Last weekend was the second USAT qualifier, held in Newberry, Fl. A couple days before the tournament, I woke up with jaw pain and knew instantly my TMJ was flaring up. Typically when this happens, I have 1-2 days of intense pain, but then it dies right down. Yes, it is miserable for those 36 hours or so, but I knew it would be gone in time for the weekend so I wasn’t too worried.
Unfortunately for me, this time the pain didn’t go away after 2 days, but instead decided to get even worse. I can honestly say I’ve never experienced pain at this level before and it was excruciating. I tried taking a higher dose of ibuprofen just to sleep, but it didn’t even touch the pain. I’ve said it before, but I will say it again, I honestly don’t know how people with severe chronic pain survive. I have the utmost respect for them, and I wish there was something that could be done to help them.
So needless to say, with that type of pain (and not eating and sleeping), I was thinking I was going to have to stay home from this year’s Gator Cup, as much as I wasn’t happy about it. Thankfully, it was suggested I try seeing a chiropractor, and I was able to find one that could get me in just in time to still make my flight. She was able to bring the pain down a notch, just enough that I figured I had to try going and shooting.
I didn’t shoot much on practice day, as I wanted to take it easy and allow myself the best chance of the pain being gone by the next day. Unfortunately, I think I still pushed it a little much, as any relief I had started to feel on Friday, was gone on Saturday. I packed multiple bags of ice to bring with me to the field, and I just kept reminding myself it was only 72 arrows. I didn’t have to do amazing, I just had to finish so I could shoot on Sunday.
My first scoring end was a 60! I had no clue where that came from and was ecstatic, regardless of what happened the rest of the day. I tried to ice as much as I could when I wasn’t shooting or walking down scoring, but the day was definitely taking it’s toll on me. I would come to the line and dread shooting my 6 arrows, knowing each one was going to send pain shooting through my skull. About 3/4ths of the way through, I literally was standing on the line fighting back tears as I tried to shoot.
This is where I tried to put things in perspective. I didn’t have cancer, I wasn’t having bombs go off around me, etc. I was around friends, doing something I loved to do. So while the pain was bad, there were way worse things that COULD be happening to me. This internal pep talk was enough to get me to the finish line, which is when I learned that I had qualified in 3rd! My first half score was definitely something I was happy about (highest on the field), and although I wasn’t too excited with my second half, I didn’t focus on this. I stayed positive, knowing I almost didn’t even make the trip, so just finishing was a win in my book.
After shooting, I headed back to the hotel to get out of the humid weather and SLEEP, since now that I could sleep, that was the only time I wasn’t in pain. After my nap, we got dinner and then decided to find something to distract me since it was too early to go back to bed for the night. We opted for mini golf with some other archers from CT. I managed to have fun, yet not laugh too much (laughing made things hurt worse). Then the boys all decided to race go carts before we headed back to our hotels.
Sunday morning I woke up and couldn’t believe it, the pain had gone down a noticeable amount! I tried not to get too excited, as I knew it could just as easily come back in full force, but I was pumped for the day with approximately a 40% reduction in pain! Elimination matches started with the men, so I was able to watch R win his first ever head to head match! That definitely gave me an added positive feeling for the day. Women then began and I wasn’t happy to find out that shooting still hurt my jaw. I luckily had a bye the first round, as I played around with my anchor point, trying to find a way to make it less painful to shoot.
I was able to easily win my first match, but then it was time to face Easter, whom I shot against last year on my way to my 4th place finish at nationals. At the time, I think we were the only two non sponsored women out there, so we had quickly become friends. I knew she was a tough competitor, so I had to stay focused for the match. Unfortunately for her, she had a tough second end, which allowed me to gain an advantage that I didn’t let go of for the rest of the match.
And then it was time to shoot against Lexi. She took an early lead and we continued to battle through the entire match (just as I had predicted). Going into the last end we were tied, with Lexi having shot 29s on every end so far. I told myself I had to shoot a 30 to win the match, but I dropped my first arrow. Knowing she was going to shoot another 29 (or 30), I knew my only chance was to pound my last two arrows into the 10 ring. I did, so I fully expected us to go into a shoot off (or was hoping so bc if she shot a 30 I had lost). Someone was looking out for me, as she dropped two arrows on the last end, giving me the outright win. As excited as I was to be moving on to the final 4, I was disappointed for Lexi because I knew how hard she had been working and she shot great all weekend.
The semi finals matched me up against Erika, with the winner going into the gold medal match and the loser fighting for bronze. I knew she would be the toughest match of the day, but I didn’t expect her to almost set a world record against me (dropped her last arrow of the match). I didn’t shoot great that match anyways, so I had to let it go and focus on winning my next match so I at least could walk away with a medal.
Kailey and I had been next to each other on the field most of the day, so we had been chatting (more like me picking her brain about 3d and how to judge distance). I had a weak first end, and she shot a 30, so I had to fight from behind. I tried not to focus on the scores, but instead, just make sure I made three good shots each end. Overall, this seemed to work, and I ended up winning the match against another tough opponent.
I honestly have never been happier to finish 3rd in my life. Knowing what I had to overcome to get that medal, made it that much more special to me. Standing on the podium after the week I had, meant the world to me. It also created an additional desire for me to get to the top step. I am confident that once I get all my ducks in a row (bow shows up to tournament, pain free, healthy, etc), I am going to be a force to be reckoned with!