I’m from the “Norf” …. It was free …. so I had no choice! Bring on the madness!
For many the last weekend in February or first weekend in March signifies the start of the UK OCR season and the event that has won Toughest UK Race multiple times, The Nuts Challenge. Now some would argue that Tough Guy at the end of January is the true start to the season, but as that event has no relationship to any league, point scoring system or reality we shall, for the purposes of this article ignore it.
This would be my third time at Nuts, the previous two being Winter Nuts 2018 which cost me an ankle and Summer Nuts 2018, the winning of which got me free entry in to this event. The course is short, around 7 kilometres but the use of terrain, obstacles and water make it one of the hardest 7 kilometres you will ever do, however, you are not limited to one lap.
Nuts have what they call the “Nuttie Scale”, which works on the premise that the more laps you do the “Nuttier” you are, here, stolen from the Nuts website is a breakdown.
1 lap (7km) is perfect for those of you that want to take on a fun challenge with little experience in obstacle racing. It’s the perfect excuse to just have a go and try something new. There is no pressure on More Nuts so take it at your own pace and only take part on the obstacles you want. This is a popular choice for charity runners, Hen & Stag groups and people that just want to give it a go.
2 laps (14 km) is there for those that want to push themselves that little bit extra while still having lots of fun. Many people come back to do Mixed Nuts after completing More Nuts on their first time at The Nuts Challenge. Please note you will need to be on your final lap by 2pm.
3 laps (21 km) are where all the seriousness begins. Many people work their way up to get to this level and above. You must consider yourself fit and active to take on 3 laps as you will be on the course with people that have trained and take part in these types of events regularly. Please note you will need to be on your final lap by 2pm.
4 laps (28 km) this was the ultimate level of The Nuts Challenge but you will still need to be the fittest of the fit to take part. We recommend training for this event. Expect to be on the Nuts course for 4 to 6 hours. Currently, our fastest contestant is the World Champion Jonathan Albon @ 2 hours 51 minutes. Don’t forget to bring drinks and snacks as we have a refuelling area. PLEASE NOTE YOU MUST HAVE COMPLETED AT LEAST 1 LAP OF THE NUTS CHALLENGE TO ENTER THIS CATEGORY – YOUR ENTRY WILL BE CHECKED. YOU WILL NEED TO BE ON YOUR FINAL LAP BY 2PM. Rules
Limitless is now the ultimate level of The Nuts Challenge and you will need to be the fittest of the fit to take part. We recommend training for this event. This is all about being on course for as long as possible. Our current Summer Limitless course setter is James Ruckley with 6 laps! You may want a crew in transition for this one. PLEASE NOTE YOU MUST HAVE COMPLETED 4 LAPS OF THE NUTS CHALLENGE TO ENTER THIS CATEGORY – YOUR ENTRY WILL BE CHECKED. INTERNATIONAL RACERS MUST SHOW THEY HAVE AN EQUIVALENT OR HIGHER RACE LEVEL EXPERIENCE. YOU WILL NEED TO BE ON YOUR FINAL LAP BY 2PM.
As you can see by the use of capitals, Limitless Nuts is not to be taken lightly. In fairness, Limitless should be retitled F**kin Nuts, as that is the general reaction given when you tell other Nutters what you have entered.
Registration was easy as race packs had been posted a week before, so I rocked up, paid the £5.00 parking fee, risked getting a puncture on the rubble car park and trudged the event village. One thing Nuts has in common with Tough Guy is the walk from the car park to the event village, you may as well have parked on the course, it is a tad sloppy. For reference the picture of the shoes and medal below are the shoes I walked back to the car in, they did not get used for racing, just trudging.
The event HQ was a large marquee housing registration, T-Shirt collection, key drop and a few merchandise stands, once I’d got my shirt it was off to find a spot in the transition area and get my race bib, more about those in minute. The Nuts transition area is a set of benches at the end of course, very much a first come first served situation and given that there is no cover it pays to have a waterproof transition bag or box. Transition spot secured it was off to the qualification tent to get my bib, this really should have been in the main marquee, but for reasons unknown, it was not. Bibs come in four flavours Orange, Lime, Blueberry and Plum each signifies that you are attempting qualification for the Obstacle Course Racing European and/or World Championships and the number of laps you are attempting as part of your qualification.
- Orange – 2 laps
- Lime – 3 Laps
- Blueberry – 4 Laps
- Plum – 5 or more
When on course those wearing bibs get priority on obstacles, but must complete any obstacle deemed mandatory, failure means surrendering your bib and the end to your qualification attempt. Thankfully I’m already qualified for ORCWC and OCREU so I didn’t have to worry too much, but I don’t like queues so I donned my bib (plum because I’m F**kin Nuts) and got ready for the off.
The Nuts course can be broken down into six sections, these are not the official Nuts zones, just zones of my own creation for the purposes of narrative.
The Plains of Despair
This is the section that leads you away from the start line, it is predominantly flat with muddy fields, slurry filled trenches, steep sided water crossings, crawl nets and tyre pits. Basically, everything you need to be slowed down and demoralised, especially the fifth time you pass through. There is little cover, so whatever weather front is passing through, you are in the midst of it.
After the plains comes the playground, a series of obstacles varying in technical difficulty, this is generally where people lose their bibs and on occasion end up in the medical tent. Contrary to what you may think falling is not the main reason for medical attention, that accolade goes to hypothermia. For those attempting multiple laps the trek over the plains whilst soaked from the lake section can be chilling. The body reacts to the wind chill by withdrawing blood from the limbs to keep the heart warm, so when you get to the obstacles you have no strength and no way of moving to keep warm, it is a vicious cycle that has caught many an experienced racer out. Luckily I’d come prepared, neoprene vest and a wind shell kept the cold at bay, almost to the end of the race.
From memory, this is order of things in the playground.
Climb into and over the back of an old army truck, traverse up log stepping stones, very slippy; debate your life choices at Stairway to Heaven (this is really, really hard to do in the wet, falling is also unpleasant as the obstacle sits astride a water pit).
This year stairway was optional, clearing it meant a shortcut to the multi-rig, whereas choosing to bypass meant a low wall, a net crawl, a hanging tyre transverse, a climb up and over a shipping container, a large wood wall, a second container climb, a crawl through some tyres, a second log traverse, a set of monkey rings and finally a low wall before arriving at the multi-rig. For reasons of safety and an enduring shoulder injury I chose the longer but safer option.
The rig has five or six lanes each with a different approach to crossing the gap between the start and finish points. Given the conditions some lanes, Twister style transverse for example were high risk and likely to result in a failure or retry. For laps one and two I chose the monkey bars, these were very wet but the large diameter tubing let me use a hook grip and not expend too much energy. On subsequent laps, I went with the horizontal ladder, but rather than use the rungs (narrow and hand destroying) I went for the side-rails and shimmied my way across; five traversals, five successes, job done. After the rig were a couple of climbs with net or fireman style pole descents and a tyre stack that you ascend through the centre of, think Oliver Twist.
After the playground, you head off into the woods, where you face muddy trails, tyre drags, inclined walls, mud pits, cargo nets, up or under rails, tyre walls, water crossings and the simple but brutally effective Full Monty. Anybody that has come across a sternum checker knows that they are notoriously hard work to get over, now multiply that by around thirteen and you get the Full Monty. Rail, after rail, after rail, brutal and mandatory for bib wearers, if there is a technique to this obstacle, I have yet to find it. After getting your breath back and making sure you still have all your ribs it is time to get wet, really, really wet.
The soaking starts gently and gets steadily worse as you work your way through the trenches, pools, wades, jumps and just for good measure rope traverse (over water of course), there really isn’t much else to say except so far Kevin Costner has failed to appear.
Return to Despair
After the last water / mud pit it is back into the open fields for what should be a nice trail run but this section is very exposed, your legs are cold and really not so keen on the idea of going for a jog, so it is more of a stumble than a run. The fields take you back towards the event village but before you get there it’s back into the streams that crisscross the course, through a cage crawl style water pit, which due to the rain was getting fuller each lap and finally onto the tyre carry and switchbacks.
After the last switchback, which I hasten to add has a crawl net over it you hit the slide. I like slides, especially fast ones with a bit of air time at the end, I do not like slides that throw you arse over tit into a pool of freezing water, I especially disliked it the fourth time, fifth wasn’t too bad as I knew it was just a little further and I was done, figuratively and physically.
After the slide, there was a short run to a double cargo net before a really dirty water wade with up and over logs, a squeeze through a drainage pipe and finally a mud crawl. Just one last challenge, the lake.
This is section should be fun, but in the depths of the English winter being up to your neck in cold water is anything but, however, you do get clean. This section changes each race, this year there were four crossings to work through. The first two dips were longish wades through the water, however, the water was deep enough to warrant a swim in places, did I mention it was cold. After climbing out of the water, quite a challenge due to steep sides and low temperatures it was short jog to the donuts, here, fifteen or so inflatable rings had been tied together to create one of the worst examples of a bridge you will ever come across.
Cold, tired and wet you crawl from ring to ring, all the while trying to stay out of the water, donuts conquered it was another short trot to the last obstacle, a set of floating platforms before composing yourself for the finish line.
Crossing the line, you have two options, straight on to get your bling or turn right into the transition area which by lap three was looking like a scene from World War I. As mentioned previously, the transition area has no cover, you are soaked to the skin after the lake section and fully exposed to the weather, it is just a case of throwing calories down your neck as fast as you can and should you feel the urge, head back out for another lap.
Some racers had what could loosely be called a pit crew, they were getting fed, provided with clean dry clothes and on occasion sprayed with deep heat, bet that hurt on skinned knees. Being a Northern martyr it was just me, myself and I. However, I must express gratitude to all the racers that had either finished or dropped out and were now trying to help those of us stupid enough to continue, cheers guys, those offers of support, food and kit were really appreciated.
One thing on every multi-lapers Nutters mind is 2pm, that is the cut off for going back out. For me, this meant getting four laps done in under six hours, including five minutes per lap for transition, thankfully my pacing was spot on and I finished lap four with twenty minutes to spare. Heading out for lap five I had no idea who was left on the course, what position I was in or why I was doing this, I was cold, tired and just wanted to stop, oddly this is how I felt on lap one, where I had to have a serious word with myself about not quitting. One foot in front of the other and one kilometer became two, then three, then four. Now I was really regretting not wearing a wetsuit, but the vest and wind-shell were just about holding me together, my feet were numb and had been that way for the last six hours, I think the term is “in a world of hurt”. I can’t remember much after that, only that I got really annoyed at somebody who had stopped halfway across the donuts, either I climbed over them (sorry) or I jumped lanes, I think it was the latter. Finally, the finish, a medal, some kind words and a cup of something warm and wet.
I have to say thank you to the marshalls on the course, the weather was awful and they were out there for hours. I have especially fond memories of the well spoken couple at the pipe crawl in the woods, who’s innuendo and enthusiasm brought a smile to my face on every lap.
Would I do it again, yes but not soon. The venue is a 200 miles from home and doing that drive straight after the race is almost as bad as doing lap five all over again.
Get The Details On
Winter Nuts 2019OCR Review
- Event Website
- When Was The Event?
- 3rd March 2019
- Was This A Qualification Race?
- What Could I Qualify For?
- OCR World Championships
- Reviewed By
- Richard “Itch” Ward
- About The Reviewer
- Richard was born in the late 60’s, the consequence of a chance encounter between a one-handed truck driver and a Catholic. He finds being described as an athlete vexing.
- What Age Group Was I In?
- 50 Plus
- Type Of Competitor
- Was This My First Time At This Event?
The Nuts Challenge is a relentless military themed obstacle course challenge.
Voted the UK’s Best Value and Toughest UK Obstacle Race 2018
- Value For Money
- The Pros
- Excellent event team, they put everything they have into the event
- Some of the best marshalls around
- The Cons
- Parking surface
- Really would have been nice to have some straw or simular on the floor in the event HQ and changing room
- The sloppy walk back to the car
- Henfold Lake Fisheries, Henfold Ln, Beare Green, Dorking RH5 4RW
Booking The Event
- How far In Advance Did I Book?
- 3 months before
- What Discount Did I get?
- How Easy Was It To Book?
The Event Arena / Village
- Rate The Event Arena
- Rate The Buzz Around The Event Arena
- Rate The Food And Drink Stalls
The Event Facilities
- Rate The Parking
- Rate The Toilets
- Rate The Showers
- Was There A Bag Drop?
- Was There A Changing Tent?
- Rate The Medal
- Rate The Swag Bag
No Swag Bag%
- Rate The Marshalls
- Rate The Course Marking
- Rate The Course Buzz
- Was The Event Timed?
- Was There Water On The Course?
- Did I Need To Be Able To Swim?
- Where There Bouyancy Aids Available?
- What Was The Maximum Depth Of The Water?
- Between 1 And 2 Metres
- Types Of Terrain On The Course?
- Water Crossing
- Natural Obstacles
- Man Made Obstacles
- Rate The Quality Of The Obstacles
- How Many Obstacles Where There?
- Rate The Creativity Of The Obstacles
- Where There Any Compulsory Obstacles?
- What Was The Standard Of Mud?
- Where There Any High Obstacles?
- What Was The Maximum Height In Metres?
- 4 metres
- Did I Need A Harness?
- What Types Of Carries Where There?
- Unique Carries