In the past few weeks, a lot has happened. Firstly, there was the Junior Urban State Fire Brigades Championships over the Feb 27-28 weekend. I'm only about 30 years too old to run in these competitions, but I do attend, firstly to help out with looking after the kids, but most importantly, I'm one of the officials for the weekend, either judging runs or assisting with preparing the equipment for each run. Turned out to be a fairly easy weekend this time around, with many officials available, so I was only assigned 4 events over the weekend. It's always nice to help out, as well as compare notes with other officials between runs, which helps sharpen one's knowledge of the rules.
The following weekend was the twilight competition in Echuca. This was not one of my better days, with a few minor hiccups all day, and gastric issue complicated matters a bit. However, I still pulled up reasonably well, with only a minor niggle that had developed in training a week earlier. After a hot (40C) day, we relaxed with a BBQ. The season results were also presented, and our team won the C Section aggregate for the second year in a row, due to consistent performances earlier in the season, despite our day's placing only being third.
Last weekend (12th - 14th March) was the 3 day Urban State Fire Championships. These were hosted in Mildura, a 400km drive away, which we undertook in a bus on the Friday. The long bus trip gave me a chance to read a book (by an autistic author, no less!). We arrived around 4 in the afternoon and after dropping some people off at our accommodation, proceeded to the track to weigh and measure our gear, to make sure it met the legal specs for competition. This is one of those rituals that forms part of the State weekend that I enjoy, it sets the atmosphere of anticipation up. After measuring the gear and setting the hydrants, we headed back to our accommodation and settled in for the night.
Day 1 was the Saturday. The first part of the day was the official parade and opening, followed by the Discipline contest, a competition of dress presentation and marching drills. I didn't take part in the Discipline, but I did take video of both our teams as they marched around the course.
After the Discipline was the ladder race, my first event. Unfortunately, a couple of slips ended my competition in a heat I had the potential to win. Saturday turned out to be my bad day, as things didn't get any better for me in the C section 4s. I was running hydrant and managed excellent track speed, but didn't have it straight enough when setting it, which cost too much time to recover from. These were my only two runs for the Saturday, but I did borrow a uniform and take part in the evening's Torchlight procession, where teams march through the streets in uniform carrying kerosene fuelled torches. I did get a few positive comments about my marching ability, so perhaps I might get to march the Discipline one day. :)
Day 2 - Sunday. This was to be my busy day with 4 events. First was the pumper and ladder event, which was first up on the day. This run went together quite well. On the way up the ladder, I had time to notice that the particular ladders at the venue were a type I found a little more difficult to climb, so I was able to adjust my technique to make sure I got up (which I did in plenty of time). Everyone else got their part together, and we ended up taking third place.
Next was the hose and reel sixes. We hadn't been able to run or train this event as much as previous years, due to injury or unavailability of other team members. However, we did make it through to the finals, though didn't place.
The afternoon saw the second of the pumper events, the pumper 4s. This is an event we've never really done well in, and is particularly challenging for the pump operator, who must perform a precise sequence of adjustments to get a clean run. My position was hydrant, where I set the hydrant in the ground, deliver water and call out to the pump operator that the water is available to draw on. This run went together very well, and we placed 4th, which was a bit special, considering our history with the event.
My final event of the day was the Y8. Here, I was back in familiar territory with the grueling role of pole, assist and ladder, which I have run for the past few years. After pulling the reel almost all the way down the track and helping the third length back, I had a strong ladder climb (thanks to improved fitness!). We finished third in conditions that saw many of the top sides unable to complete a clean run.
Day 3 - Monday. This was the quietest day, with only one event - the ladder 5s. All of my preparation of the past year, especially my foray into athletics was for this run. Last year, I had worked out that a state win would be almost impossible, and a place difficult, based on my track speed. I have put in a lot of training to address this, and this year, for the first time, we had a real chance at taking the event, though it would push me to my limits. My warmup went particularly well - I took the time to do a full track warmup, which takes 20 minutes or more. Unfortunately, a problem elsewhere in the run meant I wasn't able to put my speed to use, and we weren't able to get a good time. One of those things, I'll just work hard and get myself easily able to make the time for next year. :)
Some of the other team members did get a win in the 4 man Y with their best run of the season a little later in the morning, which went a long way to making some of the others feel better. I certainly was happy for them, as one or two took the previous bad run a bit hard, and really needed the lift.
So the end result was quite good after a rocky start to the weekend. As always, I am looking ahead. My new training regime has proven itself through the season (even if I didn't get to fully utilise my speed at the State), and my new area of attention will be skills, to try and improve both my hand coordination, as well as general agility - my straight line speed is now excellent, but changing direction isn't as quick for me as it is for others. I'm also going to focus on 1km cross country events during the winter season, which will give me a bit more stamina in the longer runs.