Talent Transfer and the 10,000 Hour Rule (1,2)

It is popular to believe it takes about 10,000 hours to become an elite athlete in most sports. There are exceptions, that seem to have clear explanations. Those exceptions are few and far between. Furthermore, a close examination of those exceptions reveals some associated phenotype or uniqueness to an endeavor that complimented the sport. Essentially, those exceptions are based on talent transfer.

For example, in the UK, female athletes were selected to train for rowing based on height and weight regardless of having ever rowed. Rowers are ideally shaped if the are tall and light. Their height gives them leverage on the oars. Being light is a speed benefit while in the boat. In rowing, physical size plays a major roll.

The UK placed ads in the press seeking female athletes of a certain height. Those meeting the requirements were physiologically tested for sports performance. From there a group passing the grade were trained as rowers. It worked and the UK earned a gold medal during the Olympics by a pair of rowers with relatively few years (4*) of training and experience. (*Helen Glover, 2012 Gold Medalist – Olympics)1

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Helen Glover with her Gold Medal (photo from Wikipedia)

Helen Glover, the Gold Medalist, had no experience rowing just 48 months prior to winning Gold. She was, however, already an accomplished athlete at the country level playing field hockey on a second-tier English national team.2 UK Sports, following a search based on specific phenotype criteria and testing, transferred Glover’s physical talent to rowing.

Years of practice aren’t the same as quality of practice. Each of your practice sessions needs a design and a goal. Every competition should have plan for the engagement. After shooting, practice and competition, it’s good to log notes that include range, type of competition, score, what went well and what did not go as planned. This will aid you in creating  training sessions.

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Participating in a charity event for the Special Olympics wearing my Team USA gear (made the team for the long course duathlon World Championship in 2007 – seems like yesterday)

I reviewed data one of the top archers in the world. He first picked up a bow at 12 then put it down until he was 18. Nineteen years later, and by my estimate 12,950 hours of practice he quit his day job to shoot full time. Note: he was approximately 2,950 hours beyond the 10,000-hour mark some suggest is needed to reach an elite level.

Most working people easily fit in 400 hours of training a year. Some do more, other less. Top amateurs practice, by my estimation, 750 hours per year. The bulk of that training is on the weekend. The fellows I shoot with, as gathered through causal conversation, have an average of 25 years shooting experience and are at the 10,000-hour mark regarding practice time. (Based on 400 hours of training per year.) They’re a tough bunch to shoot against.

Of the folks I shoot with and compete against, none is at a professional level that allows them to earn a living exclusively from archery.  Yes, they all seem to have passed the 10,000 mark to have reached an elite level.  Many of them are elite archers.  Several have been world champions a few of them more than once.

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For certain I’ve got well over 10,000 hours of training on a bike.

10,000 hours (or sometimes equated to 10 years of training) is a long time.  Many archers, in fact, have 10,000 or more of practice.  Obviously, not all them or even most of them are elite archers.  To muddy this a bit more, there are archers competing in all types of archery event at the elite level with far fewer hours of practice than 10,000.

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How much training can I transfer to archery or is it good enough to simply look this cool (Yes, I know this isn’t cool. Once a geek, always a geek)

The difference may be the talent transfer.  An athlete that was good or pretty good in one sport can occasionally excel in another. Glover is just one example. There’s another matter, that of deliberate or highly focused training.

An archer that goes to the range, shoots 20 to 30 arrows without a plan isn’t accomplishing much. If that effort takes an hour, the practice is done four times during the weekdays and that training augmented by another four hours on the weekend, it comes to 10,000 hours (allowing for holidays) after 25-years of practice.  You might imagine, that archer, while pretty good, and regardless of having achieved the 10,000 hour mark, is in most likelihood not an elite archer.

Then, in archery there is Crystal Gauvin who, after one year of archery experience, dropped everything to turn professional.  Something I consider important is that she had been a serious athlete prior to finding her place in archery – talent transfer and way less than 10,000 of archer practice.

It doesn’t take 10,000 of practice for everyone to reach an elite level.  It does take practice.  Archers with 10,000 or more hours of practice may never reach the elite level. The practice isn’t enough without specific practice goals.  Individuals that do succeed in archery by what appears to be a fast-track, are often those that switched or transferred athletic talent into archery.

Reference:

  • https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Helen_Glover_(rower)
  • McClusky: Faster, Higher Stronger: The New Science of Creating Superathletes, and How You Can Train Like Them. Chapter 5, The Fast Track to Greatness, Talent Transfer and the 10,000 Hours Rule, pp 78-81 PLUME NY, NY 2015

It Takes Practice

A level four-archery coach said to me, “Archery is all mental.” Granted, in archery as other sports the brain controls athletic performance to a large degree. Chess is all mental except for the sitting and moving of pieces. Chess can be exhausting, nearly as tiring as the physical exertion of some similarly timed sports events. I was on a chess team in college. Some practices and matches left me drained. Chess isn’t a physical activity – archery is a physical activity. Both require mental efforts, both can be exhausting.

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While archery isn’t all that physically demanding compared to other sports, like: running, swimming, and cycling –  archery is a sport where practice and fitness are paramount. In chess physical fitness isn’t much of a factor. Chess and archery take thousands of hours of practice to reach an elite level. Even so, not all make it to the elite level.

Archery is to a large degree mental. So is doing a full distance Ironman, a marathon, or any other sport. But, don’t fool yourself; a mental attitude alone isn’t going to have you running 6-minute miles for 26.2 miles after cycling 112 miles and swimming 2.4 miles. You have to train to get there.  Neither will mental focus have you shooting perfect scores if you are practicing two to three hours a week.

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Becoming great in any sport takes time. It takes a lot of practice. With practice comes skill and confidence. There’s a point when some reach a level where mental focus takes control – not before form and skill are developed.

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While I appreciated the coach’s unsolicited remark and I think I got the gest of it, I didn’t agree 100% with him. Sure, the mind controls, but the body responds. If the body’s form is off and skill has not been developed and there’s a goal of a perfect score – well that’s just mental fantasy.

Down East Archery Coalition Gets Their Shoot in Elizabeth City

Finally, the 3D range for member club, Soul Hunters, of the Down East Archery Coalitions gets their tournament. It’s not their first and they’ve held others. But, the last two had to be cancel due to the weather – the rain.

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The postponing rain wasn’t light and had been bad enough to pretty much ensure somebody was going to get his or her truck or car stuck in the range’s parking area. Hey, what can you do – cancel, it’s the safest course.

The Soul Hunters, located in Elizabeth City, are the newest members of the Coalition, which includes clubs from: Kinston, Greenville, Ernul, Jacksonville, Plymouth, and Washington (all in North Carolina).

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I felt bad for the Soul Hunters after their cancelations. I was pleased that I’d gotten back to Hertford, following my 22-day camping/archery road trip, to come out and support the local group.

On top of everything else, the club’s 3D range had recently moved to this new location with the potentially boggy parking lot. So, a bonus was getting to shoot at the new 3D course.

Their new range is tough. It’s also well manicured and it’s easy to walk around between targets. The course is thickly forested and dark making black animals an even harder target to properly hit. To complicate the shooting, at least from my stakes, the Soul Hunters proudly used all their real estate.

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It appears long, but was really only around 40 yards.

Long shots through narrow dark lanes can be a challenge.

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There’s a badger at the end of this lane.
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One tough critter to see in the dark

It was good to see so many of the archers that had to make a longer drive to get to Elizabeth City competing. Some competitors drove nearly two hours away to shoot in EC. Others may have driven further, but I can’t say.

It’s a quick drive for me and I was on the range right at 10:00 AM. I was teamed up with Steve, from Winfall, North Carolina, and a friend of his, Bart, who was visiting from West Virginia.

Bart, a mountain man, was impressed with the flatness of the coast. The terrain change, from his hilly ranges, played a trick or two on him and he did end up over shooting one target. He wasn’t alone – a number of folks mentioned to me they’d over shot targets.

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Another difficult shot at only 36 yards

To be fair, flat courses are not necessarily easy especially when actually seeing the target is a challenge. Covered by thick foliage sitting along narrow lanes make some targets those shot with extra hope.

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Yep, hard to see

Despite the current heat wave, 115°F with the heat index for this tournament, there was a large crowd of archers at the event. Along the course where numerous water stations and people weren’t passing them without taking free hydration. The water was a nice supplement to the bottle of Tri-Fuel I carried. Overall, a very successful day on a wonderful new range.

Random Numbers 3D

Judging yardage expertly is a weak point for me. Shooting at a dot on a piece of paper over a known distance, like a lot of folks, is easier than shooting at various sized animals over unknown distances. So, I am working on judging yardage.

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Judging yardage is easy – here’s the math

This isn’t a new exercise for me. I have several yardage training plans. The one on queue for today was a random numbers exercise.

What I do is apply a random numbers generator to provide 20 values. These were selected within a boundary of 20 to 45 yards, inclusive. From that 20 values were generated and those become the distances. The value is then applied sequentially beginning at 3D target number one.

On the range there are 10 foam animals: a bear, coyote, badger, turkey, two deer, bobcat, pig, mosquito, and a mountain lion. The pig can be shot from three distinct angles, each one offering a new view. The turkey can be shot from the front or the side. The side shot on the turkey is the more difficult thanks to obstacles and trees. The mountain lion has two views both challenging and can be shot out to 48 yards. The two deer are positioned so that ambient light varies and they can be hot out to 65 yards, one out to 100 yards if I desired to chance a lost arrow.

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This lane allows for a very long shot

For this exercise I approached each target in sequence and stopped when I reached the randomly generated distance. No range finder was employed to verify. From that position I aimed and took the shot.

The distances averaged 30.3 yards with a minimum distance of 20 yards and a maximum of 43. Today’s exercise resulted in a slightly higher score than yesterday morning’s test. This may be attributed to a slightly, 3 yards, closer average distance to the target.

Judging yardage is a weakness for me. To improve I look a practice design than makes me focus on yardage. This was a pretty good exercise. I’ll repeat this method this afternoon and narrow the values generated to 30 through 50.

Shooting Cold

Getting a warm-up before a tournament is possible most of the time. There are those events where the warm-up might happen an hour or more before actual scoring begins. There are, although rare, competitions where getting properly warmed-up simply does not happen.

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I’ll take this a 32-yards any day

At the IBO World Championship there are two qualifying rounds before the final 10 shots taken by the top finishers. At the two IBO World Championships I’ve entered warm-up time was pushed, targets were crowded, and the 3D practice (Defense ranges) ranges were backed up and extremely slow.

This morning I decided to take a 20 target 3D practice round with no warm-up shots. The targets would be approached tournament style – no range finder. What I wanted was to establish a baseline of how I might shoot without a warm-up and at difficult targets.

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First shot of the day was okay right and left, but a tad high

I tried to make the shots as competitively realistic as I could imagine. One thing I can’t control, the weather, may have been a bit unrealistic for Seven Springs, Pennsylvania, where the IBO contest will be held this year. Here, in New Hope, North Carolina this morning, the temperature was 103°F with the heat index. Hot and humid to say the least.

My score was not great. The maximum I shot in this practice was 47 yards with a range from 20 yards (one shot at a small bobcat) out to 47 yards. The average distance was 35.6 yards with nine shots greater than the average, 37 to 47 yards.

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A short shot at 27 yards

My sad score was 173 or 8.65 points per target. Comparing that score to the field of archers from the 2015 IBO World Championship I would have finished 42nd. The winner in 2015 averaged 10.5 points per target.

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However, that 27 yard turkey was placed about right to make the shot a challenge

When I compared the first 10 shots to the second 10 it seems that a warm-up helps. The first 10 arrows yielded a score of 8 points per target at an average distance of 33.4 yards. The second ten arrows resulted in an average of 9.3 points per target at an average distance of 37.8 yards. Interestingly, the second set of arrows, targets 11 – 20, had a score that would have jumped me from 42nd place in 2015 to 22nd place.

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The shadows at 47 years are a real burden

This exercise tells that in my case I shot better after I’d warmed-up a bit. In 3D, it seems to me, there are two warm-up requirements, one for archery form the other for distance judging. In the worst case, a tournament without any chance to warm-up, it’s likely good practice to develop enough skill so that shooting cold can be done well.

Diverted to the NC ASA State Championships

The Sage Creek Archery Club was the host of the 2016 North Carolina ASA State Championship. I’d planned on skipping this event. Plans changed and we headed north from Georgia rather that south toward Alabama.

The original plan called for a trip from North Carolina, to Georgia, then Alabama where I’d shoot in Georgia and then at the USA Outdoor Nationals in Decatur, Alabama. The one-day, 72-arrow contest in Madison, Georgia was enough to divert my drive back north.

On this adventure, 22 days in total, Brenda, our two dogs and I were stopping along the way at campsites making use of our Winnebago. The Madison, Georgia tournament was a warm-up for the Nationals. The problem arose after the event in Georgia. It was a matter of timing.

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Not a bad place to wait – but not to wait all day

The one-day 72-arrow tournament took 7.5 hours to finish. This was too long to expect Brenda to stay at a campground, in Decatur. The 7.5 hours did not include travel time (to and from the Winnebago to the competition). If the Nationals were going to have any resemblance of the Georgia shoot it was going to need to wait until 2017. In 2017, Brenda said, she would not come on the trip. I could hardly blame her.

I’ve competed in some long sports events, but 7.5 hours for 72 arrows? Heck, I can nearly complete an Ironman in that much time, certainly less time is needed for a 70.3 Ironman. When I consider I can swim 2.4 miles, complete a 112 mile bike ride, and be running a marathon (running it not finished with it) in less time than shooting 72 arrows – well time to change the agenda. The agenda change was to head north to Mt. Airy, North Carolina and shoot in the ASA State Championship.

Prior to that change I had not looked at a foam animal in weeks. Still, lack of preparation has newer been an issue for me. I’d go do my best and be thankful I had an alternative to the Outdoor Nationals.

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You can take it to the bank – this guy is showing up at a 3D shoot.

At Mt. Airy the range amazed me. Sage Creek is a very difficult but not unreasonable course. It seemed each target was thoughtfully arranged to make shots a challenge, yet they were shots that seemed realistic.

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Large crowds for all start times at the NC ASA State Championship (My friend Randy in the foreground)

Another bonus from the Sage Creek shoot was the speed with which it ran. The tournament was conducted so that archers needed to shoot twice. The morning shoot was over in around two hours. There was a short break and for those people shooting at the second start time, of which I was included, we were done by 2:30 PM. One of the best-organized events (all sports) were I’ve competed.

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Yep, there’s a target in from of the eventual winner of my class

The guys in the group I shot with were really Top Guns. Among them they held multiple World Championships and Shooter of the Year Titles. It also contained the eventual winner of this State Championship (as well and second place and 5th place.)

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You never know what you’ll end up seeing at a campground

It was a little disappointing to not shoot at the Outdoor Nationals. But, as a family event, unless it’s an archery-centric group, all day (like that of Madison) is a non-starter. I’ve done a lot of sports over the decades. I recall a USA Masters National Indoor Track and Field race where my start time was delayed three times. Still it was not as bad the experience in Georgia that ended up being the action that led me to Mt. Airy. But, Mt. Airy proved to be one of the best-run sports events where I’ve been a competitor.

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Some of the scenery at Sage Creek Archery

Fireball Archery

retro-cartoon-flaming-arrow-37582673Yesterday the heat index was 115°F. Right now the temperature has dropped to 107°F with the heat index. Early, when I was on the range it was 98°F without the heat index. That’s toasty and I was sweating like the pig that knows its dinner.

When I practice or compete in this heat I pay extra attention to hydration. I’d rather have the heat than the cold, but man it is hot. Add running or cycling (or both) to a couple of hours of shooting and I’ll admit, I am fried. Not too fried to not go out a shoot some more once I cool down.

Mockingjay: Katniss Everdeen Trades Hoyt Buffalo for Martin Savannah(1)

Some asked me to write an article about archery as portrayed in the Hunger Games.  Tradition archers would no doubt be put off by anything someone that shoots a compound bow might surmise regarding their bows.  It’s not that I don’t like recurve bows or long bows – I really like both – as it is I shoot a compound.

Nevertheless, I began looking around the internet at what was already written about Jennifer Lawrence’s role as Katniss Everdeen and archery.  A lot has been written.

I think the Hunger Game books and the movies have been good for archery as a hole.  Granted, many of the shots in the movies are a bit unreal, but it is a fantasy movie.  I watch fantasy movies for fun.  If I want to learn something I watch a documentary or better read a book.  Better still, I read peer review journals and often conduct my own research.  That’s a really good way to learn.

When is comes to fantasy, well peer review publications aren’t a staple. So, I turned to the always accurate internet. I did find a really good article.  After reading it, it seemed so much wiser to simply share it with anyone that is interested.  (Antonio – here’s the article)

Below is an writing by Teresa Johnson that illuminates some aspects of the equipment used by Lawrence in her role as Everdeen.

December 4, 2014 by Teresa Johnson1

Jennifer Lawrence’s popular character and expert archer has switched bows several times during the series. Those changes started with “The Hunger Games,” when she shot two different bows. In “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire,” Jennifer Lawrence sported a Hoyt Buffalo. And the mystery of the “Mockingjay” bow has been solved: J-Law is shooting a Savannah bow from Martin Archery’s Damon Howatt line.

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Lance Irving, Chief Sales & Marketing Officer at Martin Archery, says the bow is lightweight, easy to use and – in his opinion – has the right look and feel for the blockbuster hit.

“We are extremely honored to have one of our most popular traditional bows selected by the ‘Hunger Games’ team.  From what we understand, they wanted to go for a different look and feel as well as have Ms. Lawrence’s input from a shootability standpoint in the final installment of the movie and our Savannah checked all the boxes,” stated Irving.

Katniss’ Bows: An Evolution Fit for a Revolution

Katniss Everdeen’s first bow, a longbow, appears in the beginning of “The Hunger Games” as she hunts squirrels with Gale Hawthorne (Liam Hemsworth). Katniss’ longbow is made of wood, and appears to have additional material on its top limb. We asked Olympian John Magera, a dedicated barebow shooter, what it might be.

“It appears they tried to re-create a fairly common repair you see on many Native American bows,” Magera said. “When a limb developed a crack, the Native American [archer] would wrap that part of the limb with sinew – tendon from a mammal – to keep it from breaking. That’s my best guess. If I were in her shoes in the movie, and my limb started to crack, I’d do the same thing, so it’s somewhat realistic.”

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As the movie progresses, Katniss gets her next bow from the Cornucopia of Doom (OK, perhaps a little dramatic), which turns out to be a whitish-gray recurve bow. Again, Katniss shoots barebow-style: just the bow, an arrow and the bowstring. We presume she has some kind of a rest to hold the arrow in place, or perhaps she’s shooting off a felt or fur pad on the bow shelf, which would make sense for a barebow archer.

In “Catching Fire,” however, our reluctant revolutionary makes another equipment change, this time to the Hoyt Buffalo and Easton X-7 Eclipse arrows.

Mike Luper, vice president of sales and marketing for Hoyt, explained: “The Hoyt Buffalo… already had a movie history, since Hawkeye shot it in ‘The Avengers’ movie. The movie’s director, prop master and actress all had input in selecting the bow for ’Catching Fire.’

Reference: 1) http://www.archery360.com/2014/12/mockingjay-katniss-everdeen-trades-hoyt-buffalo-for-longbow/

Deliberate Practice – Yardage Repeats

Most of my practice sessions have a goal, a specific aim for the time spent on a range. Granted, sometimes I simply go out and shoot for fun. Since I shoot a lot I give myself periods of recreational archery.

Because I started archery late in life, less than 3 years ago, and I take it more seriously than a fun hobby, I need to do things that will rapidly improve my performance. As I’ve mentioned in the past there are only two sports where someone over 50 years old can become an elite: shooting and archery.

Some data suggests the process of becoming an elite athlete in any sport can take a decade. Other data indicates that’s not necessary true citing examples of athletes earning Gold Medals at the Olympics after only a few years of training at a specific new sport. Currently, I’m reading a book about a fellow, Rich Roll, an unfit 40 year old that became a World Champion at an Ultra distance triathlon at age 42. That does seem rare and extreme.  In sports, I think there is a practical and achievable middle ground to achieve excellent – that is it is not 10 years and not 2 years for the most part. My best guess is that it takes 4 – 6 years for a novice archer (never have shot a bow) to reach a level of elite status (depending on the archer’s age and physical fitness) if sound training and some science is applied to performance development.

Going out and shooting at targets can make a novice shooter better. It is unlikely that technique is going to turn a novice into a bono fide professional level archer. In order to reach the highest level of archery, aside from good coaching and lots of practice, having a training regime is critical.

At times, as part of a customized training schedule, deliberate practice can be a bit boring. Today’s morning practice fit the criteria for being a tad on the dull side of shooting.

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Four arrows shot from 45 yards. Yes, the group is tight, but it’s easier to group them when I’ve been working at 5-yard increments.

Here’s how it went (specific for 3D in this case): First, 30-arrow warm-up on paper from 20 to 40 yards. Next, shoot small 3D targets (badger, bobcat and a turkey). Start at 20 yards and shoot 4 arrows, repeat at 25, 30, 35, 40, 45 and 50 yards. Finally repeat that sequence on larger 3D targets (a bear and a deer). In total that’s 170 shots.

What this does, for me, is to provide a feel for the distances I come across in 3D tournaments. This afternoon, I shot only about 40 arrows, 30 at paper to check my sight followed by 10 more shots, one arrow per 3D animal target.  I’ll finish with 3D and having a light workout in the afternoon.  This will allow time for recovery prior to tomorrow’s competition.  It also leaves me with the last targets I’ve seen being 3D.

The key objective for this practice day was working on yardage. I finished the day with over 200 arrows shot.  I don’t always set an arrow count as a goal.  Some of my practice days there is a specific quantity of arrows I’ll shoot. Other days, the practice is based on time.  But, today the focus was on yardage.

A Bit on Our Camping / Archery Trip

A couple of weeks ago we were camped in Brevard, NC.  This was a stop on our way to Mt. Airy, NC where I’d compete on the NC ASA State Championship.  While I didn’t get to shoot in Brevard on this trip I did get to mountain bike and run.

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Brenda enjoying the cooler temperatures of the mountains

Before either cycling or running Brenda and I took a road trip with out life long friend Ken.  Actually, we’ve been friends for 30 years and Ken is god-father to our children.  His wife, Dianne, passed away, and she was their god-mother.  Our daughter Candace and her daughter Cordelia both have Dianne’s name as their middle name.

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I’ve ridden my bike on the Blue Ridge parkway a number of times.  But, until this trip I’d not run on the Parkway.

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River having a Free Range run on the Parkway.

Running on the Parkway was a real pleasure for River.  There was no traffic and I was able to let her “Free Range” a bit.

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The views were incredible and a run I was glad to have taken.

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Brevard has some seriously good MTB trails

The run were easily matched by the mountain biking.  Ken took me on a trail that have on of the best downhills I’ve ever ridden.  My only regret is I didn’t have my GoPro on the bike.  Next trip, I’l have it.