Revising and Finishing the Plan for 2017

The 2017 Indoor Archery season is done, at least for me. There is a National 5-spot tournament in Cincinnati, Ohio in a few weeks. Five-spot targets are fun – the X ring is huge! But, it was not on my 2017 plan and as tempting as it is I am sticking with the plan. The plan now moves to 3D.

At the moment, however, it is a scheduled break and recovery period. My bow is sitting a few yards away and targets are not much further away. I’d like t go shoot, but I’m sticking with the plan. Tomorrow starts a little active recovery – kayaking followed by fishing. Then, this coming weekend I’ll pick up a bow and head out to shoot in a 3D contest totally unprepared. By that I mean having not shot a bow in six days prior to the tournament.

It’s not my first 3D tournament of 2017. Thus far, I’ve shot in two with minimal preparation and using a back-up bow. They were on the plan and considered exclusively for fun events. For the past few months, practice has been intensely 18-meters.

Looking at the 3D season and the goals for 2017 I’ve had to make adjustments. Specific tournaments, when the schedule finally appeared, fell during times where Brenda, my wife, and I planned family outings. To make adjustments I found other similar events to take the place of the original. The past four hours have been spent working on scheduling and registrations.

The 2017 plan, now revised, is complete through August. August was tough. There’s the ASA Classic the first weekend and the IBO World Championship the next weekend. That’s a lot of traveling to shoot at both. The IBO is closer to home. I chose the IBO.

 

48th USA Archery National Indoor Championship, Snellville, GA

The first day of the USA Archery Indoor National Championship didn’t go as well as I’d planned. The non-stop MUSIC playing over the PA-system wasn’t working for me. This is the second event where music played throughout the shooting.

One of the judges told me that non-stop music was going to be standard for all USA Archery tournaments. My response, “When the PGA plays music during putting, I’ll accept that USA Archery got it right.”

Here’s what changed: by the second day I was enjoying the music. The playlists on both days were fine. It wasn’t the music per se that I objected; it is that I focused on the music and not the shooting. By day two, my brain had compartmentalized the music and separated the act of shooting – most of the time. In fact, I enjoyed the music. I also began improving my score.

Both rinks where lined with targets

Day two the score didn’t move up to level compared to shooting in my yard. It’s amazing how many little things practiced at home are absent during a tournament. At best the little things come and go, at worst they’re waiting back home.

On day one, most of the steps needed to make a good shot were unwinding in North Carolina. To be fair, occasionally they’d slip into Georgia between the songs floating around in my head. I finished the day one point behind, in second place.

On day two, I was getting in synch with the music. To make matters even better on the target 34, where I’d been assigned to shoot, were George Ryals, IV and Roy Green. Without a doubt, I have never laughed so hard in any sporting event. They had me in stitches nearly the entire three hours of shooting. Best of all, most of the day those elements of form and shooting that had vacated on day one mostly returned on day two. There were a few brain farts but it wasn’t the steady flow of gas it had been on day one. When it was over, I’d found the lost point from day one and gained an additional eight points to win.

If you needed to take a “bio-break” you had to plan ahead. This was not a place for moving rapidly through a crowd.

Over the past three years (three years, four months 27 days), since I picked up a bow to give it a try, I’ve crossed paths with a number of interesting people. Some, when there’s time, have been written about on this website. Not nearly enough, but there is only so much time and too many interesting characters. This year, the crowd (and it was a crowd) was filled with familiar characters – now friends. These friends, once intimidating faces, now wore bright smiles and offered warm handshakes.

It was close, certainly an exciting and musical event

Waiting for My Turn to Shoot

It’s day one of the USA Archery National Championships. My start time is 4:00 PM. It reminds me of working the 3 – 11 shift. It was my least favorite of the three shifts. It always seemed to be the busiest. But, that’s not what made it my least favorite.

The problem with afternoon shift, there’s not really enough pre-work time to get much done and after work the day is gone. The nice time about the shift is that it is never a worry to get to work. Probably a good time for archery. Plus, it is a heck of a lot better than getting up at 4:00 to make the 8:00 AM shooting shift. (It’s a two hour ten minute drive to the event.)

A 3D Break From 18-Meters

The USA Indoor Nationals, for me, are next weekend. For months I’ve done a lot of practice at 18-meters. Over that time there were three indoor tournaments here in North Carolina where I competed and won. So, today I decided to give paper a break and shoot 3D.

1st warm up shot of the morning

In order to shoot 3D with my competition bow meant a lot of adjusting to shoot the arrows used for 3D. Rather than mess with all of that I grabbed my back up bow, a Mathews Apex 7, and used that one instead.

One of my favorite targets. The trees make it interesting
Longer shots make for good practice

The main idea was to take a short break from paper targets and practice yardage. The Mathews bow was sighted with pins rather than a scope. Personally, I prefer a fixed sight with pins for 3D. It seems to better represent how I hunt. Many of the top archers use an adjustable sight and scope at the major 3D tournaments. Last year, I too shot with such an arrangement. This year, I may go back to fixed pins for 3D competition.

Realistic 3D target set-up

Shooting 3D all morning was a nice switch from 18-meters. Hiking out in the woods was relaxing. The practice was set up to focus on yardage. The targets would shot in this manner: four targets at 20 through 45 yards with five yards increments, four targets at in between distances (22, 27, 33, 37, 43, 47 or there about) and the final two at 45 and 50 yards. If the arrows’ grouping became too tight I’d pull them before continuing. This was done to prevent damage to the arrows. Also, a range finder was not permitted during this practice session.

20, 25, 30 yards shots, then pull the arrows and continue at 35, 40 and 54 yards

You might guess this was a long morning practice session – over 3 hours. This afternoon I’ll use a random number generator to set the yardage for 20 shots. Since there are only 14 targets a few will be shot twice, but at a different yardage. (I still want a Javelina and Standing Bear for the range and will be happy to accept a donation)

This turkey sits 40 yards away
Got all six arrows in pretty into a pretty nice group without breaking a one

It was a nice break from 18-meters. It was also more relaxing than shooting with a scope.

(Note: the arrows used here are Bemens.  They aren’t what I typically use in a tournament. But, they are great for practice.  They’re diameter is smaller than my completion arrows which is the only reason I typically don’t compete with them. They have help up very well.)

 

Time to Ease Off a Little

A few too high, a few too low, some just right. Looking for the “just right” shots this coming weekend at the USA Indoor Nationals.

First few warm up shot

Practice was hard today! Over the past 8 days I’ve shot in four competitions. Additionally, I’ve put in a lot of practice. Even though I’ve only ridden by bicycle once and run three times over the past 7 days, trying to spend as much time as possible shooting, I admit I am beat.

Today, I practiced on a vertical three spot. I used a stopwatch to time my work. I averaged one arrow every 26 seconds. That meant of the two minutes for shooting there was 42 seconds remaining. This is par over the past few months. It’s also probably too fast. The good thing is my scores are creeping higher.

A few months ago I was shooting on average 556. The past few weeks, with the exception of the NC State Championship, that average has moved up to 570 with 30 tens and 30 nines. Practice ended with a score of 566. Yesterday, after the 3D tournament I shot a 570. That score would have landed me 8th at the Nationals in 2016. My two top scores over two days, it is a two-day event, during the past several weeks would have landed me in 1st by 3 points.

Until next weekend I think I’ll focus on some easy practice, active recovery, and a get little more rest.

First Outdoor 3D Shoot of 2017

Sunday was my first outdoor 3D shoot of the year. The Down East Archery Coalition began their 3D season a week or so ago. Last week I didn’t shot their 3D event because it was the weekend of the NC State Indoor Championship. I shoot indoors in Advance, NC.

Over the past few months my primary focus has been on indoor tournaments at 18-meters. All of in preparation for the National Championships next week. My bow is about as good as I am going to get it and I didn’t want to mess with adjusting the sight for 3D arrows. Still I wanted to shoot in the 3D tournament.

What I did was put pins and a short stabilizer on my old Mathews Apex 7, shot it for a few hours the day before, Saturday, and decided to compete in the Bowhunter division. The maximum yardage for that group is 40 yards.

With the pins, having been a quick assembly, things get a little dicey at 40 to 45 yards. Practicing yesterday my arrows were dropping a bit between 40 and 45 yards. What the heck, 40 was the maximum and I’d play it by ear once I got there.

When I arrived I met a friend, Angelo, and asked if I could shoot with him. Angelo said sure and that he had a buddy on the way. Our pre-shoot goal became getting on the range before it got crowded.

Mike, a traditional archer, also joined our group to make a quartet. Angelo’s earlier mentioned friend, sorry I forgot his name, had a problem with his bow and left the group after 3 targets in order to make what repairs he could at the range.

Because the event started at 10:00 AM I made certain to bring something to eat during the shooting. One thing for sure, a hungry archer isn’t necessarily an accurate archer. A 10:00 AM start time means skipping lunch. Breakfast at 06:30 then skipping lunch often leads to gastronomic rumblings or even down right revolt.

Around 11:00 AM I reached for my packed Cliff Bar snack. It wasn’t there. Despite being hungry, I shot pretty well. Not my best, but not bad. Since I was a bit cold to 3D I aimed primarily for 10’s. A few times I went for a 12 and had limited success. I hate missing a 12 by hitting low – 8s suck. Ten is your friend.

Despite having not shot the Apex 7 in a while it felt good. My rights and lefts were fine; my yardage was a bit problematic – again not horrible.

The Pitt County Wildlife Club, which hosted the shoot, seems extremely proud of their real estate and show it off.  We had a fair share of long shots. Two of them crossed water making it a little more challenging on distance estimates.

There’s a deer down in those pine trees

The two most difficult shots were a coyote and the bonus. The coyote was facing the stake in a thick tight hole of foliage. The light was to our faces putting the target in complete darkness. It wasn’t a long shot, 23 yards, but there was no way to identify the center ring. To make matters worse it was a very narrow target with small rings. Our group, at that point down to three archers, did well walking away from the stake with a 12 and two 10s.

There’s a standing bear on the tangent of this pond

The second most difficult shot was the bonus shot. Even though the max distance for bowhunters is 40ish this target was behind a fallen tree out closer to 45ish. That bonus shot didn’t help me at all.

By getting on the range early we completed it in two and a half hours. The course is essentially a mile long out and back. The first 5 targets were in the open,  long, with a couple targets on the edge of or over water. After that targets was sitting in dense forest. All in all a challenging course that is also one of the most scenic since it runs along the Neuse River.

The Neuse River

While walking in the woods, Mark pointed out on the Pine Trees just how high the watermark was from Hurricane Matthew. The watermark, a distinct mud line, at 300 yards from the river was up around 7 feet. The Pitt County Club house remained closed due to the damage caused last October.

Completing the course, in good time, we turned in our score cards, then I  got a hamburger. I was starving.  It was the second best archery range burger I’ve eaten. The best remains those prepared by Clyde at Mid-Del Archery in Delaware.

Once home, I found the Cliff Bar

Indoor 5-Spot Followed by 3D

Brenda has driven up to Maryland to visit her friends. Many of them are teachers and they are a long weekend. I remain in North Carolina with the dogs. There are just some trips where husbands aren’t necessary. This is a girls’ weekend.

Choptank River, Cambridge, MD

Home alone it takes little effort to make a mess. Before Brenda returns I’ll have the place almost acceptable. In the meantime, I’ll do the usual, shoot, ride, and run.

Little River, here at home

Today began an archery double. That is, indoor 5-spot league on Saturday and 3D on Sunday.

The league competition was my final exercise in release decisions before the USA Archery Indoor Nationals. I shoot with a hinge or a thumb release. Last week, at the NC State Indoor Championship I used a thumb. During the following days I practiced with a hinge. There is little difference in the outcome.

My problem with this thumb release my be associated with it being a very inexpensive product. It has no way to adjust the trigger pressure. It is a one size fits all. It seems that a lighter touch might offer an overall improvement. Of course, that means purchasing a new release. Not something I’d do so close to the Nationals. At least, that’s my current thinking.

The problem with a hinge is not the device itself. For me, it’s eyesight and light. I have fine vision. It’s not a bother except under fluorescent lighting. It appears that my dot becomes a blur under fluorescent lights. When that happens my focus is on trying the see the dot not on relaxing and making the shot. With the thumb I feel I have a little more flexibility controlling the dot to get the best image possible. At least I’m not worried about it.

That proved to be case today during the 5-spot competition. Yesterday, with the hinge shooting a vertical 3-spot in my yard and with wind I ended up with a personal best. What occurred to me was how defined my dot was under natural light.

At the indoor range today my dot was a blur barely perceptible. After three ends I’d only shot three Xs. In addition, I shot three 4s. In frustration I soon switched to the thumb. Despite the thumb and hinge being slightly different where the sight is concerned I was able to fire off thirty-seven Xs after tweaking the sight a bit. That made my decision for the Nationals.

Back home, and having stopped for a buffet lunch at Golden Corral, I took a bike ride. It was such a nice day here that it would have been criminal to have not ridden. Then, I grabbed my back-up bow and got it sighted for 3D. Once that was done, I headed over to my 3D range for an additional three hours of practice.

Not exactly a 5-Star, but good food, filling, and inexpensive.

Because I’ve been spending so many hours shooting paper at a known distance 3D practice wasn’t stellar. In fact, I lost one arrow when I relied on a rangefinder versus my estimate of the yardage – I was right, it was wrong.

What I’d been doing was starting at 20 yards and working my way out to 45 yards. The pin system I have on my backup bow only has pins to 45 yards. I could switch over to primary bow and use a sight and scope, but I don’t want to mess with anything on that bow before next weekend.

So, the 3D practice was pins shooting several arrows from 20 to 45 yards at 5-yard increments. The exercise took 3 hours on a rather fast pace to get through all the targets.

A Good Start

The miss (and subsequent lost arrow) was on a turkey hen positioned at a tough angle that is obstructed making the shot more difficult. My range finder read 27 yards, I estimated 22 yards. I went with the range finder skimming the arrow over the back to the target.

I’m guessing this faux-rabbit isn’t going to last long

It was also the inaugural practice for my latest 3D target, another small one, a rabbit. The spot I’d originally picked for the rabbit was limited for space. Where it would have been positioned meant a maximum of 30 yards. I found a better area where I can get an easy 50 yards of distance. You know, somewhere there will be a time when a small target is sitting 50 yards away. Most likely a bobcat, turkey, badger or javelina.

Nope, this is only 30 yards; you know it’s waiting somewhere out there at 50.

It was a good day of shooting. The temperature was ideal. Thankfully, Brenda left me some pasta in a Tupperware container so I’ll have decent dinner.

NC State Indoor 18-meter Championship

The 2017 USA Archery North Carolina State Indoor State Championship was held this year at Droptine Archery in Advance, NC. Now, I’ve not lived in North Carolina my entire life. I grew up in Savannah, Georgia, specifically on Tybee Island then Isle of Hope. So, I didn’t know where Advance was in the Tarheel State.

It turned out to be nearly in the middle of the state and NC is a big state. Actually, it ranks only 29th in square miles. But, it is the widest state, 560 miles, east of the Mississippi. Since I live about as far east as one can, excluding the Outer Banks, it was going to be a haul to reach Advance terminating in an overnight stay at some hotel.

If the weather had been a bit warmer I’d have taken the Winnebago. Freezing temperature and a winterized camper that I didn’t want to de-winterize landed me at a Hampton Inn in Bermuda Run.

Hampton Inn, Bermuda Run, NC

I am extremely familiar with Hampton Inn and all the other hotel brands in the Hilton chain. While working I traveled a lot and Hilton brands were my hotels of choice. Before retiring I was a Diamond member of their frequent sleeper program. I’d also earned precious medal ranking among several of their competitors since Hiltons weren’t always available to me. Hampton Inn isn’t Hilton’s top shelf hotel but it is reliably clean, quiet and inexpensive. The one in Bermuda Run was no exception.

The Hampton’s pool was nearly big enough for laps

The indoor competition in Advance was only 0.6 miles from the hotel. That can’t be beaten for convenience. Before checking into my room I drove over to Droptine Archery to see the facility.

Droptine Archery, Advance, NC

The owners, Robert and Pam were extremely courteous. When I inquired if I might shoot a few arrows to sight my bow to their range and get a feel for the lighting they invited me to go ahead – gratis.

Some of Droptine’s merchandise

The lighting was exceptionally good. On their range they have placed additional lights above and aimed toward the backstop. This means the light is brighter on the target. Many ranges only have overhead fluorescent lamps. The fluorescent set-up in that manner washes out my dot making it more difficult to aim. The Droptine system provided crisp down range illumination that defined the dot on my lens.

Notice how the range is illuminated! Very nice.

The tournament was scheduled for 3 range times on Saturday and one on Sunday. My shoot time was 10:00 am. On the line and between shots “kids” surrounded me, all apparently in their late teens and early 20’s. All of them were very well mannered.

One thing I’ve learned is that if an older archer is going to worry about getting out scored by youngster they’ll be assured of a needless and negative worry. It will happen.

My first 30 arrows were below my average in score. Not an embarrassment but not good. Here’s the thing – they played music the entire time we shot.

I’ve never shot with music in the background. There’s a good reason, I play an instrument, a trumpet. When music is playing I hear the music. I don’t hear the words if it is a song, I hear the instruments and sounds. My insular cortex goes directly to the notes. In college, where I took music (not as a major)  I could name a musical composition after hearing only a bar to two of a score. I still can to some degree.

Before we began shooting a judge asked if anyone minded the music. No way was I going to be the only person that raised a hand in defiance. And yes, the music was a real problem for me, at least for the first 20 or 30 arrows.

The 2:00 PM shooters. It was crowded, but there was a decent amount of room to shoot.

The insular cortex, a part of our brain, is the central governor of subconscious. For example, playing a trumpet, reading notes, moving fingers, is too much to do consciously and simultaneous. Shooting a bow, aiming, holding form, and releasing an arrow are also best done subconsciously. The music and shooting were a bit much for me. I never approached the line without music floating in my head.

If you’ve ever been a musician, say played longer than 10 years (I started when I was 8) you might understand the dilemma. For me, when music is on, it becomes an active involvement and I have difficulty concentrating on anything else. Even when I drive, unless on a straight highway, I have typically have the music off.

It took some time before I figured out how to deal with the music. There was no way to block it. So, I gave up and enjoyed it hoping my insular cortex would deal with it. While I didn’t completely succeed, I did improve as the shooting continued. In the future I will occasionally practice with music in the background.

There is music in my head (Photo by Adrianne Williams)

A number of archers from the east coast made the drive. Of the four of us that competed we left with two Gold Medals and one Silver Medal. Perhaps in 2018 we’ll have a larger group heading back to Droptine Archery in Advance.

Couple of guys from the coast of NC getting their game on mentally (Photo by Adrianne Williams)

PS: Driving home I had the radio on. Despite a fairly straight shot to the Atlantic Ocean, I missed a turn infuriating the woman that lives within the GPS.

Rounding Off My 3D Targets

I had 13 3-D targets. It is a number that needed to be rounded up. When I was sitting at 12 targets I wanted a Javelina and a Standing Bear. They were both priced higher than I was willing to fork out.

Instead of buying the $234.00 (+/- a few bucks depending on the supplier) Javelina I bought a small boar for less than ½ the price. The diminutive pig is roughly the same size as the Javelina. The standing bear, well I’ll continue to look for a used product purchase.

The problem was that I’d cleared a spot in the woods for a bear then ended up stuck on 13 targets. I’m not really superstitious – but 13 felt odd.

After months of searching I remained bear-less in the woods. So, to round things off I bought this inexpensive Delta rabbit off of Amazon. I now have an abundance of smaller targets along with several mid-sized ones.

It’s raining today. Actually, it started while I was practicing this morning. I did get in about an hour of shooting in the rain before it got heavy enough to go inside. I didn’t get the new rabbit target set-up on the range. Once the rain clears this critter will join the foam menagerie.

The Waiting Game

When I was racing triathlons Brenda, my wife, occasionally came along to support me and enjoy watching the race. Typically, these were the larger races, Ironman events and a couple of World Championships when she attended. The shorter races, sprints, she came less often.

It was more fun for her when a group of us traveled together and competed in the same race. In this way she had friends to hang out with during the race. The Ironman Eagleman 70.3 was the most fun and there was a party throughout the event that she enjoyed while I swim, biked and ran.

At Ironman Lake Placid a group of us where racing. We’d rented at house for ten days with another couple, good friends, and neither one was racing. The house was smack on the bike course leading into Lake Placid. It was an ideal location to set up chairs and watch the athletes ride past.

At the Ironman World Championship in Hawaii, I flew out first to get acclimated to the weather and time changes. Brenda flew out a few days later. Even though that race is the SuperBowl of triathlons, she was alone at the finish line while she waited for my to complete the 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike ride, and the 26.2 mile run. Admittedly, I worried about her the entire day.

Brenda hanging out at Kona, HI.

Throughout all of that day I was concerned about her being alone. After that race, I began doing most of the triathlons solo. At the Ironman Kentucky in Louisville she stayed home. In the off-season I competed in running races, again solo. There were exceptions when a group of us would sign up for a marathon, rent and house, and turn the race into a social event.

It’s an exciting event for fans where tens of thousands line the course to watch

After a few years I began to become eager to get home after a race. Once after finishing a 24-hour World Championship Ultra-cycling race I took a shower, loaded my gear and drove straight home – a haul of 18 hours after racing 24-hours non-stop. I didn’t even wait to see how I’d placed. That method of finishing and heading home become my standard operation procedure from then.

Golf certainly gets a huge crowds of fans following. Both the athlete and the fans knows the score.

At the shorter races I frequently placed in the top 3. There was never any money involved since I didn’t race professionally. But, there were trophies or medals, at times very nice ones. If I wanted the prize, and I’d left before the award ceremony, I’d send the races organizers a check to cover the expense and their time to mail the award to me. None of the awards are on display in my home; they are all in a storage closet or in a gym bag.   Still, it is nice to have them. That has held with archery.

There is a difference; Brenda does not ever attend archery tournaments. I can’t say that I blame her. Unless someone is ‘into’ archery the sport is dull compared to a triathlon. It’s slow and there is a lot of sitting around looking at the backs of athletes standing still. It’s even difficult to see the arrow placement of a cherished athletes performance from the spectator seats (when seats are available).

The waiting around is tough for friends and family that want to support an athlete. Years ago at the USA Track and Field Masters Indoor National Championship my start time (for a short race) kept getting pushed back. Brenda was with me and I could see she was bored to tears. Heck, I was bored to tears and nearly left before my start.

There was a span when I race a lot. By a lot I mean one race per month for 8 straight years. Additionally, those where years when I worked and with work traveled globally. So, spending any more time that required away from home was bad. Hence, I’d race, finish and head home.

Occasionally the race was a short trip others required a plane flight. Either way I got home post-race as fast as possible. Once home, if I didn’t know how I’d finished, I’d go online and check it out. When possible I let the race organizers know I’d be leaving immediately following the race if I was expecting to win or place. They’d have the results almost immediately and just hand me my prize.

Many people don’t consider that athletes, especially those not getting paid to attend, often have other obligations. Having a family that’s home waiting for the return of their competitor is a big draw to leave. Having to wait for results is a big push away from a sport.

Working hard, hour’s everyday, paying (at times a large registrations fee), adding an expense to travel for an event, then days later unable to find a result is frustrating. At one tournament in Georgia, a long haul from North Carolina, the results are still unavailable – nearly a year after the event.

Talking to the father of a young man that competes in the JOAD ranks he mentioned to me it had been a week since they’d last traveled to an archery tournament and still no posted results. Personally, I’d like to write that I don’t care whether or not I find out how I performed in a sporting event. I can’t – I do like to know. Otherwise, I might as well save my money stay home and shoot in the yard.