On October 18, Loon Mountain will host a stop on the innovative O2X Summit Challenges race series. When the race gun sounds, runners will climb more than 2,100 vertical feet, bushwhack through dense forest, and tackle a host of all-natural obstacles on their way to the summit of Loon Mountain. Think of it as a mashup of trail running and the Monster Mud Run – with all the obstacles designed and built by Mother Nature.
Founded by three former Navy SEALs (Gabriel Gomez, Adam La Reau, and Paul McCullough) and a recovering attorney (Craig Coffey), O2X Summit Challenges are centered on the core belief that natural terrain is both the most challenging – a near-vertical hill for strength, a fallen tree for balance or a rock field for dexterity. We recently sat down with Craig and Gabriel and asked them how they came up with the idea for the O2X Summit Challenges, what the course will be like, and where the event fits into the competitive world of obstacle course racing.
So what are the O2X Summit Challenges? How is it different from other obstacle course races?
Craig – You can start to think of it as the intersection between obstacle racing and trail running. So combining the best of both worlds.
It’s essentially taking a look at Loon Mountain and saying all the obstacles you’d ever need to create a challenging race are right there. We don’t need to dig mud pits or put monkey bars up or have a high wall in your parking lot. If you take people on a properly-designed course on the mountain it’s going to be challenging and fun.
Gabriel – It’s for all levels, too. We’ve got a Single Diamond race and a Double Diamond race. The Single Diamond race is for people who may want to do a 5k-type race. It’s very doable. The Double Diamond race is for people that maybe have done a 10k or half marathon or some triathlons and want to challenge themselves even more.
Where did you get the idea for this?
Gabriel – There’s four of us and we’ve all known each other for quite a while. We all have similar backgrounds. The thing that we had in common beforehand was that we’re all outdoor, athletic runners. We do a lot of different kinds of races. Craig and I have literally run 10 or 15,000 miles together, and a number of different marathons together.
We thought this is something we have a passion for, and given our backgrounds we thought there was a great, fast-growing sector in the obstacle course race market. The beauty of what we’ve done is every mountain is different. People want to ski Loon one day, they may want to ski Sunday River later. All our races, all our courses are going to be different, because each mountain is different.
Loon’s O2X Summit Challenge is happening on Saturday, October 18. When are the other races?
Gabriel – Our inaugural race is September 13th at Sugarbush, and then two weeks later we’re going to be at Sunday River, and then we’re coming here on the 18th of October, and then we’re going to Windham New York the week after that.
How is Loon’s course different from the other race courses?
Gabriel – We didn’t want to just go up a green run, then a blue run, then a black run. You’re going to really be going through unpaved trails that these guys [O2X co-founders Adam La Reau and Paul McCullough] have found with the [Loon] mountain operations team. These guys know the mountain a lot better than we do. We just know how to expose and exploit the natural terrain that you guys have. Every mountain is different, so if you do our race here at Loon, it’s going to be significantly different than what you do over at Sunday River. Just like if you ski, you’re going to have different runs, and a different kind of experience. It’s meant for a wide spectrum of people, whether you’re a basic beginning runner, or someone who’s done Ironmans or ultramarathons before.
What’s this ‘Base Camp’ I keep hearing about?
Craig – Base Camp [located by the Governor’s Lodge] is going to be comprised of a village of environmentally responsible food vendors, and that means a local farmers’ market. Maybe the local dairy farmer can bring in chocolate milk, or a local burrito maker, for example. We’re going to source as much as we can locally.
Speaking of environmental responsibility, you’re putting a big emphasis on sustainability at your races. Tell us about that.
Craig – There’s a really strong environmental component to what we do. One of our pledges to the mountain is that we’re going to leave the mountain and the community better than we found it. It’s a commitment that comes from our race – we’re not digging mud pits, we’re not scarring the mountain, we’re just taking the natural terrain and running over it. But also we’re creating a no-waste event. We’re partners with EPA WasteWise, which means we’re going to strive to have a no-waste event. We’re partners with One Percent for the Planet, so we’re putting our money where our mouth is. We’re contributing back to environmental causes and we’re also partners with Leave No Trace, which is a Boulder, Colorado-based nonprofit that teaches people how to camp and be outdoors responsibly, and it teaches companies like ours how to hold a race that’s responsible.
What concrete steps will you take to ensure that the race has a minimal impact on the land?
Craig – So one of the things we’re doing to take action on that is contracting with Reverb, which is a nonprofit greening consultant. They’re coming in and telling us exactly what steps we need to do to mitigate and reduce waste, to leave as minimal an impact as we can on Loon – from things as granular as composting, to encouraging carpooling to how to design the course in a way that doesn’t alter some of the ecosystem. So we have a very strong environmental thread to what we’re doing.
Want to run the O2X Summit Challenge at Loon Mountain? Watch the video above and Sign up today!