2012 Highland Games: Santa Fe

I started writing this post months ago, but never finished it. If you want to know why I wasn’t posting, read this. The Santa Fe Highland Games took place on Sept 22, 2012.

I competed in my second Highland Games last week. I’ve been wanting to write about it, but I haven’t quite figured out exactly I wanted to say about it. When I think about this games, I don’t think so much about how far I threw. I think about things that people said.

My first experience with the Highland Games was someplace far enough away from home that I could try this sport in relative anonymity. I think that was good. This time, since the games were near home, people who know me had an opportunity to come out and see what I’ve gotten myself into.

The things that most people said were kind and highly supportive. A couple of people said things that were so backhanded and thoughtless that it made me wonder if they were trying to be supportive at all. I guess when you take a risk at anything, people are going to have opinions about it.

Here’s what I need to remember. It’s really easy for people to have an opinion about what I could or should be doing when they are sitting in the stands. I’m out here doing it, and they are not. If you don’t think I’m doing my best, at least have the balls to put on a kilt and get out here and throw. Then maybe I’ll have more respect for what you have to say.

With that out of the way, here’s my Santa Fe Games report.

Masters Women group photo

Competitors in the Women’s Masters Class demonstrate single-leg balance. We still got it!

One of the rules for the Highland Games is that competitors are required to wear a kilt. For my first Games I borrowed a kilt, but I got my own new kilt for this competition. I had been pretty nervous about buying a kilt, partly because they are not cheap, and partly because I wasn’t sure how it was going to fit. Even though I measured very carefully when placing my order, I was still nervous it wouldn’t fit. When it arrived, I was actually surprised when I tried it on and it fit me nicely. Woot! I own a kilt! 

If you want a kilt of your very own, I you can’t go wrong with SportKilt.


Heavy (16 lbs.) 19’6″

Throwing the heavy hammer

Spinning the heavy hammer. I gotta lose those bendy T-Rex arms.

The layout of the field allowed us to throw only the heavy hammer. We didn’t have enough space to throw the light hammer (unless we wanted to wade into the river to retrieve it between every throw). In the Women’s Masters class, the heavy hammer is 16 pounds.

When I first learned hammer, I was just flinging it like a golf swing. Now I have learned how to so the spinny-over-the-head thing. I also got some gloves. Gloves helped me keep a better grip on the hammer. I really have to work on more core rotation, and keeping my arms straight. There’s something about hammer that I like- I can’t quite put my finger on what it is that’s so intriguing about it just yet. I need to practice a lot more- more practice than I can get just going to the one group meeting we have each week. I’ve decided to make my own hammers so that I can practice this at home.

12lbs, 8 ft.

Sheaf Toss

Achieving fork separation on the sheaf toss

I think sheaf is becoming one of my least favorite events. At some level, I just don’t get it. My head knows what I’m supposed to do, but getting my body to cooperate is something else entirely. I got some coaching about sheaf at a previous group practice, but I didn’t seem to be able to put it all together.

The first time I tried to throw the sheaf, the bag didn’t even come off he fork. It turns out that we mis-measured the bar height, and I was actually attempting to clear 9 feet, when I thought I was attempting to clear 8 feet. I didn’t clear 9 feet, but the judge gave me a corrected score of 8 feet.



Weight for Distance
Light (12 lbs) 15’6″
Heavy (16 lbs) 11’10”

Throwing weight for distance

Throwing weight for distance

Weight for Distance is the only event that I didn’t improve my score over the score I got at my first games. At the first games I learned how to throw WFD by just standing at the trig and swinging the weight back and forth before letting it go. At practice I started to learn the spinning approach. You start with one foot in the box, and make one or two 360-degree spins to get the momentum going before you release the weight. It’s a little tricky. The guys at practice reminded me that every time you learn a new technique, you throw shorter until you can master the new style. I threw about a foot shorter using the new approach.

I’ve got a lot of room for improvement on this one. The spinning approach is making me light-headed and slightly dizzy. There’s no way that the body is going to commit to throwing with a lot of momentum when it’s trying to shut down from the spinning. I got an insight into this problem during training this week. One of the compensations I’m making is to shuffle my feet in a little circle, and this results in taking a lot of extra steps. My trainer helped me understand how a lack of hip opening and rotation in the hips would contribute to this problem. More hip openers for me!

Scratch- no score 

Holding the caber

Having a friendly discussion with the caber named Tink



Tossing the caber

Caber toss fail








Caber was the first event after lunch. The Games provided us with lunch tickets to use at the vendors, but with my food intolerance issues, I can’t plan on eating what they serve at any Games. I brought my own food and was planning to eat a light lunch. But when we found out that caber was the first event after lunch, I felt certain that I didn’t want to throw caber on a full stomach. There’s no vomiting in caber! I ate an even lighter lunch than what I had planned. (This would come back to bite me later.)

I was feeling pretty nervous about facing the caber again. I wasn’t able to make it to practice on the day when they had the cabers out- so this was literally the second time I’ve ever touched a caber. The other ladies, who have years more experience with the caber, make it look easy. But trust me, it’s not easy.

This time we had to throw a caber named Tink to qualify. Everyone who turned Tink would move on to the larger cabers for scoring. Tink is 11’3″ and 30 lbs. It’s about only about 2 pounds heavier than the caber named Toothpick that I was able to turn at my first games- but Tink is almost a full foot longer than Toothpick. I was nervous. It was hot. People I knew were watching me. After three tries, I did not turn Tink. The photo of my release tells me everything I need to know about why I did not turn Tink. Look at the photo- There’s just no lower body involvement in that throw.

Weight Over Bar
21lbs, 9 ft.

Throwing Weight Over Bar

Clearing 9 feet on Weight Over Bar

The field was set up so that the Weight Over Bar (WOB) event took place right in front of the stands for the spectators. The Women’s Masters class threw Caber and WOB right after lunch, so we had a big audience. For WOB, the competitors can decline to come into the rotation until the bar is at their preferred starting height. Since two of us are clearing heights much lower than some of the other women, it was just one other lady and me throwing at the lower bar heights.

I cleared 8 feet right away. It took me two attempts to clear 9 feet. I made three attempts at 10 feet, but I didn’t clear it. My photos showed me that I’m releasing the weight waaaay too early. After both of us washed out at 10 feet, they raised the bar and the real show started.

One of the competitors at this games is ranked 3rd in the U.S. for WOB. She is a contender for the World Record in this event. She is also my friend, and I have at least some appreciation for how hard she has worked to get where she is. She can throw WOB over 18 feet. The people raising the bar actually mis-measured how high they set the bar, and she nearly threw 19 feet in this competition. Officially she cleared 18 1/2 feet, which is amazing. The crowd was in awe. She emits an amazing burst of ballistic lower body explosiveness when she throws. I tell her all the time that she’s a Beast.

Stone Put
Braemar Stone (17lb.) 11’8″
Open Stone (12lb.) 13’2″

stone put

Catching some air for the open stone

Braemar stone requires a standing throw, but you’re permitted to do a stepping or spinning approach to the trig for Open stone. So far I am just doing the standing throw for both.

The field was very dusty, and we needed to wipe down the stone after ever throw. I didn’t bother to wipe down the heavy stone for one throw, and it just slid off the ends of my fingers when I threw it. Dusty stones are not kind to bare fingers.

When practicing for the stone put, I had been working on getting low for a wind-up, and to finish with an explosive extension. I need to squat down more to coil the spring in the throwing leg, then power through and twist, with a little jump to launch the stone into the air. I was able to catch some air on the throws with the lighter stone. I improved my score by over a foot on the open stone. I love that little 12 pound stone. I’m going to need to go on a stone quest to find my own practice stones. A hike near the river should do it.

At the end of the day, I was exhausted, hot, dusty, and hungry.  I tend to get overheated very easily, and I have a lot of experience with it- but I tend to get so red in the face that I scare people. I sat down in the shade and drank plenty of water, but my red face ended up scaring people again. They got me some ice, and I was putting an ice pack on the back of my neck and my head. By the time I started to cool down, it had been too long since I was able to eat anything, and I started feeling nauseated. A little heat exhaustion, a little dehydration, and too little food all added up to one headachey girl. After the events were over, some of the other competitors broke out the cigars. The smell almost made me hurl. The event organizers treated us to a barbecue cookout after the competition was over. I was able to eat some dinner, but I felt bad and I needed to leave early.

At home, peeling off my stinky sweaty and filthy clothes was almost the funniest part of the day. When took off my shoes, there was mud caked on the insides of my shoes. The field was super-dusty and all of our shoes picked up dirt during the day. When I sweated through my kilt hose, I turned the dust in my shoes into mud. After banging the caked mud out of my shoes, I peeled off my kilt hose. Mud was caked between my toes. This dirty girl hit the shower, and went to bed early.

In the end, were any dragons slayed? Honestly, I have no idea. I felt so bad about what a few people said about watching my performance. That makes me think, yeah, the dragons did get in my head for a while. During our lunch break, I sent my son into the Renaissance Faire to get me a cute little crocheted stuffed animal dragon that I wanted. Maybe for now I can be friends with a cute little cuddly dragon, and live to fight the big bad ones another day.

Aww, he’s too cute to be dangerous.

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