Today is the last day! It’s also burn day. I was up first – starting with all the prep. We’re doing an arm burn first. Long-sleeved nomex shirt and pants, then towels soaked in flame-retardant gel (“goo”) on the arm. 100% cotton clothing (synthetics would melt and stick to your arm – not good) – jeans, cotton shirt, jean jacket. Then more goo on the head, face, neck, and hands. Rubber cement was the accelerant. Hold your breath, and light it up. You can feel the heat from the arm burn, but it’s fairly small. When you’re done (or if you feel any heat), kneel down on the fire blanket. Safety team all around, ready to put you out – fire extinguisher, and if needed – damp towels and a hose for any hot spots.
Then we did a bigger burn – from back of the right leg, up the back, and over to the left arm. More goo and towels on the leg, back, and arm. This would one is a lot bigger – you can see the flames with your peripheral vision, and you need to keep your head down, because the flames are coming up your back. You should not back up, because then the flames will wrap around your neck and face. It really does burn up pretty high!
It’s the prep that takes the longest. After we got through everyone, we did a few high falls. I worked mostly on my headers off the first platform, and did a few suicides off the second platform.
And then we were done! Three weeks of hard work, bruises, aches and pains – but it was worth it. I learned a lot, had a lot of fun, and pushed myself pretty hard. Now I can take what I’ve absorbed, keep training, and see where to go from here. First I need to take a week or so to let my body recover. Now that I got this out of my system, I’ll refrain from doing anything else crazy… at least for a week or two.
Today we started on high falls – we did a few off the 1st platform, then moved up to the 2nd platform. I did suicides and headers off the second platform. I was over-rotating a bit on the header – fixed that by reaching out more.
Then we moved onto the air ram. The air ram is an air-pressure catapult that flings you in the air when you step on the plate. I was a bit nervous, since it can be dangerous if you hit it wrong. But it felt fine, and I got a bunch of decent rides in, doing headers. Bob eventually increased the air pressure for me a few pounds, so that I get more air. That – plus his advice to reach up more, and to step on the plate more authoritatively, helped a lot.
We finished up with car hits. We padded up, and Bob drove his stunt car down at a fairly slow speed. We would then time it right and barrel roll over the hood onto the mats on the other side. The first few times, I was way too late in going for it – the car was practically stopped. The few runs were better.
We cleaned up, and prepped for fire burns tomorrow!
Today we started on the bridge – practicing our mid-falls. We’ll be using them a lot later, so Anthony wanted to make sure we can really hone them here. We’re falling onto the comfy blue mat, so the fall is cushioned a bit more. After doing a few runs of the headers, suicides, and back falls, I practiced the face-off for a long stretch. I’m still angled too far up, and not waiting long enough before turning. Towards the end, I started to get it a little cleaner.
Then we moved onto bike falls. This was definitely kinda scary. Basically you’re supposed to do what you’ve always been taught not to do – lock up your front brakes, so that you go over the handlebars and fall. The idea is that you go with it, and use the momentum of the bike rising behind you to do a shoulder roll over the handle bars, getting out of the way of the bike.
I started off very slow, trying to get a handle on the bike, how it handles, how much front brake I need to get the rear wheel off the ground. More speed definitely helps. The first few times, I was too slow, and thwacked my legs against the frame. Good thing I was padded up. Then eventually, I did a clean take – locked up the front brake, went up and over the handlebars, did a forward roll over onto the mats. I flubbed the next run-through, of course. I was glad to finish this segment without really falling and hurting myself.
We finished up with high falls onto the airbag. It really is massive, so from the first platform (which is 16′ high), we’re only falling about 5′ before reaching the mat. I ran through all the falls. Most of them were fine, but I’m still angled on the face-off, then hitting with my feet first, then my shoulders and head. I’m not consistent with the face-offs, so I probably won’t do them at a higher height.
We started on the trampoline – practicing falling positions for headers and suicides. Then we tried some back tucks. I could do them, but I still have my bad habit of throwing myself back (instead of setting straight up, then tucking). Ah well – need more practice. Will be heading back to gymnastics after I recover from stunt school.
Then we tried some wire work. First, some back tucks using wires. It’s as much for the person on the wires (figuring out how the harness changes how you move), as for the safety team (figuring how to take the weight and go with the movements of the guy on the wires). Then we took turns jumping from a ladder while harnessed, swooping through the air like Superman… until we awkwardly land, or swing back and forth until the safety team let us down. Bob asked me to do the swoop, then do a front tuck at the end. But turns out that since there’s nothing to push against once you’re in the air, it’s really hard to change your body position and do a tuck. I suggested maybe if you do the front tuck first, then the swoop (but made it clear that the ladder shouldn’t be so rickety).
We did a quick review/overview of bulldogging – tackles, cross-body, etc. But then it’s onto the main event – stair falls.
Oh boy. We were not looking forward to this. Everybody has told us that stair falls suck. And they do. We padded up as much as we can – arms, legs, elbows, knees, back protection, helmet. It still is falling down the stairs – bumping and hitting along the way. You try to keep as close to the stairs as possible, so that you’re not falling as far down with each roll. But it’s miraculous how you still hit wherever your pads aren’t.
Like everyone else, I started a few steps up, and then worked my way up to the top of the stairs – about 10 or 11 steps. It felt ok, for the most part, except that I tended to extend a bit too much, risking getting my feet or head caught by the railings. I did it a bunch of times – was just glad to finish without getting banged up too much.