Rise Higher

By Meghan La Reau

Scrambling toward the finish line.

Scrambling toward the finish line.

My brother recently started an active outdoor lifestyle company. Its mission is to return fitness back to its outdoor roots and their philosophy is “nothing compares to the authentic challenges provided by Mother Nature.” It’s much more than just a race, rather it’s an experience from camping to fireside speakers to promoting environmental stewardship.

O2X, the company, has an environmental stewardship plan that pledges to leave each mountain as well or better than when they arrived. Their post-‐race remediation plan is critical, and begins with responsible course design – to not disturb the mountain. The plan also includes leaving no wrappers, water bottles or trash on the course – “pack in, pack out.” O2X encourages everyone to bring reusable water bottles with plenty of water stations to refill, providing only compostable paper products, and collecting donations of old running shoes to be recycled. As an EPA Waste Wise partner, they are striving for zero waste events. All waste was sorted into compostable and recycled containers. O2X reduced its carbon footprint by providing solar panels to recharge phones, promoting carpooling to the event, and requesting all applications be submitted online to reduce paper use. The company also sources all food and beverages for each event locally.

I had to support my brother in his new endeavor so I registered for a race!

The challenge I signed up for is an off-trail mountain race traversing natural obstacles up a mountain, in this case, Windham Ski Resort in New York. The race was four miles experiencing a

The team pauses for a photo during a water break halfway to the top.

The team pauses for a photo during a water break halfway to the top.

net elevation gain of 1,350 feet. The race at Windham went from Base Camp in front of the Windham Base Lodge, journeying through winding switchbacks crossing first on to East Peak, then on and off trail and through rugged natural terrain. The Finish Line, atop West Peak Summit, overlooks the awesome view of East Peak, Windham Mountain Village, Hudson Valley and the Catskills.

While working and raising three kids, I tried to train as well as I could. Training included road running and running up the stairs at 290 Broadway, EPA’s New York City offices. However, nothing I did prepared me for this adventure. We ran up rock outcrops, crawled through caves of rock, and climbed up nearly vertical ski slopes. All the leaves had fallen and it rained for the previous three days making conditions very slick. Thank goodness for the three water stops! One hour and 31 minutes later, at an elevation of 3,035 feet, we reached the summit! Never had I experienced such a challenging race. Sign me up for the next one!


About the Author: Meghan La Reau is an Environmental Scientist in EPA’s RCRA Compliance Branch for the past 16 years conducting enforcement of hazardous waste facilities and solid waste landfills. Meghan enjoys indoor activities such as wine making and outdoor activities such as running, hiking, and attending sporting events. Meghan holds a B.S in Environmental Resource Management from Penn State University and a Masters in Environmental Science from NJIT.

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