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Hanging with the big dogs

By Jim Haug Herald staff writer

TOWAOC – Men and women in harnesses lurched forward in front of the seemingly immovable object that is a Humvee or a Jeep with a 200-pound man in the driver’s seat.

Male competitors were attached by rope to a 6,500-pound Hummer. The women were paired with a 3,800-pound Jeep.

If the competitors could get the vehicle to move a little bit, they were rewarded with enthusiastic applause Saturday at the Ute Mountain Strong Man/Woman Competition.

A series of timed contests including loading 160-pound kegs onto a trailer or flipping over tractor tires, the Strong Man/Woman Competition was first organized three years ago as an alternative to a bodybuilding contest because Rob Robson, an exercise instructor, thought few people would want to pose publicly in Speedos and bikinis.

There is no shame in barely budging a Jeep, but there is much self-esteem to gain.

Nichole Champlin, 29, who works in medical billing in Cortez, described the agony of acting like a carriage-pulling horse for a Jeep set in neutral.

“You’re pushing it uphill; it feels like it won’t move,” she said. “You keep pushing and pushing, and you think you’re not pushing at all. Then you get it moved. You turn around and think, ‘Wow, look at what I just did.’ I think I did 1 foot, 8 inches.’”

“The whole reason I come out here is to see what I can do,” she said. “I’m not worried about winning or what place I finish. I am concerned about ‘can I beat what I did last year and I can surprise myself?’”

Kevin Dunn, 30, of Cortez, who would take third overall for men, pulled the Humvee for 7 feet, 7 inches.

“I wish I could do more. Happiness is pulling a Hummer,” he said.

Dakota Kibel, 20, pulled the Humvee about 7 inches but was proud he placed second overall in the men’s competition.

“Last year, I think the best I placed was third in one event,” Kibel said. “This year, I did very well. I hung with the big dogs.”

Kibel’s best event was the tire flip. He picked up and pushed over a 310-pound tractor tire for 40 feet in the fastest time of 26 seconds. Forty-five seconds was the maximum time allowed.

It sounds like exhausting work, but Kibel said the satisfaction “is knowing how I compare to these big guys.”

Referring to the three-time men’s champion, Kibel said, “I have seen Frank (Jacobs) here before. He’s just a monster.”

Jacobs, who can bench press 505 pounds and who pulled the Humvee the farthest at 13 feet, 4 four inches, also is a gentle giant.

His son Sequoia had wanted him to win for his ninth birthday, which was Friday.

“Happy birthday,” said Jacobs, who has a tattoo of an Native American couple kissing on his right bicep.

Jacobs, 39, said he was going to let his wife, Elvira, drive them back home to the Navajo reservation in Tuba City, Ariz.

“I’m going to sleep the rest of the day, hopefully,” he said.

Wearing red, knee-high socks that read “bacon,” Alix Skala, 28, of Dolores, took first overall for women.

She enjoyed the “dead weight,” or 23 repetitions of pulling 205 pounds from the ground up to her waist.

“That was a fun one,” she said. “My back is OK, but my legs are a little dead.”

Dani Griffith, 35, of Pueblo, came in second for women.

She surprised herself by lifting 205 pounds off the ground in the dead-lift competition. She thought 200 pounds was her maximum.

“I was pretty shocked,” she said.

Devon Bata, 19, an intern at the community health clinic in Towaoc, said he enjoyed the crowd’s encouragement.

“You don’t feel bad if you can’t do something,” the Denver native said. “They’re all supportive. Otherwise, I would have been depressed after the dead lift. I could barely lift (405 pounds) off the ground.”

L.J. Lyons, owner of Para Bellum Fitness in Cortez, got a lift from the crowd, too.

“This isn’t your normal competition like football or soccer where you’re booing the other team,” Lyons said. “Everybody is for everybody. It doesn’t matter where they’re at.”

jhaug@durangoherald.com

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