This base-to-summit mountain race, riddled with natural obstacles, simulates the kind of environments Navy SEALs encounter out in the field
I'm always up for a challenge. And while I might not be the greatest long distance runner or smoothest mountain biker, I love to push myself to try new things and test my body—especially with things that involve strength and sweat! We all like what we're good at, right?
I'd never heard of O2X, the brainchild of four friends (three of whom are former Navy SEALs) who are passionate about human performance. Their hope is to take people out of their comfort zones and expose them to things they would never otherwise have a chance to see or do. So when they invited me to be a part of the O2X Summit Challenge Series up Grouse Mountain in Vancouver, Canada, I was immediately game. While I've done obstacle course races like Spartan and Warrior Dash before, this race was different: The course, mapped out by the founders, was a Mother Nature-made, five-plus mile, 2,300-foot elevation gain trek from the bottom of a mountain to the top, with the goal of emulating what happens to SEAL Teams when they drop into a location.
"When we were in the mountains, we never encountered man-made obstacles, but had to navigate the natural terrain," explains Gabriel Gomez, co-founder of O2X and former Navy SEAL Platoon Commander, who I had the pleasure of running (or at some points speed hiking) the race with.
Let me tell you, five-plus miles may sound short, but with an elevation gain of more than 2,000 feet, Grouse Mountain, while gorgeous, is no joke. But "your body and mind are capable of doing 100 times more than you think," Gomez reminded me before the challenge. "During the race, you focus on one challenge at a time and not worry about how much is left. In the Teams, we call it one evolution at a time—you can't worry about something you're not even dealing with yet." (Luckily, we have Fitness Tips to Conquer High-Altitude Workouts.)
That's where the race becomes similar to training, explains Gomez—90 percent mental. "Everyone who starts is physically able to accomplish the physical part, it's the mental aspect of dealing with the cold water, lack of sleep, and not knowing when things will end that makes people quit SEAL Training," says Gomez. "Our races are similar in that all racers can physically finish, but the unknown of never having done a race like ours and the different terrain makes people think twice during the course whether they can go on."
And that's where your team comes in (mine included Lululemon PR specialist Mattie Cragin, digital marketing manager of GTBikes Andrew Cho, our former Navy SEAL, Gomez, and, oh, right, me). You never want to leave anyone behind—as Gomez informed us, there's never been a SEAL left behind or taken prisoner, ever. So while I struggled, jumping over fallen trees double my size, scrambling straight up a 650-foot climb, dodging roots and bounding over rock formations up a waterfall, the feeling of accomplishment when crossing the finish with my team made it all worth it. O2X, Gomez, and Lululemon were right: In one of the most beautiful places I've ever been, on top of an iconic mountain, in a foreign country, with a team of incredible people, surrounded by strangers, I experienced a life-transforming experience.
If you want to share this experience, get a group of friends together (or go at it yourself!) and sign up for O2X's upcoming Summit Challenges in Winter Park, Colorado on August 15 or at Loon Mountain, New Hampshire on October 3. (Or sign up for one of the 10 Best Marathons to Travel the World.)