Why in the world would I want to start training for archery competitions as a para archer? Because it fits perfectly into my family's schedule, I don't train alone and, quite simply, because I can.
A chain of events occurred at one of my daughter's archery tournaments during the summer of 2012. I've had zero experience with archery but can tell you the difference between a recurve and compound bow. During this particular tourney, I had to ask the event director a question so I walked toward him and saw a gorgeous cobalt blue compound bow that looked right out of a futuristic movie. I said to myself, "Wow! What a great looking bow!" After chatting with the director, I walked by the bow again and heard the archer say, "... yeah, I don't have the strength that I used to, so I picked up this bow... it's the lightest they make..."
At this same event was Lee Ford who had just returned from competing at the 2012 London Paralympics. I recognized Lee from an archery club my daughter shot with a couple of years ago. I was very happy for Lee and her accomplishment and got curious; what is her disability?
Several days later, I started Googling this mysterious bow and discovered a para archer in England who recently acquired the exact bow I saw at the tourney: Hoyt Carbon Matrix G3. Google came to the rescue again when I found Lee's bio and learned about her journey into the archery world and her disabilities.
My wheels are really turning at this point and I start thinking about the possibility of me learning how to shoot and someday compete. Remember in an earlier post I said I could never win a 5k race as a walker, but that I will always finish. Well, with archery, I do have the possibility winning a tourney. That revelation was so exciting!
At this point, I found out who Lee's coach is and I reached out to Jim White to see if he would consider me as a student. After explaining my disability and sharing xrays, Jim said we should meet so he could evaluate me and see if I was capable of drawing a bow as a staring point. During our meeting I told Jim that I had been living my life over the past few years in the, 'I can't do (fill in the activity) because of my back,' mindset. Guess what? I'm now living in the, 'I can,' mindset which is what urged me to meet Jim.
Jim asked me if I'd like to compete which I do. He explained that the best way for me to compete is by using a compound bow because I won't have to hold the full draw weight compared to a recurve bow. What this means is, if I'm drawing the string of a 25# recurve bow, I must hold the full 25# draw weight until I release the string. A compound bow, through the use of cams/pulleys, has a 'let off' point when an archer draws so that the same 25# draw weight let's off after the string is drawn close to the face and the weight lightens up between 65%-80% depending on the bow. This allows the archer holds less draw weight until the string is released. What this means for me is that I will have less stress on my back shooting a compound.
Jim went on to explain that as a para archer I can not only compete, but I can go as far as the Paralympics if I want to using a compound with a maximum shooting distance of 70m. At this point, I was super excited but nervously waited for his decision as to whether or not he would take me on as a student. He went on to say that he typically works with elite athletes or those whose goals are to become elite...
Wait for it... here it comes... I'm holding my breathe at this point!
He said he would be happy to be my coach and train me when I'm ready for competitions. Yippee!!!!! Jim connected me with Lee Ford and said she will be a great resource for me. Jim said for me to learn the basics with Lizzie's coach first and then if I decide I enjoy the sport, let him know and then we'll talk about me buying gear.
So my curiosity increased and I reached out to Lee with a lot of questions. Lee has been incredibly helpful and I was surprised to learn she started shooting 4 years before competing in the Paralympics. What an inspiration! Believe it or not, she has a spine issue too.
I've been training with Lizzie's coach on a 15# recurve (the club doesn't have any compound) and have found club equipment (gear archers borrow during class) is not as reliable as your own gear because many people use the same equipment. I decided to take my stretch bands with me to Paris so I could continue my workouts and I stuck to my routine. Several weeks before our holiday, I started using Lizzie's 25# recurve to start training my back on what it feels like to pull 25#. I was only able to pull once but am now up to x3 per session. The first time I shot in class after our trip, the 15# recurve felt very easy to draw.
Early in January, I decided it was time to invest in a bow. After consulting with Jim and the fellas at Archery Learning Center, I ordered a custom Matrix G3 30#-40# draw weight. Jim suggested I buy an adjustable bow 30#-40# because I'll need that weight to shoot the long distances. The tech guy at Archery Learning Center said he can torque this bow back to 25# which is perfect because that is what I've been practicing on with Lizzie's bow.
My bow should arrive toward the end of February and I am super jazzed! The challenge I have with my disability is that I will never be able to bend over or twist and the majority of my back is numb. Drawing a bow does not involve using one's bicep; it is all in the pull of the scapula muscles. Well, that's fine, however, I'm having to learn how to pull with my scapula since I cannot feel anything back there. Lizzie took a video of me so I can see what's happening back there. I was quite tickled to see my scapula move and look forward to strengthening and building muscle.
My training is bow hold with Lizzie's bow x3 days a week and alternate with stretch band and weight exercises, in addition to shooting x1 or x2 a week.
It's been an abundant 2012 and am eager to see how 2013 unfolds! :)