IF you're ever pinned beneath a boulder, or perhaps squished up against a wall behind a dump truck, you better hope that Chris Davies is around.
The six-foot-one, 310 pound North Vancouver resident is one of the few humans on earth who could single-handedly get you out of those predicaments, an ability he ably demonstrated last weekend when he won his second consecutive B.C.'s Strongest Man competition.
The event in Kamloops included tasks such as pulling a 13,600-kilogram (30,000-pound) dump truck, flipping 375-kg tires, and lifting 160-kg Atlas stones onto a chest-high platform.
With the win Davies defended the title he won last year in Hope in a competition that included what he calls the hardest task he's ever attempted: pulling one of the monster tow trucks that was featured on the reality TV show Highway Thru Hell. The trucks weigh in at nearly 40,000 kilograms (86,000 pounds) and are normally used to drag semi trailers out of the ditch on the treacherous Coquihalla Highway.
"It feels like your entire body is about to explode," Davies said about slipping on the harness and getting the massive truck moving. He managed to move the truck more than 30 metres in less than two minutes. "You have a guide rope to pull it with your arms. After about half way you can't feel your arms."
The 33-year-old did, however, have enough left in the tank after each of the wins to hoist the championship trophy, which itself is no simple task.
"Yup, even the trophies are heavy," said Davies, adding that the B.C. hardware tips the scales at around 60 pounds.
Davies, a Vancouver native who moved to North Vancouver three years ago, grew up as a huge fan of the World's Strongest Man competitions that were shown on TV. A skateboarder and snowboarder, he got into bodybuilding, powerlifting and, eventually, strongman competitions in his mid-20s. At his first competition - a local event in Port Moody - he finished third. He hasn't stopped competing since, fitting in events around his two day jobs as a construction safety officer and working part time at Rogers Arena.
Both jobs, he said, are decidedly less physical than his hobby. "One is a lot of paper work, and the other can be a lot of paper work," he said with a laugh.
Strongman has taken him to competitions all over Canada, the Pacific Northwest and even farther afield to places like Orlando, Reno and Salt Lake City. At one stop he met a man who is one of his inspirations in the sport, the great Magnus Ver Magnusson, the Iceland native who holds four World's Strongest Man titles.
"It was one of the best moments of my life," said Davies. "I always watched him as a kid. Meeting him was one of those childhood dreams. Some people dream of meeting Michael Jordan, I dreamed of meeting him."
Davies now has his sights set on following Ver Magnusson's massive footsteps and making it onto the stage himself for the World's Strongest Man competition. He's already taken a couple of cracks at qualifying. In 2008 he finished 18th out of a field of more than 60 at the U.S. Nationals, a good result but not good enough to qualify. He tried again in 2010 but was derailed when he partially tore his triceps tendon and muscle.
"I was lifting a 180-pound dumbbell to press it over my head with one arm. I got it up and then I heard a pop and it dropped down," he said. "I finished the competition though - I kept trying. I just wrapped it up really, really tight."
Injuries are a part of the sport, including the constant threat of dropping something really heavy on yourself. That's always in the back of his mind during lifts, said Davies, adding that he thankfully has not had that happen.
"Not yet," he said. Training for the events is the main way that the athletes stay safe. Some competitions are "blind" in that athletes don't know what they'll be doing until they arrive at the station, but usually they are given at least one month's notice. Davies does his power lifting at Genesis Athletic Club in North Vancouver to stay strong but he also does event specific training whenever possible. To get ready for truck pulling he and his friends have a pretty basic training regime.
"We actually pull a truck," he said with a laugh. "A friend of mine, his cousin owns a trucking company. We have the harness, we go out and we pull the truck."
Though it is an individual sport, the athletes in strong man competitions all pull for each other and are interested in getting the best out of everyone, said Davies.
"The camaraderie is nothing like I've seen before in any sport," he said. "If somebody does an event and doesn't quite get it, you go in there and tell him how to do it so maybe next time he can do it. Anytime new guys have questions everyone is more than willing to help them out."
Those looking to check out the scene will have a chance to do so next month when the Pacific Coast Strongman competition comes to North Vancouver's Shipbuilder's Square Sept. 7. That'll likely be the next competition on his calendar, said Davies.
Before that happens, however, he's got a wedding to attend: his own. Bride-to-be Jenna Pozar is also a "gym buff," said Davies, adding that the two work as a team when he's out there picking up really heavy things.
"She's my biggest fan and biggest supporter," he said. "She helps me get it done. She pushes me more than anyone else. If you catch the videos you can hear someone yelling really loudly in the background. That's her."
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