Green Man Ultra
Having run this race 3 times anti-clockwise, twice as the Green Boy and once as the Green Man I thought, and incorrectly it seems, that the Green Boy would be a doddle on dry summer ground and that, with a complete understanding of OS Maps, the route would be a simple to follow. Oh, how wrong was.
I had originally signed up to the Green Man ultra in March 2018 but snow delayed the running until September and I enjoyed a good couple of hours of daylight, better weather and a dry course, coming in over an hour under the cutoff. 6 months later I ran it again, in March, no snow, but a bit of mud and rain but I knew the way somewhat, and finished half an hour quicker. A result as they would say.
But then my experience of the Green Man ultra turned nasty in 2020 when I signed up for the 45 miler instead of the 30. 3 extra hours to run 15 extra miles? Very doable. Well, it would have been if I had worn trails and carried a light pack. I did neither, lost a shoe several times before even leaving the grounds of Ashton Court, slipped down a mudchute of a woods, cutting myself up and my adventure ended with me limping, bloodied and bruised back to the race HQ after an hour.
I needed to fix this, for closure sake and so, as soon as I had could (March was cancelled this year) GMU was back on the roster and I was running Bristol again, just the other way around.
The final GPX file was version 7. I shall just leave this here. 7. And due to changes for one reason or another it never was all that static. If I had gone for a recce then it would have been a mistake, and ultimately pointless. Relying on the OS Maps app was all I could do, that and the runners around me, including the lovely Mark (73 and former army) and his wife Mandy (a few years younger), two of the four veterans in the field, and therefore guaranteed a podium finish.
We were thrust together as we had booked a fifteen pound shuttle to the start at Brass Mills from the race HQ and finish at Ashton School. And by thrust together, the shuttle (fifteen pounds worth) was the back of a Land Rover driven by one of the volunteers. We had all expected a mini bus. We also expected to be heading near to 9am, and not at about 8, leaving us outside the GMU30 start (a closed pub) for nearly 3 hours. I mean, it was fine. We talked. Mark and Mandy raced a lot, more than I ever have, even back in the 30 races a year days and both relished the chance to podium finished in a senior age bracket. It was all about outlasting the opposition I guess. I chatted with Rachel Bramwell too, and it was lovely to see her. She said she wished she looked as relaxed as I did before the race. And I was relaxed. Worst case, the wheels would fall off and I’d march it in.
How I did
I got lost, a lot. And not just me, Mark and Mandy also got lost, a lot. With only 112 of the 178 registered runners starting, there would be fewer people to follow on the route and it became pretty clear that I had no idea where I was going within the first few miles when I stopped on a country lane, looked up, no one, looked back the way I’d come, no one, and, upon checking the OS Maps app, discovered I had made a wrong turn a few hundred yards back.
When I returned to the correct route Mark and Mandy had caught up with me. We then, with both Mark and me, looked at our OS Maps app, me with the modern Google Map minimal view and Mark with the old school maps view, you know, circle with a cross is a church with a spire, kinda view, and discovered we were now about a KM from the route.
After getting a bit lost then being pointed the way by a lady runner, we traversed a field, followed what looked like the path, went under the M4 and now were lost, again.
Our route did eventually lead us back onto the correct path, but my dreams of a third time improvement in a row were dwindling. And they faded completely when I started to cramp. It was after the second of only two checkpoints,
I have always thought that was too few on a baking hot day, clambering over a high stile that I witnessed my left calf muscle completely contract and slide painfully up my leg. I was in agony, albeit for a few moments but it started to worry me as it happened over and over again.
My SOS salts had all gone sticky and were unusable. So I just had to deal with it, as I lost Mark and Many again, under a graffiti covered flyover, as they went right, I went left up a steep set of woodland steps, where I panicked about cramping with every lift, and turned toward the finish, crossing the line over an hour under the cut off and over an hour slower than expected.
There isn’t much else to say really. Getting lost, and cramping added over an hour to my day, and in the end I was in danger of missing the cut off. I didn’t, of course, and the Green Man Ultra 2021, Summer Edition, became the 61st in my 100 Marathon Club Quest. There was ice rink like mud at the end, and it was a Bambi on ice moment when I crossed that, trying to keep my footing and push toward the finish. And it was very hot. No excuses really, but I am now officially done with the GMU.