Day Two of Short Shots

Short shot practice remains the order of the day.  Starting yesterday I began at 7 yards and worked to 12 yards.  I made it past the 12-yard increment with 60Xs. Fifteen yards was the start of a new day. “Big” John Chandler said, “There will be a point where you begin to drop more points.” He was right. At 15-yards I had more initial misses.

The first goal of each session was to establish good form. Then, I wanted to have excellent follow through. Getting that correct on every shot remains illusive.

After warming up my first three arrows scored two tens and a nine. By the finish of the first 30 arrows I’d dropped 5. On the second 30 arrows I dropped 4. Along the way, with 5 ends remaining, I discovered my rear stabilizer had loosened and shifted its position.

If you look closely, you can see the orange flag at 20 yards.

There is no way to know if the shift had been significant enough so that I could lay blame on missing 9 times. It probably wasn’t. On the shots where I’d missed I knew it was going to be a missed shot immediately. Plus, I scored a lot of decent shots with the stabilizer out of position.

I’ll repeat 15-yards during my next practice. When I get it right I’ll move to 18-yards. This is a slow process.

Working the Short Shot

In archery moving from 70 meters to 7 meters is quite a change in distance. A 70-meter shot is exciting. A 7-meter shot is practically grabbing an arrow out of your quiver, leaning forward and poking it into the target. But, a new distance is in the forecast and a new training plan means practice shots have changed.

Outdoor archery season is done for 2018. The next tournament is an indoor competition being held at Georgia Southern University in Statesboro, GA. That is the Georgia Archery Association’s State 25-meter championship being held on December 8th. Following the 25-meter shoot comes the USA Archery National Indoor tournament in February 2019. This means shooting at tiny dime sized dots from 18-meters.

I’m shooting well. My current 18-meter average is better than how I scored in 2018. With our move back to Georgia behind us I’ve been able to get back to a routine and my scores have returned to an ascending slope on my data graphs. I am not, however, where I need to be for 2019. Last night, on the Ace Apache range located in Social Circle, Georgia conjoined with Ace Hardware I got a tip on how to make improvements.

Big John Chandler, a USA Archery Level 4 NTS Coach, Steve, Robbie and I were practicing at 18-meters on the Ace indoor range. In fact, all four of us are archery coaches.  But, when I am around them I am all ears. In this pack I am a rookie coach and primarily a student.

I was already in for 120 arrows from my morning’s practice. I didn’t feel weak but was fatigued. Between the two practices I’d cut another loop through the woods behind my house adding to my trail running course.

I find when I’m a bit fatigued I can get sloppy with a bow. I, mean it wasn’t like I was shooting 8s but I was finding more nines than I’d located earlier in the day. “Big John” pointed out I was relaxing my follow through. As he put it, “You’re not following through.”   When I paid attention to what I was doing arrows would land in the 10. A little mental drift and nine was the prize. And so the evening practice went.

Before leaving I said my goodbyes to Robbie and Steve. John was in his office working and I stepped in to let him know I was done for the day. Before I could offer a goodbye he had coaching tips coming my way.

“You can’t shoot a perfect score at 18-meters if you can’t do it from 5-meters” where about the first words out of his mouth. No argument from me on that point.

What he told me to do was to go home and practice at 5 to 7 meters. “Don’t move any further back until you score 60x at that distance” explained John. When you shoot 60X at that distance, move back 3 to 4 meters then do it  again. Keep that up until you are at 18-meters.

I knew the drill but honestly had never done it. The idea is, as John explained, to train your brain to see the x and put the arrow into it with each shot. This morning’s practice was done according to the prescription.

Starting at 7-meters I landed 60x using the first 60 arrows. That is after I adjusted the elevation on my sight. During those 60, elevation corrected arrows, it began to rain. Shooting in the rain isn’t bad and it was only a light rain. The thing about rain is that paper targets are allergic to it. I shot about 120 arrows during the practice and ended up needing 6 targets. Usually I can get through a day using two targets before the center is gone.  I buy them in bulk; still that’s a lot of money getting shot to pieces – 6 was making my eyes spin in dollar signs. Back to the short distance practice..

After the 7-meter distance I moved to 12 meters. On ends 18 and 19, at 12-meters, I scored two tens and a nine for each. John said, “If you miss a ten, finish all your shots before you start over.” In other words, had the misses been on ends 11 and 12 I’d have continued through to the last end. The final score would still have been a 598, but I’d have to repeat the 12-meter distance until I had a 600.  This afternoon, when I practice, I’ll pick-up at 12 meters and stay there until I score 600.

This type of practice is tedious. It is deliberate practice, which means it isn’t necessary fun.  It is kind of like practicing scales on a musical instrument for hours before ever moving to composed music. The composed music is more fun, but mastering scales helps create masterful music.

Your Stance

I watch archers shoot. It’s part of what a coach does. The vast majority of the archers I watch are not and are unlikely to become my students. Nevertheless, I watch and I learn. I also keep my mouth shut. That’s because I see the bulk of archers during competition. At that point, unless someone is about to get hurt or hurt someone, I doubt they’d want my input. Besides, most competitive archers have a coach. Of the many things I see a poor stance is often the first indicator of poor form.

The first coach I had was obsessed with his stance. He droned on and on about his stance – and about everything else about him. He is pretty good and typically does well in his pond. If you are within ear shot of him he’ll let you know.

His dissertation on stance, though, is something I will long remember. He talked about balance, his toe placement, using a mirror to see his feet, putting tape on the spot from where he practiced, and he got it mostly wrong. Of course, I didn’t know that then. My first suspicion that he’d misinformed me came from my next and well every other coach I’ve had since.

Coaching tip

Your stance is essentially the initial development of the foundation for a shot. There are other steps, a bunch of them, but if you start off wrong you will just be wrong. This is what I notice a lot among too many archers. There feet are at odds for establishing good form.

During an ASA 3D State Championship I was hiking around with a father/daughter – coach/student pair. The father was typically proud of his daughter and her skills. While she was skilled, she could have improved her footing on too many easy level shots. Her feet, on every shot, were perpendicular to her shoulders. On every shot she ended up struggling and occasionally placed arrows in a less than ideal location. True, in 3D footing can be a challenge, but the basic adjustments to create a solid foundation begins with knowing how to establish your feet.

A poor stance is not limited to 3D where finding good footing can be like finding the center shot on a javelina at 45 yards while it sits in a dark hole. Funny feet show up during indoor tournaments on perfectly flat floors. What I usually attribute this to an archer that enjoys the sport but has yet to invest into or listened to a bona fide coach.

Proper placement – Source: USA Archery

If you’re new to the sport or have never had a professional coach spend time with you give it some consideration. Archery is a sport requiring perfect form to reproduce a perfect shot over and over. If you are starting out wrong that process is going to be more difficult.

River’s Bone and Stick Pile

When I practice at home River is along side for the session. River is an eight and a half year old lab. She has been accompanying me during practice since I started shooting four years and five months ago. She’s even joined me on some 3D competitions where she’s been welcomed to tag along.

It used to be that River got very impatient during practice. The stick game, shoot three arrows – throw a stick, gave her some satisfaction. These days we’re practicing at 50-meters so sticks can be tossed less frequently.

River has chewed every stick here

On occasion River searches out her own stick. Picking just the right stick she’ll relax on a pile of pine straw and gnaw her treasure. It is clear when she’s interested in finding her own stick and she’s free to explore while I practice.

We had some wind today and it kept pushing my arrows right

Sometimes she’ll return with an entire limb that’s been cut down. The limb may be a dead branch or one with green leaves. I don’t understand her palate.

She’s also returned from a quest with an animal’s limb. She’s not killed an animal. The limb is a bit of remains from someone else’s meal. Once she brought to my feet an entire deer leg. Today, it appeared to be rabbit.

This vertebra didn’t provide much meat

She was appalled when I took the leg and buried it. Burying a leg is a pointless and perhaps dumb exercise with a dog. The second I walked away to pull arrows she dug it up. There’s probably nothing wrong with River eating a raw leg, she is a dog after all. But, not wanting to chance it I put the little leg up in a tree. Poor River did all she could to express her disappointment.

River can’t get to this leg, now

I suppose, if you were a dog, you might prefer raw leg to a stick, too.

Winter is Coming

When we lived in Pittsburgh and Cleveland, being Southerns, we had pretty much the same opinion of Winter approaching as projected in the “Game of Thrones.” There would be snow on the ground around October and there it would sit until March or April. In Cleveland there are two seasons, Winter and when they repair the roads. Pittsburgh road repairs seemed less – just less.

When I write of cold I’m serious. When a Great Lake (Lake Erie for the geographically challenged) freezes that is cold. Aside from cold Winter brings shorter days.

Early morning on the trails

Down home, we finally made out of the ice, Winters are milder. Georgia is a far cry from Ohio and Pennsylvania. The Winter is milder but the days still produce abbreviated daylight.

The headlight I use does a good job

In preparation for darker evening and morning runs of the colder months I’ve illuminated the trails behind my house with solar lights along paths. That is fine in the evening when the lights are still powered. In the morning runs require a headlight to avoid trees.

The light also illuminates spider webs. A bonus to be able to avoid them

Running in the morning in Cleveland in February was awful. The temperature was always way below freezing. When I mentioned to some folks I’d been out running on a typical artic morning in Cleveland someone asked, “Wasn’t it freezing?” I replied, “No, it wasn’t that warm.”

As Winter approaches (…its coming) the Fall in Georgia will be nice for running. Some runners look forward to the colder weather. Personally, I am just fine shuffling along in the heat. Although, Fall and Spring aren’t too bad.

Taking a Look At Archery Phenotypes

Nearly anyone can pick up a bow practice and get to be pretty good.

At your next tournament look around at the competitors. They’ll look a lot like the spectators. You see folks that look; by look I mean phenotype, sort of like everyone else.

Everybody else means this for the US: Males weight on average 196 pounds and are 5 feet 9 inches tall. Females weight 168.5 pounds and are 5 feet 4 inches tall. That pretty close to how archers look in general.

Certainly, this isn’t everyone that picks up a bow. These are averages. My friend, Mike, is 6 feet 8 inches tall and weights 180 pounds. Mike is an outlier.

Consider the Body Mass Index (BMI) of the average US male and female using the numbers from above. You’d see both coming in as overweight.

Being overweight is, well, not good. But, archery is a sport where overall conditioning is often neglected. In fact, during a recent tournament when archers needed to move large outdoor targets a number of athletes couldn’t help because of their fitness level. One person said, “I can’t help, my doctor has told me not to lift more that 10 pounds.” Yet, there he was shooting and doing a pretty decent job of arrow placement. (Good not great)

Coaching tip

Archery is a sport where fitness isn’t a key factor for the average shooter. Just about anyone that wants to enjoy a sport that isn’t a major cardio activity can have fun with a bow and arrow. That’s fine. That’s not my philosophy when it comes to athletics.

When it comes to archery training I think athletes in this sport should incorporate fitness training. No, it is not a requirement to be a good shooter. However, taking your training to a higher level will provide strength and stamina to archery performance.

Cutting Practice in Half

Each week I develop a training plan. That week includes a rest day. That day isn’t always on a 7-day cycle. Occasionally, I add an active recovery day and bump out the day off by three days.

There are also days when I know, from years of experience, that I’m pushing the envelop of fatigue. Today is one of those days.

It is just as hard not to get on a bike and ride in the afternoons as it is not to shoot. Took this picture on my ride yesterday.

I felt it beginning last night. After a league shoot I came hope and felt more tired that usual. Walking up stairs I noted my legs were sore. This morning after stretching, running and shooting I didn’t recover as fast as usual. It is time to take an afternoon off.

That means no cycling and no more shooting for today.

Just shy of 100 arrows I called it a day and skipped the afternoon practice

There are times when you know you need a break. It is mentally hard not to practice. What goes through your head is that someone else is getting an edge on you. That’s not the case. Still it is a tough call to rest especially when things are going well.

Practice Should Be a Challenge

“Are you practicing to practice or are you practicing to win?”

I do not know who originally asked that question. It is one that I think about a lot. I consider it before nearly every practice. I consider it when I am working on training plans. It makes a difference to ask the question before training.

Training and practice should not be easy. Whether you are preparing for a bicycle race or an archery tournament the question applies.

Archers often practice by shooting arrow after arrow. That can work. But, does shooting a bunch of arrows in practice prepare an archer to win?

Coaching Tip

There’s an excellent archer. In practice he typically out shoots everyone on the range. The practice is calm, controlled and comfortable. He stands in his favorite lane at 18 meters. He’s surrounded by his friends all of them not yet at his level. His confidence is high. He’s been here countless times and like the many times before he does better in practice than his peers in the room.

He practices a lot. He claims to shoot two hundred arrows a day. That’s a lot of practice. Yet, his performance during a tournament, while good, is only good. He’s not alone.

Watching archers I see mistakes that I’ve seen in other sports particularly in cycling. When I raced bicycles I expected to win every race I entered. I didn’t; no one ever does win every race they enter. If I didn’t win it was not because I wasn’t prepared to win.

My coach, Nester Gernay, trained members of our team to win races. We used to joke we were looking forward to a race to have an easy day. See, our training schedules were grueling. We rarely raced where the event was more difficult that our tough days of training.

Those years of training were not day in and day out ride as hard and fast as possible. Coach Gernay broke up practice. He created cycles of training that were decades ahead of what is now common cycling knowledge. (This was the early 70’s)

In archery, there are also excellent training plans to us in practice. I image there are coaches that have it figured out how to create practice to teach an archer to win. That sort of practice is not simply shooting arrow after arrow. It is hard.

The archer that piqued my interest in writing this practices to practice. I don’t see him practicing to win. Practice is where you learn to improve. To do this you must find ways to make flinging arrows a period outside of your comfort zone. Here are a few examples:

In a tournament you are going to be crowded (unless it is a 3D or other event where the archer is alone at the stake). In practice there aren’t always people to your right and left. What I’ve done on a range when possible and on my range is to place stools closer to me than people stand. It is awkward. During a tournament, the archers next to me aren’t even noticed.

This is a situation where you don’t want to be outside the box

On my range I’ll often practice with a timer – the timer sitting on one of the stools. I record the time left over after I’ve finished an end. If I find I have too much time left over I practice slowing down. This can really help if for some reason you get out of rhythm. I’ve also practiced after the timer has started and run for 30 seconds to create an end where for some unknown reason I am late to the line or can’t shoot immediately. This has been helpful outdoors when during a 4-minute end I have to wait for wind gusts to slow or stop.

Looking for another stool

At USA Archery tournaments there is going to be music playing non-stop. At first that really bothered me so I now practice with music in the background on my range.

I also do things that make me uncomfortable, like changing my release from a thumb to a hinge. I am more comfortable with a thumb but the hinge really makes me focus on form.

Look for different places to practice. Go to various league competitions where you know no one. I promise, at first you will feel uncomfortable. There will be little groups of buddies that eyeball you. There’s the “hot dog” fellow that usually wins the league. You’ll probably spot him as he struts around. After a while you will become comfortable walking in and taking their money.

Another thing is to have a coach. Listen to what she says; be coachable. Know that you cannot see yourself shooting. Believe me, if you already ‘know’ everything you can’t be coached.

These are only a few steps that can be beneficial. Finding ways to create challenging practice can make tournaments feel easy.

Wind, Rain, Archery and Fake News

Hurricane Florence didn’t have much of an affect on Georgia. But, she did have enough of an influence on the weather to impact archers shooting at the Georgia Archery Association State (GAA) FITA Outdoor Championship.

Saturday started out pretty good weather-wise (Photo from the GAA FaceBook page)

It has been nine months since we moved back to Georgia. This is our home State and we’d made the move from our vacation home turned permanent residence in North Carolina.

The NC home was great. Off our front deck the distance to the bulkhead was just 18 yards. The bulkhead separated our property from Little River, which feeds into the Albemarle Sound. The views and water access were amazing. Our pier and dock led us at our boatlift 50 yards from shore. It was wonderful, except for the hurricanes.

Every year we’d have some storm spinning up our river. Most years there were multiple storms. Rarely, did we have a huge amount of damage. Always there was some damage and a general clean up. Sometimes there was a real post-storm mess. As with all storms we either rode them out or we headed to the hills. It depended on the category.

Don’t recall which storm this was, but early on the rain is moving sideways and waves are starting to roll in.

Florence didn’t do much to our old place in North Carolina. Of course, we sold it in May of this year so it wouldn’t have been our problem should there have been damage. Nevertheless, we loved that place and keep tabs on the storms that might intersect with our old home. We still have friends living on the Little River and we stay in touch.

What Florence gave to the Peach State was a rainy windy day for the second half of the Georgia State Outdoor Championship. For me, it meant I wouldn’t surpass my personal best score of the 1440 possible points that could be earned over two days shooting 144 arrows. Despite the second day’s wind and rain I exceeded my lowest score finishing 8 points below my average practice score. It wasn’t what I’d hoped for when the pre-storm weather forecast suggested warm clear days and 5 mph winds. That forecast didn’t hold.

The first day was rainless and the winds were around 7 to 10 mph – not bad. Day two of the weekend tournament brought rain and wind at 8 – 14 mph with gusts up to 22 mph.

Compared to what our Tarheel friends were going through the less than ideal conditions for archery was not very meaningful. It is a coastal North Carolina fact of life that hurricanes are going to happen and they’ll often bring real damage and suffering.

During one storm when we stayed to face it, a Category 1 Hurricane that have been downgraded to a Tropical Storm, I needed to head out during the storm to save boards on my dock and pier. The water had risen to near level with the dock and pier, about four to five feet higher than normal maximum. As the waves crashed into the boards they were eventually breaking lose. Trying to stave off a loss of boards I grabbed a battery operated drill a box of deck screws donned foul weather gear and went into the tempest hopefully to save parts of my pier and dock they seemed to be fighting to escape. Walking toward the pier I thought of Lt. Dan in the movie “Forrest Gump” during a hurricane yelling to Heaven, “You call this a storm?”

After a storm with the tide and water still elevated

On the pier and dock I played a wet version of Whack-a-Mole trying to drill boards back down or pulling them free to reduce the pressure on the structure. The winds were high, waves often crested over me when I knelt to secure a board, but I didn’t lose a single board or my drill, and only a few deck screws found their way to Davey Jones’ locker. The hat I’d been wearing didn’t make it back; sadly it was a favorite that been given to me by one of my daughters. (If both of you are reading this think Christmas 2018 for a replacement.)

During Hurriance Florence as I watched some weather guy rocking back and forth being punished by unyielding wind I thought about that dock and pier. I also wonder what the weekend weather would do for the Georgia Archery Associations tournament. Still watching the reporter and wondering  I pointed out to my wife, while seeing this poor fellow on the television reporting live, that he sure seemed to be having a tough time keeping his footing. It seemed a bit exaggerated.

Archers got some  wind while shooting in that GAA tournament over the weekend. The storm was certainly a point of conversation. The weather guy’s rocking and rolling in the wind was a hot topic. Many viewers of the weather reporting had reach the conclusion that the guy was faking it.

The reporter’s performance had been inadvertently spoiled by a couple of guys calmly and easily walking around behind him oblivious to the wind impacting the reporter.

The reporter says, “It’s like being in a war zone” describing his current situation. A few yards behind him those guys seem to be in another zone.

While he is on camera there is another tale-tell sign of the actual wind speed. It was being displayed live on the upper left of the television screen. The sustained wind was 29 mph and the maximum was 42 mph.

The reporter claims the wind is at 60 mph. He’s off by 31 mph. To be fair the gusts were hitting 42 mph.

Storms have hit many people over the years. When one comes along families have to worry, leave home and pray that everything turns out for the best. For some those prayers aren’t answered in a manner they’d hoped. For others everything turns out fine. For a few that stay put to ride it out the storm becomes their last ride. Amid the real news of the impact of such storms as Florence, there is no room for make believe.

Reference:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GpSgdOGWOYQ

Weatherman Fakes Hurricane Conditions, Watch The Guys Behind Him!

 

Have a Plan

Work hard, save your money, retire early. That was my plan. I wanted to be done with working while I was still in my 50s. I was done with the rat race at 57.

It wasn’t easy. There were times when I’d watch my savings vanish. Those events that sucked away nest eggs, “Easy come, easy go.” Each time my nest egg cracked I started over. Life happens, so you need a plan.

Some folks plan is to work until they drop. They’ll probably succeed. It’s not a difficult plan to follow. In fact, I’d guess many of them will reach their goal early.

Many people I know are always chasing a dollar. It’s better to let the dollars come, as in find an occupation you love and be the best at that occupation. You’ll earn money. Then put as much as possible away while living below your means.

There was a time, like nearly everyone, I had debt. A car, house, and credit cards can take a toll. Once, while living in Augusta, Georgia and working for the State, my salary got messed up. It was by $10,000 per year and something they promised to correct. Some rule, unique to State Law prevented the fix from taking place. That led to another round to adminstrative solutions.

The State solutions were too slow and I was sucking wind financially. It was a great job at a great academic institution, but time was running out to fix then problem.

I left academia and when into industry. I never looked back, even though the university’s administration told me I’d be back in a year and they’d keep my office for me. (I still have a deep loyalty to that University and considered my few years there some of the best ever)

There were struggles, but never again was I in a position where I needed to juggle bills. I also continued to live to a large extent as I did while in Augusta. I left Augusta in 1990. I retired twenty three years later satisfying a goal to be done with typical work before turning 60.

Like most retired men I spend a lot of time playing sports. It is the number one past time of retired men. I am no exception.

Following my last day of official work I considered the sports I was already involved in: Running, cycling and triathlon. Throughout my work career I’d continued to train as much as time allowed. Retired, I could devote all my time to training and competing.   The most obvious choice was triathlon.

Triathlon was best for me because there is a low risk of crashing on a bike. Old guys crashing, well from experience, at any age crashing sucks. So, bicycle racing was out. I’m a fair runner and a poor swimmer. But, with additional time to train, I’d improve on my run and do what I could about swimming. Then, I got a new idea.

While reading, I stumbled across an article that pointed out two sposts where age is not such a factor: shooting and archery. I knew I could shoot well. I’d been shooting since I was a kid. I looked into the sport. It’s big bucks. Not for me.

Archery is less expense. Arrows last a whole lot longer than bullets. So, I made a plan. That is to earn a living wage through sports primary archery. That was four years and ten months ago (as I write this post)

I bought a decent bow, some cheap arrows, a release and went to work. I’ve made very little money though archery. I’d say, I am in the hole when it comes to earnings versus cost. On the other hand, it hasn’t yet been five years. Less than five years doesn’t always make someone an expert in a new field.

This year (as of today) I’ve shot in 13 tournaments. I’ve won 8 of them, 5 in my age group, 3 against men 21 to 49 years old. I shoot a lot against younger archers since often in the 60+ age group there aren’t many people to shoot against. In the really big toournamnets, like the ASA Pro/Am events I’m still getting hammered by guys my age. But, I am improving.

Yes, I could have stuck with triathlon as my primary retirement sport. Certainly, I’d have improved with more time to train. I wasn’t bad before I retired. One thing for sure, I wouldn’t have earned any money. To make matters more deplorable, one major triathlon event as an amateur costs more than I’ve spent over the past four years competing in archery.

I’m still learning the ropes in archery. I know my equipment is not exactly right. There are better arrows and a better release. The bows are fine. I have two but of them Elite’s.

Of course, it is unlikely any of this retirement fun would have been possible without a clear plan nearly four decades earlier.  So, my point is have a plan.