Fire crew ready for epic climb

21:15, May 15 2014
Fergus Murray
FIGHTING FIT: Marlborough volunteer firefighters, from left, Ashley Toms, Drew de Cartier-McCarthy, Kim Holmes, and station officer Tony Nolan, train with an extra 25kg of gear for tomorrow’s Sky Tower Stair Challenge.

Three months of training will be put to the test tomorrow for four Blenheim volunteer firefighters who will battle their way up 51 flights of stairs to raise money for cancer.

It will be the second challenge for Kim Holmes and Ashley Toms at the Firefighter Sky Tower Stair Challenge held in Auckland.

Fellow volunteers Drew de Cartier-McCarthy and Tony Nolan will be taking on the steps for the first time.

More than 700 firefighters from around the country will take part in the challenge, which raises money for Leukemia Blood Cancer (LBC) New Zealand. Last year it raised more than $480,000, with the Marlborough team raising about $2500.

Fundraising efforts this year had raised about $2000 so far.

All four firefighters will be wearing an extra 25kg of gear and using a breathing apparatus as they tackle 1103 stairs.


Holmes won her category last year and is nervous about keeping her title, despite the fact the category she raced in last time allowed her to breath without apparatus.

She hopes to knock off at least a minute from her time of 14 minutes 55 seconds.

It's quite a feat for someone who couldn't run to the end of her driveway two years ago. The 24-year-old has lost 36 kilograms in the past two years, 15kg of those before she became a volunteer firefighter in 2012.

"I'd had enough," she said. "It was time to start losing weight." This year the whole team was a lot fitter, she said.

As well as stair runs at the Alfred St car park building, cycling and walking up the Wither Hills, the crew tried something new this year and trained in their full gear on treadmills at the Stadium 2000 gym.

"It doesn't even compete with going up and down the stairs, but it's still good cardio," she said.

This year's category would be a lot harder, but she was ready, she said.

"It's like a mind game - as long as you know you can do it with or without gear, you'll be fine," she said. "At the end of the day, it doesn't matter how fit you are, it's just stamina."

Teammate Ashley Toms effectively took himself out of last year's race to support a colleague who was struggling with the pace. But Toms wasn't stopping for anyone this year, he said.

He was hoping to complete the challenge in under 12 minutes.

First time competitor Drew de Cartier-McCarthy said he wanted to do the challenge to raise money for Leukemia Blood Cancer.

"It's such a good cause. Cancer gets a lot of people," he said.

He was aiming to get a time of between 11 and 12 minutes, as well as a good time for the team, he said.

Anyone who wants to make a donation to the team can contact the Blenheim fire brigade on 03 579 5799.

The Marlborough Express