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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: FIT at the Ridge

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!

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The value of #racelocal

Many of my OCR friends and connections have complained this year that the annual Spartan Race elite season pass has gone up in price – now running $799 annually.

And, despite their own season passes running many months into 2017, there appears to be no pro-rating (although I have seen people claiming they have indeed got pro rated pricing).

This blog post isn’t to talk about that. I’ve spoken about Spartan season passes in years past and if you are at the pro or elite level, or have sponsor support, or simply have your heart set on running Spartan’s over and over, then it makes sense for you and you go nuts.

But what if there was an alternative? Of course, there is.

If you registered for:
The Endurance Society’s SnowShoe 10k
BoldrDash Race – Winter Dash
FIT Challenge’s trail race
FIT Challenge’s OCR event
Runzilla’s OCR
Wason Pond Pounder
Gauntlet Races Rock the Gauntlet
Tuff Scramblers
Bonefrog’s Challenge distance
Samurai Sprint Mud Run
BoldrDash Race’s Rocky Point event
O2X
Gauntlet Races’s Run the Gauntlet
(basically, every sub 10k #racelocal event currently open for registration)
The total with NO discount codes or pre-sales would be $793

Add in $35 for #racelocal registration, and you earn points as you go, and get prizes, and competition to push yourselves against others.

and you don’t even need to leave New England.

#racelocal – a lot of bang for your buck.

Of course, many of these events also have multiple lap options. Most race directors will be at the start line, the finish line, and will know your name and say hi.

Learn more about #racelocal, and find links to each of these race brands – and more events right here

http://www.nespahtens.com/racelocal

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Team store update!

Our store has been around for a few years now, and many of you have used it for everything from pre-ordering a new drill shirt, to picking up a ticket to the latest team social.

It’s easy to use. It’s simple to navigate – and PayPal makes the checkout process really really easy.

http://www.nesstore.com

But one thing that everyone likes, is savings. So we’re giving you some.

For every $1 you spend in the store, we are now giving you a mud-buck.
For every 100 mud-bucks you have in your account, you get $5 off your next purchase.

The system works automatically – and there are a couple of limitations (you can’t discount virtual items, like tickets or registrations for example) – when you check out, it will tell you what you can redeem, and what you have banked.

And in our never ending quest to support the local OCR scene, and bring you the coolest gear out there, we now offer Shale Hill, Sinergy Sports and FIT Challenge merchandise – check out the latest products, right here:



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#racelocal 2017 is fast approaching

A new year, and a new #racelocal season is almost upon us!

It’ll be our fourth season of #racelocal, and like previous seasons, we switch things up, learn from mistakes and grow the program – and I’m hoping you’ll be along for the ride, and bring your friends!

(all this, and more can be found right here: http://www.nespahtens.com/racelocal)

For those who may be new, #racelocal is a program started within the New England Spahtens to encourage and promote the rich and high quality local obstacle race scene we have here in New England. All too often, people start with, stick with and retire within the large national programs – and never get to know the physical challenge that is Shale Hill, or the huge group of friends gathered at FIT Challenge, or run in a snuggly onsie at Blizzard Blast – or the many other unique events going on in the region. As a community we’re firm believers that the local scene here is pretty much the best in the world – but if you don’t participate in it, don’t register for the races, don’t support it – we lose it.

So, #racelocal was born. The more events you participate in, the more miles you complete – the more prizes you get.

Lets talk a bit about 2017 – this is not news if you’re a member of our #racelocal Athletes group on Facebook, so if you haven’t already, hop on over and join in.

https://www.facebook.com/groups/racelocalathletes/

Firstly, the confirmed race list keeps growing. More and more local events are still building out their schedule, so expect this to grow even more. But, as of today, we have the following events.

For every event you complete, we will be converting your miles covered into points. The points table looks like this.

+20% for competitive miles (elite wave at FIT Challenge, Shale Hill’s competitive division and Bonefrog’s competitive division)
-50% for non-OCR events (We’re an OCR community, but run lots of races. Events that aren’t obstacle based will be handicapped to reflect that)

Most recently we announced that the competition isn’t just going to be the full year – we have two mini-competitions going on.

Winter Warriors – all miles logged before the Spring Equinox (6:29am, March 20th 2017) will count towards the Winter Warrior prize. Top Male / Female prize earners will win some unique and cool swag.
Charity Runners – all miles logged at events hosted by registered charities will count towards the Charity Runners award. Top Male / Female points scores.

Of course, there are prizes to earn along the way – and at the end of the season, the biggest points ranking prize awards we’ve ever done (more to come) – and we’re putting significant development time into a better tool for tracking (this is a way bigger job than I realized!).

#racelocal 2017 is going to be our best yet – I hope you’re along for the ride, and I hope you bring your friends along too!

http://www.nespahtens.com/racelocal

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Now in stock – FIT Challenge gear!

I know how much we all love our race swag. For many of us, one of our favorite things to do at a race isn’t race – it’s hit the swag tent, pick up some sweet merchandise, and represent some of our favorite brands when we get home.

You do NOT want to know how many hoodies I’ve got …

now I’ve got lots more. But these aren’t for me.

FIT Challenge and the New England Spahtens have entered an arrangement that means the swag and gear you would normally see at the swag tent is available from a web store you trust, and likely already shop in.

http://www.newenglandspahtens.com/product-category/fitchallenge/

In stock, ready to ship – limited quantities and sizes of course – hoodies, fleeces, hats and compression socks. Maybe in time for a quick Christmas present for yourself? 😉

(are you a #racelocal race director, and would you like to do something similar? Email Paul)

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Featured Review: FIT Challenge VI

Featured Review provided by Niki Leonard!

12983970_1223786367633245_4042024135233288105_oSaturday many of us, over 200 actually, Spahtens found ourselves back at Diamond Hill Park in Cumberland, Rhode Island to attempt the 6th FIT Challenge, put on by one of our own, Robb McCoy, with the assistance of Aaron Farb and Scott Sweeney. The course is a roughly 3.5 mile course, this year sporting around 40 obstacles, and multiple steep climbs up the “hill” to get a total of approximately 1000 feet of elevation gained throughout the race. This is a race with a history of challenging all fitness levels and our expectations were, yet again, exceeded.

12976863_1026538087434537_3067915853513334222_o

12977245_1223786460966569_8668604565435259688_oThe morning was cool and crisp as I headed to the course for the 8:10 start for multi-lappers. With this course being so close to where I live I was lucky to leave a bit later than most and arrive an hour before start. Parking was $10, however, with the earlier arrival, I was mere steps from the start line. It was easy to find the registration, get my bib, and find the multi-lap tent where I set up my drop bin and changed into my race shoes before dropping my changing bag (and brownies) over to the team “tent” (no tent was yet set up at this time in the morning, as the area is designated for us, but the tent is ours to bring) area for when I was finished. Everything was easy to find, easy to get to, and in the middle of the excitement. Fred Smith was at the start line getting everyone ready. There were plenty of vendors, and an amazing paleo food truck offering food all day. The venue even has running toilets!

12961340_1223789367632945_5307750161171682029_oThe elite men set out at 8am sharp after Robb challenges anyone to beat this course in under 45 minutes, followed by the elite women at 8:10am, who were also pumped up by the duo of Fred and Robb. Finally, at 8:10, me and about 100 of my newest friends got our multilap bracelets, a challenge to do more than 5 laps, never mind 6, and off we went. Throughout the day I could hear Fred doing an awesome job of pumping up the racers in each heat, and Robb, Scott, and Aaron could be found throughout the course making sure everything ran smoothly. This also included giving me hugs every time I saw one of them! The course was full of volunteers, and they were some of the most supportive volunteers of any course I’ve been on.

12957634_1025865820835097_6732159135716748193_oUnfortunately, I kept accidentally turning off the GPS on my watch, so I don’t have accurate elevation or distance. However, most people with the higher tech watches seemed to have something closer to 3.8 miles and over 1000 feet of elevation. We saw a new larger version of the Destroyer, which had its own small team helping and coaching people over. We saw all of Novembers new obstacles back, as well as some new creations; the monkey cargo net traverse, and a floating 12 foot wall (which basically became an inverted wall by the time you reached the top), which were both incredibly innovating and challenging. The first half the race had way more hills than obstacles, whereas the second half had more obstacles than hills. The race was extremely challenging through and through, but nothing was impossible. The course is meant to challenge you to try everything, but there is no penalty if you couldn’t do something. Also, what was nice, was if you were a multi-lapper, you were allowed to cut any back-ups at obstacles. I didn’t actually need to use this incentive until my third lap and only on the obstacles on the first half of the course, which tells you the course was well spaced out.

13002470_1025865804168432_2362046597193212489_oThe swag at this race was amazing. A gorgeous finishers medal, which looked clean and crisp, as well as a higher quality t-shirt. The t-shirt, again, wasn’t offered in extra small, so unfortunately will be hard for me to wear comfortably, and the text on the back was a bit too dark, however, the softness and great front graphic will ensure that it will be loved by almost everyone. Multilappers got a pin for each additional lap completed to add to their medal’s lanyard as well as a really cool patch. Those who completed 3 or more laps had (or will receive) a wooden “trophy” signifying the amount of laps completed. Over 250 people chose to multilap this event, versus the 50 who did in November, so unfortunately the trophies ran out, particularly for those who completed 3 laps, however, their name and contact information was taken so that it can be sent them later.

12961305_1223792237632658_1305860694978636668_oMulti-lapping at this even was a cinch. We had our own covered tent area to keep our dropbins, we had our own 2 volunteers to assist us and keep us on track. Equipped with a cool FIT Challenge silicone bracelet, we had the ability to “cut” any line at any obstacles. When you finished a lap, you headed over to the multilap volunteer’s table, which was against the multilap tent next to the start line. You check in with them, tell them you’re going out again, and they’d mark you down for another lap. Get whatever you need, head over to Fred and let him know you’re going again, and if he gives you the thumbs up, off you went. Originally they had you swapping bibs each lap, but due to the unexpected numbers of multilappers, the same bib ended up being used after lap 2 for all additional laps. When you were all done running, you grab your cash ($10 per extra lap), then head over to the volunteer table, pay up your divvy, and in return you got your pins and your patch, and any awards you may have gotten.

12961213_1025195287568817_1520714528005170547_oThe turnout was amazing. The weather, while chilly in the morning, was amazing for most of the race. The venue was great, and the obstacles were outstanding. I think Diamond Hill deserves an award for most hated hill to climb. Robb and his crew surpassed everyone’s expectations for a good race. He’s a director who will listen and make sure everyone is taken care of. I haven’t heard a single bad thing about this race and I don’t expect to either. It is my personal favorite local 5k races, and I expect I’m not alone in saying this. If you have yet to try out this race series then you are missing what OCR is really about. Check it out!

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Episode 8 – Robb McCoy

Robb of FIT Challenge revisits the nespahtens.tv studio for a show and tell, and to discuss his April event, trailfecta series and OCR in general!

Watch the video, listen to the podcast and don’t forget to subscribe on youtube, iTunes, Stitcher …

(apologies for the audio quality again on this show! I know whats going wrong, and will have it fixed for the next one!)

Audio only

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Robb McCoy joins Bone Frog Challenge

#racelocal and the New England OCR scene just got a little bit more awesome.

11073578_834434089963608_275746813643007483_oWe’re excited to be the first to announce that Robb McCoy, evil mastermind behind FIT Challenge – is joining the Bone Frog Challenge team as a Race Co-Ordinator for their expanding 2016 season!

What does this mean?

FIT Challenge is going no where!

Robb is still the owner and operator of one of the best short course OCR’s in the region, and it still operates independently – but along side his duties as “Chief Bicep Officer” of FIT, he will now also be working along side the Bone Frog Challenge crew, leading their road crew as they expand down the east coast in 2016.

The decision to bring Robb onto the Bone Frog team was easy. He is an incredible asset to any OCR and his involvement in Bone Frog’s growth will be instrumental in bringing us to the next level. His first hand knowledge of obstacles as well as OCR operations is where we will be utilizing his skills. We could not be more proud to welcome him into the Bone Frog family” – Brian Carney

With races already announced for Carolina Adventure World, South Carolina and Atlanta, Georgia – and of course the annual return to the best mountain in Western MA – Berkshire East – and more to be announced – Bone Frog is growing, and doing it the best way this industry knows – organically and with the best people in the sport involved.

I couldn’t be more excited to join Brian and the Bone Frog team. Aside from the absolute top notch events Bonefrog produces, their values as an organization are second to none. I’m honored to be a part of their expansion as a company and can’t wait to get on that mountain in May!” – Robb McCoy

(oh, and there are some other well known names from our local community joining his team, such as Scott Sweeney, already volunteer co-ordinator at FIT, will be the new Bone Frog Challenge volunteer co-ordinator- another superb choice).

Congratulations to everyone – we think this is an awesome move – and #racelocal is only going to be even better, as a result!