Running bad

12 August, 2018

“I play tennis for a living even though I hate tennis, hate it with a dark and secret passion and always have.” – opening sentence of Andre Agassi’s autobiography.

So tomorrow morning I fly to the Lausanne World Archery Masters Championships.  I am shooting in the recurve men’s category. Badly.

It’s difficult to express how frustrated I am with archery at the moment. Nothing seems to be going right. Nothing. Because it is a sport that demands far more time that I can give it, and consistently reminds you when you are not paying it the attention that it deserves.

My only goal, really, is to perform at the best of my ability and deliver at a reasonable level. That’s all anyone can do, right? Yeah. Well, I seem to be unable to do even that. I don’t expect to be able to keep up with internationals. I expect to be able to execute a shot with at least reasonable consistency and it produce some kind of a group when I go and actually perform. Sadly, that just seems to always just fall out of reach. So I’m left in a situation where I am hoping not to finish last, hoping not to collapse completely. That’s not really where you want to be for an international tournament. I’m completely out of my depth. And it’s no longer funny.

This has been compounded by a lack of practice, but this time, not through want of trying. The outdoor practice sessions at the club near where I live start and finish too early for when I finish work – I can barely get 45 minutes shooting in and I don’t have any say in the distance (long story). So I currently have a sightmark for 80 yards, but not for 70 metres. What a fucking amateur. I tried, a while ago, to contact a club much nearer my workplace who shoot on weekday evenings, but in typical UK archery style, no one bothered answering my email.  And today, I tried to go out to my club in London, but I don’t have a key to our outdoor ground anymore and nobody wanted to come out and play in the drizzle. I can’t set up a boss at home – it’s just not big enough and the ceilings are too low. So in the short term, I am massively underrehearsed.

I hate the fact that I’m relying on a pile of components, all of which are mission critical, and I don’t have enough spares which I am sure are all working and shot in and identical and so on. I hate the fact that I can’t tune a bow properly, despite following instructions to the letter, because I’m always second guessing myself and there’s always something I’ve missed and all the sets of instructions are different and apparently don’t take things like different arrow rests into account. Oh yeah. Arrow rests. I hate arrow rests.

what is this I can’t even

I hate fletching arrows. Someone was kind enough to sit down with me a few months ago and teach me a nearly foolproof method for fletching recurve arrows, just before I went to Vegas. Brilliant. A process. Repeatable! I followed it to the letter a couple of nights ago, or so I thought. The results look ham-fisted and clunky. With a couple of vanes to go the stupid jig lost its little ball, the one that guides the turns through 120 degrees. It rolled under the sofa and down the floorboards. I jam the last couple on and heave the fletching jig, with its shitty design and worse instructions, into the bin. I have eight working arrows, and a bareshaft. If there was time, I would have done it properly. There isn’t time.

I hate the fact that I’m still slightly over-bowed. Not much, but enough to fuck up the last few ends of any session. It’s fine, until it’s not, then I want to throw the thing on the floor. I’ve managed to put in some strength work at home, but not much. My shot is finally coming together, thanks to Kate, my coach, but everything around it… sheesh.

One of the reasons I like archery it because I find it very difficult, because it forces me to think and do things in a certain way. And I chose to do this tournament. Nobody forced me. But I wanted to. And I’m finding it so difficult to enjoy it and make it part of my life, because it seems to always force you back to square one all the time. I’m a really busy person, and I want to shoot as an escape valve. Every time, right now, it seems to throw something in the way, and I don’t have the seemingly endless amounts of time needed to patiently work through all the technical and physical problems. (I’m not the most patient person in the world with a lot of things).

There are no excuses. I know. But I manage to organise my life in many other ways no problem; editing a magazine, running a household, commuting and working a job, cooking and cycling and being with people and having a life. I want archery as part of that too, but not to be everything. Enough to go and have fun with it. It’s lost a lot of joy at the moment. And I have to go and shoot this week and be embarrassed by people who are better than me, because I thought I could be better too. And I’m not. And I hate that.

Rant over.

5 comments on “Running bad

  1. Heather

    I’ve lurked on your blog for years now and… well, I really want to emote something helpful at you (likely motherly, since that’s my usual MO) but I know that’s not going to help. Just know, I feel ya, and I’m sure there are lots of readers for whom this was a “Oh, god, yes, I know” post. Digital hug for what it’s worth… seriously.

    I wont lie: I gave up competitions after my last bout with this and I haven’t returned. I’ve barely picked up my bow. And I miss it. But I hate the feeling of never being able to do it justice, to give it the time it demands… and what is this ‘it’ anyway? I fell in love with archery, in part, because it presented a life-long challenge. But as I progressed, and watched others around me, I realized I needed to pour in more money, more time, more training… and I *did* get better. But not good ‘enough’. And I never got to competitions outside of my state. I picked up a bow in my late 30s… what possible achievement was I trying to catch-up to? Was it really about me and the bow, or was it about me and something to do with my ego and pride? Anyway, I hated it more than I loved it, so I stopped.

    About a year ago I bought a horse bow and some cheap almost-correctly spined arrows and started re-teaching myself to shoot. I needed to ditch NTS (no offense to it) and started shooting again, stupidly, slowly, badly… but I’d listened to the birds, felt the beginning of a rhythm with this new thing, and… it kind of was fun, almost.

    I’m not back in yet. I haven’t touched my bow all summer. I was even in the UK for a month and avoided looking at anything archery-related, like some people avoid an ex you keep running into at the bar. And I’m pretty sure I can’t compete again, because it killed the love for me once, I’ll be damned if it does it again. But I know there’s all kinds of reasons to rebuild your shot cycle, and sometimes that rebuild begins with the question: why archery? And that very question fills me with such joy… it’s not ruined yet.

    Anyway, digital hugs, I love your blog… hang in there. <:)

  2. thearcheryprofessor

    Archery is simple, fascinating, and brutal, ruthlessly exposing flaws. However well or badly you do at the competition, it’s all experience, all data. And one more thing – archery is how we have fun. So enjoy your international trip, meet great people, learn from those who know more, and if you come last? Your in good company. Failure is the best teacher.

  3. Mark B

    Blimey mate, that’s like reading a suicide note. “If only he’d said something… reached out… but it’s too late now…”
    If you want some help getting your bow set up, please ask. I love that sort of thing, and I am brilliant at it 🙂
    And if you need a key-holder to open up for a good reason (not just to get wet) just let us know and I’ll be there!
    Hope you have a good time out there anyway 🙂

  4. Toro

    There are only three state of minds: pesimistic, which is involuntary (we let ourselves be lead by automatic negative thoughts), but avoidable; optimistic, which happens when you fill your head of positive thoughts because you can choose not to believe the facts and have faith that next time will be better, EVERY TIME; optimism brings confidence and confidence is the door to the third state of mind: the no-mind or “zone” when things go well no matter what. In which of the three do you want to be now? You can choose…


Leave a Reply