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A Canadian FireFit first

For the first time in the history of the Scott FireFit Championships the over-40 winner also claimed the overall individual title in the gruelling demonstration of fitness, stamina, mental toughness and plain brute strength.

November 6, 2009 
By Carey Fredericks

For the first time in the history of the Scott FireFit Championships the over-40 winner also claimed the overall individual title in the gruelling demonstration of fitness, stamina, mental toughness and plain brute strength.

Mike Gilbert, a 43-year-old veteran FireFit competitor and firefighter from St. Catharines, Ont., shredded competitors half his age at the championships in Gaspé, Que., in September with a time of 1:17:87 – seven one-hundredths of a second better than his 2008 Canadian and world over-40 record.

“Winning first overall, and first in the over-40 category at the national event was special for a couple of reasons,” said Gilbert, who started competing in 1999,  and has participated in 75 competitions.

St. Catharines, Ont., firefighter Mike Gilbert won the individual competition at the FireFit national championship in Gaspe, Que., in September and also claimed the over-40 title.
Photo by Linda Keuning


“The field was as deep as it’s been in years and filled with a number of young guns. I felt very fortunate at the age of 43 to come out on top of this field. And it’s the first time in Canada that the over-40 winner was also the overall winner, something I am very proud of.”

Gilbert’s competition included 2007 and 2008 champion Joe Triff of Halifax, N.S., who slipped to eighth place, and perennial competitors Dwayne Drover and Darren Hillman of Windsor, Ont., who finished fifth and sixth respectively. Graham MacKenzie of Kamloops, B.C., placed second for the second consecutive year.

With time differences of just hundredths of a second, FireFit races are often decided by penalties for infractions on the FireFit course. Triff, still a relative newcomer in his 20s, posted a time of 1:21:96, with a penalty, on the first day of the competition and 1:20:74 in the final.

“Joe came in this year hoping to three-peat but unfortunately didn’t have a super clean run,” said FireFit organizer Hilary McRoberts.

While young FireFit rookies are threats, statistics from the last several years show that veterans who are used to the pressure of competition and the intricacies of the FireFit courses are more likely to do well.

“I would say Dwayne Drover from Waterloo has been my toughest competition over the last few years,” said Gilbert. ”He and I have been back and forth throughout regional events and we have both run similar times. Before Dwayne, it was Darren Hillman and Jack Bailey, both from Windsor. In my opinion it was Darren and Jack who took the competition to a new level.” Bailey won in 2001 and 2002, was second to Gilbert in 2003 and came fourth in 2004.

Above: Veteran FireFit competitor Mike Gilbert and his winning time of 1:17:87, which was seven one hundredths better than his 2008 Canadian and world over-40 record.  

Gilbert won back-to-back national titles in 2003 and 2004 and won over-40 championships in 2006, 2007 and 2008. He attributes this year’s double victory to a modified training regimen and the support of physiotherapist Mark Scappaticci, personal trainer Matt Cuthbert, nutritionist Sandy Annunziata and massage therapist Heather Grant.
“Normally, I shut competitive training down until March or April, but last year I started in January with my wife, who was preparing to start a career as a firefighter and needed to keep her fitness level up for the testing,” said Gilbert.

“As far back as I can remember I’ve always pushed myself in sports as hard as possible. I thrive on the mental and physical challenge that success is built on.” 

In the women’s event, nine-year FireFit veteran Jacqueline Rasenberg of the York Region Fire Department in Ontario came first in 2:18:15, improving her 2008 second-place finish and repeating her 2008 over-40 championship.

“I was excited about the win but disappointed in my time. I was really hoping for a personal best,” said Rasenberg, who missed her goal by three seconds.

Danielle Comolli of Toronto Fire Services, another FireFit regular, came second.  Comolli improved her previous two third-place finishes with a time of 2:22:14, 12 seconds faster than her 2008 time. FireFit newcomer Michelle Potts of the Hamilton Fire Department in Ontario placed third with a time of 2:28:86.

“I’m ecstatic with my results,” said Potts, who was drawn to FireFit after volunteering at a competition in Brampton. “I remember watching the female athletes – one of whom was Jacqueline Rasenberg – and being so inspired that I vowed I would one day compete.”

McRoberts said Potts’ run was excellent for a first-time competitor. “She’s going to be someone to watch out for next year.”

In the men’s team event Joe Triff and his Halifax contingent’s attempts to three-peat were spoiled by the Kamloops team of Graham Mackenzie (1:18:20), Mike Brown (1:21:41) and Don Clarke (1:24:64), who ran for a combined total of 4:04:25. Triff (1:20:74), Andrew Foote (1:23:66) and Mike Sears (1:24:03) placed second in 4:08:43, followed by Windsor Fire & Rescue’s Hillman (1:20:31), Locky Gelinas (1:25:07) and Laureano Cordeiro (1:29:16) with a time of 4:14:54.

The Halifax team of Triff, Foote and Sears was able to three-peat in the relay event, however, followed by the team from Kamloops in second and Michael Frasso, Ralph Crouse and John Lawless from Kingston, Ont. in third. Triff and Sears also captured the NxG2 relay title with a time of 1:27:21.

The Halifax women’s team of Julie Read, Melanie Edwards and Whitney MacLeod took first place in the team and relay events. The women’s field was larger this year with three teams compared to just one last year. “It’s harder to put together a full team of women,” said McRoberts. “Some smaller stations only have one or two women in the fire hall and have no way of putting together a full team of five.” Still, McRoberts is pleased that the number of women’s teams in the competition increased this year.

“All in all we couldn’t have asked for a better event this year,” said McRoberts. “The Gaspé Fire Department did a tremendous job of organizing the event and looking after everybody involved.”

1. Mike Gilbert (over 40 #1)
St. Catharines Fire Department    1:17.87
2. Graham  MacKenzie
Kamloops Fire Department    1:18.20
3. Claude  Bélanger
CFP Neufchatel    1:19.34
4. Ryan  Hallam
Fredericton Fire Department    1:20.03
5. Dwayne Drover
Waterloo Fire Department    1:20.04
6. Darren Hillman (over 40 #2)
Windsor Fire & Rescue    1:20.31
7. Jamie  McGarva
Delta Fire Department    1:20.61
8. Joe Triff
Halifax Regional Fire Department #1    1:20.74
9. Mike Brown
Kamloops Fire Department     1:21.41
10. Steve Keegstra
Brampton Fire Department    1:22.19

1. Jacqueline Rasenberg (over 40 #1)
York Region Fire    2:18.15
2. Danielle Comolli
Toronto Fire Services    2:22.14
3. Michelle Potts
Hamilton Fire Department    2:28.86
4. Julie Read
Halifax Regional Fire Department #3    2:30.66
5. Melanie Edwards
Halifax Regional Fire Department #3    2:32.23
6. Denise Townshend (over 40 #2)
DND Canada CFFM Women    2:52.53
7. Lindsey Ingram
Winnipeg Fire Department    2:54.67
8. Sarah Clark
Sayward Fire Department    3:28.13
9. Jennifer Ratté
DND Canada CFFM Women    3:36.69
10. Nickey Urness
Fort McMurray Fire Department    3:41.27

1. Firefit Ninja Monkeys 
    Mike Sears  1:27.21
    Joe Triff
2. NXG2 Sudbury Fire Department
    Trevor Fera  1:28.87
    Eric Pichette
3. CFFM Bee Bop & Rock Steady 
    Simon Robichaud  1:29.05
    Jonathon Welsh
4. West Shore Terminals 
    Jamie McGarva  1:29.78
    Mark Millward
5. NXG2 Kingston Fire & Rescue Team Lightning
    Michael Frasso   1:34.23
    Don Newton

1. Kamloops Fire Department
Graham  MacKenzie     1:18.20
Mike Brown     1:21.41
Don Clarke     1:24.64
Team time     4:04.25

2. Halifax Regional Fire Department #1
Joe Triff    1:20:74
Andrew Foote    1:23:66
Mike Sears    1:24:03
Team time    4:08:43

3. Windsor Fire & Rescue
Darren Hillman    1:20:31
Locky Gelinas    1:25:07
Laureano Cordeiro    1:29:16
Team time    4:14:54

4. MonctonMoves
Marcel Dupuis    1:22.27 
Jason Bergeron    1:25.60        
Josh Sollows    1:29.71
Team time    4:17.58

5. Edmonton Fire & Rescue
Ryan Dubyk    1:24.35
Matthew Hage    1:27.83
Jeff Readman    1:27.96

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