Monday, January 18, 2010:
There are no classes today in honor of the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. holiday. I appreciate the extra day off from class, but the class preparation, studying, and physical training continued unabated over the weekend.
Throughout this academy I have adopted the mentality that I needed to “keep up with the 20 and 30 year olds” in the class. I knew they’d be fast, strong, and tough – competitive and with a will to succeed. They are all of that and more! Each of my classmates has excelled in both classroom activities and practical skills, and each of them brings a unique skill and experience set to share with the rest of the class. We have bonded extremely well as a class, and we encourage and challenge each other to succeed. Nobody here wants to be “good enough” – we know we have to truly excel during training in order to keep pace with the veteran Saint Paul Firefighters “out on the streets.” It has been a great experience going through training with this group of exceptional men!
For me, as the “old timer” of the group, it has taken a lot of work to “keep up” with those big (young) dogs. I have built my own practice props in the backyard (including ceiling pull station, flat chop prop, homemade Keiser sled, and dummy drag sled). I’ve brought home my air pack and turn out gear for weekend workout sessions in full PPE and “on air.” I have maintained a workout regime to supplement the “PT Hour” of the academy, and I’ve modified my treadmill workouts with weight machine stations to bump my heart rate to higher levels and to build additional upper body strength. I know I am much stronger and have much more endurance than I’ve had in the last 25 years, and I know now what it takes to keep firefighters in good physical condition.
Yesterday I ran a half-marathon as I watched the Minnesota Vikings beat Dallas. I’ve never run that far before (my previous long-distance run was 8 miles in November), but my weekend goal had been to run the half marathon, and I completed all 13.1 miles in just over 2 hours. I have no idea what a “good time” is for such a distance, and I realize that the run was made in “idea conditions” (flat, dry, windless conditions on a treadmill), but for my first effort I was quite happy with the results. I wanted to use the long run as a way of measuring my cardiac health and large muscle endurance. Here’s what I discovered:
· I was able to maintain a 6+ miles per hour pace throughout the run. I ran 12.5 miles at 6.5 mph (a 9-minute-13-second-per-mile pace) until my left knee tightened up sharply at 12.5 miles. I slowed to a 6 mph pace and finished in 2 hours, 1 minute, 13 seconds.
· My heart rate stayed within a range of 75-85% of my maximum heart rate, telling me that – from a cardiac stand point - I still had some gas left in the tank. My average heart rate was 78% of my max heart rate, and I peaked out at 85%, so I never actually entered Zone 5 (a maximum effort for the heart at 90-100% of maximum heart rate).
· After 2 hours of work, my heart recovered to a normal rate in less than 5 minutes.
· My legs felt fine until mile 11, when they began to feel “heavy.” I ran on without reducing my pace until my left knee problem flared up at 12.5 miles.
· I never hit “the wall,” so with some additional training, I think I could run even further and faster.
· Other than some lingering pain in my left knee this morning, I feel fine.
Well, that’s the behind the scenes view of what it’s taken me to keep up with the big dogs in my class. I cannot wait for the final three weeks of the academy to be over so we can all “hit the streets” as Saint Paul Firefighters!