2018 Race Recap #16: F.I.T. Challenge

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That means I finished 3 laps, not that I came in third…BUT pretty slick swag nonetheless.

What can I say about this race? What I’ve come to find about small and/or local obstacle course races is that they’re generally low-rent, or just poorly executed. There are some  that are well considered and crafted with love, but just aren’t challenging.

The Wason Pond Pounder (Chester, NH) for instance, is lovingly crafted, and well done. The non-profit that runs the race, gives as much back to the community as they can without compromising the quality of the race. It’s a family oriented race, and a lot of people spend a lot of time planning it. But, it’s just not all that challenging – it’s not designed to be.

Similarly, The Samurai Sprint (Westport, MA) is a fun course and is well executed, but it’s “fun.” There were some elements to it last year that I found challenging, but overall it wasn’t designed to be anything more than fun.

The FIT Challenge, though. This is a challenge. It’s tough. The course is approximately 5k distance (plus or minus…well, plus), its 30-odd obstacles will test your meddle, oh and there’s the small matter of about 1400′ in elevation gain. That doesn’t do it for you? Ok, well, you can do multiple laps for $10 more.  Its probably the only smaller, local race that should be considered in the same conversation with Bone Frog or Spartan – to this point: who was at the starting line today? Norm Koch. The designer behind the early Spartan Races.

F.I.T. is a acronym. Fortitude. Integrity. Toughness. The race doesn’t demand you complete an obstacle under penalty of burpee, only that you give it a good faith effort. No mud for mud’s sake. Fortitude to take on a very difficult challenge. And of course, the Toughness to keep going when you’d rather not.

It plays out thusly. 30 obstacles. In 3.5 or-so miles.  Let that sink in. Essentially, if you’re not climbing s trail (remember – 1400′ of elevation gain), you’re climbing a wall…or a rope…or a peg board… you get the picture.  Suffice to say, I’m a fan on FIT Challenge.

This year I was determined to get- in 5 laps. It wasn’t long into my first lap that I realized that 5 wasn’t going to happen today. Robb, the race director, was very clear in his communications out that multi-lappers could assert a limited right of way, but I felt like such a dink asking to go ahead that I didn’t ask.  That’s on me. Now, the one criticism I have is that there are some difficult obstacles that require a reasonable time commitment…and on a short course, with multiple waves (no matter how hard you try to space them out) you’re going to get a log jam.  So, if you’re really going for time, you can get frustrated.

It was about 3/4 of the way through my second lap that I knew 4 would be a stretch. I was really fatiguing from climbing and was really starting to fail obstacles as a result. By the time I finished lap 2 I held out some hope I could get 4 in, but about a mile into lap 3 I knew that it would be my last one. I was failing obstacles I had done easily on my first go around, and struggled through on my second.

These things are placed rather deliberately to be challenging. Upper body, followed by a log carry, over to a rope climb, to a peg board…

There was a 5-hour cut off for multi-laps. Meaning that you had to start your last lap before 5 hours expired. In this case, I finished my 3rd lap with about 30-minutes left – I COULD have gone for 4…could have except I’d have wound up pissing everyone off because I’d fail everything and would probably be a menace to myself on those pretty technical trails.

No automatic alt text available.One of the frills of the FIT Challenge is the swag. A shirt, a head buff, finishers’ medal with pins for each lap complete, and if you do three or more laps you earn a block that Robb makes by hand.  The rarer ones are, of course, nicer. Those “5” Lap blocks are pretty spectacular. My “3” block…less so. But – going back to the beginning here, where I talk about being crafted with love – they’re each unique, put together by hand by a guy that really cares about the product.

There were some obstacles that broke mid course (sand bag hoist) and I’m pretty sure that can happen at any event. Frankly with the abundance of other obstacles, it was nice to take a pass on that one. Last year one of the floating walls was out of commission for a bit, which caused a significant back up on the lone remaining one.  The thing is with a short course, and a relatively small race (there were about 900 participants today, as compared with the several thousand that go through a Spartan Sprint), there are only a couple of stations for each obstacle (I think there may have been 3 sand bag hoists) and when one or two get 86’d the entire obstacle goes down and given the ethos of the race, obstacles are tough. So it takes a while to complete them…which causes lines…

I hate to suggest taking obstacles out – FIT has some ridiculously innovative ones and I love that he reinvests into the product – but some could be reconsidered. Lines at the inverted cargo net get pretty long. This is so clearly a labor of love, that I think I’d rather suggest making the course even longer and perhaps placing those time consuming obstacles at the top of a hefty climb to keep the group thin, but consistent.  Or spread the waves out even more.  Hard to say; I’m pretty sure it’s a work in progress and there are worse things to be vexed by.

So, results? Pretty much par for the course. 50 percentile.

Results

Multi-Lap:
2018: 63/126, 4:30:07
2017: 128/161, 5:06:38

Single Lap:
2016: 619/983 1:58:20

An improvement over last year on a more challenging incarnation of the course, and I feel better than I did last year afterward.

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2018 Race Recap #5: Blizzard Blast

Blizzard Blast is a winter themed 5k(ish) obstacle course race, “No Offseason.” Winter themed and also happily, winter run.  Obstacles include the Christmas Tree carry and Christmas light crawl.  There’s a heavy emphasis on beer kegs – monkey bars, carries – and the named sponsor is Shock Top beer, so it’s hard to know which came first although I did note that “Anheuser Busch” was stamped on most (if not all) of the barrels.

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No Offseason!

Some obstacles are expected – what would an obstacle course race be without wall climbs, for example – but some were novel: there was a paintball target, and a saucer-sled element.  The course also made use of elements within the park where it was held. Overall, I’m glad I finally did this race, but I’m pretty sure I won’t do it again; it was great to get out and do an OCR this early in the year, but it was a little more low-rent than I would have hoped and not quite as challenging as it could be.  If I do it again, I’d have to do the multi-lap option to increase the challenge.

 

There were plenty of shuttles from the parking to registration and to the course, and I know I’m going to sound like a curmudgeon here, but I just really hated the logistics of parking at the Cawley Stadium, taking a bus a few miles down the road to register/bib-pickup and then get on another bus to head back off in the other direction to the event…and to repeat that at the end.  Fine, I get that there’s no parking at the park and I’m used to shuttles, but four rides is just a bit much.

Now, about the experience of running the race.  Running with my son, we didn’t really push too hard with running but he did challenge himself on the obstacles.  This was more about the time together and much less about the overall competition, but it was really good to see him exert himself.  He grabbed a pretty heavy tree for the tree carry, attempted every obstacle and finished most of them. The only one that I truly had an issue with was the keg kingdom, aka monkey bars with hanging beer kegs.  I got two swings into it and for whatever reason decided that it wasn’t going to happen today; I’m not entirely sure what was in my head there.

Overall we did have fun, and we came across the finish line together.  A very nice bonding time.  We finished 1:22:18 – right about middle of the pack.

1:22:18   A little overcast, about 45-degrees.

28 Days of Inspiration – Day 15

Rucksgiving and the New England Spahtens

Over the past year, I made a commitment to myself that I was going to run 50 Obstacle Races by age 50…which then morphed into 46 Races in 2016 for my 46 years…which has again morphed into getting as many done this year as I can.  As part of this evolution, I’ve connected with some wonderful people along the way, see here Joel Chavez the man representing Day 3 of the 28 Days.

One group which which I’ve connected is the New England Spahtens, a local obstacle course racing (OCR) enthusiasts team that has over time morphed (not unlike my race list, nor would that be coincidental to my own list) into other races, fitness activities, and social events.  After all, it’s a team, right?

OCR is an interesting community.  It’s designed as an individual challenge, but we’re social animals and want to engage these pursuits with other similarly minded folk.  I’ve noticed several “teams” of this kind in various places: joining is optional, there are no membership fees, no one gets cut, be as active or passive as you want.  If you want to register for a race, but the team hasn’t been formed, form it.  You can confidentially register for a race, join/create the team and you’ll have the support of others even if you don’t know them.  They’re there to support you, perhaps help you over an obstacle with the sole purpose of sharing the sport and making it accessible to as many as who want to join.

For the past two years, on the Saturday after Thanksgiving, the Spahtens marshal as many volunteers as they can, loaded with donations and carry  ruck sacks stuffed with the gear around a route through Boston to carry donations to the less fortunate. This isn’t an administratively heavy endeavor (read the blog post, linked to here – this is a general call to arms, some pre-planning, and general strategy on the fly).  There are no news crews covering the story, no administrative costs.  Just teams of people caring for others, while living the purpose of the group – health and fitness.  It’s a marriage of the mission and vision of healthy activity, and supporting others.  And it’s ridiculously inspirational.