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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.


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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Hero Rush in Nashville, TN… Conquered it!!


Last weekend, my family and I drove about 30 minutes, the shortest drive to an OCR yet for us, to conquer and decimate the Hero Rush. Ever since our Spartan Race in Georgia last month, we had been dying to get down and dirty and get our race on again. Normally, we would have worn whatever we could to represent the team, New England Spahtens, here in Tennessee but with all that happened in Boston, we (was my wife’s idea) decided to wear our Boston gear seeing as we are Massachusetts natives. We got many hoots of encouragement from people, lots of talk about Boston, especially from the PA announcer.

rsz_img_2786Waves were going off every 30 minutes. Leah lined up and was off on her heat.

We arrived and went right to check-in. It was so smooth, no complaints, they really had their stuff together. We walked over to the midway which was awesome. Tons of firetrucks and other first responder vehicles, which my 5 year old, Colin, loved! There was the usual merchandise table, which has all sorts of Hero Rush goodies. Alex was psyched to see the hoses on the outside of the pool racers had to run through. It was up to the kids to blast the racers with water as they came by, he was very happy to oblige!

While she was off and running we found a mini course of sorts, one perfect sized for Colin, even though he did the kid’s heat and was the youngest on the course! It was a very small version of the adult race, but was fun for him none the less. Alex blasted right through it, a mere warm-up for the kids heat I’m sure.

We took a walk around the course, it was very spectator friendly, and then we hunkered down to wait for Leah to pass us by. She blasted by, looking really good, not gassed at all. There were only three to four obstacles left from here. There were 21 total, and the distance was 4.1 miles. We followed along and met up with her at the finish line, where, with a huge smile she happily accepted her medal!

It was my time, unfortunately right at the same time as the kids race, but the heats stopped at 1:30pm. That is probably my only complaint, the day should have been much longer. The air-horn went off and it was on.

I raced up the platform, down the fire pole and hit the ground running. My legs felt great and my breath was in sync, this was going to be a great race. As we rounded the first corner it was the up, under and through walls obstacle. A short distance later was a creek with freezing cold water, but it was already warming up outside so the cold was refreshing. I tried to run, but Leah had mentioned that it wouldn’t be a great idea. Here in Tennessee a lot of the creeks and river have rock beds, or limestone beds. They can be sharp, they can drop off at any given moment, etc. Needless to say, it slowed me a bit to have to walk fast. The next obstacle, in the creek, was a bunch of swinging tires hanging from the trees, not difficult but fun.

There were a ton of other obstacles, many of them typical for an OCR. What they did have that was different was a smoke house that they called the hoarders house. It was full of smoke, a vapor of sorts, and as you can tell by the name, had all sorts of mess everywhere. It was dark on top of the smoke, so it was really hard navigating around, I can just imagine what a fireman has to go through when they face this type of challenge in the real world.

There was also an obstacle I oddly enough had a rough time time with. There were two large tubes which were filled with foam/ suds. You were supposed to go in one, cross through and come out the other. I would have had to do burpees had this been a Spartan because I did it twice. The first time I felt very claustrophobic and could not breathe, I started to panic and needed to get out. I got right back in though and got it done. Another obstacle was a two person “buddy carry” of sorts. There was another racer with me as I hit this obstacle and she grabbed one side of the dummy as I got the other and we had to bring it up and over a few obstacles.

I was starting to gas a bit, but the woman that did the dummy carry with me hung out for a bit and we paced each other, trying to encourage the other to not slow down and keep it nice and steady. We hit the hill where the boys and I had seen Leah before, but from my vantage point before I had no idea just how rough the hill was. Now, coming at it from the other side, it was muddy as all heck and there were multiple fire hoses to help you climb up. Although it was a slight bit daunting, I just dug right in, bypassed the hoses, and spidered my way up the hill. Only a few more obstacles to go and it was done, nearly there.

The last couple obstacles ws one that you had to shimmy up a pipe, get to the platform and slide down a tarp like slide into a pool of water. From there you rounded the corner where the kids were waiting to blast me with the firehoses. I jumped in the pool, took the water right in the face, jumped out and leapt over the three sets of firelogs and it was completion glory, I got my medal!!

The only other complaint, the last I promise, was that I had ordered before hand a medium size finisher’s shirt. By the time I reached the end, there were no more. But, I was assured they would fastidiously send me one out in the mail, so soon enough I shall have it.

All in all, I would 110% recommend this race. It was so much fun, not only for us adults, but for the kids as well. It is a family friendly environment. This particualr location was abundant in hills, which were quite the challenge, loved every minute of it!!

Ok, last complaint, but this seems to be at ALL OCR’s, the concession stand had nothing but fried food to offer afterward. To me, this needs to change, at every OCR. It’s great if that’s what you want to eat, but after an hour (my official time was 1:04:30.02) the last thing I want to put in my body is a hot dog, french fries and fried chicken.



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Featured Review: Extreme Wolverine Challenge 2013

We’ve blogged about the Extreme Wolverine Challenge before – a Stratton Mountain based charity obstacle course race that was launching off the winter OCR season for New England. We are very fortunate that Tara Roch was able to represent the Spahtens at the race – and has written a review for us.

This is going to become a regular series, so I hope as the weather warms up and more folks come out of hibernation, we can support and race this one more frequently!

Extreme Wolverine Challenge “Arctic Blast”

Stratton Sunbowl Jan 12

Today I had the pleasure of participating in the inaugural 5 mile Extreme Wolverine Challenge.  This race was put on by The MCD group and the group supports two charities: Forever Our Heroes foundation and Stratton Mountain Foundation.  You can read about the Charities here :

This was MCDs first race and I think they did a stellar job.

Pre Race – Registration was easy enough online through race wire.  The price was a bit steep at $85, but when charities are involved I never feel  bad about the race fee.  About 10 days prior to the race, I got a call from the RD saying that my son and I were both randomly chosen to get fully outfitted by Wolverine Boot and Apparel.  This gift included boots, socks, hat, henley shirt, pants, hoodie, and coat.  I wondered how my son and I were both lucky enough to both get selected especially since we have different last names, but I realized we were the only two registered under the NE Spahtens and they were choosing people on teams -WINNING!.  I gave the RD, Brian Mattei,  our sizes and he had our gear ready  for us at registration. That was such a nice bonus and they asked us to pose for photos in our Wolverine hoodie and hat and I wish I had the Spahten flag for this to represent!

Parking was a breeze.  Stratton is a big resort and the race was held at the Sun Bowl which is down the road a bit from the main lodge.  I read the race info on the website because I’m a nerd and I study every detail before every race, but if you’re not like me there was plenty of race signage pointing you in the right direction.  We made our way to the Sun Bowl and we parked a stone’s throw away from the start line for FREE.

The race info did say that they would email you heat times two weeks prior to the race and when I didn’t hear anything I emailed the RD and he responded within hours with my start time.

I’m not sure if there was a bag check because we didn’t need it as we parked so close but the registration desk and bib pickup was right there in the ski lodge where there were plenty of lockers, cubbies and bathrooms.

Race pack pick up was easy.  This was a small race of only 67 racers that showed up of just under 100 that registered, but they did offer Friday evening pick up as well as day of pick up.  Race bib had timing chip in it and event was timed by

Schwag – Tshirt, stainless steel water bottle, Wolverine wool socks, beer coozie, and coupons.

Race – We were in the first wave of about three with about 20 people per wave starting at 9:30.  The course was a good mix of hard and soft packed powder and some deep snow.  There were 16 obstacles:

Tire Wall Climb, Tire Stomp, Sled push(around a small track), Keg Carry(around a track), uphill and down hill snowy running, two 10 ft walls that had assistance blocks built in to help so you didn’t need much help, military crawl under non barbed wire/string that was a breeze crawling on snow compared to Spartan knee crushing rocky crawls, Dumpster dash that was two long dumpsters you had to climb in and out of, 10ft ladderlike wall of 4x4s, 4×4 beam carry that you needed at least two –four people to complete, more up and down hill snowy running, snow mountain, crawl through wolfs den, and finally the Monkey Keg bars.  The last obstacle was the only one I couldn’t complete along with several others.  It was empty kegs chained to a wooden structure and you were to use the keg rims as monkey bars and make your way across them.  IMPOSSIBLE and I don’t know if anyone was able to do it.  Genius!  Because this was a timed race the penalty for failed obstacles was 20 pushups.  I did 20 pushups.

Race Map

There were two water stations along the route and volunteers at every obstacle.

I found this race to be exactly what I was looking for.  I wanted to gradually break into winter obstacle racing and I wasn’t ready to commit to a 8 or 12 hour race in the cold and I thought 5 miles was just my speed.  The location for me was key as its only 2 hours from my house so an easy day trip with no overnight stay required.  The obstacles were all very manageable and I found the hardest part to be running in the snow much like running on the beach.  The weather was perfect and I was warm after the first 2 minutes.

We were done in just over one hour and the awards ceremony was scheduled for 3:00 and we couldn’t stay that long, but the awards for top finishers were monies given to the racers chosen charity.

Race wire sent me a txt by 5pm with my results which was nice.

Overall I was really happy with this race.  The course was great and being a small race there was no wait at obstacles.  The RD was humble and responsive.  The obstacles were not much of a challenge for me, but I’m a seasoned Spartan and Mudder and for my first cold winter race this was just my speed.  The uphill snowy running was definitely a challenge.

It was well organized and I really love supporting smaller organizations like this trying to break into the growing sport of OCR.

There are two more races scheduled for May 18 and Oct 19 and I definitely recommend checking at least one of them out.