Changing the 2019 Event Calendar

When I completed my 2019 goals and event calendar I made certain conditions.  Those conditions are associated with the more expensive archery tournaments.  For example, in order to put out the money to compete at the NFAA Nationals in Cincinnati, Ohio, I needed to shoot a pre-determined score at the NFAA regionals.

It wasn’t a difficult task. I needed to shoot two 300s at the regionals.

When I shoot a 5-spot, the target for both events, I shoot a 300 83% of the time.  Sometimes, I mess up a shoot a 299 or 298. Those scores are essentially meaningless at the Nationals.  No, at the NFAA Nationals you win by having the high X count.

My highest X-count is 104 out of 120 arrows.  That’s not a winning score.  But, it would be a fine score, yielding 600 total points and 104 Xs, and worth the trip. At the regionals I didn’t come close.  I ended up with a 597 and I don’t recall the X count.  With shooting like that there’s no point in spending big bucks for a trip to Cincinnati – at least for me.

This change opened up my weekend calendar.  In fact, as far as archery is concerned, I found a significant gap between competitions. I had to fill that gap.

I run nearly every day. I ride a bike often in the winter and nearly every day once the weather improves.  Once, I raced triathlons.  Could a triathlon fill that gap?

Ironman World Championship – seems so long ago.

No, I’ve not swum a stroke in over a year.  If you don’t train for swimming, you can die in a triathlon. It has happened. Even if you finish the swim, without proper training you could fail to met the cut off times and be pulled from the race.

I could, however, race in a duathlon.  There are two duathlons within 45 minutes of where I live.  I prefer duathlons to triathlons.  I decided to add both of those races to my calendar.

Swimming – it is always cold to me.

To start, I’ll race some 5Ks and 10s.  I do run often, I don’t run fast.  My daily runs are purely for pleasure and health management.  When I’m on a bike, I’ll sometimes crank it up.  Running is another matter and I’ve just not been going fast.  I’ve been exclusively running trails with River, a Labrador retriever. She stops a lot to sniff I have to slow down and wait. If I don’t she might cut to a chase or roll in something foul. I can change that without much thought.

Pushing into a head wind.

Archery is fun.  It is a whole lot less expensive than a duathlon. But, if there aren’t enough easy to access archery events I’ll pay a bit more to register for a duathlon and save on travel expenses.

Nice Thing to Say

If folks have said nice things about me, well I don’t really recall any.  I mean, who says nice things to someone’s face other than a loved one. Honestly, when I have received a compliment in public what I recall is that it made me feel awkward.

There was a time in my career where I was often called upon to give talks.  During those times someone would introduce me and say lots of flowery things about my accomplishments and education.  I didn’t like those, either.  In fact, it got pretty old and I eventually gave whoever was introducing me a written introduction to read.  It was prepared, short, and not so ingratiating.

Last week, during an archery tournament, I was shooting with three kids.  There were enough older archers competing that I’d been bumped down the line and was on a target with kids younger than my children.  Two of them were in college and one was still in high school.

Archery is a big equalizer among sport disciplines.  Age isn’t a major factor when it comes to skill.  I mean, if I’d been competing against similarly skilled athletes in, say running a mile, a high school aged track star and two college track runners they would smoke me.  But, in archery it is another matter.

At that tournament, at 3-spot, a professional shot 118 Xs out of 120 arrows. His was the top score. (He’s younger, at 41, than my oldest daughter.) The next best score came from a 15 year-old clearing 116 Xs.  Back to my target.

Of the four of us, the high school student was shooting the best.  I’d changed bows the day before and had finally gotten it sighted and was shooting Xs.  On one end I shot two Xs and a nine.  The next end was three Xs.  Then, I repeated the sequence.

That’s when the high school student said to the college students, “That’s how an old pro does it!” He wasn’t saying it to me directly, he was providing evidence to the other two students.  It cracked me up. (I laughed on the inside rather that risk embarrassing anyone and said nothing.)

I don’t know if the speaker had intended me to overhear.  It wasn’t spoken loudly; more told in a tilted head conspirator softness. But, I heard it.  The speaker may have figured because I’m old my hearing isn’t so good.

At first, the word that grabbed me was “old.”  But, compared to them, I’m old.  Generally, it was a compliment.  And as I said, it cracked me up.

The ASA’s Doping Announcement

It was 1973 when Howard Taylor, a teammate and friend, and I were at the US World Cycling Trials in California.  Our chance to make the team would come in an event on the Velodrome in San Jose.  If we made the team our next official race would be in Munich, Germany.

Howard and I were fast.  At any race we’d finish 1st or 2nd with each of us often fighting it out for the top position.  While we were just about even Howard beat me more times than I beat him. Before heading to the west coast from our homes in Savannah, Georgia we figured we’d make the team.  We knew whom we were up against and we knew how we’d do racing against them.

In California our dream didn’t end up as we’d imaged, at least for me.  All the races were fast, everyone was fast.  But, there was a group that seemed to have jumped ahead of the rest of us. The day of my chance to qualify, I was a bit under the weather, and didn’t even race.*

The bronchitis I was suffering was just an excuse.  I knew there was no way I could match the times coming from a small group of cyclists.  Prior to going to California I’d figured on a second to third place finish, at the worst and one spot behind Howard.  The times I was watching would at best land me in sixth place – not on the team.  I decided to save my legs for the regional and state champions.  Howard raced and earned the only remaining spot on the team.

That was 46 years ago.  I still remember the shock of seeing guys shave significant times off their prior finishes.  It seemed impossible.

Decades later, I learned those advances in performance had been assisted by doping.  Their coach and the riders all admitted they’d been doping.  At the time, the blood doping they used and other performance enhancing drugs weren’t yet banned.

In those days I knew nothing about doping.  Our coach never mentioned doping to us.  Thirty years later while I was visiting my former coach we talked about those trials.  He knew the other cyclists had doped.  Doping for our coach was cheating and he never even explained it.  It simply didn’t exist for any of his teams.

Yesterday, while at archery practice, a group of coaches was talking about a recent announcement by the ASA.  The ASA announced they would start drug testing.

Their conversation revolved around other archers, winning tournaments that take beta-blockers for their high blood pressure.  One archer, a top finisher at a recent major event, had explained he was upset by the ASA’s announcement.  He’d stated that he’d just gotten his blood pressure regulated with the correct dosing of his new beta-blockers. He also commented that the ASA’s announcement hadn’t come in time for him to get a therapeutic use exemption (TUE) before the next Pro/Am event.

The ASA has had an anti-doping policy for years.  They’ve just not been implementing it.  The complaining top archer knew that his beta-blockers are banned in archery. Yet, until the ASA’s announcement, they are going to begin testing,  he’d never bothered to submit a TUE.

A fellow I raced and trained with during the years I spent doing triathlons is a doper.  He was a professional.  He was really good at the sport of triathlon.  He eventually got caught doping.

In his defense he claimed he had a prescription. He’d never submitted a TUE.  To bad, said the USADA, you’re banned for two-years.

Would that triathlete have been as good without the banned substance – no he would not have.  He’d been good, only not as good.

What about the archer that has been using a beta-blocker because he has a prescription and has not submitted a TUE? Would he be as good without the beta-blocker? Is it honest to compete using a banned substance, when you know it is banned, and not disclose your use of the drug?

In archery:

“Beta-blockers are prohibited both Out of Competition and In-Competition. Beta-blockers are used by athletes who require a steady hand, increased focus and a relaxed state of mind to perform at the highest level. Beta-blockers are banned because they block the effect of adrenaline and help the heart work more efficiently thereby reducing blood pressure, heart rate, muscle tremors and even anxiety. Examples of beta blockers that are used illegally are Propanolol which is used to steady the hands and increase the ability to focus, metoprolol with its extended release formula and atenolol which helps athletes control symptoms of performance anxiety.”1

I don’t know about you, but during a tournament I get excited.  My heart rate is up, my adrenaline is pumping, and I expect my blood pressure (BP) may be a bit elevated.  My resting BP is 117/68. My resting heart rate (HR) is around 57 (taken sitting here typing while under the influence of Red Bull). I’ve never taken my BP before a tournament.  While I’ve not checked my HR during archery competition, I know it is up.  I can feel my heart pounding away.  Sometimes I don’t calm down until 20 arrows have been shot.  If I’m going to fire off a poor shot, it is going to happen near the onset of a competition.

I’ve never set a personal best during a tournament. Would a beta-blocker help with those performance related symptoms of heart rate and adrenaline?  Yes, it would help.

If I had high blood pressure would I take a beta-blocker? Yes. Archery is fun, strokes are not fun. If I had high blood pressure and needed a prescription of a banned drug would I apply for a TUE? Yes. Otherwise, I’d be cheating.

More to the point, have I ever competed against archers using banned substances? Frankly, I’m not sure I’ve ever competed at a major event where other archers weren’t taking beta-blockers.

Do I think archers should be allowed to receive a TUE for the use of a beta-blocker to compete in archery? No, I do not. If I needed a beta-blocker I’d submit a TUE.  I’d also expect it to be rejected.

When applying for a TUE the USADA has stated:

In these cases, despite undisputed medical indications for the therapeutic use of beta-blockers, the TUE applications were rejected because the athletes could not demonstrate the absence of an enhancing effect on their individual performance. 2

Archery is a sport.  As an archer, you are an athlete.  Athletes are fit. For most of us there are ways to reduce blood pressure without using drugs. 3.   The Mayo Clinic’s first two methods listed to reduce BP: exercise and diet. 3

If your dream is the be an athlete and your waist is over 40 inches for a man and 35 for a women, you probably need to take some action to reduce your risk of high blood pressure. Then, work on being an athlete.  You can’t be an athlete if you’re dead.

If you’re not going to put in the work and you are on beta-blockers, still shoot.  Only, compete in the “Fun” category until you’ve either gotten healthy enough to compete clean or can show that the banned substance you take doesn’t improve your performance as an archer.

*Years later, I did earn a spot on a USA Team to represent the USA at the World Championship in the Long Course Duathlon. And, yes I have been tested for performance enhancing drugs.

References:

1.)        http://www.greygoosearchery.co.uk/drugs-archery/

2.) https://www.usada.org/wp-content/uploads/TUE_guidance-cardiovascular-conditions.pdf

3.) https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/high-blood-pressure/in-depth/high-blood-pressure/art-20046974

 

Time to Go Long

After shooting at 20 meters for months it is refreshing to start 50-meter practice.  The next competition for me is not until May.  In May that event is the Georgia Cup.

50-meters

There are other tournament, like the NFAA Nationals in Cincinnati, Ohio and the Arizona Cup, but I’ll skip those events.  They both represent a huge expense for little reward.

There are 3D shoots but 3D probably isn’t going to be a major discipline for me in 2019. Certainly, 3D is enjoyable and I was looking forward to at a minimum the Georgia ASA State Championship.  Being bow poor, having one for skinny arrows only, it seems like a waste of time to train then compete against fat arrows.  Additionally, I’ve e heard that in Georgia archers who compete in the State Championship must complete two qualifiers.  Georgia is a big State and getting to qualifiers can be expensive.

Still there’s a pull to shoot in some 3D competitions.  I’ve got an old Mathews Conquest Apex 3 stored in a case; maybe I could bring that out and shoot it for 3D.  I’d sold the bow once and the fellow that bought it gave it back to me.  He said, “Keep this bow and keep the money.”  It is suppose to have been a good bow.

Something may pop-up between now and May, I hope so.  I need to feed my urge to compete.  Worse case, I run a lot of 5ks.

“Your goal should be to have fun.”

Just before the start of the second day of shooting during the USA Indoor National Championships in Suwanee, Georgia a friend of mine said, “Your goal should be to have fun.” That wasn’t my goal.

My goals also weren’t to shoot a specific score. I had only two goals.  One was to “Shoot every arrow right.”

By that, I mean to go through a perfect process for each shot.  When I get it right the arrow lands in the X.  When I’m off the arrow lands in the nine ring.  When the process is out of control – all bets are off.

As far as having fun, that’s an activity that can occur between ends.  Essentially, it amounts to good conversation while waiting to shoot. It helps pass the time of a three and a half hours long tournament.  But, it isn’t why I go to tournaments.

No, I don’t go to archery tournaments to have fun.  I go to compete against other archers.  Oh sure, you’ll say, “You’re there to compete against yourself.”  Well, you can do that at home and save the entry fee expense and whatever other costs you incur to compete.

I go to tournaments to compete.  Tournaments add a competitive layer of archery I don’t get shooting alone.  Yes, I do enjoy it.  I also enjoy the friendly conversation with people I know and ones I don’t know during a tournament.  It is a great way to make friends. Which comes to my second goal, “To make new friend.”

Where my goals are concerned for that last tournament, I feel I was more successful with the second. As far as having fun, tournaments are a lot more fun when you’re winning. In that regard, this last tournament was fun.

Changing Bows Before a Big Tournament

Last year I purchased a bow specifically for target shooting.  During practices I’ve had some decent scores with the bow.  In tournaments, it has been another story.

Yesterday, during practice, using the target bow, I wasn’t shooting badly.  However, I wasn’t shooting what I felt was going to reach my average score.  I stopped shooting, took the sight, scope, and stabilizers off the target bow and out it on my 3D bow.

I’ve not shot the 3D bow too often since last year and it took a few ends to get the feel of it with the longer stabilizers.  After practice I compared the scores.  The non-target bow ended up scoring 5 points higher.  While that might not be statistically significant, it could be extremely important in an archery tournament.  I’ve lost more tournaments by a point than I care to think about. Heck, I’ve lost three with the same points as the winner. Twice I had the same X-count as the winner as well. Of those, I ended up losing by a one by a single arrow closest to the center shoot off. Another time I lost to the inner X count, and once to a one-arrow X margin.  Those were hard loses.

Thus far, in tournaments, I’ve never set a personal best. In other sports competition is where all my personal bests were established.  Adrenaline may help in running or cycling, but it isn’t a friend to the archer.  In archery, anything than can help to reduce excitement and calm the performer can be a benefit.  Maybe going with a different bow that feels a little trustworthier will help over the next two days.

I suppose I know pretty soon.

Another Tough Tournament Done

Coming into the Georgia Bowhunter and Archery Association/NFAA Sectional I felt it would be a tight contest. I expected podium places would often come down to the X count and even the inner X.  I was right.

I heard the official talking as they were tallying the scores.  One commented that, “I think scores like this should be settled by a shoot-off rather than the inner X count.”

I’d gathered at two archers had scored the same points for a 1stplace finish and had the same number of Xs.  Choosing the winner was going to come down to the inner X count. Essentially, which archer’s Xs were, by a judgment call, closer to the center based on how a group counted the center or inner Xs. Little did I know.

For the second tournament in two weeks I’m busted down a level based on Xs.  Well, in this case, the inner Xs.  My score and the ultimate winner’s score were the same, our X count, the same and while the inner X score wasn’t posted, I must assume he had more inner Xs than me –it would have taken only one. (A measurement of less than a millimeter would do it). It is a hard way to lose.

No points separated the 1stand 2ndplace (or Xs) and only one point between that score and 3rd.  It was tight.

Georgia Bowhunter and Archery Association / NFAA Sectionals

Day 1: Things where going really well.  Then, they weren’t.

If you are unfamiliar with an NFAA Indoor competition in archery, archers standing 20 yards away, shoot at 5 targets per end. In other words, archers shoot 5 arrows, stop, wait, score, wait some more, shoot 5 more arrows, and repeat until 60 arrows have been shot.  For two lines of archers that takes about three and a half hours. Oh, then all of it is repeated the next day.

This is what a 5-spot looks like. Well trained arrows should stick into the target in this manner.

The maximum score is 300 hundred points per day in this type of tournament. 300 isn’t an uncommon score. Winning typically comes down to the X count.  And, the X count is often divided into inner X versus outer X. The arrow landing inside the middle of the X ring and not touching the outer edge of the X ring counts as an inner X and is scored by putting a circle around the X on the scorecard. Sometimes, the scores are the same, the X count is the same and the winner is decided from the count of those inner Xs (The archer coming closest to the exact center more often than the opponent.)

I was rolling along heading for a 300 when this arrow seemingly decided to shoot itself.  Now, that happens a good bit with me and today was no different.  All the other times those independently acting arrows ended up in a good place. But, this one time, well the arrow being somewhat new remains untrained and I lost a point.  Believe me, 299 is not the score I was aiming for.

Of course, I had about 15 more arrows to shoot when the “event” occurred.  And sure enough everything was fine after that occurrence.  Yep, in archery one mistake can screw up your entire day.

Archery: 10% mental and 90% trying not to quit.

 

Another archery tournament, another road trip.  

Traveling to archery competitions can be rough when staying in a hotel.  Making the trip using a camper and staying at a State Park is significantly better. At the moment, I’m camped at the George L. Smith State Park in Twin City, Georgia.

The park is about 45 minutes from Georgia Southern University in Statesboro, Georgia.  That’s where this weekend’s shoot is taking place. There was a tournament at GSU two weeks ago and I stayed at a hotel for that event.  The hotel was nice, one of the Hilton properties, but it was still a box.

The tournament tomorrow and Sunday is an indoor 5-spot State Championship and NFAA Sectional.  I know the folks I’ll be shooting against.  I expect any score outside of 300 per day will fail to make it to the top.  This tournament will likely come down to X count and maybe even inner Xs versus outer Xs.

Whether I finish on the podium or not, what I can say is this Georgia State Park makes the trip worthwhile.