Living in New England, AZ Cup is ALWAYS my worst tournament of the year. No matter what I’ve done to prepare in the frigid north, it never seems to help. This year, I decided I was going to take matter into my own hands and not rely on the weather to cooperate. I booked a trip to California for the 2 weeks leading up to AZ Cup, excited for the prospect of actually having a good tournament in Arizona this year.
As usual, when you try to be proactive about something, the universe decides to step in and laugh at you. This was no different. I got to CA, and I right away shot some personal best scores. Each day I was improving, and I was pretty pumped about the upcoming tournament. A change I had made before leaving seemed to really be pushing me over the hump I had felt stuck at all indoor season, so I was excited to start the year. Then after just a few days there, I came down with the flu. I’ve always been someone who rarely gets sick, however, this means when I do get sick it is usually pretty bad. Even with that said, I’ve never spent DAYS in bed, but that’s exactly what I did in CA. I had no appetite, and I just slept all day. To say I was frustrated to be laying in bed in CA was an understatement. Then, just to remind me that things can always be worse, I had some complications with medicine I’ve been on since I was 14. Without going into too much detail, lets just say that this was super serious, and made the flu look like a paper cup. This left my body completely out of sorts and even more drained of energy.
As usual, I wasn’t the best patient, and as soon as I started to feel the slightest improvement in my condition, I picked my bow back up. I didn’t jump in full steam ahead, but I did shoot half days and roughly the amount of arrows I shoot each day at home. I probably jumped in a little too quickly, as my form the first 3-4 days was terrible. I didn’t have the strength or energy to shoot properly, but I was so afraid of not being ready for the tournament that I pushed through instead of resting more. This meant as I did start to gain back strength and awareness, I had to re-learn changes to my form I had been working on all winter. The days leading into AZ, I started to get the feel of my form back, but I couldn’t seem to keep it for 72 arrows. Either my first half would be rough and then I’d find it in the second half or I’d have it and lose it.
At this point, I knew there was nothing I could do but just go and shoot the best that I could. I try to explain to my students that goals should be fluid, and this was a perfect example. I had goals in place before going to CA, and I added some new stretch goals when things were going so well, but then after getting sick, I knew I had to reevaluate my goals and focus on myself more than placement or score. After practicing one last time in CA Wednesday morning, I jumped in Mackenzie’s truck for the 6hr drive to Phoenix.
With the change to the schedule this year, Friday morning was official practice and Friday afternoon was qualification for my division. I made the decision to shoot Thursday as my practice day (only shooting about 50 arrows), and then I came to the field Friday morning just long enough to get my equipment inspected before heading back to the AC. I tried to rest my body, drink extra fluids, and get some work done for my real job. For me there is nothing worse then waiting to shoot, so I did my best to distract myself and not think about it.
Qualification started off pretty well. I made a few mistakes in judging the wind, but I was happy with how my shot was feeling and overall where the arrows were landing. I’m told I was in 2nd place through the first 3 ends (I don’t watch scores when competing, so I can’t verify this). Then the 4th end happened…I opened up with a right 7 which I was surprised by. I looked at the wind flag and figured it must have gotten stronger than I realized, so I readjusted my aiming point and proceeded to shoot a left 6! Ok, so now it was time for a deep breath, clear my head and start over. I told myself forget both those arrows and pretend this was my first arrow of the end and shoot according to what the conditions were currently telling me. I drew back, shot a confident shot and watched the arrow hit my other arrow in the 6 ring. Hmmmm, now what. At this point I gave my sight a crank or two just to mentally reset and after two 8s, I was finally able to find the 10 ring on my last arrow. I was pretty upset about shooting a 45, not bc the score was so bad, but because I honestly felt like I had made 6 good shots, and up until this point I was reading the wind well. Next end was a 52, so I felt a little better and just told myself keep building from there.
Unfortunately, the last end of the half the tail end we had had most of the day started to die off, and I didn’t realize it (this wasn’t something I had to pay much attention to shooting compound). I ended up with all my arrows pretty low and a score of 47 for just a 303 first half. Part of me was happy that I had still broken 300 (303), but the rest of me was super disappointed knowing what I was capable of just 10 days prior. My goal for the second half was just to pick the correct aiming spots and make strong shots. Basically, I wasn’t trying to reach a specific score, but instead avoid any 6s, etc. I didn’t make it a single end, however, shooting two 6s (one left and one right) in my first end of the second half.
I followed this up with my best end all day (56, with a high 8 on my last arrow!), and the second half was really more like the first with some really solid ends and then some not so great ends. I was bummed when we finished, thinking there was no way I had broken 300 this half, so I was happily surprised to learn I had shot another 303. I wanted to cry and scream and kick something about finishing in 12th with a 606, but I tried to find the silver lining. As I mentioned in a my indoor post, I’ve struggled with consistency from half to half since switching to recurve. My ends were still inconsistent, but I had put together two identical halfs, which I had to be happy about. I also reminded myself that I didn’t overheat, I was able to shoot all 72 arrows, and considering where I had been a week ago this was a huge accomplishment.
I always enjoy elimination matches more than qualification rounds, so I was hoping I could do well the next day and build on my ranking. After a long day of being in the sun the previous day, I didn’t feel tired, but I also didn’t feel 100%. My shots felt clean, but I felt like I didn’t have all my strength. I decided I just needed to be smart in when I shot and how I read the wind. I won my first match 7-1 after tying on the first set. And more importantly I felt like I was shooting (and scoring) well, shooting more 10s then 9s. We had a pretty long break with matches going to 5 ends, then shootoffs, then the compound field needing to be reset, so I tired to get the muscles back firing on all cylinders for my next match.
I knew the next match was going to be a tough one, as I was shooting against Casey, and even though it was her first 70m tournament (at 14 years old), she is currently the women’s indoor national record holder, so I knew she would be bringing the heat. The first end felt a little rough from sitting so long, but my X, 9, 8 was enough to win the set. She then dropped a 30 on me the next end, so even though I had shot well, we were now tied 2-2. It was at this point that I suddenly felt like I had lost all my strength. My bow are was relaxing too much, so I was struggling to setup correctly to then pull through the clicker. Every shot was a struggle, as I felt like I was having to pull an inch at anchor instead of a few millimeters. This caused me to fight with my bow and even with reading the wind, I started spraying the target, shooting a 24 and a 23 end to close out the match.
I was happy that Casey had shot very well, so I knew I didn’t lose the match all on my own doing (it would have been tough to beat her at my best right now). However, I was crushed that I hadn’t been able to finish the day on a positive note. I really felt like everything caught up with me, and I had nothing left. But I hate feeling not in control of situations, so I did fight with everything I had, and I am happy to say that I did let down a few times (something I wouldn’t have done in the past when I was fighting this bad), and I do feel like overall I read the wind much better than the previous day, even though it was switching direction and intensity arrow to arrow at times.
In the end, I finished in 12th…just like qualification and a complete bummer, especially since there were people I out-shot but finished ahead of me. Lucky for me there are 3 more USAT events plus nationals to improve on my performance. As I told a few friends, part of my wishes I hadn’t shot so well right before getting sick because that is what made this tournament so much harder. Knowing where I was at to where I ended up. But that is life and there are people battling a lot more serious issues than me. I am lucky to have the opportunity to shoot tournaments and compete against the best here in the US. For now all I can do is move forward and try to be in top condition for the next one.