Saturday, September 22, 2007

Training with the Big Boys

Today, I hooked up with some of the guys who competed in the Virginia Scottish Games. They invited me to come down to Vienna to begin training with them, and I must say, I was more than a little nervous. But the guys were really friendly, and they were really patient to teach me some of these Highland athletic techniques.

Generally, I always thought Highland athletics looked very easy. They don't look like they require a lot of coordination and speed, only power. Boy was I wrong! They require TONS of coordination and speed, PLUS power! It's exactly like golf, in that your hip placement, foot placement, hand placement, back placement, coordination of all of these, and your nimbleness all have to come together in perfect alignment, with great speed, to strike the ball. Except in this case, imagine that the ball weighs 40 pounds. Oh yeah. And each of the seven events is totally different from the others in every way possible.

Today, I could only practice for about three hours before I had to leave for Luke's soccer game. Thank God for Luke, or I'd be dead now. I am SO FREAKING SORE! Charles, one of the athletes, told me that after his first day of training--a training which usually lasts five hours--he couldn't move and slept all the next day except for one break where he got up to eat, and then went back to bed.

What makes it hard is that the power required is so explosive. For example, when throwing the weight, you must also be jumping onto the balls of your feet and thrusting your hips out to get a good throw. It's not just throwing with your arm, but with your entire body, from toes to neck.

I'm not sure if I'm going to be very good at this, but it was REALLY fun to practice with the guys today. I only tried three events in the short time I had: the sheaf toss, the shot put, and the weight toss. I have a great looking throw for the weight toss, but only when I have absolutely no weight in my hands. I guess I was made to be a ballerina--the spinning is all fine, but I can't get the darned weight up high enough!

The guys took some video, so if I can get my hands on it, I will post it. But for now, here are the guys I practiced with... the pictures are courtesy of Mike at the Virginia Scottish Games.

Charles, who was very helpful with instruction on the finer points of technique.

Bryan, who was famously written up in the Post, and has been a National champion. He was very kind to show me some weight lifting routines to improve my throwing abilities.

Jeff, who invited me to train with the guys in the first place. Jeff is the baby of the group... only in his 20's. Oh, yeah. That's me over there on the left taking pictures.

And Mike, who had some really amazing throws of the weight. It was a real pleasure to watch him throw!

Finally, as I combed through the 364 photos taken at the games, I found this one of the family as I was talking to Bryan. Most excellent!

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