update!

So I know a lot of you saw my recent facebook post regarding my failure to get into the fire department. This came directly on the heels of Nic making the decision to not see me anymore. As I said on facebook: when it rains, it pours. It was pretty much a kick when I was already down. I couldn’t imagine what else could happen to make it worse! I really felt like everything in the last 9 months had just been blown to pieces. He had been around since the beginning. He was there when I first went to take the written test in January, and even left for camp late just so he could wait around until I was done with my physical test in June. It was a hard fact to deal with, the connection was all I could think about as I drove home from work. Well anyways, onto the next bit of this update:

The information regarding the recruitment process came from a friend of mine who is a firefighter. He told me he received an e-mail the week before DNC that said they had hired the 32 candidates and the class would start on September 17th. I was devastated. I had to leave my work early to go home and re-evaluate my entire life. Everything had been turned upside down – no longer with the guy I cared so much about and had brought into my life, and now without any sort of career progress. I have been turned down for jobs before, but nothing like this. Nothing that could change the course of my life. Nothing that I had ever worked harder for. When I posted that facebook post, I had an overwhelming amount of phone calls from friends and family members. Out of pity? Maybe. They all knew what had just happened on Thursday and they all knew how important this job would be to me. Most of them had really amazing, uplifting options for me. My sister has offered to give me a place to stay in DC for a bit if I want to search for a job there, I could try and get a job in Chicago for the same company I’m with now (in the hopes it would be more challenging, and the benefit that I’d be in Chicago). I could go work for the military and fly a helicopter, or move to Alaska with Ashley and start a small internet cafe in Girdwood. I could also work for the National Parks Service as a ranger and do rescue, or even apply for a firefighting position in another local town. At this point, there is nothing holding me to Charlotte. It hasn’t really proved successful for me in any facet of my life (except roller derby).

So the night I got that message about not getting in, my mom had e-mailed a friend of hers, whose husband is involved with the fire department. He said he got an e-mail from the department, but it was only in regards to 16 candidates who had been accepted, not 32 like I was originally told. Okay, so that was sounding promising, but who do I believe? I decided to call the office the next day. What better way to get the truth than from the source. I had to leave a message (of course). So I waited for two days and called the office back this morning. This whole time I had a small sliver of hope that maybe they hadn’t finished hiring since I hadn’t heard anything specifically from the office. So I called today, and the girl was out of the office again. But I was told to call back in 30 minutes so I did that. I finally got in touch with the person I needed to speak to, and she claims she never got my first message. She said that yes, they had hired for the September 17th class, but that there is a chance they will have a second class starting (as I had been told in the past) on October 22nd. She didn’t say it was a definite, but she said that if I didn’t hear anything from them by the beginning of October I should call back. What I really want is for them to let me know either way. I don’t care if it’s an e-mail or a letter in the mail, just something to let me know. Okay, so now it’s the waiting game again. I am going to try and keep working towards looking for another job option, but a little bit of my hope has returned.

If you know anything about me, I have struggled with an anxiety disorder my whole life, though it was just recently diagnosed. While most people sit around, eat and cry when they’ve been dumped or lost their chance at a job, the exact opposite tends to happen to me. My heart starts to hurt when I am confronted about that subject (or person). I go numb and I can’t eat whole meals for weeks, sometimes months.  It’s not a body image issue, my anxiety just seems to cause a build up of gas in my stomach and I can’t seem to find a spot for real food. What is most frustrating about that issue is that I can’t workout. I can’t be distracted by ultimate frisbee, soccer, or even running. I tried to play ultimate on Sun and just had a lot of trouble with energy levels. Obviously, it’s hard to do anything active when your body has nothing to burn. Thankfully all my friends have been supportive and spending a lot of time with me for distractions. I am always a little better when I’m distracted. It is a difficult thing to deal with, and I have been on medication in the past but the side effects weren’t what I had wanted. Obviously I don’t want to have to deal with those again, so I am relying on my past experiences to help me realize what a better place I’m in today. I love my friends, and I don’t know what I’d do without them.

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lifestyle changes

I have become increasingly frustrated with trying to be healthy. Not that I’m going to quit, but that life makes it difficult. I read a lot of exercise and Paleo blogs written by people engulfed in this lifestyle and I have a lot of friends on Facebook posting continuously about their workouts. What I find most frustrating is my inability to keep up. It took me a while to realize why, and it had nothing to do with my ambition or my dedication but all with my lifestyle. These bloggers, it’s their full-time job and my friends don’t work 9-5 jobs. As a blogger you have any hour of the day to write your post – you can go for a mid-morning run or workout at the gym when no one else is there. You have ample hours to plan your meals for the week and even cook them.
Yesterday it got me thinking when the owner of 9Round asked when I was going to come back. I said hopefully Thursday, but sometimes my schedule gets so full that I don’t have time to. I don’t have time to workout? That is so frustrating. What I definitely have found difficult to find time to do is cook. So I work 8-5 (by the way, 8am is very early), I try and go to a gym (9Round, Fight Gone MAD, or the YMCA) at 5:30 for a workout. Then I make it home and depending on what is happening outside of my life I cook. But usually I don’t. Things are planned or I actually get to see Nic. He works in the evenings so our hangout times are only about an hour and they usually don’t happen every day. So when they do I’d rather be spending time with him than cooking. I can’t go to bed super late since I have to be up at 7am, and after a workout you really are supposed to eat within a short period of time so your muscles get all that yummy nutrient stuff.
I wouldn’t say this country is fat because people have 9-5 jobs, but for some of us it is definitely a contributing factor. I suppose the hardest part for me is trying to also have a life. Sometimes that life does involve fun, exercise-like activities, Ultimate Frisbee being one, but that from 8pm-10pm. It makes it difficult (as Roller Derby always did), to come home, cook and get to bed at a reasonable time. Sure, I could plan a meal ahead, though I would need TIME to do that. It became so easy to stop somewhere for a totally full-o’-guilt meal to fill me up and get me to bed on time. I started seeing very negative effects of that habit.
I’ve decided to start eating in the Paleo diet. I’m on a program called 28 to Life that is structured by a new friend/nutritionist from fight gone MAD. It’s 28 days of a completely clean lifestyle. It’s a ‘real food’ diet, but it’s based on the diet of hunter/gatherers (pre agricultural revolution). No carbs (except those naturally occuring in vegetables/fruits), no dairy, no legumes, and no sugar. It’s going to make my lifestyle much more difficult but I needed a change. I will hope to stick with this diet even after the 28 days to make it part of my life. I won’t be this strict (cause who can’t cut cheese out entirely?!), but I will try and keep my food more natural.

Anyways, this is just a rambling of my frustrations with things in life.

No I haven’t heard anything from the fire department, except that they’d be insanely busy this week because of the Convention that they were not going to be working on the training at all. Maybe I’ll hear something next week!

(not very) patiently waiting

I could give you an update on everything that has happened since my last post but it’s not all that interesting.
I had an interview, a polygraph, and another interview. I passed all of those.
Then I knew they were calling past employers to verify my work history since all of them contacted me to tell me they gave me a great review. Yahoo!
Now, what am I waiting on? I don’t know…
I had heard rumor that someone had already been offered conditional employment so I thought, “well, maybe once they get in touch with all my past employers they’ll call me too!”
They spoke with the last employer on Monday and I have yet to hear something.
Does that mean I won’t? No. I understand that. But am I patient enough to handle this wait? Definitely not!
I want to know riiiiight now. As in NOW. Now. Or NOW. RING, PHONE!  RING!!

Okay, so I’m impatient. If you know me at all, you know this.
First, I just want to be out of my current job situation. It’s not horrible, it just doesn’t fit me as a person.
I want an answer. Even if it’s a no (which will be devastating for sure), I just wish I knew.

I’m trying not to stare at my phone, but I’m positive that the minute I walk away from it I’ll get a call. I suppose that gives me more reason to not stare. Not like I’m superstitous but sometimes these things happen.
I’m a little skeptical I’ll be getting that call today – every call I’ve received from them in the past has been prior to the lunch hour. I suppose I’ll be waiting one more day. ::sigh::

besides what you see

I have confidence in me!

 

Okay, so I hope all of you have at least heard this song before – I’m sure some of you are surprised that I know this song, but I was a child once. That, and I still love this movie. We had the 2 VHS box set cause it was too long of a movie to stick on one tape. Anyways, off topic.

 

So there are a lot of good quotes from that song such as:

“Oh I must stop all these doubts
All these worries
If I don’t i just know i’ll turn back
I must dream of the things I am seeking
I am seeking the courage I lack”

“Let them bring on all their problems
I’ll do better than my best
I have confidence
They’ll put me to the test
But I’ll make them see
I have confidence in me”

“With each step I am more certain
Everything will turn out fine
I have confidence the world can all be mine
They’ll have to agree I have confidence in me”

“Strength doesn’t lie in numbers
Strength doesn’t lie in wealth
Strength lies in nights of peaceful slumber
When you wake up
Wake up! It’s healthy!”

So that’s pretty much the whole song – so obviously you should listen to it rather than just read what I quoted. Plus you get to listen to Julie Andrews. Duh.

Now that i’m 200 words into my blog and have yet to tell you the reason for my writing, here it is: HAVE CONFIDENCE.

I have realized over the years that confidence has served me well in many situations. I’m not talking the cocky, proud, egotistical confidence that people you hate tend to have (isn’t it funny how that works out?). Well, I’m also not saying you all like me, but there is a definitely a need for a little confidence in everything you do.

I know my first realization came when I was learning to snowboard. I was pretty horrible. It took me a long time to convince myself that, “hey, even if I get going really fast that doesn’t mean I’m going to fly off the side of the mountain.” In fact, I never did fly off the side of the mountain. (*disclaimer: just because you say it to yourself doesn’t mean it won’t happen. I have seen it happen before.) That, along with trying to figure out if I wanted to go toe-side or heel-side and instead faceplanted made me realize that I just had to make a decision and stick with it (that would probably be a good topic for a blog post, but alas, I am speaking of confidence). Confidence came in saying, “I will turn toe-side now” and just doing it. I will build up speed and I will get nervous, but horrible things won’t just happen because I’m a bit uncomfortable at the moment. That uncomfortableness goes away after a while and suddenly those actions just become a part of what you do. When I go snowboarding I no longer faceplant because I’m indecisive about which way to turn. I faceplant for much dumber reasons such as hitting a patch of grass, or taking a turn too sharp, or just being dumb.

Whitewater rafting on a natural river brings a lot of hazards that many people who go for fun don’t know about. Sure they have 30 min safety talks and you have to wear a PFD (not a life jacket, cause it won’t save your life), a helmet, and closed-toed shoes but the guides aren’t going to say after you fall in the water, “oh boy, thankfully you weren’t 5 inches to the right or your foot probably would have been caught in that undercut rock as you were trying to stand up against the current causing you to most likely drown.” Hopefully I haven’t scared you into never going rafting again but that is the reality that whitewater guides face every day. Most of the time it’s a sigh of relief, maybe a nervous laugh and a quick wipe of the brow but all guides watch as customers come close to not making it back. Confidence is necessary in guiding. The confidence in not only guiding the boat away from rocks, but knowing when someone does go swimming that when you stay calm, normally so do they. Confidence that even though you are heading for a giant rock you make a quick decision to either avoid or minimize the impact.

Rock climbing definitely takes a lot of confidence. Balancing your entire body weight on a half inch ledge with only two fingers of your right hand to hold you in place as you reach for that next ledge takes a lot of confidence. You have confidence in your feet that they won’t just slip right off that rock, in your right hand that with just enough pressure your fingers won’t let go, and in your mind that the next ledge is close enough and your abs are tight enough that you can make that reach. Okay, so sometimes your foot slips, because honestly how often do you balance your body weight on something that small as you dangle from a rope 20 feet in the air? But, would you have ever made that attempt without your confidence? Sometimes you do just have to say, “F*** it” and go for it anyways, and maybe that’s not exactly confidence, but the part about going for it sure is. Confidence would be saying I know I’ve been climbing 5.9’s for a while now and I do struggle with them but that 5.10 looks fun I think I’m gunna go for it. Have confidence in your strength and your knowledge.

 

Those are the three main places I have taught myself that confidence is important to any sort of advancement. Without it, I wouldn’t be as skilled at them as I am today. Confidence should leak it’s way into your everyday life if you learn to use it properly. I’m not discussing confidence as far as body image or appearance goes – that is a battle everyone fights in their own head. I’m talking confidence of the skills you possess, and how you have those skills but don’t know it. I used that confidence during my physical test because no matter how much my lungs, legs and arms were telling me that they were done, I just knew I could finish the test.  This post isn’t really about my firefighting, but about how often I tell people to have confidence in their abilities. Just have confidence that you can do what you put your mind to. Find that confidence in your feet or hands or head and go for it. It may not turn out the way you want, but it bet it won’t be as bad as you thought.

 

more on women athletes

In the news recently there was an article discussing US Olympic weightlifter Sarah Robles. She is the strongest PERSON in the United States after lifting more than both the men and women of Olympic hopefuls. The article wasn’t about her ability, but rather her appearance. It was about how her appearance and the disjointed view of how people want to see female athletes vs male athletes. Sarah doesn’t get endorsements or sponsorships. She isn’t in commercials selling Gatorade or supplements or other athletic gear. She doesn’t look like Hope Solo or Maria Sharapova. She gets money from friends and her coach who refuses to let her drown. She lives off $400/month. For me, when I was training to pass the firefighters test I had to take time off derby – that was only 3 times a week – but I devoted every bit of it to my training. I can’t imagine training to be the strongest person in the US and what kind of commitment that has to be – she couldn’t possibly have time for a job. It’s frustrating that someone with so much skill and strength has to take handouts from friends because she doesn’t fit into the correct size for the media. She seems positive about her position, as she is quoted saying, “beauty is strength”. Funny how that can have two meanings, especially for her story. Her strength is beautiful – it’s a skill she has honed and perfected over the years. It makes her who she is. But at the same time, beauty, like in the form of Solo or Sharapova, can be a strength because you are able to appear in commercials to make money. Interesting…
I started to think about roller derby in this context because it’s a sport where women are a full range of sizes. At 5’10” and 165lbs I’m on the same team as girls at 5’0″ and 120lbs. Each size has their own skill set and you definitely have to learn to adapt to what you have. The larger girls tend to lose some excess weight and smaller girls tend to gain more muscle, but derby is not an exercise regimen to get rid of body fat. The girls with the big booties take up more room on the track, are harder to get around, and their hips pack a nasty punch. Smaller girls are nimble and quick and can come up behind a pack unsuspected. If you have a team of only one type of girl, you wouldn’t be successful. How awesome is that?

I found a link that I’d also like to share for an article at The Nation titled, “Sex Sells Sex, Not Women’s Sports”. (http://www.thenation.com/article/162390/sex-sells-sex-not-womens-sports#) What it boils down to is that no matter how sexual you make a women athlete look in an ad or commercial, it won’t make anyone want to watch her sport more. When I was reading the article I started to think about roller derby (again) and one of the many reasons I like the direction my own team has taken; we have chosen a more traditional style uniform to wear. A short summary of the modern sport of derby that I hear constantly is that is a bunch of less-than-half dressed women with funny names beating the shit out of each other. It just doesn’t sound much like a sport when put that way. I want people to watch me play derby because they think I’m a badass. I want them to see footwork, endurance, and strength. I don’t want them looking up my skirt when I hit the ground. Derby is one of the most difficult sports I’ve ever played. Not only are you on roller skates which is definitely a feat, but when you’re a blocker you are thinking offense and defense at all times. There is no other sport where you have to play both simultaneously. Sure, in many you have to be quick in switching your thinking from one to the next, but when I’m in the pack I have to realize that every action I take to get in the way of the other teams jammer, could be slowing my jammer down. The whole game is going on behind you so you learn to work in your periphreals. There are referrees watching your every move.
I know that the article is about what women wear and how they pose for commercials and photoshoots, not for their sport – but I still think derby players should reconsider their choice of outfits so we’re all taken more seriously.

recent musings

—ESPNW just put out a list of the 40 top female athletes in the last 40 years and Mia Hamm topped at #1. Mia Hamm has always been an inspiration to me, and growing up playing soccer she was the one we all looked up to. She was a leader and an amazing goal scorer. According to the website she leads to this day with the most international goals of males and females in the sport. She played for 18 years, starting on the USA squad at age 15. She knew the concept of teamwork and she was always tough on herself. One memory I have from her is when she was quoted saying that she didn’t feel like it was a good game for her unless she scored. Her team may have won, but if she didn’t put one in the net she didn’t play her hardest. She was not looking for the glory of the game, she just loved to play. Go here to see all the other female athletes: http://espn.go.com/espnw/title-ix/top-40-female-athletes/

 

—Apparently, women whose bodies produce “too much” testosterone are not allowed to compete in the Olympic Games without undergoing a medical treatment to lower the amount (I put that in quotations because there is no specific amount that makes you female or male, it’s an arbitrary number someone decided). On the surface, this may seem like they are just trying to even the playing field for female athletes, but this is singling out any woman who does not meet a supposed norm. Here is an article from Stanford School of Medicine discussing how even a high level of testosterone doesn’t give a woman an advantage and that this is just gender policing: http://med.stanford.edu/ism/2012/june/olympics.html. Male athletes aren’t allowed to take drugs to alter their bodies, but some women are going to be forced to. That seems fair.

 

—On the home front, I was told that during my physical test there were firefighters making bets on whether I’d pass or not. Most bet that I wouldn’t. My first reaction to hearing that was to laugh. My second reaction was sadness and frustration. I don’t imagine that as I was taking the test I was some brute of strength who made everything look easy; instead, I was suffering and really struggled at the end. Clearly with only one second to go you can imagine it may have seemed like I wouldn’t pass. But they didn’t know my time. Only one person did and I’m positive he wasn’t betting against me. It’s frustrating to know that so many men just stood by, expecting me to fail. I will not generalize because I know some really amazing men who will always stand behind me and have been the best encouragement for my journey, but I just hate knowing that I will have to constantly prove myself because of my gender. I guess suddenly I have a different opinion of all the people who were surrounding me at the end of my test.

 

—A final note is something positive about my test. I got an e-mail from a friend the other day about how my perseverance to pass the firefighting test was inspiring in their own personal training. I was given permission to copy that e-mail here, but I won’t give the name. Here it is:

I went jogging this morning.  I try going a couple of times per week.  For some reason, today was tough.  I guess the humidity wouldn’t let me breathe?  Also made me sweat like crazy…very uncomfortable.  Normally, my old muscles give out before I run out of air.  Not sure what was going on.  I just couldn’t “go”.

 

I was so pissed off by the end of the trail that I convinced myself to just jog around the lake to prove to myself that I could.

 

So I get going and Sick Puppies are playing on my phone for the first leg….everything ok.  Then Sabotage came on which I guess made me run harder than I wanted because I could feel my ass getting kicked again.  I was probably about 75% of the way and ready to quit.  I was tired of running through goose shit (it was all over the trail), i couldn’t breathe, and my legs were on fire….i had plenty of reasons to quit.  so I started thinking of ways to get motivated and that got me thinking to you dragging around that 170# dummy in your physical test….so i figure if you could drag around that dummy’s ass, then there’s no reason why i can’t drag my dumbass the last 25% of this trip around the lake……I forget the last song…Usher’s “More” maybe?  Either way, i stayed at the same pace and then “sprinted” the last 200 yards or so to complete the loop (this sprint was about half the speed of my normal sprinting…it was all i had left).

 

Either way, just thought I’d share that your perseverance and fight to get through the firefighter physical test was motivational and inspirational.  So, Miss Inspiration, now you know your actions inspire those outside of the derby track, as well.

MADstrength

That was the name of the program that I took at fight gone MAD (www.fightgonemad.com). It was the first official class that they offered that was to be focused on strength training rather than intense interval training like all the other classes there. There were 9 spots in the class and the people who attended were: Kevin, Adam, Scott, Carl, Chuck, Kevin, Shaun, Alex, and me. Notice anything interesting about the list of people (other than there are 2 Kevin’s)?

It is understandable that not a lot of women signed up for the course, and maybe a few were interested but the class was already full (though, I did sign up for it Sunday evening and there were 5 spots left open). It’s not common for women to think a strength training class is something they should do. I have seen it many times before on the bottom floor of the Dowd YMCA where all the free weights are located and I am one of the only females in there. Normally there are one or two others but heavy weights are not in their hand, so frankly I don’t know what they are doing down there. I also heard at orientation for the firefighting physical test that women tend to do better on the stairclimber because they are more focused on cardio and lower body strength where men do best at the dummy drag because they are focused on the upper body strength. Well, I want all of it.

I haven’t lifted a lot of heavy weight before because I’m not 100% on the proper form, nor do I have a lifting partner for spotting. I think yesterdays class, and Brandon’s (the trainer) advice of not maxing out every time you lift will get me under those weights more often.

I have been reading a blog lately called www.theclothesmakethegirl.com (which would seem like a fashion blog, but it’s totally a health blog) written by a former roller derby player who has both adopted a paleo lifestyle and likes to lift heavy things. It is great to read about another female going against the norm to lift. Too many people think you’ll look like a bodybuilder, and too many times I hear ‘more reps, less weight’ because women want to be toned, not bulky. Lifting heavy things is healthy! You won’t look like a bodybuilder! You will look fit and you will be strong, what’s so wrong with that?

I think it’s also intimidating to go down to that first floor at the YMCA where there are giant muscly men, who stare intently at the only girl in the gym. It’s intimidating because they will be lifting more weight than you. It’s intimidating because you feel awkward and silly and you’ll have to stick your ass out and you may have to grunt a little and you may not be able to lift the amount of weight you initially choose. So what? Are you going there to pick up a guy? If so, then you’re lifting heavy weights for the wrong reason. If you do manage to pick up a guy, than kudos to him for being interested in a strong, sweaty female. (If there were more women lifting I would not have been gender specific, so I suppose if you’re a gay man then substitute out the word female).

I think you’d be surprised how either indifferent or glad men are that there is a female lifting weights. Does it really matter? No, it doesn’t. You need to get out of your own head and realize that heavy lifting is for all of us and will be proven useful time and again.

What’s Next

I decided to split today’s posts into two; it would have been a really long post and the two are related but there was an obvious and easy separation.

 

I have received a lot of questions about what it means to have passed the physical test. It was all I could think about before now so I didn’t talk about the rest of the process. I’d like to believe that was the most difficult part. My immediate answer to that question was cake and then sleep, but that was thinking in the very short-term.

As I walked out of the recovery area, they handed me a Pre-Polygraph Questionnaire filled with 5 pages of Yes or No questions. I have to answer the questions and mail it back in by the 15th of June.
Some questions they ask:

Did you graduate from college?
Have you ever smoked marijuana?
Have you ever dealt marijuana?
Have you ever been involved in an organization with plans to overthrow the US government? (no really, they ask this)
Have you ever been involved in a criminal gang, street gang, motorcycle gang, terrorist group, white supremacy group?
Have you ever shoplifted anything?
Have you ever stolen anything from your employer (other than the incidental pen, pencil, paperclip, etc)?
Have you ever received a letter from a collection agency? (dammit, I have, but that was because I straight forgot. I paid it within two days of receiving it)

Lucky for me and my apparent goody-two-shoed self, I don’t think I’ll have any problem passing the polygraph.

They will also be conducting a background check, of which they will again find nothing.
Then I will be interviewed. I’m not sure by whom or how many interviews but it will happen at some point.

If I pass all of these things, I will get accepted into the training academy, which I believe will start around September. It’s a 9 month program of Monday-Friday 8-5 classes with intermixed physical training, classroom training, and EMT training. I have heard it’s the best part about becoming a firefighter.

It will be a few more months until I have any definite, but I’m excited. This week I’m taking it lazy, not working out (except for derby practice), and trying to get a little recovery time for my body. Then I have to get back into it and stay in shape because the physical training is no joke during the academy. For the next two months I’ll have plenty of time to train since Nic won’t be in town to distract me. That’s as best I can come up with for being positive about him being gone.

I will continue to update on my journey!

that sigh of relief

**if at any point while you read this you think to yourself, ‘i didn’t want to know that’, i refer you back to this disclaimer and say I warned you.**

Yesterday did not start off as desired. I got to mostly sleep in but I felt funny when I woke up. On a trip to the bathroom I discovered that I had begun the monthly cycle that so often plagues women. My first day always consists of bloating and fatigue – two conditions that do not mix well with exercise. Downhearted is a good word to describe how I was feeling. Food made me feel worse and my stomach was feeling upset – I was burping up a storm. I was trying to figure out which sypmtoms were from nerves and which were from the fatigue.
I had plans when I woke up to make some eggs and cook the sweet potato I had left. No eggs in the fridge and the sweet potato was rotting. Awesome. So I had chicken and some sugar snap peas. Not really sure if that was a good substitute but I just really needed some food. I went to go make some pasta for carbs but I felt sick to my stomach again and couldn’t eat what I had cooked.

After a brief video on the test, they walked us down to the testing site. There were far less applicants and many more firefighters than during the practice test. The only thing I can infer is that many of the applicants who failed the test decided not to retake it. I think my reasoning for retaking was legitimate since during the practice I made it to the last station before time ran out. There were others that didn’t make it off the stairclimber (the first station), so I could understand their decision to not retake.
There were only 7 people in my group this time, and because of a much needed bathroom break, I ended up being the second to last person to go. It went by a lot faster this time with 3 of the applicants before me quitting the test. I saw just one person make it to the final station but he didn’t finish in time.
My gear this time fit much better than last. I actually had personal help to get the vest on and he did it in a way that kept it snug to my body. He also helped me tighten the bottom strap up a lot so that the weight was bearing on my hips rather than my shoulders – I think that made a huge difference. Makes me wonder how I would have done in the practice if I had been outfitted properly…
Reminder: I did not feel good. I especially didn’t feel good wearing a 50lb weight vest while standing. I thought about how horrible the test was going to be and how I would probably get dizzy and how I just didn’t want to do it. I thought seriously about walking away. When they called me to get on the stairclimber I’m glad they caught me off guard. They applied the 12.5lbs to each shoulder and I stepped up. 3mins walking up stairs with 75lbs on when you legs are cold is very uncomfortable. After about 1 minute I wanted to step down. My throat got dry, my breathing was heavy and my legs felt like they wanted to fall off. Then I thought about all my teammates, especially Amanda White, and her ridiculously peppy attitude and how motivating she is. I’m not sure if any of you have ever received a pre-game text from her, but I promise there are a LOT of exclamation points. I thought about my team and how I didn’t want to let any of them down – that they were all rooting for me. The worst thing about the stairclimber is that you spend so much time on it. Once you get away from it everything else is just a quick movement and then you’re done. You have time to doubt yourself as you watch the time tick slowly by on the machine.
During the forcible entry station (sledge hammer against a target), I only hit it 5 times. That is what we call an adrenaline rush. During the practice test I hit it 10 times and during orienation it was 14. I am definitely stronger, but wowza. That’s a big difference.
I got to Randy and didn’t stop to question myself. I took a deep breath, hiked up my pant legs, squatted down and dragged that son on a bitch to the barrel. I stopped to rest at the tip of the turn around the barrel, readjust, shake my legs out, looked him in the eye and dragged him back. By the end of the drag I was getting tired and it took me a few extra seconds to pull him over the final line – but I did it and felt good. I was much less sore this time around.

The final station is the ceiling breach and pull. There are not many people who make it to this station, and I think even fewer females. The reason I could say that with confidence is because by the time I was on my second set out of four I had almost 25 firefighters watching me. One even threw out a positive affirmation that was quickly reprimanded by my proctor. I’m not sure if it was because he didn’t want a distraction or because they are required to be impartial. Either way, it was uplifting to hear. By the time I made it to the end of the third set I knew I could finish it. The pushing up part of the breach was difficult but I pulled that damn thing down 5 times so fast because I just wanted to get it over with. I got cheers from the firefighters as I stumbled out from under the contraption, grabbing onto the shoulder of my proctor asking whether I passed. He looked at me and said, “with one second to go,” and had a huge smile on his face. I decided at that time it was best for me to sit down. I was so happy and I could hear my mom (who came to watch me) scream.

One second. That was all between passing and failing. Ten minutes and 19 seconds. If I had hit the target 6 times, or stopped for another breath during the dummy drag, or spent more time finding my way out of the tunnel, I would have failed. But I didn’t. I only needed 5 hits. I didn’t need to take any more breaths. It felt so good.

My mom said a few of the firefighters, including one guy that looked like maybe he was a captain, came up to her and said that I had a lot of heart and perserverance and that’s what they like to see. I was really glad she was there to watch me. I can probably count on one hand the number of soccer games she missed for the 10 years I played competitively. She’s hardly missed any of my derby games too. She is always going to be my #1 fan, and she proves it constantly. I know that firefighting is not necessarily the position my parents dreamed of their youngest daughter to enter into, but they are both coming around to the idea and after watching that I think she’s more proud of my accomplishments than ever before. I think because she got to see how many people failed before me it made a huge impact, that it’s not something easily passable and while my exercise routine over the last month has seemed a little obsessive and excessive, every minute was worth it.

I want to also give a shout out to the following:
fight gone MAD (www.fightgoneMAD.com) for the insane workouts twice a week
9Round Charlotte (https://www.facebook.com/pages/9Round-Charlotte/170803896298020) for the awesome pseudo dummy drag that they rigged up for me, the butt-busting cardio, and the really great personalities and encouragement from the owners Mark and Suzy.
My team, The Charlotte Speed Demons (www.charlottespeeddemons.com) for their continued love and support, for accepting that I had to step away for a month to train, and for the constant encouragement in the form of fb wall posts, text messages, and phone calls. I love all of you.

Now you ask me: What’s Next?!?!

5 days away and an on-coming nightmare

Yea. Nightmare. I’ve been thinking recently (because I’m mostly a pessimist) about what would happen if I got injured or sick for the day of the test. Do they let me re-schedule? Will they say, oh well, better luck next time?
There have been a few times during my workouts that I’ve stepped wrong on my foot and twisted my ankle or punched a heavy bag and hurt my wrist, and it always sends fear through me. But now, a real fear is about to set in. I think I’m getting sick. My colds always start out the same way: an awkward feeling in my throat for about a day where my body’s reaction is to swallow constantly which just emphasizes my sore throat.
Sometimes they say it’s all in the head, and maybe I’ve been thinking too passionately about the prospect that I would not be well for this test. I thought about it before the practice test, too but I was much more worried about getting injured because of derby. So the real question is, if it IS all in my head how do I counteract that?
I have had experience with this before. For almost a year after I had my kidney stone I would feel sharp pains in the same spot for a few hours during the day. I would get so nervous and tense that I was going to have to go through all of that again. My mom kept convincing me it was just all in my head and eventually the feeling would go away. I was so paranoid about having to deal with that pain and the ordeal that I actually imagined myself with another stone. I never did figure out how to imagine the pain away however, I just went on living life and would suddenly realize that it wasn’t real.

Lets pretend that I won’t be sick for the test. I’ve got 5 days left – 1 final day of a workout and 3 days of light jogging, stretching, and caring for my body with good food, ice, and electrodes. I’ve written myself some positive affirmations. Suzy at 9Round gave me great advice on Tuesday and just said, “mind over matter.” Oh wait! Genius! That should be the theme of this post – mind over matter. At this point I’m not going to get any stronger or faster, but I do have the ability to tell myself that I will pass. I will pass this test. I’m going to be tired, it’s going to be hot, the weightvest is going to make breathing uncomfortable, my sweatpants will make me extra sweaty, my calves will burn, the sun will be in my eyes, etc. I’ve experienced it all already and I think that is the biggest comfort. I know exactly what to expect. I know what I won’t enjoy and I know how to counteract it. 10 minutes and 20 seconds of uncomfortable, hot, labored movements for a new career.

Think Happy Thoughts