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To increase awareness and involvement of women in the sport of the Highland Games. Promoting a fun, active, family friendly and competitive sport by providing information and resources to all those interested in joining us in our continuing adventures!

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Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Falls Fest Highlander, my first "power" meet!

The adventures continue for your Traveling Texan! Three years ago I got into the swing of this highland games thing, and last year I rediscovered my love of lifting heavy things for silliness and fun. What better way to combine those two simple joys than to take part in a NAHA Highlander event? Conveniently enough there is one right around the corner from my neck of the woods, Falls Fest Highlander in Wichita Falls. (http://www.fallsfest.org/)


Let us begin at the beginning: What is a Highlander Event? My understanding is that a highlander competition is a mix of highland games and strongman events, creating a new sport all its own. This was certainly the case for my first meet. The six events on the slate for the day were; weight over bar, braemar stone, axle press, light weight for distance, a farmer’s walk for time and max attempt deadlift. Scoring was done in the typical highland games style I am used to, 1 point for first, 2 points for second and so on, with the lowest score winning the day. With such varied events there is no such thing as traditional order, we ran in the order above. (http://www.nahighlander.com/)

Falls Fest is a very sports centric event, starting the day with a fun run, a charity run for Habitat for Humanity, a volleyball tournament, and the highlander competition. There was also a paintball area, Zumba classes, pony rides, live music, carnival games and good eats! Billed as a family festival, there was plenty for everyone to enjoy. The park itself is a lovely city park with plenty of shade and parking arranged in a side lot. While not directly off the highway there are a number of signs and volunteers to help guide you to the correct spot.
The Falls Fest Highlander was a first year completion at this well established festival, and was placed between the paintball and the main entrance, giving the group lots of exposure to passersby. Gant Grimes was our host, athletic director, MC and fellow competitor all rolled into one highly caffeinated package. As a first year show there are always glitches, but I have to say, if there were any they were minor and didn’t seem to affect performance for any of the competitors. Staggered start times allowed each of the groups to support the other groups, and in one case allowed a Dave Van Skike to compete in two groups (masters and middle weight) for the day! A DJ played an alternating mix of rough neck gym tunes and Celtic music all day, keeping the crowd and those lifting energized. Four groups were contested, with a total of 18 highlanders giving all six events their utmost. 
The six ladies in the women’s class showcased all ages, experience levels and athletic backgrounds to really give the crowd a group to get behind and cheer for.  One heck of a group of ladies to explore my first meet with, strength coaches, cross fitters, strength athletes etc. 

We started the day with weight over bar, and began at a nice low range for those that have never had the chance to compete in this event before. Waiting to come in until 11 feet seemed to serve me well, as I finally managed to clear both 13 feet and 13’6! Starting the day with a personal best and a first in an event is always a rush. From there we went on to another familiar event for your Texas girl, braemar stone. A nice heavy stone added difficulty to this event, technique played a big factor in our distances. Strong man events for the day began with a 65lbs total weight axle press for max reps in a minute. Sarah Kim won this event with a fantastic set of 50 reps in under 60 seconds! It is likely Gant will up the weight on this for next year, with numbers like those it was more of a cardio event than a strength event.
After a brief breather we continued on to Light Weight for Distance, where experience came to bare for your girl once more. As soon as these ladies get a few more tosses under their belts I will be in big trouble! The Farmers Walk for speed was a tight race with just 2 seconds between first and sixth place. With 85lbs in each hand we had to run a course of 120 feet, there and back. For certain this is an area for improvement for me, as I came in 5th with a run of 17.48 seconds. Lilja, the Icelandic pixie, took an authorities first place with 16.21 seconds. Her son’s middle name is Thor for a reason folks!

The final event of the day is the one we were all waiting for, dead lift. Each entrant gets three attempts to reach maximum weight. I was grateful to have so many experienced lifters and coaches to help me figure out where to start and what constituted a completed lift. In a power lifting meet you begin at the lowest weight and work up from there, with other competitors joining in as the weight reaches their desired level. First round was a make sure you get a mark kind of round, everyone pulled their mark easily. I started with 225, ensuring that I had a completed lift and a score for the event. For the second round we all got a little louder, both as we lifted and cheering for those on the platform (side note, lifters are LOUD when they cheer and cat call one another). A lift of 245 put me in the middle of the pack. After this lift several folks encouraged me to really go big on the last lift based on the speed of my previous lifts. Hearing the other women call their final attempts I was nervous to put in my bid for 275 as it was higher than any other mark on the board. Seeing Carmen, Julie and Sarah Kim all easily finish their pulls of 260-265 was highly exciting and energizing. While waiting for the rest of my cohort to get their lifts in I received what had to be the most Zen like advice of the day from Sarah Fleming, “Even if it takes three seconds to get it off the ground, don’t stop lifting.” My third pull, 275lbs, flew up so fast and easy that I had to ask for one more at 300lbs. Gant and Matt both agreed, and gave me a few minutes to get my wind back. Gant worked the crowd up over the mic while I sucked in some air and notched up my belt. Final pull of the women’s class for the inaugural Highlander at Falls Fest, biggest lift by over 60lbs for me on deadlift, waiting for Matt’s nod that the lift was good seemed to take days, but nod he did and the lift was mine! Click the link to see it - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Py8axuuEXnU
Ladies and gents, let me just say if you ever get the chance to try a Highlander, give it a shot. Fun was decidedly had by all, big lifts all day and better still, lots of encouragement and camaraderie with a dedicated and interesting group of folks. I am better for having tried it, and will be back next year.

1 comment:

  1. Wow! You're mightiness never ceases to amazing. You're awesome.