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Featured Review: FIT Challenge X

The team at F.I.T. Challenge has become known for their top notch small venue events, each one becoming bigger and better. F.I.T. X was no different. Their events feature innovative obstacles, challenging terrain, and elevation all spread a bit over three miles.

When registering for F.I.T. X, Participants had a choice of three different levels of racing. There was a one lap option that had both an elite wave as well as many open waves. Second, they offered a five hour multilap where a runner could complete multiple laps in a five hour window. The third option, being their newest, offered a twelve hour Ultra.

F.I.T. Challenge has taken the concept of multilapping and continued to build upon it. The idea to offer a multilap feature may seem daunting to some race directors, but this is something that Robb McCoy had flourished with. In the past F.I.T. Challenge has offered variations on multilapping, but this April they unveiled an Ultra. It consisted of running as many laps of their 3.3 mile course in twelve hours.

The F.I.T. Challenge Ultra participants, identified by Ultra Bibs, had a unique experience compared to the regular Multilap option. They received a total of three laps obstacle free. The first being their second lap, followed by two more at some point throughout the day. As long as they were wearing their orange armband, they could pass obstacles for that entire lap. After 6pm all obstacles were shut down, leaving the remaining two hours and fifteen minutes obstacle free as well.

Leading up to race day, there were nearly a thousand runners registered. This alone attests to the reputation that the F.I.T. Challenge team has worked to build.

F.I.T.X took place in Cumberland, Rhode Island, at Diamond Hill State Park. Robb MCoy and his team expertly use the terrain to their advantage. With multiple climbes and descents an elevation of 1000 feet is squeezed out of Diamond Hill throughout the 3.3 mile course. There is a mix of technical, rocky, trrails as well as some single track sections. But the most important piece to note is how well marked the race is. The trails are marked with green tape, flags, and arrows. It is near impossible to get lost on a track that this team has laid out. Spread throughout the course athletes found over thirty obstacles.

There is a wide range of obstacles for all skill levels. From low crawls and heavy carries to the Destroyer series and the newly unveiled Devil’s playground. The minds behind some of their devilishly innovative obstacles keep athletes coming back for more. Other obstacles that could be found on course included floating walls, an upside down cargo net you must climb a rope to reach, peg boards, and a teeter totter. There is absolutely something to challenge everyone.

As mentioned above, a new obstacle made its debut this past weekend. From a concept Aaron Farb introduced with the swinging steps on their Devil Steps obstacle at a past event. After a discussion with Larry Cooper the design that was debuted at F.I.T. X was born, including the adjustment where the athlete had to start from the ground. Devil’s Playground was a terrifying delight for runners. It is a metal apparatus that has swinging steps that the athlete must climb up. There were four lanes, one for Elite runners and three for Open Wave runners. The athlete had to start from the ground, grabbing each swinging step up the a-frame then back down. The swinging steps upped the difficulty of an already challenging obstacle. You are only allowed to touch the green parts, touch the black and you had to go back. The difference between the open lanes and the elite being that the elite had a smaller hold to grip on each swinging step.

Outside of the course, F.I.T. Challenge had a buzzing festival area. There was merchandise available for purchase as well as outside vendors. Some of the vendors that could be found in the festival area included Sage Nutrition and Warm-Up Nutrition, both locally based companies. OCR Beast was also present. Baystate Physical Therapy was onsite to offer stretching and massage to help athletes throughout the day. Food was also available for purchase onsite presented by Boru BBQ.

The team at F.I.T. Challenge take safety quite seriously. There was one section of technical terrain that race director Robb McCoy was monitoring closely. For the sake of the athletes participating in this event a decision was made to shift the course slightly. While it took a strenuous and technical piece of course out, the transition was seamless and gave no interruption to the main event. This did not appear to remove or add any mileage to the course.

As a whole, the F.I.T. Challenge team obviously cares about their runners. They work to ensure that problems are dealt with in a timely manner. Whether it is leading up to or on race day, they put forth the extra effort to reach their full potential. Not only to the athletes who train and make this type of event their whole lifestyle, but the casual athletes as well. There were many runners at F.I.T. X who had participated in F.I.T. or Obstacle racing before. However, there were many first timers. No matter who is in attendance F.I.T. X delivers.

Communication is a strong point to note for F.I.T. Challenge. Leading up to F.I.T. X the team provided ample communication across social media platforms and email. If you follow any of their social media accounts you were also able to see the fun being had at volunteer shifts for build days as well as sneak peeks of Devil’s Playground.

Something else that F.I.T. Challenge is known for is the race day swag they offer. Not only for purchase, but what you get for participating in their event. F.I.T. X upped the ante. At this event participants received a nice tech tee, buff, and F.I.T. X medal. Those who multilapped received a numbered pin to commemorate the number of laps completed. If a multilapper completed three or more laps of the course, they were also awarded with a block that prominently displays their achievement. Those blocks have become a long standing goal for many who participate in any of F.I.T. Challenge’s events. Participants in the 12-hour Ultra event received all the same perks as well as some Ultra specific swag. They had customizable bibs to identify on course as Ultra, a 10 ounce sweatshirt, and an Ultra tech tee. For those who completed at least 8 laps also received a belt buckle.

Overall, it is understandable why F.I.T. Challenge is a fan favorite and F.I.T. X did not disappoint. Robb McCoy and his team continues to present OCR Athletes reason to return to F.I.T. events. Not only were athletes presented with an amazing race, swag, and experience, they are in the hands of a race director and team who truly care about the athletes.

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Featured Review: Bermuda Triple Challenge

Who is up for a Racecation?  The Bermuda Triple Challenge is 3 days of OCR spread across the beautiful Island of Bermuda.  You get to experience the real flavor of Bermuda while racing though the original capital of the island, across one of its most beautiful beaches, and around the updated dockyard.  All as part of a charity event for a variety of Bermuda programs.

The Challenge is made up of 3 different races run over three days including an OCR Worlds qualifier.  Each race has its own feel with very almost no obstacle repeat.  There were a lot of familiar obstacles like wall climbs, barb wire crawls, and under/overs but also some unique obstacles I hadn’t seen before.

Here is some general info before I break down the races.  Starting with Swag, all competitors got a pretty nice tech shirt.  They made an effort to ensure that all overseas entrants were ensured a shirt by emailing a few days in advanced and asking your size.  Completing each race earned you a medal piece that all fit together into a nice medal.  There was also sponsor swag handed out at the first two races and food at the last two.

You could enter as an individual or as part of a team.  There were different rules for each as there was a winner for each type of competition.  Individuals ran alone, had a timing chip, and had to complete obstacles or pay a penalty.  For an individual to remain in contention for the podium, they had to complete all three races including 2 laps on Saturday.

Teams ran together and could share obstacle work i.e. one person had to do the weighted carry and they could switch off.  Also, only one person on a team wore a chip and the team had to cross the finish line together.  Teams also had a fund raising component and earned points for the championship based on how much money they raised ($1 = 1 point)

The official hotel for the race is the Fairmount Southampton where they had a special rate for athletes.  This is a beautiful high end hotel located centrally on the island about 2 miles from Saturday’s race.  It was also really close to the Thursday night welcome party ($60 ea) for racers.  A free shuttle bus to all the races is provided from the Fairmount but you are on your own to get back.  I didn’t stay here choosing another hotel that my wife and I liked.  We used the very easy to use Bus/Ferry system to get to the races on Friday and Sunday and took a cab on Saturday.  Speaking to some others, many people had really good luck with AirBnB to save some money.

In addition to the Welcome Party, there was an Island tour on Friday and a Sunset Boat Cruise on Sunday available for racers for an extra fee.

The Argus Urban Foot Race

This is a 3k race through St. George held on Friday night (started about 7:30) so it was dark by the time you finished.  St. George is one of the oldest parts of Bermuda so you ran through windy narrow streets surrounded by old architecture.  It was really nice.

There were a lot of familiar obstacles on the race including a version of the Destroyer (Larry Cooper and his wife were there running) but there were also a fair amount of CrossFit style stations.   Over the course of the race we had to do a tire drag, tire flips, superman burpees, and a long downhill bear crawl.  There was also a bouncy castle to climb through and a cargo net thrown over a bus.  In total there were about 20 obstacles over the short course.

This race was fast and fun as it ran up and down the main street full of bar.  So there were a lot of spectators cheering you on.  After the race, there was DJ in the square and all the bars stayed open.

The Sun Life Island Challenge

This race was Saturday morning and began at Warwick Camp home to the Bermuda Regiment and across the street from Bermuda’s best beaches (Horseshoe Bay).  The course was advertised as a 5k loop but it’s probably a little longer.  Teams ran one lap.  For Individuals, You earned your medal piece after one lap but to run for the podium or to try and qualify for the OCRWC, you had to run 2 laps.  For reference I was told that most people only did one lap.

The terrain played a large part in this race. You spent a lot of time running and doing obstacles in soft sand.  The obstacles were pretty familiar with a couple of standouts.  There were 3 weighted carries, one was along the beach, one went down the beach and up the bluff and back down, and the third went up the steepest part of the bluff to the top and you got to drop the weight there and run back down.  All the carries were long.  The big standouts were running into the surf up to your waist and “running” parallel to the shore for a couple hundred yards, a really long and fast slip and slide, and after you leave the beach to head back to the camp, you take detour to run through the Bermuda Regiment’s permanent Challenge course.  This was really fun and included a 40ft slat wall climb, some crawls, balance beams, and a rope swing.  After that you ran to the finish line.

After the race, there was a BBQ on the parade grounds and racers got their first burger free.  There was also Ice Cream Available.

Chubb Royal Challenge

This was a 5k race though the Royal Naval Dockyard.  The dockyard has been redeveloped to be a Cruise port so there are shops and restaurants but there is an old fort and prison that you get to know pretty well.

This race included swimming and they were very clear that if you weren’t a good swimmer don’t get in the water.  The did offer pool noodles to swim with if you wished but there were opt out penalties for all the swims, 15-30 burpees and some extra running.

The swims were:

1)      A 15 ft jump off a stone pier into the marina and a 100 yd swim to the other side.  This was the first obstacle of the race after about a ¼ mile run.

2)      A rope swing off a pier then swim to a ladder.  If you swung well, you entered the water near the ladder.

3)      A rope traverse between two piers.  Until last year, no one had ever made it the whole way so you went as far as you could and swam the rest of the way.

4)      A jump into the water with a swim to a bunch of inflatable obstacles.  I was told this was supposed to be a zip line but the cargo container used as the start point was put in the wrong place.  I was promised it would be a zip line next year.

 

Other obstacle highlights include a putting challenge (make the putt or do burpees), a pop quiz (get the right answer to a multiplication question or do burpees), and a spear throw.  The spear throw was different than Spartan.  You had to land the spear in a circle sticking in the ground.  Sounds easy but with the wind it was a challenge.

The course itself was a lot of fun.  Besides running along the piers, you run around the old prison and climbed to the roof.  There was long log carry around the entire top of one of the fortifications by all the cannons, the view was amazing.

After finishing the race in the Victualing Yard of the fort, they had a really great buffet for all the races including eggs and bacon, fruit, and roast beef.  The Yard became a big BBQ and party as tons of racers and spectators gathered to watch people finish.

Overall this event was awesome. The four guys in charge were friendly and checked in with us before during and after the races to make sure we were having fun or to see if we had any problems.  Bermudians are known to be friendly anyway but the race volunteers including members of the Regiment were awesome.  Everyone one of them from the young kids to the base commander were cheering us on and offering words of encouragement.

Prizes were given to both individuals and teams (although team winners were announced later due to the fund raising component).  For Individuals, awards were given to the top 3 Masters (40 and over) Men and Women, and top 3 overall Men and Women.  Prizes were Bermudian Rum and Cash.  There was some strong competition among the winners and a strong representation on the podium (and overall) from the Spartan 4-0 team.  While it was fun hanging out with them on the tour and after races, I’m hoping to see more Spahtens next year because it’s more fun with family. Plus I think some of you could hang with the podium crowd especially some of our awesome women.  If it helps convince you, the woman who came in 3rd overall claims to have never run OCR before this, she was a road racer and her husband convinced her to run.

We had the best time running these races.  The different feel for each race, the challenge of the terrain, and the varied obstacle made this a great event.  The flight home was full of racers and we were all talking about making reservations for next year.  I would highly recommend that you add this to your racing bucket list.

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Ep72: The episode where we have no plan …

On this show, we arrive with no agenda, and possibly some audio problems! But, we still get to chat about the races we’ve already hit, call Josh a wimp, and look to the Ragnar Relay season! 

Check out our newly rebooted website! With quick and easy access to the stuff YOU’VE been asking for! Pick up the new NES beach towels for the biggest discount they’ll ever be offered! http://www.newenglandspahtens.com

And register for #racelocal today – earn points, get medals and cool swag – all for supporting and running the local OCR scene! http://www.nespahtens.com/racelocal

Do you enjoy listening to the show? Share this episode with your OCR friends! Leave us a review in iTunes! Leave a comment on social media so we know you’re out there!

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Ep70: Polar Bear Challenge recap, Tough Mudder and more!

This show, the gang gets back together to recap the Polar Bear Challenge at Shale Hill, and run over some of Tough Mudders new 2018 features!

Enjoy the show!

Did you know we have a drill shirt order open? Did you know we’ve got more T Shirts and hoodies and hats and swag in the store than EVER before?

http://www.nesstore.com

Are you enjoying the show? Leave us a review in iTunes, or share this episode to a friend – spread the word and let us know you’re enjoying what we’re doing!

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Shale Hill, Polar Bear Challenge 2018

This is year 6 for Polar Bear Challenge – and a whole bevy of new people got to come to Shale Hill and figure out what we’ve all been talking about for the last half a decade.

The basics – Shale Hill is a fixed course, based about 30 minutes away from Killington, in the sleepy little town of Benson, VT. It has all the physical challenges of an award winning permanent training venue, with none of the huge marketing budget. Shale Hill is simply the best grass roots obstacle course experience you can get in the North East, maybe even the entire US.

Which is why we go back to the Polar Bear Challenge every year. Because the short walk across the field from your parked car to the barn is lit up by bonfires, and looks amazing. Because check in takes seconds, and once she knows you, co-owner Jill greets you by name. Because no matter what mother nature throws at him, Rob is always running around and building something new, or having a talk with a competitive racer about technique, or a joke to put the casual runners at ease. Because the local restaurant ensures there’s a never ending supply of hot bacon and coffee (and sure, some other food) going in the barn all day.

Because you’re always greeted by people who care very deeply about their event, and their sport – and in the OCR world of big box races and big brand sponsorship – that shows.

I’m not going into each obstacle. There were old favorites, and new challenges. As always, they were built well, sometimes quite intimidating and for those of us who run Journeyman – always optional. NEVER be scared of coming to Shale Hill because it’s “too hard”, as the Journeyman option lets you pick your own challenges and do the things you are confident in, and try the others with no penalty.

There were two major changes for the 2018 season.

A new course layout – as we heard on our podcast interview with Rob a week prior, he had put a significant amount of effort into changing the course – and it was entirely different. I also know that he had major problems with the wind blowing down the course tape the previous day, but can happily say that by the time I got there, everything was up, clearly marked – and there was only one time I saw someone off course, and they had entirely missed a really clear arrow pointing in the right direction.

The new course mapped out to about the same distance – just shy of 6.5 miles in this case. Efforts were made to get some of the bigger, more challenging obstacles into the front part of the course, to give the competitive crew a bit more of a shot of completion on the really difficult stuff. This meant that the previously uphill monkey bars were down downhill monkey bars – and I think that worked out just fine for most. As someone who has run many many laps on the “old” course, I didn’t get lost once!

The next big difference was in the competitive penalty system. Due to the nature of the Polar Bear Challenge – and it’s temperatures – penalties have always been done by picking up a chip at a failed obstacle, then “cashing in” for a penalty when you arrived back at the end of your first lap – but, for 2018 there were only 3 stations like that. Everywhere else, if you chose to “fail” the obstacle (you could attempt it as often as you like), you had to run back to the previous obstacle that you fully completed. This could mean a short jog back to a tough obstacle, or it could mean a long trot back to an easy obstacle. Once you had run back, done the last obstacle, you could turn around, come on back, and “touch and go” through the tougher one you chose to fail. I didn’t run journeyman, but it seemed to flow well.

The biggest theme of the day though? Ice.

It’s a winter race, so duh, it’s going to be cold – but this was one of the coldest renditions of Polar Bear Challenge I’ve experienced (the only one colder being year one, which stayed around 10f for the whole day) – but, with that cold we also had ice. Lots of ice. Ice everywhere. There were several slopes and hills that were only safely traversed on your butt, or riding a log!

So many people skip this event. Considering Shale Hill “too far” (tell that to the guys from Texas here for the event) or too hard (many of us only ever do one lap!) or too cold (I always finish a sweaty mess) – Shale Hill should not be missed and like all local events, support them, or you’ll lose them.

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Ep69: Big changes at Shale Hill!

Shale Hill is the award winning fixed venue thats a short drive from Boston, and all OCR fans NEED to visit! Polar Bear Challenge is in just one week and it’s 6th year will be it’s biggest change – a whole new course layout, new obstacles, new distance, new penalties, new people – it’s all new!

On this show, Paul and Sandy talk to owner Rob Butler about the changes, and what to expect.

 

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ould you like to find more team resources? Check our welcome page out, http://www.nespahtens.com/welcome

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Ep68: Launching into 2018 with some predictions

On this episode, Paul, Sandy and Josh talk about races that are coming up fast – Blizzard Blast and Polar Bear Challenge – and news thats already happened at the national events like Spartan Race and Tough Mudder – then we each put down a prediction for what will happen in the coming year. 

Leave a comment below! What do YOU think will happen in 2018!

 

Would you like to buy team gear? Including the new cooling towels! Check out our store, http://www.nesstore.com
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ould you like to find more team resources? Check our welcome page out, http://www.nespahtens.com/welcome

We’re on FacebookInstagram and Twitter. Join our Mailing List, and maybe even become a 2017 Member and support the community!

Don’t forget to subscribe, and leave us a review in iTunes – it’s the little things that help this podcast continue – your questions, your reviews, your feedback let us know you are out there, and you enjoy the content, and we’ll keep recording for you!

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Ep67: Joshua Fiore, Spartan Ultra World Champion

On this show, our Josh, Sandy and Paul chat with Joshua Fiore, who just won the Ultra World Championship in Iceland. We talk about how he got there, what he had to do to win it, and if he carried his engagement ring the whole way!

Enjoy the show, and Merry Christmas!

Would you like to buy team gear? Including the new cooling towels! Check out our store, http://www.nesstore.com
W
ould you like to find more team resources? Check our welcome page out, http://www.nespahtens.com/welcome

We’re on FacebookInstagram and Twitter. Join our Mailing List, and maybe even become a 2017 Member and support the community!

Don’t forget to subscribe, and leave us a review in iTunes – it’s the little things that help this podcast continue – your questions, your reviews, your feedback let us know you are out there, and you enjoy the content, and we’ll keep recording for you!

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Ep67: Joshua Fiore, Spartan Ultra World Champion

On this show, our Josh, Sandy and Paul chat with Joshua Fiore, who just won the Ultra World Championship in Iceland. We talk about how he got there, what he had to do to win it, and if he carried his engagement ring the whole way!

Enjoy the show, and Merry Christmas!

Would you like to buy team gear? Including the new cooling towels! Check out our store, http://www.nesstore.com
W
ould you like to find more team resources? Check our welcome page out, http://www.nespahtens.com/welcome

We’re on FacebookInstagram and Twitter. Join our Mailing List, and maybe even become a 2017 Member and support the community!

Don’t forget to subscribe, and leave us a review in iTunes – it’s the little things that help this podcast continue – your questions, your reviews, your feedback let us know you are out there, and you enjoy the content, and we’ll keep recording for you!