Nuclear Races: Nuclear Blackout Day and Night

This weekend saw me take on my toughest challenge yet, not one, not two, but three races over two days. Saturday saw me take the trip with my friend Ella to Essex to head back to Nuclear Races, for Nuclear Blackout. Blackout offered a day and a night version, so obviously we decided it would be a good idea to do both.

Ella Roberts and I taking the road trip to Essex
Ella Roberts and I taking the road trip to Essex

Race Description

Nuclear Blackout was a 6km lapped race, where you had 2 hours to complete as many laps as possible. If the last time was anything to go by it was going to be very muddy, with some tough obstacles to overcome, and judging by their posts on Facebook and Twitter it sounded like they were making a real effort to ensure that the course was going to be as muddy as possible.

Nuclear Races send out their race packs in advance so there is no need to register on the day of the race, just turn up in time for the race briefing, stick on your number, warm up and go.  This level of organisation is fantastic and makes for a stress free race day, the event village was great, especially as the night came on and a live band started.

Blackout Day

We set off for the day race around 1pm, and as I had not been that near the front I put on a burst of speed for no other reason than to try and get out of the pack a bit before we started hitting the obstacles, but I soon settled into a more sustainable pace and It wasn’t long before we were clambering down into a ditch and into a lot of mud.

The mud was like nothing else in this race, in places it was between knee and waist deep, you had to keep moving to try and avoid getting stuck, and the effort of pulling my legs out started giving me both calf cramps very early on, and aching hips. I was pretty worried about my ability to do more than one lap, but I figured I would worry about that later.  After heaving myself out of the mud, there was a bit of a run followed by a few tall mounds of loose peat to climb up and over.

Despite running this course more than once my memory has already gone hazy so as usual I apologise if I don’t get things quite right. There was the usual water crossings to contend with, and some nice stretches of running through fields and woods.

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Mud Monster – Picture courtesy of Nuclear Races

Obstacle number 6 was called “under Fire” a low slung net over a tarpaulin with water squirting over the top of it, that you had to slide on your back using your arms to pull you up the slight incline, this earned me a nice scratch up my back that my husband has suggested looks like I have been “whacked in the back with an axe”

There was a tyre wall to clamber over in the bottom of a muddy ditch, which was slippery and scared me horribly as I struggled with my fear of heights. This was followed by a climb up a muddy bank, where there was a rope to help you, but as this got muddier it was harder to grip.  A large set of hay-bale “stairs” was encountered after a bit of a run and then there was a hang tough obstacle over a deep pit of water, which I swiftly fell off and into the cold depths below. A welcome water stop came after this, Nuclear Races have mains connected water fountains, which make it quick and easy to have a cold drink without having to faff around with plastic cups.

The path at one point was blocked by a wall, where thankfully my good friend David had caught up with me and was there to give me a much needed leg up, and later came a section through a field that contained a couple of walls set at a slight angle, and a very high wall that you had to climb using a combination of wooden slats and ropes. At this point on my first lap the marshals started telling me I was sitting in third place for the ladies. This drove me forwards, although I didn’t expect to be able to maintain this over more laps.

Lots of water, lots of mud Picture courtesy of Nuclear Races
Lots of water, lots of mud
Picture courtesy of Nuclear Races

The high wall was followed by another, more straightforward slatted wall to climb and then it was round to crawl under a muddy cargo net and through a tyre mangle. Once out of this it was through some more water, pulling yourself out over muddy slippery banks, and eventually around to a slide that you climbed up, crawled across some bars and then splashed down into the cool water below. A quick swim across, haul out the other side, then it was back across using some inflatable pontoons which sent me back into the water. I was starting to really suffer with cramps, but a bit of a stretch in the water and I was off again, up into “Dave’s Caves” where you were directed to crawl towards a red light, there was more than one way to go, and you had to find your way back out.

Picture courtesy of Nuclear Races
Picture courtesy of Nuclear Races

As you came back round towards the event village there was a tyre haul, and a really nice run along towards where the Nuclear Bunker would be during the night race. At the end of this though was the 3/4 pipe, where you had to get a real sprint on to try and get up, grab hold at the top, and then in my case, hope someone was there to catch you! After painfully clambering over the top of that It was down and up the muddiest hill you have ever encountered, at the end you had to resort to hands and knees before heading back towards the start line.

As I came up the hill “hear comes our third lady” was being shouted through a megaphone, I was already hurting with a bit of cramp, but I was definitely going for another lap. At this point David caught up with me and we started out the second lap together. Around we went again, and this time I started getting told I was in second place, one of the girls in front had obviously decided to just do the one lap.

I got chatting to a guy who was running near us, and got a bit more encouragement as David and I took on the course again, once more I fell off the hang tough, and the pontoons, and I was struggling more and more with cramps in my calves, I felt like I was literally crawling up the final hill when we got there. We were just in time to get in a third lap, I was already exhausted, but the thought that I might lose 2nd place if whoever was behind me took on a third lap spurred me on.

The third lap was possibly the hardest thing I had done so far, I was cramping from the first obstacle, and really slowing down, all I wanted to do was hit the finish line. It turns out we were the last people to come through for a third lap, and a couple of lovely marshals paced us for a while, giving David a break from hauling me over walls. Once we overtook some people still on their second lap though we lost our friends. The final hill nearly finished me off this time, but I crossed the line desperate to know if I had actually managed a podium place.

Nuclear Blackout Day finishers photo Picture courtesy of Nuclear Races
Nuclear Blackout Day finishers photo
Picture courtesy of Nuclear Races

As I came out of the finishing area my name was called from the stage, I wandered over a bit bemused, to be handed a trophy for second place. I had done it, absolutely amazed I staggered round to where Ella was waiting for me by the Obstacle Kit stand. I have to say right now that the support I got from David Beatty through out the race got me through and I would never have made it without him.

My second place trophy
My second place trophy

Blackout Night

After a break where we got dried, tried to warm up, and had a bite to eat, a few of our other friends arrived and we got ourselves ready to race the night race.

This race was essentially exactly the same format as the day race, except this time it was in the dark, so it was on with our head torches and time for race 2 of the weekend. The difference this time was that we would also be taking a turn through the secret nuclear bunker that gives Nuclear Races its name.

The night race was fun. I ran for fun this time, along with Ella, and our friends Pete and Kate Lawless, we waded through mud, splashed through water and pulled each other over walls.

Looking back over some of the open stretches and you could just see head torches winding there way over the course and it was a very impressive sight.

Nuclear Blackout Night
Nuclear Blackout Night. Picture courtesy of Nuclear Races

We took a nice gentle lap round the course but decided to leave it at one lap. I did feel I could have managed another, but common sense prevailed for once, as I knew I had to race again the next day, so I very happily crossed the line, got my second medal of the day and got ready to cheer the rest of my friends over the line later with a well deserved drink in my hand!

Nuclear Blackout Night finishers photo with Kate Lawless, Pete Lawless and Ella Roberts
Nuclear Blackout Night finishers photo with Kate Lawless, Pete Lawless and Ella Roberts
Happy Nukers. (L-R Me, Dominic Wright, Bob Cornford, Kevin Coda, Vince James)
Happy Nukers.
(L-R Me, Dominic Wright, Bob Cornford, Kevin Coda, Vince James)

What felt like a long drive home followed this, and after midnight I finally crawled into bed to get a bit of sleep before the next days race.

Myself with Ella and the wonderful David after our epic day of racing
Myself with Ella and the wonderful David after our epic day of racing

I decided to check the results the next day, for the joy of seeing myself second and got another surprise, it looks like I was actually the only girl to do a third lap, and therefore came first rather than second. What a result!