What I’ve come to know in my short thirty three years of life is that our lives are constantly shaped by our responses. Day in and day out, we find ourselves with multiple responses from the time we wake until the time we go to sleep. In the CrossFit world, we find our response moments at the box revolving around PR’s, goals, missed lifts, agony, triumph, defeat or mental and physical adversity. This all happens when we hear the famous words …….. 3,2,1 go!
How many have trained hard for something only for the response to come up short, or work so hard to hit that lift, lose weight, or complete that certain objective only to come up short? Chances are, if you’re human, then this would include all of us! So don’t worry you’re not alone, but what I will ask is what your response when adversity comes?
I set out three years ago to become an Alabama “Smoke Diver”. A majority of people would ask what this actually meant and what all did we have to do? In short it’s a class of fire ground training in intense environments dealing with victim rescues, self rescues, team rescues, search tactics, live fire operations, confined space operations, high-rise operations, rapid intervention drills, forcible entry, ladder operations, MAYDAY drills, all while in heat and smoke filled scenarios testing your mental and physical ability. This class is over five days with every day a chance for you not to complete an objective and find yourself out of the course.
I trained for months and even convinced a co-worker to go with me to the class. Monday morning came, and only three hours into the course, I found myself out of the class and physically and mentally beat up in response; needless to say it was one of the most humbling experiences in my professional career. My friend Josh continued on and graduated on that Friday. I lost sleep, I second guessed, I couldn’t believe I was doing everything right and it still didn’t happen…………….You better know your “why” when you do something!!!!!
My response……… train harder, wait a year, go again, never give up!
I convinced several co-workers and coach Stentsen to go with me as well. We trained for months, with two a days, in full gear, and elevation training mask, and crazy workouts that were honestly hell on earth. We were ready physically and had pushed ourselves mentally so we thought. Our Monday came and after the first test of the week, Stentsen completed the consumption course and I quote him saying, “I thought we trained hard enough,” as he looked at me with fatigue and concern. I knew it would be a long week. We both survived day one and moved on to day two where my week ended. Wait, what happened? I trained, I was ready, I worked hard, I knew what to expect and the response should be!! It didn’t matter, I was in the best shape of my life, but fell a little short on a mental mistake! Stentsen made it along with another co-worker John, of whom I now hate, because they got it on their first try!!! Haha, they earned every bit of it I assure you. Mental mistake = another humbling experience.
I convinced coach Luke to join me on my third adventure to Smoke Diver School. He probably hated me during our training. So we trained, we turned the box into a maze, an obstacle course, consumption course. We had the other coaches put us through brutal workouts in full gear, two a days, and pretty much anything else to test our mental and physical abilities.
Our Monday came and we set out with twenty five other firefighters from all over the state with one goal in mind, get to Friday and graduate and become a Smoke Diver. We lost eight guys within the first few hours; they were great firefighters who just came up short as I had in year one. As Monday concluded, nine were gone. Tuesday came and two more left. We were down to fourteen and we hadn’t made it through Tuesday yet. Our mindset was just to make it to lunch and then to supper, hydrate, and then repeat! Luke and I found ourselves faced with Friday morning with several objectives left to complete or we could still fail. Our last drill was an individual based drill searching for victims in the burn building. Find a victim get a “poker chip” Find them all, get all the poker chips, sounds easy. Not so much, we had to climb the aerial ladder, force entry by chopping for two minutes solid, then search a 1800 square foot building in heat/smoke filled elements which was hot enough to give you 2nd degree burns through your gear all on one tank of air which usually lasted you somewhere between 15-18 minutes depending on how fast you were breathing. I went first, I came out, I showed my chips, and the instructor said “your missing one” my heart sank, he then pulled out the final poker chip that I had came for, the “Smoke Diver” chip which symbolized I had completed the class. They immediately separated me from Luke so he couldn’t get any tips or know how many victims there were. He went, came out, and had the same result, he got his Smoke Diver chip! We did it, we both graduated. All 14 of us graduated and earned the title “Smoke Divers” of which less than 120 firefighters hold in the state of Alabama. They told us that .082% of professional firefighters hold the certificate.
Our response is strictly up to us.
Chad sent Luke and I a text about adversity and how it didn’t define us it revealed our character! Was it fun training for three years? Heck no! I suggest passing the first time like Luke, Stentsen, and John! I do know however, had I given up, quit on myself, listened to the often internal voice saying “you can’t” or “don’t go back” or “just give up” I would have regretted it! I encourage you to never give up, and have a “keep fighting” response. Keep training for whatever goal you set before you no matter how long it takes, you can complete it, whether it be a lift, a goal weight loss, shaving time off of a WOD. Last but not least, you have a family at CFG that will be with you until the end!!!!