Another weekend, another road trip, up to Essex to run Nuclear Fallout for some of us, and the first independent UK OCR championship for others. I had taken my time deciding what to do about this race, I had signed up for Fallout very early in the year with my Nuclear season pass, then later qualified for the UK champs and I had thought about swapping to just run the championships, or running the championships then going out and running fallout later in the day, but in the end I decided to keep my entry as it was as when it comes down to it, I’m not really a competitive racer, in fact I’m basically a glorified fun runner in slightly better trainers, and I knew there was no way I could complete the course with an intact wrist band even if I was fast enough to push for a top place (which I’m not) so I stuck to running the 12km Fallout course, and on the day I asked my friend Lucy Warburton if she fancied a running buddy and we set off together for a leisurely lap of the course.
I’m sure I have said this before, but Nuclear really know how to put on a race. It remains a favourite for me time after time after time. We set off in the rain at 10.30, it was wet, it was muddy, and it was cold. We headed straight into a ditch and then set off running along slippery muddy farmland, more than once Lucy and I talked about how glad we were for our Inov8s as we watched people slide around all over the place in normal trainers. We kept a pace that was steady, but fast enough to keep us warm, as we took on walls and muddy ditches, climbed up tyre walls and attempted inclined monkey bars and hang tough rings.
At the gorilla bars we both swung off straight away and headed into the muddy penalty ditches, before coming to the endless feeling stretch of cargo nets, where we tried to keep with another group of racers to make it easier, but getting utterly covered in sticky mud none the less.
When we got to the section with the Aquaphobia obstacle we were shoved up the muddy bank by a helpful man behind us (nothing like an OCR to get groped and grope back in return), then we were up, over the slippery planks, and made the jump down onto the mats and into the cold cold water. Up and down more slippery muddy banks, on our bums, trying to use a rope to slow ourselves down but gravity doing its job and sending us ever so elegantly into the water again, up and over another tyre wall then across the inflatable nuclear pontoons
As we moved on round the course we started to notice more and more people pulling off to the side cold or hypothermic, and there were several racers still running whilst wrapped in foil blankets, the cold conditions were obviously starting to get to people, we were holding up OK though and enjoying the race. We soon came to a new obstacle called Risk Taker, which involved a short jump from a plank onto a cargo net, which although not a long way, took a lot of psyching up (for me at least) to make the leap, once on the net you had to climb down and underneath over some water to a bank on the other side, both Lucy and I were really chuffed and proud to have completed this obstacle.
Eventually we made it to the part we had both been waiting for, the zip line and death slide. First you had to wade/swim out in cold water to collect your rope for the zip wire, then come back and up onto the obstacle where you whiz out over the lake, then it was over some netting suspended in yet more cold water and then up onto the slide. On one side of the slide Nuclear have added an extension called the kicker, shooting you off the end and giving you more air time before hitting the lake. Having both done the slide before Lucy and I decided to brave it and took to the side of the slide with the new addition, we counted to 3 and slid off the top together, shot down the steep slide and were airborne in seconds, shooting into the air off the end of the slide before coming down hard into the lake, I hit the water with the flat of my back and it felt like my entire body had been slapped hard, it was so painful, I hit the bottom of the lake before surfacing, and squealing with equal parts pain and delight, it might have hurt like hell, but boy was it fun.
As we neared the end we were starting to feel the cold, but I was still loving the race. As I ran it occurred to me that this was why I do it, why I run races like this, shear fun and enjoyment of a really well put together course, challenging myself and spending time with like minded friends. Nuclear races restores any faith lost, removes any doubts about why I continue to spend my weekends in this way, and reminds me of why I still love this hobby.
As we came into the event village for the final time, we had to take on the 3/4 pipe, where Lucy and I were fortunate enough to be hauled over the top by the lovely Matt Stewart who was marshalling the obstacle, and the weaver, which we failed to weave but did clamber over the top, we then grabbed hands and sprinted the short distance left to the finish line, got our final photo then dived into the warm showers.
Once I was finished I headed up to the Muddy Race tent where I had left my bag to get changed and catch up with a few people, then headed down to the bar tent where they were doing the presentations for the UK championship winners. My good friend Vince had run the championship course, which was an extended version of what I had run, with lots of additional challenging obstacles for them to complete, and I listened with interest to Vince telling me about the course which sounded pretty brutal.
We watched, cheered and clapped along as the podium winners for each category were announced. It’s wonderful and humbling to get to see these phenomenal athletes pick up their well deserved trophies. I always think it’s such a privilege to even be in the same place as some of these guys, let alone be able to say that I know some of them and could call them a friend!
Once the presentations were done we took on the last challenge of the day, getting the car out of the increasingly muddy car park, and headed for home, where I took the longest shower in history to try and warm up, having been shivering non-stop for about the past 5 hours! I came away from this day absolutely buzzing, Nuclear had done it again, a race to be proud of.
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.