Week 9: Friendly Competition at the Firefighter Throwdown [Score +13]
In my post just last week, I mentioned that volunteering is going to be one way I’ll be getting out, meeting new people, and trying new things during this year of intrepid exploration.
I love the variety of ways in which a person can volunteer, and my experiences in the last two weeks illustrate that perfectly.
Last week: I helped at an Easter egg hunt for children with special needs and got to see firsthand just how much it meant to them.
This week: I volunteered and judged the Firefighter Throwdown, a functional-fitness competition staged during the annual Fire Department Instructor’s Conference (FDIC) International tradeshow in downtown Indianapolis.
How’s that for variety?
During the FDIC event, downtown Indianapolis becomes the safest place in the country if you have an emergency: nearly 34,000 attendees came to this conference this year. They take over the convention center and Lucas Oil Stadium, showcasing equipment (at least half a dozen bucket trucks alone were on display inside the stadium), offering training, and also setting stuff on fire (outside) just to put it out again.
The Firefighter Throwdown portion of the week was a two-day Crossfit-style competition created to increase the understanding of how important fitness is to a firefighter’s survival. I was shocked to learn that 50% of all firefighter deaths while on duty are from heart attacks, which in many cases are preventable through good health.
Over these two days, teams of three firefighters and/or paramedics (with a minimum of one woman per team) competed in a sequence of nine workouts (WODs in Crossfit terminology) that were not for the faint of heart, literally or figuratively. I volunteered on Day 1 and judged four separate WODs.
(I won’t try to explain them all in detail here, but if you’re interested, you can see each WOD in the Notes section of the event’s Facebook page.)
Let me say this: I exercise regularly. I’m in good shape. I lift weights, bike and spin, do yoga, and have fun at the occasional circus-school aerial class. But I’m far from being able to do what these athletes did during this competition.
Here’s a taste of WOD 2, “Burpee Madness”:
And in this video from WOD 4, “Assault Jump”, you can actually see me judging. I’m the one in the white tshirt wearing neon yellow shoes:
Judging entailed two primary jobs: 1) make sure the athlete maintained the proper form and did each move completely (like fully standing up with straight legs on a box jump), or that rep wouldn’t count, and 2) count reps.
In our briefing early in the day before the event started, the organizers from Crossfit Naptown warned us to not be surprised if, in the heat of competition and adrenaline, an athlete challenged us on a call and/or got a little upset.
I only had one close call like that myself, and the athlete was right about my having made a mistake. I got my bearings and acted as backup judge on the first WOD then jumped in quickly to judge WOD #2. Several of my fellow volunteer judges had actually judged Crossfit competitions before, and I’m not even a Crossfitter, so I definitely had to put my confident britches on and just step in and do my best.
The first sequence of moves on WOD #2 was a burpee plus box jump, 21 reps total, and each athlete could only do three burpees + box jumps in a row before they had to rotate. Where I messed up was in counting in threes per athlete instead of counting from one to 21 as they rotated through. Then I got confused about who went first in their rotation and whether they had done seven or eight sets of three…. Aaagghhh! The woman on the team realized I had screwed up the counting, and told me exactly that, but I learned quickly and didn’t make the same mistake again the rest of the day. I was embarrassed, but thankfully we all kept moving and I couldn’t blush for long.
It was one of those times where I had to just remind myself that I was a newbie bound to make at least one error, and this was a volunteer activity for a good cause. It was also reassuring to hear the other volunteer judges saying they found the counting process challenging, too. Whew!
This activity inspired me to add another scoring category to my tally: I’m giving myself +2 points if I sign up for a group activity without knowing anyone else who will be involved. Sounds fair for an introvert, yes?
I found this opportunity to volunteer through our internal volunteer group at work. Someone posted the open call for volunteers, and I thought it sounded fun and interesting, so I jumped on it.
Okay. Yes. I’d be lying if I said “fun” and “interesting” were my only motivators. In truth, I also thought that volunteering to watch firefighters work out all day would be… appealing. Need someone to count push-ups? I’ll raise my hand for that. Don’t get overly excited, though, because you’ll see that I only earned 13 points on this day, not 63. All those amazingly fit firemen were very focused and in the zone while they competed, so the professional line between volunteer judge and athlete remained uncrossed. From both directions.
It’s too bad that just being in the vicinity of dozens of attractive men doesn’t get me any Intrepid Introvert points.
- Did something outside my routine: +1
- Left the house: +1
- Did something entirely new: +1
- Burned real calories (so I got some exercise): +1
- Signed up for an activity without knowing anyone else involved: +2
- Had a conversation with a stranger of at least 30 seconds: +2
- Had a conversation with a stranger beyond basics (i.e., work, hometown, what’s your dog’s name): +2
- Learned someone’s name: +3