Saturday, December 29, 2012

Around This Time Each Year...

Well, actually, it starts before the season is over; “Where’s the 2013 Schedule?”

Were it just so simple. This is the hardest, most complex thing that we have to do. Here are the constraints: time, money and the D.O.T. 

Commercial drivers are prohibited from working more than 10 hours in a day. Log books must be current. And big fines result for going over your daily limit. So, we can’t book events that exceed the number of available, or necessary driving dates from the last event. 

Then, there is the cost of putting on an event. Regrettably, we are not a federal agency; a state agency; a municipal agency or any other form of not-for-profit. If we can’t cover our costs through our revenues, this show will come to a screeching halt. So, local hosts raise about 25% of the cost of the show. That takes time. Contracts; down payments. Progress payments- all this paperwork has to be in order. 

Very, very few of our events have the resources sitting around where they can simply send in their payment-in-full. So, it takes time to organize the tour- avoiding impossible distances between events and accommodating all the people who have a special date. Or not. 

The schedule is not a secret. We have found the Internet to be the best possible vehicle for keeping our thousands of loyal competitors, friends and family informed of what we know. And when we know it, we post it. Virtually the very moment that we know it. 

So, please keep checking. We’re pretty sure that around the middle of January we’ll have something to tell you. And, oh yeah. World Challenge XXII will be held in Las Vegas, Tuesday, October 22, through Sunday October 27, thereby avoiding any conflict with Halloween. You heard it here first. Well, maybe not.  

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Abandon Physical Training in Recruit Academy

Heresy! You Say?

Think about it; why do we have P.T. in Basic Training? Why is it management’s responsibility to rehabilitate you for the job you‘re seeking? Where’s the personal responsibility? Where’s the lifetime commitment? 

Think about the hours! In a six-month academy, that’s over 100 hours of training time that could be used more productively on an assemblage of courses focused on personal survival.

Too often, recruits are of the belief that they’ll suddenly get the fitness religion once they’re in a controlled environment. Regrettably, not long after graduation they revert to their former slovenly selves.

I much rather hire the guy who’s demonstrated his self discipline by showing up ready- exceeding by a wide margin the minimal standards on entry.

A number of years ago, we tested applicants for the fire and police academies in a large metropolitan department. We looked at improvements from entry to graduation and one year later.

Not surprising, major improvements were made, mostly in the women, by the time of graduation. But one year later, a majority of the employees were in worse shape than when they were hired.

If we’re going to allow people to regress to their former selves, why waste the time? Why not bet on the person who has already demonstrated that they “get it”: fitness, as a personal responsibility.

Right now, I’m working with a large federal law enforcement organization. In speaking with incumbent officers they were telling me that they wouldn’t workout because “What happens if I get hurt?”

Can you imagine this logic: “I rather stay sedentary and assume those risk factors for heart disease than assume the (very minor) risk for a musculoskeletal injury.”

Think of physical fitness as an I.Q. test; if you’re not doing it, you’re too stupid to work here.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

In Their Own Words...

I’m in the process of writing a fitness training manual for Palm Beach County’s Fire-Rescue Department. It occurred to me that what might make this book different is punctuating the sometime boring content with inspirational stories of people such as you who became motivated to the point where they changed their entire life by taking personal responsibility for their own health and fitness.

Compare and contrast that attitude with what I witnessed last week in another public safety organization that I’m consulting with. In this case, a number of police officers said that they would not workout because, “What if I get hurt?” Astounding. So, let me see if I get don’t feel its safe to workout, so it’s better that you do nothing as a protection against what? Being sedentary? We have a very serious educational “cliff” here. And the problem is not limited to public safety.

Check out this recent story in the Washington Post. The numbers of unfit soldiers is staggering.

Hanging around the athletes in the Challenge can warp your perception of reality. You start to think that all firefighters look like you guys. And course, this is why the Challenge is so important for the public perception value. You are the tide that lifts all boats. Perception becomes reality when millions of civilians are exposed to the Scott Firefighter Combat Challenge.

So, I’m calling for motivational stories, first person or narratives about someone in your department who saw light and decided that they were going to change because they did not want to be on that long, slow slide to diseases of lifestyle. Don’t worry about grammar and syntax. We can fix it. And we can obscure your identity with a pseudonym. But we can’t fake inspiration and that’s what I’m looking for- something to motivate the guy who wants to change. Send me an email- sooner than later.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Between the Rock and the Proverbial Hard Place

The purpose of this BlogSpot is to layout out the factors that determine when we schedule events, especially this coming year’s World Challenge XXII. The words had no sooner left my mouth about Las Vegas and the dates and I was approached by one of the athletes pointing out that October 29-November 3 encompasses Halloween.

The economic significance of Halloween is substantial for the retail industry. In 2007 it was estimated that $5B was spent on children; if you throw in the alcohol consumption of adults, the number might be twice that. As a parent, I’m certainly not immune to the pressures associated with all of the trappings of dressing up and begging for candy. As a teacher, my wife can attest to the effects in the classroom the day after!

I have received six emails asking what can be done to accommodate our athletes with young children. First let me set the stage for why this is such a conundrum.

1. We are backed up against one of the biggest trade shows in Las Vegas. Over 250,000 attend the SIMI show. Room rates will double- if you can find any. So that is an impossibility.

2. Unlike this year, US Nationals are locked- date and time. October 12, 13 & 14. This leaves a very narrow window to prepare for WCXXII; remember we have limitations on how many hours our CDL drivers can spend in the cockpit. And, we must allow some leeway in the event of a mechanical breakdown.

3. We have announced this date to the 400 attendees of the Lion’s Den banquet.

4. There is, nor will there ever be a perfect date that does not inconvenience someone.

5. Even from those who are voicing their preference, we have no warranty that they’ll be at WCXXII since some were not here this year.

6. Quite possibly, as of this writing, members may have already made travel/vacation/leave plans that would be interrupted.

So, let me proffer this one, perhaps possible scenario: we time shift the schedule by crossing over a weekend; e.g.: Start on Tuesday the 23rd and finish on Sunday the 28th. I’m sure I’m likely to hear some howling about this. I do understand that for firefighters, the week is composed of A, B and C shift-days, as opposed to the usual M-F. I’m not saying that we can make this happen, but I would like to hear the pro’s and con’s.

The host is offering a kid-centric day of activity, that may placate some of you. Here’s what I’m looking for: your response to an upcoming survey or posting your opinion on the forum on this website (not on Facebook, please- we’d like to handle this within our own ranks). We can’t dawdle. I want to lock this in by Friday. I’m also looking for ambassadors who will take the arrows and smooth the ruffled feathers. Any takers?

I’m all ears. 

And more thing...we promise that we will make every effort to avoid such a conflict in the future!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Coming to You Live...almost

If you’re looking for all the content from our live streaming of World Challenge XXI, you’ll find it at

We’re not exactly thrilled with We’ve used them for the past three years. But this year they dropped the ball by changing platforms. You probably noticed when you Googled the doman and ended up somewhere else.

All of our content is now uploaded by Danny Lipps of Reel Events, the camera-production group who worked tirelessly for six straight days in bringing you the best of action.

I’d also like to thank Rick Lewis, our director of photography and Maria Prekeges for her stand-up interviews and Jim Degrandpre, PA announcer.

Mike Word took things up a couple of notches this year; his Master of Ceremonies at the Lion’s Den made that celebration the best ever.

Skyview of the Scott FCC Broadcast Booth

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

We're off...well sort of

Each year our ambitions are to make the current year's World Challenge better than the last. And sometimes, we get snake bit. Last year's beta test of Livestream came off very well- almost without a hitch. The only issue was someone tripped over an extension cord and our broadcast room went off line.

This year, we were expanding the coverage by adding High Definition. Or so we thought. Murphy was working overtime this past week. Monday was a forgotten holiday- Veteran's Day (even though is was actually on the 11th).

In any event, you're no more frustrated that we in getting this signal up and streaming. This is not just a matter of plugging in an Ethernet cable in the local outlet. It's pretty complicated and has to do with the local cable provider setting up a line of sight transmission capability and turning the dial up to 10MbS.

The signal is processed by a wireless uplink, over to a light pole and then streamed 500m to a receiver on a pole in front of the Planet Hollywood.

For the past two days, we've been dutifully recording all the content. And the chatline is active. In fact, many of you can hear us; you just can't see us.

I want to tell you that Wednesday, you'll be seeing everything live. Of course, it's not up to me, but the combination of HTC (cable company) and There's enough blame to go around. But our technical crew is working on all of this as we speak. Livestream changed our account to another router, which has little meaning for me. In any event, be assured that all is not lost; all of the content will be available for viewing on a tape delay and it' will be there for the next year.

We thank you for your patience and we apologize for any inconvenience we have caused you.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Somber Warning

Several months ago, Challenge Competitor Nick Gravina of South Metro suffered a near-fatal heart attack while on duty. The news story is viewable through the hyperlink below. The take away from the video, in Nick’s own words: pay attention to symptoms. Challenge competitor Bill Briggs had been experiencing chest pain before his fatal heart attack. Any pain within two feet of your chest, especially if associated with exertion warrants attention. 

Next week over 500 firefighters will descend on Myrtle Beach for World Challenge XXI. While we boast some of the most fit athletes on the planet, it does not necessarily confer immunity from heart disease. Listen to your body. And don’t ignore warning signs. Let’s all work towards an incident-free competition. 

Nick Gravina: South Metro Firefighter Combat Challenge Team Member

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Season 2012 Regional Wrap Up

The 2012 Tour’s last Regional Event took place on Sunday morning at the Sycuan Indian Reservation Casino in a race between the US Air Force Academy and Team SO-FLO. This picturesque setting in the hills of San Diego County was matched by incredible weather and an outstanding host. The USAFA team jumped out to a big lead and looked like they were going to top the fastest time of the season set by Montgomery when Tank McMurtry fell at the finish line. In what can only be described as an Olympic moment, Tank regained his footing and dragged Rescue Randy home, winning by .06 seconds with a time of 1:14.21. This put the proverbial cherry on the sundae, adding to their US National Title.
2012 US National Champions, US Air Force Academy Team, Staff and FCC Members

What we lacked by way of numbers, we more than made up for in some of the best competition of the season- a preview of what awaits us in Myrtle Beach in only two short weeks. You’ll recall that for the past two seasons we had attempted to work out details and logistics to put the Scott Firefighter Combat Challenge on the weather deck of the USS Midway, the decommissioned aircraft carrier now parked on the dock in the San Diego harbor. This become the proverbial “Bridge Too Far” (after the Allied Forces objective in the Battle of the Bulge). It was a bold idea, but stretched our schedule details to the breaking point. The better news is that we have several venues of interest for San Diego and will pursue these with an objective of securing them with lots of ramp up time for next season. 

With an important meeting at the Pentagon scheduled for Tuesday morning, and hurricane Sandy looming ominously off the coast, I thought it best to hightail it out of town Sunday. The staff of Southwest Airlines could not have been more accommodating. We got the last two seats on the last departing flight to arrive Sunday evening and wait out the storm of epic proportions. All of this is now going in the record books. 

Like every catastrophe, firefighters will be the first on the scene, and there’s going to be one gigantic collective “scene” spanning hundreds of miles in the wake of Sandy. A big shout out to all of you and especially the FFs who will be putting in the long hours this week. 

The Road Crew is presently scattered across the nation, hence the lack of photos and video; but standby, as soon as we can get connected, you’ll see the uploads. 

See you in Myrtle Beach. 

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Introducing the New and Improved Lion Forum

Providing our Challenge community with a forum for posting relevant and productive information has suffered from a lack of oversight and management. We’re fixing all of that with the addition of Chuck Benslay as the Forum Manager. His bio follows...

Chuck Benslay
Chuck Benslay has been a firefighter in the Indianapolis area since 1993.  He began as a volunteer firefighter for the Warren Township Volunteer Fire Department on the East side of Indianapolis.  He was hired by the Lawrence Township Fire Department in 1997.  Chuck served Lawrence Township as the Department’s Haz-Mat Coordinator and Drug Program Manager for several years.  Chuck was also a member of Indiana Task Force One, a FEMA Urban Search and Rescue team where he spent several days in Biloxi and Gulfport Mississippi during hurricane Katrina in 2005.  He was promoted to Lieutenant in 2006 and assigned to an Engine Company in the Castleton area of Indianapolis.  Chuck also served a year in LTFD’s Education and Safety Division where he trained recruits and firefighters in Haz-Mat, Firefighting and Special Operations.  In 2011 the Lawrence Township Fire Department merged with the Indianapolis Fire Department.  Chuck now serves as a Private on an Engine Company and Swift Water Team in the Geist area of Indianapolis.  Chuck works part-time as a website developer and IT specialist.

Chuck was married to his lovely wife Laura in 2001.  Between the two of them, they have 3 children in their early 20’s and 1 grandson.  In their free time, they enjoy hiking and camping. 

Chuck first competed in the Firefighter Combat Challenge in 1998 and has a PR of 2:35 which he still hopes to beat some day.

After competing in this year’s Chicago area event, Chuck wanted to provide a perspective that I felt to be missing...that of the “typical” (if there is such an animal) firefighter who had first participated many years ago and was now returning to the competition after an extended absence. I feel that there needs to be a mentor who understands the daunting task of starting from scratch. 

You’ll note the new graphic and hyperlink on the home page, leading to Chuck’s Corner. We hope that you’ll visit often and feel free to express your insights and opinions on the wide-ranging subjects that make the Challenge all that it is. We wish to thank our partner Lion for their continued support of the North American fire service. 

Monday, October 8, 2012

Slovenia III

There have been some spectacular venues for the Challenge, but you would be have to reach far down the well of superlatives to find a better one than Bled, Slovenia. More than 100 Participants from across Europe descended on this town of 5,000 for three days of competition. You may recall that Bled is the venue for the World Cup rowing championships and the subject of an earlier BlogSpot. The Slovenian national single, doubles and fours were going on during our event. 

I attended a concert provided by the National Police Band. It's hard to believe that these extraordinary musicians- professionals in their own right- are also cops (see

A couple of photos provide a perspective that you'll not witness anywhere else- note the castle, constructed in the 1200's overlooking the site. 

The final race was fitting as the proverbial cherry on the sundae. Ramstein AFB faced the
Szczecin (Poland) team. The USAF got off to a good start, but were passed on the Keiser. By the time the US reached the dummy, the Poles had a 3-4m lead. The dummy dragger caught the poles at the finish line and had a margin of .25 seconds for the win. 

You're going to get to see and meet a number of these great athletes in Myrtle Beach as well as other locations in the future. 

If you had been there, you would not know that you were 5,000 miles from home. The Challenge is truly becoming a global sport as the excitement spreads across the universe of firefighters. 

There were sponsor exhibits; my favorite was the Stihl woodcarver with his variety of chainsaws and power tools.

The Stihl Exhibit at the Slovenian Challenge

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

What's With San Diego?

Two years ago, we started an initiative to put the Challenge on the weather deck of the USS Midway. In furtherance of that objective, Chuck DeGrandpre and Bill Alexander made two trips to San Diego and conducted several meetings with the Burn Foundation as well as the organization that manages the Midway. Things were on track and we had indicated that San Diego would be our destination. The terms of the contract had been negotiated and was awaiting ratification.
Then, the engineering department asked if we could punt this to next year. Keep in mind that we had started with an objective of 2011 and now were being asked to move the event to 2013. We felt that we had exhausted all remedies in attempting to bring some structure to what would have been a very complicated maneuver. So, in deference to our West Coast teams, we also felt strongly that we needed to be in California as originally planned. So several months ago, we started our search for an alternative venue.
Our short list of venues numbered in single digits. Each of these locations were presented with the specifications necessary to run a quality event. Hundreds of hours have been spent, not just by us, but Walt White, Cliff Walker and Bob Pfohl. At first, the US Navy looked to be the solution and we were well on our way to securing a venue when a conflict with the change of command ceremony knocked that one out and set us back another several weeks. 
We apologize for this frustrating and unfortunate set of circumstances. Nearly every hour of Rob Alesbury's time has been on the phone, trying to move this project along. As of this writing, we believe that we are close to making an announcement of a San Diego venue. The instant that we can confirm the location, we will announce it here on the Hot News. Meanwhile, special thanks to Bob Pfohl, Cliff Walker and Walt White for their tireless volunteer efforts. Without guys like them, we couldn’t do this.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Best Combat Challenge Tee Shirt Yet

Since it's inception nearly 22 years ago, there's probably 100,000 Challenge tees out there. I wanted to share this special one- because it's one of the most creative that I've seen. It was the competitor tee from Berlin week before last. Here's the backside:

Competitor Tee: Back
 Now, here's the good part:
Unknown German Proverb
The translation goes like this: 

Every morning in Africa a gazelle wakes up and she knows she needs to be quicker than the fastest lion or she will die. 

Every morning, a lion wakes up and knows that he will have to overtake the gazelle or he will starve. 
When the sun comes up, it does not matter if whether you're the lion or the gazelle, you better be training!

Friday, September 14, 2012

Imagine if...

The Team Landon in Berlin
Over twenty years ago, I was told by a physician friend of the daily fitness test taken by every Parisian firefighter. I couldn't independently verify this- at least until this week. But it's true. 

I met a contingent of 10 Parisian firefighters at the Berlin Firefighter Combat Challenge. They invited me to visit their station, which I did last Monday (9,10.12). 

It took a couple of Metro trains and some walking, but I arrived at the Landon station, just as Google Earth had directed. The station captain introduced himself and provided a tour of the fire house. The building was huge, with a full galley, training room, spacious engine bay and a well-equiped workout room. We discussed work schedules and shifts and the usual casual conversation that fills the voids when visiting firehouses.

At the Paris, France Chateau Landon Fire Station

But what I really wanted to know was about the mandatory daily fitness test that my physician friend had told me about over two decades ago. Yep; absolutely. And a demonstration was ordered. Affixed to the wall at about 8 feet is a 1.5" thick shelf about 24" deep, held in place with a set of braces.  The firefighter, wearing full bunkers, (unlike the photo) grasps the edge of the shelf and pulls himself up and onto the shelf. That's it. Just that simple. 

Start Position for the Ledge Muscle Up

Finish Position: Ledge Muscle Up
If you can't do that, you don't ride the apparatus that day, or any day until you can pass the daily fitness test. I don't know what percentage of US firefighters that would be capable of passing this simple test. I'm pretty sure everyone who participates in the Scott Firefighter Combat Challenge can. But think about it. What could be a simpler field test of muscular fitness than the ability to move your own body weight (and bunker gear- absent SCBA) to a ledge?

Imagine the huge economic savings in orthopedic injuries and reduced metabolic diseases like diabetes if we could boast this level of fitness for an elite class of firefighters. Then certainly, "Everyone would be going home."

If you'd like to see a YouTube video version, click here:

Monday, September 10, 2012

Berlin Calling...

The 6th Annual Berlin Firefighter Combat Challenge was held this past week on Friday the 7th and Saturday the 8th at the historic site of the Kaiser Welhelm Memorial Church. Several months earlier, in a matter of four minutes the on line registration had filled with over 300 participating firefighters from around Europe. This presented a logistical challenge and stretches the boundaries for exactly how many participants can realistically expect to earn a birth at the event. 

Mike Weikamm, the organizer of the event, with the support of Team Berlin did an admirable job of managing the more than 17 hours of competition. In one sense, this is a nice problem. We realize that in the out years, we're going to hold more regional events and eliminations in our quest to crown a European champion. If you would have had the opportunity to have attended this momentous event, you would have felt very much at home. Firefighters around the globe are cut from the same bolt of cloth. 

However, a couple of behaviors are rarely witnessed at US events: lighting up a cigarette immediately after a run, or handing a buddy a beer for fluid replacement. Otherwise, cheering on each other and celebrating PRs with high-fives was very much in evidence. 

I'm amazed at how fast things have progressed since the fairly humble start at Potsdamer Platz a very short six years ago. You can tell that the guys have been studying the enormous number of YouTube videos. Technique is becoming very important as is specificity of training. Competitors have familiarized themselves the the World Record run of Bob Russell (1:19) as well as the nuances of Brandon Cunningham. 

A good dozen or so of the Competitors went sub 2:00. The question typically asked is how valid are these times? Pretty close. The hose drag with a significantly smaller diameter  and weight is easier. The tower, constructed of scaffolding will always be harder. It's very stable, but the railings act as brakes. The timing system precisely follows the rules. The Keiser Force Machine, Rescue Randy, Saloon Doors and Target are spot on. 

The playing surface was perhaps a bit more slippery than asphalt when wet, but all in all, the Berliner Feuerwehr has done an absolutely excellent job of replication down to the red and blue carpets. The photos here, as well as on Facebook do an excellent job of capturing the ambiance. 

I'll have a few more posts on the subject of our European events over the next couple of weeks. Stay tuned. 

Monday, August 27, 2012

Rookie of the Year Criteria & New Award

To date we have not had a formal set of criteria for the Rookie of the Year. Subsequently, the Awards Committee has established that the term “Rookie” applies to an individual who runs the full Challenge course for the first time in that year- as opposed to participating as a tandem or relay team member in that year or any prior year.

The award is not based solely on the fastest time, but includes other factors including numbers of runs, percent of improvement, sportsmanship and dedication to the sport and the fire service. In other words, a person who exemplifies the spirit of the Challenge.

Beginning this season, we are proud to announce the Rookie of the Year Award will be known as the Lion- PJ Bean Rookie of the Year Award.

PJ Bean, 29, was a firefighter and paramedic in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, who tragically drowned in Memorial Creek in Madison, South Dakota in May of 2012. He was in Madison visiting family over the weekend and celebrating his brother's graduation from Dakota State University.

In 2011, Bean was a competitor in the Challenge on Team Tuscaloosa. Since his death, his teammates have memorialized Bean by placing stickers on their helmets, and renaming their team "Tuscaloosa Running for PJ."

Born in Mitchell, South Dakota, his family moved to Alaska when he was very young, where he studied at the University of Alaska, before moving to Alabama. His goal was to be a paramedic on the SWAT team, and he was recently accepted into the University of South Dakota, where he could earn a degree to get him closer to his SWAT paramedic goal. In August of 2012, he was to move to South Dakota.

Along with being awarded a life-saving medal in 2009, Bean was present and aided in responding to the devestating tornado that ravaged Tuscaloosa in April 2011.

The Scott Firefighter Combat Challenge is extremely proud to name our Rookie of the Year Award after PJ Bean, as a former member of our community. He was a brilliant example of a great firefighter, and a model for the qualities that make for a great Challenge competitor.

Friday, August 17, 2012

This Just In....

Lots of stuff to cover in this BlogSpot, so hang on.

1. US Nationals: short story, we tried mightily to make the USS Midway work. Two planning meetings, in San Diego with the engineering department and a date identified. A contract was created and it started through channels without any indication of any issues. Then, before the contract was executed, the Midway Foundation wanted to punt this to next year. The bottom line is it’s just too hard. Sounded good in theory, but in reality, not going to happen, ever. So, we’re scrambling. Walt White has been knocking on doors as has Cliff Walker and Bob Pfohl. I believe we’ll have a destination for you soon. Out of respect for our West Coast competitors, we want to put this on in California- somewhere. My apologies for this taking so long. Because it looked like it was a lock after our second meeting, we did not build out a contingency plan. Some things are just beyond your control. 

Windsor (aka Parker Construction) is working on Lyrics!
2. Canadian National Anthem: in our survey, one of our Canadians brought to our attention that we did not play their national anthem when a team came south of the border. Following the protocol of MLB, the National Anthem of the home team is played- only. For sure, we can’t do this at the World Championships when we have nine countries represented. But, it will be our policy to recognize any Canadian at a US event by playing O Canada! Last week, I offered Windsor the privilege of singing the lyrics at the opening ceremony. They said that they’d pass; but, they mentioned that the Fire Department had a recording of some of their firefighters singing the anthem. We’d like to get that in an M3! 

3. Survey Monkey: Speaking of which, I have a lot of content for upcoming Blogs from the robust nature of comments we’ve been getting from the survey. All of these comments are appreciated, even the criticisms. After all, that’s how we improve our customer service. Trying to communicate with the constituents of the Scott Firefighter Combat Challenge is like hitting a moving target. We try to disseminate timely information at the event. But that’s only good for who’s there. The Hot News is supposed to be that: Hot News. But do people read it? Don’t know. One thought was to send a short update to every email of record. Not that hard, assuming that people actually fill in the fields when they check in. We don’t want a repeat of a situation a few years back when a team showed up for the final day of racing, having assumed that they had a bye. Holy cow. 

4. Speaking of Checking In: We received some complaints in the Survey that “I’ve not received my participation certificate.” We’re pretty good, but we can’t divine mailing addressed on the basis of a name only. If you haven’t received your certificate, send us an email, with your mailing address- and we’ll get it out to you. I can’t stress enough the frustration of attempting to track down a firefighter without a cell phone number of email address. Pretend that you won the lottery and you want us to mail you the check. One more thing: we hate screwing up the pronunciation of people’s names. There’s a place to enter: “How do you pronounce your name?” Do the best job you can to spell your last name phonetically. Also, it won’t hurt to put something down about yourself. I jokingly said, we should default the field to “alleged sex offender” and if you enter nothing, that would be Mike’s comments- but it’s only alleged. 

Saturday, August 4, 2012

And Disaster Strikes Again

Are we snake bit or what? I described our deluge in Montgomery; that cost us a mixer and the Sennheiser wireless microphone- and a tent. In Sandusky, we had micro switches and relays in the Keiser and the timing system that had to be replaced. So, when we pulled into Fishers, we checked the weather and were pleased to see that there was no storm activity pending- at least until later Saturday afternoon. 

But disaster came from an unexpected quarter: a medivac helicopter that was to be on display at the venue- came in on a low pass just above the tree line and literally blew the course away. The accompanying photo graphically demonstrates the scope of the damage. The finish line, fabricated from schedule 40 aluminum tubing was broken in two places. The clocks crashed to the ground, ripping the connecting cables from their sockets. The main control cable was likewise ripped. 

The thresholds were flipped and their connects trashed. Chief Steve Orusa suggested  that we postponed the day’s races. But Chuck DeGrandpre, in his characteristic, can-do manner set our crack road crew in motion to begin the repair process. Clint Lamb, Roger Shuttlesworth and Bill Alexander each took on a project.  In a few short hours, we had the timing system functioning, the finish line was welded with the assistance of the Town of Fishers Public Works Department welder. 

I can’t say enough about the ability of our Road Crew to rebound after what seems to be an unceasing string of adversities. Now, with all this bad luck behind us, let’s hope for clear sailing for the balance of the season. 

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

I Guess You Had to be There...

For those of you who came to Cedar Point last year, you may have had a sense of deja vu (

We thought moving the event up by a month or so should ensure that we’d not encounter another 50kt, non-stop, white-capping, sideways rain storm. The two-week long, intense 90°+ heat wave was broken by a number of squalls that dumped on us- yet again, precipitating (no-pun intended) more of those kinds of issues brought on by the extreme disdain that electrons have for water. 

Apologies to those guys who ended up not doing their best- which would include just about everyone. All I can say is that this was a tough course, made more tough by rain-swollen hose that added mass to the gear- on both the red and the blue course equally. 

But for me, the camaraderie transcended it all. In some ways it was like homecoming week for the Challenge. Don Kempf, now a retired battalion chief from the Cleveland Fire Department set a new world record for guys with bilateral hip replacements. He remarked when I pointed this out, “At last I won something!” Carl Keith, now a chief officer with Elyria stated that the last time he ran the course, there was no such thing as cell phones. That took me back to those days in the mid ‘90’s, waiting on some street corner for Ross Lowery to show up, driving our Hackney support vehicle, and having absolutely no idea as to where he was and when he would show up. 

I remarked to Randy Kalan, now the chief of Thames Center FD (ON) that it took Mike Word longer to read his list of accomplishments than it did for him to run the course (2:02). Mark Condrich, stand-out scholastic athlete and now-over 50 competitor brought Martin Shea, another Cleveland firefighter with him. It was Martin’s first run- ever, and absent any task-specific training turned in an impressive 2:55. He remarked that “ was fun.” His understatement made me ponder, “this is as it should be; any firefighter roused from the dead of night might be faced with a working fire of enormous proportions.” To be fully prepared, the Challenge is a great benchmark by which one knows that they do have what it takes to go in harm’s way. 

Mark, Paul Jeske and Bernie Nypaver (Lakewood) and I had a far ranging conversation on an assortment of topics ranging from “where did the plasticity in our legs go“, to “do you think you can get it back with plyometrics?” We talked about the benefits of chondroitin and the prophylactic value of pediatric (81mg) aspirin. Here, we have a bunch of guys, some with over 30 years on the job who are still fascinated with competition, work performance, training regimens and overall vitality. Bernie’s major focus has been cycling- participating in the World Games and other amateur competitions. Shaun Henderson and I discussed over-the-counter supplements and the problems with truth in labeling (you can’t trust the manufactures to disclose banned substances). So much to talk about and not enough time. 

Even our two sponsors, Ron Snizek of Finnley Fire Apparatus- who brought a Pierce engine to the event and Mike Olney of Horton, both firefighters with more than 30 years enjoyed the rare atmosphere of being around firefighter jocks who love their jobs and bring with them an infectious vitality. 

Chances are if you’re reading this column, you’re pretty dialed in to the ethos of what makes the Scott Firefighter Combat Challenge a blast. It’s not what happens on the course, it’s all the cool people- guys who would be insulted if you visited their town and you didn’t tell them you were coming. Relationships that have been forged, now spanning decades- that never would have been, had there not been this exciting platform for sport. 

I watched the march on of athletes in London. Bob Costas pointed out that the president of one of the country teams from Africa had said that it was about winning- not participating- having reversed the whole premise for the games as espoused by Baron Pierre de Coubertin. Well, I think we got it right. If you could have been in Sandusky, we validated ”just being there." 

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Montgomery, Alabama: A Winning Combination

The city of Montgomery was named after the American Revolutionary War major general, Richard Montgomery- born in Ireland and first served in the British army.  He lead the failed invasion of Canada and was killed after capturing Montreal. A battle of another sort took place in his city namesake this past weekend. Our 368th Scott Firefighter Combat Challenge was an exceptional event. It is noteworthy for a lot of reasons. First, the temperature was 20°F cooler than last year- or at least it felt that way. Absent the torrential downpour that took out some of our electronic sound components, the weather was near spectacular. We were positioned on a virtually flat parking lot that was in good repair. The slight grade helped considerably in quickly removing the standing 2 inches of water that Mike Word and I observed from our relative place of safety, inside the Kentucky semi-trailer. 

          Justin Beliveau: 1:39

On both of our competition days the colors were presented by the MFD Honor Guard and the National Anthem was sung by Police Sergeant John Mackey and Police Officer Roderick Montgomery in a duet. This was one of the best renditions ever. I remarked that they should have tried out for American Idol- and we should have recorded them. The Mayor, Todd Strange made opening remarks and was around for all of the competition for both days, as was the Director of Public Safety, J. Christopher Murphy. That is, I believe a first. 
Here’s another first: Justin Beliveau of Hattiesburg (MS) took first place with a 1:39.82- a Lion’s Den criteria for his first time running in the Open category. That’s remarkable! The top 9 finishers were under 2:00. As expected, the Relays delivered the promised excitement. Sixteen teams from the MFD were in the competition- representing almost every station as well as headquarters. 

The 25-member recruit class, all in their red PT gear reset the course with precision and harbor ominous forebodings of great things to come for the Montgomery Fire Department.  Tuscaloosa, Hattiesburg, Pearl, Seymour Johnson AFB and of course MFD made a great contest of the final eliminations with a run only <3 seconds off the World Record. 

Media coverage was also exceptional; here are some of the links: 

I characterized this event as near perfect in every category and an exemplar of what we’d like to see at every regional. Kudos to Chief Milford Jordan and his staff. We’re already looking forward to a return engagement in Montgomery next year.