There are clearly some big things happening at Nuclear Races (previously Adventure Race Essex) and this weekend's Lactic Fallout was their most popular event to date. We sent along Mudstacle regular Phil to cast an expert eye over the new and improved course. Take it away Phil...
With new races popping up all over the shop it’s nice to go to one that’s got a bit of history already. The Nuclear Races team who are behind Lactic Fallout have been running obstacle runs in Essex since 2011 and, unsurprisingly, their numbers have been steadily climbing in correlation to the surge in popularity of the sport. Last year 600 signed up to Lactic Fallout but they increased that by a whopping 50% to 900 for this time.
I rocked up with my training partner Monkey and most excitingly for me – my fiancée Philine – who, after a season of watching me throw myself through mud and seeing me come home with a massive grin on my face, has decided to see what all the fuss is about and join up for a race!
For me it was the first ‘approaching winter’ conditions of the season with bitterly cold winds coming in from the west – the mantra of the day was to keep telling ourselves that it was just a nice summer breeze – cooling us down during our lovely cross-country run!
The course itself is through fields, woodland and copious quantities of ponds, lakes and ditches around the grounds and site of a former government cold war nuclear bunker. It’s around seven miles long and Dave the race director told us that last year they had received feedback saying that the course was too much running and not enough obstacles so they had made a special effort to pile in some more to break it up nicely. I think that they did an excellent job - every time there was a long running section and I was just starting to think ‘an obstacle about now would be nice’ we’d turn a corner and there’d be something new to negotiate.
All of the old favourites were in; cargo net climb, cargo net crawl, tunnels, high walls, steep banks with knotted ropes, water slide, ditches to jump over, ditches to clamber up and PLENTY of water to wade through – the deepest of which Philine had to swim through and it was right up to my shoulders .
Alongside the usual ones above, there were a couple of interesting obstacles right at the beginning that I’d not seen before. There was a row of what could only be described as boxes – probably around 6’ high, they looked like walls as you approach, but then we realised that a slightly different tactic was needed to the usual high walls, because you couldn’t just climb up and throw yourself over as you had to balance on the top bit then jump down the other side. This was fine and nobody had any real difficulties but the funny part came next as they then had 2 rows of smaller ones (maybe 3-4’ high) with open tops, so more like crates – naturally most people just swung their legs over, stepped into the crate then repeated over the other side, but the organisers had half-filled the inside of the crates with fresh manure!!! I managed to avoid the dung by stepping from one side to the other, but it was hilarious watching people’s reactions and I think we knew then that the organisers have a great sense of humour!
My favourite obstacle of the day was the monkey bars – admittedly it wasn’t the longest of runs (from memory maybe 8 rungs?), but still it’s the very first time I’ve completed a set on a race all the way to the end – it could have been down to me trying out some different gloves – but it was nicely set up with the bars not too far apart, crates to start from and (I reckon) achievable for a lot of people
Another aspect really worth a mention was the great atmosphere during the race – as with most obstacle races it was a really unpretentious crowd with everybody helping everybody else out including strangers whenever needed. I met a few friendly Mudstaclers on the way round so shout outs to Nathan & Jenny – see you both again another time in another field!
One bit that caught a few people out was a pair of high walls around 4-5 miles in – the walls themselves weren’t that tricky (around 8’ but easy to grip at the top and with a toe ledge part way up) but they were situated in extremely sticky mud. Many people were attempting to lift themselves up but finding their feet completely stuck and needing boosts from those behind them – everyone was offering a muddy hand and the camaraderie going on at the bottom of the wall was almost like that at the famous Everests at Tough Mudder races
As I said earlier, it was my fiancée’s first OCR and I have to say it was a perfect run for us to do together – decent distance, good amount and nice variety of obstacles to keep me happy but at the same time not too difficult, not gratuitously far for her to achieve and no ‘nasty’ obstacles such as ice dunks, fire pits or electric shocks that could put off some first timers.
All in all, it was a thoroughly enjoyable run and at a fantastic price (Philine ordered her ticket only 2 weeks prior and paid just £35 which is amazing value for such a varied course) the only improvement I would recommend would be splitting the run into separate waves at the start. It was a bit too busy for the couple of miles and would be better off thinned out a bit, but the organisers are aware of this and are simply victims of their own success with more people signing up than expected. I’m sure that next time they’ll be prepared for the crowds and will deliver a stonking run.
Dave the race director added: ‘We'd like to thank the spectators, marshals and entrants - they make the race at the end of the day 🙂 And if you liked Fallout then you'll love Nuclear Rush as we're going to make it bigger, better and bolder!’
Nuclear Rush is the next event by Nuclear Races and is on 11th May 2014 and costs only £39 to enter up until Christmas – they’re also doing an elite race which is £59 to enter (will go up to £69) which includes prize money of £1,000 on it! Find out more on www.nuclear-races.co.uk