Are you fit for the F.I.T. Challenge?

A short OCR course, based in New England. This OCR brainchild of Robb McCoy, brings its racers a non stop experience. With three words defining it, fortitude, integrity, toughness, F.I.T. Challenge tests physical capabilities on a multitude of levels. So are you fit enough for the F.I.T. Challenge? According to McCoy “Everyone is fit for the F.I.T. challenge.” His question is to what degree is your challenge? Covering distances and skill levels from multi lap survivor to mandatory obstacle completion, open waves and even coming out for a fun time as a team. “…there are so many challenges with in the one event you cant go wrong.”  Still unsure? Here’s a quick peak behind the curtain.

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The Fall Fit Challenge VII was located in Cumberland, Rhode Island, a 3+ mile course stacked with 40 obstacles and a solid 1,100 feet of elevation gain. Needless to say, this is not your average 5K in the woods. Taking off, racers immediately hit their first climb. A direct shot up the mountain. What goes up, must come down, right? Lucky for us it goes back up too. After making the first descent we hit a back to back climbs over walls, vertical cargo nets, over-under-through combo walls, before the first of two carries, the log carry. A quick, but steep loop followed by hitting to more jumps and a floating inverted wall, before our next climb. Are-you-fit-for-the-F.I.T.-ChallengeAre-you-fit-for-the-F.I.T.-Challenge

This climb wasn’t as rough, but the obstacles that followed were stacked. Descent into a hoist, pulley curl, Double Ups, and a, choose at your own risk, Wreck-bag carry. If you were questioning your fatigue now F.I.T. presented you with the first Destroyer before going back into the trails. Where we faced a cargo net style monkey bar, back to back peg board and rope climb. Hitting an incline, army style crawl then a final steep rolling hill and climb.

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Just when you think your out of the woods and in the clear, F.I.T. Challenge makes sure to get in some of its toughest obstacles. Over-Under Rig, walls, The Destroyer 2.0, 3-optioned Rig, Atlas Balls, and a slip wall, with a few walls and crawls sprinkled in between, before you were able to cross a finish line you know you earned.

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So, are you fit for the F.I.T. Challenge?

Yes, your physical capabilities will be tested in many areas, pure brute strength, cardio endurance, lifting and carrying, along with speed and agility, if your racing it, but being super human is not a necessity. F.I.T. Challenge opens itself to catering to many different athletes, whether interested in an Elite, open, or Multi-lap Survivor option.

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If your looking to have a challenging, but fun race, check out the open wave option. With ability to take your time and learn the obstacles, you’ll be able to build your confidence. Joe Crupi, founder of Team Panda Fit Camp SGX, says going out as a team is one of his favorite ways to take on a course “…It makes for an outstanding and fun experience, helping each other over walls, coaching each other through challenging obstacles like the rigs, and motivating each other to try our best and discovering abilities you never new you were capable of”.

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“Signing up for the elite heat in F.I.T. challenge is definitely intimidating” – Sarah Kelly

Ready to fight for your band and take on the Elite course? If 3 plus miles of quick elevation climbs and 40 obstacles wasn’t tough enough, F.I.T. Challenge has a mandatory obstacle completion for its Elite wave. Upside is you get to give that Multi-Rig another shot if need be. Female Elite, Sarah Kelly’s advice is to be confident. “It’s a small and stacked group…but it’s a great way to see what your made of and how hard you can push yourself, since it’s such a brutal course.”

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Now if Open and Elite waves don’t quite feed your appetite, F.I.T. Challenge offers you the Multi-lap Survivor wave. Giving you a solid 5 hours to get in as many laps as possible, with a mandatory last lap start before the final noon wave takes off. Get three or more laps in and earn yourself a handmade block to show off your toughness. Taking on a multi lap course, competitively, takes a bit more grit and mental preparedness then the others. As competitive multi-lapper and elite racer Antoni Favata would say its “an entirely different animal.” Aside from training, he stresses the necessity of having fun in order to keep a good and competitive mental state on the course. His advice is to “…get familiar with pacing. Train time on feet!” and to toss out the “cookie-cut 60 minute workout window”.

Whether Open wave, Elite racing, or Multi-lap Surviving, or having fun, the best way to see if your fit for the F.I.T. Challenge is to cross the start line.

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Spartan Race VT Ultra Beast 2016- Finding your True Grit

As we all know, or at least have heard, the coveted Vermont Spartan Beast, held in Killington VT, is the birthplace of Spartan Race, the authentic test of the Spartan Racer’s true grit. This year, race Designer and Director Norm Koch and Jason Barnes were not allowing a single racer to forget that, especially those taking on the Ultra Beast.

The Spartan Ultra Beast is generally a 28+ mile, 60+ obstacle course and part of the Spartan Endurance level of racing. For the 2016 VT Ultra Beast, each lap ranged around 16.1 miles and was one of the most physically and mentally challenging things I have ever done. Upon approaching the start line, my teammate and I knew better than to underestimate this mountain and with all the training and preparing, excitement and fear had been overwhelming. The announcers began with reviewing the rules and informing us of the new bib system for the first 20 females and 20 males to the half way point. Enter first goal. The sun slowly rose as announcer Rob Lyday prepared us, and with the final “AROO,” we were off.

VT Ultra Beast

Up and over hay bails to Sternum Checker, the first mountain hike began. Little did we know this hike up was just a warm-up for what was to come. Next up were wall jumps, a long barbed wire crawl and on to the Bucket Brigade – not the steepest of climbs with a bucket, but the distance definitely made up for it. Before we knew it, we had approached the 6-mile marker and the Tarzan Swing and swim to go with it, an iconic Killington obstacle that did not make an appearance the year before. The swim was in pretty icy temperatures to the bridge where we had the ladder climb and Tarzan swing across, drop down and swim to the other side. If either part of that was not accomplished, 30 burpee penalties were given for each failure. Just when you though the water was over, not too far into the terrain did you arrive at the rolling mud, wall, and another barbed wire crawl, my personal favorite.

VT Tarzan Swing

After finishing a long and enduring terrain climb, we arrived at the rope climb which is where we then embarked on the last and most grueling climbs of the entire race, the K1 Death March. Putting the thought of a second lap as far out of mind as possible, my teammate and I trudged upward one foot in front of the other. This is where all the true mental testing began with constant false peaks and motivation; we eventually reached the top and sped down to the spear throw, log carry, inverted wall, atlas carry, and multi-rig. With three girls in the burpee zone, I dug deep and got to the drop bin zone as tenth female.

VT Cargo Net

Trying not to spend too much time in the transition area, we quickly ate, fixed our feet and were off again. To be honest, I had done my best to push out any recollection of the last loop and feel fresh. Little did we know that we had made the mistake of which obstacle a specific time hack had been placed and upon reaching the second barbed wire crawl were faced with that truth. A quick glance at each-other and an affirming “We’ve got this” was enough to make us dig deeper than ever and give this course everything we had. Knowing what was between us and the 6:30 rope climb cut off, my mind became a battle field. Trying to displace any muscle fatigue and quiet negative thoughts I arrived at the sand bag carry directly before the rope climb. I had totally forgotten it was there. My mind brought up any and every doubt, inadequacy, and complaint it could. My quads burned, my chest tightened, but as I grabbed for the sandbag a spectator shouted out “Go Ultra Beaster! You have less than ten minutes.” The last bit of encouragement I needed to sprint up and down the sand bag carry to the rope climb and achieve the time hack with 3 minutes to spare. Any fears or doubts about a second go at the Death March were quieted and the burning desire to finish this course was in full force.

Death March

This climb was long, feeling longer than before, and with hydration low, we trekked onward. Making it to the summit with dropping temperatures and only head lamps and moonlight to guide us, we were hit with the craziest amount of energy and flew down the mountain, the smell of the finishers fire jump was finally in reach.

I have to say that this finishers jump was one of my greatest achievements. Not because I finished a race, but because of all that the race asked of me. For me, what makes an Ultra different from the rest is that it brings me to answering the question of what is my true grit. Yes, I train for these physically, but what happens when your body is tired and your mind becomes the battle field. That, is the test of your true-grit. At this Ultra Beast, I didn’t just have to face the walls of limitations I created, but had to shatter them. Much like my fellow racers and teammate found, only when we ask the most of ourselves, will we see how far our spirits can truly take us.

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Congratulations to all of my fellow VT Ultra Beast racers who crossed the start line. This course was definitely not for the faint of heart.

Spartan Race World Championships: Elite/Pro Tips for the Mental Obstacles

Spartan Race World Championships - Start Line

When one chooses to compete in a Spartan Race, one never knows, 100%, what to expect.  Having designers, directors, and build crews acting as evil scientists in a lab, concocting what they feel would not just be a physically challenging course, but one that is filled with mental tests in which the winner and the quitter battle and tuning out the noise is a necessity. The 2016 Spartan Race World Championships delivered just such a course – one that required both physical and mental preparation and stamina.

So how does one mentally prepare to reach the finish? Here are a few tips from elite and pro racers on how they overcame the common mental obstacles faced before crossing the finish line.

Mental Obstacle #1: Extreme Temperatures

Spartan Race World Championships - Cold Water

The 2016 Spartan World Championships were held in Tahoe so athletes had somewhat of a preconceived notion of what to expect, or heard the horror stories of temperature from the previous year.

It’s northern California in October and the chance of cold weather is high. Not to mention swimming obstacles would be a guarantee. This didn’t stop athletes from across the world  making the pilgrimage to compete. How you might ask? Well aside from preparing physically and knowing how to work temps to your advantage, Male Elite Competitor, Kevin Seaman reminds himself that “… you didn’t make it there by accident. You’ve proven you’re strong enough to handle it.”

Mental Obstacle #2: Seemingly Endless Elevation Gain

Spartan Race World Championships - Elevation Gain

As the start line corral filled up, nerves and excitement set in. Athletes soared through the festival area, to the first set of walls and rolling mud before the first, of two, ascents up the mountain. Although, this first lap was obstacle light, the continuous uphill, paired with the mountain winds and dropping temperatures, make for a sure fire set up for becoming weary. Female Elite racer Alex Sawicki says the best route is to keep it positive. Don’t let any self-pity in. Especially when fighting injuries, she refuses to waste energy on negative thinking.

“Move with purpose, move forward.” -Alex Sawicki

Mental Obstacle #3: Facing New Obstacles

Spartan Race World Championships - New Obstacles (Thigh Master)

Upon reaching the bottom of the first climb, racers hit the first of quite a few new Spartan obstacles. First was The Thigh-Master. A fun addition, in my opinion, involving a solid amount of thigh strength rather than anything else. Other new creations unveiled were – Olympus (a slanted wall fitted with rock climbing holds, chains, and cut outs, testing your grip strength), the Spartan Ladder, and the new multi-rig style, filled with old favorite rings and adding in rope hangs to the finishing bell. Along with the Apehanger, making its first appearance at the Blue Mountain Championship, fitted with a rope climb to angled hanging monkey bars over 4-ft of water.

Spartan Race World Championships - New Obstacles (Apehanger)

How does one racing to the finish not get held up by so many new twists? Well, Spartan Pro Kevin Donoghue doesn’t waste a second  saying that speed is the best approach, “Quickly assess, dissect, and execute.”

Mental Obstacle #4: Added Sanded Bags and Extended Bucket Brigades

We all can agree that the carry obstacles can be some of the most mentally torturous. So when told that the Spartan World Championship Beast was going to have a double Sand Bag carry and half mile Bucket Brigade jaws dropped and eyes rolled. All the grip training and back strengthening efforts are great reminders to get you through. In addition, Pro racer and 2nd Place Elite Female Championship Finisher, Lindsay Webster’s advice might just make you dig a bit deeper than you thought you could and keep pushing.

The thing about obstacle racing that really and truly sets it apart from any other sport is the amount of mental grit it requires. You just have to set aside thoughts of your aching muscles and screaming lungs and focus on forward progress. I came to Tahoe to race a World Championship, and even though my body was cramping and exhausted, I did my darnedest not to let it stop me. – Lindsay Webster

Spartan Race World Championships - Log Carry

Throughout all the courses and especially one as intense as the Spartan World Championship course, the most important thing to keep in mind is that you ARE capable. Get out and race, and as Spartan Race says “You’ll know at the Finish Line.”

Spartan Race World Championships - Medal


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Spartan Race – NJ Ultra Beast: MORE than just a race

My First Spartant Ultra BeastThis weekend I embarked on my first Spartan Race Ultra Beast. A 26+ mile, 50+ obstacle course, designed by none other than the infamous Spartan race designer- Norm Koch. One of the best and most life changing decisions I have ever made.

When starting the 2016 season of OCR, I decided I wanted more and ultras were seeming to be my answer. The dilemma was that I had the want but also the fear to go with it. “What if I don’t finish?” “What if I’m not as prepared as I think?” “What if I starve?” and the “What if’s” went on and on, becoming more and more ridiculous, to the point where I held off signing up until only weeks before, even still then considering my “out”. The saving grace that brought me to the start line and my first Ultra Beast finish line was the OCR and endurance world’s fellowship and camaraderie. The exact reason I started this journey. Every time I voiced a fear or reservation, ultra racers barely blinked, before responding with motivation and laughter. A recognition that, maybe we all lost our marbles and sanity to sign up for a race like this, and yes maybe all your fears are true, but you won’t know until you try and if you succeed you get a pretty sweet medal and bragging rights.My First Spartant Ultra BeastWhen race day finally arrived, kickoff was delayed a bit. Nerves would usually plague racers at this point, but I was getting practically “birthday” excited to start. The sense of knowing that not just myself, but we were all crossing something more than a starting line in a race, beat louder than most drums and in an instant we were off. All my fears were suffocated with crazy amounts of excitement.

With each step, the excitement that I was finally stepping into a new level of athleticism grew. With the goal of finishing written on everyone’s face, there also laid determination, a beautiful gift that we all have when we get on that course, later to find that, the main obstacle is not forgetting it as the miles pile up and the muscles tire out.
My First Spartant Ultra BeastBefore I knew it, we had climbed a fair amount, passed the memory test, leapt over quite a few walls and had made it to the log carry. Trying to find the best proportioned log to throw on my shoulder, not thinking of whether they had separated the piles for men and women, and we were off again down to the multi-rig, which, with a miss-grip on transition, landed me in the burpee zone.  A quick climb up the rope and back up the mountain we go. From here on out, the break-down of obstacles to mileage was pretty well proportioned, along with a bear sighting or two, rolling mud straight into a slippery wall, and by mile 8, we reached a nice long farmer carry, that personally, wouldn’t be possible without the heavy rock music blaring, wrapping up the second third of the course. Before I was able to forget, we were back at the steep climbs, and by the 11th mile of my first lap, my quads were screaming on the inclines. This is where the Spartan camaraderie began to speak volumes. A few encouraging words, the reminder to check out the incredible view and a pat on the back kept me smiling throughout not just the first lap but full blown laughing in the second lap of the grueling course.
My First Spartant Ultra BeastThis race became life changing when leaving the halfway point at the drop bin zone. After shoving an everything bagel smothered in chocolate peanut butter and marshmallow fluff down, a few Oral I.V.‘s and some generously given pickle juice, second lap was about to commence. I had done Beasts plenty of times before, but getting going to take on the mountain again was the new playing field. One by one we leave that zone, physically, we were where we were, there was no changing that, but the mental strength was what would make or break us. The strategy was that of teamwork and to just not think about the miles ahead. With fellow racers words on repeat,  “one foot in front of the other” and “it WILL hurt”, there wasn’t much else to do, then accept it all and make the most of every second. Before you know it, that fire jump becomes more and more of a possibility and how could you not get excited for that massive belt buckle!
My First Spartant Ultra BeastBottom line, I didn’t know what to expect from an Ultra Beast, but this course was far from being for the faint of heart, and it did not let you forget it for a second. That being said, Spartan teaches an amazing lesson with a course like this; when your body is shutting down, it really is an amazing thing to realize how truly capable you are. A realization that you will never forget.
My First Spartant Ultra Beast

Beyond The Race – Matt “The Bear” Novakovich

Is Elite Obstacle Course Racing on your ‘Dying To Try List’? Or maybe you’re a seasoned vet on the course, wanting to push a bit further. I bet you have questions, doubts, even fears, the biggest being, how to cram twenty-nine hours into your twenty-four, with the effortless calm that the Elites and Pros seem to have in everyday life. Easy, right?

 Secrets out. It’s not!

Whether you’re dealing with the all too common Clark Kent OCR Syndrome or already neck deep in the fitness world, either way, you’re realizing that the imprint on the couch from your sedentary days has long since disappeared, but weighing life in all its aspects has become somewhat of a daily reprieve. It’s time we go beyond the race, taking a deeper look into how the Professionals got from where you are … to where they are … and stay there.
Beyond The Race Matt The Bear NovakovichFortunately, Spartan Race Pro, Matt ”The Bear” Novakovich, sat down with us to shed a bit of light.

Matt’s Bio:

  • Born and raised in Alaska
  • Business degree from Brigham Young University
  • 1 College Steeple Chaser
  • Mountain Marathon Champion
  • Owner of an Alaskan roofing company
  • Father of four beautiful children

After graduating BYU, Matt headed back to Alaska with his college sweetheart and future wife, a drive to build his business and a growing desire to compete.  Unbeknownst to him how far this competitive hunger would go, Matt found his way into mastering the art of incline training, aiding in his multiple Mountain Marathon successes and OCR Spartan victories. No, the man who rigged a treadmill to a 40% incline will not accept the Alaskan Mountain terrain availability as an excuse. When there’s a will. There’s a way.
Beyond The Race MNSo how does a resume like this happen? Yes, insane training played a part, but, persistence in achieving positive balance in daily living is where the real credit is due. Utilizing the patience and diligence learned from his sport, among a few other tricks, and applying it to struggles that, more times than not, are what most of us can all too easily identify with.

When failing to meet race expectations in his final Mountain Marathon, Matt stumbled into OCR. Not expecting it would bring more than the satisfaction of getting out of a rut. Who knew that all that incline training and the endless hours of climbing would pay off big on these, not just new, but foreign course designs. Finishing first at one of Spartan Races hardest courses, the 2013 Virginia Wintergreen. A new sport romance was born.
Beyond The Race Matt The Bear NovakovichMaking it a family affair, Matt aided in peaking the interest to his then wife, who lead on her way to becoming a top female competitor on the course, thus broadening the opportunities for their mini athletes. Sadly, for the Novakovich family, competition took its toll and constant traveling to different venues ended up adding too much strain on the marriage. What started as an exciting and fast-paced new adventure, Matt was now finding himself in the middle of a divorce. The words “The best things are not always the most glamorous” proved to not just apply to his roofing company any longer.
Beyond The Race Matt The Bear NovakovichSo how does a 41-year-old, business owning entrepreneur, recently single father of four, Pro OCR athlete keep it going you might ask? Well, according to him “Balance. It’s a lifestyle.” Made up of merely four pieces:

social interaction

physicality

mentality

spirituality

“…You have 6 hours a day for each of those… technically”
Beyond The Race Matt The Bear NovakovichSuggestions from the Bear on this balancing act, if you want to watch TV and play video games, that’s fine, get on your treadmill and do it or take advantage of those commercial breaks. There is no reason why the little ones can’t join in it too. Yes, on the course it’s a competition and being prepared is key, but make sure to set aside time for friends and family, hikes are great and you don’t have to ALWAYS be training at 110%.
Beyond The Race Matt The Bear NovakovichNow for nutrition, eat what makes you happy. If that’s simple sugars, go for it! Just keep in mind you don’t have to finish your plate. As long as you’re not literally in a training session or on the race course “it’s okay to be hungry.” Matt makes sure to keep his body fueled during workouts so that he can successfully reach his competitive goals, outside of that you really don’t have to stress so much.

One of his absolute favorites is the McDonalds Fruit & Maple Oatmeal.

Beyond The Race Matt The Bear NovakovichBy making sure to leave anxiety at the door and choosing what is important to you at each present moment, your goals, whatever they may be, are more than in reach. Life isn’t about sacrificing one thing for another and shouldn’t be either.
Beyond The Race Matt The Bear Novakovich