Four Years Ago in Virginia

Facebook occasionally pops up an old photograph on a user’s timeline that Facebook thinks has some historical importance to the user. As a user you are able to re-post the image. Like all Facebook users I get them. I’ve never re-posted one.

One such image that did pop up on the 8th of this month, February,  got me thinking. It was a photograph I’d take at my first archery tournament. It was the Virginia State Indoor Championship. The photograph was four years old.

I’d only been shooting a bow for 12 weeks. I’d hired a coach and he suggested I attend the tournament and compete. To encourage me he said, “I think you could be competitive.” The stroke to my ego was all it took – I entered the tournament. My equipment was a Mathews Conquest Apex 7 set up with a Trophy Ridge 5 Pin sight and a short stabilizer. I seriously had no idea what I was doing.

The ‘historical’ picture did get me wondering what my score was on that day four years ago. Checking my data I read the score – it was bad. But, from that event I did learn a number of things: 1) bows can have scopes, 2) bows can come with long stabilizers, 3) judges blow whistles that announce things archers should do, and 4) archers stand really close to one another while shooting on a line.

From that experience my bow has evolved and now has a scope on the sight, long stabilizers and lots of weights. I now know what the whistles mean. I rarely poke other archers on the line with my arrows or bang them with my bow. Yes that does occasionally happen, that is my gear might touch another shooter. But, that is only while everyone is jostling around before folks have found their space within their box.

A couple of other things have changed during this 48-month period. The inner 10 ring is now “the” ten ring for USA Archery and there is now non-stop music playing during indoor tournaments. Neither came to me with any welcome. Over time, both became fine with me. The music is mostly enjoyable, so long as I don’t have to hear a Taylor Swift song. And the small ten ring seems to be getting bigger all the time.

That tall fellow is some ‘Big-Time’ archer. I have no idea who he is but some of the folks there seemed to be impressed so I took this picture.

Although the Facebook pop-up image will appear here, I’ll not be posting it as a separate piece of history on Facebook. On Facebook, you’ll only see my logo when I share this post.

Second Place at the Georgia Indoor Championship

I knew the move to Georgia would have an impact on my shooting. I was right. My shooting has been off.

At the Georgia State Indoor Championship this past week I took second place. The second place isn’t the issue – my score is the problem. It doesn’t take long going without practice to drop an average score by a lot of points. I’ll blame, the packing, moving, closing on the new house, unpacking and putting things where they belong, and inability to practice for the drop in accuracy.

It has been said in sports one of the greatest abilities is availability. That is too true.

A packed arena at both shoot times: 9:00 am and 1:00 pm.

Getting back into a routine will bring my shooting to moving in the right direction. For the moment, the scores are reflective of the stock market.

A real positive is that the tournament was amazingly well run.  In and out in under four hours. Excellent. Home in plenty of time to watch the Super Bowl.

The More I Look Into the Current Use of PEDs in Sports the More Amazing

If you have read many of my post you may know that I don’t like competing against dopers. A lot of work that goes into training to be competitive in any sport. It seems unreasonable that there are still people trying to win by using performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs).

In cycling doping remains too much a part of the game. You’d think mature athletes not competing for prize money wouldn’t bother with PEDS. Sadly, non-professional cyclists as well as amateur multi-sport athletes are using PEDs to the tune of about 25% of the competitors. Consider for a minute that one in four people that you are competing against is taking an unfair, not to mention illegal, advantage over you. In archery, initially it did not occur to me that there were dopers. I was mistaken.

Among the druggiest Olympic sports, there are 57 sports in the Olympics (combined Winter and Summer Games), archery ranks as the 10th druggiest. The athletes that get away with doping the most are Masters athletes.

Those athletes that have been caught have their shame posted by WADA and the USADA. Most of the cheaters had a mean age of 27. The cheating older athletes had a mean age of 42. In one group of Masters athletes 50% confessed to using PEDs. 1

On a number of occasions I have brought up the topic of beta-blocker use during archery competition when associating with Masters archers during competition. The response has consistently been sheepish looks and silence.

Beta-blockers are used to treat hypertension and heart conditions.

Metoprolol is a beta-blocker that treats high blood pressure and heart failure, but it also treats angina and can be used to prevent heart attacks in people who have already had one. Lisinopril and metoprolol are both antihypertensives, the top selling drug class in the U.S. in 2014 with 705 million prescriptions filled. The common brand metoprolol comes as Lopressor, and this drug was dispensed 85 million times last year.2

Beta-blockers are the dope of choice for archers. When you consider 1 out of 3 Americans have hypertension you might not be surprised to learn many of them may be among the archers competing next to you. 3

WADA does have a process whereby an archer may be able to receive a therapeutic exemption to use a beta-blocker. 4 But, it is a process wherein competitive advantage is a consideration. In any case, I doubt NFAA, USA Archery, ASA, or IBO are paying much attention. It’s pretty much, “If you got ’em, smoke ’em.”

1.) http://mtntactical.com/knowledge/peds-tactical-athlete-follow/

2.) http://www.foxnews.com/health/2015/06/07/5-most-common-medications-in-us-and-how-to-save-on-them.html

3.) https://www.heart.org/idc/groups/heart-public/@wcm/@sop/@smd/documents/downloadable/ucm_319587.pdf

4.) https://www.wada-ama.org/sites/default/files/resources/files/wada-tpg-cardiovascular_conditions-1.1.pdf

 

 

So, That Took Too Long

It started at 10:00 AM. Five plus hours – sixty arrows. Over five hours shooting sixty arrows at a 3-spot. After five hours I did not care how I’d placed. I knew how I’d shot and figured it would be good enough for a top three finish.

Before the tournament, Brenda, my wife had come to see the range. When one of the owners of the range asked if she’d be back tomorrow to watch Brenda politely said no. I think archery could be a spectator sport. Presently, I don’t think it is a spectator sport. Brenda definitely is not an archery fan. She could be, she loves sports.

A sport where athletes stand real still needs some pizzazz. Live announcing, music, and of course, keeping the flow of arrows flying toward targets. Excessive pauses in the action are not spectacles for fans.

In retrospect, the two-minutes used for flinging arrows down range was strictly enforced. There were, at this five-hour plus contest, lengthy delays in addition. Three digits seem to be a remarkable feat of totaling for many. Believe me, 10 + 10 + 9 does not require a calculator. Double digits, like, 29 + 28, can be cyphered in your head. Heck, I can even deal with less accomplished shooting, where values of 8 + 6 + 5 appear on the target without a smart phone supplement.

No, at this contest it was our arithmetically vulnerable youth where the time began to accumulate. My wife, a retired teacher, when I pointed this out to her, went into one of her rants about the dumbing down of our youth by schools. The ubiquitous smart phone calculator in the hands of youthful shooters working out simple addition is a sad sign of math education.

Any day, I prefer a calculator to a slide rule. Yet, I loved my old slide rule. But, it wasn’t a tool for addition. For years I owned a Casio Scientific calculator. It was my favorite. It was stolen from me in Brussels, Belgium. I am certain the thief never appreciated the value.

As the precession back and forth to the addition line continued, I’d occasionally mark the time. By 11:00 AM we’d shot 12 arrows. The tournament started at 10:00 AM. By the break we’d lost a few archers – those having late afternoon appointments. One archer, in a panic of time, departed without his bow. Lucky for him, his friends said they’d take it home for him.

By 3:10 PM I was packing my gear. I’d called Brenda at 2:30 PM and told her we’d be done in twenty minutes, there were two ends to follow when I called. As I was packing my bow I recalled a day a couple of years ago.

On that day, in the morning, I swam 1.2 miles with a group of 2000 other triathletes. Next, we pedaled bicycles for 56 miles, and then ran 13.1 miles. It took less time than shooting 60 arrows and walking forty yards after every three arrows. (The prior sentence contains some math to ponder)

Archery requires a lot of patience.

What It Takes to Make an Olympic Team

A long time friend of mine asked me what it takes to make an Olympic Team. From experience, not in archery, I know what it takes to earn a spot on a World Championship Team. (USA Team World Championships, 2007, Long Course Duathlon.) The Olympics are another matter.

In the late 1970’s and up 1980 I dreamed of a spot on the Olympic.  I certainly gave it a try. I trained with a number of athletes that did make the Olympic Team.  On some days I was better than them, on most days I wasn’t. They weren’t physically superior to me, but they had something I didn’t. They were a different breed.

Participating in a Charity Event wearing my USA Team “Kit”. The hat is wrong, it is a South Carolina hat someone had given me.

My friend with the question is not an athlete. He’s a University Professor and Chair of the Department of Cardiopulmonary Science where he works. He’s a smart person. We’ve been friends for about 30 years. Together, we published many research papers (once I was smart, too.)

His question was a relay. He’d been asked by another smart guy, “What does it take to make an Olympic Team?”. The question eventually landed in my email. It is a tough question to answer by email. It’s a sorrowful question for me having blown so many great cycling opportunities. Being basically honest, I can say, if I had to do it all over again, I’d blow it all again. If I only had today’s brain in yesterday’s body, only then might things have changed.

I have, however, spent years studying athletes and athletics. So, at least from a sports science perspective I have some pearls of information to address my brainy friends.

Earning a spot on an Olympic team is not easy and neither is an explanation of how it is done. First, there’s the athlete. Those elites are simply not like the rest of us. Without writing a dissertation (one of those was enough for me) here’s an abridged description.

A short composite of the athlete is: years of practice, mental discipline and genetics. Genetics is easy to see: Tall people do well in rowing and basketball for example. Actually, rowing is one of the most genetic specific sports. Tall lightweight people with a huge VO2(max) do well in rowing. Gymnasts are at the other end of the spectrum. Small people have a greater capacity to rotate on an axis than larger people.

The process is expensive, which I didn’t mention up front (It just occurred to me). The price to train and compete excludes many people from the Olympic track. An athlete must compete at USOC Olympic trials and camps. The Olympic hopeful has to show up at National and World Championships. The travel alone is costly.  In many cases, earning a spot on an Olympic team is significantly self-funded exceptions being professionals.

Olympic level equipment is outlandishly pricey. At the elite level equipment does make a difference. The IOC has a rule at anyone is able to purchase that equipment used by athletes in the Olympics. So, if you’ve got the resources you too can have Olympic caliber gear.

Let’s say, for example, anyone can purchase a custom-made track (Velodrome) bicycle such as used by the British cycling team. The price is around $90,000. Most people are better off just training more often. The expensive bike, for an elite, will provide marginal gains. A marginal gain might mean a 0.5% increase in speed. Add enough of those small gains and it can mean the difference between a Gold and Silver medal.

There’s around $360,000 worth of bicycles in the picture

There is also a strategy to earning medals. Combat sports, like marital arts and boxing, have the greatest number of classes (light weight, to heavy weight) and the medals available are the greatest in number. So, countries often focus on finding fighters to train.

Finally, there is a political element to making a team. Chris McCormack, probably the greatest triathlete to have every competed, never made the Olympic Team for his country. He and the Olympic committee for his country, Australia, were frequently at odds. The members of the Olympic squads from Australia were never in his league.

Taiwan’s Tan Ya-ting celebrates after winning the bronze medal match at the women’s team archery competition at the Sambadrome venue during the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Sunday, Aug. 7, 2016. (AP Photo/Natacha Pisarenko)

In archery making an Olympic Team means, for now, shooting a recurve bow. If your dream is Olympic Gold in archery then a compound bow is currently not the ticket. But, archery has a great variance over the phenotypes that can compete and do well in an Olympics. It also means a lot of practice. By a lot, consider shooting 250 to 300 or even 400 arrows a day six days a week.

Making an Olympic Team is a tremendous achievement. It is certainly not for everyone. But, for those that earn a spot on the team it is a monumental. If making an Olympic Team is your dream, pick a venue that most matches your body type and where there are the greatest odds of success.  If you’re six feet five inches tall, gymnastics isn’t a good match. Be able to focus entirely on your sport of choice. Realize, you can’t make the team without traveling. And, it won’t be inexpensive. Finally, good timing and a bit of luck won’t hurt.

Le Petite Slam

There were a number of archery tournaments I wanted to win in 2017. These were: the North Carolina State Indoor 18-meter Championship, North Carolina State Outdoor 50-Meter Championship, USA Archery National Indoor Championship (Snellville, GA), and the Virginia IBO State 3D Championship. These competitions were my “Le Petite Slam”.  They don’t make up a Grand Slam, but they represented a nice collection of archery venues. I won them.

USA Archery North Carolina State 50-Meter Championship

Once before I tried a 50-meter event. It did not go well and for a while I swore I’d never do another. It wasn’t the distance or weak shooting that caused me to curdle. It was the hours and hours and hours of sitting around, shooting a little, and sitting some more. Never in my life had I experienced a sporting event as miserable. In fact, after around 6 hours of the mess I packed my gear and went home. A year later, I decided to give it another try at the North Carolina State 50-meter Championships.

Camping near Burlington at Jones Station in Mebane, NC

The second try compared to the first was about as different as night and day. We shot 12 warm-up arrows, 72 qualifying arrows, took a 40 minute lunch break in the middle and were still finished in about three and a half hours.

Smashed my thumb while setting up the campsite. I promise, thick leather gloves are a real skin saver.

Prior to this episode I practiced a lot at 50-meters. Fifty meters is not an awfully long shot, but long enough that is you don’t practice you’ll be losing arrows or sticking them in the blue rings when it matters.

During practice it was often hot and humid here on the eastern shore of North Carolina where I live and train. I was glad I’d never let the weather conditions keep me off the practice range since there were nearly (or possibly) record-breaking temperatures in Burlington, NC during the two-day tournament. A fellow archer had an electronic thermometer with him and recorded the temperature at 100°F. That evening the local weather woman agreed and then expanded the claim broadcasting an achieved heat index of 111°F.

Folks getting their tents up. When everything is in place it looks like something out of the Renaissance.

The heat didn’t bother me too much; I was acclimated to the temperature. Heat has never really caused me to suffer as much as it seems to impact others.

This fellow was looking for a shady place to nap
Hard to believe this was a decade ago

In 2007 at the USA Triathlon Long Course Duathlon* qualifier for the World Championship it got asphalt melting hot. I earned a spot on the team because I outlasted faster duathletes in the heat. The World Championships were another matter. It was so cold on race day I was cramping before I’d even started the first run. I don’t think I ever warmed up on that day. Getting warm was not a problem in Burlington.

Two of the biggest problems I had were the slope of the field and the sun. Neither was a major issue, I prepared for each possibility. But, the main problem was four minutes versus five minutes.

Somehow I’d gotten the impression we had five minutes to shoot six arrows. I’d trained with a stopwatch to maximize the 5 minutes. Opps, we only had four causing a few anxious ends – like 12 of them. More than once I’d look at the clock to learn I had 57 seconds or so to shoot two arrows. I rushed a lot of arrows.

The result was that I ended up shooting subpar hitting several eights and one seven for the day. Honestly, I can’t remember hitting a seven prior the one I hit rushing to beat the clock. The seven wasn’t even the final arrow of an end – I had plenty of time.

River, showing off my medal and blowing a kiss

When it was all done I did not shoot as well as usual. I also didn’t hit rock bottom. Best of all, I shot well enough to win.

*A duathlon is a multi-sport event consisting of a run segment, a bicycling segment and lastly another run segment.

Extra Effort by a Tournament Official

The 2017 North Carolina State 50-meter Outdoor Championship was a hot one. The heat index was estimated a 111°F. The measured ambient temperate on the range was 100°F. The temperature is not what impressed me. It was the head judge that impressed me most about the tournament.

Tents starting to go up about an hour before warm-up

George “Guy” Hutcherson was the main ‘everything’ for the tournament in Burlington, NC. From organization to awards, he did a lot. He didn’t do it all, he had help. But, Guy was the guy. He kept it all running smoothly.

Guy was everywhere! He set out targets, drew lines, set stakes, helped with check-in, answered questions, and ran the show. For a minute I wondered whether Guy had a twin. No, he did not have a twin and his red face was evidence of how hard he was working in the heat.

Never once, did I hear a short answer or abrupt comment come from Guy. He helped everyone in need. He ran a smooth tournament that did not become bogged down.

When it was all over with surely the man was exhausted. I hope he has a break to recover. Guy Hutcherson – I appreciate all the work you put into this NC event. It was hard; anyone watching could not have missed how hard you worked. Thank you.

North Carolina State Outdoor Archery Championships

I’m headed to Burlington, NC for the USA Archery North Carolina State Outdoor Championships. This will be nearly a first for me, that is a 50-meter tournament.

I’ll be camping at Jones Station near Mebane. The Winnebago is hooked up and ready to hit the road. The campground is about 15 minutes from Burlington.

Once before I tried a 50-meter tournament, but walked off the range before it was completed. That one was in Georgia. It was really a sporting experience that remains hard to believe.

In Georgia, after six hours of judges trying to get archers through 72 arrows we were still shooting. It was truly amazing. Heck, I had to leave – I had to get home. Home was another 3 hours on the road. Later, I learned the event wasn’t completed until 11:00 PM. I’d arrived at 2:00 PM. That soured me on 50-meters.

During that tournament the sky was clear, very little wind, and a tad on the hot side.  To this day, I have no idea why the officials could not keep that tournament rolling. In hindsight, it was a waste of time.

I’ll give it another try this weekend. The posted start times gives me the impression that shooting 72 arrows is not going to take six hours.

Training and Tapering

I wasn’t tired. My arrows were hitting fine. But, there’s a point where you need to be careful not to over do it. I stopped after just 132 arrows for the day. I eased back on purpose.

I’ve gone into tournaments tired. Fatigue earned from shooting and other activities such as running, riding and swimming.

Tapering in archery is a skill I have yet to master. Trying to equate it to other sports does not work. I tried to cipher a top dog coach’s plan and incorporate his suggestions. His work was a general-purpose plan that he provided to all his athletes.

At the onset of training for a new sport one plan fits many is fine. As athletes gain skill those plans need to change. No two athletes are alike. The master coach’s plan (master level coaching skill rank assigned by the coach) became apparent had been created by evaluating a running schedule and adapting it for archery. That won’t work – I know I tried.

My statistics of each practice seem to be equating to some degree with heart rate and effort for running. That is, I’ve observed peaks and valleys well enough to see trends. I’m not sure if the variance in the stats is as much a result of physical fatigue as a combination of physical and mental. The range in the variance is about 3%.

No matter what, I felt like 132 arrows (50-meter) over two practices session was enough for the day.