Lee Rooke So, it’s the 10th of June 2018 at around 8am, I’m stood in the kitchen preparing breakfast; suddenly my heart is racing, then it’s not, there’s some discomfort and to a lesser degree, a ‘warm’ feeling across the upper part of my body...hmm?

After a period of contemplation and consideration I decide I probably should go and see someone to find out if there is anything to be concerned about, so I drive over to Hillingdon Hospital A & E and undergo some tests and stuff.

After a while, the Doctor who had been examining, me appears in the reception with a wheelchair and beckons me to climb aboard (maybe there’s something after all?), he takes me into a large room full of beds and patients and tells me to occupy one of the beds...hmm?!

“So Mr Rooke, you’ve had a heart attack!” (A partially blocked Left Anterior Descending Artery to be more precise)

“Oh…” I say

After a number of calls by the Doctor to Harefield Hospital in order to confirm the prognosis, I am wheeled into a waiting ambulance, wired up, strapped in and ‘blue-lighted’ across the borough to be greeted by a team of specialists, physiologists, radiographers (including my wife who was on the night shift), registrars etc.all ready to begin treatment before I had even entered the building!

I am wheeled (again) on to Acorn Ward where I spend the night before undergoing an angioplasty procedure the following morning. After some more tests, checks, information, issuing of medication, a lovely visit from a member of the cardiac rehab team and follow ups plus a 2nd night, I am duly discharged home.

After a short period of weeks I begin my 2 months (Tuesday & Friday each week) of Cardiac Rehab with my fellow ‘hearty’ people all with varying degrees of ailments and conditions.

From the very first phone call between Hillingdon & Harefield, through the ‘welcoming party’, the ward team, the consultants, physiologists, radiographers, porters, catering, pharmacist, rehab team etc. the service I received was nothing less than outstanding, truly wonderful.

So, where does this leave me?

Prior to the unexpected events of June 10th, I was relatively fit, with a good diet and a growing passion for Obstacle Course Racing (OCR); since then, I have had to slowly rebuild on my fitness and have only been able to complete a single Half Tough Mudder and a 6k Commando Series event at Hever Castle however; my aim for 2019 is to take part in more and a greater variety of events than prior to my heart attack - I want to challenge myself physically and mentally in order to support a magnificent cause. My target is to raise as much money as I can for Harefield Hospital which is where I hope, you come in...

If you feel inclined, you can sponsor me by event or for completing a number of events from those I enter. Some of the OCR’s I am considering, will be over a time limit and it will be for me to complete as many miles as I can in the time allocated so, you may want to sponsor me per mile in that case...you can dip in and out and donate based upon the event(s) you think will most greatly challenge my comfort zones, the choice is yours and I hope you will exercise your choice generously.

Some of the events I am looking to take part in include;

January - MacTuff
February - Brutal Run Bordon
March - Winter Nuts Challenge
April - Spring WOLF Run
May - Tough Mudder - London West & Midlands
June - Tough Mudder Scotland (Sadly missed as a result of injury!)
July - Tough Mudder Yorkshire
August - Tough Mudder South West
September - Tough Mudder Berlin & London South
October - The Swanbourne Endeavour
November - Commando Series
December - Brutal Run Longmoor



My first event takes place on 6 January in Scotland at Knockhill Racing Circuit (approx 25 miles north of Edinburgh) - MacTuff!

Overall, I’m looking at the possibility of entering 20+ events; if you are unfamiliar with the world of OCR & want a better idea of the sort of things I am proposing to undertake, you can catch videos of most of the above events, on YouTube.

Throughout the year I will provide updates with details of exactly what I will be doing each month so you can check them out.

Now, they are called obstacle course ‘races’ but this is not how I approach them; I would never by any means, call myself a runner nor technically proficient at some of the more, well...technical obstacles, I enter events because I enjoy the challenge. I do not expect to finish in anything resembling a fast time but I do aim to have a go at every obstacle and finish every event.

So, as I’ve said; if you want to support this world-class facility, please sponsor me...it can be for a little or for a little more, for completion of a single event or multiple events or by the mile such as, how many miles I clock up taking part in Europe’s Toughest Mudder.

All money raised will go towards supporting the health and welfare of patients at Harefield Hospital as well as supporting cutting-edge research into heart and lung conditions so please if you can, donate if you want to see a middle aged heart attack survivor, suffer...go on, you know you do!

Thank you,

Lee

MacTuff
So, the first event of the year has been completed - MacTuff, Knockhill race circuit, Dunfermline
 
After a 7 hour drive up the day before and a good night’s sleep in a local hotel, I was up nice and early for the short drive to the venue and registration.
 
This year’s event was definitely not as cold as it could have been (thankfully there was no ice to be broken on the water obstacles this year) but it was FOGGY!
 
Around 1000 participants took part in the event over 3 different distances, I had entered the 15k event (“Why?” I asked myself; “You know there’s a 7k option?”).
 
Prior to the start, we were all lined up in the pit lane where we were seen off by a marching band of pipers followed by fireworks and explosions.
 
We’re off and the first obstacle awaits...the local American football team! Thankfully I got through unscathed (many didn’t!) and it was onward to obstacle number 2... what felt like, miles and miles of gravel run-offs around the race circuit - the worst obstacle of the day... 2 steps forward, 1 step back!
Further on was the Dragon’s teeth jumps - until you’re on top of them, they look relatively harmless, however; the jump between each is further than you think; if you miss the grab bar or slip on the wall where your feet will land, you can look forward to a 9 ft drop.
 
Other obstacles encountered on the day;

Car pull - simply pull a small hatchback across a slightly inclined car park
Sandbag and tyre carries up and down hills, through mud and water
There was a section of seating alongside the circuit where we were required to climb up and down them approximately 10-12 times - I guess there were not enough hills so they used what was available!!
Numerous walls of varying heights and inclines to get over with an 8ft wall as the final obstacle just before the finish line.
Rolling monkey bars
Mud...thick, sticky, gloopy, unpleasant smelling, energy-sapping mud! You could bypass some of this if you were prepared to make your way through a section or two of flesh-tearing bushes.
There was a slide - more fun than difficult, however; you do end up in a pool of cold, cold water at the end of it!
Tyre flipping - for some reason, some of us just couldn’t see the smaller, lighter tyres until we were already flipping the larger, heavier ones; there were numerous exclamations of: “Where did you get that one, I never saw it?”
Over a mile of hill climbing through an ever weaving circuit arrangement still, if you applied the ‘walk up, run down’ principle, it helped
There was a deep, muddy ditch - down one side up the other, back down, back up for what seemed like an eternity
Numerous water-based obstacles...cold, cold water
Hills - did I mention there were HILLS!
 
Thankfully I had decided to wear my neoprene wetsuit and compression gear - I began overheating right near the start but was grateful for it later in the day.
 
So by the end, I was well and truly ‘Gubbed*’!
 
*

To be punched in the gub
Broken, destroyed or otherwise burst
Knackered, exhausted, jiggered, trashed
 
Would I do it again...already looking to next year’s event!
 
Once it was all over, I could look forward to the 7 - 8 hour return journey; I attracted one or two looks at the numerous service station stopped at along the way - large man wearing shorts, with mud and bruises (blood thinners will do that to you!)  on his face and legs (you wipe off what you can when you finish otherwise, you take it home with you).
 
The following day was my 55th birthday - birthdays usually bring about a number of ‘Ooh’s and Aah’s and mine was no different, they were just more about how my body felt as well as in response to the cards and gifts I received (I would not like to hazard a guess as to which came out louder).
 
If you want more of a flavour of what MacTuff was all about, the following video does an excellent job - I must highlight the fact this is a video I borrowed from the MacTuff Facebook page;
https://www.facebook.com/mactuffocr/videos/503034666769690/?t=78
 
If you find your curiosity has been piqued and you fancy having a go then do it, you won’t be disappointed. 2020 is the 5th anniversary so the tech shirt and medal are likely to be awesome!
 
Next on the agenda (23rd Feb) is Brutal Bordon - more of a 10k trail run as opposed to an out-and-out OCR however; it will include marshes, hills, ponds and bogs; the week after that…”The Winter Nuts Challenge” 2 laps of a 7k circuit in deepest, darkest Dorking.
 
I now have a working action cam so hopefully, I will be able to capture and provide some usable ‘first person’ images and footage.
 
If you have committed to supporting my efforts for this wonderful cause - thank you so much; if you know someone who is yet to commit their support (namely, sponsor me to undertake these frankly, ludicrous activities!), please feel free to have a word in their shell-like and see if you can persuade them to put their hand in their pocket.
Onward...

Brutal Bordon 23 February 2019
So, it’s the 2nd event of the year...Brutal Bordon - a 10k trail run in the  heart of Surrey where you sign up to weave your way through marshes, struggle up hills, wade through ponds and dance through bogs; and they call it a RUN!
This is recognised as easily, the MUDDIEST Brutal race of the series taking place on a military training site!
With a later start of 10am, it was a ‘leisurely’ drive down to be quickly processed through registration before getting changed and warming up.
We were promptly set off at the designated start time, the first half of the course was a relatively straightforward trail run with sections of water-filled vehicle tracks, the odd hilly bit and some lovely trails through the woods however; in the 2nd half we were confronted with sections of the course with names such as; ‘Chocolate Porridge Pot’, ‘The Big Dipper’, ‘Log Bog’ & ‘100m Swamp’.
Finding a route through any of these where you did not become bogged down or lose a shoe was a challenge; wading or crawling through sticky, gloopy mud is nothing short of exhausting; to add to the challenge, at the end of the ‘100m swamp’, you were met by an extremely steep bank where there were no discernible footholds so it was often two step forward, one step back.
As I had chosen to undertake the 10km (two laps), I was directed to the right just by the finish, to begin my 2nd lap; as a ‘surprise’, we were treated to an additional ‘un-named’ section of swamp and bog some of which I was discover, came up to my chest! The benefit of doing a 2nd lap is you know what’s coming, the downside is hundreds of others have already passed through and so each of the swampy, boggy sections have been properly churned up so they offer extra ‘stickiness’; the route you took the first time may prove of no benefit the 2nd time. Evidence of this came towards the end of the ‘100m Swamp’ where a fellow 10k’er who was at least 6’4”, was stuck in the mud past his knees just before the dreaded climb. I stopped to see if I could be of assistance however; he managed to extricate his legs and crawl to the bottom of the incline where we went up together...slowly! At the top was a much welcome drink station - only 1km to go and just about all of it a bog!
At the finish you are met by members of the excellent marshalls team who hang your medal around your neck and provide you with much a much needed drink and snacks.
An excellent event, superbly organised with a wonderfully supportive team of volunteers to encourage you around the course. Next, it’s on to ‘The Nuts Challenge’ on the 3rd March - a proper obstacle course where I will be taking on the two lap option - 14km.

The Winter Nuts Challenge - 3 March 2019
There is a lovely process across much of the OCR community whereby, you volunteer as a course marshal or member of the support team and in return as well as being fed and watered, you will often receive a free t-shirt and free race to a future event of your choosing. Volunteering to support fellow runners is a buzz in itself and highly recommended but it can also save you the entry fee if you’re considering doing a run yourself. This being the case, after marshalling on the Saturday, I was back to run on Sunday - 14k of what is recognised as one of the best OCR courses in the country.
The Nuts Challenge organisers  provide you with a ‘Nuttie Scale’ so you can see where you fit in the order of things;
More Nuts - 1 lap
Mixed Nuts - 2 laps
Complete Nuts - 3 laps
Tough Nuts - 4 laps (yes, there were people doing 4 laps - 28k/17.50 miles)
Limitless Nuts - a timed challenge to complete as many laps as you can  - there were numerous runners attempting and completing, 5 laps!
So, my wave time was 10.30am; what lay ahead was mud, a water assault course, climbing, crawling as well as many other challenging obstacles; LOTS of crawling on hands and knees, climbing up river banks and cargo netting. Overall, there were around 100 obstacles which I could look forward to taking on...twice. At the start I met a fellow runner who I had met for the first time and run with previously 2 months earlier in Scotland so, we decided to stick together again.
As a result of the rain, the entire course became a quagmire; all of the trails between obstacles turned to mud making conditions underfoot, extremely slippery; every step forward seemed like a step backwards and/or sideways at the same time.
So, my own personal ‘Nuts Challenge’ began; after an initial run around the field, the obstacles started coming thick and fast, these included;
The Somme - up and down one after another of slippery, muddy mounds and thick and muddy water-filled ditches
Lake Crossings - you have to walk across 2 stretches of the lake (up to my shoulders) plus a series of inflatables ( ‘Escape From Arnhem’ - I fell off very early on so had a third walk across the lake) followed by a series of pontoons (A Bridge Too Far) which I fortunately, made to the last one avoiding a fourth entry into the lake.
Kamikaze - a slippery climb up a roped incline followed by a jump down into chest high, muddy water closely followed by a rope crossing over more chest-high water
The Bunker - on to your hands and knees and into the darkness; as you make your way through, the bunker gets lower until you end up laying chest first, dragging yourself out.
Hell River - a lengthy walk through...a river however; that would be too easy for The Nuts challenge so, it is interspersed with ropes and netting for you to climb out up the muddy bank so that just a few feet along, you can climb back in again!
Commando Assault - a series of muddy/watery rope swings, cargo netting, tyres, tyre walls and  walls one after the other
Cargo netting - there are more on The Nuts course and they are some of the highest I have encountered on any obstacle course!
Hamburger Hill - kindly located towards the end of the lap, this started with a tyre carry up and down the hill followed by two stretches of ‘simple’ up and down finishing off with one of the fastest slides I have ever been on, into a 2m deep pool of water.
This was my first ‘Nuts Challenge’ and it was the coldest I have ever been on an Obstacle Course; choice of clothing is essential - I chose not to wear a wetsuit as I felt I would overheat and in the beginning, felt this was the right choice as I was warm quite quickly however, part way into the 2nd lap, a wetsuit would have most definitely made a big difference; by the time I reached the 10km marker out of the anticipated 14km I was aiming to do, I could not stop shivering and so for the first time, I had to stop. I knew the lake obstacles lay ahead along with the waterslide which meant, things were only going to get worse.
My next outing is the Spring WOLF on 14 April - a single lap 10km course with a swim across a lake so it will most definitely be ‘wetsuit on’!

Throughout the year I have frankly, become a tad obsessed with undertaking Tough Mudders. The collecting of the various coloured headbands as you successfully complete another Classic run is to say the least, addictive! The obstacles are invariably 'massive', creative, challenging (physically and comfort zones) and entirely rewarding once completed hence I have undertaken 6 of them this year including one in near Berlin (my next one will see me receive a purple headband...ooh!). The ethos is very much on teamwork and so the 200 or so strangers you set off with soon become your 'team' for the next 10 or so miles, helping each other over 10ft walls, through tunnels, submerged in ice water, running up half-pipes and over 'Blockness' (take a look on Youtube!)

In complete contrast my most recent outing - The Swanbourne Endeavour, a small, local event with probably no more than a couple of hundred people taking part (a TM weekend could be in the region of 10,000 people!) however; what a fantastic time was had by all; 11km of water (lots and lots and lots of water...very cold water!), mud, tunnels, hay bails, cargo netting, barbed-wire & fire pits.

Next up, Commando Series - 12km of military based obstacles including the infamous Royal marine 'Sheep-dip' followed by Brutal Longmore on 28 December...I suspect it maybe cold?
Lee Rooke