Mike Lecompte had a plan.
He set his watch for four minutes and took the stairs two at a time.
All 789 stairs.
For 41 stories.
In full firefighter gear that weighed at least 50 pounds.
When his alarm signaled the four-minute mark, he was on the 21st floor, and he knew he had a chance to take the top prize in his age group for the American Lung Association’s Fight for Air Climb in Boston on Feb. 2.
“No one passed me, and I passed a lot of people,” laughed Lecompte, 51, an Auburn firefighter stationed at Engine Company 5 on Center Street.
This was Auburn Fire Department’s third year sending a team of 12 firefighters to the annual fundraiser and Lecompte’s first year participating.
Lewiston also sent a team for the first time this year.
When Lecompte reached the top of One Boston Place, the clock read 8 minutes, 39 seconds.
He had achieved his goal and took home the gold in the 50 and older division, effectively outstepping six of his much younger teammates.
“There certainly is a lot of pressure going into it because you want to do well. You want to show your peers that you’re not an old geezer; that you still can hang with them.”
To train, Lecompte and his teammates would climb the stairs of any tall building they could get into. Once per week, they would also travel to Portland and ascend the 16-story Franklin Tower five times.
And to make sure they were prepared, they would train with heavier gear than what they would be wearing while racing.
“It certainly gives you the feeling of having a lung problem. It feels like you have razor blades in your wind pipe during the race. It took about a day before my windpipe healed up.”
The team, including 11 wives and partners, raised $4, 910 for the American Lung Association, and the 12 firefighters took home the cup. They outstepped Portland’s team by four seconds for the first-place win.
For Lecompte, it was another challenge that he could cross off his list.
An avid runner and cyclist, Lecompte already has completed a couple of marathons and plans to spend five months after his retirement next February through-hiking the Appalachian Trail.
“I love doing different adventures. It makes me feel more alive when I’m out there challenging myself,” he said.