Saving Turtles

Part of my overall training for archery includes cardio fitness exercise. In that essential area are running and cycling.  I’ve done a lot of running and cycling. Often, while cycling or running along side of a rural road I see a turtle trying to make it to the other side of the road.

Turtles aren’t known for speed but they do have endurance.  In that matter I can relate.  Whenever I see one on the road I pause to help it across.

Today I crossed paths while riding my bike with a large turtle and gave it a tow handed lift to the other side of the road.  This turtle never completely ducked back into its shell.  Perhaps it knew I was hoping to help.

On the round trip I checked to be sure I’d headed it in the correct direction.  I was pleased to find it making progress.

I searched for the turtle on the ride back. It took some looking but there’s it is heading away from the road.

Getting ready for the next tournament

With the Georgia Cup behind me it is time to concentrate on the Georgia Bowhunter and Archery Association’s (NFAA) State Field Championship being held in Savannah, Georgia. The event is about 6 weeks out as I write.

Having only once before competed in a NFAA style field tournament I’ve spent some time reading over the rules, scoring, targets and such.  It is also the time to switch to a six-week cycle of training.

Right back at it after a day off

At a week before a tournament I don’t go to the gym to lift weights.  Aside from that there are other modifications of time spent shooting and fitness training. At six weeks out I am in the gym.

The gym where I train never ceases to amaze me in that the vacuum cleaning is always underway when I arrive.  Of the noises in the world the sound of a vacuum cleaner is one of the foulest in my opinion.  It doesn’t matter if I am at the gym morning or afternoon, I’ve tried both, there’s some attendant pushing a vacuum.  Worse is they always migrate to whatever weight station I’m using.

Time to head to the gym

Sure as Southern Summers are hot, in the gym today, there was the attendant with his vacuum cleaner sucking up unseen particles within inches of me.  Perhaps, unknown to me, I’m like Pigpen from the cartoon ‘Peanuts’, and when then gym’s employees see me coming they start up the vacuum preparing to follow me around.


Jalapenos and Archery Tournaments

It is rare to find food that is too spicy.  The hotter the better.  There have been times when food was served that were fireball hot.  Still, for me, it didn’t go to waste.  That is until the next day.

The day after eating particularly spicy food the results of digestion can attest to the degree of heat previously consumed.  For some of us, jalapenos do not fall into the category of foods that lead to gastronomical second degree burning.  The first degree being felt in the buccal cavity.

Recently, I spent a long day in outdoor competition where I didn’t bring enough food.  By the time I was home I was hungry and tired.  I wanted to go out for dinner and not cook or clean the kitchen.  I further had a taste for spicy food. Brenda, my wife agreed to dinner on the town. We decided on Mexican food.

As a rule, Mexican food is delicious, hot and filling.  Like I mentioned, I was hungry.

We didn’t order anything outlandish.  The food was excellent.  My mistake was fresh and pickled jalapenos.  I got extra.  Our salsa request was, “Bring us the hottest you have, please.”  They were proud of their ability to satisfy.

On day 2 of the archery tournament announcements were being delivered throughout the morning. I missed at least half of them.  One very fortunate geographical development is that where I was standing to shoot on day 2 was as close to the rest rooms as possible. Another really lucky thing is that I didn’t need to shoot for quite some time having two byes in the elimination rounds.

Most times spicy food and my lower G.I. system are extremely compatible. Spicy food divergence with an archery tournament intersection is a rough way to spend a morning on the range.

Another life lesson learned.

That was hot!

The weekend of the Georgia Cup in Conyers, Georgia was a hot one.  The temperature was in the low 90s.  It wasn’t the hottest outdoor archery tournament that I have shot in but it was near the top of the list.

The field of sweaty (soon to be sun burnt) archers was impressive considering the overlap with the ASA Pro/Am being held a few hours away near Augusta, GA.  The tournament moved along as fast as possible in the heat.  There were times when walking back from pulling arrows seemed to take longer than usual.  No one was running wind sprints to return to the line. Of course, the slower people walked the hotter it became with the day bearing down on us. Shade was a precious commodity.

I show up at tournaments here in Georgia as a solo athlete so I don’t bring one of those nice pop-up canopies.  Bringing a canopy for one person seems excessive.  Thankfully, there is usually a group under a canopy that offers shade. At the Georgia Cup that shade was provided by a group of archers I’ve gotten to know over the past year shooting here.  I was thankful.

The Georgia Cup is a two-day event put on by the Georgia Archery Association. Last year I lost to a friend from Savannah, Georgia who took first on the final few arrows. Paul, last year’s winner, got into a flow and just couldn’t miss the X.  He was absent for the 2019 version.

Day one is the qualifying day.  That is, for any that might not know, 72 arrows at 50-meters for bracketing on day 2 during the elimination rounds. Day two archers are paired into brackets based on qualifying score.  Those pairs shoot against one another.  Eventually, some lose and have to sit down; others shoot on until there is one archer that wins.  If you score high enough on day one you may end up with a bye or two for the eliminations on day two.

Day one earned me a couple of byes.  As such I didn’t have a competition round until two and a half hours after the eliminations began.  That was a long hot wait. When I was finally up the first archer I had to shoot against, Buddy, has beaten me a number of times.

Typical of Buddy, on the first end he shot X, 10, 9 and typical of me I shot 10, 9,9.  I like Buddy, it always a challenge shooting against him.  At each tournament, we’ve already shot against one another at 3 in 2019, he always asks, “Have you been shooting?”  I always rely, “Yes.”  The he adds, “I haven’t picked up a bow since the last time I saw you.” Right.

He’s a State record holder and isn’t going to make too many mistakes.  It was tight going into the third end when Buddy gave me a couple of points.

They way I look at it, in archery we all start with the maximum allowable number of points.  In elimination round, during each head-to-head competition, each archer is given 150 points.  You shoot to keep those points.  To keep them all you need to do is put your arrow into the 10 ring. Every time you don’t do that you give away a point or more.

I gave Buddy a few points, he gave me a few points and by the time it was over I was less charitable with my points.

Making it into the final match for Gold or Silver there stood Jerry in the lane next to me. Jerry has been flinging arrows for over 30 years.  Going into the second end I had one point on Jerry.  With three more ends to shoot against an opponent with significantly more skill and training I needed to not let my mind drift over to the potential advantages Jerry has over me.

With his experience and skill  Jerry’s earned a Mathews kit, a brand new Mathews bow and top-level arrows. Thirty years in the business of shooting arrows gets you top-level support.   On any given day Jerry can beat me.  But, I had this one point advantage and that pirate saying in my head, “Take what you can; give nothing back.”

Not really.  There was no pirate mantra in my head.  I was thinking, “Just shoot your game” and “Perfect form equals a perfect shot”, and “Don’t rush the shot” and “Paul is not here this year” and “stance, hook and grip, set-up, set…” and “Brenda (my wife) is going to not like this is I lose,” and “feel the Force,” and “see the arrow landing in the X,” and “the kids and grandkids are coming over to celebrate my birthday this afternoon” and “Mama will be proud if I win,” and “My father in law will be disappointed if I lose,” and, “please wind stop” and “man, it is hot,” and “is that a squirrel on the range,” and “I’m thirsty” and  “silence your thoughts” (that one didn’t work).

When the final tally was complete Jerry had been too generous with his points. It was still hot.

Finished the day with a Gold Medal and self-portrait drawn by one of my granddaughters.

Marginal Gains

When it comes to equipment, as athletes become better performers, their gear makes a difference. British Cycling has a team, the Secret Squirrel Club, that’s composed of engineers and designers. Their job is to make equipment best suited to provide marginal gains for elite cyclists.  Small gains at an elite level can make a difference when thousandths of a second can mean the gap between a first place and second.

Archery is no different. As we improve our groups become tighter. The accuracy of shots becomes more repeatable.  It is this way with all top archers.  Equipment in archery is generally quite good.  Searching for marginal gains through technologically superior equipment can provide the archer with marginal gains that can make the difference between a first place and second place.

I can’t recall how many times I’ve now lost a tournament by one point, a one point shoot off, the X count,  or the inner X count (I do recall that one).  Each of those close matches I know, whether or not the archer was simply one point better, that my opponent on that day used equipment at least more expense that mine.  At times, most times, the archer shooting to victory held gear that has a retail sticker price of more than double of mine.

I asked a coach/sales person, “How can I buy more points with improved gear?”  First off the bat were the arrows I was shooting for outdoor contests.

He suggested I switch to a more expensive arrow.  The price of the arrows I shoot is $150.15 vanes and nocks included from Amazon.  The tips are another $21.00 at Amazon.  Total price is $171.15.

The arrows the coach/sales person suggested aren’t available at Amazon; they are from Lancaster Archery Supply.  The shafts alone for those arrows are $239.99. Built and ready to shoot the price came to $407.99.  The coach/sales person said he’d gone to those arrows and his score had improved by 10 points.  Ten points is a lot.

Next he suggested a different arrow rest, the price for that suggestion is $248.00.  The arrow rest on my bow is $127.00 on Amazon.  His suggestion is not available on Amazon. He claimed his recommended arrow rest is the best on the market. He should know he is an ex-pro.

Sure, there are all sorts of “Pro” archers. He was a major professional and former “Cover Archer” among the marketing literature for one of the companies he represented.  His opinion is the expensive rest would add 5 more points to my scores.  I do believe he knows what his talking about.

At that point I was looking at an investment of $655.99 for an additional 15 points (potential). That’s a lot of cash. Then, there’s the bow.

Last year, I purchased a bona fide target bow. It shot great for a while.  Then it began doing something that spread the groups. What I noticed was the cable guard was becoming pitted.  The action of the slide on the cable guard appeared to be sticking and gouging small pits and creating ripples on the cable guard itself.

After nearly a year of complaining, calls, and bow tuning I finally got support from the manufacturer.  The bow was returned.  The bow remains AWOL but I do have a receipt.  You can’t shoot a receipt.  Even so, that bow remains among the least expensive target bows on the market.

There’s a point in all sport where excellent equipment can provide an advantage.  One thing I did change which was a huge success was my release. Aside from that my equipment is generally fine for a good time shooting.

Marginal gains are real. These gains can be found through better gear.  Considering the marginal gains projected around the $655.99 of upgraded gear, which I have not purchased, there might be as great as a 15-point gain.  I may never know. What I can say for certain is that the best bow is the bow that is in your hand.

A Form Practice Method

One of the issues with archery is perfecting form.  Good form reliably produces a good shot. The thing is archers as a group are inconsistent with form.1 However, better archers are more consistent in their form.1

Practicing form is not simple a matter of hitting the center of the target at a known distance.  At times, poor form can result in a center shot. That isn’t a good approach that is having poor form and hoping for the best.

Coaching tips

Designing a practice that is specifically tailored to form seems a simple matter – it isn’t. Having a coach watch the archer in practice and providing coaching tips can help.  The problem is that coaches often teach methods which are not incorporated by elite archers. 2 Apparently, coaches may be reciting what they’ve been taught to coach and that advice goes into one of the athlete’s ears and out the other. I’m not suggesting the athletes are wrong. On the contrary, I’m saying those coaching methods are wrong.

In order to create a method that might help create a specific training process for form the archer should be at a degree of accomplishment where the athlete is working on skills of improvement.

The practice isn’t a measure of points.  It is a measure of form, which is the area specific to the skill improvement.

The archer selects a distance that is outside a comfort zone.  For example, if 18-meters is the comfort zone move outside, for instance to 25-meters.  If the goal is better from for 50-meters move to 60 meters.  The idea is to reproduce groups.

If at 50-meters the archer is shooting scores that reveal few poor shots, like an rare eight, then at 60-meters the goal is to create a group of arrows where 100% are within the group.  The score does not matter.  The cluster of arrows is the primary goal.

Say that the archer shoots an end of 10 arrows at 50-meters.  The objective is to create a cluster of arrows, a group, with 100% of them in the yellow.  Should an arrow fall outside the yellow the percentage of success is decreased by 10%. If the main body of the arrows lands in the 10 right with two landing in the nine right that is either a 100% or 80% depending on the skill of the archer.

This practice is done to the point of fatigue – not exhaustion.  The point of fatigue becomes apparent as the percentage drops. Once fatigue occurs stop, rest, and repeat the practice after a period of recovery, say in several hours.

Whether the arrows fail within the group or outside the group each arrow is evaluated.  If an arrows lands high, a 12 O’clock nine, determine if the error was caused by the bow rocking so that the upper limb drifted back or the release hand pulled downward during the activation process. If an arrow lands smack in the middle of the X, pause to consider what occurred to create a good shot.

After each end record the percentage of arrows that are outside the group.  Keep a record of this as a tool to aid in the improvement of form.

The above graph represents this sort of practice.  The red column is the percentage of good form score. In this case, 10 arrows at 60-meters, outside the yellow meant a decrease of 10% per arrow in most cases.


1.) Soylu AR1Ertan HKorkusuz F.Archery performance level and repeatability of event-related EMG. Hum Mov Sci. 2006 Dec;25(6):767-74. Epub 2006 Jul 21.

2.) Martin PE1Siler WLHoffman D. Electromyographic analysis of bow string release in highly skilled archers. J Sports Sci. 1990 Winter;8(3):215-21.

Video Records

A valuable tool for your training is a video camera.  In fact, several video cameras are even better.

Coaching Tip

Professional athletes are video recorded during practice and performance.  Nick Woodman, a surfer who wanted better pictures of himself while surfing, invented the ‘GoPro’.  The ‘GoPro’ is a great tool for athletes as are small HD video cameras.  I’ve used my ‘GoPro’ in cycling and recently had a “duh” moment and began using it for archery. I also use a small Canon HD video camera.  Both are set-up on tripods during practice.

The video recordings can be played over and over to analyze form and look for mistakes.  I admit mine aren’t pretty.  However, they are revealing.

Among the textbook of how not to shoot errors I make I’ve broken the problems down to categories. Each category is a problem and that problem becomes the focus of practice until it has been resolved.  I am still on problem number one.

The first major problem that jumped out at me is that I seemed to shoot too fast.  The timing from anchor to release is the section of the shooting process that concerned me.  It seemed fast, so I timed it on the video.

Of course, how fast is too fast?

To figure this out I timed Reo Wilde and Jimmy Butts shooting.  YouTube made them available. (Wilde eventually became my ‘control’)

I timed shots for each archer.  The results were quite telling.

From the point where I anchor to when I release an arrow it takes 4.99 seconds.   Jimmy Butts from anchor to release held for 9.8 seconds while Reo Wilde held for 11.89 seconds.

Note: I shot from 50 meters and Wilde and Butts were shooting at 18 meters for the first measurements.  The distance wasn’t the variable I wanted until I finished looking at the shooters. Then, I wondered whether Reo Wilde shot differently at 50 meters. He’s easy to find on YouTube so he became the control.

At 50 meters (outdoor) Wilde’s hold time was 9.07 seconds, 2.83 seconds faster than 18 meters (indoor).  The variance of the hold time between Wilde’s and mine is 5.49 seconds, using Wilde’s indoor and outdoor average hold time.

The shorter hold times for Wilde during outdoor shooting is important as it is for all of us. Why shorter outdoors?  What I’ve come up with is wind.  Outside there is wind, inside there isn’t wind.  When you find the shot during a calm window you take it.  The calm moment my be your best opportunity.

It is the hold time that appears to be a potential flaw on my part. Wilde and Butts hold their aim before release at more than double or nearly double the amount of time I take from anchor to release.  The video was key to seeing this for myself.

Awareness of this problem with timing (assuming it is a problem) I slowed down.  Today’s hold time increased to 7.49 seconds.  It is too early to know if there will be an improvement in my score.  Actually, my score improved a tad, 0.08 points per arrow.  Doesn’t sound like a lot, but those incremental points add up.  Over 72 arrows those small gains amount to 5.76 points  which is great for 50-meters or any distance.

I’m not saying that Reo Wilde’s extended hold time makes him better. It might, I don’t know for certain.  What I can say is that Reo Wilde hold time is much longer than mine.

Overtime, I’ll continue to record and measure.  There will be a point where I find the best feeling hold time for me.  My guess it is going to be longer that 4.99 seconds.

It’s Only 10 Grains

Ten grains sounds like a lot to me especially when is comes to arrows.  I needed an arrow update, the ones I’ve been shooting for outdoor events have really gotten hammered.  Calling around I found a shop that could get me more of those arrows.  I’d learn if they were up to meeting their promise.

Heading over I brought several of the old arrows with me to the shop as examples.  The question was could they duplicate the arrows. Heaven knows having a quiver full of assorted arrows leads to poor scores.   The shop manager promised they could duplicate the arrows based on the examples.  Furthermore, the arrows would be reading in about two weeks.  Later, he phoned to confirm the tip weight and the process was underway.

Sure enough within two weeks the arrows were available for pick up.  Eager to get the arrows I drove to the shop to collect. Before paying for them  I weighted them.  The new arrows were 10 grains heavier.

This is about the size of the groups he indicated. I had to move my elevation down two clicks (I also changed the paper before these arrows)

The shop manager held up his hand, made a circle the size of a quarter using his thumb and forefinger then said, “Unless you’re shooting groups this tight 10 grains won’t make a difference.”

I put his claim to the test. Results – 10 grains equals two clicks!

I pulled two arrows before I thought about taking a picture

I like the new arrows okay even though they don’t match all the other arrows. I won’t use them for practice along with all the other arrows, the 10 grains is too  much of a difference. But, I’ll drop my elevation by 2 clicks and use them in tournaments.

Winning Results

Recently, on Facebook, a group of archers were sharing a victory earned by a member of their clique. The celebrated archer had won an IBO State Championship.  It surprised me to read that he’d never won a state championship.

Having shot with him I recognized he was talented as a 3D shooter.  When we’d competed together I was newer to the sport than I am today. Today, I am less new to the sport having been at it for 5 years, 5 months and 7 days. (As if May 7th, 2019) Among those of you that have been competing in archery for 30 years of more my time in the sport is blip . Obviously, the shorter tenure as an archer means I’m still learning the parts of a bow.

The group that hailed the victor of the state championship is tight.  Within their group are members that complete a normal set of athletes. Some of open and friendly offering advice, others know it all and their advice is best left behind, and a few are arrogant self-described elite performers.  In that last class is one fellow that once told me, “You’ll never be as good as us.”

Mark Twain is a treasure. His literary works are some of the best American writing I’ve read.  During his lifetime he’d often received manuscript, unsolicited, from people that felt they knew him.  Those ‘friends’ wanted his opinion of their forwarded potential book.

Twain was polite, a Southern Gentleman, and didn’t particularity want to hurt the feelings of non-public figures.  If you were in politics then you were fair game.  He’d read the manuscript, sometimes, and mostly not reply to the sender. One proud individual being eager for Twain’s praise was determined to get a response.

When asked of Twain if he’d read the manuscript and what did he think, Twain responded, “Yes I have and much like it.”

The fellow that once told me, “You’ll never be as good as us,” in reference to his gang probably saw me as a weak beginner who simple didn’t have it.  At that point, I’d agree with his assessment that I wasn’t very good. Today, I rarely miss targets.

Since I moved away from those closely knitted archers I’ve shot with a lot of other archers.  Those fellows living hundreds of miles away still shoot together.  They often post their scores.  I read their scores.  To those fellows I say, “I’ve shot with many that are just like you.”

The fellow that won his first state championship is a fine person.  I’m glad he won a state championship.  I remain surprised it is his first.  Regarding the snappy ego-inflating comment, I look forward to a day when I might have a chance to see of the self-proclaimed elite was correct.

What Does it Take to Be a Champion?

There’s another article based on this research. It is written in a format for a journal.  Boring to most people. On the other hand, here’s the data shared in a friendlier format.

The data comes from real athletes and coaches.  Within the population is a cluster of World Champions, National Champions and Olympians.  To even out the group there are good athletes, top level weekend warriors who are truly dedicated to their sport.  These weekend warriors are excellent in their sport, but are not elite athletes.

There is also a group of coaches that work in high school, college and at the professional levels.

No, this isn’t free.  I tried to set the price at one dollar; Amazon wouldn’t allow that price. It is $2.99, which is less than a nickel per word.

The essay was edited by a bonafide editor and friend, Diane L.  No matter what I’ve written when she gets a hold it the writing  becomes a fun readable document.  Here she has turned what I sent her into an essay that is well beyond my ability.

This is for you to enjoy.  Sorry I couldn’t get the price lower.  The version for scientific publication, when it comes out will be at no charge other than the subscription or membership price.