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  • Writer's pictureKristy Manuel

Tackling the Train to Hunt Challenge | Part 1

Perusing Instagram one night, a page called Train to Hunt caught my attention, and as I investigated further my interest was piqued. Train to Hunt Challenge is a competition that uses exercise to elevate your heart rate and fatigue your body to simulate the stress that is encountered when hunting, specifically bow hunting.

I decided to compete in the 2018 Arizona qualifier, but as the competition neared I continued to procrastinate on my registration for fear of failure and intimidation. Finally, the day before the competition my Dad and I decided to compete. I went on the website to register, but registration was closed. To be expected. I sent Kenton Clairmont, the owner, a message, and he responded that they would take registration the day of. My Dad, Mom and I jumped in the car and drove the 5 hours to Tucson, Arizona that night.

Competition day brought on several emotions: nerves dominated, but excitement wasn't far behind. Competition has always been a part of my life so the nerves were nothing new, but they were ever present. I am sure many of you can agree with that feeling. As the competitor meeting started, Kenton described the three different portions of the competition: the Challenge Course, the Mountain Course and the 3D course. The Challenge Course consisted of a sandbag exercise over a 20 inch box (box step overs, sandbag ground to shoulder, burpees, and get ups), a 300 yard run, and then one shot at 30 yards for a total of four rounds. Immediately after the four rounds were completed, the mile and half Mountain Course began with the competitor shouldering a preloaded pack, and carrying their bow to complete two more shots along the way. The third and final part was the 20 target 3D course. Scoring was determined by the overall time to complete the Challenge and Mountain course, with all shots taken adding time to the score depending on shot placement. A heart shot equals zero time added, and a body shot added one minute. The goal was to have the best overall time.

When my heat was called I set my gear on the shooting line and approached the box. My nerves were strong, but now was the time to focus. My first exercise was twenty box step overs with my 30 pound sandbag. The whistle blew and I began my sandbag exercise, ran 300 yards and toed the line for my first shot. My heart raced and I worked to calm down so I could make a steady shot. Progressing through the rounds my nerves were exchanged for exertion. As I completed the Challenge Course, I headed for the Mountain Course with my 30 pound pack and bow. The course was a race through the Sonoran Desert, where I passed Saguaro cacti and Palo Verde trees. It was hot and I was tired, but I pushed through and successfully placed my next two shots.

When the finish line came into view my pace picked up and so did the cheers. As I crossed someone helped me get my pack off and another offered me water. I was exhausted, stoked and amazed at the support that met me at the finish line.

The 3D course followed and I was excited. Some of the different archery shot scenarios were draw while kneeling then stand, draw and step right or left, maintain full draw for 30 seconds and guess the yardage. My favorite shot was the Two in Ten. Basically as soon as you release your first arrow, you have ten seconds to complete the second shot. This shot scenario is one I have encountered while hunting javelina.

Finally, it was time for the awards ceremony. Kenton made his way through the divisions and came to my Dad’s. My Dad had taken first! Now to the Women’s Open division. He called a name, we cheered, and then the next name called was mine. Second place! I was so excited! I had been so intimidated by this competition, but in the end I had placed and qualified for the national competition.

With three months until Nationals I focused my training on longer and heavier hikes, and taking a shots after getting my heart rate up. My Dad, also training for nationals, built me a 20 inch box and 30 pound sand bag to train with.

The national competition was held in July at Powderhorn Ski Resort in Mesa, Colorado. Nationals was the same format as the Arizona qualifier, but two additional rounds were added to the Challenge Course, and the Mountain Course was a 3.2 mile trek to the top of the mountain with a 60 pound pack. The 3D course followed the next day with harder shots added such as remaining at full draw for a minute before the shot.

The Challenge Course tested me physically, and each shot required focus; the Mountain Course humbled me as I climbed towards the finish line. It was a long hard day that started with the typical nerves, replaced with exertion and finished with a satisfying feeling of accomplishment. The 3D course followed the next day and I shot with some amazing ladies, who shared their stories as we made our way through each shot scenario.

The awards ceremony brought everyone together to celebrate. My Dad placed third in his division and I placed fourth in mine. Just off of the podium!

Train to Hunt had hooked my Dad and myself by how fun it was and the community welcomed us in. I was proud that I’d finally overcome the intimidation of competing, but placing fourth at Nationals had lit a fire in me. I wanted to compete in 2019 but come back stronger. I decided to write down goals for the 2019 Nationals and they were to place in the Arizona qualifier and make it on the podium at Nationals.

Stay tuned to see if I accomplished my goals for Train to Hunt 2019.

-Kristy Follow Kristy on instagram @kristymanuell

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