You can now subscribe to “Putting It On The Line”

Over the past couple of years this website has become one of the most visited active sites on the Internet. It averages 10,000 visits per month. Yes, it is a shock to me as well.

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During a competition in North Carolina an archer asked me how to subscribe to the site. Honestly, I did not know. Although I provide content the site was set-up by a friend of my wife who runs a consulting company, Mertaugh Consulting, in Maryland.

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I asked her for help adding a method to subscribe. She fixed it so that you can now subscribe to the site. There’s an icon on the right column of each page that once clicked and you can sign up. This way you’ll know when new posts are created.

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Thanks for reading – David

A, B and C Events

In cycling, running and triathlon there were events that I entered with specific goals, other than winning, in mind. The races were categorized as: A, B, or C competitions.

Really, I can’t tell you how exactly many races/athletic events I’ve done. There are 516 where I have some medal/trophy or other memorabilia to help with the count.  I know that at one point I had a goal of one race per month for as long as I could go until something ended the streak. That streak lasted 7 years. It was stopped when I jumped out of my boat and landed on a piece of steel that skewered my leg. But, that was only a seven-year period. Prior to that, I didn’t record those data.

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These were earned during my 7-year steak

I did specific races with a method of training aiming toward a specific event. Some races were smaller local events. These were races I’d try new things, be extra careful and learn as much as possible about my form and fitness. These were considered level C events.

Level B were races where a high finish, top 10, was important. There we’d test tactics that would get me to a top 10 finish during international competition. Primarily, this was in cycling during the 70’s – 90’s. Later, level B become those events were a high finished was sought, but it was more important to get a feel for the race or distances.

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I can’t recall this event, but I was clearly there. The grey in my beard suggests it was recent.

Then there were the A level events. These were the events where everything was put on the line. A win was important anything less than top 3 was a failure. We geared a season around the level A events.

Archery is a lot the same. At this point, it isn’t as much a categorization for an eventual win rather a strategy to gauge development. Nevertheless, this year, one where I made a lot of changes, has revolved around training to meet goals for specific A, B, and C events.

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As the archery competitive season nears an end for 2016 I am already making plans for 2017. Among them there are A, B and C events being considered.

My Old Friends – The Standing Bear and the Javelina

There are 3D targets that we all know: that turkey, the coyote, a wolf and all manner of deer.  Where I shoot we don’t see many elk, bison, or other really large targets.  Leopards are gaining popularity.  Smaller targets, less costly, are prominent figures.  There are even frogs and mosquitos on some the the ranges where I compete.

I try to duplicate what I shoot at when I can find inexpensively or used targets.  Fortunately, a friend (a bow hunter) has allowed me to set up a decent 3D practice range on his property – directly across the path were we live. My menagerie includes: a walking bear, a coyote, a badger, two deer, a mosquito, a small pig, a turkey, a bobcat, and a mountain lion. There are two more 3D targets I want  – a standing bear and a javelina.

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That standing bear is frequently hanging around 3D ranges.  There was a time it was one of my favorite targets.  That was when I could go to Schrader’s Outdoors and practice on their 3D range.  They had that bear and I could shoot it several times a week.  Now, I only see it during competition.  I miss my old friend.

Then, there’s that little ole javelina.  I see it mostly between 35 and 42 yards away in a dark hole.  (An indicator someone have a sense of humor) It too was one of  my Schrader’s Outdoor favorites.  There the varmint was only about 27 yards away.  51JAb8FvY9L

Both are somewhat pricey.  I’ve been looking and searching for a nice used pair.  Apparently, both critters remain well loved by other archers. In anticipation of finding the duo I’ve created the prefect places for them on the range.  Alas, their homes remain unoccupied.

These two old friends, well I miss seeing them.  Hopefully, when I do get to see them, I won’t miss them.

The Game Teaches the Game

 

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John Kessel, of USA Volley Ball, said, “ The game teaches the game.” That is a bit of coaching advice that’s I’ve taken to heart. It seems too true in 3D.

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2016 has been a year of changes for me. A new bow, shooting with a long stabilizer, using a scope versus pins, and adding a side stabilizer. These equipment changes, aside rom the bow, weren’t totally new, I’d used that set up for indoor tournaments. Shooting with this rig for 3D is altogether another story.

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Honestly, I didn’t think it would be so difficult to judge yardage and set a scope/sight to the corresponding mental measurement. I was wrong. With pins, there seems to me a bit of flex. I could float a pin or float between pins to get the yardage. I haven’t yet got the knack of a single pin and dialing the yardage on a sight.

New skills in sports are often taught through repetition. 3D isn’t like shooting a set distance into a dot. A lot of variables come into hitting the X on a foam animal. These variables include: terrain, target size, distance, placement of the X on the target, light, target color, etc. These all must be considered when training for 3D. Another element of training is how to practice.

Going out a shooting a 2D target at 20 – 50 yards will improve your skill. But, adding sessions that simulate a 3D event can be a great method of training to augment your practice.

The tactic for 3D training should include making some sessions resemble as much as possible a 3D tournament.

It’s a Matter of Fitness

At nearly all archery competitions people are talking about their health. Some talk about injuries, others mention medical aliments, still more complain about their excess weight. At one outdoor competition, a 50-meter event, the archer on the line next to me said, “I’ve never shot more than 30 arrows in one day.” We had 72 arrows to shoot and we’d had 24 shots for warm-up. Plus, the guy’s weight was a tad on the excessive side. I knew this guy was in for a rough day. I wasn’t mistaken.

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Days on the range can be long, hot, and require a lot of standing around

Once I heard a bit of braggadocio that went like this, “In practice, if I shoot 10 good shots I quit.” That may be fine if the bulk of the tournaments were 10 arrows or less. Ten shots will not prepare anyone for a 100 shot day.

Another time, a self-proclaimed expert said, “I shoot 30 arrows 3 to 4 times a week.” On the range during 3D tournaments I’ve heard this several time, “I haven’t practiced all week.” Before too long that same individual is whining because he’s making poor shots.

I make a lot of bad shots. Prior to this season, there’s not been a year when I didn’t miss a 3D target entirely. Heck, during my first year of shooting, on an indoor range no less, I put arrows into the ceiling on more than one occasion. This past weekend, I shot all 12’s and 10’s with two exceptions, an 8 and (hanging my head) a 5. (Amazingly, I still won – I just knew that 5 if not the 8 were going to blow it for me.)

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Archery is a sport and it takes a great deal of physical effort. That effort isn’t a major cardio workout. At the last 3D tournament we walked 1.36 miles over the course in about 2 hours. Not a grueling pace. Yet, there were people who seemed totally wasted from the effort. (I ran further than that before the tournament.)

You do not need to be a marathoner to shoot archery. But, you should be in shape to perform to your highest level. The better fitness you process the more time you can spend training. In that regard, I consider fitness training part of my archery training. Aside from archery specific training, I spend nearly 1000 additional hours a year on general fitness training.

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I can’t shoot well more than about 4 hours per day broken into two practice sessions, morning and afternoon. Nearly every morning, before archery practice I run. Not far, never more than 6 miles, and not too fast. Between archery practices is when I do more fitness training.

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I understand most of you work during the day. As such, you probably do most of your archery practice in the evenings and on weekends. That still leaves early mornings for addition fitness training.

When I worked at my medical career I trained (not archery) before work, after work and at times (when I was not traveling) during my lunch break. That pattern began when I was 17 and would train for cycling before school and after school. The pattern still rules today – 44 years later.

Being fit doesn’t mean I need to be able to run a marathon or do an Ironman. It also doesn’t mean I won’t do another of each. What it does mean is that I am in better condition for the rigors of archery.

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Getting our on my bike or running offers some great views

I don’t focus on the number of arrows I shoot per day. Some days it’s a few as 30 (tapering or active recover) or as many as 240. To help prevent should injury I only pull 52 pounds and lift weights year round. My mid-day workouts are critical to my ongoing development as an archer. Mid-day I swim, ride a bike and/or weight lift.

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Not everyone shares this view of archery. That’s obvious by the phenotypes I see in the sport. Regardless of opinion, being healthy and fit are beneficial. Find a plan, create a plan, do what you can for your health. You’ll appreciate when you’re in your 60s.

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A Few Practice Notes

Making notes and keeping data of my practice is important to me. Without measurements it seems very difficult to monitor change. Below is one example of data for 40 practice 3D shots. Both columns of practice session data where “cold” shoots. That is, there was no warm-up.

Some training sessions I do are as close to tournament conditions as I can make them. Competitive events have time allotted for warm-up shots. There are events, however, when the warm-up and the actual start of competitive shooting can be an hour or more apart – especially in major 3D events. Therefore, during 3D, I view warm-up as a time to see that my bow is functioning properly. Often by the first scoring shot there’s been an allowance for cooling down.

Anyway, here’s an example of some of the data I collect. The data is transferred to an Excel spreadsheet where additional information is entered.

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A 40 target field data page

Numbers, Stats, and Video

Do you measure and record your practice? How about your tournaments? Not just wins and places. Recording and measuring your progress is an important element in sports.

I’ve had three archer coaches in nearly 3 years. The first coach I had was level 4 coach, and a scientist. He had a PhD and a law degree – we spoke the same languages. I really liked him. But, he drove more than an hour each way to give me an hour lesson. His fee barely covered his gas expenses. I felt a little guilty after every lesson. But, he made notes during our practice and developed training plans for me to follow.

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It was only my third lesson when he mentioned to me the Virginia Indoor Tournament was only a few weeks away. He said, “I think you should enter it, I think you could be competitive.” I entered, I shot, and I didn’t feel competitive. (February 2014) It was my first archery tournament and I didn’t have a clue.

Along the way, actually, from the start, I’ve kept my data. I keep scores on all types of practices and tournaments. Currently, I am looking into methods to expand the data I record and analyze.

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My second coach was anti-data. He said, “Don’t worry about your score just go shoot.” First, I don’t worry about my score. Second, I rarely go out to “just shoot.” Although, I do allow myself easy recovery days where I’ll shoot for fun only.  But, seriously, I don;t worry about the score.  I think about it afterwards.

Coach Bill Walsh was an amazing guy. I met him in Chicago. We were both giving lectures at the same conference center at different meetings. It was one of those moments I won’t forget.

Apparently, we’d both finished lecturing about the same time. We were  in the hotel lobby waiting for our transportation. We were looking out toward the street when we glanced at one another. Of course, I knew he was the Super Champion coach. He was probably looking at me thinking, “Medical Geek.”

I figured, what the heck, I’m going to introduce myself. I think we might have both been a little surprised. After a few minutes we were talking like long time acquaintances. Eventually, our rides came and we went our separate ways.

Coach Walsh has said, “The score takes care of itself.” True enough. But, to think the coach didn’t look at numbers – before the results – would be a mistake. Like all coaches in the NFL he knew the numbers and stats for his players and others. You have to in the NFL.

Back to my second coach, I think he meant well. I don’t think he understood the power of data.

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I often use my Garmin to look at time and distance spent on the range. That data is applied to caloric needs for a tournament

Professional athletes are monitored and measured on nearly a continuous basis. Amateur athletes, thanks to all the inexpensive products that record and monitor physical output that are available, can become nearly as sophisticated as the pros. What can be learned from data can help improve athletes in all sports.

In the first half of 2016 my 3D scores were down. My known yardage scores where down. Had I reached my peak? Maybe this was it for me. Video recordings identified a change I had slipped into – I was tilting my head down, just a little before shots, and then dropping my bow. I’d gotten sloppy. I learned this from my third coach’s videos of my practice.

My scores for the first half of the 3D season were averaging only 8.4 points per shot. Working to break bad habits (identified through video analysis), my second half scores are now 9.62 points per target. The improvement is still lower than my goal of 10.5 points per target.

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This is old data where I compared one bow with another, over time, using short stabilizers and pins. (3-spot at 20 yards)

You might think, why set a goal that is not 11 points per target (IBO scoring) or 12 points per target (ASA scoring). Well, because I am realistic and know better than to set goals too high too soon. Once I achieve 10.5 points per target, then I can change goals.

Everyone I shoot against is good. Most have gotten good after years of practice. Less than 24 months ago a 35-yard 3D target was my maximum distance. Today, it is 50 yards. I’m still getting beaten a lot having won only 2 events this year. But, data and analysis is a factor in continuing to improve as fast as possible.

You might not collect data or make recording of your practice. If we are competitors, well for now I encourage you to not change a thing. And, bye the way, I never worry about the score.

Concentrated Practice

The mean distance was 41.8 yards. Seven of the targets were 45 yards or greater, there were 20 targets total. The shortest shot was 35 yards, the longest 50. I ended up shooting 189.

What I learned from the practice is that I needed more work on a bear and a turkey at distance. I was also not doing so great on a buck deer at greater than 45 yards.

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These notes helped me determine where I needed to concentrate my next practice
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Shoot more than one arrow at the same point on a target and this is bound to happen

An effort to improve meant concentration on the turkey, deer, and bear. Rather than rely on a range finder or my judgment I took a tape measure and staked yardage from 20 to 50 yards on each. Then I shot 4 arrows at distances of 20, 30, 35, 40, 45 and 50 yards for each target. To break things up I also shot my bobcat and mountain lion. The mountain lion had bright rays of light streaming over it – too tempting to pass. The bobcat was completely shadowed. To difficult to pass without some practice.

Seventy-five percent of the shots were 10s. It helped knowing the distance. The others were a mix of 11s, 8s, and 5s. Tomorrow, I’ll do another long yardage practice in the morning to see of this exercise paid off.

Trust Your Training

A common expression heard in triathlon is “Trust Your Training.” A triathlete should know before going into an event his/her approximate finish times for each segment of the race. No matter the athlete’s conditioning or training hours a triathlon will be demanding. Many of the elite triathletes refer to the sport as a mental exercise.

At the Ironman on the Big Island of Hawaii there were nearly 2000 triathletes milling around in the small town of Kona. I was among them. It was amazing to see so many ultra-fit people in one place at the same time. Never before did the phrase “Trust Your Training” mean so much to me.

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Yes, this can be a little intimidating.

In archery the same reference to training applies. As an athlete and archer you should have some idea of how you will perform during any given tournament. If, during your training, you hit mostly 5s and 8s, it would be a leap to expect you are going to begin smacking out 10s and 12s.

If you are competing in order to advance your skills, “Trust Your Training.” Know first to not expect a miracle. It’s like that test you had in high school. You’d not studied. No matter how hard you prayed, the results reflected the amount of effort you put into your preparation. Second, know that you are unlikely to start missing targets. If miss one, oh well – it happens to everyone. I was shooting with a two time IBO World Champion. He missed a target. He didn’t dwell on the bad shot, he got into a grove, and made up for the miss with an abundance of 12s.

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This can be a little intimidating, as well. But, trust your training.

In practice, if your scores are nearly perfect, odds are you’ll shoot nearly perfectly in competition. If you consistently score perfect – well you get it. There is no reason your skill at archery should fail you unless you mentally collapse.

Trusting your practiced and learned ability, ‘Trusting Your Training” is one step closer to achieving a mental frame of mind to ensure your best outcome.

(So, I keep telling myself!)

A Little Rain During Long Shot Practice

There was a little rain today adding to the challenge of long shot practice. It wasn’t a hard rain and practice wasn’t halted. Archery is shot rain or shine. In the event of severe weather, such as thunderstorms, the range is closed. But, a little rain or even a lot of rain doesn’t stop tournaments.

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At 38-yards, straight in, and unobstructed, this isn’t a really difficult shot.
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Shooting this pig at an angle was a bit tough from 42-yards

So, practice continued and things got a little wet. Not bad. With the rain there was some cooling of the heat we’ve been experiencing. The cooler temperatures seemed agreeable to the critters in the woods. There was a lot of movement in the trees and underbrush. Aside from squirrels and a rabbit the live animals remained hidden.

There was one snake that venture into my path, but it was harmless and we parted ways injury free.

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No problem for either snake or archer