* From: Rob Baynes (a.k.a. Capt. Stache)
* Event: O2X Loon Mt. Oct. 3, 2015
* Date: 2015-10-03
* Event Details
The parking and on site (Loon mountain lodge) hotel were excellent. There were many food options – I loved the pulled pork and squash / apple gratin. My kids liked the camp fires, smores and they both (10 and 14) got to volunteer at the top finish line to give out medals and water. There was free beer Friday night and a great camp fire and talk by Mike Monarch. The night before and after race party at base camp were very well done. They even had carpeted tents with foam rollers to recover on. Plenty of couches, picnic tables and adirondack chairs too. Last year the finish medal (I know some of you just do these things for the bling) was a canteen full of water. This year it was an engraved spork! The shirt is a very nice stretchy lululemon deal with an understated o2x on one sleeve.
* Race Details
In my limited experience, I would rate this race in terms of difficulty between this years dry spartan super (Barre, MA) and the bone frog challenge. The running surface varied from nice steep dirt mountain roads to total wilderness with large boulders and slippery moss. I loved the off trail sections where you had to climb over rocks and use the trees. The views from the top of the two peaks were worth it. When it got too steep, I just power walked until it was less steep and I could run again. There were no man made obstacles, just what the organizers could find in nature to put in our way: large boulders, down trees, moss and steep hills. There was even a bit of mental torture, at the top of the second peak you could just see the gondola, then the course went down a super steep drop off (mossy and I slid down most of it on my butt) and then back up some cool rock caves to the top. I’m already signed up for next year and my 11 year old daughter will run it with me.
The 4 organizers were always around and accessible, as was the volunteer coordinator – Lizzie. Great job o2x team, I’ll be seeing you every year!
* From: Niki Leonard
* Event: O2X Loon Mountain
* Date: 2015-10-03
* Event Details
What it is: A natural obstacle course using just over 5mi of Loon Mountain.
Where: Loon Mountain, Lincoln NH. This even takes places solidly during fall foliage season, creating stunning views, both at base camp and at the finish.
This year, being heavy handed in the amount of #RaceLocal events, I was faced with a choice for this weekend on which race to take on. Originally, I was leaning towards the other big event, with tons of mud and lots of obstacles, but after reading Beth and Lisa’s reviews on past O2X, and reading their passion about this event, I decided that this was a race I had to try. Add in the bonus that I am familiar with the area and one of my favorite breweries was only a few miles down the street, I was very excited!
To get the full experience of O2X, you really have to get to base camp the night before the race. They set up to start the party at 4pm Friday night, and they certainly make the incentive to arrive early well worth it. As I drove towards Loon Mountain Friday evening, signs for O2X were along the road telling us to “Rise Higher”. Parking was free and plentiful on site both the night before and the morning of, the signage pointing us to base camp was not clear and we did get a wee bit confused. A minor overlook, and once we were in base camp, about 1.5 hour after it started, it was clear that we were in for a delightful night. There was an organic food vendor, a bar serving guiness, wine, and spiked cider, a Lululemon vendor tent, a smore’s bar, a hot chocolate bar (with bailey’s to add in), lawn games, Dunkin stand, flatbread pizza stand, and fires to keep even the chilliest warm, as well as plenty of adirondack chairs with pillows and/or blankets, and music playing. I headed straight for registration tent to do my pre-packet pick-up. Two waivers filled out in a jiffy, with the offering of fresh apples and O2X stickers while you wait, then plenty of volunteers getting you checked in, to where I was given an O2X string bag filled with my swag and race bib, as well as a 21+ bracelet. In under 5 minutes I was ready to enjoy the base camp, and was sent straight to the hot chocolate bar to get my brushed stainless steel mug with the O2X logo on it, to which I could use to get UNLIMITED Guiness beer with all evening!
After grabbing my first mug of Guiness Blonde, I decided to check out my swag. This race does not hold back! In my reusable string bag I found a light blue Lululemon tech T-shirt with a small screen print of O2X on the sleeve, Taza 95% Organic Dark Chocolate, an organic chocolate oatmeal bar (with a coupon), and a KillClif recovery bar. All quality items and well appreciated!
The evening had a lot to bring. Around 7pm there was Mountainside Yoga, which was free to all. This was an absolute hoot to watch! Most of the runners were a few mugs in, and the instructor left traditional yoga to the morning. She had them doing a high-energy psuedo cardio/yoga session with lots of jumping and stretching. While I opted to not join, I truly enjoyed watching and laughing. And not long after this, there was the fireside chat session to which a motivational speaker talked with the group. As I chose to get a room locally instead of camping on site (which you could do for an extra $30), I missed the fireside chat. However, the entire evening was a resounding success and was absolutely wonderful for them to host!
The morning of the race, I arrived back to base camp about 45 minutes before my heat time. The Dunkin station was free for all (coffee, hot chocolate, bagels), and the local organic food vendor was open selling warm breakfast. The first thing that struck me was the very long line. I at first assumed it was for bag check (which I didn’t need having the hubby with me), but found out quickly, was the line for the optional GPS tracker (and there was no line at all for bag check). Needing an official time for the racelocal points, I jumped in line with friends, and thankfully, the line moved faster than it seemed. I’m not sure how this could be improved in the future, but it was one of the few things in the “could use improvement” category for me. Otherwise, I was fully ready to go with a solid 15 minutes to spare! I decided it was a good time to go get some water in me, as I chose not to run with hydration, which thus resulted in my missing the team photo, however left me quite near the starting gate!
At about 8:53, they called the elites and the 9am heat wave to the stage to start warming up. They had us doing jumping jacks, squats, and a few other stretches in a very tight area. It was both useful and comical, which is a great way to start off any race. The emcee was high energy and comical, which was also very welcomed. The elites headed over to the gates just before 9am, and got started a few minutes late, which resulted in the 9am heat starting a little late. A small hiccup and barely noticeable, as we were all enjoying ourselves! With some pumping up from the emcee, we were off before you knew it!
* Race Details
The tagline of this race is to “Rise Higher”, and accordingly so, the racers start at the base of the mountain and finish at the summit. This is not a death march or trail run. The designers took all Loon had to offer and created a 5.23 mile, 2200+ ft elevation gain course, and the used EVERYTHING. There is not a single man made obstacle on the course, but the course had many obstacles from stone hopping (or brook running), climbing over boulders, over/under fallen trees or the snow makers, and some serious technical terrain. Truthfully, their uphill timed scramble was one of the most exhausting and energy consuming obstacles I’ve ever done, and it was difficult. The entire race can never be deemed as “easy”.
Straight out the gate you catch a large trail that winds you up to the right, then to the left on a fairly soft gradient. The course keeps working to the left and up and about one mile or so out, you bang a sharp right, so now you’re almost switchbacking, but you’re working the across thick woods with grassy ski slopes and a fairly gently up/down elevation gain. Right around mile 2, you hit a very wide trail (much like you started on) that bombed from 1/3 up the mountain, right back down to the bottom, which leveled out and brought you to water station one, somewhere coming up to 3 miles. The best part of this downhill (other than it was downhill) was the bigfoot jumping out at runners! A good sense of humor is always well appreciated for me! While the width of trails here started to taper, with less and less wide trails, to more bushwacked paths, as we went on, the elevation started to heavily increase. Around mile 3.5, we hit the second water stop, the first elevation sign of 750ft, and the one and only timed scramble. This was a tough spot to hit. We’ve had some pretty tough climbs coming to this point, especially within the last half mile, and to know that there was less than 2 miles left and all that elevation to conquer (finish was just above 2200ft), was almost disheartening. This water stop offered both nuun and water, as well as Gu (which I don’t like but was great for those who do), so two cups of water and a nuun down, I tackled that scramble.
As I mentioned earlier, the scramble, aside from the elevation gain, was the most difficult part of the race. Distance-wise, it was relatively short, however, elevation and natural obstacle-wise, it was dense and heavy. The slope was STEEP, and there were many roots tangled in as well as loose dirt. The decomposition layer was 4″ thick, at least, throughout most climbs, and it was no different here. They boulders were placed in the middle of the route, and you had to go over. My hands were working as hard as my feet, and about 2/3 up, I actually had to step off for a quick breather. I don’t believe in stopping on a climb; that it wastes more energy to stop then go, but I had to stop. A hands to knees breather for a few real deep breaths, and on I went.
The great part about this race, was that even with 750′ to 2200′ change in under 2 miles, it wasn’t a constant climb. The designers gave you multiple places to run a more flat trail between climbs and catch your breath. This is the sign of an amazing course. They’ll make you work for that flatter trail, and you’ll love it when you’re there. A few more climbs and trails after the scramble, you come out to a nice rocky open area, which had music blasting a little more than a tenth of a mile away, and it got you moving. I was tired, but hearing that music, you wanted to get there. It turned out to be water stop 3 at roughly mile 4.5. There was a guy with a bear head and a staff member cheering you on. More water and more nuun for everyone.
From there it was more rolling hills, but a few chances to catch your breath with some slight downhills. At one point, you see the gondola landing in front of you, and hear the music, but then you bang a sharp left for some seriously steep and technical down hill. I’m sure I was not the only one who was quite disheartened to go down. It meant we had to go back up! And we dropped some serious elevation with about a half mile left. All of it had to be made back up. We hit another wide trail, and started the trek back up. This lead us to the ice caves. So close to the end, and a nice treat, we weaved our way over and through some of the biggest boulders and up wooden stairs to get through them. Go through or over one of the banisters, back to another bushwacked trail, more elevation, util you come out of the woods and a nice wide trail to keep trekking up. At this point, you could hear the music again and a ton of cheering. You took a sharp right and there was the finish! Right there! About a 10th of a mile away, right up that hill. Yes, up the hill. It was bittersweet. I started trudging up and with friends, racers, and spectators yelling to push, I somehow found a last bit of energy and finished running up that hill! Crossed the finish line and received the coolest, most unique medal ever; a titanium spork with a bottle opener on the other end attached to an O2X lanyard!! I quickly grabbed water and admired the hot chocolate while a (quickly) cooled down from the race and celebrated before heading back down the mountain via the gondola to go back to base camp for one more free beer.
This race is easily one of the best races I’ve run this year. It is well run, it has excellent swag, and the race is both unique and very challenging. I didn’t experience any FOMO for choosing this race over the others. This race is like a well kept secret, or a misunderstood genius just waiting to bust out and blow people away. Their attention to detail and the love they give each and every runner is bar none. I couldn’t recommend a race series more for any runner who loves either obstacle course running and/or trail running who is looking for a great challenge and a lot of fun!
* From: Lisa Cullity
* Event: 02x Loon mountian summit challenge
* Date: 2015-10-03
* Event Details
I signed up last minute (2pm Friday before race), hubs had to work the night before till11pm. I dragged the poor guy on the road with me just before 5 am to make it from southeastern mass to Loon NH with plenty of time to figure out parking and registration. I did not need to worry. The ride up rt 93 was an easy stress free drive, and the mountain is minutes off the highway. I got there early – and parking was a snap (and free). Volunteers directed you and it was a very short walk to the festival and start area. I got my registration in minutes upon arrival, and had tons of time to kill. I mean warm up. lol. Swag!!! the best at any race I’ve been to. ever. Very high quality Lululemon top, with logo on sleeve. Fantastic stainless mugs – again with Logo. Medals were awesome and inventive “sporks”. Additional race gear was available for purchase, most at reasonable pricing levels. Festival had tons of giveaways and vendors -little whoopie pies to die for, hot cider, hot chocolate, coffee, bagels, apples -all free. If that was not enough – top quality vendors offered bison burgers, sweet potato fries, flat bread pizzas – everything I had was good, but prices were at usual high race mark ups, personal pizza -9$, bison burger (no sides) 8.75$, you get the idea. Base lodge was open and warm, and not over crowded. Bathrooms were clean and there was seldom a line. If you wanted to hang outside it was chilly, but many outside fire pits and heaters were going so you could warm up.
* Race Details
The starts were staggered and controlled. the path was very well marked -you’d have to been asleep to go off course. it wound all around the mountain, making use of slopes, roads, bushwhack paths, boulders, and all forms of ski mountain obstacles. There were areas to run, areas to climb, areas to hike, and even stretches of butt sliding for me. I wore a small pack, probably really didn’t need too – but it didn’t slow me down. My Reebok All terrains served me well, I slipped very little. I thoroughly enjoyed every part of this race. It was challenging, fun, beautiful, and rewarding. It was very much like doing the “middle accent” of Killington 2014, without obstacles. I am a middle of the pack kind of runner, and my final time for this event was 2:06:00. Due to my late sign up I paid $110 – and for the first time at a race I truly felt as if I got my monies worth!
I only have on criticism of this race, and its a very small one – spectators. there are very few points for them to see the race from. one place is the end, the summit – and they could go up and watch – but needed to pay $10 to do so. I was told this is a discount.