Monday, July 23, 2012

Physical Readiness Test

This past weekend, I travelled to Hamilton, Texas, to participate in the physical readiness test portion of the Texas Game Warden selection process. I drove up Saturday night since the test began Sunday at 08:00. It's only two hours away, but I wanted to make sure I got a good night's sleep and wasn't rushing around the morning of the test.

I got to the high school stadium where the test took place at about 07:30 and there were a lot of people already waiting around. I am definitely older than the average applicant but not by a whole lot. By my count, though, there were only 13 women out of the approximately 70 people there. I found out that there had been a test the day before as well and all told, 155 people made it to this stage from the interview stage. Then we were told there are only 14 open positions...

The first part of the test we did was the push-ups, which I was really glad about since it was the portion I was most worried about failing and if I did, at least I could just go on home. They lined us up in five rows by number. (We were known by our number all day; I was 88.) The way they measured if we completed a push-up was with this ingenious little homemade device with a piece of foam and stick that would pop up every time we went low enough for a push-up to count. When we did, the stick would hit the bottom of the hand of the warden counting for us. I wish I had been able to take a picture but since I didn't, I made this drawing to illustrate.

Illustration of a push-up measuring stick
I think my adrenaline was really pumping because I was able to knock out my push-ups pretty easily, 13 in under a minute. I'm very glad I did all that weight training and the interval push-up training; it really paid off. Next, we stayed in our lines and did the same thing for sit-ups. I'm strong in this area so with another applicant holding my feet, I busted out my 21 sit-ups with no problem.

After this, we lined up in two lines sequentially by our numbers to perform the handgun stability test. We used what looked very similar to my dad's .38 revolver that I practiced with. All we had to do was hold the gun barrel with each hand inside a 5" ring and dry fire five times, then lower ourselves to a kneeling position and dry fire five times again, but holding the gun with both hands.

At this point, we lined up in groups of eight to do the 300m sprint. But, before the first group go could, a guy across the field went into cardiac arrest and we found out later that his heart actually stopped. A few people there were trained first responders who ran over to help. He was taken away by ambulance and we were later told he had a known heart condition but his doctor had signed off on his attempting the test.

I was in the third group to sprint and as I expected, I was dead last. But I made it in 1 minute 20 seconds which was faster than my practice sprints by about 20 seconds and within the required 1 minute and 49 seconds. Running on a flat track improved my speed by more than I could have imagined. Running on a street with varied elevations proved to be great training.

people running on a track
Runners at the finish line of the track with game wardens watching
After this, they broke us up into two groups to do the 1.5 mile run. Again, I came in very near last, but I was faster than my practice runs and I was comfortably within the 21 minutes and 36 seconds time limit at just over 18 minutes. One girl and one guy almost didn't make it but we all cheered them on to the finish line. It was cool to see everyone come together like that. They let us wear headphones which was really helpful for me mentally and I was also able to use my GPS time tracking app to know how I was doing.

satellite view of a running track
Running track with six laps highlighted from MapMyFitness
At this point, it was only 10:45. I really just wanted to finish up the test but they told us we were getting a lunch break and wouldn't start the swimming test until 13:00. Ugh... I decided to try and find a geocache or two because I had already decided I wasn't eating. I had only had a granola bar right when I woke up and another granola bar during the break but a full meal seemed like a bad idea. I picked up a sandwich for after, found my geocache, then hung out in the park near the pool until 12:30 when they let us in to change.

I am so glad my last name is at the front of the alphabet because they were only able to have four people swim at a time and we had up to five minutes to complete the test—poor number 155. And if you failed, you had to wait until the end to retry. I got in the pool to warm up and see how it was to turn around the in the shallow part; not easy. I was in the fourth group to swim and did sidestroke the whole way (three laps), finishing easily.

So, I passed! That felt really good given that I trained pretty hard to make it happen. It was great to drive back to Austin with that accomplishment, no matter what happens after this. Next, we're supposed to be contacted about our background check so it's just a game of wait and see as I don't have any control over what happens from here on out.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Game Warden Ride-Along

I found out a few weeks ago through a friend of my mom's who is married to a Medina county game warden that game wardens do ride-alongs and pretty much have to accept any requests they receive. She put me in touch with her husband and I got to go along with him this weekend to get a glimpse into a day-in-the-life of a Texas Game Warden.

Game wardens have to work odd hours and weekends since those are the times many people are enjoying the outdoors. Saturday, we took a ride over to Medina Lake, which straddles both Medina and Bandera counties, to take one of their boats out and do water safety checks. I've never really been out on a boat like the one we were on, nor had I ever been out on Medina Lake. It was a very fast boat and we stopped several boats and jet skis (personal watercraft) for checks and violations. I was surprised that not a single vessel had all its ducks in a row. Basically, boats are required to have the following:
  • Current registration sticker (good for two years)
  • Registration certificate
  • Display registration numbers on the hull
  • A working fire extinguisher
  • A horn or whistle
  • A throwable life preserver
  • A life jacket for every single passenger
I stress that last one because it really is the most important and one vessel we stopped only had two life jackets for seven people. This particular lake is very low, 56 feet at the time we went out, and there are all kinds of trees and debris sticking up and the banks are solid rock. If something were to happen to the boat, you could be very far from shore or knocked unconscious. A life preserver could be your only saving grace.

trucks near a boat ramp on a very low lake
Medina Lake 56 feet low
We were out on the water about four hours in the late afternoon and it was pretty hot. The game warden let me drive the boat, which really surprised me since I have never run a powerful, motorized watercraft of any kind. He said it could get up to 73 mph but I suspect I didn't do more than maybe 40. It takes some skill to stand as you hit the wake from other boats. My first lesson was not to keep my hand on the throttle when this happened because then I jerked the speed back and forth. Later on, he had me practice docking.

small boat on a boat trailer next to a lake
The Game Warden's Majek boat
When we got back to shore, I met the two Bandera county game wardens who were checking up on things but since traffic on the lake was relatively light, they had let us do the patrolling alone. It was a pretty cool experience watching how the water safety checks go; I learned A LOT!

Sunday, I went on a ride-along the next day too, but for a shorter time. We had a lot of time to chat so I could ask any questions I had and then I wanted to see how the paper work went for the citations he had written the day before. He also showed me some photographs of violations during hunting season. I have an open invitation to go on more ride-alongs in the future, which I fully intend to do.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Week Three Update

I missed posting a week two update and am a little late on week three but I have good news! I got the letter today saying I made it past the interview stage for the game warden cadet position and am moving on to the physical fitness test. I'm delighted and terrified at the same time since I still can't do 13 real push-ups, but I found a strength program that I've been doing in addition to the 100 push-ups regimen. The cool thing is, it is very similar to what I was already doing, only it alternates working the primary muscles three days a week (shoulders, triceps, chest) with the opposing muscles on the between days (biceps and back). I'm already feeling stronger.

The other good thing is that I realized I was cheating myself of 10 seconds when timing my sprint. For some reason I had converted 109 seconds to 1 minute 39 seconds instead of 49 seconds and those extra 10 seconds help a lot. I've also started doing my sprinting along the same route that I'm doing my running just to save time. Last Saturday, I performed the entire fitness test (minus the handgun piece) in just under an hour. I have two more weeks to get fitter and stronger as I have to do the real test on the 22nd in Hamilton, Texas. I've also lost six pounds during these three weeks in part to increased activity but also because I have been watching my diet and avoiding cheese, caffeine, artificial sweeteners and just counting calories in general. It's not as hard as it seems and I find I don't have many cravings.