The six events I had to compete in were as follows (weights were higher for the men):
1. Weight over bar. This is throwing a 28 lb weight over a bar that gets increasingly higher as each competitor clears the bar. Last competitor standing wins the event. (And by standing, I mean the last competitor to clear the bar when no one else has, not being the only one not suffering a head injury.)
|Svavar has clearly mastered this throw. 56 lbs approximately 17 feet in the air is no small feat.|
|Not stepping over the toe board is one of the hardest parts.|
3. Axle clean and press for reps. An axle is basically a thick bar, making it harder to grip and press overhead. The bar had to be cleaned from the ground and then pressed overhead as many times as one was able in a minute.
|Jim with a 200 lb axle, not easy at all.|
|Me practicing with homemade implements.|
|The men carried a lot more than 85 lbs. 175 and 200 lbs in each hand depending on the weight class.|
|The winner of my division, deadlifting 300 lbs like it was nothing.|
1. I am not that strong. Yes, I am stronger than the average woman, but that's because I train for it. In the grande scheme of female strength athletes, I'm not terribly impressive.
2. I am generally willing to make a fool of myself, but don't generally enjoy it.
3. I am incredibly accident prone and there is always a possibility of grievously injuring myself.
4. My children are excellent cheerleaders and are even more impressed when I lose my balance and fall down throwing a kettlebell on a chain. But, they wouldn't be at the competition with me.
Well, despite my misgivings, I went to Texas last weekend to compete. There was a practice session the night before and despite my confidence in my training, the first female competitor I met was a former figure competitor and despite the fact that she had just had a baby five months ago, was clearly much stronger than me and in very good shape. And then some more showed up. These women were impressive. Strong, fit, and obviously well suited for this competition.
|A great group of women and fellow competitors.|
|I'd like to think that Iceland flag socks give one super powers, but this gal was clearly a superior athlete.|
And then came the axle press. I was nervous about this one. It requires a lot of strength and cardiovascular conditioning to be able to throw a thick bar over your head as many times as possible. And everyone was watching. But then everyone was cheering. I had to rest a few times, but managed to eke out 28 reps before my minute was up and I had to drop the bar from exhaustion. "Good job!" I began to hear from the other ladies. We walked as a group over to the area where we were to throw light weight for distance.
|Sixty-five lbs is not actually that heavy, but multiple reps as fast as you can is pretty taxing. The winner of this event had a total of 50 reps in under a minute. Quite impressive.|
My friend Dave Van Skike, who had taught me how to throw, had told me why he liked Highland Games so much. It was because everyone was out there to have a good time and see that everyone else did as well. I didn't really get this at the time. But now it was becoming very clear. We weren't competing against each other as we were competing against the weights, the axle, whatever implement was the challenge at hand. Both in my division and the men's division the competitors were coaching one another and cheering each other on. If someone wasn't doing well because of their technique, corrections were offered and improvements were made. It began to seem more like a competition against the event itself and the competitors were all on one team.
|The Masters division. One of these guys decided to compete that morning at the urging of the other two.|
|Getting some speed.|
|And . . . down.|
|But back up again with a 205 deadlift.|
|In an epic battle for men's middle weight weight over bar, you couldn't tell who was competing and who was coaching.|
I've been to some competitions recently where I was really disappointed in the overall tone. Some participants were not only disrespectful of their fellow competitors, but were generally disrespectful of the competition and the judges. Profanity, temper tantrums, and a general lack of manners took away from other people's enjoyment of the meet. When I take my athletes to a meet of any kind, I expect them to support their fellow competitors, be respectful of the venue, and most of all, be respectful and polite to all of the officiators of the competition. To me, sports and competition are an opportunity to be the best at the game, not beating everyone else. Its a small distinction, but makes a huge difference in my mind. I believe that the ancient Greeks viewed the original Olympics as an opportunity to bring people together, not create divisions.
After wiping out numerous times during my first and only throwing lesson, my friend Dave told me very plainly that if I wanted to compete, I should do it. "Biggest thing, does not matter how you feel, just show up and compete and if you don't come home hoarse from spurring your competitors on, you're doing it wrong."
Truth is, I wanted to try a Highland Games or something similar, but was afraid of making a fool of myself. He told me that it takes a lot of guts to stop talking about competing, step outside your comfort zone, and actually compete and that, in and of itself, should be worth of a great deal of respect from one's fellow competitors. I believe this to be true in theory, but last Saturday, that respect was evident. It's clear to me now that I had a reason to have high standards for sportsmanship because it does, in fact, exist.
|A great group of folks and a great day of competition.|