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.

There’s not a lot of cheating in archery – or is there?

To be sure, I’ve not noticed any of the people I shoot with cheating. I hear about cheating from time to time. But, the stories are pretty much as far as it goes. Old legends about someone that others claim to have known of or heard about that didn’t shoot by the rules.

There’s a tale about a father and son that had multiple scorecards, a second set to complete in privacy before submitting to judges. The couple would hang around after shooting and listen for incoming scores. Once they gathered enough intelligence they’d slip away, create winning numbers on their backup scorecards and turn those theorized results over to officials.

There’s the story of fans delivering yardage information to their favorite archer. That seems to be a method of foul play that might be easily detected. It’s hard to imagine one archer in a foursome that is being whispered to by a spectator before the shooter approachs a stake in 3D and that not being suspicious.

“The deer is at 32 yards”

Another unlikely way to cheat that people have written about is the sprint and pull. This is where an archer jogs ahead of others toward a target that has been shot. The sprinter arrives at the faux-animal, pulls his arrow, and yells back to the scorekeeper his preferred score. This too seems an unlikely activity. There’s not an abundance of joggers competing in archery.

The miss-call of a line cutter is sometimes employed. It rarely works. This is when one archer, the shooter for example, claims his arrow is cutting the line. Whether it is or isn’t becomes a group decision. Maybe the line cutter can gain a point with a strong debate. Maybe not. If the point or two is given, based on a group consensus, then I don’t think this is cheating. I’ve gathered that lawyer/archers have better success using the miss-call debate technique.

The “Special” arrow is another technique that has floated around the range gossip. This is where an archer has a “special” arrow that is outside the weight range of a 3D competition. The “special” arrow is kept hidden in the quiver.  Should a judge ask for an arrow to check the weight a regular arrow is provided. The “special” faster arrow is never offered to the judge. On the range, however, the “special” arrow is employed to sink top marks on target after target. Seems a bit desperate.

No, I still think there is very little cheating in archery. There is sandbagging, where archers win time and again in a specific class and refuse to move to more advanced shooting. Even that isn’t too big a deal.

The biggest problem I see is doping. Yep, doping. And that’s not even an issue for IBO or ASA. USA Archery probably turns a blind eye to doping in the age groups over 50. The reason being the dope of choice for archers is a beta-blocker. It also happens to be a drug that helps keep a whole lot of archers over 50 from dying due to their hypertension. You can’t require folks with high-blood pressure to stop taking a potentially life prolonging drug in order to play.  If you did, you’d lose a lot of participants.

Cleary for archers, the dope of choice is a beta-blocker. Beta-blockers lower the heart rate, reduce anxiety and decrease muscle tremors. That is why FITA, ISSF and the USA Archery ban drugs like propranolol in archery. FITA and ISSF ban them during and outside of competition.1

From a competitive standpoint, this is what makes beta-blockers so interesting: they seem to level the playing field for anxious and non-anxious performers, helping nervous performers much more than they help performers who are naturally relaxed.2

Part of the problem is, about 75 million American adults have high blood pressure, or about 1 in 3 adults. About 7 out of 10 people with high blood pressure take something, like a beta-blocker, to treat their hypertension. And, high blood pressure is on the rise, up 13% since 2001.3-7

If you compete in USA Archery events, have high blood pressure and are on medication to reduce your odds of dying from that condition there may be a therapeutic exemption. I don’t know, I didn’t check.

The IBO’s statement on this matter is:

“Using performance enhancing drugs. Recognizing the IBO/3-DI affiliation with FITA; the IBO is developing a substance abuse policy. We may be recognizing guidelines along the same structure as those utilized by FITA in their International competitions. Be advised, these guidelines may be implemented in the near future and may come into use with no further warning after this advisory” 8 That’s fairly vague.

I could not find any statement from the ASA and I didn’t check NFAA. It didn’t matter that much to me to search any longer for the ASA and NFAA. I think that if you have a blood pressure problem it is more important to treat it than to worry whether or not you have a potentially slight competitive advantage, unless you are making a living through archery. Then, there is a problem; because it is highly likely you will perform better with the beta-blocker.

Of course, very few people are actually making a living-wage as a professional archer.  Most of those are in a lower risk group for hypertension.  The older folks earning money shooting may or may not be on beta-blockers.  But, we’d rather have them shooting and on beta-blockers than putting their lives on the line to earn a few thousand dollars a year. If they’re older and not on beta-blockers and still winning, well they’re just that good and the hypertensive archer is not an issue.

Can someone tell if you are taking a beta-blocker? Well, not without evidence. But, it isn’t hard to guess, especially for someone that’s spent decades studying hypertension. Rather, a medical professional can tell who is likely to have high blood pressure; whether or not they are treating it can’t be told by looking. For that, you’d have to pee in a jar.

 

References

  1. FITA, ISSA Statements
  2.  https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2008/08/in-defense-of-the-beta-blocker/306961/
  3. Merai R, Siegel C, Rakotz M, Basch P, Wright J, Wong B; DHSc., Thorpe P. CDC Grand Rounds: A Public Health Approach to Detect and Control Hypertension. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. 2016 Nov 18;65(45):1261-1264
  4. Mozzafarian D, Benjamin EJ, Go AS, et al. Heart Disease and Stroke Statistics-2015 Update: a report from the American Heart Association. Circulation. 2015;e29-322.
  5. Heidenreich PA, Trogdon JG, Khavjou OA, et al. Forecasting the future of cardiovascular disease in the United States: a policy statement from the American Heart Association. Circulation. 2011;123:933–44.
  6. Palar K, Sturm R. Potential societal savings from reduced sodium consumption in the U.S. adult population. Am J Health Promot. 2009;24:49–57.
  7. Guide to Community Preventive Services. Cardiovascular disease prevention and control: team-based care to improve blood pressure control.
  8. IBO rules

Today was that day

First 6 warm up arrows. Hey, I know the target looks weak. It stops the arrows.

The morning went like so many others, run, ride, and then shoot. The running and riding only took about 90 minutes. Shooting was another 90 minutes before I stopped.

Paddling my Current Concepts “Storm”. It’s a big boat at 17 feet and 1 inch.

Archery practice was 50-meters. Things were going well. Well enough until I shot a 5. The shot was so off I was surprised I didn’t miss the target entirely. Mentally, I’d run out of steam.

Brenda in one of our 2 Necky Looksha boats.
Osprey nest or Lorax nest?

It was only the 48th arrow of the morning. Still, it was time to take a break. I’d have lunch, take a nap and get back to it around 2 in the afternoon. I didn’t make it back.

Just up river from our house. I suppose we are on the wrong side of it.

Instead, Brenda and I took a couple of kayaks and headed out for a long paddle.

Can’t get a Carolina Skiff into that opening but a kayak fits
At 90 degrees today, I am happy to have been on the water and not in that tent

There are days when it is good to have a diversion. Today was that day.

I’ve ridden my bike on this pier entering on the land side.
Here it is from a bike

2017 Virginia State IBO Championship and IBO World Championship Qualifier

The Virginia State IBO Championship and IBO World Championship qualifier is in the books for 2017. The Augusta Archers near Staunton, Virginia hosted the tournament. The event attracted a large number of shooters, I was among them.

The Augusta Archers have an excellent place for an outdoor range. Their land is a thickly covered hilly old Southern forest. Old is a guess based on the number of hardwoods on the property.

It was certainly a hilly course located between the scenic Blue Ridge and Allegheny Mountains near the heart of Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley. My campsite for the few days I was there was just off the Blue Ridge Parkway.

As dense as the forest was the ticks, mosquitoes, and other insects were not a problem – a pleasant surprise. The hills, I knew were going to present a challenge for me since 99% of all the 3D targets I’ve ever shot are on flat land.

The Augusta Archers’ range did not disappoint. All targets were placed to make them interesting and realistic. Clearly, a lot of thought had gone into the arrangement.

I love shots like this one. This photo is zoomed in so you can see the animal. It took us a few minutes to locate it from the stake. If I recall I shot it for 33 yards and got a 10.

Of course, the range designers set it up to give us a few brainteasers. One of the best was a two shot sequence. The first was a huge bedded elk. The elk was placed across a deep gorge. From the shooters’ stakes the terrain dipped down the steep ravine of around 20 yards in depth. The elk was then sitting 10 yards up the other side between 32 and 43 yards from the archers in my group depending on their class. The next target was a turkey staked around 24 – 32 yards away standing on rocks in a small stream. From huge to small the targets made you think.

This might be the largest target I’ve ever shot

Aside from me the group I shot with consisted of a mother/daughter team in the FBO class, Ginger and Sarah, respectively. Jay, an advanced hunter class shooter completed our quartet.

Zoomed in to see the target. It was close, 27 yards. The angle and trees make it interesting and fun.

The range was large. Our group was the second out in the morning on Sunday. We were never forced to wait for a target and moved along without stopping other than to shoot. The 30 targets still took over four hours to complete. There was a lot of walking. This is not a complaint. The land was so picturesque the trek is worth repeating.

Jay checking out a coyote in a dark hole. This was a long shot at a small target. Our group left the stake with an 11, a 10 and two 8s

Part of the slowness was time lost to hunt arrows that missed the mark. As tough as the course was I was happy not to have been one of those that ended up with a zero. Aside from the misses I witnessed, I heard a few other arrows zipping past their intended goal and banging off trees.

So, the course was hard, but certainly manageable and every target had a very clear line -even if it at times it was tight. Ideal to sort out archery skills. For me, where I had shots that I wanted to take back it was never the distance, target, or its location.  My biggest problem was the lack of experience aiming and balancing on ground that wasn’t as level as I am used to standing on when shooting.

After the last target, a badger on stake 30, we returned to the clubhouse and submitted our scorecards. There were two officials laboring over a pile of scorecards, papers, forms and documents. It was impressive how much paperwork goes into managing a competition such as this tournament. I, for one, appreciated their hard work.

It was a challenging and beautiful course. If there’d been time, I would have enjoyed shooting it again for fun. Seriously, one of the most beautiful ranges I’ve shot.

I brought home a new belt buckle to hold up my pants