Welcome to a weekly feature on my blog – Ben’s Zone. Written by husband… Ben. A foodie, coffee obsessed, ex-smoking, ex-drinking and Ridgeback loving Dad. Who is also seriously into his fitness. You can find him on the blog (mostly) on Sundays. Enjoy!
Nuclear Fallout Review
It’s been a long time since I did an obstacle race solo and, to be honest, I was not expecting to do Nuclear Fallout. I’d had a ticket deferred from their excellent Blackout race for about 2 years for various reasons and this year I could only defer to another 2021 race. So I ended up at Fallout, a race I’d never intended to enter. As I’ve said, prior to doing the Spartan Trifecta earlier this autumn I was in two minds about whether I would ever race again. Having bought new shoes and re-invigorated myself, I figured it would be stupid to waste the Fallout ticket. I’d loved Blackout a few years before and knew I’d be disappointed in myself if I did not at least have a crack.
I was, however, pretty anxious when I rolled up at the Nuclear site in Brentford for my 11:50 wave.
The first thing you notice about Nuclear is how well everything is organised. There are tags for luggage (free bag drop), tags for your race wave, and multiple desks to get you registered. Car parking is easy and straightforward and the staff were great. The event village is also friendly and has everything you need. An example of a nice, well-thought-out touch is that the racks for bag drop each have a fruit on. This means that when you come off the course cold and tired, all you have to remember is the fruit that corresponds to your rack. Smart thinking by people who know what it’s like to come off an obstacle course.
The downside to this well-oiled machine was that I had a ton of time to wait before my race started. Not to worry though as the Nuclear team were only too happy to transfer me to an earlier wave, thanks, Sharon and Sam.
Once I was in the start area I remembered why I’d enjoyed Blackout so much. The atmosphere at Nuclear is just such fun. It is a hard course and there is a competitive wave that goes out early on in the day, so it’s far from a fun run, but even still the feeling is one of energy and fun, from the warm-up to the sense of camaraderie.
By the time we got out on the course I was utterly pumped and, spoiler alert, I was not disappointed one bit!
The course had a really excellent balance of superb forest trails and touch obstacles. As the course is a permanent course it has the advantage that it can have lots of obstacles at a scale too large to be transported around. The Nuclear team really take this to the max.
There were some magnificent set-piece obstacles such as the might Deathslide which was a huge steep slide into water, with a kicker at the bottom to send you high into the air and also a great use of natural terrain and the slippery local clay to create some awesomely muddy challenges.
As I have said before, I love water on courses and Nuclear had tons. There was the aforementioned Deathslide, zip lines, pools to navigate through, it went on and on. It did mean that cold was something you had to consider when running. Nuclear does put out a lot of information prior to the race about the correct kit to use and how to stay warm so it need not be a big hassle.
There was also a cleverness to the obstacles that I loved. One which stuck with me was a simple traverse between two raised platforms. To get across you just needed to get your hands to a bar mid-way between. Once you have your hands on the bar you realize it’s easily reachable. Until you have your hands on the bar it seems like a million miles. I have no idea how that works but it was a real head melter.
Given that Nuclear has hosted the OCR World Championships twice it’s no real surprise that the obstacles were as good as they were but it was still, far and away, the best course I have ever run on.
I had signed up to do the 14KM race which I figured, at the time, was the best value. Before starting out I began to wonder what I had been thinking. Once I was midway around the lap though, I was sure I had made the right decision.
I have done multi-lap races before and, frankly, found them boring. I even find doing successive races on the same course a bit boring, but not here. The 14 KM comprised 2 x7KM laps of the course and at a number of places I was keen to get out on the second lap just to get another go on the obstacle, I’d just passed. It really was that much fun.
If I am honest, while I felt strong on the first lap, things were definitely getting a lot more sketchy the second time around. At a number of points, submersion in the water had brought on some heavy-duty ice cream headaches. It was also a relatively tough course and I was definitely getting tired. I was having a lot of fun though, so I kept on going and still felt good, even at the very end.
The post-race experience was as smooth as the pre-race. First up, there were warm showers at the end of the course meaning that I was able to get the worst of the mud off before changing. That was a great touch that you seldom see at races. The question is if Nuclear can do it, why can’t other places.
The photos were also superb. There were a ton of photographers out on the course and so there were a ton of cool pics to browse through the following week. The pictures were free which was another very welcome touch.
All in all, I think this is the best OCR I have done since the last Tough Guy. It has all the sense of scale and pageantry of the original and much-missed OCR along with an innovative course and a great crowd of people (including some of the best marshalling I have ever seen). I will definitely be doing as many Nuclear Races as I can next year as, for my money, it’s the best OCR out there right now.