Saturday, November 19, 2016

F.I.T. Challenge VII Fall 2016

“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 qualifier).

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.

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