A firefighter at Station #62 in Mar Vista will compete later this month in a physically and mentally grueling endurance contest called the "Death Race."
Steve Stern, 39, and other firefighters at Station #62 plan on making a contrbution to the Widows, Orphans & Disabled Firemen's Fund, if he finishes the 40-mile, obstacle-laden race that takes 24 to 48 hours to complete.
How tough is the course? The Death Race's website is YouMayDie.com, so that gives you some idea.
Competitors in past races have chopped wood for two hours, carried a 20-pound stump around for hours, built a fire, crawled through mud under barbed wire and been tasked with memorizing the names of the first 10 U.S presidents or a Bible verse, hiking to the top of a mountain and reciting the memory challenge.
Stern said the equipment list for the 200 competitors in the June 15 race in Pittsfield, VT, includes: knitting needles, dress shoes, a lifejacket and a clipping from a bonsai tree. Stern said he's been meeting with his 97-year-old grandmother to learn how to knit.
"The key things are the endurance, the difficulty of the challenges and the mental component," Stern said. "It's more like a survival-type challenge with a number of tasks."
Stern is an active athlete and has completed triathlons and marathons with a personal best of 3:22 in the marathon.
Stern has been doing circuit training, going on long hikes and running five miles to work and back carrying a 15-pound stone to get ready for the competition. He's also been swimming in the ocean and working out with weights.
He's tried sleeping in his backyard and working on memorizing passages, including a prologue to a Shakespeare play.
Stern, who graduated in 1996 from the University of California, Santa Cruz, has been a firefighter-paramedic in Mar Vista for two years and has been with the fire department for 10 years.
The West Los Angeles resident described himself as an introvert by nature and said he wanted to compete in the race because it was so different.
"You learn how to be more flexible and adaptable in this race," Stern said. "It makes me feel grateful that I can compete. There are plenty of people around the world who go through these struggles every day and I'm going to do it for just a few days. It makes me feel more grateful."