This Sunday, March 11, Penfield firefighter Jim Stranz will race his way up 69 stories during the Scott Firefighter Stairclimb in Seattle benefit the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society in Seattle, Washington.
Stranz is one of 1500 firefighters participating in this year’s fundraiser that requires climbers to make the vertical hike wearing full gear, including jacket, helmet, boots, and an oxygen tank — an added 55 pounds.
“The funny thing about firefighter gear is that it’s not made for athletic competition,” said Stranz, 58, who started training for the event after he had corrective surgery to treat his own spinal stenosis in 2011.
“I was truly blessed with a wonderful recovery, and I wanted to do something,” he said.
He began a strict regiment of cardio and strength training, and was able to lose 40 pounds in less than one year.
On weeknights, he would spent hours at the fire station on a stairmaster, wearing a weighted vest. With time, he learned to set a steady pace to his climb by using music, like the song, “Disco Inferno.” Stranz also added to his training by visiting zumba and other fitness classes wearing his gear at the Eastside Family YMCA.
His reason for undergoing such strenuous training is tied to the death of a close family friend, Daisy Murphy, who passed away after a painful struggle with acute myeologenous leukemia in 2009.
“I saw someone suffer for more than two years,” he said. “Her and her spouse suffered mercilessly for two years. That’s not a disease, that’s torture.”
On Sunday, he will start the climb at 9:20 a.m. pacific time. For him, it will be a chance to honor the memory of a friend, and make others aware of the need to help more people from falling victim to the same disease.
"There's still time," he said. "We're not quote at the end of the road yet."