Early this morning I met MT for Sip n’ Shoot.
Sounds intriguing, eh?
Really it’s not. There are no fancy weapons and it (sadly) doesn’t involve wine. But it does involve shooting arrows and sipping coffee. We met at the archery range. I, with my $19.99 bow, MT with her wildly expensive bow and custom arrows (you think race wheels are bad? try buying a custom bow). I was like the Huffy, she was like the Pinarello. There really was no comparison.
We chose our targets. Today we would shoot at the large dice. I’m not sure if this is a common thing to find at an archery range but imagine these giant dice stuffed with plastic shopping bags. You shoot at that. It sounds weird. It is weird. But then again, it’s archery.
By the time I shot through 10 arrows, MT was still fiddling with her bow. Trying to fix some very important piece on the bow. My arrows fly everywhere as MT sits by her large fancy bow case working on this piece. There is another man at the range and after we shoot our round, we collectively say clear and pick up our arrows. MT - still fixing her bow. This goes on for about 3 rounds.
“M, for every 10 arrows I shoot, you shoot 1. What the hell are you doing over there?”
It’s an important piece, something that needs to be fixed, something she knew she would need to do. This doesn’t sound fun. Forget it. Use my $19.99 bow and shoot a few rounds. She laughs, continues to work on my bow when she asks where I got mine. I don’t know – Dick's Sporting Goods? It was cheap, it shoots arrows. It does the job. She realized, then, that my bow does not have a sight. I guess a sight helps you hit the target. So, she asks how I shoot without a sight.
I don’t know. Point and shoot. Sometimes hit, sometimes miss. I mean – the target is out there about 20 yards away. I’ll hit it eventually as long as the arrows keep moving forward. Whether I hit the target or not doesn’t really matter to me. It’s an outcome I’ll likely reach the more I master the process. The process; I like to figure out if I move my foot this way, my elbows up there or put the bow even with my eyes if it will increase the likelihood that I hit. But while I like the process I try not to overthink. Sometimes I just like the sound the string makes when you release the arrow. Sometimes I like to see how far it will fly. Sometimes I just like shoot the arrows with no thought at all.
I move to the 30 yard target and start to shoot again. No way is my bow powerful enough to launch the arrows at speed enough to travel 30 yards but I give it a try. I find an arrow in the holder that someone left behind. A Carbon Force Dominator. And that makes me laugh. Here I am using $1 metal arrows that are blunt enough to bounce off a tree (I may or may not have hit a tree) when there are people out there that spend oodles of money on arrows with threatening names like Carbon Force Dominator.
MT being one of them.
"M, how much did your arrows cost?” She tells me about 6 – 8 dollars an arrow. I guess that is why she has 5 while I have about 30. And why she hits 99 percent of the time while I’m looking for arrows all over the place. Still can’t find 2 of them.
I shoot a few more rounds and hit everything but the 30 yard target. I even hit the wood supporting the target and marvel at the large hole I have put in the frame. That’s impressive. Collect my arrows (minus 2) and see MT still fixing something on the table.
“M, you are overcomplicating things. Just shoot the damn bow.”
She laughs and is clearly involved in bow maintenance that I will never understand. Because archery is not really my thing, it’s just something I picked up for fun. In fact, it’s the first sport in a long time of sport that I can actually be dumb at. And you know what – I kind of like that. There I was watching my arrows ricochet all over the place. I couldn’t hit the bullseye today if there was a hundred dollar bill on it but I had a good time. Sipped my coffee and after awhile I just sat at the table. No need to keep shooting. There was no goal, no magical time to do it, no numbers to hit. Just having a good time.
And that’s when I realized something – this is what I have been missing. This year I have completely overcomplicated triathlon. I’m sitting at the table lost in some detail while the entire race is going by. I’ve got my fancy this and that, my tools that will ostensibly help me hit the target when I’ve lost sight of the fact that you have to shoot the damn thing in the first place to go anywhere at all. While I’m fiddling with something, everyone else’s arrows are moving towards the target and me – I’m going no place.
In between sips of coffee I start to recollect. I realized something during Timberman, something I really didn’t like. I remember running out of transition, the crowd cheering, the announcer shouting my name when I stepped outside of myself and saw something: There I was struggling to buckle a heart rate monitor around my chest. Let me repeat that: I am exiting the transition area of a race, running while trying to put on a heart rate monitor strap. Excuse my language but…
WHAT THE F*CK?
It is a race. You need to go. You need to run. Fast. You do not need to be adjusting and buckling a strap on your body. Let it go and RUN. Run hard, run fast. Run until you catch someone. Run as fast as your feet will carry you and if you blow up – well then that is just a risk you have to take to reach your own greatness. But how can you let go enough to take that risk if you are monitoring numbers the entire time.
You can’t. And that is why I failed. Or have failed many times. Maybe it’s not failure, it’s that I couldn’t even load the arrows in my bow because I was so lost in the details I couldn’t function any more. I lost the ability to stand at a line filled with I can’t wait to shoot my arrows even if they fly all over the place gimme gimme gimme that bow NOW and let me shoot/RACE! That used to be me. Flip that “race” switch and I was ready to go. I used to joke with Jennifer in the days before races that I was ready to make a start line out of tape in my house, stand at it and foam at the mouth for a few days. That’s how fired up I would get.
Overcomplication is debilitating. It wears you out. There is so much to think about you start lose your desire to do the activity at all. The mental energy required to do something becomes huge. You just want to go and do. That’s really what it’s all about. Go and do. Point and shoot. Let’s not make a science out of something that is really just an outlet for our inner animal.
I tease MT some more and she tells me she will never be able to go hunting if she cannot fix her sight. I guess everyone has different goals. I’m not here for hunting, I’m just here for fun. But she is right. How can you hit a moving target if your bow doesn’t work properly? True. But you also can’t hit a target if you don’t let yourself shoot the arrows. You can’t practice for greatness if you can’t even do the most simple step – stepping up ready to start at the shooting line.
In the past 10 days I’ve made a change. I've stepped back. I don’t even know where my heart rate monitor is right now. When it’s time to go hard I go hard. When it’s time to go easy I go slow. And you know what – that feels good. I don’t really need to know how far I go. Or how fast. Fast is fast. I’ve never shown up at a race to be told – today it will take a 6:27 pace to win this race. Or today you will need to hold 30 minute steady in zone 3 to finish in the top 5. Just go. Race the race for crying out loud. Quit looking at a number on a screen as the real race is happening right before your eyes.
Stand at the line. Pull the string. Let the freakin’ arrow fly.