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Featured Review: FIT Challenge II

http://www.fitchallenge.org/

FIT Challenge has a special place in the history of the New England Spahtens.

It’s a local race, put on by one guy in his spare time. Just like so many others across the country.

But, FIT Challenge is special to us – because we consider Robb McCoy – the race director of FIT Challenge to be one of our own. I don’t mean that he joined the group and hands us flyers (although there’s nothing wrong with RDs doing that) – I mean he runs on team NE Spahten at races. He roads trips with us to events. He rocks one of our drill shirts (with FIT on the back, of course) at local, regional and national obstacle course races. He talks smack with the best of them in our Facebook group, and is ready to help anyone – from other RDs to athletes and participants at the drop of a hat.

Robb *is* FIT Challenge.

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Because of this unique approach to interaction with the community, the community supports Robb and his event. This couldn’t be more apparant than this weekend when 191 registered New England Spahtens showed up at World War One Memorial Park in North Attleboro for the second FIT Challenge.

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Wouldn’t you like a team like this at your event?

Thats a lot of people. Our second biggest showing outside of any event that wasn’t a Spartan Race. Having been on the team with us at Spartan, Robb knew exactly how to keep us happy, comfortable – and to ensure that 191 of us came away fans for life. Boy, he did that in spades!

Robb is smart. He knows that companies like Groupon and Living Social get the name out to a wider audience than a local race can afford on it’s own marketing budget – so he made sure to put them to work for him, and also avoided the trap of offering prices lower to these discount sites than you could get direct – a lesson many OCRs learned back in 2012 and 2013, but still goes on today. As a result, he gets a great bang for his marketing buck, and both races have pulled in considerably over 1000 participants (I believe total count for FITII was 1400+, including race day registrations). For an event that doesn’t have to transport it’s gear, or store much – those numbers are fantastic.

1614545_629945173760499_5720425935474168017_oThe venue – WW1 Memorial Park was really easy to get too from 495, and despite being a really early start for me, I got there in good time, and thanks to a team perk, was able to park right at the NES area – essential considering the amount of family and team gear we’d crammed into the little Scion. Robb had set aside a section of the field for the NES team, and we set up camp right next to the finish line – quickly, this turned into tent city, a small open fire was lit, and the team filled it up with hustle and bustle – tons of kids, spectators, custom team headbands and special NE Spahten red bracelets that gave us unlimited laps of the course. Oh, and our course ran right passed Emu’s, as the venue has a zoo onsite. Who the heck else runs through a zoo?

We also had many people from the team out on the course – both volunteering for a free race, or crewing for Robb on gators as aid stations, volunteer co-ordinators and various other jobs, and our own team wave dedicated to NES and Unleashed – again, you want to make fans for life? This is how you do it.

Robb had promised us a bigger and better course than his first FIT Challenge, and thats another thing that can be checked off as accomplished. Spanning almost exactly 3.2 miles, the course had plenty of trail running sections – including a full mile to get going with no obstacles at all, and plenty of challenging obstacles. We saw more than a few 8′ and 9′ walls, over/unders, a badass teeter-totter that was scaring more than a few people.

1077186_629945037093846_8603211804180430283_oMaking full use of the terrain – Wreck Back was there to give us 25lb and 50lb “sandbag” alternatives to hike up a 1/4 mile ski slope – but the real killer was the small ski lift hill after that – talk about a glute workout! That hill was short, but effective at slowing you down and making you ache in places you didn’t think you could ache.

Incorporating his local Crossfit box, Crossfit 508 was give an entire field to make a strength challenge – and these guys know their stuff. You immediately had to grab an Atlas stone – a big concrete ball. Pick your weight for the open devision, 35lb, 65lb and 115lb – then lug the thing around a field. I went with 65lb and did it unbroken, but my shoulders felt it the next day! They then took you to a section with 45lb barbells … 15 push presses, before picking up a 45lb plate and running to a cone and back.

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Then, the most fun obstacle I’ve seen – a tire push in a field that could only be described as “a mudbath” … my Icebugs prevented me from taking a faceplant in the mud, but many people around me were not so fortunate! This was brutal – I finished this gasping for breath and walked to the final finish of two 15′ ladder walls and a tire/hay filled dumpster.

0007812_2d3184e8-4fb9-4efe-a65e-8fac84c69907Of course, like any event, you will come away with feedback and issues you’d hope to see addressed for the next event – a full mile of trail running really thinned the pack out (which was a major issue at FIT 1), but the first obstacle being an 8′ wall caused backups in the team wave. The Wreck Bags (more on them shortly) were fantastic for this application – I am hopeful we’ll see way more of them in future local and national events.

Back at the festival area, Fred Smith of Smithfest Events (Blizzard Blast, Panic in the Dark, Music Chairs WC and more) was on the mic all day, announcing the waves and keeping the party going (and giving me crap in the starting choral – THANKS Fred). Vendors were plentiful, there were changing tents (mens *and* womens!), hose off area’s, plentiful supply of checkin desks (although there were lines for waivers when the shuttle busses came in). It was fantastic to see the Shale Hill crew vending Icebugs, and even more fantastic to see they’d managed to get a supply of factory seconds they were shifting for 1/2 the price a normal set of Icebugs would go for. I saw lots of new Icebug boxes leaving that venue!

While there were plenty of free drink samples to be had, food was lacking, as the venue wanted to provide their own – they need to actually move down to the vendor area if FIT visits again, no one knew they were there and there were a lot of hungry people. Fortunately, having our team tents and cars close by meant we had coolers, with lots of variety, and an open fire meant there were plenty of toasty hot sausages to be eaten.10153790_733758260975_1728797495_n

Lets talk about Wreck Bag. This is a brand new product from Lindon Fitness. They approached Robb a few weeks ago purely by change, and seeing the potential Robb immediately asked for a ton of them to use for his race. The Lindon guys have also donated a 25lb and 50lb bag to the New England Spahtens, and a review will be coming soon. They were also vending and selling the bags in the festival area, and from what I can see they pretty much sold out! I bought a 25lb bag for personal use too, and have sent it off to my local Crossfit box, Crossfit 696 to beat up on for a while, with great feedback. The bag is a proprietary woven material, with industrial stitched handles – filled with a propiatory rubber blend – this makes them heavy, and unbelievably comfortable on shoulders. They barely shift their weight around, and while they’ll get heavier in the wet, they won’t absorb water like a sandbag would. Throw that in with the price point being less than half what a sandbag from Rogue or GoRuck will run, and I think they’re onto a winning product. I saw a couple of local race directors having conversations with them … expect to see these at more OCRs and training days πŸ™‚

FIT Challenge II provided pretty much everything you could ask for in an obstacle course race … a 5k distance course that kicked ass, at a venue that had Emu’s, with a ton of mud, great vendors and massive love for the biggest team. Family friendly, biggest team friendly, elite friendly (cash prizes – like, actual cash), fun run friendly.

Many races try to be all things to all people – FIT Challenge II delivered. Good job, Robb and team. Can’t recommend FIT Challenge enough.

12 thoughts on “Featured Review: FIT Challenge II

  1. Some excellent points here and extremely constructive and I ASSURE you they will not fall on deaf ears! We absolutely need to do a better job with the kids race. No doubt about that. We also absolutely have to address the obstacle backups. The backup issue plagued us last year and I thought by placing the walls a mile into the course we would have avoided backups! I was wrong! So next race we will have a new strategy and go at it different, what that is I do not know yet, but it will come with plenty of insight and advice from many people!

    Just one quick point about spectator issues. 100% MY FAULT for not having course maps available! Absolutely on me and I thank you for pointing that out and assure you we will have STACKS of them at future races! As for the fee EVERYONE in the park that day needed to be accounted for and waiver signed and we had to pay insurance on EVERYONE. I do not want you to feel as though you were “tricked” into paying for something you didn’t receive. You paid for the insurance to cover your entrance into the event. The tickets were $10 at the gate and $5 online (must be an incentive to pay early) and with the amount insurance costs that covers a portion of it. We had a police detail at the entrance, a hired security guard at the front gate and volunteers wherever I could get them to ensure EVERYONE was accounted for and the guard and the detail were a significant cost as well. Did people sneak in? I’m sure, shame on them for doing that and “stealing” access. But anyone who was around the course should have been either a paid spectator, paid runner or volunteer and if you pay for a registration you absolutely can be a spectator after! Do we need to make this better? ABSOLUTELY! Will we? ABSOLUTELY! But I feel horrible if you or anyone feel as though you were “tricked”.

    Again, THANK YOU, ALL of you for your feedback, I need it, value it and certainly listen to it. We are very happy with our first two events, are we there yet? By no means! Will we improve? Absolutely, and it will only come with valuable insight like this! Thank You again for supporting our race and also for helping us improve!

  2. I think the trail it self was good, a few things that stood out was that the bus drivers had no clue where they were going. My group was dropped off at the wrong location and had to walk close to a mile to get to the course. During the elite heat I know an obstacle broke while a good friend of mine was on it….these are things that need to be corrected. I feel the effort was put into the event but maybe the little details were overlooked.

  3. Is That MY Picture Of The Shirt/Headband/Medal? Lol… Awesome Write Up!

    1. posted to FB – fair game πŸ˜€ (thank you, btw)

  4. Great review! Those new "Wreck Bags" were great, loved the comfort as well as the challenge. The unique teeter-totter was pretty intimidating but we were grateful for the traction strips on them. We appreciated the generous amount of mud on the course and the awesome tire push made sure that no one was finishing that race clean. We loved the venue and the Chieftain Pub after, can't wait to see what improvements Robb makes for next year!

  5. Having been "captain" to our rookie team of all men Disciple Dudes (a church group), we were pleased with the transportation, organization and ease of going through registration at the race. We were also pleased that the registration help informed us that we could all run together in the same heat where team registration was not an option at time of sign ups. We were so excited about the race and the organization that we are looking forward to adding our female counterparts the Disciple Divas to the list of happy teams!! Keep up the good work and keep us informed of the FIT Challenge 3!!!

    1. Mike, you know you could run with the NE Spahtens, keep your team shirts, but benefit from biggest team perks, like our bonfire and tent city?

      Find our Facebook group and event info here – http://join.nespahtens.com πŸ™‚

  6. I have some thoughts about the race. Things I hope are taken as constructive-criticism and not complaining. And my thoughts are primarily from a spectator standpoint. The sometimes least-appreciated group of all when it comes to OCR.

    First, I think that if a race is going to charge any amount of money to be a spectator, then they should provide a course map to those that are spectating. Or, at the very least, have a board or two posted with an overview of the course so that the spectators can identify where to go to get photos of their loved ones. It was disappointing to 1) have to ask those at the spectator booth where to go to get pictures and 2) to have the information they provided me be inaccurate. I missed many photo opportunities because they gave me the wrong information. It was disappointing.

    It is also disappointing to “play by the rules” and pay $10 for spectator access only to have everyone be given the same access whether they have a spectator wristband or not. Since there wasn’t any staff on the course directing spectators or confirming that only spectators were out there, it felt a little bad to have paid for what I everyone else was getting for free. Rather, I felt tricked into paying $10 for nothing.

    I didn’t get to see a lot of the course, but the parts I was able to see got a bit backed-up. I realize this isn’t a big-budget course. But it got especially backed-up when the kids wave was sent through. I can only guess that they were sent on a shorter route of the same course. I was patiently waiting for my racer to come through when a million tiny children (and their camera-wielding parents) mobbed the course and obstacle that I was waiting at. It caused a hefty traffic jam, but was an adorable traffic jam. Kids are fantastic, but perhaps a separate course (if you can swing a spot for that)?

    I hate to mention it, but I saw a LOT of inappropriate behavior and language from quite a few of the Spahtens at this race. From a spectator standpoint – someone who has not gotten the chance to run a race with y’all yet – I got the impression that a few of your team members felt they “owned” the course. At the time, I didn’t realize the organizer was one of your own. But I would hope that you may consider a Spahten “code of conduct” or something for some of the races you attend. It was slightly horrifying to have the kids wave coming through and lots of child-spectators nearby and have Spahtens swearing, using the teeter-totter as a see-saw, and yelling loudly about their privates. I thought that drinking on the course was hilarious. But some of the behavior was a little out-of-hand.

    The parking was great. It was nice to park so close by and get a shuttle that ran frequently. Well done.

    1. Heather – don’t feel bad about bringing it up. Anyone who can’t act like an adult when surrounded by kids need to look at their own behavior, and as a parent, I’d hope they would check that raucous, adult until the littles have passed through. Thanks for bringing it up, it’s an important point that each individual needs to keep in mind in the future.

    2. Heather your comments are welcome – Your complaints are valid. It will not fall on deaf ears. Thank you for bringing it up. If I was witness to that I would be upset, especially if my 7 year old daughter was present.

    3. My sister said the same thing about not knowing where to go. She had my minions and didn’t want to wander too far off with them. We didn’t even know where the zoo or playground was until after I ran through them. Thank you for bringing those very valid comments up! You never know until you know!

  7. All of these points were on point! I loved the race, I can't wait for the next one! I just got very aggravated about the backups right away at the walls, partially because the running sucked for me and the lead I got away from others in my wave was lost standing there for quite a long time as people maneuvered the multiple walls. I ran the 1pm heat and there were Spahtens there helping people over! Next time I will run earlier (I couldn't do the team heat because the kids race would have overlapped), instead of later. Well, later do another "fun" lap.

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