Nuclear Fallout Obstacle Race (UK Champs) Write Up 14th Nov 2015
By Ali Wilson
So on Saturday 14th November 2015 I traveled with my homegirls Kerry, Leanne and Mary to Essex to race in the Nuclear Fallout Obstacle Race. I was running the 12km, Leanne and Kerry were competing in the 16km UK Championships. It was tough….
In my head I was figuring on a good day I’d hope to hit around 90 minutes, but then I’m an idiot and have no idea what the course entailed. Once I’d got in a bit into it I was figuring probably sub 2 hours would be ok for me right now, Well it wasn’t a good day! I didn’t have the ideal run up to this race (actually that’s the fucking understatement of the year!) but that shit is what life is all about!
Now don’t get me wrong, I actually enjoyed myself! I found the first third or so really tough and sloggy, just down to my legs not feeling sexy like they normally do, but by the middle of the race I started to find my wheels and started to feel great! But then the fucking cold water hit…
Fuck the cold! Fuck cold water! Fuck muddy, shitty running after getting cold from fucking cold water so you can’t run fast enough to warm up again! While I’m at it, fuck the rain and fuck the wind too! These wonderful ingredients conspired to give me all the joyful signs of hypothermia, although I did find it really amusing to respond to people with incredibly retarded sounding slurred speech! So the last third of the race was pretty horrific, plus I managed to roll my ankle too, so even with Dave Loveridge spurring me on by calling me a fucking cunt (Cheers Dave! Haha!), I started to fucking crawl round. Lots of people that I had previously passed were all overtaking me, and it pissed me off no end!
I just want to divert a second to the wonderful feeling of rivalry. In these races you go off in a big group, and after a while you start to form very temporary but incredibly meaningful relationships with other racers, usually just identified in your head by a t-shirt they are wearing. For me, these people are everything to me, in those fleeting moments of the race. Feeling a special bond of ‘Fuck you!’ with people as you (usually silently) fight tooth and nail to get ahead is just wonderful. I’ll probably never know who you are or see you again, but for these moments I love you and want to utterly crush you underfoot! A wonderful sensation! So a little shout out to t-shirts ‘PT Barn’, ‘World War Run’, ‘Dennis the Menace’, and others I can’t recall!
So all in all I managed to finish the 12km course in 2 hours 22 minutes, not a brilliant time but all things considered I’m proud I crossed the finish line unassisted! I did need assistance though as soon as I finished, to get to the showers, to get my stuff, and all that, I’m really impressed and grateful to the staff, they were fucking great! The best times were all around the 90 minute mark, and looking back on the day I think I can definitely get well below 2 hours, if I ran like I did on the Reaper race, as obstacles to me are a fun break! So I’ll just have to do it again… I found out my placing, in my age group (Male 30-39 years) I came 81st out of 458 (So pretty fucking shit then!), but I can do so much better than that!
I failed a handful of obstacles, I couldn’t do the half pipe at the end due to my ankle (I tried and face planted, even after being inspired by watching Kez smash it on her third attempt), there was this fucking stupid obstacle of standing on fucking balloons in water while hanging on to short suspended ropes (seriously, what the fuck? Possibly the stupidest shit I’ve seen in a race. Is it stupid because I couldn’t do it? Haha, of course!), and there was the obstacle with the hanging rings you had to hook and unhook sideways, I really liked the look of this and was gagging for a go, but I was really far gone by this point and as soon as I tried to swing I full on corpsed it landing on my side like I’d been shot! I hope someone filmed it haha!
Obstacles I really enjoyed; I loved the rig, probably because in front of a massive crowd of struggling racers I breezed over it effortlessly (That was satisfying!), the upside down cargo net was wicked fun, so much so I burst into Spiderman theme tune while spinning underneath it, the ‘Destroyer’ (this big semi inverted wall thing) was just built for someone who likes to muscle up things, and there was a zip wire (even though you had to cross a fucking cunting cold river fucking TWICE to get to it, fucking cunt!) that was just awesome, I managed to lift myself above the water so I didn’t slow down and nearly killed the person still clambering off from before (Whoops!)
I’m writing this write up now the next day, sat in the gym, and I have to say I feel pretty damn good! Body feels fine, only problem is the ankle, it’s swelled up a bit overnight and is pretty sore and stiff, I was lucky to get over the finish line with it to be honest.
I have to say Kerry and Leanne didn’t have a good day either… In fact Kerry fucking hated it! Kerry got a time of 2 hours and 55 minutes and Leanne got a time of 3 hours and 8 minutes, but the thing that ruined their day was the same problem everyone had, cold… Cold weather (although for middle of November it was relatively mild), cold wind, cold water obstacles (stupid, stupid amounts of cold water obstacles, one after another) loads of mud everywhere, raining (only slightly, but constant) so everything was slick…. The technical obstacles (so ones you need skill as well as strength) were pretty fucked up, everything was just much, much harder than it should have been, for the wrong reasons. Now I’m all for difficulty, I’m all for physical abilities being tested, but there was a lot of bullshit present in yesterday’s race…
Now I may get some hate and flack for this, but I want things to be better. One of the stupidest obstacles I’ve already mentioned (Still can’t wrap my head around standing on fucking balloons over water! Fucking stupid! You couldn’t swing on the ropes because you would hit the water! STUPID!), but another really, REALLY stupid obstacle was this big bank of slick mud, with a knee deep trench of mud water before it. It was just a slick slope of clay shit, and quite high, with no holds or ropes… And some genius decided that it needed brambles and thorns embedded all the way through it too. So the thorns and brambles aren’t strong enough to pull yourself up, but they are great at shredding your hands and gloves to absolute pieces as you try and make hold for your hands and feet. I’d like to find the cunt who thought that was a good obstacle and smash his head against it!
Then there was the obstacles that were good in theory… The aforementioned hoop travel where you had to hold rings and travel peg to peg looks awesome fun, and I really wanted to have a good go at that because I’m good at that stuff, but when I fell off the first time I just figured it was because I was fucked up on cold… Turns out it was because the pegs had bent down slightly from use in the race, combine that with the rings being wet and caked in mud, the pegs being wet…. You get the picture. That’s just a silly combination of factors on an obstacle that is already incredibly challenging. The tip of the spear obstacle where you had to travel sideways on a slope while holding ropes apparently also had all it’s grippy paint peel off after a few waves had hit it, so then it’s now a slick surface covered in rain…. That’s just silly.
And then there was the winch obstacle where you had to heave up a heavy concrete block on a rope to the top of a frame and back down. When I saw this I thought ‘piece of piss’, as I pull trucks for fun! Well I was surprised to find it was actually pretty heavy and hard, but that wasn’t a problem for me… But it was the same weight on the obstacle regardless if you were male and female. That’s just fucking stupid, factoring in as usual that the rope was thin and absolutely caked in shit.
Now I do think the day and event was well organised, it was well run and slick (Haha, yes in every fucking way thinkable!) BUT the planning needs to be better. This was a national championship (The first? Anywhere? So kudos for that) so to have things that amounted to bullshit like obstacles becoming altered through use or just stupid fucking obstacles in the first place puts a real shitter on what could have been amazing. Nonsense like having the rig above deep water, so if you fail and fall in (as happened to Kerry) you then have to re-queue but now you’re soaking wet, so you’re standing still getting freezing cold, plus you’ve just fucked your grip by getting wetter, on an obstacle you’ve already failed when the conditions for you were at their best and are only going to get worse… That’s just bad planning. I caught up with Kerry at the rig as she was struggling with it, and I watched her just volunteer her wristband to get cut off so she could move on with the race, because there was lots of people failing it and so the queues were quite big, and the cold was a killer…. A heart breaking moment to witness!
And as for the wristbands that the UK Champs racers had to wear…. It was the usual drill of you try to keep your wristband by not failing an obstacle, fail one and give up and wish to move on and you lose it, in theory…. But it is easy to hide your wristband under a long sleeve (as witnessed!), and the failing of obstacles also incurs a time penalty, again in theory… But it works on an ‘honour’ system of you having to tell the marshal that you’ve failed it, because there was a big mass of both championship and non-championship racers at the obstacles, making it impossible for marshals to know who was needing to be monitored and who was in it ‘just for fun’. This is just daft, there is absolutely no honour in competition, ever. People cheat because they can, it’s that simple. Having a non-championship race at the same time as the UK Championships was just bad planning. Yes there was different waves, but if you’re fast like me you’ll easily find yourself in the pack, making things difficult for the poor officials!
And now here’s something really politically uncorrect and possibly offensive… Are you excited yet? There was a guy competing in the very first wave of the elites… In a wheelchair. Now don’t get me wrong, I think it’s amazing that there is that kind of spirit that a team of people with ropes were going to tackle the course with a guy in a wheelchair…. But it was the first championship wave, with two further championship waves to follow. Now these guys took up a lot of room and time, and that’s in the middle of a race that is supposed to be a big official qualifying event for the world’s… The two concepts shouldn’t mix.
I think obstacle racing has a huge potential as an ongoing sport, but a lot of this stuff needs to be sorted. Mixing championship and non-championship waves needs to go. Mixing very technical obstacles (which are awesome!) with excess water, mud and cold needs to go. Mixing important aspects of the sport and charity needs to go. There is room for all these elements, but not together! Maybe in years to come I’ll take my hand to event organizing…