I have been contemplating how to summarize my season and bring it to a close. Perhaps I’m nostalgic or just plain sappy, but as I close out my 11th year in the sport, I’m realizing more and more how blessed and fortunate I am to be able to do this. The people I’ve met, the friends I’ve made, the places I’ve been, the crowds I’ve competed in front of, the athletes I’ve gone head to head with … it has been amazing. Many may not know, but being a professional Highland Games thrower has afforded my family a blessed life. I don’t live in riches, so please don’t think I make a lot of money; I drive a 13 year old truck, wear my shoes out, buy clothes from JC Penney, and spend most of my earnings on groceries and essentials, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. You see, I make extra money in this sport, and have done so since 2007. My wife can stay home with our five sons as I do this instead of her working or me working a second job at a local hardware store or delivering pizzas. It’s been this way for years, as my wife and I always wanted her to be at home for them. This means my games earnings go for super fun stuff like replacing broken appliances, dentist appointments, car repairs, school shopping, and other grown-up stuff. And frankly, I know I’m blessed.
But, this article isn’t about me being sappy, the pride I have for my family, or how thankful I am for a supportive wife and family, although those are all a huge aspect of my competition. This article is about the nuts and bolts of my training, programming, throwing, scheduling and the like. For some of you, this is when you’ll click on the little “close window” box. Others, I welcome you as you’ve skimmed over the first paragraph to get to this.
I covered my training and programming following IHGF Worlds in Bressuire, France, so I won’t bore you with a summary of that first part of the season. If you’re interested in that, you’ll find it on my website.
In the weeks following France, I turned my attention to peaking for the World Heavy Events Championship (Webster Cup) in Pleasanton, California on September 5th and 6th. Now, this schedule was easy on the programming side, as I had 12 weeks to line out a strength block and how it would coincide with a speed block. The hard part, for me, was that I’d have two competitions between that time to train through. As an athlete, it’s a hard perspective to take; knowing you won’t be at your best for a certain competition as you focus on the ones after that. It’s much easier when you have a coach telling you what to do and reassuring you of the decision, but when you’re a self-trained and instructed athlete, you have to be both coach and athlete. I’m so thankful I had a few people (you know who you are, and I thank you) who reminded me of my season goals as I trained hard through some of my favorite and biggest competitions, in pursuit of my third undisputed world championship and fifth national championship.
This season I reduced my usual load of 11 to 18 games down to seven. Overall it was the strongest “late season push” I’ve ever had, and it helped me greatly. My mind was also much fresher than in previous years. As I’ve described in the past, I don’t have the athletic prowess of many of my competitors, so I have to mentally dig deep for every competition, event and throw if I want to be competitive. I cannot coast through a competition and expect to be successful. With that comes a heavy toll on my mental While it was tough to minimize my competition volume this year, I was thankful I did.
I finished first in six of my seven contests this year, winning the IHGF World Championship, World Heavy Events Championship and the US National Championship (Celtic Classic). Below were my season bests, with an asterik noting a personal record (PR).
Braemar Stone: 43’5.75”
Open Stone: 54’7”
Heavy Weight for Distance: 47’9”*
Light Weight for Distance: 89’10”
Heavy Hammer: 125’9”
Light Hammer: 149’4”
Weight Over Bar: 17’
What’s odd is that, while I only had a single three inch PR, both my weight throws and hammer throws where games PRs or field records of places I’ve been throwing at for years (seven years worth for all of them but France). I set new field records at Detroit (heavy hammer, 122’10”), Loon Mountain (heavy hammer, 125’9”), and Celtic Classic (122’4”). All time games bests at Portland, Detroit, Pleasanton, Estes Park, Loon Mountain, and Celtic Classic.
The change I instilled this season, in addition to training through a few games, was a velocity based speed block (one before IHGF Worlds and one during the World Heavy Events and Celtic Classic run) using the Tendo Power and Speed Analyzer. I won’t go in-depth here on my speeds, block timing and structure, as a Case Study for the NSCA is in the works! Plus, that gets super nerdy and most don’t want to read about it.
All in all, I couldn’t have asked for a better season. From more family time to being stronger later in the season to speed work to traveling to France, it was an amazing journey. Thank you to all who have followed me, cheered for me, supported me, and mostly importantly, prayed for me as I compete.