Winter Nuts (or a lack of)

Now home, clean and resting means it is time to review the Winter Nuts Challenge attempted today in Dorking. I signed up to this with the intention of testing how the training was progressing and where I was in my quest towards Europe’s Toughest in May.

A 4am wake up to get ready and travel to the course was the first challenge. A pain free journey now that the last of the beast from the east had cleared along the route. We arrived and were parked in a landfill site (pretty much filled with random crap, screwdrivers included!!) before moving in to the event village.

There were a large number of multilappers setting up on the tables in the transition area. One of the first impressions was the lack of shelter for any belongings if the weather were to make a turn for the worst. Next year I will definitely take a plastic crate like the large majority of the regulars. I collected my blue bib which signalled that I was attempting OCR World Championship qualification and got ready to begin…

Organisation was great, we set off spot on 8am for the onslaught of cold and wet. The course involved a technical section positioned about a mile in which included wall climbs, ladders, an obstacle called stairway to heaven, rings and a huge rig. The stairway to heaven obstacle had a penalty loop if you couldn’t complete it but all others were mandatory completion for anyone attempting qualification. I only saw one person complete the stairway obstacle with most failing due to the moisture on it. Penalty loop was a run before moving on. Most of the technical parts were fairly straight forward and I was especially pleased with my progress with the wall climbing. The one that got me was the rings, just so slippery, I attempted it at least 8 times on the first lap before managing to get across. It zapped a lot of energy and played on my mind for the rest of that lap.

Alongside the technical section the other major obstacles involved climbing cargo net frames, rope swings and a couple of inverted walls. The rest of the course involved sliding into the rivers and streams for a walk/run through the freezing water before climbing out on cargo nets. There were long sections which involved getting in and out about 10 times, each allowing you about 50m to warm up before removing that heat straight away.

The cold was definitely challenging but I felt good with it, the biggest issues on the first lap were regulating breathing after stupidly taking on some food I hadn’t tried midway round the course. My trainers also split at some point during this lap and have since been retired.

I got back in from lap one in 1 hour 43 mins and took on a sachet of baby food, a small cup of sugary tea, milky way and jelly babies just like I had prepped and set off for the second lap. All in all spending no more than 5 mins in the transition area.

The second lap was going as expected but the whole while I was thinking to those rings in the technical area. The rest of it was fine again but the rings ultimately defeated me. After another 5 failed attempts I took my blue bib off and moved on. I knew that I would struggle again and the thought of potentially having to waste that much energy again finalised my choice. Weirdly, the removal of that bib felt like a bit of relief, an undue stress that I didn’t necessarily need when tackling the course for the first time. I was running with my brother in law and a mate and they both seemed to be doing pretty well, getting through obstacles and moving on ahead slightly.

My gloves went missing?!? I put them down to attempt the rings and when I went to pick them up again, they were gone! Obviously somebody had mistakenly taken them but I now had to finish the rest of this lap with nothing to cover my hands from the cold! The difference was amazing.

I set off through the section of endless river runs and saw the other 2 further ahead, I caught up with one of them after the rope swing and he looked in a bad way, shivering and saying he couldn’t regulate his breathing or feel his toes. He took the smart decision to call time on his run to avoid any further medical issues and went off to the medic. I wished him well and set off to catch up with my brother in law, he must have either slowed or I picked up my pace but I managed it and we ran the rest of the lap together.

I had layered my core with merino wool, a base layer and t shirt and have to admit that it worked a treat, my legs had 3 layers too and I was pleased with the decision. The lack of gloves for the rest of this lap proved tricky at times, I swear my hands started to turn blue at one point. We were heading through a longer run section discussing what we would do about the fact that we were a man down when I took a tumble due to the split trainers.

The rest of the second lap went by relatively well but as we got closer to the end, my knee started to really ache. I don’t really remember what happened as I fell but I have sharp pains running down the medial side of my knee joint at the moment. I’m hoping it’s just a bit of soreness and nothing worse. When I got to the end I was kind of ready to head out for a third lap if Paul wanted to, however he said he was starting to feel the cold and due to the fact we couldn’t see any sign of Graham in medical, we decided to stop after 2 laps.

I had heard stories of how challenging Winter Nuts was and it certainly was an assault on the senses. The cold was unreal, huge chunks of ice and the brutal in and out sections in water really took it out of you.

I feel that I have unfinished business with this race and will sign up to do it again next year having experienced what it has to offer.

The rings obstacle is actually my technical section for my training plan this month so I need to try and find some way of practicing technique for this obstacle. I made the silly mistake of taking on food outside of the plan which cost me a stable breathing routine after. Thicker/double socks next year may well be a must!

Positives were that the ankles held up well on the terrain with no rolling of even slight turns the whole way round. The layering was spot on for what I needed and the cold didn’t get to me. Also some of the other obstacles which involved upper body strength were completed well so I felt pleased with that.

See you next winter Nuts Challenge!

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