If you’re doping to get a $2.00 medal – you are an idiot.

While cycling over the past few days I was daydreaming about racing.  Recently, I’ve been looking at times (results) of cyclists and duathletes in my age group. Even though I’ve not raced a bike in a few years I think about racing. Man, the times for some of the results I’ve found are incredible.

If I did a bicycle race it would be a time-trial, an individual event, to reduce chances of crashing.  Crashing hurts and could impact archery as well as my body.

The last purely cycling race I did was in North Carolina.  It was a time-trial.  I knew my expected time before going into the race and knew those practice times would be practically unbeatable.  In the race, I held my time and still got beaten.  It wasn’t even close.  The fellow that won was a complete animal.

At a recent 5K, I did win that race; the second fastest time of the day came from a fellow nearly 10 years older than me (I’m 64 in a few weeks.) That was simply amazing.  This old fellow smoked many high school track runners.

Thinking about racing I measured results of people in my age group at major events against my times.  I did fine against those posted results until around the 4thplace.  Then, the top finishers had faster times.  Not at all events but at some I found results online of men in their 60s who were as fast as pros racing the Tour de France. Dang!

Well, not dang but dope.

Over the past couple of years the USADA has busted 56 cyclists for doping.(1)  Fifty of them are in the Masters division with an average age of 50 years old. (1) By the way, 2 archers were also busted over that time frame. – they weren’t Masters. (1) Fifty Masters cyclists busted for doping! Why? It’s not as if Nike is looking for Masters athletes to give out huge sums of money.

The fellow that beat me cycling in North Carolina was doping. It was a regional race and no one was getting drug tested.  I’ve done a lot of racing and seen a lot of cheaters; this guy was just about out of his skin he was so amped. I didn’t say anything – it wasn’t worth it.

It was discouraging to take a second place at that bike race.  I’d worked hard to win, losing sucked.  At that 5K with the old fellow running like a cheetah I was lucky in that he wasn’t in my age group.  He, also, wasn’t around after the race.  I think he was doping, training, and plans to stop doping before any major event, make sure he tests clean then compete. He wasn’t around for the podium glory post-race because he probably wasn’t interested in answering any questions. Heck, if that worked for the Russian and Germans it will work for him.

Knowing how often Masters athletes are doping is sort of a bummer when it comes to motivation. (2,3) I have decided to look for time-trials and other individual cycling events for fun.  At nearly 64 years old fitness is a more important reason to train.  Racing is simply a fun activity.

Archery, unlike cycling, is a more serious endeavor when it comes to competition for me.  Archery is a test for me of talent transfer and finding a sport where an older person can be competitive longer.  Like I said above when I looked over the list of athletes suspended for doping 2 archers were on the list.(1)

Many of the older archers I shoot against are taking beta-blockers.(4,5) Y’all keep taking your beta-blocker. Archery isn’t worth a stroke or worse. And like cycling Nike isn’t looking for older archers to hand out big checks.

I can recognize the individual likely to have high blood pressure and be taking a beta-blocker. For the most part these individuals are easy to spot and they’ll sooner or later fatigue during a competition, have a momentary loss of concentration, and despite the added advantage of the beta-blocker will give up a few points. (6-8) Not often, but often enough.

Doping in amateur sports, like cycling and archery, is a fact of life.  Doping among athletes over 50 is common. (9)  If you compete clean great.  If you are over 50 and are competing clean great.  If you’re doping because you have a medical need get a therapeutic use exemption.  If you’re doping to get a $2.00 medal – you are an idiot.

Reference:

  1. https://www.usada.org/testing/results/sanctions/
  2. https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2016/jun/01/dope-and-glory-the-rise-of-cheating-in-amateur-sport
  3. http://jumping-the-gun.com/?p=2641
  4. https://www.rxlist.com/high_blood_pressure_hypertension_medications/drugs-condition.htm
  5. https://healthfully.com/athletes-would-use-beta-blockers-5622585.html
  6. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3181843/
  7. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/173068.php
  8. https://healthunlocked.com/bhf/posts/136191614/beta-blockers-confusion-loss-on-concentration-side-effects…slightly-anxious-has-anyone-felt-this
  9. https://www.narcononuk.org.uk/blog/the-problem-of-amateur-sports-doping.html

There’s A Lot of Praying In Sports

You’ve trained, practiced, and sacrificed for your athletic endeavors.  Along the way you’ve competed and given your best.  You may have finished well or placed well back from the top finishers.  What matters is whether you gave it your best effort. (1)

For some, giving their best effort incorporates a silent prayer.  I don’t know what athletes are praying for during competition.  You see football players in the NFL praying a lot. (2)

I suppose if you’re an NFL punt returner you may pray you don’t drop the ball.  Considering the size and speed of the punt returner’s opponents a prayer begging not to die during the return also comes to mind.

There are athletes turning to prayer for a boost in performance in all sports. You also see it in all religions.  But, there can be only one winner, aside from the rare tie, in a competition. So, does it mean that God was more on the side of the champion? (3,4)

No, it doesn’t.  You can pray all you want, but you will only do the best that you’re capable of on that day.  It doesn’t mean your prayer wasn’t answered.  If you did your best, competed fairly, and maintained your faith that’s the only answer to the prayer you need. (1)

Reference:

1.) 2 Timothy 4:7, King James Version: I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith.

2.)https://www.outsideonline.com/2196101/god-dimension.  The Athletes Turning to Prayer for a Performance Boost.

3.)Greenwood TCDelgado T. A journey toward wholeness, a journey to God: physical fitness as embodied spirituality. J Relig Health. 2013 Sep;52(3):941-54. doi: 10.1007/s10943-011-9546-9.

4.)Pollack J,Holbrook C,Fessler DMT,Sparks AM,Zerbe JG. May God Guide Our Guns : Visualizing Supernatural Aid Heightens Team Confidence in a Paintball Battle Simulation. Hum Nat. 2018 Jun 18. doi: 10.1007/s12110-018-9320-8. [Epub ahead of print]

Ageless Guidance for Athletes

Of all the athletics I’d done in my life, the training part has always been the hardest and the most fun. Training and practicing with a team was wonderful.  From high school football to cycling being part of a group was an experience that helped mold me.  Sharing the experience and the path teaches athletes selflessness.

Coaching tips shared a long time ago (1,2)

As life begins to creep in sport can become a more solitary activity.  There isn’t always time to meet the schedule mandated for team activities. Running, cycling, duathlon, triathlons and archery can all be practiced alone.

Training or practicing solo helps clear your mind.  There is a peacefulness that comes from training discipline that has been recognized for centuries. (1) As we improve in our chosen sport we seek a peacefulness that can assist our advancement and in cases of competition help find that zone which leads to our best efforts.

As an athlete you may learn that training is a time where you too reach a certain quiet or mental silence.  During those moments you’ll get a feel of what you want to carry into competition.

In competition there will be times when you’ll be the victor. Victory is not as important as the process or how you reveal yourself as a winner.  To win someone must lose.

The true winner is that champion who is able to remain humble.  Know that when you are a champion others will look toward you as an example.  It is nice to win, but winning isn’t as much the goal as the disciplined process that brings you to the podium.

As a champion, remember to care about those that finished out of the top place.  Your ambition isn’t to win out of selfishness, but to win because you followed a path that can be shared by others. (2)

Reference:

  • Hebrews 12:11
  • Philippians 2:3
  • (Yes, these references are correct, hence this post’s title)

It Is a Rule to Follow

You are familiar with the rule.  You may even try to follow that rule.  If there were only one rule that you should this would be that rule.

It is not a new rule. It was practiced in ancient Egypt (c 2040 – 1650 BCE).  Confucius encouraged people to follow it (551-479 BC) and it is in the Code of Hammurabi (1789 BCE).  It is in the Old Testament (Leviticus 19:34 ‘Great Commandment” and at Leviticus 19:18). In the New Testament both Matthew and Luke acknowledge this universal rule (Matthew 7:12 and Luke 6:31). In Islam, Muhammad did not neglect it (Qur’an Surah 2, 16, 23 and 83). In fact, all religions seem to have captured it in some fashion:

The Golden Rule is the principle of treating others as one’s self would wish to be treated.

It is simple, good and easy to practice. In sport you might think that’s a difficult rule to follow – that is until you look around during practice, training or competition.

It was 2008 and Chrissie Wellington was racing in another 140.6 mile Ironman.  This one was the World Championship in Kona, Hawaii. During the bike segment of the race she had a flat. In that event athletes can receive no outside help. Everyone carries a small repair kit in order to replace a flat tire.  Wellington was no different.

She changed her flat tube. When she went to inflate it with a CO2 cartridge she messed up.  All of her CO2 escaped into the atmosphere none of the CO2 making it into the tire. She was out of the race. She was helpless on the side of the road as her rivals passed her.

That is until word got out that Chrissie had a flat and no CO2.  In the Ironman other racers can help another athlete.  That is not considered outside help. A triathlete, a competitor, while riding her bike, grabbed the CO2 she carried.  As she passed Wellington, she handed off the CO2. This time Wellington successfully inflated her tire.  Back on her bike, she passed everyone to have a lead that she held throughout the remainder of the race, again winning the Ironman World Championship. Who knows, if the other rider had not given up her CO2 perhaps Wellington would have been out and the Good Samaritan racer might have been the victor. (The triathlete that provided the CO2 was capable of winning)

(There’s a video of this attached.  If you watch it you will see other riders passing Wellington.  It isn’t that they were withholding help.  At the speed people ride, there’s almost no time as you pass someone on the side of the road to know exactly what’s going on.  Word is passed backwards until some can react.)

We see similar gestures, as athletes, everyday. On the range in archery athletes help athletes. Someone misses a target in 3D and everything is on pause while a group searches for a missing arrow.  A bow malfunctions or a stabilizer slips and every archer within a 10-yard radius is transformed into archery’s version of Inspector Gadget.

Sport is a tremendous equalizer.  No matter how good an athlete becomes, no athlete started off good.  We were all pretty poor performers when we started. Everyone knows the effort, humiliation, and trials that lead to finding the courage to put one’s self on the line. Since we’ve all shared in the particular aspects of the sport we’ve chosen, we all understand what each of us is going through.  That mutual connection and the shared understanding helps make following the Great Commandant as innate to athletes as it is to religion.

 

 

Something has clearly gone afoul

Heading out early on Saturday morning I was on the way to practice at Ace Hardware’s Indoor Archery range in Social Circle, GA. The weather has been sort of tough for practicing outside. So, I’d purchased a month’s supply of practice time on the range. The temperature wasn’t bad on this morning; it was the downpour of rain that herded me inside. (The forecast was for 3-5 inches over the next several hours)

Arriving at the range I was surprised to discover the parking lot nearly full. It isn’t too much of a surprise; Ace’s archery pro-shop is often really busy, especially on the weekend.

Collecting my gear, heading into the building, it was pretty much packed with people. Seriously, there was minimal space to simply walk. A voice called out in my direction, “What are you doing here?” asked a friend. “I came to practice,” was my reply.

It turned out there was a tournament underway. Warm-up was just started and I figured I’d sign up if there was room. Seemed like a great form of practice and I got the last unassigned lane.

I got assigned a great spot to shoot from, 8D. There was a lefty in 7D – ideal. As an aside that lefty is ranked number one in the world. He’d just returned from competing in Argentina. I was pleased to be able to compare my shooting to his.

Ace is a great place to shoot and just down the road.

Well, I was pleased for the comparison at the beginning. What started off to be a decent performance soon dropped into the depth of near embarrassment. To be fair, I wasn’t bouncing arrows off the floor or sticking them into the ceiling. But, I did fire off two eights and a boatload of nines. There was a fair share of X’s and 10s at the beginning, but those shots migrated to the lower scoring rings after short time.

After a few days of trying to figure out what went wrong, I remain at a loss. The day after the failure to win, I took a critical look at form and equipment. I did discover the lens of my scope had rattled loose and my rear stabilizer had shifted a tad. Neither of those minor conditions should have led to an eight, much less two eights. What I do know is that my average scores have dropped from around 290 (small ten ring, 30 arrows) to around 280 over the past 10 days. Ten days ago I’d moved my 30-arrow goal to 295, now I’m messing around with 280s. What is just as concerning is that over the last 1000 arrows I’ve shot three eights. Something has clearly gone afoul.

The day after the poorly executed tournament I took a critical look at my equipment. It seemed okay, but I’m not 100% certain there isn’t an issue with the limbs of my target bow. That concern will need to be addressed by a professional bow technician.

At any rate, there is one more practice league competition, and one more major practice session before heading out to Statesboro, Georgia for the State 25-meter championship at Georgia Southern University. There are also two easy practices and on rest day scheduled for the week. After that, I’ll have to be as ready as I’ll be for Saturday’s big event.

Rushed Shots and Follow Through

There are excellent archers here in Georgia. Along with those experts are superior coaches. That’s not to suggest that in your neck of the woods there are less qualified coaches and less amazing shooters. Despite the quality there are occasional missteps by archers that seem highlighted during 3D competitions.

The top professionals do make these two mistakes; only not as often as archers who are not as proficient as professionals. These common errors are: rushed shots and lack of adequate follow through.

Coaching Tip

During practice these two errors don’t pop up so often. Yet, the archer that smacks all 10s, 12s or 11s (for IBO) on a foam animal while practicing can at times get caught making one or both of the errors when competing.

In competition you can reduce the likelihood of committing these two mistakes. Rest assured if you fall into the group of decent archers failing during a 3D tournament because you are rushing and dropping your follow through you are not unique.

You may be like many archers that study the form of great shooters. It is a good way to learn. Notice how calm they seem letting the shot happen then holding on the target long after the arrow is released. Next time you’re in competition watch how often less accomplished archers appear to rush a shot or shorten their follow through.

If you suspect you may be committing one or both of these errors work them out during practice. When you find yourself in competition relax and move through each shot deliberately. Take all the time you need (within the time limit) to find your best position on the target. Once you’ve made your shot hold on the target until you hear your arrow strike it. For some the follow through in this manner may seem exaggerated, but a longer time holding on the target during the follow through may buy you some points.

If you’ve practice working though these mistakes trust your training during competition.

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

Target Panic

I’ve read from many archers that they get target panic. Panic is a dramatic word. When I was in clinical practice panic was never an option. I’ve never experienced panic. I literally grew up in a clinical environment beginning a long medical career at age 15. So, panic is blunted for me.

I think an archer’s target panic is similar to stage fright. Stage fright is another problem from which I don’t suffer. During my medical career I gave 121 invited lectures. Many of them based on my research. Believe me, you don’t just stand up and talk. At the end of a presentation the audience fires questions at you. The more confident you appear the more questions you get. Medical audiences are attuned to a nervous presenter and often let them off easy. I was so confident in my research I invited question to be shot at me at any point during a presentation. But, before I stood up in front of an audience, I’d had decades of preparation.

At one lecture I did in Augusta, Georgia, the night of the presentation a tropical storm hit. The weather was bad with pounding rain and wind. The venue for the lecture was in a hall above a restaurant and bar, B.F. Hippplewhite’s.

The sponsor of the lecture, the talk provided Continuing Educational Units, supplied refreshments that included light food, beer and wine. The lecture started at 7:00 PM. By 7:10 only five people had braved the storm. At 7:20 everyone assumed that was going to be the total audience, all of whom knew my talk and had come for the free beer. So, we all started doing our best to put a dent in beer supplied for 50 people.

At 7:50 PM there were 30 people and six of them, including the speaker, were half lit. Well, the show must go on, so I started the talk. I can’t say if it was one of my best, it was up there, but it was without compare the most fun. My now drunk friends were firing question, debating, and yelling counterpoints. During my talk I took a bio-break to deposit some of the beer I’d consumed and returned in time to calm two PhD’s from what appeared to be a Nerd fight stemming from the use of inverse ratio ventilation treatment for iatrogenic lung injury. It was splendid and totally panic-free. Still, I do not recommend the combination of alcoholic libation and archery.

I’d never heard of any kind of panic in sports until I began shooting a bow. The first time I heard the term target panic I was surprised, but I didn’t panic. I don’t believe I have ever experienced panic in any form, much less panicking while shooting an arrow.

Shooting an arrow is easy. Shooting it and hitting the X less easy. Either way, there’s no reason to panic.

Getting nervous is another matter. My first archery competition I was real nervous. Not over shooting the target as much as not being clear on tournament protocol. That was the Virginia State 18-Meter Indoor tournament in February of 2014. I’d only had a bow for a few months and had taken three lessons. But, the coach I had at that time felt I could be competitive and encouraged me to go. Like a fool, I listened.

I went and explained to the folks at the registration desk, the judges, and the archers around me that I was truly a novice. I was so unfamiliar with the sport I shot a bow set-up with a short stabilizer and pins. I couldn’t see the pins because the lighting was so bad. But, I never missed the target. I finished 4th and remained panic-free. There was no room for panic or even the thought of it – I was too busy watching everyone else trying to figure out what to do. It was also the first time I’d seen a long stabilizer.

While I don’t panic I do get lazy and sloppy. I’ll sometimes rush a shot rather than let down. Letting down is under-rated. I’ll sometimes hope to get lucky rather than letting down and starting over – the purest form of lazy. I seldom get lucky. Sadly, I sometimes do get lucky and hit an X when I should have let down, which makes this bad habit harder to kick.

I think the best way to avoid nervous energy before a competition is to recognize you are going to be nervous for the first few shots. Then remind yourself that you’ve practice this shot thousands of times. And, of course, you’ll hit the X because you’ve done so thousands of times before. In my case, I’ve hit the X 3579 times since 2014 excluding 3D.  I know this because I record my practice and competitive scores. For 3D I don’t keep an X count. It’s too much data to work through with 11 or 12 as an X, depending on ASA or IBO scoring, the variance in yardage and the occasional 14.

So, now when I go to a tournament, I know I‘ll hit the X. Maybe not as often as I want but as often as my current level of training supports.  It is not such a big deal.

No, I don’t hit the X 100% of the time. Right now, more like 40% of the time on a 3-spot and 83% of the time on a 5-spot (on average). As such, there is no reason to panic or even get nervous. Seriously, my greatest competitive anxiety comes from: how long is this tournament going to last and where’s the bath room. I mean to say, how can these folks, the judges, competitors that can’t add scores properly (myself included), or can’t pull arrows between ends, slow this event to a pace that makes my ears want to bleed and why is the bathroom a kilometer away. In any circumstance – there’s no need to panic.

“Just put the dot in the middle and shoot the dot,” as suggested by Reo Wilde.