Monday, August 01, 2022

Highland Games Training

I recently had the opportunity to practice Highland Games events in Arvada.  My daughter was recently invited to the Colorado Scottish Festival being held in Edgewater, CO.  To my surprise, they will include Scottish Athletics.  Even more surprising was finding the Rocky Mountain Scottish Athletes who train all summer in different venues and compete in over a dozen Colorado events as well as National and International events.

Wayne has been hosting practice sessions in Robby Ferrufino Park in Arvada (which was literally a 5 minute drive from our old house) for the last 20 years.  He is not only holds world records, but he has also trained world record holders.

When I arrived on Sunday, I was at first a little confused as to where to go and whether training was even happening.  The group turned out to be tucked away at the west end of the park where Wayne and Sam were unloading equipment.  By the time we got rolling, there ended up being 6 of us along with Wayne and Sam.  Shannon, Jonathan, another gal and myself were first timers.  Joe and another gentleman have been competing for a while.  Brian, Wayne's son, dropped in and he is a Super 8 class athlete.

The events at the Colorado Scottish Festival include:
  • The Clachneart or "Stone" - We started with Braemar (no approach) throws with a stone kind of like a shot put.  20-26 pounds for men and 13-18 pounds for women.  Then we did Open Stone which allows a run up with the shuffle or spin approach.  16-22 pounds for men and 8-12 pounds for women.
  • The 28 and 56 Pound Throw - This was literally a weight on a ring that we tossed out into a field.  This is done with a run up as well.  Either light 28 for men and 14 for women or heavy 56 for men, 42 for masters men and 28 for women.
  • The Hammer - The hammer was a blob weight at the end of schedule 80 PVC.  Feet remain planted and you spin it a few times and chuck it over your shoulder.  16 or 22 for men or 12 or 16 for women.
  • The 56 Pound Weight Toss - An event for height.  Basically a similar weight to the through, but without the chain and you toss it over your head and over the standard bar.
  • The Sheaf Toss - Tossing a burlap sack over the standard bar with a pitchfork.  20 for men and 10 for women.
  • The Caber Toss - In my opinion the coolest event.  Basically pick up a tree trunk, step forward and try to toss it end over end for accuracy.  The one we used was about 6 inches in diameter 15 feet long and weighed around 60 pounds.
We practice them all in that order.  Wayne had a bunch of stones, weights that were blobs with a bolt welded on and handles.  He had a 30 foot homemade standard.  Pitchfork and sheafs of 10, 14 and 20 pound weights.  Finally, he had 3 cabers with him.

I got there at 9 AM and by the time we got the standards up and everybody situated, it was nearly 10 AM.  We ended up practicing until nearly 3 PM and then it took some time to break down the standards and load the implements in his truck.  I did not bring enough water, I should have packed snacks (or a lunch) and I should have brought a chair.

Experienced individuals had special shoes for spinning, cleats for field events and work boots with a steel spike coming out the front.  They wore work gloves for several of the throwing events and used tacky for the hammer throw and caber toss.  They also had chalk for the stones.

Overall, it was a lot of fun and I definitely see the attraction of competing in relatively simple (but not easy) events with a rich history and like minded people.  By like minded, basically people who have or appreciate Scottish heritage.  It is also cheap to practice the events.  Stones are found in nature, the weights and hammers can be purchased for around $200 and $125 each respectively.  A pitchfork can be found at antique stores and a caber could be found in nature.

I will be on the lookout for a couple of right sized stones around between 15 and 22 pounds to play with.  Next would be a couple of weights starting with 28 pounds ($149) and then 42 ($179) and 56 pounds ($199).  Finally, I would get a 16 pound hammer.  I will not be building a standard, training sheaf, but a practice caber could be cool.  If I show up for practice some more and enjoy it, who knows, I might even learn to weld and make a couple of implements.

Round handle $25 and D Handle $28 if I want to make my own implements.  These are 7" wide and 5/8" thick.  Could start with concrete in a coffee can or half dumbbell head with shackle welded on.

The internet being the rathole that it is helped me discover a welding class 20 minutes from my house for $100 and there is even the Denver Tool Library that I could have access to for a small yearly fee.

“If you’re not athletic enough to throw something out of your hands and not get killed by it, maybe this isn’t the sport for you,” he says. “That’s the minimum requirement.”  Matt Vincent in regards to the Caber Toss.

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