On Saturday morning, 22 competitors graced the Ute Mountain Recreation Center parking lot to test their strength and will in five events that left themselves fatigued, flabbergasted, yet, triumphant.
A blanket of gray clouds shielded the sky from the scorching Four Corners sun at the inaugural Ute Mountain strongman competition.
People from all four states showed up to Towaoc to compete in the Worlds Strongest Man competition format. But it was 36-year-old Frank Jacobs that made the 189-mile trek from Tuba City, Ariz., and left southwest Colorado as Ute Mountain Strongman Champion. Jacobs totaled 47 points to beat second-place finisher Jason Carruth (35 points), 39, of Cortez.
Im an avid lifter. I train my little boys, who are 6 an 8, said Jacobs, who is a licensed personal trainer. We came out today and my wife entered me in it. Shes like, I dont want you to say, oh I could have done that, or I should have done that. Like I teach my little boys, you give it all youve got and dont quit. Push yourself.
The reason for Jacobs slight hesitation to compete was because he hadnt lifted weights since January due to a car accident he suffered at that time. He also worked 12-16 hours a day as a scaffold builder from February to May, which left him little time to make it to the gym.
However, the former Olympic-style weightlifter didnt seem to miss a beat, as he flipped the 310-pound tire seven times the fastest, dead lifted 300 pounds the most with 17 reps and had the quickest time in the keg walk, lifting five 150-pound water filled kegs onto a flatbed trailer.
I just tell myself that Im not going to let anyone beat me, Jacobs said. Im here to win it and Im going to give it everything I got. It was good and it was fun.
It was the first strongman competition for Jacobs and now the 6-foot, 240-pound man from Arizona is hooked. He plans to compete in a strongman event in White River, Ariz., in September, and come back to Towaoc to compete in the second Ute Mountain strongman competition, which is tentatively scheduled for December. Jacobs took home a trophy, a $220 cash prize, two tickets to the King of the Cage MMA fights at the Ute Mountain Casino that night, and dinner for two at Kuchus Restaurant at the casino.
The event was also an exhausting day for me, since I also decided to compete. My back, legs and forearms burned the next day like the recent Arizona and New Mexico wildfires. Ive lifted weights off and on for the last decade but Ive never considered myself a power lifter or Worlds Strongest Man material by any means. But I can hold my own for my 175-pound size.
The Ute Mountain strongman competition tested endurance as much as strength, if not more, at least for me, anyway. Three of the five events involved pushing, carrying and pulling 40 feet up the inclined parking lot. Every person had one minute to finish each event, except the keg walk was 90 seconds to carry five kegs and lift them onto a flatbed truck. Only a few placed all five kegs. It was the fourth event and by then, many os us were physically and mentally exhausted. I felt this was the most physically draining event. Only a few inches were needed to lift a keg onto the flatbed, while holding it at my waste. But after lugging each keg 40 feet, my arms and legs were not cooperating. That last bit of effort to lift the keg on the truck became insurmountable on my third one.
I was glad there was a long resting period before the next event, as I gasped for air as if I was drowning. I gulped water in the measurement of what seemed like kilograms, just to recuperate.
The day began with the tire flip. It took seven flips to get the massive tractor tire over the finish line, also a distance of 40-feet. The awkwardness of grabbing the tire to be able to push it over was the most difficult. It was hard to get a comfortable routine of grasping while lifting. It was almost like helping your friend move that awkward pullout sofa, but much heavier.
The next event was the 300-pound dead lift. The most reps in a minute won. The dead lift is nothing new for traditional weight lifters. Proper form and grip strength are key in dead lifting. Part of my fatigue factor was grip strength, as it continually regressed in each event. I first felt it in the dead lift. I was comfortably doing the reps and my left arm quickly began to shake.
The third event was the farmers walk, where grip was most important. Competitors carried 150-pound cemented cylinder iron weights 40-feet back and fourth in a minutes time. Carrying the weights caused a swinging sensation in each arm, which made my palms sweat and fingers shake. Weight hardly seemed an issue, it was just being able to literally hold on tight to the handles. Even gloves didnt help my weakening grip in this event, which led into the daunting keg walk.
Following the keg walk was the final event, the car pull. The objective? Pull a 5,500-pound Hummer 40-feet up the embankment parking lot. Participants were strapped in a harness attached to the Hummer and had to pull on a rope to move the vehicle. Putting on the uncomfortable harness brought back memories of working at the Arm & Hammer Baking Soda plant near Green River, Wyo., when I had to strap in a harness working along 40-to 50-foot tall ledges outside safety areas. Here I was five years later strapped to a Hummer. Very few succeeded in the car pull. After countless efforts by many, it was Towaoc firefighter Danny Barfield who first moved the Hummer. He pulled the car the second greatest distance, but was edged by Blair Silversmith, who took fourth overall in the competition.
Joe Lopez, 36, of Towaoc, took third and Josh Galloway rounded out the top five.
The competition was one heck of a workout. It didnt matter if youre solely an iron man in the weight room. Good cardiovascular endurance, too, will win these events.
Everything turned out good, said Lopez, who helped organize the event. Its the strongest man wins. Its not about how big you are or how small. Its technique, its endurance.
Like Jacobs, Lopez and I, it was likely the first strongman competition for most of us.
I hadnt done any training. As a matter of fact, I didnt really know what a dead lift was, said the stocky framed Carruth. Wednesday was the first time I ever performed a dead lift. Moving the kegs, that was endurance more than strength. If you got five up there in that amount of time, that was tough.
Now that people have that experience and for those who want to compete again, they will be training with that hunger and desire to come back in December or whenever the next Ute Mountain strongman competition may be.
I certainly will.
It was a lot of fun, said Rob Robson, who judged the competition. It was a good turnout. The next time, we plan on having a womens division. We hope to have a bigger turnout next time. Hopefully, well double the people and double the prize money.
Reach Bobby Abplanalp at firstname.lastname@example.org