Three Te Puke firefighters are stepping up this weekend.
Qualified firefighter Grant Scothern and firefighters Dan Turner and Jodi Purdie are tackling the 1103 stairs of Auckland's Sky Tower in the Firefighter Sky Tower Stair Challenge.
They will run up the tower's 51 flights wearing 25kg of gear, including breathing apparatus cylinders.
Grant is the most experienced of the three - this year's stair challenge is his fourth. He was two seconds slower last year than on his previous attempt and is aiming for a time of around 14 minutes this year, which would be a personal best.
''You've just got to push through. It's a bit of a mental challenge as well as a physical one,'' he says.
''Once you get up to the [start of the] 48th flight, you know you've only got four to go and you just push through it.''
With almost 1000 firefighters at the event, the temperature in the narrow staircase quickly rises.
''It gets pretty hot and you're puffing and you can feel your heart pounding in your chest,'' says Grant. ''It's only about 14 minutes, you've just got to think 'it's nearly over, it's nearly over' and once it's over you are so happy you think, 'yeah, I can do that again'.''
Dan is looking at a sub-14 minute effort, with improving on last year's time of just over 15 minutes a motivating factor this year.
''Jodi and I have trained on Pāpāmoa Hills and at the gym and for other competitions we go to as well. There's training in everything we do really,'' he says.
Climbing the tower in under 14 minutes would mean taking a big chunk of time off last
year's effort, but he thinks he can do it.
''Last time I went pretty unprepared,'' he says.
Jodi, a relative newcomer to the brigade, is taking on the challenge for the first time.
''I ask a lot of questions, and the guys have told me the last few flights are longer and that messes with your mind, so I'm just kind of preparing myself a little bit for that - it may have been an illusion for them - I don't know.''
For Jodi, the challenge of tackling the tower, fundraising for a good cause and catching up with fellow firefighters are all part of the attraction of the event.
''It's about meeting up with other firefighters as well. There are going to be people from all over the country and it will be nice to meet and talk with them. There's going to be a lot of standing around before and after so I look forward to talking to other people and asking how they trained.''
While she is looking for a time around 20 minutes, Jodi says finishing is her first priority.
''I don't think I'll get as good a time as the guys, but I think I'll finish. I've heard from a few women I've talked to, it averages about 20 minutes for women and if I beat that I'll be
The Firefighter Sky Tower Stair Challenge is an annual fundraiser for Leukaemia & Blood Cancer New Zealand.
The trio also recently took part in the United Fire Brigades' Association National Combat Challenge event in Wellington, after Jodi and Dan had competed in the regional challenge in Palmerston North earlier in the year.
The competition is a test of skill and fitness and simulates the physical demands of real-life firefighting.
It features a set course requiring a six-storey stair climb carrying a hose, hoisting a hose coil six storeys, chopping with a shot hammer, knocking down a disc with a charged hose and a simulated human rescue.
It was both Dan and Grant's fourth national combat challenge, but Jodi's first.
Dan says the requirements for the combat challenge are totally different to those of the stair challenge, the combat challenge requiring an explosive burst of energy, while the stair challenge is more of a stamina event.
Grant says he seems to be able to knock about 10 seconds off his best time each time he does the challenge and is now down to 2 minutes 40 seconds.
''That comes down to technique and a bit of fitness,'' he says.