When I started shooting I believed that I had 2 years before this broken body would crumble and stop. With the help and support of a number of people I have reached 5 and a half years. It’s been a rollercoaster, the physical pain, moving to seated, the emotional trauma. Shooting for the county is a privilege and no, I am never aiming to “just make up the numbers” as has been suggested by one coach.
The last 18 months have been about fighting to remain on the range mentally and emotionally, people literally holding me together as I breakdown and cry on ranges, spiralling to darker and darker places. In my very darkest place friends decided I needed to see the sport differently, they knew a massive amount of the damage to my relationship with the range was created by a coach and the NGB amongst others.
I was taken to a field course and welcomed with incredible warmth and a huge discussion about why many found themselves there and what a different type of archery and a different governing body had given them and what they might offer me.
However I cannot shoot field, there is a risk with the shoulder spasms that a loose arrow may hit an archer by the nature of the lay out, it’s simply not a risk in target. Plus there is my love of flight archery.
I was also taken to longbow day at Dunster on the 15th June. I had barely survived the 16th May and so was vulnerable on that range but I was met with warmth and laughter and the feeling that I would be welcome here. So Clair and I decided to come this year and spend 10 days taking part in the whole thing, from the county championships, the week’s festival and ending on the regional championships.
I had 13 months to get myself in shape mentally and physically to be here and have fun, something that had been taken away from me.
A week later we had the devastating news about dad and the training on the shooting side took a step back, the focus was on him, rightly so and never regretted.
I did ground out that second seasons first classification, hard work pulled it off and as I had spent a huge amount of time with unclassified or 3rd class scores I was again proud to achieve it. It was evidence that I was pulling it back together. Also some shiny bling again from my second year at the national flight championships and my new found love of the footbow. What is not to love about a bow that sees every single arrow shot make me laugh like a drain! My first raptor badge, Merlin earned too.
Winter shooting was cancelled for me as it simply wasn’t to be a priority but with the small amount of shooting I managed around the important time spent with dad and the few shoots I managed after he left us and the time spent with mum, I managed to end the season with a C classification, I had only ever achieved a D previously.
The work I was doing on my mental health was hard, very hard but it was gaining ground.
Outdoor 23 has been a very mixed bag, hard work and some PB’s but also some terrible days and terrible scores. My body is again breaking down.
July arrives and it’s Dunster time, here I am a week in, my scores are horrible but I am having an amazing time. The plan had been shooting 7 of the 8 days, target on the field day and volunteer on the clout day. I would be standing on the longbow day as the practicalities of the stool on a 2 way shoot were likely to create me more issues than resolve.
I wanted to shoot longbow day as a nod to last year, my first visit that gave me purpose in my sport when I had lost all hope in believing I had a place on the range.
My little longbow has never been shot at a target as she is for flight and I have her as I love watching the arrows float, you don’t get to see the arrows with compound! She brought me home a bronze medal at flight last year but I didn’t expect much of her at Dunster as it was unlikely the arrows would even reach the boss! But she made me proud as the arrows constantly fell around the feet of the boss, they were making the distance! I learned what petticoats are – we don’t get those in compound and I hit a 3! Shortly after starting the second distance it was clear I had to make a decision about the pain and I withdrew, it was a fantastic day regardless and well worth the effort.
Friday saw equipment failure and make up arrows, another new experience at Dunster 😂😂
More importantly, I have constantly had issues this week with my shoulder and back, as expected, I had a little cry on Tuesday as I pondered if this was nearing the end of my shooting but I was sensible and contacted Ben and Martin to arrange some time when I get home to look at what is happening, what we might do and what the future might hold. This equipment failure suggested it may not all be about me as there could have been this piece failing over the course of the week!
So here I am, heading into a double Hereford to end the week, I am going to enjoy it with no expectations and just see what happens. Scores are irrelevant this week. Dunster has been about something so very much more than where my arrows land. It’s been a celebration that I made it, that last May didn’t take me and that my sport may still have space for me for just a little longer. I do still have 2 important goals for 2025! For now Dunster 2024 is on my calendar to return and celebrate me, my shooting and it’s 150th meeting! 🥳