April 7th 2018
Diamond Hill Park, Cumberland, Rhode Island
F.I.T. Challenge is on its 10th event affectionately known as F.I.T. X. Familiar course, home according to their own description. They bring elevation and obstacles in that order. They are proud to boast an elevation gain of roughly 1100 feet within a very small 3.3 miles. They are also proud to hammer you with 30 obstacles designed to beat you in the long run. Sum total beatdown is their game and it’s effective.
Diamond Hill is a big, steep hill that the course whips around and up and down every which possible. Loose rocks and root, gnarly trails, extreme inclines this course is not for those with weak ankles or unstable knees.
This serves as the first race of the year for most people and it felt like that. Very cool early April weather which played a factor. F.I.T. is a proudly run small OCR with the quality of comfort of your favorite local Italian restaurant.
This was my second time at Diamond Hill, 3rd F.I.T. Challenge race overall. Their coming attraction is the multilap option. All participants will receive a finishers medal and t-shirt after finishing one lap. The famous F.I.T. Challenge blocks which increase in size for each lap, those blocks are earned upon completion of the 3rd lap. New this year was the insane Ultra F.I.T. 12-hour massacre. Multi-laps are 5 hours of fun, where the last lap must be started before the start of the last hour. The 12-hour Ultra option had the distinction of a championship belt for the winning male and female competitors.
There were actually no surprises for the race this year from last. Minimal deviation in course path and obstacles. I actually like that as it allows for an athlete to have a direct comparison of the progress from the previous time they ran the course. We ran around to the far side of the hill and ascended, this gave time for the faster runners to open up a bit and separate from the pack, if so desired, in the beginning. Similar to last year, we did not see an obstacle until the after at least a half-mile of running and climbing and descending. The wrap around to the base of the hill near the first mile towards the festival/parking area allowed for a natural spectator viewing section where you had at least 12 or more obstacles that were easily view-able in 3-4 folds of the course, the same is true towards the end of the course where they have an obstacle blitz numbering around 8, again with easy accessibility.
The obstacles were the normal mix of ropes and carries and walls. They have their signature obstacles “The Destroyer” and it’s lil brother “The Destroyer 2.0”. Fun, unique combination slant walls and climbing grips, the sequel with a balance element once you scale the wall. The walls have elite sides and non-elite sides with appropriate difficulties. The balance element of the elite side is simply mean.
A new obstacle called the Devil’s Playground was a variant of the Devil’s Ladder/Stairway to Heaven that was fun and will present a challenge to those who are still developing their grip and upper body strength.
The course itself is the main obstacle. It is design to destroy your knees, thighs and ankles. The flattest section is the starting and finish lines. Everything else is the equivalent of running barefoot through a toddlers play room with all the toys out. Experienced trail runners and racers did well but it required full concentration to keep from rolling an ankle. The 1100′ of elevation gain became the elephant sitting on your chest. You can’t avoid it, it’s there and you just have to deal with it. Multilappers and Ultra had to learn how to efficiently power hike to save for future laps. The miles eventually pile up and you know where your training was lacking.
Worth it. This is the best parts of “mom and pop” stores. I looked forward to this race and was satisfied. First criticism is the good problem that F.I.T. Challenge will continue to have is the increased numbers of people. The secret is out, this is a quality experience. The multilappers hit the unfortunate snag of major traffic back-ups at specific obstacles, some as long as 20 minutes. The open divisions started roughly 30 mins after the last multilap wave went off so everyone on course prior to that was a multilapper in some regard. This meant skipping lines was not possible. So, you were forced to wait. In comparison, my first lap was close in time to my slowest lap the year prior due to traffic. I will say that this issue was addressed as the race director emailed us and stated he will look to stagger the multilap waves far enough apart so they will not condense into the traffic jams that effected time. Also, the 5 hours option started from the time of the first wave. I started my day towards the end of the multilap waves but was still held to the time cut-off of the first wave.
The course was being modified throughout the day. In my laps, I noticed from lap to lap that a turn went somewhere different from the previous lap and back to “normal” again. I cannot say the reason for it but it did lend itself to some confusion while running. The course was clearly marked but it was different between laps.
Personally, I matched the number of laps from the year prior which was 3. Having dealt with a back injury the weeks leading to the race, I was more pleased to have finished without too much pain. That said, the strength difference in my performance was noticeable. Unfortunately running took a backseat to recovery so the max was 8 strong miles, which meant 10+ miles would be “unpretty.” I felt it a bit the last lap, had a chance for 4 laps but not enough for time for 5 laps so I called it at 3 laps. Genius move on my part, when I looked at the results, I realized that by stopping at 3 instead grinding a 4th, I kept myself me from qualifying for a different race due to my age group finish.😑
Overall for athlete and spectator alike, this was a great experience. I knew someone who ran their first ever OCR and was happy with one lap. I ran with gloves on, 3 layers on the top…it was not warm. I didn’t notice until I stopped so the April races can be tricky to gauge. Their next event is scheduled in November so as to “book-end” the OCR year. I suggest you make the trip up there.
Arsenal (gear and nutrition):
*** Please watch the video below. This year I am running races to raise money and awareness for my friend’s son who is winning his second fight with cancer. Please donate: