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Firefighters face off in national contest

As part of the nationwide Firefighter Combat Challenge, teams of firefighters showed up at the U.S. Air Force Academy for two days of gear-laden racing.

Two contestants in the Firefighter Combat Challenge get ready to race. Daniel Terdiman/CNET

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo.--It's one thing for a track runner to bolt when the gun fires. Imagine how hard it is to jump up from a crouch and race up six flights of stairs while dressed in full firefighting gear and lugging a 42-pound pack of hose.

That's just the very first task in what is known as the Firefighter Combat Challenge (see video below), a nationwide competition involving a series of intense tasks that simulate what fighters deal with on a daily basis.

The tour, which appears in cities throughout the country, pulled through Colorado Springs on Friday and Saturday, and held its brand of racing at the U.S. Air Force Academy where CNET News reporter Daniel Terdiman was on hand as part of his Road Trip 2009 project.

Dozens of teams participated over the two days of racing, much of it in hot sun, and even some heavy winds. At the end of most of the races, the contestants looked absolutely exhausted. But their efforts excited a large crowd that showed up at the academy to watch.

Teams came from all over the country, including from the Air Force Academy itself.

For the next several weeks, Geek Gestalt will be on Road Trip 2009. After driving more than 12,000 miles in the Pacific Northwest, the Southwest and the Southeast over the last three years, I'll be writing about and photographing the best in technology, science, military, nature, aviation and more in Utah, Idaho, Wyoming, Montana, South Dakota and Colorado. If you have a suggestion for someplace to visit, drop me a line. And in the meantime, join the Road Trip 2009 Facebook page and follow my Twitter feed.