A couple weeks ago, my friend Frank Fumich called my attention to a new race series: the O2X Summit Challenges. I was looking for a race to memorialize Faye's 9th birthday (last year, I completed the Summer Death Race in her honor) and this fell into my lap!! Faye would have turned 9 on 9/12 and the race was 9/13. Boom! Perfect. I signed up immediately.
Within a couple hours of signing up, Frank tagged me in a post and this put me in touch with the race directors. Before I knew it, I was on the phone with Craig Coffey, one of the directors. He asked me about my story of losing Faye, how I knew Frank (explained we were Death Race Freaks and that Frank gave me his Death Race skull), etc. Craig then asked me if they could share the story of Faye. I said SURE! So, a week before the race, O2X hashtagged their posts with #RunForFaye. Every time I saw the hash-tag my heart was filled with happiness.
Real quickly: I am not a mountain runner! I am a multi-day endurance event person (3 Death Races in 9 months...ouch! Not the smartest thing I have done!! But, I finished two of them). In fact, I am slow and steady on the uphills but climbing mountains is very close to my heart. Just a couple weeks ago, I finished the 48 4,000 foot peaks in New Hampshire. My "thing" is running DOWNHILL. I can smoke the downhills. So, participating in an UPHILL only race would be challenging!! But, I was up for it! Why not? Try something new.
|Finishing the 48 NH 4,000 foot peaks|
Proof that I LOVE MOUNTAINS!!!
All I have is amazing feedback for this new series. From the easy sign up, to the clear confirmation emails and itinerary that included the map of the course, information about camping onsite, directions, bib number, chosen wave start of race, etc, everything was a breeze!! Very straight forward and clear. There were no fees for parking or spectators. The volunteers were amazing. There was local food for sale/bbq, free shots of whiskey (yay!), free beer after the race, great music, live band after the race, ample trail marking (there was no way someone was going to get lost. It was done just right), low impact philosophy (no bottled water for sale but free water from two huge dispensers...no waste!!!) and an amazing community feeling to the event, which is one of the most important things for me: the people. The race directors, Adam LaReau, Craig Coffey, Gabriel Gomez and Paul McCullough, are all genuine, straight up folks. Amazing men!!!
|Frank and I at the dinner the night before.|
Oh my god, I laughed so much.
|what a crew!|
I live only 30 minutes from Sugarbush so I went home and then returned the next morning at around 6:30am. They had mountainside yoga available at 7am and the first wave was getting ready for the 8am push off. Before each heat, warm up exercises were offered to get everyone loosened up which was a nice touch! It was cold out so moving around was a great idea. The 8am racers were off!! They did a nice loop that came back around to the starting line so we could cheer them on and then they were directed to head up the mountain. The 8:30am wave got ready and were off and then my 9:00am wave was instructed to join for the warm up exercises! Then, WE were off!!!
|This race is for you, my sweet Faye!!|
|Geoff, Heather, Lisa, Jared, Tara and I|
(photo: Jared Herman)
Up the mountain we went! The race was a mixture of some ski trails but mostly new and existing trails and woods roads. There were definitely runnable parts of the race which you took advantage of to make up some time since you were climbing and climbing and climbing. There were inspirational signs along the way, telling you how many feet you had already climbed, "Kill your tv!", and most importantly, there was MUSIC. The song from Last of the Mohicans was perfectly placed in the woods around difficult climbs and scrambles. BOOM! How cool is that?!?!? I loved being way out there in the woods and then all of a sudden hearing the song....gave you some energy! I was with a super cool woman for a while and she said "Where is Jon Snow!?! This reminds me of Game of Thrones!!" lol, She was a hoot.
Here is the song:
So, we scrambled over rocks/big boulders, steep slopes, crossed brooks, cruised along freshly cut sidehill trails, then the last climb to the summit was up the F.I.S. ski trail, aka Fucking Insanely Steep. IT WAS FOLKS. Many people were stopping and taking breaks along the way, some were crawling on all fours. My method of uphill climbing is slow but steady so I just kept trucking. It reminded me of the up and downs that I did last year for the Team Death Race, relentlessly climbing Killington Mountain but I had a full pack with ax and that was for 12 hours during the ultrabeast so my perspective was "just keep on moving almost there!" I was soooooo glad I had a hat and gloves and a long sleeve shirt because it was cold! The fog moved into the summit and as I crested to the top, I saw race director Craig Coffey and he gave me the biggest hug and I told him how much I loved the course. I crossed the finish line and Tara and Jared were there cheering me on. Foil blankets were being handed out (very smart, thank you!) because the temps up there were 32 degrees and I later heard it was about 18 degrees with the windchill. I got my sweet canteen finisher award (it was filled with water, too...perfect!), Jared took a picture of me and then we headed back down the mountain towards the chair lift which would take us down the rest of the way. We saw Craig again and he took our picture.
|An example of the natural awesomeness of the race course|
(photo: O2X Summit Challenges)
|Photo: O2X Summit Challenges|
|Photo: O2X Summit Challenges|
|Tara, Jared and I just before we headed down.|
Photo: Craig Coffey/O2X
(photo: Jared Herman)
|photo: Tara Roch|
Post race warm up with Frank and Yitzy!!
They were nice and warm :)
(photo: Yitzy Sontag)
Once we got down, I changed up and got some yummy food, had whiskey shots (3!), and warmed up inside the lodge. And then, someone called my name and pulled me aside, asking me to go talk to Adam and Paul in the other room. I went in and they told me that they were going to present me with the Rise Higher Award, a tribute to one racer per race who has overcome a major challenge or obstacle in their life, and wanted to make sure that it was ok to announce this in front of everyone. HONORED! I accepted. The awards ceremony was awesome and top racers were awarded super cool hand carved bamboo plaques, prize money, gift baskets, etc. The last award was the Riser Higher Award and Adam and Paul called me up. Adam said such wonderful words about my journey and Faye and Paul presented me with a beautifully hand carved box and a TruFit Personal Training System. There were tears, of course ;). I saw Adam later and he said he was trying to keep it together up there. LOL. You did great, Adam!!!
|Paul, myself and Adam|
photo: Jared Herman
|photo: Frank Fumich|
|yes, I will post every pic available of me and two handsome Navy SEALs. LOL ;)|
|photo: Frank Fumich|
Thank you, Craig, Adam, Gabriel and Paul. You will go so far with this race series. You will change people's lives and we thank you! Congrats on a job well done! See you guys at the Loon Mountain Race!
|The amazing race directors, Craig, Paul, Adam and Gabriel.|
Congrats, guys!! You will be amazingly successful!
(photo permission by: Kathleen McCullough Normandin)
Sign up via this link!!!
Next O2X Summit Challenges:
- Sunday River, ME September 27
- Loon Mtn, NH, October 18
- Windham, NY October 25
Push your limits!! Rise Higher!