The Nuts Challenge – 4 Laps September 2015-09-06
The Nuts Challenge – 4 Laps
“Dammit Indy, were doesn’t it hurt?”
OK, my name isn’t Indianna Jones and my head is really too small to wear a hat, but the question is quite valid. The answer is “everywhere”. Even my fingernails hurt. But that’s towards the end of the story. Let’s start at the beginning.
The beginning being in March 2015 when I booked my place. Since then I had the feeling of growing trepidation, like a child waiting for the first day of school to arrive. My pessimism I think, was well founded. My first attempt at 4 laps ended in intense disappointment and a diva-like tantrum. (See The Nuts Challenge March 14th 2104 blog for embarrassing details) So there was no blissful ignorance for me with which to laze my way through the summer. I attended the wedding reception of fellow OCR runner in June and was advised that lots of leg work in the form of box jumps was required. Now, anyone who has read previous blogs will know this, so at the risk of it sounding boring, I’ll say it again.
“ I hate running”
In fact, I hate leg days full stop. Box jumps, unless I’m mistaken, require legs. Therefore, I hate box jumps. Remembering the Bruce Lee quote “The art of fighting without fighting” I wondered if it was possible to perfect the art of training the legs without actually training the legs. …..
……..box jumps it is then.
So, with a full weeks worth of carb loading and half a dozen box jumps behind me I stumbled out of bed at 5 o’clock Sunday morning. Negotiated the steep descent downstairs, a well controlled sharp left-hander into the hallway, a dash across the freezing cold kitchen tiles, and a precarious kettle-filling manoeuvre all completed with my eyes half closed. One mug of strong coffee later, eye-lids prised open and muscles warmed I felt confident enough to try and wriggle in to my Iron-Man compression top.
The drive there was uneventful. It’s a local event for me and although having done 2 Nuts previously was feeling pretty chuffed with myself for getting there without the use of the Sat-Nav. I did however find my way to the wrong queue at the booking in tent. After a bemused couple of minutes I managed to get myself in one of the 4 Lap queues. And a minute later realised that I was in the wrong 4 Lap queue and as innocently as I could, managed to filter my way into the high number booking queue. I’ll stop saying “queue” now.
The 4 Lap 8 o’clock start had for some reason been shunted back to 8.30. This immediately gave me the vapours as I now started worrying about the 2 o’clock cut off. Luckily someone at the back questioned this and we were all informed that the cut off time would also be put back half an hour. As this was supposed to be the ‘elite’ wave (I’ve never felt more of an imposter) there was no Personal Trainer doing a warm up. We were advised to do our own, which I did. This consisted of a deep breath and a quick prayer that I wouldn’t humiliate myself and not complete the course.
So this was it. The disappointment that had been plaguing me since March the year before was hopefully about to be purged. I set off, mindful of, Team Nuts regular, Jon Salmons words that a quick 1st lap was desirable in order to get in front of the 1 Lap waves starting later and hopefully avoid any bottlenecks. Last time I attempted 4 Laps I started off slow and steady and never made the cut. Although this was when the start time was 10 o’clock. Nevertheless, I was off at a considerably faster pace that I would normally have gone and stayed in the middle of the pack. After a while I heard a familiar voice and turned round to see a grinning Jon Salmon. My first (little) victory of the day. Being in front of Jon, even if only for 5 minutes was a bit of a lift for me. He then shot off like a stabbed rat and I never saw him again that day.
Now most people who read OCR blogs are familiar with the layouts and obstacles on many courses and I’ve gone into some detail of the Nuts course on other write ups, so I won’t repeat myself here.
Not far into the course the trail forked off. 1 and 2 lappers going one way, 3 and 4 lappers going the other. For the 3 and 4 lappers, which was all of us at this point, this part consisted of various obstacles, some of which had penalties for failure to complete. We first came to a bladed wall about 7 feet high. This was tricky to get over and in the end I had to accept a leg up to get over it. Then out over concrete hurdles, through a 4 tonne truck, over a 10 or 12 foot wall and on to the 1st penalty obstacle. The hang tough swing, up inclined ladders. No problem I thought. However, the hands were wet and muddy from earlier watery ditches and crawls and the rungs were thin, square and dug into your hands. I made it, but it wasn’t easy. The cost of failure was a log carry that would add precious minutes to your lap time. Another wall and a drop then onto the monkey rings. Again, this was something I was usually good at, but my hands were so slippery that I only got to the third ring. No second chances here, so I picked up a log and did my lap. My mind started thinking ahead. This was my 1st lap and I had already failed one of my strongest obstacles! What were laps 2, 3 and 4 going to be like? I tried not to dwell on it, got my head down and finished the 1st lap in a tidy 1.27. A quick swig of my homemade energy shake and I set off asap as I heard the 1 Lappers on their warm up and was keen to get in front of them.
I tried to keep the pace up on my 2nd lap and hoped that I wouldn’t hit too many hold ups. I needn’t have worried. The ‘fun’ runners had been briefed to let any 4 lappers go through. I looked nothing like an athletic 4 lap man at this point but when I, rather shyly, brandished my green wrist band about they happily gave way and the marshals were shouting instructions for the multi-lappers to use tubes 3 and 4. Brilliant organisation.
Mind you, my pace was beginning to take its toll. I wasn’t going fast compared to many, but I was already feeling a familiar cramping in my groin. This was beginning to create dark shadows in my mind. Barely 14k in and my muscles were already beginning to complain and by the time I had finished my 2nd lap my calves had started to join in as well.
2nd lap finished in 1.36. I felt ok. Sort off. I was tired, no denying that, but there wasn’t the finish-line fatigue in my body just yet. But the cramps were beginning to worry me. At this point, only half way through, I seriously began to question whether my body could take another two laps. I heard a fresh lap warm-up coming to an end and decided that there was only one way to find out. A very quick refuel and I set off at a furious pace, determined to get well in front of the new starters.
The 3rd lap was a killer. I was still clock watching and striving to make the cut. I didn’t really register the comments from my ever supportive girlfriend that I was starting my 3rd lap at 11.30, so had a very generous 3 hours to get the third lap done. So I kept pushing. Hitting the 3 and 4 lap fork I approached the blade wall. I looked around. There were no other runners about. How the hell was I going to get over this wall with no help? I wasn’t actually. I tried a few feeble scrambles ever conscious of bringing on another bout off cramp. Luckily another runner rounded the corner and helped me over. I offered to double back and lend him a hand over, but was up and over the wall with enviable ease. We jogged on together for a while and he told me that he was on his 3rd and final lap. I felt the envy well up in me again and eyed him like how a starving man would look staring through the window of a pastry shop. We scrambled over and under the penalty obstacles and I failed the monkey rings for the 3rd time. My temporary companion disappeared ahead and I was left to my own dark thoughts.
Now things were mentally beginning to get tough. An hour into my pen-ultimate lap and I found myself alone for much of the time. It was difficult not to imagine that everyone else was in front of me, having fun, laughing and joking with their team. That I was in dead last place, exhausted and feeling…….. less, than everyone else. I looked behind. No one as far as I could see. In front, no one either. I began to feel very self conscious. Embarrassment began to set in. I had the thought that I was the only one crawling along at such a slow pace. The only one that was tottering around like a drunk man. I imagined that the few spectators were looking at me and whispering, “ My goodness. He’s going SO slow. He looks terrible” Now, a week later I remember that even on my 3rd lap I was overtaking other runners, but at the time I felt weak and defeated. Every step brought a spasm in either my groin or my calf. I waddled along trying to keep control of my slowly surrendering body.
I came to the Apocalypse section of the course. By now I had a pretty good mental map of the course and knew that I wasn’t far from the end of the lap. Scale the cargo nets and over and under the logs and 3 or 4 hundred metres across the lake and over the hay bales.
Lap 3 completed in just over 2 hours. I was absolutely finished. Except I wasn’t. I had one lap to go. It was 1.30 so I was well inside the cut off point. This news brought an enormous smile to my face. Ok, I hadn’t finished, but as far as I was concerned, the pressure was off. I had made the cut and now it was just a case of keeping going. I would have given my girlfriend a big hug if she hadn’t looked at me with an expression that said “Come near me you wet, smelly soggy sack of dirt and I’ll thunder punch you in the throat.” I settled for a slightly more leisurely refuel with 600ml of my patented Nut Juice. Sounds horrible, but 1 banana, 2 ½ spoons of porridge oats, 2 big spoons of peanut butter, 1 part milk and 4 parts water all blended together made for a potion that works very well for me.
I set off on my last lap. My goal had always been to just complete the distance, not to chase a time so I just plodded along doing more walking than running. I was noticing every little discomfort by now. The obvious soreness of my body, the sagging and rubbing of my knee-pads, the wrinkles in my socks, the increasingly apparent throbbing in my fingernails. Fingernails? How did that happen? Onto the 3 – 4 lap circuit. The marshal kindly advised that at this point of the run climbing the wall wasn’t a necessity, injury being foremost in the organisers mind I suppose. I’d like to say that I went over the wall regardless. But I didn’t. I couldn’t. I snaffled one of her jelly babies instead and wearily approached the ladder swing. To peoples surprise, not least mine, I made it across for the 4th and final time. I then failed the monkey rings for the 4th and final time. A word for the marshals, they were all absolutely fantastic. The one on top of the Nutcracker was full of enthusiasm and encouragement and I even spent a few minutes chatting to him when I had finished.
Now, with all this solitary running on the last lap, with the brief exception of running alongside a 3 lapper called Richard (who was brilliant for my morale by the way. Thank you Richard), it would have been easy to side step some of the obstacles. No-one would have know. Except me of course. But the temptation was there and almost overwhelming at times, but it is without ego that I’m pleased to say that I stubbornly refused to skip any. But sometimes I found myself paused halfway through an obstacle. Trying to get through a tire I found myself daydreaming half in and half out. Not sure how long I was there, but when I blinked I realised that I had just been sitting across a tyre, motionless.
But on I went. I came to the tyre carry. One of the military type personel was quietly giving individual words of encouragement to passing runners. When I came passed he said that at this stage it wasn’t about fitness and stamina, it was all about mental strength. I’m pretty sure fitness and stamina has something to do with it, but I knew exactly what he meant. Despite the physical discomfort of the last 2 laps, it was the mental challenge which I found the greatest obstacle. I wonder what he would have made of my out of body tyre experience earlier on in the lap? Whilst the pace of climbing, crawling and running was all under my control and therefore the cramps were also broadly kept in check, the waterslide was another matter. Hurtling helter-skelter down and hitting the water brought on a massive cramp in my right calf. I floundered around in the water desperately trying to reach the cargo nets with my leg trailing behind me like a floppy strip of pasta. Oh God. Please let this end.
The end was indeed in sight. I completed the last few muddy obstacles and gleefully plunged into the lake. I took this opportunity to have a bit of a wash and ducked under the water and had a bit of a scrub for a couple of minutes. Bliss. A spa treatment at The Sanctuary couldn’t have been more welcome. Over the hay bales (more cramp) and across the finish line. I had finished. It was a slow last lap. The slowest 4th lap that day I believe. But with the medal round my neck, all was good. One dirty burger and sweet cup of tea later and I was ready for my finishing photo.
But back to the first paragraph. The next day everything hurt. Every muscle. Every joint. The palms of my hands. My wrists. Yes, my fingernails. I had even acquired a rope burn on my, ahem, gentlemens love purse. If anyone can explain the mechanics of that to me I’d be very interested. My girlfriend laughed.
So that was it. 4 laps done. Never again I said. But then I looked at my laps times and a little voice said “You can do it faster next time” I’m resolutely ignoring that voice, but you just never know.