Tuesday, November 25, 2014

It's Official: World Challenge XXIV- October 2015

You, my loyal BlogSpot readers are the very first to know: We're going to Montgomery Alabama the week of October 19, wrapping up on Saturday, the 25.

You heard it here first, from the only person authorized to speak on behalf the Scott Firefighter Combat Challenge® on the one and official website of the Scott Firefighter Combat Challenge®.

There will be tons of details to follow.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Lion’s Den Class of 2104

Class of 2014 Lion’s Den Inductees, Phoenix (Hard Rock Café) World Challenge XXIII
Welcome, welcome all. Typically, well over half of our inductees make the cut at the World Challenge. Here’s the list of those who made it this year: 2014 (through the US Nationals). Those who met the criteria during WCXXII will be inducted next year.


Justin Anderson
Zbigniew Banasiak
Jason Barker
Adrian Bent
Richard Burke
Jay Carter
Lance Conroy
Mike Cook
Jeremy Devitt
Carl Dickerson
Jean-Francois Doucet
Danny Folino
Mandy Gould
Darrick Graff
Anze Habjan
David Hashem
Tyler Hodges
Neil Hubley
Richard Hynes
Edward Jackman
Sean Jackman
Andrew Kencis
Ed Keuning
Radoslaw Komorek
Ruth Lancashire
Bruce Lewis
Tim Lisecky
Olov Ludwig
Wayne Maw
Richard Menard
Travis Nichols
Muriel Omnes
Brad Potter
Tom Rohrbach
Sean Romanek
Jamie Shingleton
David Spratt
Gregor Stanonik
Eric Studerus
Ben Suranko
Todd Vannatter
Andrew Verhoeven
Meghan White
Danny Young

Saturday, November 22, 2014

High Rise Hijinks

Photos courtesy of Jeff Leonard ©2014
 For the past couple of years we’ve been using the same highrise pack- and it shows. We’ve had some constructive criticism from our sponsors about the beatup condition- and we agreed.

The problem is that our current sponsor does not make a hose in the old diameter.

Jeff Leonard to the Rescue
Jeff sent me these photos of his practice pack and clearly, this is the solution.

And, for everyone to plainly see, he’s even included the dimensions.

The bundle is secured with a True North velcro’d cover- which we sell in our store.

5” hose is 8” when not charged
The great benefit is that it’s rubber coated, something that I’ve been wanting to do since we had the tropical storm back in 1999 in Kissimmee. About 4 pounds of water was absorbed by the fabric covered hose, evoking, as you can imagine, a lot of complaints.

When the next season kicks off, hopefully, we’ll have created a more flexible, durable and water-proofed version of the high-rise pack.

Our apologies to everyone who took offense to the suggested audible at the line of scrimmage for introducing a brand new set of high rise packs.

While Jeff’s high-rise pack looks like it’s been through a few workers, (and maybe it has), we’ll use Spray-Nine and a stiff brush to attempt to keep the props looking good for all the photo ops. We’d like the pack to last for years.

The bundle is just 2” shy of 4 feet.

The stacked height is between 5 and 6 inches
Fire hose is very expensive. However, if there is a demand for pre-fabricated hose packs, we’ll see what we can do by creating an inventory item for sale either from our website or the Combat Wear Zone.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

More on Scott Firefighter Combat Challenge Media

The Montgomery Fire Rescue Relay Team with World Record Plaque: Photo by Darrin Banfield
In the first step of the daunting task of processing the considerable archive of still and video content, we’ve posted the last race of Season 2014: Whiteman AFB vs. Montgomery (AL).

The intent is to organize all of the data in such a way that Competitors can quickly find their runs. This content will be posted to Vimeo. The stills will be added to our Flickr account that is accessible through our www.FFCC.TV account.

Here’s the link to the race. http://vimeo.com/user1899214/review/111878418/9bf59ad4ee

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Telecasting the Scott Firefighter Combat Challenge

Photo from WCXXIII by Darrin Banfield
In our first year, 1991, we were the subject of a CBS local (D.C.) news broadcast. Our event at the University of Maryland’s Fire Rescue Institute, captured on VHS would be leveraged to recruit DuPont.

The next year that we went national, we did a great short  (30 minute) feature for the former FETN-TV, a satellite distributed training station now defunct.

In 1993 and for almost 10 years we were on ESPN and ESPN2. When poker took over, we got bumped since “why give away the time when you can sell it” was the mantra of Disney, the parent company.

A few years later we did a three part stunt on what is now NBC Sports (formerly Versus, formerly Outdoor Network.

Last year we were on CBS Sports for a two-parter. Oh yeah, and we had a special on A&E, hosted by Terry Bradshaw that’s still the best overview of the Scott Firefighter Combat Challenge.

In between, we’ve tried a variety of video packaging. Rex and I worked very diligently on a five-minute summary of each event and we tried the live feed with cell phone transmission. The post-production stuff was very labor intense, taking almost the entire week to get uploaded. The cell phone transmission (sort of live) looked like the orgininal broadcast of the astronauts walking on the moon, or claymation.

On Fremont Street we captured everyone’s run on Flip 720i video and uploaded the clips to YouTube where you’ll still find them on our FFCCTV Channel. The stationary camera provided reasonable audio but terrible video.

In our relentless search for some kind of balance, we went to local packagers in Myrtle Beach; an outfit known as Reel Events. These guys were pros; unfortunately though, we’re dependent upon the local cable provider and all the technology in the world can be held hostage to the pipeline.

Last year, because we were going to be broadcasting on CBS Sports, we were told that we could not air the broadcast for free. We had a pretty good pipeline but not much of an audience.

This year’s effort was the most complicated of all. After having our permit for 2nd Street turned down, we had to move over a block and lost our connetion to the Hard Rock Cafe. We ended up, as you read earlier, hooked up to Kincaid’s Restaurant’s router. Then we moved out to the PIR.

I’ve received a lot of comments; praise and complaints. People would send angry messages that the signal went down all the while, others were at the same time, watching on their iPhones. It’s a mystery that we’re working on.

We’re trying to get smarter about how to best distribute content and live within a budget. Everything about TV is expensive. And, I’m not talking about the handy-cams that you can get for a song, but the multi-casters that allow uplinks from four or more cameras.

Right now, we’re looking at a better format than YouTube for posting all of the footage that we shot. You’ll note that in some cases they have muted the soundtrack due to “copyright” issues with some of the playlist. We have a license from ASCAP to play these songs. Unfortunately, there is no toll-free, 800 number to reach YouTube to let them know.

One of our viewers had suggested that we selected a provider other than the low bid. We’ve already addressed the issue of charging for content and there weren’t very many subscribers. So, keep in mind, what we’re providing is free to the viewers. Not free to produce by any means.

Until we get our own earth station, we’ll probably have to constrain oursleves to doing the World Challenge. It’s our intention to start working on this right now. The most important component in bringing you HD quality is a big pipeline. Twenty MBS would be great. We’re looking. Stay tuned!

Monday, November 10, 2014

Day Two: World Challenge XXIII: Cheated Death Again

Vendor Row: Zoomtown, Avondale, Arizona, Race Day: The crowds are in the stands. This is a partial view; there are more trailers behind me.

Dateline: Somewhere over Arizona. I’m looking at my battery life and will exceed the duration of the first leg (to RDU) by a wide margin. The SWA WiFi speed is dependent upon the number of passengers who are downloading movies. My MacBook Pro can usually outlast a flight to Europe; well, almost. So, getting down to the message, or messages- as my head is spinning with all the great stuff that happened this week in the greater Phoenix area:

First, a shout-out to the Montgomery (AL) Blue Team. Breaking the WR, not once but twice- a marvelous accomplishment. The highly guarded secret that Montgomery is in contention for hosting next year’s WCXXIV seems to be out of the bag. I will neither confirm, or deny that pulling off the Big Win will have anything to do with our decision.

For the faithful few who routinely read my Blog, I hope that your just reward was a ticket to the Sprint Cup race. I did catch the last 20 laps. If you’ve never been to NASCAR, this would have been one of the best for a lot of reasons, not the least of which the price of admission was covered by LiftMaster. 

I don’t know how many crashes (the main reason for attendance), but a collective sigh of relief went up that no one died. On either course. I say this in all sincerity because after 23 years, it’s an enviable safety record for us. Bringing me to a new rule for next season, the three strikes and you’re out rule. At the CAB meeting we discussed safety. Dropping the dummy has a high correlation with being in over your head. More on this later. 

Now, what about that photo? It’s the vendor lane at Zoomtown. Also, an answer to the question as to why we were not selling merchandise at the track. You see, all those huge sponsors pour millions of dollars into NASCAR’s coffers. We are not one of them. To put this in context, NASCAR is a very, very expensive sport. Cars that cost millions. Pit crews, etc. So, I think that everyone gets it- you have to pay to play. We sometimes have problems explaining why we do not permit competing entities to sell merchandise at our events. Because survival depends upon income from multiple sources, including merchandise sales, it’s just not fair, not to mention a very poor business practice. 

Over the balance of this year, I’ve got Blogs in the works to discuss all the high points of this past week, plus our off season plans, Livestreaming issues and answers, the Keiser Force Machine, Lion’s Den Admission criteria, next year’s schedule, and any other nominated topic that you’d like to see in print. I strongly recommend that you subscribe to this Blog; you’ll not be seeing me hanging out on Facebook. Sorry, it’s just a thing. 

Sunday, November 9, 2014

First Day at the PIR (Phoenix International Raceway)

For those of you are following the action of World Challenge XXIII from your particular frozen tundra, welcome to Arizona in November. Temperatures are moderately warm and the relative humidity near zero.

We’re outside of the raceway and when the cars start their engines it sounds like a swarm of very angry bees. Fortunately, we’re a bit removed from our first location which would have made any attempts at communication near impossible.

As I’m writing this, the results of our racing have been posted and Hamilton has bested the Team Total time set by Missoula in the last century.

They’ll be heading home with the Challenge trophy and we’ll soon follow with a great celebration at city hall. We’ll post the date and time as soon as we know it. Jason Cannon of Scott and former Challenge Crew Member will be among the entourage, along with Greg Polka of RWC and Mr, John Granby, VP Lion.

A couple of snap shots here to give you a perspective of the enormity of our foot print. LiftMaster has graciously provided shelter and chairs- a necessity in an environment where there’s not a cloud to be seen anywhere. We have some other amenities that I will capture today as we move into the Tandem and Relay categories.

In toto, we had about four great hours of racing, with an awards show that followed in the shadow of our big red semi.

 For many of our competitors this was their first trip to Arizona. And for our foreign visitors, a first glance of America. They instantly recognize the terrain from all the Western movies.

Little do they realize that the rest of the country does not bear a resemblance.

The incredibly bear mountains are a striking backdrop for this year’s venue.

The logistics of getting to the site were amazingly easy, despite the fact that there was a wreck on the I-10. When the Berlin team was stuck on the freeway, they sent a text to Mike Weikamm back in Germany so he could translate and forward to one of our German referee-crew members. Think of the significance of that!

Saturday, November 8, 2014

An Extraordinary Day

The LiftMaster #1 Car and Firefighter Combat Challenge Competitors
Thursday’s activities were packed. First, we supported the ABC TV network’s Extreme Weight Loss show with access to our course for shooting an episode that will air next summer.

At 7AM, the crew arrived and began the setup with the assembly of one of the largest jib’s out there. Go-Pros and mobile cameras were everywhere- guaranteeing a rich viewing experience for their audience.

Cast member Josh Hanes, who has lost 120 pounds, ran one for record and bested his Monday 2:46 with a 2:25.99. Kudos to Clarence Parks who was the rabbit and extra, pacing Josh through a lot of B-roll shots and the final run.

In the afternoon of our longest day, the LiftMaster Sprint Cup NASCAR race car was unveiled on the course. The hood of the car bore the 19 names of the Prescott firefighters who lost their lives last year. The ceremony included a color guard of the Phoenix Fire Department, and bell-ringing, followed by the presenation of a $10,000 donation to the National Fallen Firefighter Foundation (www.firehero.org). John Granby, VP Lion serves on the NFFF Corporate Advisory Board and is a course official.

Our competition continued into the night, with lighting provided by Sunbelt Rentals- along with two scissor lifts and cooling equipment. We’re greatly appreciative of what our newest sponsor brings to the Challenge.

This weekend, another sponsor, Typhoon Cooling will make their presence known at the Phoenix International Raceway. We’ll provide you with a behinds the scene of this marvelous addition to the course.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

The Tricky Thing About the Internet

When Ron Beckman and I did our Advance here in Phoenix in what now seems like last year (really, June), we had identified an Internet connection at the Hard Rock Café, on 2nd Street. The HRC will be the site of this year’s Lion’s Den Induction reception. A more gracious host is not to be found anywhere.

Then, we ran into permit problems and had to move over a street. The thought was that we’d have a 1000’ feet spool of Cat5e cable and be able to provide a live uplink for our YouTube broadcast. Well, we should have checked out the Google map because there’s just too many obstacles. So, we began our ground search for an alternative source of connectivity.

I had a conversation with the manager of the Phoenix Convention Center, Kevin Mattingly, who was most helpful. At the same time, Maria Prekeges was talking to the building management company across 3rd Street.

Kincaid’s restaurant (www.kincaid.com) offered free Wi-Fi, with the caveat that we couldn’t run the wire through the dining room. Mr. Mattingly came out to tell me that all Internet services are handled by a separate company and they would drop by.

In the meantime, we’re getting our broadcast tent set up and cameras positioned. It’s virtually impossible to do this until everything else is in position and we can’t have the street for as long as we would really like. With the assistance of the building service staff, we were able to use one of the conduits to fish a line from the roof top service closet through the ceiling and into Kincad’s service closet). Then, we dropped the line off of the roof and into the broadcast tent. So, the pressure is building.

Now, keep in mind, that the Scott Firefighter Combat Challenge live feed is free to anyone in the world with a web browser. And, Lion, our partner does help with the cost of bringing you the daily show. But, we also are sensitive to the fact that there are thousands of fans back home who expect broadcast quality HD.

Well, did you hear the story about how Marriott was fined $300,000 for invoking electronic counter measures whereby they would eliminate any of their hotel guests from using anything but their own in-house service for Wi-Fi? No? Well, standby.

So, the representatives from the convention center show up just about the time that we’re hooking up to Kincad’s restaurant. Now, it’s not the speediest connection as restaurants really just need to upload credit card information. But, it will carry SD TV (standard definition).

The sales reps and his staff of two politely inform me that they can provide us with an adequate uplink for the low, low price of, get this: $7600!

I said, “Gee,” motioning to the West side of the street, “Free.” And then, towards the Convention Center, “$7,600?” Humm; hard choice. I said, “I can offer maybe $2K, but, really?”

“Nope. That’s our price.”

I later find out that these were the co-conspirators in the Marriott fiasco. Last night the crew of 25 ate at Kincade’s.

The manager could not have been more facilitating and apologized that he couldn’t provide us with more speed.

When we move to the track for the Finals, I’ve been assured that we have 20MBS. That should rock.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

World Challenge XXIII- Day Two- Interim Report

The view on 3rd Street. Looking North towards the Sheraton Hotel Downtown
Yesterday’s races are posted you tube (link below). Already, new World Records are falling while old acquaintances are being refreshed. The weather continues to be incredible.

While in the 80°s, humidity is incredibly low. We have swamp coolers in the ready tent, but hardly need them.

There are hundreds of competitors here from New Zealand, Portugal, Poland, Germany, France, Slovenia and of course, Canada.

Lots of new inductees to the Lion’s Den; they’ll get their just rewards at World Challenge XXIV.

I’m getting lots of questions about where we’re headed next year; we’ll have an answer for everyone quite soon, I’m certain.
I want to remind everyone that we’re switching the training session with Perry from 2:00PM (1400) to 1000hrs (10:00) at the Sheraton Hotel.

We’re continuing to film all the races and are posting them as fast as we can. Here’s the link for yesterday:  http://youtu.be/kTxSptOMlFc

We want to thank Lion for helping to underwrite the production costs; through no fault of theirs, our Internet connection just doesn’t have the band width to upload real time.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Day One: World Challenge XXIII

View of the Scott Firefighter Combat Challenge course on
3rd Street, Downtown Phoenix from the Sheraton
Things kicked off this morning on 3rd Street with an incredible change in the 100°F weather of last week. The sky was azure blue and the wind wafted gently down the canyon. Some last minute issues with the change in venue from 2nd Street put a kink in going live with our YouTube broadcast. But, not to fear; we captured it all and it’s being uploaded for your viewing pleasure.

I’ll attempt to give you a recap of the major happenings of the day. First a big shout out for Firefighters for Christ. These guys did a lot of the heavy lifting in resetting the course. We also had helpers from the Glendale Fire Academy- the “night school” version. Guys who are getting their FF certification, good for 20+ states.

Then, we had some more guys who were bartering their registation in return for multiple runs. We love you guys too.

Jim DeGrandpre did the competitor commentary while Mike Riley did play-by-play. Mike Word got in this afternoon and is doing sound checks, preparing for taking over tomorrow. We need to save his voice, so we’ll give him some respites during the week.

Josh, the cast member from Extreme Weight Loss, after warching a lot of races was ready to give it a run. He was targeting for a time under 5 minutes and posted a time well under 3.

First days are typically light ones and we wrapped up around 3 or so. Daniel’s working on the results which will be posted later today.

The store opens tomorrow and will only be operational through Thursday as we will not be allowed to sell merchandise on NASCAR property.

Friday, we will by necessity, make a swap with Perry going on at 10:00 and the CAB meeting taking place at 2PM at the Sheraton Meeting Room.