As many of you know. I am NOT a fan of the heat. However, I dislike humidity even more. Unfortunately, every year this in unavoidable for me when I head to Florida for the Gator Cup. Looking at the forecast in advance, I knew this year’s edition was going to be one of the worse. Thankfully, my parents got me LOTS of cooling towels for Christmas, so I was able to pack a cooler along with those in order to be as prepared as possible.
Practice day was in the high 90s, but thankfully this tournament recurve women were shooting the morning line. That meant we were done with practice by 1pm, and we could go find air conditioning for the rest of the day. After taking some time off to let my finger heal, I didn’t push it too much during official practice. I just warmed up, made sure I could still pull my bow back, and checked my sight settings, then I headed to the hotel to get some work done where it was much cooler.
Qualification day was to be even warmer, hitting triple digits. With a start time of 8am, it was ONLY in the 80s when we got to the field, but the humidity was already super thick. In fact, many of us couldn’t see the target through our scopes, as they were too fogged up. We all knew it was going to be important to drink a lot of water with electrolytes (I was definitely thankful I had brought my Nuun stash with me) and keep our fingers and chins dry to avoid slipping at anchor or on the release of the shot.
Similar to AZ Cup, my first half wasn’t what I wanted. It was very inconsistent with highs of a 55 and lows of a 45. I finished with a 305, and I was a little frustrated. I feel like no matter how much I improve, my scores just don’t reflect it, but I just had to keep shooting and not worry about the score. The second half started with a few poor arrows, but averaging in line with the first half. The next two ends were below 50, with a few fliers (like a 4!), but I knew if I could finish strong on my last two ends, the day wouldn’t be terrible considering the extreme heat and humidity.
So with two ends to go, I committed myself to shooting strong, aggressive, confident shots. I told myself I didn’t care about the score as long as I did this for the last 12 arrows. I shot my first arrow, and was very happy that I had done exactly what I wanted. I glanced in my scope, but I didn’t see my arrow in the yellow. As I scanned the target, I started to stress a little that I couldn’t find it. Had I shot the wrong target? I figured I just couldn’t see my arrow due to the haze through the scope and being 70m away (probably a shadow or in with one of the other arrows already in the bale.
I then refocused, made sure I drew back on the correct target number, and shot my second arrow. Again, I was very happy with the shot, so when I saw it was again not in the yellow, I began to scan more seriously to find my arrows, as I figured the wind was doing something I wasn’t seeing. After searching the entire target and counting only 12 arrows (from the girls shooting AB line) I began to panic. I knew I had shot my target, yet my arrows were definitely not in the target.
At this point, I began to freak out (checking my apple watch later that night, I can see exactly when this happened as my heart rate went up about 60 points in a minute!). I looked behind me to find someone with binos or a scope to find my arrows. I was so confused and stressed and the clock was still counting down. A friend happened to be walking up and she was able to find one of my arrows, way outside the one ring on the left side of the next bale.
I knew those arrows were gone, and all I could do was adjust for the next four. I aimed off on the bale to my right and managed to hit a left side 3. I continued to aim further and further right, hitting a 5, then a 6 and finally by aiming 2 bales over, I hit a 7 on the right side of my target. We went down to score, and I was devastated to learn I had just shot my lowest ever end…a 21! On top of that. My first two arrows were literally touching each! So I clearly had shot consistent shots like they felt, but what was causing them to go so far left???
At this point we had one end left. I knew my hopes of any sort of respectable score or placement for qualification were out the door, but I was more concerned with what went wrong. I checked my bow and nothing appeared loose or broken or “off.” I then had to decide where I was going to aim for my final six arrows. I’m not sure what made me decide this, but instead of aiming two bales over. I decided to split the right side of my bale, aiming right side blue.
I told myself the most important thing for this first arrow was to shoot a solid shot, so I could then adjust where to aim for the rest. My shot felt great, I looked in the scope, and it was a 5/6 liner essentially right were I was aiming. Ok, weird…guess I’ll just aim in the middle. I did, and I finished with two 10s, two 9s and an 8 (was a little weak on my follow through). All I could think was now what? What caused my crazy 11th end???
I asked a few friends, and tried to diagnose the problem, but none of us could figure it out, considering my last end was back to normal. After turning in score cards I found the women’s coach and asked her if she had any thoughts. She immediately said my left eye had taken over from my right on that end. I sort of laughed and said well that would be impossible since I shoot with my left I closed. She then explained that I likely opened my left eye then.
For those reading this who haven’t followed me long, I have ALWAYS shot with only one eye open, due to having no dominant eye. I shot my compound with just my right eye open, and while I have twice shot recurve for extended period with both eyes open (since there are many benefits to two eyes open), I have not opened my left eye in a long time. I thought it very strange that I would suddenly do this out of the blue one end, but as many suggested it was very hot, and our brains start to do weird things after hours spent in these conditions.
For those who don’t believe this, check out this excerpt from an article, including links to actual published studies.
“Extreme heat makes us dumber: If you’ve ever felt like the heat puts your brain into a fog — a sensation like that in a steam room, where it’s hard to breathe, much less think clearly — you’re not alone. A number of studies show that as temperatures climb, we perform more slowly and more inaccurately on cognitive tests. This phenomenon affects everyone from students taking standardized tests to office workers trying to get through the day.”
So with my worst qualification score since making the switch to recurve, and a 20th place rank, I was more than a little frustrated, but I KNEW I could beat anyone in eliminations, so my focus was to cause some upsets the next day. Sunday morning I felt the wind took more paying attention to than the day prior. It was changing in intensity and direction. Never crazy gusts, but enough to blow your arrows if you weren’t watching the wind socks.
My first match went pretty well, shooting a 28, 27, 27. I had an 8 each end, which I wasn’t happy about, but I just focused on the fact that I was moving on after a 6-0 win. Next match, I opened with another 10, 9 ,8 (27) to take the 2-0 lead. The next end, I shot two 9s, but I had gotten a little weak in my execution. On the next arrow I started to have trouble with my finger slipping, so I made the decision to let down (something I’ve always struggled with whether shooting recurve or compound). I was happy with myself, and after two just “ok” shots, I told myself, strong and aggressive! I was a little TOO strong and sent the arrow into a left 5…
I was mad at myself for giving away the set, especially after letting down. I came back with a 27 the following end and it was now 4-2. I knew I needed to just finish the match off in the next end with three good arrows. I shot two great shots and had an X and a 10. Again I had some trouble with my finger on the third arrow, but I again was smart (or so I thought) and let down. I drew back on my third arrow (forgetting to check the wind sock), and shot a solid feeling shot. I was happy as I looked in the scope knowing I just won…until I saw I had actually shot a 6 right. That meant one more end, where I shot a 10, 8, 8 to close out the match to win.
Next up was a match against one of our World Cup/World Championship team members, Khatuna. I was excited to still be shooting and told myself regardless of the outcome, I would be happy if I shot good shots. First end was 27-26 in her favor (another 10, 8, 8 for me). The next end we tied with a pair of 27s, and in the 3rd end I brought the match back square with a good 29. As we were finishing that end, the lightning horn was blown and we were told to quickly pull our arrows and head into the building.
After about a 45min delay, we headed back outside to finish our matches. She won the next set 27-26 and the final set 26-25. Although I had lost the match, I was happy about two things. 1)I had stayed consistent all day. I felt like I had shot to my ability and really only wanted two arrows back. 2)If we were shooting compound with total score, I would have actually won the match by 3 points! I totally get that that is not the game for recurve, but for me it was a small victory, knowing that I can hold my own against one of our top women.
This tournament had extreme lows, but also some definite highs. I am excited to see where things go for the rest of the summer. At this point, USAT is not a priority/goal of mine. My focus is on the start of Olympic trials in August, and the Berlin World Cup in July. I may only be attending one World Cup this year, but with the new rules, all I need to do is win, and I’ve earned my spot at World Cup Finals 😉