2014 was a year of firsts for me: first novel published (‘Newbie Nick’, Lycaon Press), first time meeting a wing-walker (Carol Pilon, my inspiration for being bold, brave, and fearless), and first time shooting an arrow from a bow (thanks to my pals Bradley and Matthew). Although I’m still writing, yet haven’t taken-up wing-walking (I said yet), the archery thing kind of ‘took,’ so for Christmas Santa was kind enough to bring me a recurve archery bow.
And so 2015 has continued with the theme of ‘firsts’…
My husband and I joined the Victoria Bowmen Association, an archery group that my son has been involved with for the last few years. He has won, or placed, in numerous tournaments and continues to excel in the sport, impressing me with every arrow shot. I love watching him and will always cheer him on, but I guess something had been itching inside of me all along to try it. It was an itch I had to scratch, and my dabbling in the sport became something more. My practices became an escape, a challenge and an adventure. Archery was something I had never done before; had never entertained even doing before. I had no aspirations other than just enjoying it.
Then I did something I never dreamed I would do – compete.
As in be in a competition – a tournament.
My son had signed up for a yearly tournament called the MICA – Multi-sites Indoor Championship of the Americas. All archery clubs throughout North and South America host their own tournaments between January and April, and at the end all of the competitors in all the Americas are ranked.
When I realized the tournament was exactly what I had been practicing with anyways (distance and target size) I figured what the heck?
I didn’t tell my husband or my son my intentions. Only the tournament registrar knew – and he knew my apprehensive, amateur, newbie fears. I’m a writer, after all, not a sporty kinda gal – and definitely not an ‘archer.’ I’m just a mom who, at 40-something years old, learned she kinda likes shooting arrows at a target. But I didn’t tell either of my men about my competitive intentions because a/in case I chickened out, b/I didn’t want them putting pressure on me by bugging me about it, and c/in case I chickened out. This was new, fragile territory for me – I didn’t want anyone, or anything, messing with my first time.
But at T-minus 2 days before the tournament, I told them. I realized I didn’t want to surprise the young lad at the last minute with my intentions. I was worried that the novelty and presence of his mother competing with him (not against him) would throw off his game. His tournaments are much more important to his long-term goals. Me, well, I’m just happy if I hit the damn target.
So when I told him I then quickly offered to withdraw if he felt awkward about his mother being in the tournament with him – because really, who wants their mother in something like that with them?
After they got over their surprise and shock, they both encouraged me. I assured my son I would make sure I would be nowhere near him and, in fact, I wouldn’t even look at him. When I was told “Don’t worry Mom, you’ll just be like one of the other guys” I knew I had his blessing and the rest was up to me.
But as fate would have it I got very sick that week, and my pre-tournament practices were horrendous. I wouldn’t learn until after the tournament that a sinus infection attempted to sideline my (Olympic) archery career. But sick or not, I was determined to participate.
The day before the tournament my son gave me some last minute tips that helped out my ‘game.’ I got myself in order, despite being so sick, and got my ‘mental game’ in check. Focus is huge in the sport – I wasn’t about to let some boogers bring me down.
So on the morning of my first archery tournament ever, where my son was calm, cool and collected, I was a wreck that managed to keep some semblance of calm and serenity displayed on the outside. Having wrapped my hair in the most perfect bun ever sure helped.
But when it came time for the tournament to start my nerves got the better of me and a sweaty hand was responsible for the first 2 ‘ends’ to go askew. In archery even the slightest alteration in ‘grip,’ ‘release’ or ‘stance’ can throw off your shot. My ‘grip’ hand was so sweaty that it mucked up how I held the bow and my previously-practiced perfect shots went all over the place.
My confidence plummeted.
Once I figured out the issue, I concentrated on keeping my hand sweat-free. I kept my clogged/sore/sneeze-ready sinuses at bay, focused on everything I had learned to that point, and continued with the rest of the tournament – with whatever style and grace I could muster. I don’t think I breathed through the whole thing – I could barely, anyways. I was determined to not only finish the day, but finish it semi-un-embarrassingly. I still don’t know what drove me to even compete in the tournament in the first place, despite how ‘new’ I was to the sport. But nothing – no sickness, ailment, or overnight-loss-of-limb – was going to stop me from competing that day. I just wanted to try it – just once – even if I never did it again. There was a first time for everything, and I wasn’t about to let my first time be ruined by a mere sinus infection.
I managed to stay ‘in the yellow’ and ‘in the red’ for the most part, which is good. I finished with a score of 442 (out of 600). I did better than I had ever imagined and after it was over, even though I felt like crap and the next day DID get a prescription for some lovely antibiotics the size of horse pills, I knew…
I would never forget my first time (and I’d be going back for more).