Georgia Cup

The Winnebago is connected to my King Ranch F-150. Reservations are secured at Parkland RV campground in Statesboro, Georgia. In the morning I’ll finish packing my gear and hit the road. I’m packing to head to Georgia State University to compete in the Georgia Cup, an outdoor 50-meter archery tournament.

The campground is only 3 miles away from the Georgia Southern University range where the Georgia Cup is being held. Talk about convenient!

Brenda and the dogs are staying home. Archery is yet to find its place as a spectator sport. However, a friend that lives in Statesboro is going to come and watch for a while.

Saturday, during the qualification round the weather is going to be nice. On Sunday, during the Olympic Round there is a 50% chance of rain and wind at 13 mph. Nothing can be done about that and we all have to compete under the same conditions.

Talent Transfer: ‘n’ = 1

In November of 2013 it was not my intention to be competitive in archery. It was only suppose to be a backyard pastime. Then, I read, “Faster, Higher, Stronger: The New Science of Creating Superathletes, and How You Can Train Like Them” by Mark McClusky.

In his book McClusky writes there are two sports where an athlete over 50 can be an elite: shooting and archery. He further writes about talent transfer and the 10,000 rule. Looking into this with more depth archery became a sport wherein I decided to become competitive.

At that point, I was 58 years old and looking to extend my competitive life. Honestly, I cannot not tell you how many running races, cycling races, duathlons and triathlons I’ve completed. I do know that I was not interested in being that old guy in Lycra hanging onto the back of a pack of cyclists. Certainly, I still run nearly every day and ride a bike 3-5 times per week. I may enter an occasional race for fun, but that’s probably the limit. It is too late for me to be an elite in endurance sports even if I could be an elite age grouper*. So, I picked a new sport – archery.

The first order of business, aside from getting a bow, some arrows, and such, was to determine if that 10,000 hour rule could be broken by a 58 year old cyclist/triathlete turned archer. There also needed to be a measure of where that might be properly evaluated.

The measure I selected as a goal was equivalency in cycling. At my best, as a cyclist I won State Road, time trial and sprint Championships in the same year. In 2017 in archery I won State Indoor, Outdoor and 3D Championships. I also won at the USA National Indoor Championship held in Snellville, GA in 2017 – I got second in 2018 (in my age group)

It took less than 48 months to achieve those objectives in archery. It did not take 10,000 hours. I competed in my age group so it is a loose measure of equivalency.

The 10,000 hour rule is based on what judges might say is a summary of the time it take anyone to became an elite performer. I do not have 10,000 hours of archery practice under my belt. Because I’ve some championships does that mean I’ve broken the 10,000 rule to become an elite performer in archer? Simply, no.

Look at three archers considered elite: Brandon Gillenthien, Jesse Broadwater, and Reo Wilde. Some of their recent (2018) published scores for 120 arrows at 18-meters comes to an average score of 1183 or 1190, 1190 and 1170, respectively. My best score for 120 arrows at 18-meters in 1158 or 2.1% lower than the elites’ average over one event where they competed. While 2.1% doesn’t look like a lot it is a huge difference – 25 points. It is this variance that separates me from an elite based strictly on score.

The next question is how long will it take to close that 25-point gap? As a rule, I generally know how many arrows I shoot per year. I have not kept hours of practice logged but do have a rough estimate of 1250 hours per year. Along with the 10,000 rule this matches the eight-year rule. The eight-year rule says it takes eight years of deliberate practice to become an elite. At my current rate of practice I should reach the elite level in 2020. However, my improvement percentage change year on year has me reaching the scoring level for elite status late 2018 or early 2019.

What I have learned is that Talent Transfer from endurance sports to archery has only minor advantage. The main benefit is focus on training. In endurance sports there are a lot of long hours of training – much of it alone. In archery there are a lot of long hours on the range. Beyond that, the sports are so dissimilar that there is little crossover. It certainly isn’t like being a mountain bike rider that crosses over to road racing as in the case of Cadel Evans winner of the Tour de France (2011) and Olympic Mountain Bike racer (9th place Atlanta 1996).

But, there is some advantage to adjusting from endurance sports to archery. The mental edge and ability to focus on a sport is the primary transferred edge. In any event, I’ll continue to plug away at shooting and see where it leads.

*As an age grouper I did earn a spot on the USA Team to the 2007 World Championship Long Course Duathlon.  I repeated that in 2012 but declined the spot on the Team due to other commitments. My spot then rolled down to the next fastest duathlete. (Duathlon is Run – Bike – Run, long course distance is similar or longer than: 10K run, 100K bike and 15K run).  But, nothing in sports I have done compares to the 2008 Ironman World Championship on the Big Island if Hawaii where I raced in 2008.

The GBAA and NFAA Section in Statesboro

In Georgia, I have lived in these cities and towns: Savannah, Isle of Hope, Tybee Island, Thunderbolt, Statesboro, Augusta, Lincolnton, Columbus, Atlanta, Sandy Springs, Kennesaw, and now Good Hope.   This past weekend, I drove from Good Hope to Statesboro to shoot in the GBAA State Championship and NFAA Indoor Sectional. Driving though the State, passing so many familiar places was nostalgic.

Much has changed during the past eighteen years when we’d not lived in Georgia. Augusta and Statesboro have grown. So has every other town I passed though during the trip.

We lived in Statesboro in the early 1980’s. I’d not been back to Statesboro in decades. It has really changed. Georgia Southern University seems to have moved up the polished University ladder. The GSU campus was impressive. The archery tournament took place on the GSU campus at their Sports Education Shooting Center.

Georgia State University, Shooting Sports Education Center

Over the past 51 months of shooting a bow I’ve seen some nice and not so nice ranges. The GSU Shooting Center is a whole level above the other ranges. There was ample  storage room, space and chairs for archers to sit down when not shooting, spectators had bleachers, and there easy access to clean rest rooms. All shooting lines were either full or close and it did not feel cramped. Before the tournament some folks had warned me the lighting wasn’t great, it seemed just fine to me.

Another bit of information I’ve been noticing since returning to Georgia, overall everybody seems to shoot “real good.”  From Cub level to Pro 300 for one day and 600 two-day total score was common. Inside-out X count was a necessary tiebreaker for many classes.

That’s me standing next to the giant.

For me, I lost again by one point. Still, things are improving following the transition for North Carolina to Georgia. Something I am not getting over is how nice it is to be back home.

You Win Some, You Lose Some

Well, it wasn’t what I planned. It wasn’t part of my visualization. It was not how I’d trained.  I wasn’t even close. But, hey – there’s always 2019.

For months I worked, practiced and trained through all sorts of weather. I shot on average 120 arrows per day. All in preparation for one archery tournament. It wasn’t so much that I wanted to win. Although I did want to win. More than that, I wanted to hit a specific score. I was on track to do so…..

Then, we moved and for six weeks before the USA Archery Indoor Nationals in Snellville, GA practice was impinged.

When I did get to practice I was off. My scores dropped and have remained low. There seems to be a relationship between practice and scores.

If the National tournament hadn’t been so close to our new home I’d have skipped it entirely. The event was just 40 minutes away from our new home. So, I went and I lost.

Second Place

Soon practice and routines will be back in place. And before you know it, it will be 2019.

Getting the Dope On

I am not new to international sport competition. I have a medical background (PhD). I am fairly new to archery.

For decades I competed as a junior, senior and an age grouper in running, cycling and triathlon. I was pretty good on a local and regional level in the US. I’ve gotten on the podium a few times at National events and earned a place on the USA Team for the World Championship Long Course Duathlon.

I did okay racing in the smaller events in Europe. I have trained or raced in: England, Germany, France, Sweden, Switzerland, Spain, Belgium, Italy, Israel, Australia, and Japan. Racing, however, is not the sole area my interest in sports and health.

I have published a good many peer-reviewed medical manuscripts most on medical aliments, some on sports physiology. I was on faculty at a major medical school where I did much of my research. I’ve also given medical presentations of my academic work in those same countries where I’ve trained or raced. After over four decades of sports competition and medical research I have gotten pretty good at spotting dopers. (I have never pointed anyone out I suspected. Although, some I suspected in cycling and triathlon did get caught.)

In age group competition, the doping is bad. In archery is seems worse than other sports among age groupers. I understand that banned substances may be necessary for the well being of many age groupers. However, it does give them, what I consider, an unfair edge in archery.

Being athletic is good. Shooting a bow isn’t all that phyically demanding compared to competing in an Ironman or running a marathon.  Archery requires a different kind of skill.  Still, archery practice combined with a program to improve physical fitness will benefit an athlete.

It isn’t easy to remain fit for a lifetime.  It is less easy to be an athlete.  It becomes increasing hard for amateur athletes and professionals where income from sport do not provide a living wage.  For them work gets in the middle of the day meaning training becomes more of a scheduling trick. It is possible.  Athletes that take on the extra effort to remain fit enough to reach a podium without banned supplements shouldn’t be, in addition to their work, put into a position where they must surpass other athletes unwilling or unable to adapt a total fitness program.

Some age group archers that are not physically fit yet practice consistently have an advantage over athletes who shoot and combine healthy life choices with competition. The poorly conditioned archery age grouper that is able to consistently practice shooting can have the competitive advantage of drugs used to compensate for high blood pressure and abnormal heart rhythms.  Those drugs assist both the patient’s condition and shooter’s ability. As such they do not need to approach archery as a complete athletic process. Rather, they can practice with their bow, be in miserable overall fitness (non-athletic) and have the advantage during competition of their prescribed drugs.

Individuals that are on beta-blockers may be able to receive a therapeutic use exemption (TUE).  In many cases, beta-blocker use might be reduced or eliminated through healthy choices and exercise.

Dr. Sheps of the Mayo Clinic writes:

If you’re overweight, losing even 5 pounds (2.3 kilograms) can lower your blood pressure. As you slim down, it may be possible to reduce your dose of blood pressure medication — or stop taking your blood pressure medication completely. Don’t make changes to your blood pressure medication on your own, however. Do so only after getting your doctor’s OK.

Remember, high blood pressure isn’t a problem you can treat and then ignore. Even if you’re able to stop taking blood pressure medication, it’s still important to maintain healthy habits. Here’s how:

  • Eat a healthy diet — the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet is an effective eating plan for lowering blood pressure.
  • Get 30 minutes of physical activity on most days of the week.
  • Limit alcohol.
  • Quit smoking.
  • Schedule regular checkups with your doctor to make sure you’re keeping your blood pressure in check. (1)

Being new to archery I have found it frustrating to train hard and enter an event on an unleveled playing field. Shooters are clean or they or not. If an age grouper is taking a beta-blocker at a minimum they should have a TUE. But, so long as USA Archery allows the unchecked use of beta-blockers by age-groupers during competitions it is not promoting the overall health of the sport.

I doubt that USA Archery is going to put much effort into screening age groupers using banned substances without a TUE.  For age groupers that are fitness focused they need to shoot well to win knowing that similarly trained unfit archers talking prescription drugs have an edge.

From USADA and applies to WADA:(2)

Substances Prohibited in Particular Sports

Some sports have additional rules about the use of beta-blockers. If participating in any of the following sports, please consult the current WADA Prohibited List or Global Drug Reference Online (GlobalDRO.com) before using beta-blockers.

P1. Beta-Blockers

Beta-blockers (including, but not limited to atenolol, bisoprolol, carvedilol, esmolol, labetalol, metoprolol, propranolol, sotalol, and timolol) are prohibited for the following sports:

  • Prohibited At All Times (in-competition and out-of-competition): Archery, Shooting
  • Prohibited In-Competition Only: Automobile, Billiards, Darts, Golf, Skiing/Snowboarding in ski jumping, freestyle aerials/halfpipe and
  • snowboard halfpipe/big air, and Underwater Sports as specified.

References:

1.) https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/high-blood-pressure/expert-answers/blood-pressure-medication/faq-20058056

2.)

Athlete Guide to the 2018 Prohibited List

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.