Laying it all on the line

13 Sep
A moment of complete exhaustion, during the last physical trial of the Train To Hunt Challenge: Pack on burpees.

A moment of complete exhaustion, during the last physical trial of the Train To Hunt Challenge: Pack on burpees.

Every year I look forward to new adventures and new challenges; but I often find myself living inside my comfort zone. Nothing irks me more than living vicariously through other’s achievements or feeling inspired by what someone else has overcome; only to sit idly by…wistfully.

According to Newton’s first law of motion; it’s the natural tendency of objects to resist changes in their state of motion. And when overcoming the inertia of our routine seems too difficult, or impossible; what do we do? We have to mix it up, we have to push forward…and push hard.

I started off this year with my heart and mind committed that I would make this season better than the last and in doing so; I would need to mix it up and step outside of my comfort zone a bit. I needed a goal that deviated from the same old “scout more, shoot my more bow more, train more” gibberish that everyone mutters at the start of each year. To do this I had to think bigger and commit to something that would be difficult…and why not announce it to everyone, while also reaching out for sponsors, for some added  accountability?

As soon as I heard of this “premier adventure race for bowhunters” called the Train To Hunt Challenge, AKA the”Search For The Fittest Bowhunter In The West”…I immediatly made up my mind that I was in. It was announced late last year and with snow still covering the ground; I went into training mode full-bore. Since I had been hunting more and more with my Recurve and had every intention of starting the season with it in hand…I had to ask myself; why wouldn’t I compete with anything other than what I would be using in the mountains? This would put me at a disadvantage; as far as being competitive goes…but this was more of a competition with myself, more than anything else. The course had been set and no alterations would be made…at least that’s what I thought.

One of many training sessions. This was just after the snow melted; I trained rain or shine and as many days a week that my schedule would allow. This day it was pouring down rain. My wife had to snap a pic; thinking that I was crazy as she watched me shoot an arrow, sprint to the target and back and shoot again, all while it rained cats and dogs. You only get out of things what you put into it...and it was my intention to "go big".

One of many training sessions. This was just after the snow melted; I trained rain or shine and as many days a week that my schedule would allow. This day it was pouring down rain. My wife had to snap a pic; thinking that I was crazy as she watched me shoot an arrow, sprint to the target and back to shoot again, all while it rained cats and dogs. You only get out of things what you put into it…and it was my intention to “go big”.

With every workout; I felt my strength and endurance growing and with that, my confidence in my stickbow shooting grew as well. A moment dawned upon me; could I possibly do this? Could I possibly stand a chance of going beyond just competing…when the dust settled, could I actually be standing tall as the victor? At that point is when things went horribly off course.

One of the many logs that I had to clear by hand this day. By the time that I got to the log that would end up knocking the "eff" out me; I was pretty exhausted and obviously was not thinking clearly. Hopefully I learned my lesson and will always assume that any downed tree is under tension!

One of the many logs that I had to clear by hand this day. By the time that I got to the log that would end up knocking the “eff” out me; I was pretty exhausted and obviously was not thinking clearly. Hopefully I learned my lesson and will always assume that any downed tree is under tension!

The first setback came in the form of a concussion sustained from having an ax handle and my own fist being driven into my face. This happened while clearing a road into an area where my hunting partner had drawn a spring bear tag. I was very fortunate that I walked away with only a concussion, a broken tooth and a slightly mangled right hand. But this would set my training back an entire month and I was almost devastated.

Even though I couldn’t exercise much beyond a short, light walk during the time my brain was healing from my concussion; it was only a couple of weeks before my hand healed enough to allow me to shoot my bow again. I was ecstatic about this and began to shoot my bow daily from that point on.

A view from a rainy day in the spring bear stand. My nephew was to arrow a nice, 300# bear from a different location this afternoon. I had the pleasure of dragging his bear out for him. His expression when he first caught a glimpse of what he had shot; was well worth the effort...even if it was supposed to have been MY bear!

A view from a rainy day in the spring bear stand. My nephew was to arrow a nice, 300# bear from a different location this afternoon. I had the pleasure of dragging his bear out for him. His expression when he first caught a glimpse of what he had shot; was well worth the effort…even if it was supposed to have been MY bear!

Before long I was back into the swing of things and almost to the fitness level as I was before my accident…and then the second set back occurred. After spending a week with my wife on the island of Kauai; I returned and promptly tore my hamstring…only three weeks before the competition. It almost seemed that I just wasn’t supposed to reach my goals this year and that I just wasn’t supposed to be competing in any “bowhunter specific adventure race”. I wanted to scream out loud my frustration; but still was determined to be at the competition and do what I could. A week later found me in a treestand and waiting on a bear that never showed it’s self; but I had the privilege of packing out my Nephew’s first Black Bear instead. Somehow my hamstring kept it’s self together, as I lugged the 6′ 3″, 300 lb bear out of the woods. My nephew’s grin and enthusiasm matched the size of the bear that he had pin-wheeled…and that was more than enough for me.

I had so much anxious energy before the competition; I had a very hard time dealing with it. If I would have had to wait much longer for my heat...I might have blew a gasket!

I had so much anxious energy before the competition; I had a very hard time dealing with it. If I would have had to wait much longer for my heat…I might have blew a gasket!

The morning of the competition had my hamstring feeling a little tender and the butterflies in my stomach had me feeling very anxious. I gave it everything that I had and ended up finishing dead last in my division. Even though the competitive side in me wasn’t happy with my performance that day; deep down a warm feeling of satisfaction welled within me. Sometimes just being able to stay the course and finish; means more than the end result.

Crossing the finish line and completing a goal that pushed me past my comfort zone and made me reach deep within myself to complete.

Crossing the finish line and completing a goal that pushed me past my comfort zone and made me reach deep within myself to complete.

A quick note to thank some key people who provided some crucial help that enabled me to compete in this event.

I want to first thank Tim Endsley, of Bad Medicine Archery for his endless generosity. Without him, I truly would not have been able to even enter the competition!

I would like to thank the folks from Alaska Bowhunting Supply and Grizzly Stik arrows; for providing me with the absolute, hands-down, best arrow shafts that I’ve ever had the privilege to shoot. Grizzly Stiks “fly like darts and hit like a Mack truck!”

Also; I would like to thank South cox, of Stalker Stickbows for building the finest, custom recurve that I’ve ever laid hands to. My Wolverine FXT definitely delivers the goods!

Last but not least; a huge thanks to my best friend and hunting partner Darin, for running with me and documenting the event. I can’t wait to put all of his footage together!

Writing my competitor number on each of my arrows. A big thanks to Tim Endsley of Bad Medicine Archery for sponsoring me for this event!

Writing my competitor number on each of my arrows. A big thanks to Tim Endsley of Bad Medicine Archery for sponsoring me for this event!

My Grizzly Stik Momentum EFOC's, dressed up with some blingin' custom arrow wraps from Bad Medicine Archery.

My Grizzly Stik Momentum EFOC’s, dressed up with some blingin’ custom arrow wraps from Bad Medicine Archery.

This must have been pee #60 before I competed in my heat. I didn't have any caffeine that morning...so it must have been nerves.

This must have been pee #60 before I competed in my heat. I didn’t have any caffeine that morning…so it must have been nerves.

Warming up with some dips.

Warming up with some dips.

Event jersey

The first physical challenge: over your pack burpees.

The first physical challenge: over your pack burpees.

The one and only target that I missed during the comp; would basically put the nail in the coffin of my placing. If you missed a target; you had to do double of that physical challenge. This was the worst possible target that I could have missed; because Backpack Getups were the only physical challenge that I struggled with.

The one and only target that I missed during the comp; would basically put the nail in the coffin of my placing. If you missed a target; you had to do double of that physical challenge. This was the worst possible target that I could have missed; because Backpack Getups were the only physical challenge that I struggled with.

More backpack-getup agony

More backpack-getup agony

100 yard "shuttle run", with a 70# sandbag. One of the easier challenges.

100 yard “shuttle run”, with a 70# sandbag. One of the easier challenges.

Catching my breath and getting ready to thump a target.

Catching my breath and getting ready to thump a target.

Just after loosing the second to last arrow of the competition.

Just after loosing the second to last arrow of the competition.

Catching my breath during the last physical challenge: pack on burpees.

Catching my breath during the last physical challenge: pack on burpees.

Heading to the last target. I remember this target vividly; it was an Elk and I was pretty gassed. I remember letting the arrow fly...wondering if I had even picked a spot...and then being relieved to see that I had scored a neck hit.

Heading to the last target. I remember this target vividly; it was an Elk and I was pretty gassed. I remember letting the arrow fly…wondering if I had even picked a spot…and then being relieved to see that I had scored a neck hit.

Since I wanted to finish strong and not re-injure my hamstring ; I chose to walk at times. This was right before the last target.

Since I wanted to finish strong and not re-injure my hamstring ; I chose to walk at times. This was right before the last target.

Taking aim on the last target and then it was a 400+ Meter sprint to the finish.

Taking aim on the last target and then it was a 400+ Meter sprint to the finish.

This was immediately after I crossed the finish line. A lot of things were going through my head at this moment. One of which was being glad that my hamstring held up; but the competitor within me was grumbling over my finish time of 36:00.

This was immediately after I crossed the finish line. A lot of things were going through my head at this moment. One of which was being glad that my hamstring held up; but the competitor within me was grumbling over my finish time of 36:00.

Sweaty, dirty and thirsty.

Sweaty, dirty and thirsty.

Even though I didn't finish as competitively as I had originally hoped; I felt deeply satisfied to have finished what I had started.

Even though I didn’t finish as competitively as I had originally hoped; I felt deeply satisfied to have finished what I had started.

I'm very proud to be a member of the Bad Medicine Archery Pro Staff. Live your brand! #noregrets

I’m very proud to be a member of the Bad Medicine Archery Pro Staff. Live your brand! #noregrets

Not the placing I had hoped for! Since I was the very first person to compete with a Traditional bow; I was showed a certain amount of respect...even though I placed dead last. To me; it was just competing with the gear that I would be using when it really mattered. And of course I thought that besides the limitations of my injury; I could have at least made a better showing with my shooting. But I guess that never being satisfied is the only we can continue to improve ourselves.

Not the placing I had hoped for! Since I was the very first person to compete with a Traditional bow; I was showed a certain amount of respect…even though I placed dead last. To me; it was just competing with the gear that I would be using when it really mattered. And of course I thought that besides the limitations of my injury; I could have at least made a better showing with my shooting. But I guess that never being satisfied is the only way we can continue to improve ourselves.

Warming up before the 3D shoot; which was the second day of the competition.

Warming up before the 3D shoot; which was the second day of the competition.

I had the privilege of shooting with a few of the top placers in this competition. Not only were the outstanding athletes; but they were a great bunch of people as well. Thanks guys; I had a great time!

I had the privilege of shooting with a few of the top placers in this competition. Not only were they outstanding athletes; but they were a great bunch of people as well. Thanks guys; I had a great time!

Bearing down

If you look closely; you can see my orange fletching streaking towards the target.

If you look closely; you can see my orange fletching streaking towards the target.

Pick a spot

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3 Responses to “Laying it all on the line”

  1. Tim December 29, 2015 at 2:14 pm #

    Thank you for sharing your Train To Hunt story. I just stumbled upon it here on the Internet and, for me, it is very inspiring and motivating.

    You see, I’m in my mid forties and have a good 25 years of desk jobs under my backside. I have two teenage sons and this last spring during an early season hike, I was faced with a truth that devastated me. We picked a short steep hike to an old fire watch tower that over looks the Skykomish Valley. This trail is only about 2 miles long and it gets down to business immediately. We were in our usual places with my youngest in the lead, then my oldest and me in the rear. Over the years we’ve come to this lineup as it keeps all together. After only about 10 minutes of hiking, I looked up and was surprised that I was all alone, both my boys were not only out of eyesight, but I couldn’t hear them either. I tried to speed up to try to catch them, but my calves swelled and burned, my lungs were wheezing, and sweat was pouring off my bald head and soaking my shirt. What was the matter with me? My oldest noticed that I wasn’t right there with them as usual and held up to wait for me. When I finally caught up to him, he sensed that I wasn’t doing too well and stayed with me. We made it to top, enjoyed a quick lunch, and then hurried back down to the truck. We promised their Mom that we’d be back in time to go to their younger sister’s soccer party. On the way down, my hamstrings started to ache. The ache slowly grew to a nearly crippling pain. I was barely able to hobble back to the truck. The ride home was. Very quiet as we all sat there wondering what was wrong with me. I was completely beat. My sons looked as though they hadn’t done a thing. It was obvious, I was severely out of shape and they had gotten old enough where my poor condition was glaring at us all. I finally broke the silence and said, “man guys, I’m way out of shape. Will you guys stick with me and go on lots of hike this year and help me get back in shape?” “Good idea.” Was their reply.

    That was almost a year ago and I managed to exercise regularly and we did many day hikes and several overnight backpacking trips. My older brother, being in the same predicament as I, got on board and went on our hikes with us and started exercising again too.

    This coming year I’m stepping up my exercise and going into a rear training program that I’ve built. I have many aches and pains that creep up from years of heavy weight lifting and a youth spent physically abusing my body. So I’m increasing my training at a very slow and steady rate. I have almost an entire year to get in the best condition of my life. I plan on doing a multi-day backpacking mule deer hunt next September and I started training for it this November. I was just getting to a point where I was no longer struggling thru my workouts when I irritated an old injured disc in my lower back while warming up with squats at 5:00 am. I lost nearly 2 weeks of training due to that, and here at the end of December, am just now back running again and will be hitting weights in the gym for the first time after work this evening.

    Your story of the injuries you overcame in your training for “Train To Hunt” competition, hit very close to home with me and reading your story I can very much relate to how you must have felt being able to finish the course. I understand the dual feeling of self satisfaction of over coming the pain and injury and tinge of disappointment for not doing better.

    I’ve saved your story in my favorites and will use it for those rainy cold mornings when I’m finding it hard to lace up my running shoes, pull on my stocking cap, and head out the door.

    Thank you – Tim

    • Luke Johnson January 6, 2016 at 4:59 am #

      Tim,
      Thank you so much for taking the time to share your experience. And thank you so much for the very humbling comments; they’re much appreciated.
      The very best wishes for this year. Let’s make 2016 count!

      Luke J.

    • Luke Johnson May 23, 2017 at 11:07 pm #

      Hey Tim!
      Somehow I managed to miss your comment and this response is way late! Wow…thank you for that feedback and for sharing your story. It’s very humbling and I appreciate it.
      Now that I’m reading this…I realize that I’ve backslide a bit over the past year or so and need to kick things back into gear. So thanks for the inspiration and kick in the pants! I hope you have a great season! ~ Luke J.

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