Leg 8 of our personal Amazing Race Canada took us to the base of the Mt. Orford ski resort an hour outside of Montreal. It was damp, mucky and as we stood beside the powerless ski lift we knew we would be getting to the top of this mountain the hard way. This was the XMan Race Sherbrooke http://xmanrace.com/en/circuits/xman-sherbrooke/
At this point, I’m starting to think I have an addictive personality. This was my third Obstacle Course Race/Mud Run of the summer and as I write this I’m already planning out my schedule for next year, because I totally have to do more than three in 2018. These have apparently become my new favorite thing. Thank you to the #MyTAR17 challenge I set out for myself last December, because without this goal to push myself towards I don’ think this non-runner who can still not do a pull-up would ever have realized that these races are my happy place. My Husband and I always joke that he’s white collar and I’m blue collar – he excels at desk work and brain challenges where he doesn’t have to get his baby-soft hands (really, they’re like velvet) dirty, while I’m the pack mule of the relationship, most comfortable with tasks where I can just put my head down, do the manual labour and get shit done. Needless to say, these are my wheelhouse. Don’t get me wrong, I’m many years of training away from being in the Elite wave, but already this summer I saw incremental improvement. Things I couldn’t do a month earlier at the Dead End Race were possible now. Things that once scared me I’m more comfortable with, like being photographed with streaky makeup and bad hair, and then having those photos posted on the internet. And, most importantly for a klutz like me, I’m learning better ways to fall that don’t end in catastrophic injuries! Like not kidding. Check out my legs:
Gratuitous bruise montage! Left to right: Post Rugged Maniac, post Dead End Race, post XMan Race. Give me two more chances and I’m going to come out just pasty white ghost and instead of awkward dalmatian. Side note, my husband refers to these pictures as “the hot dogs that you wouldn’t eat at the fair”.
It’s also getting interesting being able to compare the different OCRs out there. Where Rugged Maniac had harder terrain and easier obstacles, and the Dead End Race had easier terrain and harder obstacles, this race quickly became my favorite, as it was a combination of both. The terrain was brutal and the obstacles were tough, but a bit more manageable than the Dead End’s endless Platinum Rigs. The weather did not help us out one bit on this day. It was damp and a bit cool, and the night before it had rained heavily. This meant the entire course, already softened from the full day of racing that had already gone on the day before, was mud. Fuck mud pits, they had an entire mud mountain. Like knee-deep. Honestly, that night back at home, I struggled to remember the 45 obstacles we had completed, as they almost played second fiddle to the terrain. But that was very much not a bad thing. This course was laid out to really utilize nature, with lots tons of scrambling up and down rocky streams.
As someone with a well documented history of not being a good runner, this actually suited me really well. I’m built for endurance, not speed. Between the terrain and the mud, running was nearly impossible in a lot of places, and even the speed demons, as you can see in the video above, are moving at the slower place the course dictated. But more than that, this was just really freaking fun. It was like being a kid again, jumping from rock to rock and then jumping into puddles and streams with dramatic splashes. In places we were walking up steep hills through the forest and the ground was so slippery that you had to pull yourself up tree by tree with your arms, because you had no traction underfoot. It was basically competitive off-piste hiking.
The obstacles themselves were fun – sandbag carries, balance beams, walls to climb, a lot of the standard stuff. The staff were super friendly and helpful all the way through, so I have to give mad props to the volunteers and people running the course, as they were stars. When we thought we were dead they cheered us on. When we were stuck at something they gave us tips and talked us though the discomfort. And when Tracy went wild at the paintball station, they didn’t hold her to the three shot maximum and just ley her keep firing like a maniac. Slowly but surely we’re all improving our technique and learning the tricks to get us through/over/under/around the challenges as successfully and efficiently as possible. I’m still working on the warped wall and getting comfortable dropping myself from heights that seem small from the ground but huge when you’re standing on top of them. But for a first race season, one that I threw myself into without a ton of preparation or upper body strength, I surprised myself at how capable I am, and it feels really, really fucking great.
Side note – there were HEATED SHOWERS after this race. Holy fucking poop balls those are the best things ever.
This race was the longest at 7km, and possibly the toughest, but definitely the most fun. Shout out to my girls (L-R) Karine, Sophie and Tracy, without who these races would not be the muddy joyfest that they are. These sexy bitches can do anything. It says something about friendship when you can belly crawl under barbed wire, get naked in a parking lot and use up all your physical and emotional reserves together, but still can happily spend two hours cramped into a Honda FIT after the race without killing one another. I don’t think it’s going to be hard to talk them into racing the 2018 season 🙂
Pit Stop: Comfortable second place and qualifying to race to the final mat. There were no hiccups today, unless you count the fact that I pulled into the parking lot at triple the recommended speed while blowing right past the pay booth, before realizing it then screeching to a stop and sheepishly back up towards the very confused man collecting the money. We raced like we were meant to be there and crushed it.
Eliminated: The team in the spandex gold speedos. Was removed for health reasons after everyone walking up a hill behind them beat them to a pulp because you could see a lot more of their anatomy than any stranger ever comfortably should.