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The Nuts Challenge Head to Head / Time Trial

Updated: Jun 2, 2021

A brand new race format to UK OCR created by the same team that brings you the famous Nuts Challenge in March and September. The brain child of a European Champion Mark Dickson and with the support of other racers and the UKOSF and Rumble Fitness, the event was always going to be a success. Also one of two UKOSF licensed events.

The idea was to bring the obstacle course racing community together no matter of age, ability and gender. It was going to be set up in a way that even if you had just started your obstacle journey you would be able to test yourself against a competitor of a similar ability and that didn't matter if they were 14 or 93yrs young.

All races around the world have an age range, gender category or even categories depending on your ability before you start the race or when you finish. This time trial / head to head format allowed for all of that to be chucked out the window to provide a competitive feeling with every race.

The course was 500m long and had the main things you would expect on an obstacle course, technical obstacles, strength based elements, natural obstacles and speed sections, pure max heart rate fun, if you can call it that. What was made even better, there were two lanes around the whole course meaning two competitors were able to race side by side.

The way it worked was you arrived and was picked at random to race against a competitor, but that didn't matter, the first race was your chance to throw out the norm of finishing first and just to do your best time of the day to place and seed in one of the 4 divisions. Fastest 8 times in division 1 and so on. It allowed for a grouping stage before the head to head knockout stage, meaning it was all ability based and ended up having male and female competitors racing against one another and age ranges from 13 to 55 racing against each other and if you had seen these 13 year olds they’re the true future of the sport.

The course was short which meant times were going to be in the range for 4 - 7mins, this meant that the race was the most spectator friendly version of OCR I have seen since the team relay at the world championships. Crowds following competitors round cheering on and really pushing the competitors at every stage of the race. Wow, did this put the adrenaline and nerves in you, which made for some mistakes. Mistakes were penalised with burpees, 10 for the first stage and 20 for the knockout stage, which made it so important to not make any mistakes as your race would be over.

My first round I went out as hard as I possibly could, I wanted to test my fitness and make a statement on the day's times. I’ve been training hard and it was the time to show this. I raced hard and got a time of 04:13 which just got me top spot by 6s, then Mark Dickson went out and smashed a 04:10. I knew looking at the level of competitors who turned up that we were all going to be in for a challenging day, times in the division 1 where only probably split by 25s.

The obstacle course community is growing and this race really brought us together, there were some new and familiar faces and many top level athletes from Spartan Pros to age group World Champions. There were also new and aspiring youngsters who really put down some incredible times. The format was an inspirational thing to see to promote the sport and at times allowed an aspiring OCR athlete to race against a European Champion.

The race format put me under the most pressure I have been under for over a year and I was in the knockout stage. Even the selection of the knockout races were exciting. All our names were given a number and like a good FA cup draw the numbers were picked out of a hat. I was seeded against a speedy ninja and I knew this was going to be tough.

The race started and he was rapid, I just thought crap I'm in for a battle here. I kept on his heels almost 90% of the race until we hit an obstacle called the weaver. I was blowing and really pushing at this stage, but my technique to get through this quickly gave me the edge and I managed to swing through the last rig for the win. But it was a close race and a pure battle, especially being behind the whole race. I knew I pushed hard because I clocked a time of 03:52, my fastest of the whole competition. Wow, this race setup was so exciting.

All throughout the day battles were happening like this with so many amazing athletes young and old racing against one another for the win and to test themselves. Cheering, excitement and an atmosphere that can only be replicated with a head to head race. There really is nothing like it in the UK.

Semi finals came round and I knew I had some hard competition, Mark Dickson, Jack Carpenter and Dave Peters. Part of me wanted to race against Mark, we're friends and fiercely competitive but I always thought a final against him would be amazing. But I was only going to get drawn against one person in the semi finals and that was the person who I have to thank for my progression, training and guidance through obstacle course racing and that was my coach Dave Peters.

It was a very strange feeling racing against one another and even though we want the best for Rumble Racing we were going to give everything. I’m glad that the selection process was so organised and random as this could have been a bit suspicious. Dave knows my training and my skills and I think we both knew that I had a bit more short course training under my belt, it meant that I was able to stay in the front the whole race and take the win!

I was now through to the finals!

The two people in the pictures of the Facebook event and helping to promote the race ended up in the finals, Mark Dickson was going to be my competition. To say we always have a bit of back and forth banter is an understatement, we have trained together, raced and built a great friendship but this was forgotten about when the countdown was done.

We were off, he loves a fast start and I knew I had to match this. He will always be so fast on obstacles and after the first 3 he was about 1s ahead, but once we hit the up and over obstacle I managed to get the lead into the wreck bag carry. Going round this I knew if I was in the lead it was only positive as I could hit this a little harder.

I came out with a 3 sec lead and even with an adjustment after a mistake on the low rig I still kept the lead. Going through up and overs and heading the balance beam I knew he could catch me. I get so nervous on these, and Mark flew through it. He was now in the lead coming up to the weaver and like my quarter final race I hit the weaver at pace and came out a split second before Mark. I needed seconds on him before hitting the last rig as he’s always going to be quicker on those. And looking back at the videos yes I'm smooth and in control but wow is he fast on the last rig. I kept composed even when he went past me mid rig.

But I don't know whether it was the pressure of the race or the need to go quickly. A slight slip on his foot lock on the rope gave me all I needed to hit the bell and sprint for my life to the finish. I knew if I didn't sprint he would catch me. What an exciting, tense and exhausting race that I won't be forgetting in a while.

I came out the winner of division 1 and I couldn't be happier. I also have to say the diversity of athletes on the podiums for division 1, 2, 3 and 4 is only testament to the race setup and how it allows all levels of competitors to be competitive.

Nuts Challenge Head to Head was incredible and a true reflection on the positive progression of the sport. I like a long course but the head to head format with inclusive competition no matter of age and gender was just inspiring to watch. An opportunity for the young future members of the sport to test themselves against an athlete of similar ability will only be a positive thing for the future increased attendance and growth of talent in the sport.

Thank you The Nuts Challenge and Mark Dickson and everyone else involved, looking forward to racing more and attending more races like this.

Full Final Race Live Video

Or if you want to see more of what I get up to and my races follow along on my Instagram

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