With preparations for the Firefighter Combat World Challenge underway, Lakeland team member Sean Sullivan is running, climbing and training his way towards a top finish. As he prepares for the World Challenge in Montgomery, Alabama, set to start on October 19th, Sean is sharing his expert training advice and key takeaways from each race.
We caught up with Sean and asked him about his race this past weekend in Virginia Beach, and how he plans to prepare for his next race in Hall County, Georgia.
Sean, what was the most challenging part of the race in Virginia Beach?
The weather. The conditions were wet, rainy and slick and there were a few periods of downpour where all of us were huddled under tents to stay dry. Wet conditions make the footing awkward for all competitors and the tower climb is especially difficult. The stairs we climb are metal, and while they have a non-slip construction, the rain makes them a little bit slick.
Not only is our footing affected by the wet conditions, but the equipment along the course is affected as well. The dummies we drag get wet and become heavier, and the hose becomes waterlogged, so it doesn’t drag as well on the ground.
Thankfully when my time came to race, the rain subsided, but running in the rain is difficult. All of the finish times were just a little bit slower than past races because the weather really had an affect on speed and movements on the course.
What is your post-race routine?
After I race, I never like to sit down and stop; I like to keep moving. This helps prevent my muscles from tightening up and building lactic acid. I remove my Lakeland Stealth gear and my first move is to grab some water to replenish my fluids. I typically take some time to re-hydrate and grab a piece of fruit to eat.
After I have had a chance to cool down, I always make a point of getting back on the course and cheering on my fellow competitors. I have built a lot of great relationships with firefighters around the country and it is nice to cheer on the guys that I know as they compete. Sometimes I offer to video tape their race for them, or help them snap some post-race photos. It is pretty common to see all of the competitors cheer on other guys after they finish competing; we really support one another both on and off the course.
What is your warm up routine for the firefighter combat challenge?
A lot of pacing … just kidding. Personally, I really like to get a good sweat going before I step out onto the course. The races always have stationary bikes we can jump on to warm up, so I like to do a little bit of biking, jogging and some sprints to help prepare my body.
I also do a good deal of stretching. I do both dynamic and static stretches and focus a lot of attention on my calf and leg muscles. For example, I always do some high knee jogging and stretch out my calves and hip flexors to help loosen them up.
One of they key elements of my warm up is to take my body through the motions I use on the course. I practice putting on my high-rise pack and I lift kettle bells to simulate the hoisting motion. I like to get my muscle memory going to get the exact motions I need for the challenge ready, before I step on the course.
How do you prepare mentally for competition?
Growing up I was involved in wrestling and learned the benefits of envisioning how you want your match to go.
My mental preparation for a competition really starts the day before my race. For this upcoming weekend, my preparation will start Thursday. My mind will start wondering around the course. I start to think about how to pick up the high-rise pack and I walk through every aspect of the course. I focus on how to keep my movements and transitions smooth, because that will help improve my speed.
In the hours leading up to the race, I’ll continue to visualize the course and what I need to do to perform well.
Seconds before the race, I pull my mask on and say a quick prayer that I don’t get hurt and that my competitor racing next to me doesn’t get hurt either.
What are you looking forward to at this weekend’s competition?
I am really looking forward to the camaraderie and the competition. At each race I have the opportunity to spend some time with friends I only see a handful of times over the course of a year. The races are great, but we all enjoy the sportsmanship. We have all been working together, challenging one another, and it is nice to catch up because it could be months before you see each other again.
I also really enjoy competing on the Lakeland team. At every race you earn points for finishing in the top 20. Currently, I am doing pretty well in the competition, in the mix for the Over 40 Grand National Championship title.
How are you preparing for this weekend’s competition?
The most challenging part of the course for me is going up the stairs. I am fortunate to have a training facility with stairs so I can practice, but nothing really replicates the stairs on the course. At the competition, the angle of the tower is steeper and the stairs are narrower than a traditional staircase. While it is hard to simulate those conditions, I am going to continue training this week on stairs to help improve my form, pacing and speed.
Thank you, Sean, for taking the time to talk us through your competition preparation and takeaways.
Please join us as we wish Sean good luck this upcoming weekend in Georgia! Go team Lakeland!
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