Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Climb Detroit Report 2012

Our Crew before the climb

The American Lung Association's Fight for Air - Climb Detroit event was a great success!  They initially hoped to raise $175,000 and after this weekend they raised more than $185,000!

Our team of firefighters were also able to exceed our goal of raising $1000.  We raised over $1200 for the American Lung Association.  Each of our team members completed the entire event of 1035 stairs within the 70 stories at the Detroit Renaissance Center.  We walked away knowing more about ourselves as individuals and about each other as a team.

About 200 firefighters took part in the "Full Gear Challenge"

No doubt, this event kicked my butt!  The event was very well organized and each person was launched in Time Trial style.  When I took off the first 5 flights came pretty easy; let me clarify this statement by mentioning that this was NO run, we were in full firefighting turnout gear with air packs on our backs - that's about 100 pounds of gear.  Turn out gear is designed to prevent thermal burns from exposure to a fire, it's also designed to keep you dry while spraying water on a fire.  With this design there is no breathability of the fabric.  With every step I got more warm... and then more and more hot!  I hit the 10th floor with another team member and we chose not to stop at the water station until the 20th floor.  15-20 were tough but once I got to the 20th floor water station, I had that brief moment where I downed a small bit of water and chose to again, keep going.  I continued the momentum and by the 30th floor I realized that I was so focused that I couldn't even listen to music, ear buds out and keep climbing.  A volunteer at the 30th floor water station called out that we were 70% done, craziness!  I didn't preplan any mental games for completing this event, only to climb until I reached the 70th floor.

My legs burned, my lungs burned and my body felt like it was on fire.  The climb took place behind the elevator shafts - it was about a 5 foot wide space per flight with cinder block walls and fluorescent lights.  Being that this was in the center of the RenCen, there were no windows and no ventilation.  Heat rises and with each flight it was noticeably more warm.  By the 40th floor I had to open my coat to let out some of the heat.  I took 10-20 second breaks at the halfway point between water stations and it didn't seem like it was ever enough rest.  Each time I stopped it seemed like there was a volunteer at the top of that next flight, since I'm stubborn, I didn't want to look like I was resting... I didn't think about the fact that I looked completely spent. 

Me, Jeff, John and Al
Some crazy funny volunteer forced us to take this picture.
Something about the 60th floor seemed to be a problem for me.  The steps no longer hurt my legs, in fact, I couldn't even feel them.  It was hot and each step made my body burn more.  I couldn't count down the last few steps but as soon as I crossed the threshold to the 70th floor hallway I was grabbed by "the big security guy" who didn't say anything except  "Get him to triage"  Since he was pulling my gear off of me and simultaneously pulling me down the hallway to an air conditioned room, I assumed he was talking about me.  I tried to say that I wanted to stay in the hallway and wait for my crew but apparently he was already prepared to deny that request.  Recovery was quick - icepacks were stuffed in my shirt and some HFCS drink poured in my mouth /SARC  I gathered myself and gear and walked to the hallway to watch for my crew.  Soon enough they trickled in, one by one!  Everyone took time to recover and we went back down (via the elevators) as a TEAM.  In 2013 we will be back!

This was a great event that was well organized and a lot of fun!  I'm glad that we had the opportunity to participate in a great cause. Take time to visit the American Lung Association website and learn about the importance of funding their research.  There are several great resources to help you learn about your body and what risks are in your area.  There is also ample information about initiatives in your area that need your support!

While I previously thought that I was trained well enough for my job, Sunday I realized that I need to ALWAYS do more to be more physically prepared!  While we only have a few high rise type structures in our area, we are short staffed, so we will be making several trips up and down the stairs in gear and with additional equipment.  We, I, have to be better prepared for that.  I read an article recently about firefighters being prepared for the "moments" in our careers when we have to rely on our physical and mental training, there's no chance to fall back on that training if it doesn't exist.  I'll summarize the article and leave you with this:

The untrained, unfit and unwilling present a risk... Those with a mastery of skill, sharp mind, fit body and full heart present a resource. At the time of true test, aim to be the best resource available so that the decision may rest in the moment and the benefit. Preparation of mind, body and skill lies within our control, the moment does not.

~ Fire Service Warrior 2011

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