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Rushwood : The Must!  

Eric Sirois's picture

Last Saturday was the sixth edition of the race known as Rushwood. The annual event held each year during the Labor Day weekend is one of Quebecers' favorite races. If the municipality of Saint-Édouard-de-Maskinongé has lost its zoo, it is far from losing its obstacle course! Indeed, it is a little more than 1400 runners who appear on the site each year. On this Labor Day weekend, racers unfortunately had to choose between Rushwood and the last Spartan competition in Eastern Canada for this year. Some decided to participate in both events. In my opinion, if you had to choose, the choice was super easy and I hope that the lines that follow will enlighten you a little. Of course, this is only my humble opinion.

What is Rushwood? For those who do not already know, it's a military-themed obstacle course. The basic concept is simple: your commander sends you on a mission and you will have to show courage and determination to accomplish it. When you arrive at the venue, the military atmosphere is immediately present in the festival area. The latter is also one of the most friendly and interesting. Everything seems easy to find: registration, toilets, restaurants as well as the start and finish line, where a coupon for a beer is given to those who finish the race. It may seem trivial, but the configuration of some site can add some stress to less experienced racers, especially if the starting line is not easily accessible! Military tents, camouflage nets, Hollywood-style epic ambient music, and the presence of military forces with their big vehicles add something special as participants begin to invade the site. Several obstacles are also visible for spectators that are coming to encourage their friends and require just a little walk. The decorum is impeccable even in the departures. Commander Branconnier (founder of Rushwood) personally sends all the runners to their departure. He participates in their warm-up, welcomes them into the starting zone one by one and rings the beginning of each wave to the sound of a resounding gunshot. Since the beginning of the race, the format remains the same: the start is made in a pushup position!

The course partly follows a sandy motocross track, but is mostly under the cover of trees in the forest. The distance announced on the site of the organization quotes a 7km, but the race of last Saturday was rather transformed into a 10km (9.7km according to my Suunto). The addition of kilometer seems to be common at Rushwood according to the comments collected. Some will be happy to "get more for their money", other competitive say that they expected to push their body for 7km and the three extra change things a bit and new runners will probably suffer a little more than planned! In short, better to have more than less, in my opinion. Marking problems you may say? Absolutely not! The latter was impeccable with the caution tape on each side delineating the entire course. The map could be seen on a placard in the party area. It displayed no fewer than 60 obstacles on a winding course. On the other hand, there are about a dozen obstacles that are natural like rocks or simple trenches. All kinds of racing surfaces are used: sand, clay, water and mud. Let's talk about mud. If there is a race where you will not stay clean from start to finish, this is it. Monumental mud holes are present everywhere on the course. Some even bury you to the waist!

On the obstacles side of things, the race offers a nice variety and a medium level of general difficulty. The vast majority of obstacles are achievable by most participants. Obviously, the accumulation of mud makes some a little more difficult as the day progresses. The classic walls, monkey bar and hoist are present as well as a big ramp in the festival area. A new addition at the beginning of the course: a series of rope to cross using the hands. An obstacle that I particularly appreciated. But what is unique to Rushwood is the use of its lake. Four obstacles were built on the small lake, including two slides. One of these slides includes a curve that sends the participants in the air and gives rise to funny and spectacular landing. For this edition, however, it was the carry that caught the attention of the racers. There were several during the race, but two of them mainly marked the participants: Jerry cans and sandbags. I do not know exactly how much each of these items weighed, but the runners had to carry two of them, then go down and up a hill. As if that was not enough, the sandbags carry was done through tires. A nice big challenge that rewarded the strongest in carry and that caused many problems for women.

The event is divided into three types of waves: Alpha, Bravo and Mission. The Alpha is the equivalent of elite or competitive waves found in other races. It is normally reserved for those who wish to push themselves to the maximum and hope to get on the podium. Subsequently there are several Bravo waves that are intended for general and recreational classes. The last wave, the Mission, is a very special wave. This is the last wave of the day and includes a limited number of places. About fifty people were registered for this crazy adventure that consists of doing the same course as the others at the end of the day when the terrain is completely broken down in addition to having to carry a load throughout the course. This year, it was a metal barrel with a certain amount of water inside that the racers had to hang out with. They had to drop the barrel before a structure, cross the obstacle and take it again before continuing their way. The steep descents and climbs of the ravines were the biggest challenge for the runners who had to make sure their barrels were secure and in control throughout the race. Helping each other was allowed during this race and even encouraged, but up to a certain level. The commander had brought his troops back to order at the Tarzan rope obstacle when this help was literally defying the nature of the obstacle. He was still nice to give options to those who were not able to cross the obstacle as it should!

Winners of the Alpha wave:

Mens

  1. Sébastien David (1:08:18.0)
  2. J F Giguere (1:09:00.9)
  3. Patrick Frigault (1:09:21.0)

Women

  1. Stéphanie Champagne (1:32:18.4)
  2. Justine Coutu Desrochers (1:39:03.6)
  3. Sophie Arbour (1:43:11.5)

Winners of the Mission wave:

Mens

  1. Maxime Longpré (2:22:44.5)
  2. Sébastien Boilard (2:25:31.5)
  3. Louis Laviolette (2:27:06.8)

Women

  1. Marjorie Lessard (3:14:19.1)
  2. Emilie Tousignant (3:14:19.9)
  3. Justine Coutu Desrochers (3:36:17.7)

The comments were only positive except that some volunteers were missing on the course. What characterizes this race is the pleasure felt by the participants. From waterways to technical trails to mud holes and steep climbs, it's all there. As this is an event that happens only once a year, so you will have to wait until 2020 if you missed this edition. And if you ask us if we would recommend it, absolutely! It is a must in the obstacle course of Quebec!