Archive for the ‘sport’ 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 :



The Green Man Video

August 21, 2011

Check this out. It’s a commercial, and does not give due credit to Martin Beale and Tim Down, without whom they might not have got round; but it’s worth a look for the atmospherics alone.

Fellrunners on Green Man

January 15, 2008

Three fell runners who have completed the Green Man Challenge have posted useful comments on the Fellrunners (FRA) Forum, which is listed on the Blogroll.

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!

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