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REVIEW: Backpack/Rucksack from Get Hosed Apparel

REVIEW: Backpack/Rucksack from Get Hosed Apparel

I’ve been meaning to get this review out there for a while about my rucksack/backpack from Get Hosed Apparel. Honestly I fell in love with it as soon as I opened the box several months ago, but I resisted temptation to blast a review out there 5 minutes after laying eyes on it. Even though I’ve never had a bad product from Jay, I really wanted to adventure with this one before I wrote it up.

First of all, let me say this. When you’re ordering a product from GHA, you are ordering something that has some history to it, it has a look, a feel, a story, if you’re using your gear…maybe its YOUR story. Regardless, it speaks a story from the fire it might have been on, or the story of craftsmanship. When I speak of craftsmanship, I look at the GHA product line from top to bottom the amount of time, thought, detail, quality, and effort put into making your product right for you. There is no mass production machine that is spitting out parts and a robot putting these together. There are no quotas that an assemblyperson must meet (well I guess maybe Staci lays the smack down and tells Jay that there is a pile of orders coming through the website could count…right?) Really though, its not about how fast can we throw these together, its about customer satisfaction and taking care of customers…family.

Get Hosed Apparel is a FAMILY owned and operated business, and it is a firefighter owned business. With that comes not only the family mindset, but the fact that we take care of each other, know what is important to firefighters, why a product needs to function for the end user a certain way, and not just look cute. There is something to be said about small businesses that are family owned and operated like this. Its not about profit margins and CEOs or having to push products through huge marketing campaigns or mainstream TV spots. Products from GHA and their happy customers sell the product.

Since I opened the box that my backpack was shipped in, its not really left my side…or rather my back. I shifted things over from the old pack I carried and put it in service that night. It’s a daily carry to the office of my 9-5 job. It’s a I need to head out on a trip and throw a couple things and a laptop together bag. It’s my, “I’m heading across the country on a plane” and need a bag that can handle the trip.

Order it to the color of gear that you wear, maybe the same color striping that your department uses, make it represent you and fit your personality.  The exterior of these is tough, because its meant to withstand what we do.  The interior is a heavy duty durable black material that holds up to pretty much anything you toss at it.  The snap closures on the main flap, yeah those should look familiar too if you’ve been in the fire service for any amount of time.  You can’t miss this bag.

I took that backpack out to my premier event in Seattle back in March, why, because I needed something that could hold up and look good. I switched planes in Chicago and the firefighter that sat down recognized the product right away and knew the company. Rainy Seattle weather and going everywhere from plane, to train, to walking 7-10 miles a day was nothing for this bag. I never ran out of room and never was uncomfortable.

Two weeks ago I took the backpack out with our dive team for a training on our boat. Sure there was some water, but what was inside was dry and safe. I had plenty of room for the afternoon on the water and never once worried.  Sunlight, chance of getting splashed or wet from water running on the floor of the boat, having enough space for my needs, all taken care of.

Most recently I found my bag used out at FDIC. Like any other trip I wanted to take it with me, I love it, and it’s a highly functional bag. It wasn’t until the final day of FDIC that I realized that yes you CAN put 10 pounds of crap in a 5-pound bag. Actually If I weighed the bag, it was probably closer to 60, but that’s not my point. My point is that I got to the final day and was packing up my booth for the Scott Firefighter Stair Climb and really didn’t want to make two trips out to my truck parked behind Lucas Oil Stadium because my feet were dead tired. So I loaded up the backpack and through surely this is not going to work. My Macbook Air, my second laptop with a 15” screen that was on display, 18’ surge protector, a portfolio, a bag of challenge coins, two t-shirts, four chargers, some swag I picked up at the show that day, a light jacket, my Canon 7D with a lens, adapters for a monitor, a 10’ HDMI cable, water bottle, snacks, and I topped it off with around 350 (5×7) flyers for the FF climb that were printed on cardstock. I cinched the drawstring on the bag and wasn’t once concerned if the bag would hold. The wind straps of the bag were comfortable and didn’t pinch, and I drew it up high into a comfortable position. The straps never loosened under the weight, the heavy-duty plastic adjustment pieces head fast and off I went. The straps on this pack are wide and feel like they have rounded edges on them that don’t cut, but also don’t slip from your shoulders when carrying.

My recommendation if you’re thinking about buying one of these bags. Quit thinking and just do it. Better yet, if you have your own patches, or nametags, or maybe even gear that you want to use in it, DO IT! Work with Jay to implement these into your bag and making it tell your story.

For more information on their products, to get pricing, and to place an order, check out www.gethosedapparel.com

BlastMask (REVIEW) …How are you training for respiratory endurance?

BlastMask (REVIEW) …How are you training for respiratory endurance?

Jason Bostic is a sixteen-year firefighter from Ohio that is still a student of the trade. He has seen and lived through the struggle to get “FirefighterFit”, having slimmed down 75 pounds and 10-inches at the waist. Bostic is an avid competitive stair climber both in fire gear and without who promotes firefighter wellness and a “pay forward” mentality for a variety of causes such as the Scott Firefighter Stair Climb, which benefits the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.

IMG_1490I ordered my BlastMask device for my personal Scott AV3000 mask just before the New Year and to my excitement it arrived quickly. A small five-inch cube brown box was waiting for me when I checked my mailbox at work. Quickly opening it I was met by the inner white packaging that held my newest training device. If you are looking for frills, confetti, instruction manuals, bubble wrap and swag, you might be disappointed, because inside you will find only the bold red BlastMask and a small instruction sheet.

Simple

Its simplistic in nature, but sometimes the most simplistic are often the best. I love the color of this device, red does happen to be my favorite color, but I instantly fell in love with the look and feel. To me, the equipment I use in training and elsewhere needs to have a certain feel and look to it. At first examination it appears to be constructed of at the most, three parts. The outer shell comprised of the large cup where the ring providing the breathing resistance moves, the end cap, which connects into your SCBA mask, and the black resistance ring inside that does the work. As I looked at it further, the simplistic nature, open design, and few parts appear to make disinfecting and keeping it clean to be a very simple task. This is not like a regulator with multiple moving parts that can be time consuming to clean. Simple steps that really amount to spray it, wash it out, and let it dry.

The next thing I thought of after handling the device was just how lightweight it is. When I picked it up I expected more, but their design does not seem to need a lot of weight and extra pieces. While the plastic (thermoplastic polymer resin) appears to be very durable, I’m not going to perform any drop tests on my own personal one to see if it can withstand the torture at this point. At the size of a small mug, or a stack of three hockey pucks, there really is not a lot that will be hanging off your mask and certainly won’t be obscuring your vision.

First thoughts after my use

IMG_1518I could hardly wait to get home the day it arrived to grab my Scott mask and make the connection to see what Blast Mask is about. As I hooked it into the AV3000 I found it to be very tight and at first I wasn’t sure if there was a problem getting the two to marry up. There is very little tolerance in the design, and when you do click it in place it is a solid connection with no leak. I’m also taking into consideration that the mask which I use is only three years old, only bought for training and has never been beat around in the rigors of the fire ground. I pulled my mask down onto my face, tightening the straps and took my first breath. Right away I could tell that this was going to make my body work harder and could feel the reduction in how air was moving for me.

Off to the stairs at home I went, up, down, and repeat for nearly fifteen minutes straight to the beat of my music. I did so with just typical gym apparel on for the first test so I could become more familiar and ease into working with their regulator. Initially after starting my workout I feared that my mask was going to fog and obscure my vision, but I was pleased to find this didn’t happen in my first trial. I changed to a higher tempo and more intensity, and while there was condensation on the inside of the mask, no fogging. With prescription lenses framed in my mask, sometimes fogging can be an issue, but not with their regulator.

I monitored my heart rate throughout my climbing with my Fitbit watch and when I looked at the data afterwards it appeared to mimic closely what I would see when I train in my SCBA.

IMG_1519My second scenario with the BlastMask I found different results and I believe mostly to the environment. I took to the stairwell at work where there it is a much warmer climate of around 75 at most times. Wearing almost identical clothing to my first trial I quickly got into my pace. Within a short period of time, my heart rate was into more of a cardio mode and ticking right along, my respiratory system being tested, and I was feeling my body temperature climb. Unlike last night I was getting more condensation and I had very noticeable fogging by 10 minutes. By 11:46 into my climb it was beginning to be very difficult to see. As I neared just over the 18-minute mark I decided to stop, not because of exhaustion, but because of almost zero visibility.

I have conducted a number of other tests with my BlastMask, and while the fogging can be annoying, it is most certainly a fog of the fireground that we are going to experience at some point. Tests from stair running, treadmill work, elliptical, and the rowing machine really all push my body more than before and I look forward to taking it into a few other simulations in coming weeks. The fogging of my mask is acceptable given the other benefits that I get from the use of the BlastMask regulator and the real feel that I get without using full SCBA.

Slightly humorous, but have you stopped for a moment to take a look in the mirror with your SCBA mask, BlastMask regulator, and any of the higher end black weight vests? Expect to draw a few odd and longing looks at the gym and if you’re taking a run through the community that someone is going to report it. Laugh it off, and take the opportunity to educate and inform them what the device does and what you are doing to better prepare yourself to come home.

Pros:

  1. Made in the U.S.A.
  2. What I see so far is a great device that is going to challenge the firefighter while wearing the Blast Mask regulator. In my testing thus far I felt firsthand the difference and was able to look at real numbers after my workout to compare.
  3. I see this being highly beneficial in firefighters being able to conduct cardio workout regimen without taking equipment out of service and dragging it to the gym or over to your firehouse fitness area. With this regulator, you’re going to feel the resistance as if you’re working on the fireground and can train for the cardio we do. Not everyone can afford their own SCBA to train with and I’ll be honest it can be annoying to run to the firehouse before every training session, grab a pack, use it, return it, fill it, and put it back in service before going home. Simply grab your mask and BlastMask and off you go!
  4. The device was $96. In the grand scheme of workout gear that I have or utilize, its not breaking the bank. Some firefighters and departments may think otherwise at the cost, but in the overall grand scheme of things it is miniscule in price.
  5. It doesn’t expire. There are no regulations on the device like there are with an SCBA. Through proper care, cleaning, use, and storage, this would be possible to outlast your gear and even the SCBA.
  6. No maintenance. Really just clean it, dry it and put it away. There is no testing required by your SCBA maintenance unit on a yearly basis to certify it. If it breaks in the first year, it’s covered by warranty.
  7. It’s a simple design that gets the job done. Less moving parts = more firefighter friendly!

Cons: 

  1. The only thing that I don’t entirely agree with is the “training like its real” statement that I see mentioned as being a benefit of the device. As a big-time air guy I train on air and want to see my guys clicking in and running through the tanks. Air at least in the case of my firehouse is free; we can fill our bottles with no problem and repeat. Sometimes it takes some persuasion to encourage that mentality everywhere that it costs us nothing to use our SCBA as intended. SCBA on air training is worthwhile because you need to condition the mind to monitoring that tank, and being on air, and the repeated muscle memories that go along with it. With that said, please refer back up to item number three above where I talk about it giving you almost identical feeling of being on air!
  2. Sometimes it did and sometimes it didn’t, I think this is dependent upon the conditions, but in several of my trials it was a problem. If you’re doing SAR in zero viz it’s not going to be a problem, but if your thought it to toss it on and go for a bike ride you may have a small issue.
  3. No swag. Ok, this seems stupid and trivial, but when I purchase other equipment they send along a window sticker or helmet sticker, something. This regulator is well worth promoting and getting the word out there further.
  4. No storage bag. While it does need to dry after use for obvious reasons of contamination, I think at the price point they are marketing the regulator that it could come with some type of pouch. Whether it is slightly padded with some mesh, entirely mesh, or just a padded pouch, I think that it would help protect the Blast Mask.
  5. While it isn’t of much issue in my region of Ohio, I know in other areas of the state that SCBA manufacturers such as Draeger and SurvivAir are popular. Looking at the overall scheme of things I see this as simply a startup issue that they can potentially resolve, but they wanted to hit the two big manufacturers at launch.

IMG_1499Conclusion

Overall I see this as a great product that has worked well in kicking my butt thus far and I look forward to several events and months down the road where I can see results from the time invested.   If you’re looking for that one simple device to turn that workout up in 2016, this is it. This is a sure way to help improve the strength and endurance of your respiratory system. While there are other devices out there that you can wear for “elevation training” and to add to the resistance, there is not another product out there like BlastMask which interfaces with our PPE and lets us train in similar fashion to being on air and geared up.

I simply love the BlastMask and mine is riding around with my mask in a bag from GetHosedApparel.  Kudos on this great product, I am excited to see it excel and flourish and see what might be next.

Hydration under fire

Hydration under fire

IMG_9724-2As a firefighter, your body’s level of hydration is important around the clock, but when you kick up the intensity in your activity or the heat you’re exposed to it becomes crucial for survival. In the profession of firefighting, current studies show that proper hydration literally is the difference between life and death. With over 50-percent of Line-of-Duty-Deaths (LODD) being health related to sudden cardiac events and health related issues, properly maintaining our bodies can make the difference.

Recently I had the opportunity to trial the Phytosport Complete Hydration from Arbonne and put the product through its paces. It was a hot July day with heat index into the mid-90’s to the typical body, but on the day I tried the hydration packets there was nothing typical about the test. As the sun beat down on the pavement for four hours of auto extrication training, the heat within my firefighting turnout gear was intense and within minutes began zapping my body of crucial hydration and nutrients.

I had hydrated throughout the morning and even properly the night before this training. From almost 16 years experience in the fire service I knew first hand just how much it could zap my body in the heat of the day. What I didn’t plan for was extra time in the gear from working a motor vehicle crash (MVC) within two hours of the training that day. Already a little drained from the heat I first turned to water which cooled me off an did offer some relief, but didn’t really do much more. I tore open the packet of Tropical Berry Complete Hydration and poured in into my bottle of water. The fruity smell with no crazy undertones, chemicals, or odd powdery odors filled the air. I shook the bottle quickly and the powder dissipated in no time to something that was colored, but mostly transparent.

The first sip was tasty and nothing like I expected. Over the years of firefighting, and fitness I have tried some interesting products and been mostly dissatisfied with everything I came across, but the Arbonne product was different. It was refreshing, crisp, had just the right amount of flavor, and went down smoother than the other big name hydration products you might be used to. The big name hydration drinks always seem to be like drinking syrup, and on a hot day I can’t tell you how many times I’ve struggled to keep it down. On the other hand, I’ve had a number of these powder drink packets that seem just like a watered down product and don’t feel like they offer any relief. Complete Hydration was neither, it was the perfect level of flavor that sat well and I was able to consume with no side affects. Very quickly I could tell the difference between the previous 16 ounces of water that I consumed and the 16 ounces of Arbonne infused water. Within only a few minutes I felt a relief that I had not experienced before in rehydrating. Not only was my body responding to the difference in the drink, but also my mind and clarity of thought were greatly improved, leaving me feeling ready to reengage.

Once the first bottle was down, I turned once again back to regular water to hydrate to see the difference. Again, it only cooled me off, but offered little more relief than that. The bottle following that was again mixed with the Complete Hydration and offered a great experience, hydration, and quick jolt of energy back into my body.

Whats the difference?

When it comes to the labels, comparing Arbonne to some of the other popular hydration drinks you find around the firehouse, there were some big differences. First off the Arbonne has no dyes, no artificial flavors, less sugar, and fewer calories. Then there are the other differences; Arbonne has more sodium, potassium, and vitamins A/C/E than the others. I’m no healthcare professional, but have spent enough years reading labels, educating myself, and researching health products to see that Arbonne is definitely something I need to utilize.

It goes without saying that sure, you can go buy any sports drink easily at any local gas station, or even pour yourself a glass of cold H20 to hydrate your body, but are you really providing your body what it needs? While not as convenient to have to order a product and wait for it to be shipped, it is worth the short wait in shipping to give your body the best advantage.

I see myself picking up more of the Complete Hydration for after a fire, those long workdays, and competition days when I need to be on top of my game. It truly gave me an experience that I have not had before.

This is the second of the Arbonne products that I have had the opportunity to put to the test under real world conditions, and not just sips to taste and see if I “liked” it. As with any of my reviews of a product, I am going to put it through the paces rather than just giving it a quick thumbs up.

Interested in trying the Arbonne products that I have mentioned?  I recommend you contact and order through:  Kayla Shomaker, Arbonne Independent Consultant, District Manager

email-cmkayla@gmail.com

Phone (740) 485-1665

Website: kaylashomaker.arbonne.com

 

 

Rastin Observation Tower – Stair Climb Review

Rastin Observation Tower – Stair Climb Review

IMG_6748I’ve had a birds eye view of the newest staircase that I am going to review you could say. It’s a very unique almost freestanding spiral staircase that surrounds an old smokestack at the old Pittsburgh Plate Glass factory in Mount Vernon, Ohio and is only 12 minutes from where I live. So from the time they announced it, I was already excited to see what the end result would be. Having seen the factory for years, I hoped that the tower would climb to the top, however they decided to only go partway.

Named the Rastin Observation Tower, it surrounds the smokestack that was in use at the PPG plant from 1951 until the closing in 1976. The reinforced concrete stack stands at a height of 280 feet, with the observation deck at the 140-foot level. There are 224 steps to get to the top, which is around a 13-floor climb. To my knowledge there is no other staircase of this type in the state of Ohio that I have located and would be curious to locate others to check out.

To view the entire Ariel Foundation Park map, CLICK HERE!

My first trip up the tower was a few days before the grand opening when there were several members of the project committee on-site. I was given a heads-up that there would be people there and that the gates were open. I had to seize the opportunity to climb it before a large portion of the general public.

IMG_6758At this time there is still landscaping that is underway around the base of the observation tower, so how that will look is undetermined. There are cement walkways that snake their way to the base of the tower from the parking nearby. It is at this point where you can enter the revolving gate to the actual base area of the tower. This area is completely level and a somewhat decorative concrete slab, which for an organizer planning a tower race gives plenty of room for timing equipment and racers to stage. Many areas leading up to the tower have pieces of the glass from the former factory embedded in the concrete, which gives it a different appearance.

The stairs are wide, the step height is short, and the tread is deep. It will be difficult to slip on these stairs because of the very aggressive surface that will certainly be unforgiving to a climber’s knee or elbow. Traffic can flow easily top to bottom with the width of the staircase, however they are narrow enough that racers can “double rail” to reach the top. Railings are tubular, mostly smooth, and are very sturdy.

I was full of excitement as I took the first few steps onto the tower. I noticed that after going no more than about 20 steps or so that maybe it was the curves and lines of the structure that were making for optical illusions for me. It wasn’t a loss of balance just an interesting aura from the very busy image to take in. That feeling quickly went away as I focused and touched each step and felt the wind through the metal structure.

IMG_6128Steps do not run continuously to the top, there are landings on the connector sections of the tower that can also serve as a great place to pass or to stop and take a photo. I decided to stop, take the photo, and take in the height and the view that the tower offered me. I continued my climb as I continued to peer around the community that emerged from the tree line, slowly becoming more picturesque. Even on a partly to mostly cloudy day the view was gorgeous and I marveled at the distance that I could see.

The top of the stairs opens up into a viewing platform that is the same width as the stairway, and with high sides. You can still view through the sides well, as the metal bars are several inches apart, allowing you to slide your camera phone through or poke the lens of your favorite SLR to snap an image. The platform goes just short of 360 degrees around the top. If you’re looking for a mountainous view or a gorgeous countryside from the platform you’re going to be disappointed. The view over the 250-acre park site with ruins, buildings, landscape, lakes, a river of glass cullet and more however is right in front of you. To the trained local eyes we can see a large number of landmarks off in the distance, myself seeing a large portion of the new Fredericktown water tower (7.3 miles away).

SONY DSCMy second ascent up the tower was on the day of the official dedication of the entire park on July 4, 2015. It was a calm day with plenty of sun, humidity, and heat. Knowing that there are only so many firsts I decided to climb the tower in full structural firefighting gear with my SCBA and carrying the American Flag. I certainly couldn’t think of a better day or better way to take our colors to the top. My son and I took our first trip together to the top as my wife stayed below to capture photos of the climb that day. It took several minutes to get there, not because of conditioning, but because of the number of people and those that we stopped to talk to. People who had heard about my climbs or were wondering about the gear and how hard it was to climb that way. As we reached the top, my son was a little hesitant at first, but excited at what he could see. I raised Old Glory over the top railing and proudly posted our nations colors at the top for all to see. Our second trip up that day, my wife Jennifer joined us so she could get her turn and be a part of it as a family.

SONY DSCI talked to many people along the way, stopped for pictures with visitors who wanted a shot before they moved on; it was motivating and great to hear the comments. From firefighting, to fitness, competitions, and why I do these events, it was a great way to share the message and hopefully convince more to get out and be more physically active.

If you’re looking for more information on the park itself, visit their website at http://arielfoundationpark.org where you can see the other places to hike around. The interactive map for the park can be found at the following location: http://arielfoundationpark.org/park-interactive-map/

GPS Coordinates for the tower are – 40°22’58.5″N 82°29’39.1″W and there are numerous park entrances both off Columbus Road, Harcourt Road, and Pittsburgh Avenue in Mount Vernon.

SONY DSC

 

Family fun days gone bye?

Family fun days gone bye?

PHOTO BY Adam Schierberg Photography
PHOTO BY Adam Schierberg Photography – Jennifer and I on stage two of the couples challenge after she owned this one.  The wall was no challenge for her and a flathead and I with my Halligan.

So, as I’ve said for quite some time, FF4CURES is far more than just about one particular cure, and that “cures” can be for a variety of things and it is important to promote and encourage them all. 

In this post I want to tackle a topic that I see a problem with in many, not all, but many firehouses and how we as firefighters need to get a handle on it. When was the last time you got your spouses, fiancé, girlfriends, children, and families as a whole together for a firehouse event? When did you last have a cookout and some games where they get to toss on some gear and get a little competitive? Perhaps the new guys might not have ever heard of such a thing or even seen it…Waterball? That’s something we’ve seen in those choppy VHS movies laying around, but never seen it done, right? The “cure” so to speak is out there, but I can’t say it’s going to be a comfortable move or something that everyone wants to do. Read a little about a recent experience that is changing lives and going to make a difference in houses everywhere.

The wife and I had the opportunity to be a part of FlameFest 2015 in Glade Springs, WVA, about two weeks ago. Yes, leave all the funny jokes about the name alone, we’ve heard them all and I’m sure came up with a few more amongst the tables when it came up in discussion at the event. Yes, the name is being changed, but I’m not privy to the new name yet…

PHOTO BY Adam Schierberg Photography
PHOTO BY Adam Schierberg Photography – Working through the first stage of the timed couples challenge.  Forcible entry, yes thats right.  They say canoeing is a true test of relationships, whomever came up with that never put the irons to work with their spouse.  Communication, teamwork, trust, and work.  Yes it takes it all, and was fun.

FlameFest is an event by FirefighterWife.com and made possible through many sponsors who did one heck of a job putting it together. Marriage topics, communication topics, bonding, financial planning (from people with fire service background), massage, firefighter behavioral health, fitness, funeral planning, and much more were discussed.

Now keep in mind those were just the planned topics and not what the many couples and small groups were talking about in their free time around the campfire, on the patio, on the porch, and elsewhere.  The entire event was full of communication, fun, and a great time.  Honestly if I were to do a recap of the entire weekend, I would be typing for a few days. Instead what I’m going to do is tackle a few selective topics hopefully over the next month or so and go from there.

IMG_5926
She never backed down from a challenge. As a matter of fact, really didn’t see anyone back down that day. It was a day full of encouragement, communication, learning, and building. Jen tackled the drywall and the wood sheeting on the other side with instruction from the help of F.O.O.L.S. members and myself who were around the prop. Every participant had coaching and people there to answer their questions along the way.

One of the exciting and hands-on events at FlameFest was the touch-a-truck event. This had the look and feel of a family fun day, except just with spouses that culminated in an evening cookout and live music. The day event was possible through work by Rhett Fleitz (TheFireCritic.com) with assistance by Willie Wines Jr. (IronFiremen.com), local F.O.O.L.S. chapters (Appalachian F.O.O.L.S., Valley of the F.O.O.L.S.), Beckley Fire Department, Beaver Fire Department, and Coal City Fire Department. Yeah yeah I know what you’re thinking, why is this any fun for the spouses if the guys are just going to be around fire trucks? The answer is that the event was for the ladies (and could easily be adaptable to families!) The afternoon long event put them in touch with a variety of trucks onsite to work around and check out. Then there were several stations (forcible entry, wall breaching, and hoseline deployment) not to mention the fact that they could do it in gear, masked up, and on air if they chose to. Sound fun, they thought so!?

There was a parking lot full of couples with apparatus setup and obstacles constantly in use. Firefighters constantly in motion as they watched, helped, and talked their spouses through the events. No there wasn’t shouting, no this wasn’t forced, and no this wasn’t an awkward event whatsoever, this was perhaps a phenomenon that you just had to witness to believe. Going on 16 years in the fire service (and everyday learning the trade) I can tell you that these “fire wives” break stereotypes that you hear, as did their fire husbands. I will go as far as saying these wives are the 1-percenters that are out there. Call us whatever you want, (because several of us have already caught crap about attending such an event), but Firefighter Salty McSalterson isn’t the one that’s going to grow old with you. He’s not taking the kids to practice, packing your lunch, handling the birthday party when you leave on a run, nor is he working and contributing financially. The list goes on.

Mr. and Mrs. FF4CURES right before she stretched the 1 3/4" line on another evolution at touch a truck.
Mr. and Mrs. FF4CURES right before she stretched the 1 3/4″ line on another evolution at touch a truck.

We firefighters are quick to order pizza after that run or that training; grab some beers and throw a small party after a job. We are accustomed to celebrate the holidays, celebrate retirements, and celebrate building brotherhood, but even at that we still aren’t ordering those “Big Ass Cakes” to celebrate the moments that we need to cherish. Even more troubling, we aren’t celebrating and involving those who are our biggest support systems or who “allow” us the ability to pursue our calling. We have withdrawn from our support systems at home and the ones that are going to be there long after we hop off the rig.

It doesn’t have to be big or elaborate if you haven’t done this in awhile.  The biggest hurdle might not be getting the food cooked, but rather getting the involvement from your members to have some fun with it. This doesn’t require an “email or memo” to go out, this requires something we suck at…some verbal communication. Don’t text people to break this idea out to the membership, bring it up at a meeting or training. Put a poster up at the firehouse and set a date, maybe even send some invitations out addressed to the family (a piece of letter head signed by the Chief is not what I’m suggesting here…) be creative, because its going to be more meaningful.

The meal doesn’t need to be a steak dinner, it can be as simple as hot dogs, burgers, or some chicken and some sides.  Get your association or auxiliary (theres something the younger guys don’t often know about) and see if they will provide the main dish.  Pass a signup around and get people to bring something and share the load.

These ladies cleaned up pretty well after a long day on the course.  Thank you to Beckley F.D. for use of the tower.
These ladies cleaned up pretty well after a long day on the course. Thank you to Beckley F.D. for use of the tower.

Drag out some corn hole boards and maybe have a kickball game at the park. Have some clean gear around and spray some water. If you have the luxury of a forcible entry simulator, bring it, and make sure you can keep it going for awhile because if you think we firefighters can challenge each other, you haven’t seen anything until the wives start challenging husbands and challenge each other. The important thing is to have something to do before and after the meal to keep people engaged. How many of your kids know what your fire gear is like and get/give the tours around the firehouse (lots of people saying of course)? Now, how many have your spouses, fiancé’s or girlfriends gotten that same tour, tried on the gear, masked up, or maybe even went through the SCBA maze? No hands up? WHY NOT?  Has it even crossed our minds that they even remotely might be interested in what takes you away from them?  No I’m not saying that this is going to be a recruiting event by any means, but some of the comments you will hear from them are priceless and going to be very meaningful.

Just a few of the guys breaking free from the music for a quick photo op with our helmets.
Just a few of the guys breaking free from the music for a quick photo op with our helmets.

What you’re going to see is not only are the couples building better relationships, but you’re going to see wives and families building better relationships with each other, kids knowing each other more, and being a much larger support system that’s going to have each others back when the times are tough.

Bring back the family, bring back traditions, or maybe in some houses you need to start some traditions. These aren’t new concepts or new culture that we need to approve and send up the chain, these are concepts that we are going to find pay huge dividends on those long shifts, long calls, rough nights, ruined holidays, and when your family is in trouble.

We our “our brothers keeper,” and after being a part of the FirefighterWife event, those ladies truly are, “their sisters keeper,” and I am pleased to see exist.  They are making a mark and taking the nation by storm.  Make sure that in your houses that you are providing ways to support this and make it happen.

In brotherhood…

REVIEW – Running the stairs in the glory of all those people

REVIEW – Running the stairs in the glory of all those people

IMG_4593So in my last post I focused on the weekend of events while in New York City for the Tunnel to Towers Climb at One World Trade Center. In this spot I want to talk a little more about the climb itself and really give a review of what you might expect and hopefully push you to sign up when it opens up again (hopefully).

Seldom have I ever had my entire being moved emotionally the way that I was Sunday morning. It was of little surprise to me that it would happen, but the extent I was taken back by. As an American the presentation of colors and the playing of our National Anthem always move me, but to hear it sung and literally fill the air around ground zero left my hair standing and eyes wet for quite some time. It was one emotion after another, building to the point of goose bumps, shivers, and literally taking over my mind any body. I won’t recap the ceremony more since I have already covered that one in the other post titled “New York City, the WTC, and a recap”

IMG_8757This was a climb that was announced without too much advanced warning, I was shocked by how quickly and well it was put together. I had just gotten back from Seattle in March and it seemed that BAM here is the next thing, and one that I could not pass up! Registering was a breeze, and the crowdwise site that was used worked well for what I needed.

The level of communication with the people of the Tunnel to Towers Foundation about the event was stellar for something of this size. I send an email and had a quick reply with the answers that I was looking for. I’ve struggled with smaller events to get that kind of service, but it wasn’t too much of a surprise. I’ve contacted the T2T about runs before and been met with the same level and quality of support, so hats off to you. I think when Mike Burke mentioned the “Tunnel to Towers organization to run everything,” that he was spot on. I’ve been to excellent events and some that weren’t so much. Great job!

IMG_8707The WTC building as you’ve seen from most every picture is large, and something that just looks massive, but nothing is quite as intimidating as standing at the base and looking up at the correct angle. Freedom Tower literally looks like it extends into heaven. As Dennis and I toured the area the day before the event we really got to take in the size and what we were about to do. One World Trade Center, our climb was 90 floors and 1970 steps to a very amazing view.

Security was of the utmost concern, as it should be, because of what we know can happen in the new world that we live in these days. I knew ahead of time that there was going to be no music, no phones, no nothing, but losing my sports watch was a surprise. I don’t want to discuss security and the aspects of how that was handled so that we can keep seeing this event happen. I will say this, they handled It with extreme professionalism and did it well. Hats off to all agencies that were a part of this!

Dennis and I got into our corrals with Wave 1 (Fire/EMS/Law Enforcement/Military) that was supposed to be the first waves released. Now this is where I may step on a few toes, but will say there were MANY first responders around us surprised to see the Elite runners (Wave 2) go up ahead of us. From being competitive and this being FAR from my first tower race I understand wanting to not be slowed down, but it was a little disappointing.

IMG_8711Gloves on, all warmed up and ready to go, they waved me on and I entered the stairwell at 8:38:17. I immediately was welcomed to a wide, bright, stairwell that was nothing like I had seen before. I had my song in my head and instantly was in the pace that I wanted to start with before the heat and the pain had any chance to take over my body and mess me up. Climbing without a playlist is very different, I don’t like it, but if it means climbing this bad boy again, I will in a heartbeat! Most buildings have their surprises and this was no different, like all the missing floor numbers on the lower levels and BAM I was up in the 20’s. There were hallways which I used to overtake a few people and stretch my legs on a little bit and change up the pace.

Water stops were in a corner on a landing and ran well. I think for the size of the tower maybe a third might help some that aren’t in the elite group and maintaining a different pace.

I got out of pace a few times when the stairwell was 5-6 people wide and felt like I had hit the grocery store on the eve of Thanksgiving where the aisles are full of carts. Trying to jockey for position at times I felt like I could have been more aggressive and didn’t, I think clearly that is an area that I will improve on and I know I can gain back valuable seconds. I never once during that climb forgot what I was there to do, regardless of how competitive I was being, I was remembering and playing back the moments of September 11th through my head and pushed on by the quote by Captain Billy Burke, “keep going I’m right behind you.”

Screen Shot 2015-05-21 at 10.34.22 AMAs I continued climbing I noticed more and more of the wave 2 “Elite” climbers that I was passing. Now back to the competitive side of me that felt a sense of accomplishment as I passed up those that attempted and were there to get the best time possible. I would pass one, then another, and use that to keep my head high. As a tower climber I typically do these events first in running gear, and then go back and throw on my fire gear (42.5 pounds) and race back up again just as hard. So to see where I started out in 2007 and where I am now was a great accomplishment for me personally.

We kept going, again wow what a building. Clean, not filled with dust being kicked up or met with heaters at face level on the landing blasting your lungs like you’re in an oven. I’ve seen this at greater than 50% of the buildings I’ve climbed and was a nice change to not have the smokers cough at the top! Floors 65-76 were a little tough for me and the lungs and heart I was maxing out on, I didn’t need my watch to tell me that I was peaking here. I began to single-rail and use the left hand to push off on my knee to keep me going. At floor 80 and above I might have been peaking, but I thought of my fallen 343 brothers and used every bit of emotion to push the mental game and keep me going, I never stopped. Floor 89 was that surprise of the extra flight before I turned and burned to the finish line.

IMG_8761Collapsing to the floor by the windows on the cold concrete I was done and struggled to regain not only composure, but also had to get the heart rate down quickly. Plenty of water up there that was handed out and when I had my wits about me I was able to find out my time by watching the screen…silly me that still had the tunnel vision going on didn’t think to look for the computer where we could search by name/bib number. I finished the climb 90 floors with a time of 20:11. We continued to cheer on the others as they came across and see what they thought of the climb.

I waited for my brother Dennis to come across the finish line and make sure he was doing ok before we moved to the next step that was unexpected. Not only was there a banner to sign on the 90th floor, we were given the opportunity to SIGN the concrete wall and be a part of the unfinished area. Now I don’t know what will be done with that whether they will glass over it, build over it, but I know this, I can point out where we are a part of the “rebirth” of the area! Excellent idea especially for us first responders to have that opportunity, thank you!

Elevators down to the party on the 64th and we were starting to feel a lot better. Excellent race medals, plenty of great people, food, drinks, and race swag. If you left hungry, thirsty, or without your hands full….you missed out. This was a great way to finish this off and celebrate. A wall for photos was a welcome spot to capture the moment of the day.

Race aside, competition aside, the meaning and the people that we were there for that day was the most important thing. The money that was raised (I’m hearing $500,000?) is going to build an adaptive home for a catastrophically injured veteran, which is an amazing cause.

Thank you to everyone that made this event possible, it truly was an excellent way to honor the memories and make sure they are never forgotten. Hopefully it was as inspirational to others as it was to me.

God Bless America!

9/11 climb, yes you can!

9/11 climb, yes you can!

10468495_1032110740148241_8911195649184658036_oWith FDIC coming up and this being typically the first 9/11 Memorial Stair Climb of the year, I think this is a great time to talk it up. When I say it however, I’m not just talking the FDIC climb, but ANY of the 9/11 Stair Climbs all over the United States. I get a lot of questions through email, social media, and events throughout the year regarding the climb. One of the typical statements that is preceded by a huge sigh or some other noise goes like this, “geesh, I don’t think I can do that,” or “no way, I’m too out of shape to do it.”

Let me address the 9/11 Memorial Stair Climb first and what it is, versus is not. These climbs first and foremost are not a race, nor timed, nor are there a first place or any awards given. This is a climb simply in memory of those who made the ultimate sacrifice on September 11, 2001. Look at it as a solemn way to retrace similar footsteps of our brothers and a way to build the brotherhood up. For older firefighters it is another reminder of why we chose this professional, for the younger firefighters, it is a great way to teach them about the fire service. Not just teach about 9/11, but the ceremony, showing them brotherhood, and maybe a way to pass this down when we can no longer carry on.

There is no first place, as I said this is not a race. You can move through the event at your own pace, you can climb on air, or wearing your SCBA, or only your turnout gear, or even climb in street clothes if you desire. If you get tired, you stop and move aside, take a seat, grab some water, catch your breath and then hop back in. The importance is being there and showing that “we will never forget.”

IMG_2312 copyTo those that question, can I do it? I have literally seen some of the youngest and oldest people climbing in these annual events. From small children of four years clear up to a 73 year old “retired” firefighter. Young parents carrying their baby on their front and donning an SCBA on their back have been seen hitting the steps, so don’t say that it “can’t be done,” because it has.

Importantly noted, these climbs are a fundraiser for the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation. Our registration fees, our donations that we gather from sponsors are helping the families of our brothers, and should the unfortunate ever happen they are helping your own family. What does the NFFF do you ask? First, they honor the men and women of the fire service who have made the sacrifice. They provide resources for the surviving families, camps for children, scholarships, benefits, grief assistance and counseling, and have you ever been to the memorial? These are just a few of the things that the NFFF does. Visit www.firehero.org to find out a little bit more on the organization and what they do in the fire service.

Why do I climb? First and foremost there is the obvious reason of honoring the memory of our 343, but also the building of brotherhood and the experience. I can’t say enough about the people that I have met at these events and the relationships that I have built over the last several years. These climbs can be very emotional and solemn with the right venue and the way they are operated. Thinking about every footstep knowing that we can go home, while remembering others sacrifice is humbling. The ringing of the bell, bagpipes, honor guard, guest speakers, the benchmarks announced through the event, all play a part of this.

Screen Shot 2014-09-11 at 10.22.20 PMSecondly, I do use this climb as a great day of cardio endurance. I eat, hydrate, warmup, and prepare for this event just as I would any competition that I am doing, because I use these to help keep me in shape for other events. If I can climb 110 floors, then a 35-69-floor race will go a lot smoother. More importantly on the fireground back home, if I can tote my gear 110 floors, then my typical bread and butter fire in my first due area with nothing taller than three stories will be even better.

So if you’re thinking about it and been putting it off, make this your year! There are literally climbs all around the United States and held in varying venues. You’ll find me at FDIC, Yellow Springs Ohio, Firehouse Expo, Columbus Ohio, and who knows where else this year. Sign up, make the commitment and stick to it. Get there early and be a part of the ceremonies, you won’t regret it.

In brotherhood…

In sickness…and in health we climb. Scott Firefighter Stair Climb wrap-up

In sickness…and in health we climb. Scott Firefighter Stair Climb wrap-up

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Crossing the finish line at the 2015 Scott Firefighter Stair Climb. A huge thank you to my family, my friends, my sponsors, LLS staff, volunteers, and everyone that makes this a success.

What a whirlwind of events the last two weeks have been for me here at FF4CURES. This is only the second time in nine years of competing at the Scott Firefighter Stair Climb where I have been sick. The last time was a sinus infection, and I must say I’d rather go through that again than what felt like the stomach flu. I left for Seattle with a little bit of the bug, got feeling slightly better the day before and the day of the climb thankfully.

I’ll insert the very exciting part here. I finished with a PR time of 28:12 up 69 floors, 138 flights, and 1311 grueling steps with some of the best brothers I know. I beat my time by 49 seconds. Not bad considering how sick/nauseated I’ve been the last week.

What an amazing year this was for the climb. First of all I went all out throughout the year getting physically ready for it, road racing, stair climbing, biking, tabata, HIIT, aerobics, yoga, and dedicated a lot to taking care of my body. Secondly I worked hard, but fell a little short of how big I thought I could be fundraising. I DID however hit the VIP status this year and raise $2560 for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society through this great event.

The day that I arrived to Seattle I tried a few new things, including taking the light rail into downtown. I spent the day trying to get my legs limbered up, meeting people at the hotel from the climb, and talking with firefighters that were doing the event for the first time. It was a great time getting to meet Dennis, a new climber that I had been chatting with back and forth for the better part of a year. Headed out on the town and got to talk a lot about the climb, why we’re doing it, and what we’ve done to get here. Given some circumstances the last month or two it was exactly some of the conversations that I needed.

By the Saturday (day before the event) I was running into firefighters on just about every other block in the downtown area. To say that we were a big part of the city that weekend is an understatement, 1900 strong, not even counting our families and support staff! A phenomenal breakfast over at Lowell’s was had, something that is my yearly stop on Saturday to get me fueled up for a day of walking, and doing things ahead of the climb. Over 13 miles on my feet that day definitely got my legs a workout and helped kick some of the sickness. Picked up my race packet and again talked with several teams.

Sunday morning I woke up feeling the best that I would for over a week, seriously. Somehow I managed to hold it together for the climb. The morning seemed to keep moving right along. Thanks to our sponsors Scott Safety and MES Fire along with others that made all of the SCBA at the event possible. We had a phenomenal number of air units filling this year and that seemed to help greatly. Camp was setup in the usual spot on the lower level and I managed to listen to several of the guests in the morning before all the battalions started going up. Climbing in Battalion five it gave me JUST enough time to hydrate more, grab a bagel & fruit, and get my game face on. As we lined up, names were announced, and off we went up the escalators to go through final inspection. I got to see my photographer ladies for the first time, get all my gear connected and step up to the line.

My arm crossed the mat and I took off with the pace that I had practiced and practiced until I couldn’t get it wrong. The metronome that I have practiced with had me in step for the pace that I knew I could handle for a huge PR this year and I was on step all the way to the midway point. I was 11 minutes to the bottle change floor, and for me that was cranking right along compared to previous years. With a 45-minute bottle in my Scott Pak, I was not stopping for the bottle change because I wanted the time. Shortly after passing the bottle change floor things started to change pace a little, the pain, sickness, and shortness of breath from the last couple days started taking its toll. At some point up in the mid 60’s I was pulling the rail hand over hand leaning on the wall to keep going. I looked at the watch and knew it was going to be close. The volunteers in the stairwell were along with each and every one of us cheering each other on to the top. The posters of the honorees on the wall encouraging us to trudge forward and not give up was enough for me

The end, the finish line mat in sight we all entered to a hall and room of screaming people cheering us on and wanting to rip our gear and equipment off. Well, maybe not quite that violently, but after profusely sweating in it for a climb it certainly feels like a weight LITERALLY taken off your shoulders. With 2-3 volunteers around you they strip away the gear as they walk you to a place in rehab. What a relief getting off your feet and cooling off as volunteers check on you and you get to talk with your brother firefighters, snap pictures, and check out the view from the top. Its not too often that view is almost as perfect as it was that day where you can see almost every mountaintop possible. Getting to meet people like Emily Harig who climbed for her sister Julia, and many others with similar stories added to the life changing event. A part of the pushup crew, to see one of the several proposals that day, and to meet more honorees and their family members just added to the whole experience.

Coming down from the top there was two things on my mind, get out of my gear, and find out what my time was. One very awesome stop over at the massage area later and the times were posted on the wall by the time I made it downstairs. Seeing the 28:12 time on the wall was not only a relief, but a huge moment for me.

I spent the rest of the afternoon catching up with friends, photographing the event, and well recovering. The mere fact that I survived with how I felt and PR’d by 49 seconds pushed me to thinking about next year and what I knew I could actually place.

I’m looking forward to seeing videos, more photos, and keeping up the conversation with all my brothers from literally AROUND THE WORLD that came in for the event.

 

Thanks for a great year!

Tackling Ronald

Tackling Ronald

IMG_7586As I’m recovering from the 2015 Tackle the Tower in Cleveland, Ohio I thought I’d take the opportunity to put together a few thoughts and on this great event that benefits the Ronald McDonald House. Before I even talk about my successes today, I want to talk about this gem of a climb and hopefully get a few more people motivated into the sport. Yes, I said sport because it truly is. If you’re new to this whole tower-climbing thing, take your “race” out, and put it UP. Take away the wind, rain, most light, humidity, and add dust, heat, and at the end the feeling that you will cough up a lung. Yes that’s stair climbing or tower climbing.

The Tackle the Tower is held annually in downtown Cleveland at the Erie Tower. I’ve now had the pleasure of climbing this one for the last two years and let me tell you, this one is a great event. I mean really, you’re benefitting the Ronald McDonald house…KIDS!!!! Come on. It’s a 37-floor climb with several options from the single race, to a fun walk, teams, firefighters, and mascots. Yes I said firefighters, so unless you’re new to my blog you realize that I not only climb in my gear, but I promote it and the competition amongst our brotherhood quite frequently. Gather some guys from your firehouse, maybe neighboring ones and come up. It’s a great time and probably one of the least crazy things we do.

Venue… It’s amazing, plain and simple the area at the galleria that they have to work with is HUGE. They host over 600 people at this event and honestly it feels like they have the space for twice as many. The whole lower level of the galleria has plenty of space to setup “camp” as I like to and move around. Restrooms that are close, and before you even get there…the PARKING for this across the street is cheap and plentiful! Once inside if you want to warm up, sure you can stretch wherever you are, but the upper level has plenty of space to jog and get ready. By plenty of space I mean that I know fitness centers with a running track that’s smaller.

Goodies… The shirts are heavyweight and not junk. The area for sponsors to come in and hand out goods was well stocked again, and let me tell you about food. They had fruit, bagels, granola bars, drinks of all sorts, and bags to tote it all back to “camp” if you were hitting it pre-climb. You NEED to stop here and get something! In the goodie area, at least the last two years has been a hidden gem for AFTER the climb. Smyle’s Touch, LLC has tables and a massage chair setup as well to work out that post climb pain discomfort. Never had a massage after a race or climb before? Don’t miss out on this.

The start… The starting line for this event is not in the galleria, but at the far end of it, so it actually aids the flowpath for finishers and those headed to the starting line. Again, the venue really helps make this work well. This climb is not done with timing chips or RFID tags on the race bib as many of the newer races so knowing your start time offset is important. They line you up in numerical order at the start and its important to be there before your flight time. I repeat…its IMPORTANT to be there BEFORE your time. If they tell you you will start nine minutes OFFSET from the beginning of the race and it begins at 9:00am that means at 9:09 you already need to be lined up. It moves quickly

The climb…I don’t know that the actual climb could be called “fun” because honestly if you can walk away without being drenched, you didn’t do it hard enough. This tower however is a fun one. From the starting line you have a long ascent followed by an interesting clockwise climb. Where the stairwells I have raced elsewhere you climb, hit a landing, and repeat. At this tower there are many shorter sets of 4-5 stairs instead of a landing. The ability to swing these and skip a few steps keeps you moving. I like it, it’s a change and something different to mix it up and make it not just another monotonous tower. Up the tower there are several water stations and plenty of motivational signs to keep you into it. The finish comes up quickly and spits you out into a narrow hall where water, volunteers, and paramedics are waiting. It’s a little tight, but there are plenty of elevators to take back down.

The people…you will meet some of the nicest people at races, climbs, and competitions. Show up with fire gear and you can multiply that by 100 as they are curious about your gear, why you do it, and to check out what you use. It’s a great opportunity to talk to kids and even educate public even more. Event coordinators and those volunteering and running this event were great to work with and had answers when I needed them.

I can’t say enough about this event and how much I enjoy it as a close race to attend. If you’re looking to try one out and see if it’s for you, the entry fees aren’t bad and I think you will love it. You can check out my video from the 2014 climb here on Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5zVFHssUw2M Whatever you’re doing out there, enjoy yourself, have fun with it, and make a difference!

Steppin up in Philly

Steppin up in Philly

IMG_9875What a long and fast weekend this past one was as I competed in the Step up For Special Olympics stair climb in Philadelphia, PA.  This was my second time out there competing in the 53-floor climb up the BNY Mellon building in full firefighting gear.  Last year I spent a couple days out there and had a time of 19:39.  This year however after a lot more rigorous training and work I pulled together a very solid 16:38 time that I think I still can improve on.

Parking is always interesting there because there is no street parking near the building…at least none that we wanted to risk it on and that was probably the only downside at all.  Overall, this is a very well ran event with a great building to continue to grow and add more participants.  For the location, the number of climbers is surprisingly small for this time of year and the cost very small compared to other events.  I met a firefighter that made the trek up from North Carolina (wow) to visit friends and climb in the event.  It’s always great to compete with other firefighters and see those that are doing what it takes to stay #firefighterfit and do good.

Could have probably set the alarm a little earlier on this one, but after getting up at 5am the morning before and spending 8 ½ hours in the car I really wanted the downtime.  I started the morning out with a good meal of fresh hot oatmeal, fruit and yogurt and started hydrating well in advance.  Mental note to those new climbers, figure out where that event morning breakfast is coming from and what you want.  Get that water or hydration drinks and keep them in your room fridge for the morning!!!  You don’t want to be searching for last minute items on game day.

I arrived at the tower to get checked in with no issues at all and setup camp over around the perimeter where I could see the lineup, see other events, and hear the announcements.  Maybe I’m different, maybe everyone has their own way of doing it, but I like my own space to set things up and visualize it all.  Even if I’ve already checked everything out before I left home, upon arriving at the hotel, and that morning before I leave I want to know where everything is.  The hydration continued, as did a small snack about 30 minutes before the climb.  I did my usual pre-climb warm-up involving yoga, some running, and some climbing to loosen up the body.

I keep that gear off as long as I can when possible.  Even if others are lining up, the longer I can keep that heat off my body and regulate the temp, the better off I am.  With several people off ahead of me I geared up, turned on the cameras, and headed toward the starting line.  Don’t forget to take that bottle of water with you.  Even if you have to ditch it at the last minute, I’ve been to races where a delay held you up 20-45 minutes and wishing I had something to keep hydrating with!!! 

I met back up again with Touche from North Carolina as we talked briefly before the climb.  A few more brief sips of water and it was my turn.  I was poised as the timer counted us down, releasing climbers every 10-15 seconds and when I heard GO I took off.  It might be a second, might be a split second difference, but that start is one thing I have improved on.  I maintained a nice pace for the first 25 before the heat started to really pick up.  Honestly the tower felt cool, which doesn’t happen very often.  By this point I also realized that I forgot the hard tack candy to keep from getting the “climber cough” from the stair well.  I continued on and relied on my arms to pull me through a few tough floors and drag up the steps and swing around the landings.

The last few floors were, “easy”, I guess you could say.  Either that or I was delirious and happy to be at the end so they flew.  The top of this building if you haven’t been there and are curious is not much to look at.  Its and office floor and you can’t access the outside windows for that cool finish selfie, but in my books is still an awesome climb.  I knew I had a sub 17-minute time so I knew I accomplished my goal, but it took about 45 minutes before I knew for sure.

Overall, great climb, and being able to have people at the finish line is even better!  I’m still looking for video that the news had from out there and hoping to see that FCFD or the FF4CURES website on the news.  I certainly have gotten some more exposure over the last few months and the hits to the blog show it.

I know where to make the improvements already for not only the next climb, but more importantly Seattle.  Every event is a training for something bigger and exactly why I keep at these, to GET BETTER.   I’ve got a busy Thanksgiving week with two races right now, another around the corner in December, and plans that extend into the new year.  I hope to have another article written here in the next few days to keep this fresh.

CLIMB…CONQUER…CURE…