Caveat emptor

When it comes to archery supplies and gear it is very important to do your homework before making a purchase. Otherwise, you might end up being dissatisfied with a product. Or worse, you’ll complete a transaction, get home, look at your receipt, and wonder, “What just happened?”

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Daily the marketing and sales teams of large sports companies are seeking ways to get your money. They’ll promote new and innovative products as the ones that will help you run faster and jump higher. In the case of archers, shoot straighter, faster, and more easily. But, there’s a rub to all of the hype – some individuals will, if they can, take advantage, especially of a novice.

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The practice of many small shop owners to dig as deep into a customer’s pocket is widespread. It is the way of business. Larger stores have greater competition and prices are more competitive.

I make nearly 100% of my sports equipment purchases from mom and pop shops. Frequently, it costs a little more, but I like supporting local businesses. However, the second a deal doesn’t pass my “sniff-test” I stay away.

When an archery shop that tries to up sale me, I am totally okay with it. I know when to say no. When the shop pulls a fast one or does anything that alarms my olfactory nerve of a foul whiff I stop using that place of business.

During the past 26 months that I’ve been involved in the sport of archery I’ve noted a number of fetid deals that were presented to me. The first was so egregious that it continues to make me angry. The guy that offered me the “Deal” was gone from that shop about a month afterwards. I never said a word; his “Deals” were common practice unknown to the storeowner. Seems other customers reported the dealmaker that led to his new career path.

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Even if you are not new to this sport, when buying equipment trust your instincts. Don’t let that new bow smell override your common sense. Remember this, someone always wants your money and may do or say just about anything to get it.

Something Easy to Improve Your Shooting

We live very close to Virginia. So close that our daily newspaper is “The Virginia Pilot.” In today’s edition there was an article, which got me well “fired-up.”

Sleep medicine has been a huge part of my life. So, whenever I see an article in print about sleep it catches my eye. Flipping through paper, this morning, there was ‘Advice’ published by Dear Abby related to a matter of sleep.

The sad writer wrote to describe an issue related to sleep and detailed the sleeping behavior of each family member. Dear Abby responded in 83 words. Dear Abby missed potential serious sleep problems.1 Well, Dear Abby isn’t a sleep expert and all I can do is forget it, move on, and give you some free advice about sleep that will improve your shooting.

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Who better to provide expert opinions on anything?

Let’s image for a moment that your form is flawless, bow tuned, arrows perfectly balanced, you’ve been shooting and winning a lot of local and regional events. You’ve even got your Jedi mind game going to ensure every shot hits the mark. However, you feel that you’re simply not living up to your potential or that occasionally the ‘Force’ isn’t with you.

Even if you think you are performing your best what I’m going to tell you will improve your shooting. Not only that, it could improve your health. It is simple and like Coach Bela Karolyi said to Kerri Strug during the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta, “You Can Do It!”

What is this simple activity? We all do it, but most people don’t do it enough – Get some sleep!

The majority of us sleeps 6.8 hours per night. 2 The average person, ages 26 – 64 needs 7 – 9 hours of sleep.3 Chances are you need to more sleep. Odds are you’re slightly sleep deprived – maybe even a lot. There is a wealth of information describing the negative impact of sleep deprivation on the Internet. If you are interested do a search, you’ll have enough information to get you on a path to better sleep hygiene or medical evaluation for a possible sleep disorder. But, little is available regarding the matter of getting more sleep – how does that improve performance?

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Several years ago my path crossed with Dr. Cheri Mah of Stanford. We were both interested in post-operative pain management and the use of opiates. At that time, I later learned, she,  Bill Dement, MD, and others had studied basketball player and sleep.4, 5 Dr. Dement and I had once prepared a research study to look at sleep deprivation and performance in cyclists during the Race Across America – we didn’t get funded. Soon afterwards, a similar study was funded. (You win some and you lose some.) So, I am always interested in what he’s doing in sleep research.

What Mah and her team’s study revealed is that college basketball players gained a 9% increase on free throws and a 9.2% increase on 3-point shots simply by getting more sleep. Those are huge increases in performance. 4 Can this analysis be carried over to archery – absolutely. Sleep is a key element of archery performance.6

You might not be able to increase your sleep time by 110 minutes, the mean increase in the study, but you can try. Most of us can’t get up later, so go to bed earlier. Really, there’s nothing worth watching on televisions and Facebook isn’t a job. By increasing your sleep you will find improvement in your performance.

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According to sleep scientist Cheri Mah, many pro athletes get more sleep than the average person. Credit: Zeo(ref, 4,7)

By the way, never watch television in bed. When I interviewed patients with sleep problems I always asked if they went to bed and turned the TV on. It was alarming how many said they did. The bed is good for two things and sleep is one of them. Practice good sleep and see if it doesn’t help your shooting.

References:

  • 1 Dear Abby, The Virginia Pilot, Oct. 20, 2015
  • http://www.gallup.com/poll/166553/less-recommended-amount-sleep.aspx
  • 3 https://sleepfoundation.org/excessivesleepiness/how-sleep-works/how-much-sleep-do-we-really-need
  • 4 Mah CD; Mah KE; Kezirian EJ; Dement WC. The effects of sleep extension on the athletic performance of collegiate basketball players. SLEEP 2011;34(7):943-950
  • 5 M: Faster, Higher, Stronger. The New Science of Creating Superathletes, and How You Can Train Like Them. Chapter 9, Hit the Snooze Button. Pp 164 – 172. Plume, NY, NY 2014.
  • 6 http://www.esdf.org/discover-archery/from-the-basics-to-the-podium/high-performance-tournaments/
  • 7 http://www.technologyreview.com/view/424608/extra-sleep-boosts-basketball-players-prowess/

Training, Training, and More Training

This morning I shot a Vegas style 3-spot. Mid-day I swam, lifted weights and ran. My afternoon 3D practice seemed like an endurance sport.

The 3-spot practice was 60 arrows with 6 for warm up. Shooting outside and dealing with some wind I ended up with a 594 and 22 Xs. Tomorrow I’ll practice indoors and see if I can improve that score. (20 yards.)

I drove to the YMCA in Elizabeth City to begin my next round of training. Remaining a bit sore from the race on Saturday I hoped the swim would work out some of my stiffness. Swimming was first up for this indoor session. Believe me, that first plunge into just about any pool will open your eyes.  Today was no exception.

In the lane next to me was an ex-collegiate swimmer. He’s faster than me. However, when we hit the wall together the next lap, at least in my mind, became e a race. I’d planned to limit my swim to a kilo, maybe a bit further if I felt good.  After doing intervals against a better swimmer I stuck to the 1 kilo plan.

We talked a bit before I left the pool. He was doing a 4 K workout. He shared with me he’d done some triathlons in the 80’s when they were getting popular. I never mention to strangers at a gym I’ve done a lot of triathlons. However, I have the tattoo (triathletes know which I mean) and that frequently inspires others to initiate a conversation regarding the matter of their former greatness.

It was hard not to rain on his parade but I was polite and remained silent.  I’ve found it’s best to be quiet when listening to someone regale their past accomplishments.

I left Aqua Man to finish is workout and headed to showers. For some reason this YMCA keeps the men’s locker room cold enough to store meat. It didn’t take long to hit a shower turned to full heat. I like to thaw before lifting weights.

Weight lifting proved that swimming a kilometer does not take soreness out of muscles. As a precaution, against damaging something of mine (like a back, arm, or leg), I reduced the normal amount of weight I lift on nearly every exercise. Then came the run.

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David Clark, Ultra Runner, knocking out 100 miles on a treadmill (18 hour, 28 minutes)

I hate running on treadmills. I know a fellow, David Clark, who is an ultra distance runner. A few days ago he ran 100 miles on a treadmill in a little over 18 hours. Personally, and no offense David you are an amazing athlete, but that is a special kind of crazy. I ran 3 miles in under 30 minutes. I was ready to get off the treadmill at 0.5 miles. If I need to run long distances trails are the best and anywhere outside beats running on a treadmill.

Training inside is a necessity for all athletes. At some point every sport requires  specific or general indoor activity. The entire time I’m in a gym or at the pool I’m daydreaming about getting outside.   So, when I got home I was ready to get onto the 3D range.

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1st shot of this practice. Cinnamon bear at 40 yards

On the range I shot 20 targets. Nine shots were 35 yards or greater (up to 50), eight were between 25 and 35 yards, and 3 were less than 25 yards. I was doing great until targets 17 and 18, a mosquito and mountain lion, respectively.

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This deer at 40 yards was hard. I had no umbrella and the glare off of my scope was intense. It is impossible to hold an umbrella and shot at the same time.

The mosquito was at 20 yards and I scored a 5. The mountain lion was at 43 yards and I hit an eight. I was certainly running low on steam but hit 12’s on the last two animals, a pig and wolverine from 33 and 23 yards. I ended up with a 203 for the practice.

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Yes, there a badger setting in those bushes.

Now, having written this and had a rest, I’ll head out for an easy active recovery bike ride.

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I needed this 12.
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And I’m done!

Done in by the Wind

Man, I am hurting today. The race yesterday left me with major delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS – yes that’s the real acronym). Getting out to shoot wasn’t easy. Next weekend will be harder. Friday night is an indoor 3D shoot, Saturday afternoon a 5K race, and Sunday morning another 5K.

The weather didn’t cooperate, either. The wind was kicking up white caps on the river and it was unseasonably cold. My practice plan for archery (you can bet I was taking a day off from running) was to take aim at a Vegas style 3-spot. When I stepped outside there was no hiding from the wind.

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This was a fresh 3-spot. Yep, all over the place.

My ‘go to’ wind break is to stand behind a shed, which I did. My back was about two feet away from the shed and still the wind was pushing me from behind. Shooting at 20 yards wasn’t possible unless I moved my entire target five yards closer to the shed. After a muscle aching deliberation, I decided to shoot from 25-yards.

For 45 minutes what seemed to be a swirling gale bounced me about. Cold, frustrated, and sore I figured today was a rest day and retired to more Sunday football.

Darleen’s Flamingo 5K – 2015

The food was even better than last year!

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Nice view at daybreak

I’ve mentioned this race a number of times. It is a 5K with a decent size field and really good food post-race. They serve breakfast following the run. Grits, cheese biscuits, bacon, sausage, eggs, pancakes, deserts, and coffee, water or juice to wash it down.  As soon as I crossed the finish line I headed directly to eat. I’d come in 24th overall so there wasn’t any line. That quickly changed. By the time I’d finished my meal the line was getting serious. The food was better than last year. And last year’s meal brought me back to this race.

It was worth the drive of nearly two hours.  Driving that long a 5K is a bit much. But, the race started at 9:00 am, a very humane start time. If it had started at 7:00 am, the drive would have been tough.

I improved my time by 59 seconds over 2014 and moved up in the overall from 31st to 24th. I, also, moved up in my age group from 3rd in 2014 to 1st in 2015.

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Cotton fields scattered across rural NC

Although the drive is a bit long for a short local-type event the view along the drive is very scenic. Now, take a short break and head out to the range.

Darleen’s Flamingo 5K

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When I ran Darleen’s Flamingo in 2014 I knew I’d run it again.  It’s a 5K.  I really like 5K runs.  This one was really special.  The race benefits the Shepard Cancer Foundation in Washington, NC in honor of Darleen Smith.  It is held in Belhaven, North Carolina.

In 2014 I ended up 3rd in my age group and 31st overall.  This year I’m hoping for some improvement over 2014.

What captured me was the spirit of the crowd.  The race was one of the happiest 5K’s I’ve ever participated in. What’s more, the post race food was the second best of any race.  The best was in Tampa following a race I’ve forgotten other than the food.

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They’ve moved the time from the evening, which was also cool, to 9:00 am.  It’s a 90 minute drive from my home and doesn’t require a super early wake up call. All things considered, I am looking forward to this event.

Time to take a test

The past several weeks have been devoted to shooting paper. However, there’s an indoor 3D tournament coming up in a couple of weeks. So, I’ve changed my practice. In the afternoons, rather than shoot paper twice in a day, the second practice has been against 3D targets.

Last week, I replaced a well worn 60X string with a new 60X string. That meant making some minor adjustments on my sight. Once that was concluded it seemed ideal to take a test on the 3D range.

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The test method is simple. The day before I moved my targets around a bit. During the test they would look different. The first step, following a 6-arrow warm-up at 20 yards, was to approach each target and record what I perceived as the distance. Then, take the shot. Before leaving the stake take a measurement of the distance using a range finder. There were 20 targets in total. Ten animals shot once each, then the sequence repeated from a different stake.

The results weren’t great. The difference between my estimation of yardage and the range finder was 1.1 yards. This seems petty good at first glance, but there were three targets with too great of an error: one at 7 yards, one at 5 yards, and one at 3 yards.

The 5-yard and 3-yard errors were both on the same target, a mosquito. The mosquito, a Reinhart product, is a little on the dark side. The target is positioned in a dark spot with dense foliage surrounding it. The resulting scores on the insect were a 5 and an 8. The 7-yard error seemed to be in my favor and the shot resulted in a 10.

Overall, I shot a 198 with 8 Xs at a maximum distance of 45 yards. This wasn’t close to my best score of 216, however, the maximum distance for that score was 35 yards. (An old hunter class score using pins, 20 targets.)

When I “take a test” I attempt to set-up a range where I am cold to the targets. I vary the distance. The targets are also arranged to that the shot is realistic and fairly difficult. I record data and notes during the test. From those notes data is entered into a statistical database using Excel. Review of the data helps build a training plan for the new few weeks.

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What a typical field record sheet looks like

In the past I’ve had a number of archers expound to me that I should not keep my scores and that I shouldn’t worry about them. I should simply shoot and work on form. From the onset I completely disagreed. True, I work on form with every shot. But, without data and notes I’d be losing valuable information about my progress. Not only do I frequently “take a test” I log notes on shots, crunch the data, and record what target I shot. That is, I record the animal type for the shot (if shooting 3D), or whether it was a 3-spot Vegas style, 3-spot vertical, or a 5-spot.

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Data transfered to one of my computers

During some training I specifically don’t keep records. Why?  It is too much to keep records, and a bit weird, during a tournament. So, I conduct many practices in the manner of a competitive event. I also have days that I relax and shoot entirely for fun. But, without a written record of progress that is aimed toward specific goals, well every shot is simply shooting for fun. And that, too is okay should it be what you’re aiming for.

A River Otter Enjoying My Dock

There’s been a critter on out dock at night. On a regular basis some varmint climbs up the stairs that lead into the water, eats, poops and leaves. We’d guessed it was a river otter.

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This Otter seems to like our deck. He eats a lot of crabs here

Whenever we put the trail cam on the dock, there was never any evidence that anyone visited during the night. Until last night.

Also a great spot for a nap

Here’s a river otter enjoying our dock where it ate a crab, lounged, then left a calling card before sliding back into the water.

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Of course, after a meal and a nap, a little something left behind for me to clean up

Watching the Ironman World Championship

On Saturday October 10th on the Big Island of Hawaii they held the World Ironman Championship. That was one many Ironman events I completed. I watched this one via my computer.

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It’s a bit tough to watch, not being there. I raced it in 2008. It was like the Super Bowl of Triathlon. I haven’t done an Ironman race since 2013, that year I did two.

Ironman events are long races. I really enjoy doing triathlons. I really hate starting my day at 3:30 am. I think I was always more stressed about missing my alarm than I was about the race. Actually, I set three alarms and typically awoke before any alarm went off. It’s hard to sleep the night before one of these events.

I’ll do more triathlons. Currently, my swimming is better than ever – which isn’t saying much. My cycling is par as is my running. But, I think I’ll limit the distance to sprints.

I won a number of sprint triathlons. That’s because the swim wasn’t so long that the faster swimmers could build a huge lead. I could pass almost everyone on bike. Then, if I got far enough ahead of the decent runners while on the bike, I’d end up in the top 3.

Still, there’s that puke of dawn awake up call. But, for a short race I can sleep until 5:30 am. (I’m normally up at 6:00 am) I don’t need to eat as much so I can get up later.

One thing I really enjoy about archery tournaments – none of them start at 6:50 am.

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A new coach

Shooting and practicing solo can lead to bad habits and a stagnation in skill. At least that’s my opinion. I think it is good to have a coach. Thursday, I had a lesson with my third coach. He’s also a good friend, Norman Mitchell.

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Archery Coach and Chief Petty Officer (retired) Norman Mitchell.

Norman is a USA Archery Coach. He’s, also, a competitive archer. During a one hour coaching session I picked up two pointers that I’ve already begun incorporating into my archery.

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You can shoot all day and chances are you will improve. Well, you can’t really shoot all day, but you can shoot a lot in a day. I shoot a lot and my scores are consistently less than perfect. If perfect equals 100% (hitting the center every time) my average is 92%. Occasionally, I’ll hit 100% in practice shooting a 5-spot, but I’ve never done it on a 3-spot. Actually, my 5-spot average is 98%, but it’s the 92% that has the greatest room for growth or 8% improvement.

Two-percent improvement might come from marginal gains associated with equipment. The correct set-up of my bow, correct point on my release where the arrow is freed, the right arrows. Little technical elements to shooting, at this point, should give me very small gains, no more than perhaps 2%.

The final 6% is tougher. That’s where another set of eyes looking for slight errors in form come into play. I estimate a good coach can help with at least 4% the 8% marginal deficit. The final two percentages I think are strictly mental.

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If you’re shooting competitively a coach can be very valuable. In fact, all sports have coaches for athletes. No matter how good you are, there’s not a downside to getting a qualified coach to keep an eye on your practice.