Thursday, July 6, 2017

From the Kingdom of Kuwait

This marks the third season that members of the fire service from the Kingdom and or Oil Company of Kuwait have participated in the Scott Firefighter Combat Challenge.

In Apopka, Florida, two representatives of Kuwait competed in our event there. The following week, they also traveled to Virginia Beach.

Here are the places and times for our Kuwaiti friends:
Apoka, FL, May 12, 2017
Colonel Yousef Al Qallaf: 2:09.26
Khaled Kanaan: 2:33.43
In Virginia Beach, May 19 (Where these photos were taken)
Yousef: 1:42.91 (3rd Place Individual)
Khaled: 2:35.77

I was pleasantly surprised with the presentation pictured below. The Kuwaiti's historically renowned for their intrepid sailing skills have adopted the image of a sailboat as their county's "branding-logo."

We look forward to seeing the full contingent in Louisville this year.

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Putting Things in Perspective...Dr. Charles Krauthammer, Washington Post

Why do they even play the game?


In mathematics, when you’re convinced of some eternal truth but can’t quite prove it, you offer it as a hypothesis (with a portentous capital H) and invite the world, future generations if need be, to prove you right or wrong. Often, a cash prize is attached.

In that spirit, but without the cash, I offer the Krauthammer Conjecture: In sports, the pleasure of winning is less than the pain of losing. By any Benthamite pleasure/pain calculation, the sum is less than zero. A net negative of suffering. Which makes you wonder why anybody plays at all.

Winning is great. You get to hoot and holler, hoist the trophy, shower in champagne, ride the open parade car and boycott the White House victory ceremony (choose your cause).

But, as most who have engaged in competitive sports know, there’s nothing to match the amplitude of emotion brought by losing. When the Cleveland Cavaliers lost the 2015 NBA Finals to Golden State, LeBron James sat motionless in the locker room, staring straight ahead, still wearing his game jersey, for 45 minutes after the final buzzer.

Here was a guy immensely wealthy, widely admired, at the peak of his powers — yet stricken, inconsolable. So it was for Ralph Branca, who gave up Bobby Thomson’s shot heard ’round the world in 1951. So too for Royals shortstop Freddie Patek, a (literal) picture of dejection sitting alone in the dugout with his head down after his team lost the 1977 pennant to the New York Yankees.


In 1986, the “Today Show” commemorated the 30th anniversary of Don Larsen pitching the only perfect game in World Series history. They invited Larsen and his battery mate, Yogi Berra. And Dale Mitchell, the man who made the last out. Mitchell was not amused. “I ain’t flying 2,000 miles to talk about striking out,” he fumed. And anyway, the called third strike was high and outside. It had been 30 years and Mitchell was still mad. (Justly so. Even the Yankee fielders acknowledged that the final pitch was outside the strike zone.)

For every moment of triumph, there is an unequal and opposite feeling of despair. Take that iconic photograph of Muhammad Ali standing triumphantly over the prostrate, semiconscious wreckage of Sonny Liston. Great photo. Now think of Liston. Do the pleasure/pain calculus.

And we are talking here about professional athletes — not even the legions of Little Leaguers, freshly eliminated from the playoffs, sobbing and sniffling their way home, assuaged only by gallons of Baskin-Robbins.

Any parent can attest to the Krauthammer Conjecture. What surprises is how often it applies to battle-hardened professionals making millions.

I don’t feel sorry for them. They can drown their sorrows in the Olympic-sized infinity pool that graces their Florida estate. (No state income tax.) I am merely fascinated that, despite their other substantial compensations, some of them really do care. Most interestingly, often the very best.

Max Scherzer, ace pitcher for the Washington Nationals, makes $30 million a year. On the mound, forget the money. His will to win is scary. Every time he registers a strikeout, he stalks off the mound, circling, head down, as if he’s just brought down a mastodon.

On June 6, tiring as he approached victory, he began growling — yes, like a hungry tiger — at Chase Utley as he came to the plate. “It was beautiful,” was the headline of the blog entry by The Post’s Scott Allen. Nats broadcaster and former ballplayer F.P. Santangelo was so thrilled by the sheer madness of it that he said “I want to run down there and put a uni on . . . I mean, I’ve got goose bumps right now.”


When Scherzer gets like that, managers are actually afraid to go out and tell him he’s done. He goes Mad Max. In one such instance last year, as Scherzer labored, manager Dusty Baker came out to the mound. Scherzer glared.

“He asked me how I was feeling,” Scherzer recounted, “and I said I still feel strong . . . I still got one more hitter in me.”

Asked Baker, demanding visual confirmation: “Which eye should I look at?”

Scherzer, who famously has one blue and one brown eye, shot back: “Look in the [expletive] brown eye!”

“That’s the pitching one,” he jokingly told reporters after the game.

Baker left him in.

After losing her first ever UFC match, mixed martial artist Ronda Rousey confessed that she was in the corner of the medical room, “literally sitting there thinking about killing myself. In that exact second, I’m like, ‘I’m nothing.’ ” It doesn’t get lower than that.

Said Vince Lombardi, “Winning isn’t everything. It’s the only thing.” To which I add — conjecture — yes, but losing is worse.

Read more from Charles Krauthammer’s archive, follow him on Twitteror subscribe to his updates on Facebook.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Perspective of a Former Five-Time Champion


Four-Time World Champion Martha Ellis
As a woman entering the fire service in the early 1990’s I felt it was critical to establish myself as a physically capable employee early in my career. Granted, everyone was expected to pass a physical ability test, but I was looking for something more definitive and irrefutable. Opportunities to “prove” one’s self on the actual fire ground are usually few and far between. The subjectivity of field evaluation by my peers also left me feeling vulnerable to misrepresentation and distortion of the facts.

Finding the Firefighter Combat Challenge (Challenge) was heaven sent because it was controlled, measurable and an undeniable representation of both the mental and physical rigors of the fire ground. Participating in the Challenge truly set the tone for my entire career.

First and foremost, it redefined what teamwork in physical and mental preparedness meant to me. I’d been an athlete all my life, including collegiate sports, and I can honestly say I’d never trained as hard for anything prior. Our team pushed each other every day to become stronger, faster and more consistent. Although each of us stepped onto that course alone, the sense of team and commitment to greater representation was embedded in every effort. Our team grew from commitment and sacrifice to each other’s success, values learned only from a strong sense of common purpose. That’s what the Challenge gave us as a team.


As an individual, I gained a deep sense great satisfaction from my involvement in the Challenge. I left no doubt with my peers that I could “carry my weight.” I could walk into the firehouse confident that I was an accepted and integral part of that combat team.

The collateral benefits have continued to pay dividends to this day, 16 years after my last effort on the course. Embracing the importance of physical preparedness in the fire service I became a champion for the cause. I began speaking at fire conferences on the subject of fitness, nutrition and the politics of establishing fitness standards for incumbent personnel. I was also invited to speak to women firefighting groups specifically about the challenges we face and how we can better prepare ourselves to not just survive a career in the fire service, but thrive.

In looking for opportunities to reach a larger audience I began submitting articles to various trade magazines. I developed a fantastic working relationship with Fire Rescue Magazine, becoming their fitness editor and monthly columnist for five years. I also served on their editorial board for several years following, continuing to spread the word on the value of fitness in the fire service.


The Challenge and what followed helped me develop in too many ways to even mention. Suffice it to say I’m a stronger, more engaged, politically savvy member of the fire service largely because I made the choice to step out on the course and compete. Personally speaking, the singularly greatest collateral benefit of my involvement in the Challenge has been my marriage of 20 years to my teammate, best friend, mentor, unwavering supporter and life love, Jeff Ellis. I can’t imagine what my life would be like if I hadn’t dared to participate in the Firefighter Combat Challenge.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Why Humans Should Warm Up Before Exercise


From Today I Found Out by Davin Hiskey


There isn’t a respectable personal trainer in any sport that doesn't stress the importance of warming up before you begin a workout or athletic endeavor. Most people seem to know you can prevent injuries and allow for better performance should you follow their advice. So, what about warming up allows for these benefits? What exactly is going on in the body when you more slowly prepare it for strenuous activity, rather than just jumping right into it?

The simple answer is that warming up increases blood flow to muscles, allowing for an elevated amount of oxygen and nutrients to be delivered. This prepares the muscles for a rise in workload. Warming up will also begin raising body temperature, which helps you utilize oxygen better. That boost in blood flow also serves to prime the nerves supplying your muscles with impulses, increasing the quality of performance.

Along with the blood flow and temperature benefits, an appropriate warm up also prevents injuries by providing a greater range of motion, while simultaneously improving the lubrication of joints, allowing for better movement. Lastly, many trainers posit that a good warm-up before any event where performance is valued can help mentally prepare you for the task to come.

So that's the high-level view of it all. But what actually is going on internally here?

First, let’s look at what gives your body the ability to deliver more oxygen. It seems common sense that if the average heart rate is around 70 beats per minute, and each beat ejects approximately 70 ml of blood, then your heart will circulate about 4.9 liters every minute. The higher the heart rate, the more blood will be pumped. During extreme exercise, studies have shown your heart can pump up to 30 liters per minute! The question then becomes- why does slowly increasing heart rate, and by extension blood flow, vs. suddenly leaping into action and rapidly increasing blood flow allow for better performance, while reducing injury?

When your muscles are working harder than normal, they require more oxygen and nutrients. This provides all the electrolytes responsible for the electrical impulses providing for muscle contraction and glucose to start a cascade of chemical events leading to the production of a molecule called Adenosine Triphosphate (ATP). ATP is responsible for moving those electrolytes (and other molecules) into, out of, and around your cells. Oxygen is also essential in creating ATP.

When oxygen is used to create ATP, it’s called aerobic metabolism. When you increase the work of your muscles past the point oxygen can make the appropriate amount of ATP, your cells begin to use glucose and acids to make more, also known as anaerobic metabolism.

The byproduct of anaerobic metabolism is the increased production of an acid called pyruvate, which also creates lactic acid. Those acids will cause all kinds of damage to your cells. The resulting pain that follows leaves every marathon runner in agony the next day. The maximum heart rate at which your cells can use oxygen to make ATP is known as your Vo2max.

What does all this chemistry have to do with warming up?

Studies have consistently shown that your Vo2 max is increased when you warm up slowly. This is because the many small capillaries that supply your cells are closed when resting. Should you open them up, they’ll be more able to provide the extra oxygen and nutrients to the working cells. So, warming up will cause those resting capillaries to open up. Thus, when the event starts, and you really need them, they’ll already be able to handle a higher Vo2max, and you get a better performance.

For example, in one study, people were subjected to sprinting at maximum effort for 10-15 seconds without warming up. 70% of them had abnormal ECG findings (the electrical impulses providing your heart with its needed contraction). Those abnormalities were attributed to inadequate blood supply to the heart (anaerobic metabolism). Those affected 70% of participants were then allowed to warm up for just 2 minutes prior to sprinting, again for 10-15 seconds. That little of a warm up was enough to reduce the ECG abnormalities by 90%!

Another way your body gets the benefit of more oxygen is by raising its temperature and making your cells more acidic. An increase in your body's temperature will support faster muscle contraction and relaxation, as well as a boost to nerve impulses and raise the metabolism of cells. One of the mechanisms for these results revolves around how your body carries that oxygen.

The molecule within your blood responsible for circulating oxygen is called hemoglobin, which attaches and subsequently releases oxygen thanks to the affinity hemoglobin has for oxygen. (That affinity is measured by what is known as the oxygen-hemoglobin dissociation curve.)

To spare you a lengthy technical discussion of how that all works, I'll just say that, in a nutshell, each hemoglobin molecule can carry four oxygen molecules. That doesn’t necessarily mean it will carry four, but it can. The amount of oxygen it does carry is called oxygen saturation. The more oxygen around the hemoglobin, like in the case of hemoglobin exposed to the air in your lungs, the more saturated it will become. In environments where there is less oxygen present, like in the case of cells that are experiencing anaerobic metabolism, hemoglobin will release the oxygen. That free oxygen is then readily available for your cells to use to create ATP.

At higher body temperatures and more acidic environments, hemoglobin will release more oxygen compared to lower temperatures, and less acidic environments. Should you warm up, your increased body temperature and the slightly higher acidic environment inside your cells will cause your hemoglobin to release more oxygen. The result increases your cells' ability to make more ATP using oxygen and giving you the competitive advantage of an increased Vo2max. These results are known as The Bohr effect.

Thus, increased blood flow, combined with the greater oxygen metabolism, accounts for several of the known benefits to warming up- namely, the performance enhancement provided by the increased Vo2max, and the priming of the nerves supplying your muscles with their necessary impulses.

Now on to injury prevention.

It's widely known that warming up will prevent muscle injury, specifically, preventing painful tears and strains. No study to date has definitively shown the exact mechanisms causing the damage. Get a group of people to subject themselves to a study administering muscle stress so great it will tear them while a team of researchers monitors everything going on internally and you might be able provide some detailed insight...

Until then, the leading theory is that "cold" muscles are less elastic and shorter than those that aren’t. Along with the muscles, your ligaments and tendons also shorten up when not particularly used. Should you subject your shortened and stiff muscles, tendons, and ligaments to the force required for strenuous activity, they may snap or tear, somewhat analogous to how a cold rubber band will snap quicker than a warm one when stretched. So, warm up, then stretch appropriately, and your rubber-band-muscles will be able to better elongate like Gumby in a yoga class, thus helping to prevent injury.

As the theory on injury prevention goes, your joints will also begin to become more lubricated during warm up, allowing for greater range of motion (ROM). This is because the production of fluid that brings oxygen and nutrients into the joints, while also providing lubrication (synovial fluid), is increased during exercise. So, warm up, and your joints will also be better able to handle the stress and the increased ROM needed for athletic performance.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Branson Discovered

The crowd on the Blue side of the course at Branson on the Bass Pro lot
I don’t know what you’ve heard about Branson, Missouri, but if you’re like me, probably not much.

Last year was our first appearance there and regrettably, I had a schedule conflict, as I originally did in May of this year. But the flooding of the Lake and subsequently our parking lot venue in Spring postponed the event, so last weekend we headed back.

A sinkhole at Top of the Rock in Branson
First, there’s a good reason why 10M people visit Branson every year. The sheer number of attractions and amenities are too numerous to cover in this BlogSpot. For starters, did you know that in many states where there is a Bass Pro store, it’s the number one attraction in that state? Bass Pro got started in Springfield, just 50 miles up the Interstate. Bass Pro graciously provided their parking lot for our event.

I was afforded a two-hour tour by Terra Alphonso of the Convention and Visitor’s Bureau. We must have driven 30 miles and sill did not see everything. There are amusement parks, water parks, ballparks, miniature and professional golf courses galore. Roller coasters, Ferris wheels, hotels, motels, lodges, gated resorts, go-cart courses, concert halls and every imaginable restaurant. If you go bored in Branson, it’d be because you never left your room.

The driving range at Top of the Rock
What’s likely in our future is a World Challenge event in the out years. Normally, we say very little until we have a signed contract. But in this case, I’d like to get out in front of the schedule. I can’t say when, but I’m pretty sure yes is the answer that it’s going to happen. And my job is to raise the awareness of the attractions, features, and benefits for any of the venues where the Challenge will be.

This is the first of several overviews of Branson that will appear in my BlogSpot. I can guarantee that whether you wait for the Challenge to happen there, or you just decide to check it out for a family destination, you won’t be disappointed with any time spent in Branson.





Sunday, May 21, 2017

Safety Is Our First Concern: Bringing Rescue Randy Home

A Proper Dummy Drag
We would like everyone who steps out on the Scott Firefighter Combat Challenge course to have a positive experience. By this, we mean finishing under your own power with something left in the gas tank. 

The only shortcut in the Challenge is preparation. Our website is replete with a host of training programs. One of the most important considerations is a realistic finish time. Coming in with a preconceived time, without the parallel experience is not the best way to attack the course. 

Knowing your limitations and running your own race are very important considerations. Oftentimes, the competitive impulse kicks in and you’ve determined that the guy in the next chute will never beat you to the top of the tower. The problem here is that finish line is behind you, not the top of the stairs and you have no idea of the capabilities of your opponent. 

When guys start having problems, it’s the responsibility of the lane grader to protect you from yourself. Having watched several thousand races, these guys are pretty astute at knowing who’s outside of their comfort zone. The crowd loves to extend their sympathy and energy and this now creates an environment that can exacerbate the problem. I mean, some of our competitors would seemingly rather die that quit. And we don’t want that to happen. 

There is a Six Minute Rule, meaning, we’ll terminate your run if you’re not done in 6. But, that’s pretty generous and lacks precision as to the metabolic status of the racer. So, here’s some Guidelines for our officials as to when to pull the plug. 

1. Competitor has repeatedly dropped the dummy
2. It’s 5:00 elapsed time and the halfway point on the dummy drag has not been reached
3. There’s no forward progress being made

We want to intervene at the point where recovery can take place with the Competitor walking off the course under their own power. 

A few words about recovery:

No matter how inviting are those chairs in the rehab area, resist sitting down. 
Drink only water within 20 minutes of competing- unless you want to see that sports drink again.
The Pit Crew will assist in getting your bunkers off. 
Walk briskly after running. The faster you move, the faster you’ll recover.
If you can’t keep fluid down, you’ll need an I.V.
We don’t want anyone leaving until they can produce urine. 

For any first-timer that does not finish, we’ll extend a 50% discount on the next event in which they compete. 

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Exercise Makes You Younger at the Cellular Level


Time Magazine
Amanda MacMillan
May 15, 2017

The more exercise people get, the less their cells appear to age. In a new study in Preventive Medicine, people who exercised the most had biological aging markers that appeared nine years younger than those who were sedentary.

Researchers looked at the telomeres from nearly 6,000 adults enrolled in a multi-year survey run by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. People were asked what physical activities they had done in the past month and how vigorously they did them. They also provided DNA samples, from which the researchers measured telomere length. Telomeres, the protein caps on the ends of human chromosomes, are markers of aging and overall health. Every time a cell replicates, a tiny bit of telomere is lost, so they get shorter with age. But they shrink faster in some people than in others, explains study author Larry Tucker, professor of exercise science at Brigham Young University.

“We know that, in general, people with shorter telomeres die sooner and are more likely to develop many of our chronic diseases,” says Tucker. “It's not perfect, but it's a very good index of biological aging.”

MORE: Here's Why You May Be Aging Faster Than Your Friends

After adjusting for smoking, obesity, alcohol use, gender, race and other factors, Tucker found in his study that people who exercised the most had significantly longer telomeres than those who were sedentary. The most sedentary people had 140 fewer base pairs of DNA at the ends of their telomeres, compared to the most active: a difference of about nine years of cellular aging, he says

To qualify as top-tier exercisers, people had to do the equivalent of at least 30-40 minutes of jogging a day five days a week. Doing less was also linked to aging benefits, but they were not as powerful. People who did vigorous exercise had telomeres that signaled about seven fewer years of biological aging, compared to people who did moderate levels of activity.

Tucker says he was surprised to see so big of a difference between moderate and high levels of exercise. “Moderate exercise was still valuable and it had some benefit, but it was really those high levels of physical activity that made the real difference,” says Tucker. The top exercisers were vigorously working out 150 to 200 minutes a week, or engaging in light- to moderate-intensity activity for longer periods. Research continues to suggest that more exercise means deeper reductions in risk for chronic disease, to a certain point.

MORE: How Exercise Keeps Your DNA Young

The current study relied on self-reports about physical activity and was only able to show an association—not a cause-and-effect relationship—between exercise amount and telomere length. It wasn’t able to account for factors like depression, stress, sleep disturbances and dietary practices that could affect exercise habits, genetic changes, or both.

But a link between physical activity and cellular aging makes sense, says Tucker. Experts believe that telomere length may be linked to inflammation and oxidative stress, both of which exercise has been shown to ease over time.

While there’s no guarantee that people with longer telomeres will live longer, healthier lives, the odds may be in their favor, says Tucker. “We all know people who seem younger than their actual age,” he says. “We know exercise can help with that, and now we know that part of that may be because of its effect on our telomeres.”