Let’s go round again
Early start Saturday 2nd March, 2019. Up at 5 am, half an hour before I went to bed. No, hang on, that’s something else, more Yorkshire based. Ey-up.
Anyway up at 5. Okay, I lay there ’til 5:45 but the intention was there. Eventually got up, got showered and had first breakfast. I’d actually packed on the Thursday so there was no last minute turn around panic like the last race when I’d forgotten some mandatory kit. So rather calmly I drove to Salisbury to catch the 7.30 train to Bristol to take part in the Green Man Ultra 30, also known as the Green Boy being, as it is, the shorter cousin of the full 45 mile circuit. And it was a race only a couple of people (JK, Lew and Kirstie Carr) knew I was doing.
The reason – to play a weak practical joke on Darren (aka RunnersKnees) about the last time we both raced there. Back in September we both did the postponed Winter Green Man in the Autumn and Darren had to walk back to his hotel as his phone had lost all charge so was unable to call a cab. Luckily this time a taxi would be on hand.
I also had it in my training plan to run around 30 miles over the weekend so I thought, get it done in one day and bosh, Sunday off!
Got to Bristol Temple Meads and immediately jumped in a cab to get my bag to the finish at Ashton Park school. Bag duly deposited I got back in the cab and went back to Bristol Temple Meads and dropped into a Wetherspoons for a second breakfast and a tea. A guy in an ultra vest having breakfast is not the strangest sight in a Spoons at 9am on a Saturday.
Now for the tricky part, there’s one train an hour to Keynsham, the start of the GMU 30, and I knew Darren would be on it. Luckily wasn’t seen so was able to arrive and greet him on the platform thusly.
It’s not his fault (okay, maybe it is)
Weak practical joke played and acknowledged we made our way to the The Brassmills pub for the start. It was a pleasant surprise to get a tap on the shoulder and see Ira Rainey standing there who I haven’t seen in person since my very first ultra, The Hangman, back in 2016. Pleased to see he’s doing well and is getting back into running again. For those who don’t know him, Ira wrote a book about this race that’s a cracking read and I encourage you to look it up. Often people say it’s his fault they’re running the Green Man and in many cases that’s true.
It’s definitely not Darren’s fault I’m here (see Portland) but it is good to have a chat before the off. I know Darren had his target (beat last time) but I was unsure what mine was. I wanted to have a good run but not give it everything as I need to be training again by Tuesday. I was also carrying my poles (cheat sticks) and wanted to get some practice in on the 3 hills I knew they would be good for.
Not getting lost this time.
Having run this route as recently as last September I was happy I would not get lost. I had the backup of the route on my Fenix just in case. In the event I missed a bridge turn by 5 yards before back tracking and a pathway after Blaise Castle for about 20 yards. Not bad at all.
I felt good at the start but didn’t push it. I kept a steady pace and didn’t walk the first 13 odd miles to the first checkpoint. Stopped only to fill a bottle and grab a sandwich before I was out and eating on the hoof as I walked up the hill away from it. The mud was not too bad most of the way around, a few spots where it became a bit worse but generally my Brooks Cascadia coped okay. Thanks to Kirstie Louise Carr who gave me the heads up on the condition of the paths and ensured I made the right choice in not going for the more grippy, but less forgiving on paths, Inov-8 X-Claws.
There was one comical moment when, just after the bridge over the M5, I went flying past a group of three on a muddy downhill, mainly because I had reached the point of not being able to slow safely. Caused me momentary cramp in a hamstring but it was funny.
The next checkpoint, another 9 miles from the first, is at Blaise Castle and there is a steep hill on the way up to Brockmead before you cross the M5 again so the poles came out and I really appreciated the extra push you can get from them. Will be essential in my 100 mile race in the summer. After that hill I kept up a steady plod to the last CP at Blaise where I stopped only to grab a handful of jelly beans. Walked up the hill and plugged in some tunes to help me through the last 6 miles. I slowed a little in the last 3 miles, some of that being the long climb up to Clifton Down (poles out again).
Once up to the downs it’s over to the Clifton Suspension bridge, across and on to Ashton Park estate.
I see you now
So that’s where he was hiding. Last year it was starting to get dark when I finished so I never saw the Green Man. This year I knew where to look. Just a short downhill after this and on to the finish where I crossed the line in around 6:07.
I have to say I’m pleased with the time and how I felt throughout the race. I enjoyed the route more this time around than the first time I ran it too. Perhaps part of this was being able to not worry about where I was going. Often you will find yourself on your own in this race and if you don’t know the way and are not that experienced at navigating it is easy to miss a turn or take the wrong path. So you spend a lot of time looking at instructions or a map or a GPS device and wondering if you are right or not. Not having to do that takes away a lot of stress.
I didn’t get to see Darren again as I wanted to get my train home. I was wondering if I would bump into Kirstie but I think I left just as she finished. I know I was sitting in the school dining hall at the same time as Alison Davidson but we were both such post race zombies we didn’t spot each other!
Yes, I think I will come back to the Green Man. Probably to do the full Winter version and then the Autumn 30 (full house of medals). It’s a race that sort of grows on you and it is one of the races that I can do in a day and get to sleep in my own bed.
And the medals, they are cracking.