“So so much fun!” If one is to judge the success of an obstacle course race based on the first text sent, F.I.T.Challenge would be deemed an epic success!
After a month of racing in sub-prime
weather in October, I was thrilled to learn that the weather for this fall’s
F.I.T. Challenge VII was to be sunny and in the 50s. F.I.T. Challenge is the
epitome of #racelocal and time and again proves to be one of my favorite races on the calendar.
Taking place twice annually at Diamond
Hill Park in Cumberland, Rhode Island, F.I.T. Challenge combines a course with
innovative and frequent obstacles with some solid trail running and around
1,500 feet of elevation — enough to make you feel like you’re doing some
climbing but also not so much that you feel beaten down. Challenge without a
beatdown is one of the best things about F.I.T. Challenge. Race director, Robb
McCoy, prides himself on offering a race that is always just over the 5K mark.
At 3.4 miles, this fall’s course was right on the money. After doing lots of
long races, it’s nice to have a race where you can get out and push the speed a
little bit. For those who prefer endurance at every event, there is a multi-lap
option. This fall, Robb had around 200 multi-lappers, making this a very
popular option (and one that could serve as an OCR World Championship
For my part, after a busy October, I was
ready to have a race that would take under 90 minutes, have some do-able but
challenging obstacles, and be fun! With the lovely weather and the fun course,
I was almost tempted to go out for round two (and you could make that
adjustment on race day); the course was that much fun for me. In the end, I
decided that my one super fun lap was good enough for me. I have perfect
memories of a very enjoyable race day. 100% enjoyable.
I arrived at Diamond Hill about half an
hour before the NE Spahtens 10:45 a.m. wave start. I paid my $10 to park onsite
and then headed over to the main festival area. Registration was a breeze. We
were provided with timing chips to wear on our ankles. No bibs this time.
Likely this is because, unlike in past years, there were no event photographers
on the course. For me, as a NE Spahtens, this wasn’t really an issue since we
were lucky enough to have Vince there taking pictures of the team.
After registration, I made my way over to
the Spahtens tent where I changed into my Icebugs and then stowed my gear. I
spent some time socializing before heading over to the start line. The 10:45
a.m. wave was Spahtens only. Much of the team was already on course, opting for
the multi-lap challenge. There were some brief announcements, and then we were
off and running!
The course matched fairly closely with
what we did at this spring’s F.I.T. Challenge with a few new obstacles added
in. As with last spring, the course layout was to my liking. There were some
stretches with a bit more running and a few fewer obstacles than I would like;
however, a lot of this was to the beginning of the race and is necessary to
make it so that racers don’t experience waits at obstacles. This is especially
important for a race that is one of the favorite OCRWC qualifiers in the area.
I was very impressed this year but the lack of wait-time at the obstacles. It
was, for me, the best it has been.
The course began by taking us straight up
Diamond Hill. It was quite a steep hill to start out on, but it did a good job
of thinning out the field. Overall, there is a bit of up and down for F.I.T.
Challenge. Robb and his team make use of every inch of elevation on Diamond
Hill. The running is somewhat technical and quite rocky. There are definitely
downhill segments that are gnarly, where my speed is limited by my comfort
running on trails and not my fitness. I was able to get quite a bit of running
in along the course though. The amount of running I’ve been doing lately is
great for my endurance, and I’ve been enjoying reaping the benefits during my
OCRs. I can do a lot more running without feeling tired. Other than the very
steep hills and the gnarly downhills (which do count for a bit), I was able to
run the entire course. The trail running was interesting, challenging, and well
marked. This is a quality build.
Of course the obstacles are the star of
the show. F.I.T. Challenge featured two Destroyer Walls, both the original and
a new Destroyer 2.0. I was lucky to have the creator of the Destroyer be right
by his obstacle when I tackled it and was so pleased with how he praised my
form getting over the wall! I complemented him on his excellent obstacle. The
Destroyer 2.0 has a similar design to the original but with the top wall angled
away from you. I actually found the original to be a bit more of a challenge,
but the new one definitely gets you higher up in the air, plus the transition
at the top of the wall is harder. The Destroyer at Shale Hill takes the cake
though for hardest Destroyer around, with four different difficulties, only one
of which I can do (and I have never failed a Destroyer at F.I.T. Challenge).
Another great obstacle at F.I.T.
Challenge is the hanging cargo net. This net is suspended above you and you
have to traverse it underneath. The volunteer at the obstacle helped me reach
because I was too short, but then I was off. This is definitely a challenging
one. It is made more challenging by the fact that it is immediately followed by
a pegboard climb and then a rope climb.
F.I.T. Challenge also features an
abundance of walls. There is a ladder wall in the woods, two sets of
over-under-thrus, a tall wall with rope, an inverted wall, a set of hurdle
walls with unders, a set of short walls with unders (where you crawl under
picnic tables), and no doubt more that I’m not remembering. A hallmark of F.I.T. Challenge is the floating walls. There were two on course, one of which was a bit thick and had a bit of a challenging transition at the top of the wall. It was wobbly and a bit alarming! There is also a fun
double-up make out of logs.
F.I.T. Challenge also has a cargo climb
and features two carries, the first with a log, which was not too bad, and the
second with a Wreckbag, which was quite lengthy. Fortunately, they provide a
few weights to choose from, anywhere from 25 lbs. to 50 lbs. Wreckbag is a
F.I.T. Challenge partner so there is also a Wreckbag hoist, paired with a
Wreckbag bicep exercise (because Robb loved biceps).
The race finishes with a bang with a
really great rig. There were five different lanes, all different. I attempted
two of them. The first, featured monkey bars, a horizontal bar, more monkey
bars, and then ropes. The ropes were tiny and very hard to grasp. There were
three. I successfully swung along two of them and touched the third before
coming off. Thanks goodness I made the reach so that I could say I completed
the obstacle. From there, we did the ladder wall before attacking a giant slip
wall to finish out the race.
I crossed the line in 1:24:23, good
enough for fifth in my age group, 21/230 for women and 99/472 overall. Most
importantly, I had an absolutely blast. F.I.T. Challenge is one of my favorite
2016 races and a great one to close out the #racelocal season. I can’t wait for
the April race. I will definitely be there.