It's hard to breath. Sweat stings my eyes until they blur and a bald head does nothing to stem the steady flow. I chose to be here. I live for this moment. My body begs to slow, to rest, to just quit. My heart says no. The family that surrounds me shares in my suffering. Their lungs burn too. Their muscles struggle to obey the message traveling down from the brain. Pain endured begets more pain but there is nowhere else we'd rather be.
"ONE MINUTE!" Moments later my mind computes the voice belongs to that of our coach. Sixty seconds stretch on for what seems like forever. The man on my right, a round behind. On my left, he's a few reps ahead and 10 years younger. Who cares. He might win this one but he's going to have to earn it. I push until the distinct copper taste of blood permeates my mouth.
"THREE!" Another rep.
"TWO!" Just keep going.
"ONE!" Almost there.
The music lowers from teeth rattling to conversational. All around the box people writhe in the "CrossFit recovery position" on the floor. I've been there but it doesn't feel right. However in that moment it feels like the only thing you could possibly do. Lay down. Give in. Win or lose the fight is over but I fight to stay upright. I force my breathing to slow and command my body to be steady. It protests. I walk clumsily but I refuse to crash. I chide some of our best athletes, probably ahead of me when the scores are logged, but for now I stand over them. Phrases about Spartans walking off the battlefield part my lips. At least that's what I try to cough out between heaving breaths. I won't lie down. I won't willingly give my body even one moment where it wins over my mind. If it won't obey me now it will remember this moment later when the stakes aren't pride and bragging rights.
It's hard to breath. Sweat stings my eyes until they blur and a bald head does nothing to stem the steady flow. I chose to be here. I live for this moment. My body screams at me to just quit. My heart says no. Something has gone bump in the night and we are taking the fight directly to our adversary. My family shares in my suffering. Their lungs burn too. Their muscles struggle to obey the message traveling down from the brain. Pain endured begets more pain but there is nowhere else we'd rather be.
Then silence. Loud silence. White noise. A few seconds later my mind computes I'm on the job. On my right, a bright glow and searing heat. Did I fall into a basement? On my left, a motionless body, PASS now chirping about to alert. Pain begets more pain. I've read about this, heard stories told by valiant men with shaky voices who thought their time had come. I push but the distinct copper taste of blood permeates my mouth. Something whispers "just let go" but it doesn't feel right. Right now it feels like it's the only thing I can do. Lay down. Give in. The fight is over. Maybe the Devil wins this one. But one voice emerges from deep within my soul. Seemingly in opposition to a thousand more it chides me. "And you thought yourself a warrior? Your just going to lie there with your family waiting for you at home? What about the promise you made to the mother of the man by your side to always keep him safe?" Maybe the Devil does win this one but he's going to have to earn it...
When you became a firefighter you lost the right to be out of shape. If that stings, it should. You owe it to yourself, your family, and the family of the men and women by your side to be the best version of yourself. The stakes are too high and the penalty is too great for those who choose to ignore this law. I'm not telling you this to push you out of the fire service. I'm telling you this in hopes you start moving in the right direction. Go to battle with your body and listen closely to what it tells you. When pain marks injury, BE SMART and take care of yourself. When pain marks weakness, BE STRONG. Develop mental toughness when you can control your environment and there will be carry over to those times when your environment might not be as forgiving. Capt. Paddy Brown (FDNY deceased 9/11/01) said "you can do everything right on this job and still get killed." It's a fact that firefighting is ultra-hazardous and unavoidably dangerous. May it never be though that my lack of discipline become my demise.
Nobody gets out of this world alive. Slowly but surely youth fades. Strength turns to weakness. Every man dies but not every man truly lives. However while the day is young, while the sun is bright, as long as I am possibly able, I will fight on.
And as the clock begins to expire on this gift of life God has bestowed upon me:
"THREE!" One more step.
"TWO!" Just keep going.
"ONE!" Almost there.
"TIME!" Welcome home.