When I got the go ahead from the boss man to book more races this year one of the first things I did was grab myself a Nuclear Races season pass. I loved every one of the Nuclear races I did last year and was really looking forward to running Rush again this year, then three weeks before the race I damaged my ankle and had to take time out of training, mostly because I was unable to even walk without a limp, so by race day I was feeling really unfit and my ankle was still not 100%. I wasn’t sitting this race out though so early on a Saturday morning I was picked up by my friend Bob and we travelled up to Essex.
The race was well organised as usual and had a good event village surrounding the start and finish lines. After hanging around for a while my friend Laura Dudley from Brocket Gear race team arrived and made my day by asking if we could run together for fun. I delightedly accepted her offer and we got ready to start.
As we were waiting on the start line listening to the race briefing and warm-up a guy was called up and proposed to his girlfriend, which was beautiful and a lovely start to the day, then there was a countdown and we were off into a ditch. I somehow missed the wooden slats set into the bank to help you up, but Laura was at the top to lend a hand. As we set off on the first set of running it quickly became clear that my ankle was not ready for racing, the uneven ground causing me trouble, I felt slower than a tortoise running through treacle!
The race had several of the obstacles I’ve met before and quite a few new ones, with over 80 to navigate across the 12k course. These included a long log carry, incorporating a stream wade, a rope climb that earned me a penalty drag of a heavy metal pipe as I failed to get up, something called “Essex Boyes” which was a lot of inflatable yellow balls with ropes above them to try and get across – or in our case fall off and have a penalty tyre carry – a few wall climbs, Irish table, a swim using a body board and the worlds longest gorilla bars.
At the bars I chose to go straight into the ditches that run alongside, I would normally give them my best shot, but falling off them onto my ankle didn’t seem like a very smart plan. In and out of the muddy ditches was then followed by several very muddy cargo net crawls. I also missed out the hang tough to avoid falling onto my damaged foot and got on with the forfeit tyre run.
The zip line across the lake followed by the death slide were awesome as always, and with a 3, 2, 1 we shot down into the lake below, a swim across to the ropes, into the smelly Ebenezer bog then over the traverse rope before off again into the trees.
We were having fun, singing and chatting, with a particularly wonderful rendition of “My Girl” which prompted the guys ahead of us to comment. Sadly I didn’t catch what they shouted to us, it was probably ” wow you two sound like angels” but could have been “who’s killing a cat” I guess we will never know!
Sometime after the slide though disaster struck when I caught my bad foot on a root and twisted it. For about 30 seconds I wasn’t even sure I was going to be able to walk, but the pain eased a bit, and after going through some more cold water which had a numbing effect, I was able to trot along again, and I’m far to stubborn to give up!
I missed out the second set of monkey bars and hang tough rings again, as I dared not fall down, skipped out a few other bits that would require me to jump or potentially fall, but otherwise soldered on with the help of Laura. In and out of large tyres, over a big wall using a rope, up and down some steep banks with the help of ropes and a net, and down a fireman’s pole and we were finally nearing the end.
The final stretch had us going up and over some hay bails, then sliding down some metal pipes into a ditch before running up a final hill to the finish line. Laura and I grabbed hands and were cheered across the line by Mark Leinster, awesome muddy MC, a big group hug and we were handed our medals then posed for our finishers photos.
The finish was well organised, with water troughs provided as bath tubs to clean off the worst of the mud then a warm shower of water before coming to the bag drop, where you collected your bag straight away before being given a hot drink and t-shirt then directed straight into the warm changing area.
Laura had to run off to be a marshal straight after racing, so I found Bob who had finished long before me and we headed back down to the death slide for a burger at the Mudstacle after party, a beer, a chat and a few photos with friends and it was finally time to head home. Despite my injury I’d had another fantastic day out at Nuclear and I can’t wait to head back there in September for Nuclear Blast and Blackout.
November has dawned, meaning just two months left of the year of challenges. The first November race saw me heading once again to Essex to take on my final Nuclear race of the year, Nuclear Fallout.
Although I was running this race alone, joining me on the road trip to Essex was my husband and two of my best friends who were coming as my support team.
Having really enjoyed all the other Nuclear races, I was really excited about this run. I was taking on the full 16km option, although you could also opt for a shorter 8km. Experience told me it would be muddy, and add to that the rain that was slashing down, and the fact that I was running in a late wave meaning the course would be even more churned up, I was ready to get good and filthy.
We arrived with plenty of time, as this time I needed to collect my timing chip, and the registration queue was really long. That being said it didn’t take too long to get through the queue and everything seemed well organised.
After watching the first few elite runners come in, the rain had more or less stopped and it was about time to get warmed up to go.
The race started with a warm up, this one seemed to be a particularly fun one, now if you have read any of my other blogs you might know that I rarely take the warm ups seriously, and this was no different, however I gleefully joined in jumping, clapping and screaming “we love mud” along with everyone else, and before long we were off. As with rush after a short run it was straight into some cold water before hauling yourself out again with the help of some wooden slats, and straight through a second muddy ditch. Hitting the water so soon was cold, I was starting to think my decision to leave off my base layer was a bad one, but once I got running I soon got warm.
It wasn’t long before we hit a wall to clamber over, I was lucky to reach it about the same time as Richard Playford, a fellow RPCC runner who gave me a quick boost allowing me to carry on quickly and off through some trees and more mud. From the offset I was loving this race. I felt better running than I had for a long time and was genuinely enjoying pushing myself through the mud, despite running alone, which I usually hate.
With around 60 obstacles I know I am going to miss a lot out, and the start of the race is particularly hazy especially as my support team hadn’t caught me yet so I have no pictures to jog my memory.
When I reached the obstacle “Aquaphobia” a clamber into and out of a muddy ditch was required first, where I could see people struggling to get up, despite the ropes and help from people at the top, and I was a little worried as my new shoes don’t quite have the same grip as my old ones, however I got there, grabbed a rope, and a couple of guys at the top helped to pull on the rope as I pulled myself up from the bottom and I breezed up past the others, impressing the guys at the top and earning myself a couple of high fives and a muddy hug. Then it was on to the obstacle itself, you had to make your way across a plank, which people were shuffling across on their bums, I took one looks and said to the guy behind me “wouldn’t it be easier to walk?” Which is exactly what I did, It was slow going as the people in front were still shuffling, and I’m not sure where this sudden bout of bravery came from as It was high enough over some water to give me some qualms, but the guys behind me followed suit and it was certainly quicker than trying to bum shuffle across. Then it was a jump onto a platform which again should have freaked me out but on this day I just went for it, this was followed by a bigger jump onto a soft raft type thing a meter or so below, I sat on the edge of the platform then just gave myself a mental shake, stood back up and jumped – easy! Feeling pumped at my own bravery I got straight up and on, over the tyre wall which was stupidly slippery with mud, but that I still seemed to get over quickly. I’m honestly not sure what happened to me in this race but I was just going for it and having a blast!
Eventually the 8km and the 16km course split and the amount of “traffic” drastically reduced and as I headed on towards the hang tough I actually started to overtake people who looked like they must have been in an earlier wave. I gave the hang tough a good go, but ended up splashing into the water, which wasn’t a great surprise! Then running on for a bit we hit the log carry. Nuclear races do like a long log carry, and this one was in a spiral that seemed never ending, I still found time to pose a bit with my log for the photographer – about the only one I actually noticed on my way round. Once you finally found the centre you were confronted with two walls. You popped your log into a marked out area, got over the walls (a bit of a hold up at the second wall was a bit frustrating) then grabbed your log again and started making your way back out of the spiral again. Once you were finally free it was off over a tree and on for a bit more of a run, where my support crew finally caught up with me for a bit, and it was nice to be cheered on.
Eventually I made it to the gorilla bars and did about as well as last time – hands slick with mud I was straight off and into the muddy trenches, jumping and and clambering out with glee. Once past these it was onto the “Miles of Mud” cargo nets. I hit these at the same time as another guy, so we banded together to help each other keep the nets up, and I certainly got through them much quicker than I did at rush. The knee protectors I had brought came into their own here as my knees still bare the scars from last time, however having chosen not to wear gloves at this race, this time my hands did take a bit of a beating from the sharp stones in the mud.
Absolutely caked in mud now I nodded goodbye to my net friend as he waited from some others and moved on. before long the course wound back to meet the 8km runners again and traffic started to increase. As the course met up again it was time for the back-scratcher obstacle that was at Blackout, where you slid on your back up a hill, with water pelting your face as you use the net above you to pull yourself up. Again still baring the scars from last time I wasn’t the most overjoyed to see this again, but I didn’t let that stop me dive under the net and drag myself up.
Next up was the bit I had been waiting for, the zip line and death slide. My team of photographers had caught me up again and I was pleased there was not such a big queue as we had encountered at Rush, so I grabbed the rope, had to wait a bit for a marshal who was having trouble with someone else’s zip line, but it wasn’t too long before I was zooming out over the lake and having the time of my life.
It was over the next section of water, this time no annoying net to clamber over but a bridge, then there it was, the death slide, I climbed up the tyres, sat on the edge, looked down, hesitated for half a beat, but then remembered I had done this before and flung myself over the edge. Weeeeee it was as good as I remembered, I flung my arms up into the air at the end yelling happily as I crashed into the water, and with no one landing on my head this time I swam off towards the rope to pull myself out of the water.
The clamber out over slippery mud was followed by the smelly, bubbling manure pit, through this, and now covered in black sludge it was onto the rope traverse, in all honesty I took this a little over confidently and had a bit of a wobble and a giggle in the middle before regaining my balance and getting across to the other side.
After the rope traverse the next place my support crew caught me was as I rolled so elegantly over some low hay-bails and onto a tall wooden ladder that was slick with mud, and I clung to for dear life as I made my way up and down it.
This was followed by a box to clamber over and then a run along to a cargo net slung over an A-frame, which wasn’t too bad to get over. A bit more running, and some wading through some more thick mud and we got to a section of large tyres that you had to climb in and out of before coming to a rope swing over another muddy pit – swing, splat!
The course wound us back round some woodland and more mud until, absolutely covered, the event village appeared again, and the large walls from blackout with the ropes faced me. There was a huge queue at one of them, but hardly anyone at the second wall, I couldn’t work out why as I headed for the second wall and grabbed the rope, I gave myself a huge heave – at blackout I had needed help with this each time, but I had no handy friends about this time so I composed myself then somehow managed to hook my leg up onto the next slat and using that as an anchor and the rope I got myself up to the next level, where I had to sit for a bit as I had awful cramp in my leg. Suddenly a guy was next to me checking I was OK, and with words of encouragement I got myself up the next bit to the top of the wall, then under my new friends watchful eye I got over the top and back down. It was lovely of him to check I was going to get safely over, but I’m massively proud that I did it alone, without help. I found out after why that side was less popular – it was higher and harder!
It wasn’t long before I was round to the firemans pole, another obstacle that scares me, as I got to the top of the cargo container the poles were attached, I just though, you’ve done this before, and without (much) hesitation I was off and down the pole.
This was followed by the dreaded quarter pipe, I wasn’t looking forward to falling down this several times, and there was only one marshal at the top to catch me, but I took a run up, grabbed his hand, the photographer ran over to help and grabbed my other hand, then leg as I swung it up, and I was over first time, all be it with a few bruises that I could already feel.
It was a bit demoralising at this point, having been in the event village to be taken back out and up a muddy hill, but I was still loving every minuet of this race. The wooden stepping stone obstacle, the name of which escapes me, that I had slipped off every one at Rush, I managed with ease, I don’t know where this new ability to balance has come from but I like it! There was also a set of really muddy steep hills to work your way up and down with the use of ropes. Here is where I met the most traffic, as people were taking it really slowly (not that I blame them). It was really slippery by now, but frustrating to get so caught up. After the hills at the race in America though I took on these with reckless abandon, although this was silly as although no where near as big, they were slippery as hell! Once finally clear of the hills I was glad to be moving on.
Once back near the event village for the final push, there was a muddy crawl under a tunnel, which I popped out of grinning to find my friends snapping away.
This was followed by a tyre mangle that I squeezed myself through with all the grace of a muddy slug, and then up and over a tower of hay-bails, before hitting the final obstacle, a balance beam with muddy punch bags suspended above it. Again I assumed I would slip right off this one, but actually managed it easily and quickly, and feeling happy I set off up the hill towards the finish line.
Not sure I quite managed a sprint finish, but I did run up the final hill to come across the finish line with a massive smile. I don’t know if I’ve mentioned this but I LOVED this race, from start to muddy finish.
Once finished it was time to grab a medal, have a picture and then get a quick wash down in the handy bath tubs thoughtfully provided, then a rinse in the warm shower before being given a t-shirt and a shot of Nuclear Races own sloe gin, followed by a cup of warm tea,
This has to be my absolute favourite race of the year (I should add so far, as there are still a few to go) I would recommend to anyone to come and give any of the Nuclear races a go, they have all been excellent. On a personal level this was the best I had felt physically running a race for a long time, I enjoyed it, I felt strong and had a great race. Nuclear Races – Thank you for another awesome race.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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!