The Glossopdale Raider

Green Man Challenge Report 24/12/07 By the Glossopdale Raider (AKA Gypsy)

I first noticed the Challenge when visiting the TACH website, something I do from time to time in order to keep up with what’s going on in the world of TACH. I saw the Green Man Challenge and was very intrigued but reading on felt that it was a ridiculous thing to try and that I’d never be daft enough to give it a go.

Later in the year I was back visiting the TACH website as well as the local hashing sites as my wife and I were to visit Bristol prior to Christmas and I thought it would be fun to catch up with the TACHers and hashers. However The Green Man had obviously been tramping around in the back of my head and I read with interest Chris Smart’s report of his impressive solo run- “Hats off to him” I thought. Later that week I did Tanky’s Trog, a 22 mile fell race from Marsden to Edale in the Peak District, and completed that relatively unscathed despite pretty awful conditions. I began to wonder if I could have a go at the Green Man Challenge and whether I could better Chris Smart’s time. I began to tentatively plan, downloading Gaveller’s route instructions and trying to match them up with my 1997 Explorer map of Bristol. By mid-December I decided I’d attempt the Challenge until I developed shingles which virtually closed my left eye and left me looking, as my father said “Like I’d been 10 rounds with Frank Tyson [sic].” I agreed with my wife Sara that it was now a silly plan and we could just go to Bristol to relax, party and run nothing more strenuous than a hash or two. Unfortunately I began to recover quite quickly and Sara realised something was afoot when she found the new map of Bristol… I emailed the Gaveller and my attempt not to become the first person to fail the Green Man Challenge was on.

The evening before Christmas Eve I met up with the Gaveller and discussed the route and possible support options, involving him and Sara. Eventually it was decided that I’d start from the Blaise Estate car park at 06.30 with feeding and watering at Dundry and then meet with them at Shortwood Hill where the Gaveller would join me for the last three legs.

So at 06.25 on Christmas Eve I found myself setting out across the Blaise Estate. It was a dark but clear morning which was much warmer than the previous few days and I hoped this wouldn’t be a problem. My left calf felt sore- a pre-existing injury from a couple of runs earlier in the week- but I hoped I could run it off. The first leg went well, apart from a minor detour amongst the houses in Sea Mills and I was glad Turtle had shown me the line through Sneyd Park and along Mariners Way. Running across the suspension bridge was superb with the full moon above wreathed in wisps of cloud and the first hints of sunrise beginning to illuminate Giant’s Cave Butress- it all felt so right. I made reasonable time around North Road and down the mountain bike track to the Green Man where I was greeted with enough light to run without a torch. The leg up to Dundry was uneventful, again apart from minor difficulties finding the way out of a couple of fields but this didn’t cost too much time and probably allowed me to rest a little.

The Gaveller was waiting in Dundry with additional bananas, Sue Baic’s isotonic concoction, encouragement and wise advice to take things slow. Each of the first two legs had taken about 65 minutes. The next leg to Pensford was navigationally a doddle with again excellent route descriptions keeping me right. The running was very pleasant and the sun finally broke through as I sat down for a feed and drink next to Pensford Lock-up. Leg 4 to Keynsham passed uneventfully too and I arrived just at opening time at the Lockkeeper’s and downed a couple of bottles of fruit juice before leaving muddy footprints in their spotlessly clean toilets (sorry).  The next leg also went by quickly, possibly too quickly as I unintentionally increased the pace along the two long flat sections on the cycleway and then Dramway. By the time I’d reached Warmley Forest Park I was beginning to feel a little more tired. Below Mangotsfield golf course I could only watch on in jealousy at the effortless speed of a couple of hares that I flushed out as I crossed the fields. Still, rendezvous 2 was just ahead and I knew I would be watched and assessed by Sara and Gaveller as to whether I was fit to continue so I injected a new spring in my step. I passed the vet check, filled up on fluid and some food, then changed socks and top before pressing on with Gaveller.

Having accompaniment was a good thing, although like the flat cycleway it may have pushed me into increasing my speed unintentionally. With Gaveller now navigating I was now not going to make any directional errors which was a delightful thought as I by now really didn’t want to add any more distance to a route that was nearly 20 miles longer than anything I’d done before. However not having the map in hand felt unnatural and the discomfort of bottles in my bumbag now played on my mind instead. By the time we’d reached Kendleshire Golf Course I found that any slight incline had now become an excuse to walk and the first doubts that I’d complete began to creep in but slowly we pressed on, running the nice trail sections and mixing walking and running on the roads. The next leg was the toughest for me as I realised I still had at least 11 miles to go and was feeling tired. I was sure I could walk the rest of the way but was keen to run when I could, although I was now reduced to not much more than a shuffling jog. Having Gaveller alongside was a great boon- would I have completed on my own? Possibly, but my respect for Chris Smart’s solo completion grew.

The section through Stoke Gifford and Bradley Stoke were surprisingly well marked and well used by the local populace. Uncontrolled dogs (usually on a walk with their male owners) became a potential hazard to tired legs. It also felt very disconcerting to feel that we were still heading north and away from Bristol. It was a delightful surprise to see Sara at Patchway at the start of the last leg to wish me well and tell me that I could do it. Bring on leg 8! Well, okay, bring it on at a walking pace..,

Once we’d escaped from Aztec West I was able to get running again until Spaniorum Hill put paid to that but that was fine as I’d always intended walking up it (though as a supposed fell runner this should have caused some embarrassment). I knew the finish, and surprisingly the record, were now in my grasp and almost enjoyed the discomfort of the last few miles. Up through the gates into Blaise I was urged to surge on by the Gaveller, nearly coming a cropper on a stray Dalmatian. The car park came into view in the gathering dusk and I crossed the line in 9 hours 48 minutes and 57 seconds to be welcomed by Sara, Libby, Turtle, Jan and their two baby girls. My altimeter reckoned the ascent and descent to have been 940m.

Despite offers of a pint at a local hostelry I had to turn these down as Sara and I had to be across in the Gower for Christmas. Even more uncharacteristically of me I didn’t drink the celebratory bottle that Sara had got me on the drive over. (I made up for it later)

The legs were stiff for 2 days afterwards but today feel great. My only minor niggles are a tender right Achilles and a slight back strain which may be unrelated.

I thoroughly recommend the Challenge to others and would like to thank Sara and Gaveller for their support during the day and to Turtle for showing me the section to Mariners Walk. I wish Gaveller et al all the best for their attempt when it comes. I feel proud to think I may now be a Woodwose.                                                                                      Gypsy 27/12/2007

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