Saturday, April 28, 2012

With Winning in Mind

Challenge Competitors participate for a variety of reasons; at the top of the pyramid are world-class athletes who would be standouts in a number of sports. For them, the Challenge provides a highly charged platform with which to integrate a plethora of fitness dimensions such as power, agility, balance and muscular endurance. Others find that this is a natural extension of the social environment that they enjoyed as an scholastic amateur athlete- only now with fellow firefighters. 

I especially appreciate the comments of our veteran Competitors, those guys in their 40’s and beyond who say that this outlet provides the motivation to stay in job-related shape. These guys provide huge motivation to their younger counterparts who sometimes believe that after probation, one can ride the long, slow slide to oblivion. 

Then there are the majority of participants who see the Challenge as an experience that they want to put on their resume. Nothing wrong with that- plus you get a cool tee shirt. I’ve never heard anyone remark that the Challenge was not an accurate reflection of the demands of a good working fire. 

But, no matter your motivation, I’d like suggest a mandatory reading assignment: With Winning in Mind. It’s a short tome by Lanny Bassham. This paperback, published in 1995 describes the Mental Management System. Bassham, an Olympic gold medal winner describes how to prepare for competition by focusing on what’s important and ignoring the distractions or thought processes that can make subtle differences between first and second place. 

But, regardless of your focus- top athlete or a participant- this book has very practical applications for every aspect of your life. You can knock this book out in an afternoon, but assimilation of the principles can make a difference for the rest of your life. I’d like to make reading this book a requirement for everyone who steps out on the course. 

Rick Porter a world class marksman competitor recommended the book to me and I’m very glad that he did. I’m compelled to pass along the tip to you. Tell me what you think after reading it. 

Want it cheap? Got to; you can pick it up for $10. 

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Lightening the Load

More than the weather changed for the better at this year’s FDIC event. Challenge competitors were thrilled to don the new Scott 5.5 SCBA. Probably the first thing you notice is the way that it hugs your back; the bottle is the smallest 30 minute unit in the industry. It’s not just the reduction in mass of ≈1-2 pounds, but it’s the significantly lower profile that makes rotation while performing such tasks as the hose hoist easier and helps better balance your center of gravity. We immediately noticed that the clanging sound associated with banging the handrails on the top of the tower have disappeared.

Will records fall? We can’t say for sure, but this will sure help. I’m making no apologies for my age, but my first experience with the Scott Air-Pak was a low-pressure steel cylinder that weighed in at around 45 pounds. It operated under negative pressure, meaning that you had to suck the air out of the bottle. This gave rise to respiratory imbalance and the feeling that you were suffocating, resulting in a lot of guys tearing off their face pieces to disastrous consequences.

Things have come a very long way; today, little thought is given to dashing into atmospheres that are unsurvivable absent respiratory protection- SCBAs that allow world-class athletes run full out while performing arduous tasks. We’ll be interested in getting your feedback this season when you run with the new Scott 5.5 Air-Paks. Please feel free to send me your observations.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

The Telltale is Back!

For nearly five years, we’ve been searching for a replacement to the Golfsmith pressure sensitive tape that we used as a telltale for illegal hits. Why? A little history.  At our very first Challenge back in 1991, we had one Keiser (the original prototype) and one Stanley shot mallet hammer.

It didn’t take that field of competitors long to figure out that if you hit the handle on the edge of the beam a millisecond before the hammer struck the face, you’d create a whip (torque) effect and get more distance for your strike. However, this is not using the tool as it was intended and destroyed the hammer. So, back to the drawing board. The golf tape solution provided an objective method of determining “fouls” or errant strikes that did damage to the hammers. Every miss-strike was clearly evident in the form of a permanent mark that the official could record. 

So for years, we purchased and used a pressure-sensitive tape until Golfsmith no longer made the product. We experimented with some other solutions to no avail. While the vast majority of competitors quickly determined the best method to strike the beam was at a 90° angle, we continued to have a very small number of competitors who couldn’t seem to aim with precision, or seemed hell-bent to evoke damage on the equipment. 

Eureka! After a google search, Daniel discovered that there is a new and improved solution by Golfsmith. So we purchased several boxes of the product and are re-introducing the enforcement of the rule for “hooking.” I’ve reproduced the rule on Forcible Entry below- so that everyone is familiar with the expectation. Note also the clarification on the loss of control of the hammer, another infrequent, but potentially dangerous mistake.

The Rule
The forcible entry evolution utilizes the Keiser Force Machine (a chopping simulator). Using a nine pound (4kg) shot mallet provided, and with both feet on the diamond plate surface, the competitor must drive the sled, a 160lb. (72.5kg) steel beam a horizontal distance of five feet (1.5m). Pushing, raking or hooking the beam is not allowed; only the head of the mallet is allowed to strike the beam. The handle must not come in contact with the beam at any time. The upper edge of the beam will be covered with pressure sensitive material, making infractions visible by a mark thereon. A five second penalty is assessed for each infraction after the first handle strike. Both hands must be above the tape mark on the handle (12 inches [30.5cm] from the top [head] end) at the point of impact. A two second penalty is assessed for every inch (2.5cm) or fraction thereof that the sled is short of the end of the tray. Any part of the hammer must be placed on the designated 2 foot by 3 foot (61cm x 91cm) mat. Contacting the mat is defined as the hammer being in contact with the imaginary plane that extends vertically from the border of the mat. A two second penalty is assessed for this infraction. Prior to completing the evolution, if the competitor loses control of the hammer, and it travels outside of the boundaries of the the confines of the tray, the competitor will be disqualified.