O2X Summit Challenge at Sugarbush Mount Ellen

I love pushing myself physically, and mentally. I also love trying new things, especially new events. When a new series was announced with the inaugural event only 45 minutes away from me at Sugarbush Mount Ellen, I put it on my calendar immediately.

O2X Summit Challenges
Per their website: O2X is the most authentic challenge out there. Our Base-To-Peak footraces combine a series of demanding vertical ascents, natural obstacles, and a test of your mental fortitude. We design trails that are tough, fun, and beautiful. When you reach the summit, you’ll be greeted with an amazing view, a sense of accomplishment, and and ice cold beer once you return to basecamp. Are you ready to Rise Higher?
There were so many things to like about this event before it started! There was onsite camping the night before where they advertised there would be a fireside chat, food vendors, music, and more, referred to as Basecamp. All registered participants received a thank you for registering note with a handwritten envelope and sticker. Major kudos! We received a training plan that people pay lots of money for, I can’t wait to implement it after the Beast. The email communication was clear and concise, there wasn’t too many and I was never left feeling like I didn’t have the information I needed. My expectations were really high.
“Are you ready for the next evolution in trail running? Push your limits. Reach new levels of personal achievement. Rise Higher.” ~ O2X.com
I arrived at Sugarbush Mount Ellen about 6:30 and were directed by smiling staff where to go to unload for camping and then where to park. I pulled in and found NE Spahten tent city rather quickly. After Jeremy and I unloaded the car, I went to set up the tent. No tent. Crap! Beth mentioned we could probably crash with Lisa and Don in their palace (enormous tent) or check with Heather and Geoff because she thought she heard them mention an extra tent. SCORE! Borrowed tent for the win. Thanks Heather and Geoff!

At Basecamp, we took a quick look around before walking over to register. It was quick and easy, Lizzy D was working the computer and checked me in quickly. A usable drawstring backpack, Juti Bar, meat stick, soft cotton t-shirt, and Lululemon shorts! I was psyched. I did notice that my shirt was a men’s cut and within moments, they had me swapped out for a female version. Material was the same but the capped sleeves on women’s shirts are far more comfortable for me.

Since it was on the chilly side, inside we went, where we were able to enjoy the all you can eat chili dinner. While I wish this was included with the cost of camping, I was psyched to find a gluten free chili, salad that was free of croutons, and corn chips. With a race to be run the next day, the meal also included Gatorade which was a great touch by the vendor. They were selling beer and hard cider. Often times there are no cider options and that means that a vendor or event misses out on my money.

One of the things that really set this event apart was the fireside chat. Everyone was gathered around a crackling fire, smiling and chatting, when the founders of O2X started to tell us about their why. It was inspiring, heartfelt, and genuine. They talked about how they wanted to work together and then decided what that would look like. An ingenious way to start something. They talked about how each of us who stepped up to give them a chance was considered a plank owner; A “plank owner” is an individual who was a member of the crew of a ship when that ship was placed in commission. In earlier years, this applied to a first commissioning; since then, it has often been applied to one who was part of a recommissioning crew as well. As the founders are Navy Seals themselves, it was a very humbling moment to be considered a plank owner along side them. A chat from an average Joe, Frank Fumich, who also happens to like to push himself to the extreme just to see if he can, had us all laughing. 
The energy and the atmosphere blew me away. It is not often that I feel the type of energy circulating around that emanated from O2X. It was a struggle to tear myself away from the group (and admittedly, I was one of the last to do so) to go to bed and get the needed rest before the race. It was cold, as fall in Vermont can be, but after snuggling down in our borrowed tent, I slept solidly till morning. 
It was certainly brisk in the morning but breakfast was served in the lodge with hot coffee, although I hear they couldn’t make it fast enough to keep up with demand, and they ran out of cream when we went to get our cups. After making a trip to the car, someone had returned with cream. Hot coffee was much needed on the chilly morning. A brief moose sighting up on the ski slope topped off the nature vs man feeling to the event.
As each wave went up to start, they were led through a brief warm up. It felt really good to get the blood moving. A few minutes later and we were off. The course started up a slight incline before dropping down and looping back up through the festival area. 
This really allowed people to get grab a hold of the energy of the festival to carry with them up the course. 
The course took us up and over ski trails, dirt roads, up along side a stream, across the stream, scrambling over rocks, bouldering over rocks, bear crawling up super steep glades.
We scrambled over fallen logs, slippery moss, under fallen logs, over fallen brush.  This course was not a trail run, nor was it an obstacle course race.  It was the ultimate trail adventure.  Along the way we hit milestones that let us know how many feet of elevation we had climbed.  I loved that this was carried over from the concept that we would be climbing feet of elevation as opposed to focusing on how many miles were covered.  There were smiling volunteers at the many water stations, several photographers, and amazing music at the scrambles.  The score from Last of the Mohicans seemed to pump everyone up more than any rock or pop hit seems to do at most events.  It also fit the setting. 
As we climbed, it got colder and colder, the wind blowing harder and stronger.  I couldn’t wait to reach the summit to put on the dry long sleeves I had in my pack.  Below freezing with wind was not fun.  
A volunteer was stationed at the top of the nastiest of the climbs cheering and encouraging and directing us up to the finish.  While there was not a lot of action at the summit, nor was there a view, the staff and volunteers were full of smiles, willing to indulge me in my heel click into the finish.  They were immediately wrapping emergency blankets around our shoulders and giving us our finishers medals which were actually canteens filled with water.  While I wish it had been filled with bourbon or whiskey to warm up with, I thought it was a great way to avoid trash and get some hydration into us.  I look forward to utilizing my canteen in the future.
It was a quick downhill to stretch out the legs before hoping a chairlift back to Basecamp.  Had it not been for the predictably unpredictable New England weather, the views would have been stunning.  At the bottom, there was a fire to warm up by, music, and a free beer for each racer.  They actually let me have a cider instead of beer which caused me to do a happy dance on site.  
I had arrived back at Basecamp just in time to hear them give out their Rise Higher award to one our own NE Spahtens, Jane Boudreau Coffey, for surviving and thriving through adversity.  Just another reason to love O2X, their Rise Higher award, to be awarded at each event.  Simply email them with your nomination!
In short. Find the closest event to you and sign up.  It is worth every penny!
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