I was thrilled to see XMANRACE arrive to Toronto – this race series got nothing but positive reviews from fellow racers in the past, yet all the locations have previously been in Quebec, so I was not able to make it out to one of their events. Until this year!
According to the race website:
“This race is 100% made in Quebec: By participating in XMAN you will live the experience of an authentic obstacle course. XMAN is the result of a collaboration of obstacle course addicts, and supported by one of the most experienced logistics teams in the field of trail running and road events (XTRAIL and the Sherbrooke Half-Marathon). XMAN is like a “best-of” all other obstacle races.”
Now that’s a strong statement. I had a chance to verify the truth to that claim myself few weeks ago, with my partner in crime / former client / now friend – Janelle Pica (see her recap of the event here).
Weather? Could not have been better. I was a happy camper because the race organizers have also explicitly said that due to unknown weather conditions (hello, Ontario!), they will keep the race course dry. Awesome!
I ran in the first wave of the day, and spent the first 45 minutes, giving myself a hard time about whether I am running as fast I should have been running. Janelle (aka the Kettlebell Queen) and I may or may not have played with some heavy kettlebells the day before, and, boy, was I feeling it.
Here’s the map of the race course (see Suunto GPS data here). Notice how the course does not repeat itself, instead using as much of the trails as possible.
A typical XMANRACE promises a 7-9km course.
This course was 7.94km in length, with elevation gain of about 383m (1,257ft) and elevation change of 761m (2,497 ft). Here’s my altitude record:
The check-in process was fast and easy. The racers also had an option to pick up their packets the night before – very convenient for out-of-towners.
Great mix of obstacles – including perhaps, my favorite set of monkey bars – a combination of both parallel and perpendicular bars, and at least a couple that I have never done before – like the obstacle in the picture below, as well as a trampoline. Old favorites included Tyrolean traverse and a rope swing. I did miss the rig!
Aside from a couple of obstacles (step-up on the taller of the walls, lower table jump, knotted rope for women), the entire event was non-gendered – same obstacles for both men and women. No confusion, no male racers accidentally using “female” obstacles, and vice versa, throwing off the comparability of results. This also makes manning the obstacles easier for volunteers.
The race course demonstrated superb use of available trails – lots of single track through beautiful forest, none of the loops repeated themselves, making it easy to follow the course markings. Rolling hills were utilized into the course design in such a way that you never felt like you were climbing the same damn hill over and over again. This may not be possible with a significantly larger race due to bottlenecks, but in this event, the course was designed beautifully.
There was no sign to the race off the main road. I did not find the location hard to find, but I have raced at that venue multiple times before. This would have been an easy fix.
There were no porta-potties at the venue – ALL bathrooms available were the ones inside the ski resort building. With 1,500 racers, this seems like a pretty big oversight.
There were two water stations on course (water only), and while the first water station came at the right time (2.5km or so into the race), the second one was too close to the finish (6.5km or so into the race). It would have been helpful to a) have the water station at about 5.5km instead, and b) offer sports drink or bananas at the second water station, as it took many racers two hours or more to complete the race.
Big kudos to the race organizers for putting up a great event. I definitely saw some of the best obstacles from various race series represented here. Multiple obstacle races have already taken place at this very venue, yet none managed to do what XMANRACE was able to do from the first attempt – well done!
Three more races are still ahead in 2016 racing season, and if you are close to Quebec, you are in luck, as that’s where they will all take place. (If you are into trail running as well as obstacle racing, check out XTRAILRACE also – XMAN’s big sister from the looks of it).