Trying Not to Crack: Three Laps of Summer Nuts

There are several must-attend staples of the OCR Calendar. Tough Guy, Nuclear, Dirty Weekend feature highly and the mighty Nuts Challenge is no exception. After testing the (cold) water at Winter Nuts back in March, I felt just about ready to take on an extra lap, taking my challenge to a nice, round 21k.

Then I got sesamoiditis, patella-femoral syndrome and a sense of dread. But enough about injuries, they’re boring.

I had spent the day before Nuts snivelling in bed, nursing an ear infection and an unshakable feeling of stuffiness, so any enthusiasm I had for the race was being sapped rapidly.

Nevertheless, I was up, dressed, porridge and on the road in the nick of time to get registered and pretend to warm up, before welcoming the news that there was a 30-minute delay to start. I used that 30 minutes to make an attempt at socialising, and eating MUCH bananas.

It felt chilly, and I had a momentary crisis of wardrobe confidence, reaching for my neoprene gloves, because Nuts is wetter than an otter’s pocket.   The start was upon us before I really had a chance to register it, and nervous energy turned to excitement as we cracked on with the race.

I’ve learned my lesson as far as race strategy goes: if I set off too fast (like always), I get tired and have to slow down, which makes me feel disheartened and miserable (like always). So I settled on a pretty slow, steady pace, forgot about everyone around me and focussed on getting through the first 2 kilometres, which I pretty much hate. I only realised just how much I hate them when I was about ten metres from them, and having to do them three times felt like a right turd in my cornflakes, but the second half of the course more than makes up for the abject misery of having to yank yourself out of a gloppy ditch and fall off a hang tough you’re perfectly capable of doing when it’s dry!

General success stress aside, I got the nutcracker section done as quickly as possible, and settled into a gentle jog through the woods, past the mangles and into the hilly section I usually dislike, but have come to know well enough to enjoy. This section was now punctuated with a sandbag carry, before leading me back into arguably the best bit – the watery, sloppy, cargo-netty bits leading back to Hamburger Hill.

After my first stint down the slide, my sinuses were on fire. I have yet to hone the technique for looking both awesome and collected whilst simultaneously preventing water entry to my eyes, ears, nose and mouth. If you have any tips, do let me know.

A couple of jogs across the lake (those inflated donuts were harder than I remember) and a tarpaulin crawl that I honestly thought I’d never escape from later and I was back at the refuelling area for a cheeky Chia Charge and some tasty electrolytes. I decided not to go for a kit change, nor hang about too long, and started plodding away pretty quickly. The problem with Nuts, regardless of the reason is that you get cold and seize up very quickly, and it does not forgive seized muscles because it’s basically an onslaught of obstacles one after another after another.

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Look at that happy little face

My second lap was arguably a bit more fun than my first, mainly because other people were about having a giggle. Marshals were in great spirits, and were super helpful in most places, apart from the gaggle of blokes taking the piss out of a guy that I happened to beat through the oil drum climb. Bad form, chaps. Everyone was very obliging in letting me, as a multi-lapper, past, probably because I’m so desperately apologetic when I ask to be let through.

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Thinking about tea again

If I’m honest, I could have stopped after lap 2. I was cold, damp and my foot felt like I had crushed bricks for toes. I am not technically supposed to be running more than 5k at a time on my poor inflamed and quite possibly crushed up sesamoids, but less of that. I think that if Mark ‘Muddy Highlander’ Leinster hadn’t shouted my name over the PA system, I might have lurched into a sports bag and hibernated. Nevertheless, I unceremoniously crammed more flapjack in and started my sad little trudge into lap 3. Doing 3/4 laps is quite a bit of a jump from 2 not least with the inclusion of the nutcracker loop, which saps more than you realise. I think lap 3 is also around the time that you start to go a bit crazy and forget how feet work. I fell over at least twice, once in that slow motion way where you know it’s coming and you can’t do anything to stop it. Unfortunately I had a sandbag over my shoulders at the time and only managed to wake myself up to what was happening about an inch before my face hit the floor.

I don’t really think I can remember a lot about my third lap, only snippets – I remember the wonderful Michael Midgley supporting my leg off a container jump, helping me with hang tough and offering me tea and skittles. There’s a man that really cares about his team and trainees. My thoughts were so consumed with acquiring a mug of tea that I couldn’t really focus on anything other than ploughing through lap three and trying to be as polite as possible to anyone who asked me how I was. Everything seems just so much more dangerous when you’re tiring, and I oscillated between some sort of humourless trance and then hyper-awareness that I was high up things and liable to fall. It was weird.

To this day, I’m not even sure whether I enjoyed myself or not, but the more it slips into my memory, the more retrospectively fun it appears.

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See? Fun!

The moral of the story is – if you want to have your head played with, multi-lap The Nuts Challenge.

You won’t regret it. I think.

The Kit

  • Salomon Speedcross 3 – less grippy than the Fellraiser, but more supportive on the sole, so I had to wear them because of my stupid feet.
  • UnderArmour Heatgear leggings – absolutely trashed, so the best choice to wear for nuts. Survived well and stayed up!
  • ByMoxy R:OCR sleeves – really helpful and protective, didn’t slip at all.
  • Team tech tee
  • Various wrags that I swapped over at the refuel station
  • Nike Anti-blister socks
  • O’Neill Neoprene Gloves (because Nuts)

The Goods

 A tech tee, a cool medal, chip timing and some pretty terrible, overpriced photographs.

The Verdict

Despite my confusion, Nuts will always be an unmissible event, attracting loads of people from the top competitors to the onesie-clad funrunners. And even if it was totally terrible, I think it would be worth returning for that spectacular burrito I had afterwards. Nuts is tough going, not for the fainthearted; I’m still not sure if it’s the race for me, but that won’t stop me trying to crack it again.

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