveller who directs him back on track.

I was still having lots of fun (all things considered) and we don’t wait for Jan at Blaise Castle – she’s only a few minutes away as we cross the car park but we only have three miles to go and I’m keen to finish.

As we run along Kings Weston Hill we learn that Luke is two minutes behind and it takes our mind off the running as Gaveller and I speculate about when he’s going to catch us up.  We keep looking behind us as we run down the side of Shirehampton Park Golf Club but there’s no sign of him.  As we cross Sylvian Way he suddenly appears beside us as if by magic!  He saw us running down the golf course and decided to shoot down the road that runs parallel to it to make up time.  It’s great to have him along and I almost forget that I’m a tad pooped in all the excitement.

Before you know it Gaveller, Luke and I are on Mariners Walk and back at the start.  It’s great to be welcomed by my family and good friends: Jan and the twins; Libby; Joe and Claire as well as Mark Vogan (Woodwose 2) and Sarah who happened to be in Bristol this weekend.  Mark and I are running the Highlander Mountain Marathon together next month and this has been a useful bit of training for that.

Many thanks to everyone who supported me, especially Jan for being so understanding about it all the training and the boring conversations about route and to the Gaveller who saw me through the worst of times.  Thanks also to the people who very kindly offered their help the previous weekend when I had originally planned to run it.  I postponed it at the last minute due to a cold and ended up running it on Grizzly weekend when lots of people were away.

Total distance covered was 45.18 miles in a time of 10hrs 31mins.  Maybe one day I’ll run it again but without the chills, sickness and blistered toes.  I’m nearly looking forward to it already.  Just don’t tell Jan.