No, not like that.
Digging out a long sleeved top for a race was the first time I acknowledged that our incredible summer is indeed over, but instead of feeling sad about it, I was just a little bit excited. It’s a little strange to get dressed for a race when you know it’s going to get progressively colder, but it’s exciting when that race is Nuclear Blackout.
Blackout is the evil twin of Nuclear Blast – Where Blast is a jolly, multi-lap daytime race, Blackout takes you twisting and turning through the darkened fields and forest, throwing obstacles at you with perfect regularity, and taking you on a tour through the bunker – again, more imposing by night.
As we’ve come to expect from Nuclear – the parking, registration and entry to the event village is smooth like butter. Parking attendants actively try to make your life easier, which puts you in the best mood before you’re even near the course.
Nuclear have been doing this for some time, but instead of resting on their laurels, they continually improve. Despite rocking up at nighttime, we found the festivities in the village still in full swing – there were all the bits to make it a truly Instagrammable occasion before the sun went down. Staff and volunteers were still upbeat and enthusiastic, stores and food stalls were still open, the atmosphere was tinted with excitement, and everybody seemed ready to roll all over again.
We took part in possibly the least obnoxious pre-race warm-up I’ve ever done, and to the thrum of the speakers, we set off into the dusk.
It wasn’t long before I felt the need to switch on my head torch (they are mandatory for Blackout). Some parts of the course were quite slippy due to traffic from earlier in the day, so it was important to keep my head in the game. This stopped me from feeling The Fear I might normally feel when running around in the dark. Despite it being a night race, Nuclear were still keen to live up to their muddy reputation, and had us all slopping through trenches, ditches and stretches of deeper water. We never had to swim, but there were full immersion moments, particularly after their new little slide. I say little. It’s smaller than the deathslide, much in the same way that a gorilla is smaller than King Kong – it still inspires trepidation when you approach it in the dark.
Making the most of the terrain, Nuclear managed to find some cheeky little hills to get the blood going, which was actually, dare I say it, welcome – it’s important to keep core temperature up in open, potentially windy spaces, especially at night, so a bit of a blast up a short hill was quite welcome every now and then. The course was marked so well that it was almost impossible to put a foot wrong, even in the dark. What’s more, obstacles were beautifully spaced, which meant that I never felt totally exhausted by running, or by the obstacle density. The only slight misstep, I feel, was placing the zip line right after the slide, as inevitable queuing for zipline accessories made for a bit of a chilly few minutes. It’s a minor detail though, and one that could easily be solved by an woodland based detour in between these obstacles.
As usual, everything was well built, and felt safe, featuring much loved Nuclear classics, but also twists on an established concept – walls had different textures than just boring old wood, and some of the rig-based obstacles were real thinkers. The addition of the alternate ninja ring obstacle was a bit of a pain at night, but obstacles were mostly appropriate for slimy hands and dark conditions.
Nuclear, though it has a reputation for great courses and ambitious obstacles, really comes into its own when the finish line is crossed. The reception is as warm as those tantalising showers, and since I spend most races thinking solely about the a cup of tea, actually getting one at the finish is a literal dream come true. Everything just works, and you’re spat out into heated, spacious changing areas that make you forget that you’re in a field at 10pm, half naked with a bunch of jolly strangers.
Once again, Nuclear has proved a real hit. I’m so lucky to have this incredible race series right on my doorstep, which, despite being a fixed venue, manages to bring something a little bit different every time. It is absolutely worth marking this race out on your calendar, whether it’ll be your first race, or your hundredth – it’ll still be a Blast.
Or, you know, a Blackout.
If you want to know more, or to register for Nuclear, pop over to their website.
[Photos courtest of Nuclear Races/ Awol Adventures]