Nanaimo firefighter as tough as they come
All Drew Brunton wanted was for an exhausting day to be finally over as he prepared for his final event at the 2012 Can-Am Police-Fire Games.
Brunton didn't know at the time that he was about to claim the Toughest Competitor Alive title.
"I just wanted the day to be over," Brunton said. "It took a day or so for what I'd accomplished to sink in."
The games, hosted in St. Cloud, Minn., June 24 to July 1, draw competitors from 32 Canadian and U.S. emergency and protective services.
Each participant competes in their age and weight category over the course of one day in eight track and field style events that include a five-kilometre run, shot put, 100-metre sprint, 100-metre swim, a six-metre, hands-only rope climb, bench press, pull-ups and obstacle course.
Events - they run back-to-back with about a 10-minute break between each one - are scored on a point system.
Brunton, 38, competing in the Can-Ams for the first time, beat 30 competitors, won a gold medal and bragging rights.
Brunton came across the Can-Am games while researching the 2013 World Police and Fire Games to be hosted in Belfast, Ireland.
"I was like, 'This might be something fun to do because it involves the speed, endurance and technique and skill with all the shot-putting and climbing on the rope and different things like that,'" Brunton said. "So it was something where I thought it would be a good challenge. I'm always trying to challenge guys here at work and get guys here into more things, so I thought I'd put my money where my mouth was and just give it try and see how I would do."
Brunton, who hadn't competed in track and field since grade school, trained for several months, balancing work and commuting from his home in Victoria with a training schedule that would hopefully allow him to maximize his competitiveness in all events while avoiding overtraining in any one skill and burn-out.
"I got a few pointers from my wife who used to run track, so you're just trying to piece together what you can," he said. "It's a fine line between how much time do you spend learning how to shot put really well - because in the end you might put it six more inches - but in the grand scheme of things what does six inches get you on a points scheme? So you're trying to gauge what your strengths are, what your weaknesses are and what's going to gain you the most points at the end of the day."
Every competitor is better at some events than others, so the key is to be as efficient as possible at each event while conserving energy. The skill applies to firefighters who must manage strength against endurance while working fire scenes.
The intensity of competition was high, but participants supported and encouraged one another.
"The competition was really fierce - there's a whole bunch of A personality guys - but everyone's super friendly, everyone's helping each other out," Brunton said. "There's not that fierceness of competition as far as bad-mouthing guys. Everyone just got along. Everyone went out afterwards. Everyone wants to compete against the other guys at their best, so it was a really cool experience and really cool atmosphere too."
Ron Lambert, Nanaimo Fire Rescue chief, applauds Brunton's accomplishment.
"First off I think it's quite an accomplishment given it was a North American event," Lambert said. "The department is proud of his accomplishment and the level of dedication Drew exemplifies in both his professional and personal life and, of course, we're fortunate to have Drew on the Nanaimo Fire Rescue team."
For more information about the Can-Am Police-Fire Games, please visit the games website at canampolicefiregames.org.