PED Use in Masters’ Athletics

In a few months, if all goes well and the creek don’t rise; I’m racing in a national championship. That race happens after two national archery championships. It is going to be a busy spring.

Getting ready for all three championships takes a lot of effort. It’s not more work  it comes to time spent training. It is how that time is spent.

The least amount of training changes is with archery. That said, the intensity of archery practice has changed, as has the focus during the training. To win (or place well) I know the scores needed to be achieved. Knowing the must hit scores goals can be established.

In the endurance race I know the distance and the speed required to win. This translates to much more speed work and intervals during training.

Before preparing a “speed” plan I started by studying the times recorded at the 2015 – 2017 championships. Seems many of the masters age group competitors have gotten really really fast.  The review of those results recorded  by many Masters athletes appeared artificially enhanced.

You might think, “Who in their right mind would use performance enhancing drugs (PEDs)?” The answer is many with some estimates of dopers is as high as 25%. Here’s how it’s done:

An athlete in his 40s (for example) finds that he is naturally slowing down. To retain or in some cases increase speed they may take PEDs.  This is accomplished with the help of an innocent physician. (Generalized approach)

On a doctor’s visit the mature athlete complains of low stamina, loss of energy, diminished libido and feeling fatigued. The athletes’ blood work is fine other than his natural testosterone being low compared to a 20 year old. This may warrant to a prescription for testosterone. A bonus is they may end up getting human growth hormone (HGH) as well. Want to drop your natural testosterone to help with the doctor’s blood assay? Easy. Train harder than usual, stay indoors, and reduce sleep time.

After the doper gets the PEDs he may seek out an EPO boost or take a less risky and legal pathway of drinking an abundance of beetroot juice (legal works to some degree). Both help with oxygen uptake and utilization.

What a shame.

From an aging point of view HGH has limited, if any, negative effect and can be of tremendous value men over 40. I strongly believe HGH should be removed from the banned list for athletes over 40. Overall, PED use is widespread among age group endurance athletes.

In archery, we have another set of dopers, the beta-blocker users. Beta-blockers aren’t like the PEDs of other sports. A beta-blocker will not make one faster. It also will not make an archer shoot better. It will however help the archer to not shoot worse.

The issue here is (despite it being banned) is that the older archers on beta-blockers need the drug’s help to stay alive. So, know this – that archer on a beta-blocker may not shoot better thanks to the drug, he just won’t shoot any worse. Beta-blockers will calm and steady the performer. When it comes down to it, if you shoot the X 96% of the time and the beta-blocker hits the X 89% of the time you still win. That is unless you freak out during competition in which case a beta-blocker would be beneficial to you.

There is some suggestion that beta-blockers may offer a slight improvement in scoring.  Suppose, for argument, that an archer using a beta-blocker gets a 1% benefit from the calming and stabilizing effect of the drug. That archer typically can shoot with a 96% accuracy.  That beta-blocker archer that normally scores around 96% accuracy as do non-beta-blocker archers, a 1% advantage wins the day. Meaning the beta-blocker reaches 97% accuracy.

So, do you think archery isn’t really that bad? If so, you’d be wrong.  Among the druggiest Olympic sports archery ranks 10th, tied with pistol. Do I have any doubt that I’ve shot against archers on beta-blocker? None whatsoever.

In the case of the endurance athlete doping, even though both situations are banned, I see the endurance athlete as the greater cheater. Really, if you are on a beta-blocker to support your heart or manage your high blood pressure and compete keep taking your drug. I’d rather shoot against you on your meds than have you risk your health in order to enjoy archery. If you have a pill box with beta-blockers used exclusively for tournaments  you are an ass. If you are getting injections of testosterone under the pretext of a needed prescription you are a deliberate cheater. It pisses me off to race against you.

Here’s the thing – of the older dopers I’ve raced against or trained with everyone around them guessed they were doping.  I only know of one age group athlete, an Ironman World Champion, that was ever caught for doping.  By contrast, of the young dopers (all cyclists) everyone suspected all were caught.

Who do I partly blame for the widespread use, aside from the dopers themselves, of doping among Masters level athletes are WADA and the USADA. Both are more interested in tracking the younger athletes that are making a living in their sport as professional athletes.  That is, of course, where the money is so they chase the money.  So long as Masters athletes receive so little sponsorship money and recognition WADA and USADA will turn a blind eye. No one really seems to care a lot aside from the clean athletes that are considered Masters.

Once companies like Nike and Asics understand the marketing value of clean Masters athletes WADA and the USADA will have new targets. Until that time dopers among age groupers have little to fear.

Reading list [(Hear me now believe me later)credit to Hanz and Franz of SNL]

https://www.thefix.com/content/olympics-london-drugs-doping90411

http://www.stltoday.com/sports/other/older-athletes-now-testing-positive-for-peds/article_dc9828c3-a4d1-5180-be18-1e5fabc071ae.html

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Doping_in_sport

Steroids and Amateur Athletes

PEDs for the Tactical Athlete – Follow Up

This is for Non-Archers

If you’re an archer – you don’t need to read this. If you’re not an archer, this might be interesting.

I wasn’t at my home in North Carolina. We were off visiting in Georgia. When were off visiting I bring a block to shoot and my bow with everything I need to practice. Once on location I set up a safe place to shoot.

(I also bring a bike or two, maybe a kayak, running shoes and all the gear for that as well.)

This is what a 20-yard target looks like.

Anyway, I was practicing archery one afternoon on this trip. A fellow comes up to me that has no experience shooting a bow. During our encounter I was practicing at 20 yards.

It looks like an easy shot

He said, “That’s not a hard shot. Give me a minute and I can beat you.”

Seriously, those were the first words out of his mouth.

I don’t know why but I’ve gotten crap like that a lot. Once, on a bicycle-training ride a cocky triathlete gave me some similar crap. I was new to the group I was training with and wasn’t prepared for the ride. I was grossly over dressed and knew I was in trouble when the pace, mileage and temperature climbed. The triathlete, a very good athlete on an international level looked at me and said, “We’re just getting started. I’m not even off of my inner chain ring, yet.”

Another time, when I was practicing 3D archery with a group a guy said, “Shoot your own game, you’ll never beat any of us.” WTF.

In the latter two examples, I said nothing. The day on the bike, well I didn’t have enough breath to respond. After the 3D comment I didn’t respond because I was too surprised by the comment to come up with a witty retort.

But, add a dime for perspective

That day in the Georgia yard, shooting at 20 yards, I knew it wasn’t a long distance shot. I did, however, have a response. It was, “Well, I’ll tell you what. You can have a rifle and I’ll use this bow. We fire three shots. The highest score gets $100.00.” I added, “But you have to stand and hold your rifle while you aim and fire.” The bet went untaken.

Not quite as easy as it looks

Shooting 20-yards is easy. Putting an arrow in the center of the target is a challenge. Unless you’ve tired it you really can’t grasp the complexity. The absolute slightest hint of a mistake and you’ll miss the center. You might even miss the yellow rings and land in the red. On the other hand, if you practice long enough it isn’t all that hard. I know, I’ve seen people who make it look easy.

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.

The Mental Game in Archery

Don’t look to me for answers. Still, I am offering what I’m going through.

All my life I have been an endurance athlete. Without doubt it was my mental toughness that got me through runs and triathlons. During every run and every triathlon I hurt. My legs hurt, my arms hurt, it hurt to breathe, and my heart was pounding. I never quit a race I’d started. Once, I didn’t show up for a race that I felt prepared for because I was sick. But, I never quit.

During any race when I really started to hurt I go through phases of anger and frustration. There was never doubt. I’d trained and I trusted my training. I could turn anger and frustration into the generation of effort. That led to calm energy and forward momentum.

Archery simply does not work that way. Scoring nines when I’m aiming for tens is amazingly frustrating. Hitting an eight makes me down right angry. I cannot channel those emotions into a calmness needed to shoot well. There’s no conduit to pound it out. The best I’ve come up with is blowing it off and restarting everything anew on the next shot.

For example, say I hit a nine a bit above the ten. Before the next arrow I pause and think about what I did that caused me to land in the nine-ring (aside from the ten ring being the size of a penny). I don’t think, “Don’t do that again.” What I think is, “Okay, your follow though was off, now follow though on this next shot.” Many times, that next shot remains a nine.  Often in the exact same hole was the prior arrow.  Sometimes, the next shot is a ten.

Let’s say, I know from a miss that I screwed up the follow though on a  shot. I know I need to remain calm and have a good follow though on the next shot. On the subsequent arrow, I slow down, and go though each of my shooting steps in my head, then I repeat them as I perform them. Sometimes it works.

It does not work 100% of the time. That well thought out next shot might be another missed ten. If so, I repeat the mental exercise and shoot the next arrow.

If I hit too many nines or an eight frustration becomes anger. Unlike a triathlon where I could channel anger into power I can’t exactly grab my bow harder, squeeze the grip tighter, and draw an arrow more viciously. What works for me is a quiet, under my breath bit of profanity. Then, I blow off the shot (after I figure out what I did wrong.).

During either the frustration or the anger moments I work to not let those emotions turn negative. I also don’t deny the emotional impulse. I feel it, experience it, and let it pass in seconds. That ability comes from shooting a lot.(I am still learning.)

If you shoot a lot you will have the opportunity to miss a lot. You’ll experience the good and bad shots and learn how to best deal with them in your own manner.

With every shot, I go through a process of setting my body to shoot.  Once, I’ve got the dot in the center, I try to go blank (hoping for brain ‘alpha wave’ clarity) and let the shot happen. Thus far, I’ll say my brain gives out before my arms and back during practice.

Certainly, a year from now I could have a different point of view. For the moment, this is pretty much how I try to keep a mental focus on the next shot.

Wind to My Back

The wind has been awful out here on the Little River. I can’t remember a day without white caps. It makes archery practice a challenge. Early in the mornings the wind is typically not so bad. That has not been the case for a while. Cycling is good in one direction.

Remember that feeling you had when you were a kid, riding your bicycle with a tailwind pushing you along. That how it was today on an out and back ride from home.

There was a cross wind as I pedaled down my road. Once I turned right there was a furious tail wind. Within minutes I was in my biggest gear pushing as hard as I could. It didn’t take long for that to taper into a nice tempo in a large gear cruising at 27 mph. It just felt so good.

Before too long I reached the turn around point, that is where things changed.

Chasing my shadow on the ride home.

Shorter Days and a Little Rain

After a day off, a rest day, I was eager to train. It rained. Nevertheless, River and I headed out the door at around 0630 for a run. Fortunately, it was a light rain. But even a light rain is a burden when shooting 18-meters outside.

With a tournament this weekend, and having that worry about the other archers that didn’t take a break day, I needed to shoot. So, it was off to PGF Archery in Elizabeth City to use their indoor range. For $6.00 I had the range to myself.

Four of my arrows ready to be picked up from PFG Archery

During this practice, I used a timer and played music. The last time, a few days ago, when I timed my shots I ended up having an average of 23 seconds remaining of my two minutes for three arrows. Today, I had on average 26 seconds remaining or about a second faster per arrow. That can probably be attributed to becoming more comfortable with my new Spot-Hogg arrow rest. The music, which I didn’t like a whole lot when I was first introduced to it, is something I practice with all the time indoors when I’m alone. It has taken a while to get used to music in the background.

Darrell, a World Class shooter

While shooting at PGF Archery a friend showed up unexpectedly. He’s an elite shooter and has won more titles shooting than I can image. In fact, he was just in the local paper, again, for winning another major tournament. In his case he does it with a shotgun. He was there on an errand for his brother.

As I left the range, the rain had stopped. It was still cloudy and cold. Those conditions didn’t stop a nice bike ride in the afternoon before my second archery practice.

Shoot three arrows, stand by the heater, warm-up, shoot three more.

Despite the lack of sunlight I shot better in the afternoon. These shorter days do put a damper on being outside.

It’s hard to find the dot when there is no light

A Day Off

Talking a rest day is sometimes more difficult than training. Today is a scheduled rest day. It is a complete rest day meaning, no riding, running, archery or exercise beyond walking. Being accustom to five or six hours of exercise per day makes sitting still days incredibly hard.

Taking scheduled rest days to recover is as important as the effort it takes to earn those days of leisure. Here’s the rub, it’s easy to worry about that other athlete getting in a few more miles running, more hours on a bike or shooting more arrows while you’re sitting around resting.  The psychology of it makes athletes want to train more rather than less. Sometimes less is better.

Over-training can lead to poor performance. Finding the right balance of practice and recovery is a bit of a trick. So, today, as badly as I want to exercise, I am listening to my body, sticking to a plan and taking a break.

Time those shots

Two minutes seems like plenty of time to shoot three arrows. Really, it is more than enough time most of the time. Still, on a line in a tournament there will be the occasional archer that screws up and loses ten points to the clock.

Last year, I came close to being that guy. After archers were called to the line the judges failed to blow the start whistle and had started the clock. The clock running without a whistle was making the line get antsy. Finally, someone figured it out, but the judges didn’t blow the whistle, they just yelled to start shooting.

Once everyone got the message and began flinging arrows, I joined along with less than a minute on the clock. Talk about taking away the mental game.

I nocked my first arrow with 58 seconds on the clock. Rounding up to 60 seconds that’s about 20 seconds per arrow. On the final shot of the end I was the last archer on the line. There was a crowd watching and they began a count down, “10, 9, 8,7…”

With a room full of people counting down I flung my final shot at the target as the audience paused between 2 and 1 and scored a nine. It was exciting, but an excitement I can do without.

However, I do want to use as much of my two-minutes as I need and not rush. So, at times I practice using a timer. To amplify my  need to rehearse my shooting times, I changed my arrow rest. What I have now is one of those fixed blade tournament style rests. It is requiring some practice to keep the arrow on that rest while I am drawing.  The result is I am drawing much more slowly. That eats up a few seconds on every shot.

Several times a year while practicing I will use a stopwatch to monitor my shooting time. The new arrow rest encouraged me to check out my times this week. The data I collected showed that I am shooting more slowly by an average of ten seconds per arrow. Using the old rest I had an average of 33 seconds remaining on the clock after my last arrow. Using the new rest the average time remaining is 23 seconds.

There’s not a lot of time left over after shooting three arrows off the new rest. Still 23 seconds ought to be a nice cushion. By taking the time to check my shooting time and know what I have to work with it reduces tournament anxiety over not knowing.

It’s cold and raining – happens every year

Training in the cold and rain is not on the top of my list for enjoyment. I can take the cold or I can take the rain, but cold and rain sucks. Despite the less than wonderful training conditions most of the time I will train though it. Sure, if the weather is seriously bad I stay inside, but unless it’s truly awful I work to get outdoors.

Today the temperature was 49°F while I was running. Not at all bad for running. By the time I was shooting it was still 49°F and was beginning to drizzle. Since I was standing in a shed and shooting out toward the target the rain wasn’t a real burden. The wind, however, was a real hassle. Not so much the wind pushing me, but it was strong enough to impact arrows even at 18-meters. Such is training in the fall here on the coast of North Carolina. We are going to get wind, rain, and cold.

I have to admit, I am glad to have this shed where I can stand. Without it, I’d be driving into Elizabeth City to shoot indoors and get totally out of the weather. The rain has gotten worse, so this afternoon I may need to take a pass on archery.  But, I can hop on a bike and ride the CompuTrainer.

PS.: The rain actually lightened up a bit for the afternoon shooting.

Dealing with Light and the Lack of It.

Previously, I’ve written about light absorption, how our eyes gather light, and archery. Occasionally, I end up on an indoor range where I can’t see a thing. This is a reality and it is going to continue to happen.

I often wear shooting glasses. Mostly I wear them for outdoor shooting, well exclusively for outdoor shooting. But, some articles I’ve read suggest the correctly tinted lens might be helpful regarding light absorption.

I don’t wear shooting glasses on every shot, primarily when the sun is a problem. I’d like to wear them all the time, but the light on every shoot is not always the same.  Even though I have multiple shades of lens, I can’t worry with changing them to match every level of illumination. It’s too much to worry with in competition. So, I keep the dark shades installed.

Outdoors they have saved me more than once. Indoors is another matter.

Many of the indoor tournaments where I shot the lighting has been good. Some are better than others. Lately, all my practice has been outside. I went indoors this week and was shocked.

I know I need to practice on the range where I trained yesterday simply because of the poor lighting. The targets are arranged beyond the overhead lights and they have a bit of shadow cast upon them. I can’t see squat in there. It good training for the day I end up in competition and the lights are poorly situated. But, it is frustrating.

As we age we have a disadvantage in that our eyes don’t gather light as well as they did in our youth. I understand that some tinted lenses can help with light gathering. I think I’ll begin experimenting with the tinted lenses I own to see of it helps.