This weekend I competed in the Highland Games at the Rio Grande Valley Celtic Festival and Highland Games. It was a two-day event. On the first day the festival hosted the Masters World Championship, where the top Scottish Heavy athletes from all over the world blew our minds and smashed numerous World Records. I worked my tail off supporting those events. I was exhausted, wind-chapped, sore, and mildly dehydrated by the end of the first day. Even though it felt like a really stupid idea at the time, on the second day I dragged myself out of bed and showed up to compete. I forgot my throwing bag at home and had to circle back from the highway to retrieve it. I had a rough week, but dag gum, I was determined to be a participant and not a spectator. I was going to compete.
Although I’m old enough to compete in the Masters category, I felt that I didn’t belong on the same field with the Masters World Championship athletes. I just don’t throw well enough, and I would have been a distraction in the Masters Women class. Instead, I signed up to throw in the Women’s Novice class. I didn’t sign up for the Women’s Open class because the Open class throws heavier weights than the old ladies in the Masters class. Before the Games I asked Chuck, the Athletic Director, if the Novice Women would be permitted to throw the lighter weights. We weren’t going for any records and the lighter weights would be easier for beginners. Although he agreed ahead of time, when the day came, we threw the Open weights anyway. I haven’t practiced very much with the heavier weights, and I am not very good with them yet. Well, shoot.
First up for us was Sheaf. Do you remember the thing that Indiana Jones had about snakes? I see that Sheaf is the first event of the day, and I’m thinking… Sheaf, why did it have to be Sheaf? One of the guys from the Men’s Under 200 weight class hates Sheaf as much as I do. He said: “If I had a time machine I’d do two things. One, be Ben Franklin. Two, find the idiot who invented Sheaf and punch him in the uterus.” Yeah, what he said. Please let me be second in line to punch the Sheaf guy.
Well, Sheaf was up first, AND this was about the time I discovered we are throwing the Open weights, not the Masters weights. Grace, our lovely judge, took a vote and they elected to set the bar at 10ft for Sheaf. I’ve only ever cleared Sheaf at 8ft with a 10lb weight. Now I’m trying to clear 10ft with a 12lb weight. Great. My first throw of the day and I’m shooting for a PR. Grace says, “Don’t defeat yourself before you’ve even tried.” I try… and big surprise, I do not clear 10ft. It’s always liberating to start your day by scratching the first event.
Weight Over Bar
Next up was Weight Over Bar. Thowing the Open weight for WOB meant we were throwing 28lbs, instead of the 21lb weight I am used to. It doesn’t seem like much, but there is a big difference between 28lbs and 21lbs when you are trying to hurl it over your head.
I’ve never cleared 8ft with 28lbs, so I’m throwing for another PR. I get close on the last throw… so close and yet so far. It’s liberating to scratch your first event. It’s demoralizing to scratch your first two events.
Weight For Distance
Admittedly, I probably started off WFD with a bad attitude. There may have even been tears in my eyes. I had to check myself and remember, at least I am on the correct side of the fence today. I had the guts to sign up and show up today. I’m a competitor, not a spectator, dag gummit.
Heavy WFD – 28lbs- best throw 9′ 6″
Light WFD – 16lbs – best throw 17′ 9.5″
It was fun to watch the other competitors throw WFD. One of the ladies had an interesting wind-up where she circled the weight over her head to gain momentum before throwing. I’d never seen that kind of wind-up before, and it looks a little dangerous and insane. But she throws farther than me- it works for her!
I like hammer, but I’m not entirely sure why. Finally, when we get to Hammer I am throwing weights that I am used to throwing. The Masters Women’s hammers get broken so often in practice, sometimes there aren’t any others to practice with.
Heavy Hammer – 16lbs. – best throw 24’3″
Light Hammer – 12lbs. – best throw 33’6.5″
I ask myself… 33-6-and-a-half? That’s a pretty good throw for me. I check my previous results in my phone, and realize that 33-6-and-a-half is a new Hammer PR. A personal best! Suddenly it’s Hammer Time. It might be corny, but you know, sometimes you have to do whatever it takes.
I can see from the photo that I still have T-Rex arms. That would have gone farther if I could have straightened my arms. More stuff to work on.
First up after lunch was Braemar Stone then Open Stone. I am still trying to figure out a shuffling approach for Open stone. I tried it once, and it didn’t really help. I just end up Braemar throwing all my stones.
Braemar Stone – 13lbs – 12’7″
Open Stone- 9lbs – 14’2.5″
The winds had been pretty strong all weekend, and they didn’t let up when we were throwing Cabers. We were running up and down the field, with each athlete choosing whether they wanted to throw with the wind or into the wind. I chose to throw with the wind, even though it meant I’d be carrying the caber up a slight incline.
First we qualified on Toothpick, the smallest Women’s Caber. Toothpick is the first caber I ever threw, and I get a lot of chances to practice with that one. It’s only 10’4″ long and 28lbs. My first throw is a good throw for me, nice and solid, it turned over with a perfect 12:00 landing. That one felt good.
After everyone qualified on Toothpick, we moved up to Wee One. I haven’t seen Wee One in competition since my first game, when I was thrilled to have thrown a caber at all. I don’t actually know the length or the weight of Wee One, I will have to ask. It’s in the ballpark of 35-40lbs, I’m guessing, and it’s longer than Toothpick.
The winds made Wee One squirrley, and for one throw it was dancing around so much i had to dump it. For one throw, I struggled to keep control of the caber so much, that I just decided to throw it even though I didn’t have my hands in the correct position. That throw didn’t turn over, but I manage to score 35 degrees.
My final throw was my best throw for Wee One. I was able to pick it correctly and get my hands underneath it. I struggled with it briefly, but then it settled down and I was actually able to run with it. This is what it’s supposed to look like.
I was able to throw it, but it still didn’t go over. This time I score 45 degrees. I can see from the photo that I didn’t have enough lower body extension in the release. Oh well, next time.
It’s hard to recover from scratching two events. I came in last place overall, 5th out of 5 people in the class. There were medals for 1st thru 3rd place in all the events, and these ladies were getting handfuls of medals. One woman who had never competed before was quite amazing, and I hope to see her in practice. She is a natural. I won second place in Caber. That’s only one medal for me, but that’s much more than I expected.
I had a very rough week in the lead-up to these games. My divorce settlement meeting was four days prior to this competition. The meeting was rough, to put it kindly, and I was feeling beat up by the whole process. The games didn’t come at a good time in my life. I really needed to manage my expectations and remember that I was doing great just to show up and compete. I won second place in Caber. But I took first place in the Four-Days-Post-Crappy-Divorce-Settlement class.