Thanks to Niki for the Featured Review, of the 9th FIT Challenge, and the first in some time at a brand new venue!
This past weekend the 9th F.I.T. Challenge obstacle course race took place, but at a brand new venue, bringing us to the fourth venue for this series. The past six Challenges have taken place at what director and NE Spahten member, Robb McCoy, has turned into an elevation dense Diamond Hill Park in Cumberland, Rhode Island, and moved to the quiet town of Middlefield, Connecticut and gave Powder Ridge (Ski) Park a try. FIT Challenge has found itself a core group of followers, and continuously has the support of 100+ Spahtens, making us the biggest team, and we followed Robb and crew to Connecticut to see what he could do with a mini mountain instead of a hill.
What should come as no surprise, the new venue did not disappoint. FIT Challenge is known for its great communication and easy access to the key event coordinators, that most Spahtens know well and love; Aaron Farb, hanging obstacle mastermind, Scott Sweeney, volunteer coordinator guru, Jen Lee, snack eater, I mean, entertainer, I mean… assistant RD, so we’ll just skip straight to the day of event. The hardest thing about Powder Ridge is that it is arguably, in the middle of nowhere. It is 2 hours on the dot away from Diamond Hill, so this is a big change for the race, and the distance definitely kept some locals from making the long drive, which was a mistake to those who decided the new venue too far. Much like Diamond Hill, parking was right on site, $10, and an easy walk to where everything was going on. Start and finish was at the base of the hill and the multi-lap drop area was in between. The venue’s lodge was open and the bathrooms were too. The lodge also had a sit-down restaurant on the second floor and there was an outdoor grill available with plenty of tables to enjoy it at. At the end of the race you could hop in the small pond or go rinse off as well. In terms of venue offerings and parking, I found Powder Ridge far superior to Diamond Hill.
However, that is all perks, but let’s talk about the REAL reason we show up to FIT; the race. As usual, this race nailed it. There is a reason it is the best small series race out there. The obstacles are unique, challenging, fun, and the theme behind the race, Fortitude, Integrity, and Toughness, means you challenge yourself the best you can, and if you can’t complete something, then that is OK as long as you gave your best. The race started off with a half mile climb up the mountain, and it was a good climb, but the slope here is gentler than Diamond Hill, and I found it more enjoyable, even if longer, than what I’m used to at FIT. Once to the top, we were greeted with a vertical cargo net – double up- vertical cargo net mash up within 250′ of each other, and unfortunately with the size of the multilap waves, there was a bit of back-up at each obstacle. While the climb did spread out the wave well, both types of obstacles only allow 2 people on the obstacle at any given time and by the time I was getting onto the double up, the front runners of the second wave a multilappers were running up on the back of the first wave, continuing the back-up here. From there we meandered our way down the mountain, on mostly bike/quad sized trails, where we encountered most of the well known obstacles, such as the teeter totters, rope climb, peg board, and the newly changed monkey cargo net traverse, which had gotten significantly harder with a rope climb to the net. Unfortunately, even though this was far enough into the race to have spread out runners, the difficulty and 2 lanes of the monkey cargo net traverse cause significant backup, with a solid 10 minute wait and only 1 try available. This obstacle has always seen back-up, but the difficulty change definitely made it worse.
Added back to this year, at the bottom of the mountain, was a PT area put on by EPIC hybrid gym. Here we saw very lively volunteers from the gym guide us through tire slams, elevated push-ups, and tire flips with a ball slam. This really brought me back to old school FIT races where we had a whole field of PT exercises to complete put on by a local crossfit gym. I found the energy and the amount of “obstacles” here to be just right. From there we hit a 3 section, 6 lane rig with varying difficulty, to the Destroyer 2.0, before the second full mountain climb started. This climb, however, was interrupted 1/3 of the way up by a log carry back down and up, a crawl, the infamous floating wall at the very top, and then we finished, with the inverted ladder wall second to last, and the original Destroyer as the very last obstacle, mere feet from the finish.
Many runners did not end here. There were over 230 multilap runners signed up for FIT. Another thing to commend FIT on is how well they do multilap. The drop area was HUGE this year, about a 25 square yard sectioned off area right in between the start and finish lines. The only time the area felt crowded was right before the race started. Right by the entrance to the are the multilap table was set up with two volunteers checking in and out the runners, then giving out the pins and blocks as runners finished. It was incredible simple and fairly seamless. Not to mention you could refuel on the well stocked candy and Tailwind available. On display right behind the table were the well known blocks that indicateshow many laps a runner completed after 3, complete with a nail gun compressor, blank blocks, and extra numbers to ensure they did not run out of any numbered block, and to accommodate the higher number of laps that might be completed in the extended 8 hour race over the previous 5 hour. Also a twist on this year was that after 3pm (last lap must be started by 4pm) the race became obstacle free for multilappers, with the exception of the wreckbag carry and the log carry. At the end of your race, you turned in your timing device, got a medal, headed to the multilap table, paid up $10 for every lap after your second, then got your spoils. This is how you do multilap.
Overall, the race was well done. It wasn’t without hiccups, and the only major hiccups I saw were the obstacle backups, but that can be expected at any new venue and learning the running patterns at an inaugural event. As always, FIT Challenge does it right. They have some of the best obstacles, best staff, best swag (this year we moved to tank tops, so you can show your biceps instead of point them out), and the best philosophies of any race. If you thought the drive was too far, then you genuinely missed out. I can only see FIT Challenge, as they always have, continuously improving from here, and continue being one of the best small series race you can do.
Photo credit: Dan Parker
Did you run FIT Challenge? What did you think? Leave a community review here!