Tuesday, April 11, 2017

F.I.T. Challenge VIII Spring 2017

Since I took part in my first F.I.T. Challenge in April 2015, this race has been a staple of my calendar. April 2017 was no exception. 

I showed up in Cumberland, Rhode Island's Diamond Hill Park at around 10:10 a.m., about 30 minutes before the 10:45 a.m. NE Spahtens team wave. Parking, as always, was $10 and onsite. Not a bad deal. I had to park in the second parking lot, which is about a three to five minute walk from the main venue area. Once I arrived, I was able to register. As always, registration was a breeze. (And, as a bonus, I got to see teammate, Marc.) I got my small unisex t-shirt and a timing chip -- I was good to go. 

I had a few minutes until race time, so I headed over to the NE Spahtens team tent where I did some visiting with Bobby and Paul, lusted after Paul's DryRobe (Yes, I'm going to cave and order one), and changed into my Icebugs. 

At 10:40 a.m., it was go time. I headed over to the start line with my fellow NES teammates who had not already started the race as multi-lappers or in the elite wave. (Seriously, I never see anyone anymore; so many of my friends from the NES multi-lap or run elite!) The announcer did a festive job and at 10:45 a.m. we were crossing the line to tackle the 3.5 mile F.I.T. Challenge course.

As usual, race director, Robb, packs in as much elevation as he can at Diamond Hill. We did approximately 1,000 feet of elevation, which included some gnarly descents. The course was more-or-less reversed from the last few races and featured some nice sections of trail. Compared with last year, we actual got to start on a less steep section. The past couple of F.I.T. Challenges have begun with a very steep climb; however, for this April's race, that climb was moved to later in the course when I was more warmed up. I think that this was a better move. 

There was a fair bit of trail running to start the race. Many of the F.I.T. Challenge courses start this way, in what is, I believe, an effort to spread out the pack. The weather was modestly sunny but not overly warm. It was in the low 40s and a bit windy. I had kept on a base-layer tech t-shirt under my NES drill shirt and was glad that I did. 

It was especially key that I had layered up because this spring's F.I.T. Challenge was slow. My main theme of the race was waiting. I would estimate that I spent almost half an hour in total waiting at various obstacles. This was quite a disappointment, especially since the obstacles were so fantastic that I wouldn't skip them even though I could. F.I.T. Challenge is an obstacle course race, and I was there to do the obstacles. I ended up waiting over 15 minutes at the hanging cargo net, about five minutes each at the two Destroyer walls, and a few minutes more at a cargo climb. Not ideal to say the least. The stopping and starting meant that I got cold and definitely interfered with the flow of my race an my enjoyment of the experience. I think that the abundance of multi-lap athletes (to whom the rest of us always had to give right-of-way) might have contributed to these back-ups. Fingers crossed that this is adjusted for the next event. 

The obstacles themselves were excellent! F.I.T. Challenge features a variety of unique obstacles, all of them fun. This year, they featured an obstacle that was much like the devil's steps, a set of upside-down stairs that one must ascend by one's hands. I still have yet to master this obstacle. While I did a bit better getting up the steps on the first side, I was unable to transition to the next half (even while using my feet, which I know is illegal). I have to work to get this down before OCRWC in October. 
There was also the hanging cargo net that caused such a back-up. I was much more efficient on this obstacle than last fall. I went backwards and used my hands and feet to move along quite quickly. I was pleased with my revised technique and improvement. 

As always, Robb had the rope climb back-to-back with the peg boards. This year, we had to do the climb first and the peg boards second, as opposed to last time when the process was reversed. 
There were also a variety of floating walls -- both a skinny one and a thicker one, the latter of which moves....a lot. When I first saw the thicker floating wall at the last F.I.T. Challenge, I was alarmed at how much it moved when I was at the top. This time, I was more prepared and I kept my body much closer to the wall as I climbed and traversed over. 

One of my favorite obstacles is always the Destroyer wall. This obstacle features an inverse wall that transitions to a high-up wall with grips. Creator, Larry Cooper, has now created a second version, the Destroyer 2.0, where the top wall is angled away from the climber. After climbing up the Destroyer 2.0, I was surprised to find a set of balance tired on the back side. Having trouble reaching the first, I basically draped my body across it, then tried to stretch to the second tire. I promptly fell off, had to pull myself back up, and then traversed the tired on foot as designed. Paul and Vince had a riot making fun of me on this one. (May the video Paul took never see daylight.)  

Another obstacle that I consider a highlight at F.I.T. Challenge is the rig. I especially loved the rig this year. It was the perfect balance of challenge and fun. The rig started with a horizontal pipe, transitioned to a few monkey bars, back to a pipe, and then to a cargo net climb. It was fantastic! There were also a couple of lanes where the horizontal bars were replaced with hand grips to up the difficulty. 

After the rig, it was a few short obstacles to the finish -- an inclined wall, an atlas stone lift, and an inverted ladder wall. I finished in 1:48:45 (though I've been subtracting time in my head due to all the back-ups).

F.I.T. Challenge is a great #racelocal event that features a course that's a fun length at 3.5 miles and loads of obstacles that are fun and unique. They do a great job combining a race that many people could do with a race that is competitive enough for the seasoned OCR athlete. (Hunter McIntyre ran F.I.T. in the elite wave this April. I cannot believe I missed seeing him -- so cool!) While this April's F.I.T. was not my favorite due to all the waiting around, I still had a lot of fun. I think I might want to consider the elite wave for the next event so as to avoid the lag time. Either way, it's always great to hit the trail, climb and swing!

(Note: Photo credits Daniel T. Parker and Vince Rhee.)

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