Big Bang

Over a decade ago we were living in Easton, Maryland.  For those of you that don’t know Easton, it is in Talbot County on the Eastern Shore of Maryland.  Eastern Shore isn’t a proper name, still in Maryland it is commonly started with capital letters while the western shore remains lower case.

During that time, at home, I had finished practicing music, playing my trumpet, and was walking downstairs. Brenda, my wife, heard me coming.  She was laughing and said to me, “You’ve got to watch this.”

It was a television show. Coming down the stairs I replied, “I’m not watching a TV show.”  Passing the television the show was being aired.  I heard some of the lines from the actors.  I stopped and listened for a few seconds.  Then, I said to Brenda, “I know these guys, what is this?”

Brenda just laughed as I sat down to watch the ‘Big Bang Theory.’

The ‘Big Bang Theory’ is now longer being produced.  I never did watch Big Bang while it was being aired.  I did, however, purchase the first three seasons and watched those.  That, too, ended at the beginning of season four.  I decided to wait until the show ended and start over.  I didn’t expect it would last twelve seasons.

Currently, Brenda and I are at season twelve episode ten.  As infrequently as we watch TV this has taken months to reach the end. ‘Big Bang’ is drawing to a close. I am primarily watching to see the quest appearances.  ‘Big Bang’ has had amazing quests such as Stephen Hawking and several Nobel Prize winners.

I am amazed at the lines of science the actors have been able to learn and speak with such ease.  I learned that all the equations displayed in the show are actual and not gibberish.  Although, once the character Amy was looking at a white board and commented on the “delta t” when there was no ‘delta t ‘ I could find. It may have been somewhere and I didn’t care enough to continue the hunt for the change she referenced. However, it seemed the dialogue and equations didn’t match.

What is most amazing is I  know the characters.

Not the fictional characters on ‘Big Bang’ or the actors portraying them.  I know the cast from the real life characters from which the fictional ones were created.  Again, not the exact characters but characters similar to the people being played on the show.

A lot of my friends are scientists.  Unlike the scientists on ‘Big Bang’ nearly all of my friends are or were very athletic.  Aside from that major difference many of my friends were or remain socially awkward.

There are many athletes that are scientists today. My close group of friends includes MDs and PhDs that have competed at National Championships, International competitions, World Championships and Olympics.

Off the top of my head I know of 6 Olympic Golds and 2 silvers in that group.  One silver medalist was a high jumper.  She and I worked together for years as Respiratory Therapists. There’s a PhD that remains one of my closest friends.  We raced bicycles to together for years before we both moved on to the Medical College of Georgia.  One Olympian (Gold and Silver medalist) and I worked hard to create a sports research center.

Last week someone asked me what compelled me to compete.  I’ve been giving that thought. I know that when my cycling career seemed over my wife encouraged me to, “Get a real job.”

I did.  I started with an Associates of Science on Respiratory Therapy.  Completing my education (while working) took on all the competitive drive replacing sports.  I didn’t slow down until I’d earned a PhD, Masters, and a Juris Doctor. (That’s 2 doctorates and a Masters degree – same as Dr. Sheldon Cooper’s academic credentials) Whatever the drive had been in sports I felt it in academics.

I don’t yet has a grasp on what it is that makes athletes or academics compete.  The scientists represented in ‘Big Bang’ were portrayed as competitors in their fields.  Albeit, somewhat less so in athletics.

Winning

In 2010 at the Ironman World Championship Mirinda Carfrae won setting a new course record.  In 2009 she’d set a new marathon record for the course. In 2009 she lost the Ironman World Championship to Chrissie Wellington. In 2010 Wellington didn’t race.

Mirinda Carfrae

During an interview Carfrae was asked whether her 2010 victory seemed less meaningful because Wellington hadn’t raced.  She replied, “You can only race against those who show up.”

Recently, I won a State field championship.  I knew whom I was shooting against having competed against them a number of times. Some of the guys I’d shot against in the past showed up, some didn’t.

Chrissie Wellington

Overall, the event was not well attended and for some champions they were alone in their division. “You can only shoot against those who show up.”

A friend of mine just won a State championship.  He was solo in his division.  He shot well and deserved the win compared to past scores.  He loves to shoot.  Seemingly the shooting is more important than the winning.  He often doesn’t stick around for his award after a tournament. He pretty much shoots then hits the road before the awards ceremony.  He never brags about his victories. It is more likely he’d complain we’d not performed as well as he’d hoped.  The tournament isn’t a matter of winning, it is a matter of shooting.

Competing in a tournament where you are the only athlete in your class has got to be a let down. Nevertheless, you compete by doing your best;  next time you might not be alone in the field.

In my division the field is never empty in my experience.  In fact, if doesn’t matter if I’m competing in archery, running, cycling, duathlon or triathlons.  There are always others who have shown up to win.   There is always someone else to push. Sometimes I win, sometimes I don’t.

There’s also someone that says, “We’ll you had fun.” If I earned a second or third, it really wasn’t as much fun as a first.  Overall, I have not won more times than I have won. Winner is hard.

In general, I compete to better my results. (And to win) That can be done simply by shooting in the backyard.  There are  incredible archers that won’t compete because they refuse to pay the price to play.

I had a friend, a cyclist, who in his 60s could train with and do well against younger athletes of a national and international caliber.  I asked him why he didn’t race.  He said, “I don’t have time for that.” Sadly, this athlete expired in his 80s.  He was still riding his bike days before he kicked the bucket. His position on not having time for a ‘race’ makes a bit of sense to me now that I’m in my 60s. Racing is fun, but it is expensive and takes a lot of time.

Archery is expensive.  The major tournaments can be very pricey.  Archery, however, costs a lot less than a triathlon. Archery prices for competitions are about the same as running events.  Some of the local events cost about the same as a 5K.  The bigger events cost about the same as a marathon. Regional or State level tournaments are in the ballpark of a 10K or half-marathon.

On the other hand I know athletes new to a sport competing where frequently contests have low turn outs for minor events. They, the new folks, have won such contests.  Some, when they do win, they pronounce themselves heroes. Sure they’re proud of their victory. But, no one else showed up. Worse their results are often made available for everyone to admire.  Seriously, too often such data should be held in silence.

There are, too, athletes that fall way short of the prize and should be celebrated.  A friend recently lost at the IBO World Championship. He didn’t even make the top 10. However, his performance was so close. If you are a competitive athlete you know that a few points or a few tenths of a second can be the difference between 1stand 10th. Once, at a National Championship I ended up in 8th place, less than a second out of first place.

In the case of the IBO archer he was proud and shared his results. They were impressive.  There was no braggadocio. I was proud for him and felt his happiness.  There was nothing hollow about it.

Then, there’s the fellow who won an archery target tournament where he was the single shooter who’d earned a low score.  He was proud and even a little arrogant.  His attitude and smug conceit were appalling.

You can only compete against those who show up in an athletic event.  When it comes down to it you can only improve yourself.   Should you win when there isn’t any one to compete against there’s no need to get a swollen head.  If you lose in a great field and perform well congratulations are in order.

In sanctioned events where you end up the only person in your division know this – records can still be broken. Don’t compete half assed knowing you’ve got that $2.00 medal in the bag. Perform to win. Everyday that winning attitude will pay dividends.

In 2011 Carfrae and Wellington went head to head at the Ironman World Championship.  Wellington won.

Numbers, Process, and Monitoring

In professional sports, where athletes and their coaches are making money, believe me those individuals know their numbers.  When Usain Bolt prepared for a 100-meter sprint he knew about how fast he’d run.  So did his opponents.

When Coach Belichick begins a game against any team in the NFL he knows what that team’s expected yardages are for nearly every play and his defense works to read which play is coming their way in order to stop the play. Odds makers and bookies know this on  broader scale – football isn’t a total mystery. 

Feb 3, 2019; Atlanta, GA, USA; New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick looks on during the first quarter against the Los Angeles Rams in Super Bowl LIII at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

If you are a professional athlete you know how fast, strong, or accurate you are in your sport.  You may not be as fast as Usain Bolt, then no one else is either, however, you do know how fast you run – if you’re a runner.  If you are a power lifter you know how much weight to add to a barbell during exercise and about where you’ll lift in competition. 

There are variances to that knowledge. These variances in performance don’t amount to huge gains or loses. But, it is those variances that often make sport so interesting. Like an NFL upset or Bolt losing to Americans Gatlin and Coleman at the World Championship in 2017. (2017 was Bolt’s final year as a professional)

Eli Manning data

Suppose, for example, you are an archer that has been preparing for a tournament shooting a 5-spot.  You might not keep records your practice scores.  You might record how well you perceived your adherence to your shooting process.

If you’ve created a method of gaging your process of success that excludes knowing the scoring result you’ve missed a critical piece of information. 

While you might perform well at the 5-spot tournament you may be surprised, one way or the other, as scores are being called and recorded while you watch.  Without having trained to recognize scores as only one part of the process you could find that during competition a mental pressure to achieve a score creeps into your thoughts.

On the other hand, during your practice sessions if you’ve kept a measurement of your scoring you will become desensitized to the numbers.  What those numbers can provide is a floating bar to inform you of how you’re performing within your process.

In a tournament you don’t need to be thinking about your process.  Competition is a time where you trust your training and shoot. Process practice is for practice. During competition “You get the job done or you don’t,” Bill Belichick once said. Afterwards, you can sit down and evaluate your performance. Then, you’ll find what you need to work on for the next event.

Say that prior to the 5-spot tournament you’ve kept a database of the practice outcomes associated with scoring.  From that database you can review your most recent 30 scores.  Your data teaches you that your average practice score is 299.5 (300 is the maximum score).  You might further learn that your standard deviation is 0.99 points and your range  (‘range’ in this context means – minimum and maximum scoring)  is 297 through 300. Additionally, you can discover from your data that of the past 30 scores you ended up with 297 (3 times) for 10%, 298 (2 times) for 6%, 299 (1 time) for 1% and 300 (24 times) for 80% of your recorded practices. 

Numbers in sport are important

Understanding your numbers should give you the confidence to see yourself earning 300 points (you do it 80% of the time) at your tournament.  You also know that your variance is less than one point, 0.99.  But, your range is 297 – 300 or 3 points. 

Obviously, you aren’t likely to win a 5-spot tournament with a score below 300, although it has happened outside the professional divisions. Knowing that you score 300 at a rate of 80% means there is immediate room, 20%, for improvement.  Once you are landing 300 scores 100% of the time you set a goal of achieving 60X.

Coaching tip

While monitoring your performance can be done using a variety of matrices, scoring is one very objective value.  By following scores you’ll see improvement and create goals. You’ll further learn not to be intimidated by numbers and not reach a panic point when you are off on a shot. What matters is how you recover from that missed X. 

Remember, everybody misses and the score will take care of itself.

 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