Water and sweat flow at fire fighters' competition
The determination in their eyes was evident. The task ahead was extremely difficult to participate in, but simple in it's requirements: push their bodies to the absolute limit, complete every task and cross the finish line.
For fire fighters everywhere, it's just a test of their daily work on the job.
It was a daunting task for the 23 men who entered in the fire fighters competition at the Training Tower on Thursday as part of the Price Fire Convention. An obstacle course like no other, specifically engineered to test all of the abilities a fire fighter utilizes while on the job. Carrying hoses up flights of stairs without skipping a step, pulling up a heavy weight three stories high, utilizing a sledge hammer, moving a fire hose for 40 yards to splash a barrel and carrying a life-size dummy known as "Rescue Randy" to safety, or in this case the finish line.
To make things harder, every competitor was decked out in their fire fighting gear with about 50 to 60 pounds of equipment tacked on, including an oxygen tank.
The outside temperature which hovered near 80 degrees certainly didn't make things any easier.
But the fire fighters who convened to Price for the convention from all around the state didn't let that faze them as they relished the opportunity to show off their skills in front of family, friends and fellow fire fighters.
Fire fighters, both young and old, entered into the competition and although age may have played a factor, many looked at it just as a number.
"I just wanted to finish and have a respectable time," said Derald Olsen, 57. Olsen, a member of the Mapleton Fire Department, competed in the event for the first time and while the course may have been tough, he kept pushing himself to finish the course.
"I kept thinking that I can do this, I can do this," said the 10-year veteran shortly after completing the course.
As the fire fighters completed each part of the course, it progressively got harder. Add to that the feeling of trying to fill their lungs with a breath of air when it seems like it may never come. It was just one of the reasons some were unable to complete the course.
"It (the course) defeated me," said Gerson Arevala, 30. The member of the Ivins Fire Department out of St. George, admitted to being nervous before having his named called to the starting line. But after reaching the stage of bringing Rescue Randy to safety, Arevala's previous knee problems started to flare up, leaving him just short of the finish line.
"What did I get myself into?" he quipped while catching his breath after competing. "This course is like the real thing and it's not for the faint of heart."
For some fire fighters, the course and it's challenges came a little easier. Ben Penick, 29, with the Payson/South Jordan Fire Departments, flew through each challenge on his way to the finish line. Penick, one of the tallest competitors, finished with the top time of the day with 1.48.
"I just wanted to have a good time out there," Penick said. "The sooner you get done with the course, the quicker you stop hurting afterward."
Representing the local area were two fire fighters from Price, Rudy Metelko and Richard Laursen. Both were participating in the competition for the first time and watched as their fellow fire fighters worked hard to reach the finish.
"I watched the other guys go ahead of me and I was just trying not to psych myself out," said Metelko, 37, who finished with a time of 3:28. "I was waiting for a brutal experience and I knew it wasn't going to be a cakewalk."
Metelko and Laursen were two of the smaller competitors in the challenge, which made for an interesting challenge with Rescue Randy. The dead weight dummy weighs anywhere between 170-185 pounds. Metelko and Laursen each said they were just a little lighter than the dummy, but welcomed the challenge.
"Was this course fun?" one fellow fire fighter asked Laursen moments after finishing.
"No it wasn't," Laursen said finishing with a time of 5:55. Laursen, 41, has been a fire fighter for seven years and to keep in shape for the job he concentrates on cardiovascular conditioning, especially with running marathons. The training was a help throughout much of the course, he said.
"It takes a mix of strength and endurance to finish," he explained. "The dummy at the end was heavy, but I just wanted to finish."
While his legs felt like jelly after finishing, the work was not over for Laursen. He was scheduled to participate in the 5K walk on Saturday morning.
Jeff and Martha Ellis helped coordinate the competition and offered expertise in how to go about tackling each challenge. Both Jeff and Martha have competed on a local and national basis for many years before stepping aside to help other fire fighters with training on the course. The work on the course can take a toll on a fire fighter, not only pushing themselves to finish, but to finish as quickly as possible. Jeff, a 27-year fire veteran, said he had to step away from competition because it all just became too much for him.
"Competing can be extremely stressful for people and fire fighters are innately competitive with each other," said Jeff. Now, instead of competing, Jeff said he focuses on pushing each fire fighter to give everything they have in order to complete the course.
"It's an eye-opening experience for many of them," said Martha, a 17-year fire veteran. "We try to give them pointers to help them become more efficient and reminding them not to get discouraged by the course's challenges. It can be pretty agonizing to complete and it's really a lot of work."
Price Fire Chief Paul Bedont said he was impressed with how well some of the fire fighters did in the competition, including Penick finishing with a top notch time. He said he was particularly proud of how both Metelko and Laursen did in the competition representing the Price Fire Department.
"They both did fantastic especially for their first time competing," he said.