2021 USA Archery Outdoor National Championship

When I signed up for the 2021 USA Archery Outdoor National Championship it was early.  I was worried that the Championship might reach capacity the way the 2021 Gator Cup attained its limit.

I also set a minimum average per arrow I’d need to shoot before I competed.  I’ve exceeded that pre-selected average a couple for times during practice sessions designed to record and monitor my points per arrow.  The bad thing is my average per arrow has not reached my goal.

It wasn’t close.  I missed by 0.5 points per arrow.  That is a lot of points over 144 arrows. It means my average score lands me in 8th place at the Nationals. (Based on past three years scores for the event.)

I’d nearly talked myself into going, having fun, and hoping for one of those zone days where I’d shoot closer to the better points per average of my curve.  On a really good day I might win or at least be in the top three.  My best area of my score curve suggests I could win by 12 points.  My personal best has me winning by 20 points.  My average has me finishing 8th.

In preparation I researched the scores over the past three years.  I checked scores on the archers entered.  And I looked at the cost benefit to competing when I’m not yet fully prepared.

The cost, to me, would have been $1285.00 for everything.  That seems like a lot of money to pay for 8th place.  That is, of course, me shooting my average and everyone else shooting within 2 standard deviations of their most recent scores.  Worse case, using the lower scores from my curve would land me in 10th place.  The cost benefit didn’t reach the point where going was worth the investment.  If I’d achieved my goal set for points per arrow average I’d have not withdrawn.

2020 Georgia Games

I hadn’t competed in the Georgia Games in decades.  The last time I did it was in the sport of cycling. This time it was archery.

The Georgia Games archery was held at Quest Field in Kennesaw, Georgia.  During the prior Georgia Games we lived in Kennesaw.  We now live in Good Hope near Athens, Georgia. The drive from Good Hope to Kennesaw weighted on me. The past three trips to Kennesaw, an hour and 45 minutes, ended in a 4-hour return trip. Atlanta traffic sucks.

The Georgia Games was an International Round, meaning 30 arrows at 60 meters, 30 at 50 meters and 30 at 40 meters.  Training I shot 1000s are arrows at each distance. Each week I’d do a test, shooting the distances as exactly as possible to what might be event conditions.  Over weeks of training my test scores ranged from 775 to 846.

For statistical analysis I removed the 846 score and the average score for an International round is 783.  Not top tier but understandable with less than a year under my belt with a recurve bow.

The day of the event I felt just fine during the warm up.  I was surprised when we got to warm up at 60, 50 and 40 meters.  Usually, it is just the longest distance. That was good since it allows an archer to verify sight marks for a new range.  Throughout the warm up I never hit less than an 8.

Including that warm up we had two ends of 6 arrows at 60 meters for an official warm up.  All twelve of those pre-score arrows landed in the yellow  – either a nine or ten.

I wasn’t nervous, I felt good and for the first 30 arrows at 60 meters I shot the arrows everywhere on my target.  There were no groups.  The wind wasn’t an issue, the lighting excellent and nothing was amiss with my equipment.  Still, I barely broke 200 finishing with a 207.

It seemed a good idea to pack up, go home, then sale all my archery equipment.  I was losing badly.  Heck, on fellow I was shooting against shot one of his arrows into the wrong target and he was beating me.  (That happens and isn’t rare – it costs 10 points for that bit of excitement.  Archers shooting the wrong target have beaten me in the past.)

I didn’t quit. I thought about what someone like Tiger Woods might do in this situation.  I thought about his last Master’s win and something Jack Nicholas once said, “ I know I’m going to mess up, I won’t be perfect, nobody is – it is how you recover from your mistakes that matters.”

When I practice I do make mistakes.  Admittedly, I’ve never shot 30 arrows at 60 meters and shot as low as 207.  As far as mistakes go this was full of whoopers.

Three of the athletes shooting in my division are well known to me.  Anyone of them can be the winner on any day.  The other archers ahead of me I didn’t know.  I stood behind one for a bit and watched him pull away from everyone at 60 meters.  It seemed he’d likely be the winner. This event was rolling up to a great big bust. The most logical thing to do was head home and out of the Atlanta traffic before the afternoon traffic become it’s own nightmare.

But, I thought about Tiger Woods and Jack Nicholas and stayed. The worse case is it would be good practice. To win, being at the rock bottom, I’d need to shot some really decent scores for the final 60 arrows at 50 and 40 meters.

As we changed from 60 meters to 50 meters I went through my shot process and tried to review the poor shots at 60 meters.  What was I doing wrong.  A number of things stood out:  dropping my bow arm during my follow through, my grip had felt off and my back tension didn’t feel right – but why?

At 50 meters I don’t use a sighting scope between shots to view my arrows.  Lately, I rarely use it at 60 meters during practice.  At 60 meters when a shot feels off I check the arrow placement down range.  Typically, I find a shooting grove and stay in it.  On the day of the tournament I was checking ever shot.

The problem checking is that with multiple archers shooting the same target it is hard to spot your arrows especially if more than one of you shooting that target has the same color nocks.  I was spending too long trying to find my arrows and losing the feel for the shot. Plus, I was sharing a spotting scope.

I don’t mind sharing a spotting scope. Sharing a spotting scope helps keep the archers’ box clean. But this particular scope wasn’t as ergonomic as mine.  It was off.  Each glance into that scope meant leaning up and over to look down whereas mine has an eyepiece which rotates so that you simply tilt forward a little to see the target. With every shot I was returning to a slightly different position for the subsequent shot.

At fifty meters I skipped the using the spotting scope.  At that point I’d determined it was doing more harm than good.  I think that if you use a spotting scope you should use it on every shot so it becomes part of your process.  However, when the use of the spotting scopes gets your shot process timing off maybe you should trust your training and forget the scope. This is especially true if the scope you’re using isn’t yours and the use of it throws your timing off.

Fifty meters was a new game.  Then, forty meters was a slam-dunk.  For sixty meters, I’d scored an all time low.  At fifty and forty, while I didn’t achieve a personal best I came close. Not only had I dug myself out of a hole I ended up pulling into first place besting the 2019 winning score by 44 points.

Those 44 points isn’t what was turned in to the judges.  One of our scorekeepers received a call as he was scoring that amounted to an emergency.  The scores were quickly tallied and handed to the judges.  I didn’t double check, my concern related to the emergency over riding any score.

At home I double checked my scorecard and discovered my total was off by 9 points.  My official score, the one turned in, was 9 points lower than my actual score. Even with that my score was 38 points below my average for an International Round and 101 points below my personal best.

Honestly, I do not know what happened at 60 meters.  Skipping one-day post-Georgia Games for recovery I started practice warming up a 40 meters.  Everything seemed fine.  I shot 60 arrows at 40 meters and averaged 9.5 points per arrows.  Then, I moved back to 60 meters. There it wasn’t fine.  For whatever reason my average per arrow score at 60 meters has dropped 0.6 points.  I used my scope to view arrow placement and I was still off.

Must figure this out before the USA Outdoor Nationals in a few weeks.

Georgia Cup 2021 versus Tropical Storm Claudette

The Georgia Cup is an outdoor archery tournament. In the past, I’ve competed as a compound bow shooter.  This year I shot an Olympic recurve.  It was also my first event as a Master archer in recurve.  It was the weekend when Tropical Storm Claudette dropped in on the Peach State.

Since switching to Olympic recurve I’ve competed in the adult seniors group.  That is the age division for archers under 50 and those 50 or older who want to enter that division.  Initially, I’d enter as a senior and not a Master, those archers 50 or older.

The difference in the distance is that the seniors shoot 70 meters and Masters shoot 60 meters.  I changed divisions when a storm, not Claudette, intersected with the 10 extra meters I need to shoot 70 meters.  The unnamed storm rearranged the range limiting me to 60 meters.

The Georgia Cup was my first tournament shooting in the 50 and older category.  From a social perspective it was more fun.

There’s a lot of waiting in archery.  In prior events there really hasn’t been a whole lot to talk about with the younger archers.  Most of the competitors I’ve shot against since switching have been younger than my children.

I found with the less young folks there was ample conversation between ends, pulling arrows, and waiting during the exchange from the qualifying round and the elimination rounds.

Originally, the two rounds were being held over two days.  However, Tropical Storm Claudette required a contingency plan moved into action and both were shot on the same day. It made for a long day.

Arriving at 8:00 am I was ready to head home by 4:00 PM.  At 4:00 PM I was still shooting in the elimination rounds.

In those, I still ended up shooting against kids.  Cadets shoot at 60 meters, the next step up being seniors at 70 meters, and both groups, Cadets and Masters, had been bracketed together.

I had a bye before shooting my first elimination.  Before it was over the cadets were referring to me as Grandpa.  Each opponent was Korean so I took it as an endearment not a slight.  The fact their parents also referred to me as Grandpa made it seem okay.

Throughout the day Tropical Storm Claudette did its best to disrupt the play.  It was nasty.  There was wind and rain all day.  As might be expected it was cloudy and at times dark.

Despite the deeply overcast conditions I wore sunglasses.  Not to look cool.  The time clock with retina scorching LEDs was perfectly arranged 15 meters in front of my target.  Without the extremely nice polarizing lenses of those glasses I’d have not seen the target as well. Having a time clock frying your eyes and counting down during a wind and rainstorm are less than ideal conditions for shooting.

There really wasn’t any point in complaining.  It didn’t matter much, thanks to the sunglasses.  I ended up winning even though I didn’t score my average for the distance.

As it turned out, Sunday, the day weather forecasters had predicted the worse weather conditions was a miss.  Sunday turned out to be pretty nice with less wind and lighter rain.

It Is A Lot Of Work

To be successful you must first set a goal for success.  Once the goal is established there needs to be a plan to achieve that goal.

Years ago when I was a project manager I had to build plans for products.  Those plans included all sorts of staff, timelines, supplies, regulatory requirements, research, development, sales projects, marketing and budgets.  It was an ordeal.  When I eventually migrated to a level where I managed project managers it seemed easier.

Making a plan in sports is much the same.  Set a goal and build a project plan to achieve that goal.  Along the way there are milestones.  Along the way there is a lot of work.

When I switched to Olympic recurve I set a goal and prior to that goal milestones.  My next milestone is four weeks out. What I’ve been doing, through my training and competition plan, remains on schedule.  Today, I began the flexing of the training program to achieve the next milestone.

I’ve owned the Olympic recurve bow I’m shooting for 276 days.  Of those days I have not shot 100% of the days available.  I’ve allowed for 78 days to recover.  That means I’ve had 198 practice days.  During that time, in and out of competition, I’ve shot 25,790 arrows.  The maximum I can find for one day is 210 arrows.  Generally, I shoot 100 in the morning and 100 in the afternoon with variances for weather and tapering.  I also didn’t start out shooting 200 per day.  I started at 60 per day and worked up.

As yet I haven’t added a clicker to my bow.  That must be added soon.  I just upgraded the sight.  But, the riser and limbs remain inexpensive beginner level equipment. (Under $300 for the combo – the new sight cost more.)

The arrows aren’t special either.  They are inexpensive at $4.42 each.

What hasn’t got a price tag is practice.  Archery is one of those sports where anyone willing to work can earn a high degree of success.

Today, I didn’t pick up my bow.  It is a rest day having just won a tournament over the weekend.  In preparation for that tournament I practiced the distances by shooting 100 arrows in the morning at one distance then 100 in the afternoon at a different distance all at 25 to 65 yards (5 yard increments) until I had 400 shots at each of the 10 distances or 4000 arrows.  Outside of that count I did 4 practice rounds equal to the shots that would be fired in the event per week for four weeks. (Simulated tournament was 10 warm-up arrows and 60 for score or another 1120 arrows for 5120 arrows)  I won the event.

But, I did miss a goal of breaking the record for the tournament.  It was only a mental goal never written down for 2021.  It is written down for 2022.  It looks like the record for the State was set in 1993, but I am uncertain.  One clear high score, the one to beat I am more sure of was set 6 years ago.  I missed it by 14 points.  I lost 15 of those points on the last 3 targets.  It was one of those situations for which I prepared as best as I could be – dark shadows on black-faced targets aiming with a black dot.  On the last 3 targets I scored 10,10 and 10.  (4-3-3 each time)

I knew the black on black was going to be an issue and practiced as best as I had available to simulate what I might see.  I came close.  In each case the groups were tight just off low right on all targets.  Next year I’ll have a different aperture to compensate for the view. This year the aperture is back ordered.

But, had I not  practiced as close as possible to the projected conditions it could have been worse.

During the competition there was one ‘expert’ recurve shooter that felt he needed to advise me on my low cost gear.  I know what I paid for the equipment.  I knew his riser was more costly that my entire rig (riser, stabilizers, string, plunger, rest, limbs, sight at aperture).  I always felt the best bow on the range is the one in your hand.

While this ‘expert’s’ equipment certainly outweighed mine and his decades of archery are way beyond mine I expect he’s never had a goal or a plan.  He clearly loves the sport and is passionate about it he’ll never advance – which probably isn’t what he’s trying to achieve.  He’s more likely in the sport for social fun.

For me it is more than that. And it is a lot of work.  I will admit I enjoy the practice, even alone with the exception of my dog, River, more that the competitions.

River and I headed out to the range

Four out of five

This past week I won an archery tournament shooting an Olympic style recurve bow.  I’ve won four out of five times shooting a recurve bow. This time it was particularly difficult.

The tournament was an outdoor event, an International Round target competition. In this event the target faces are black with the white center ring.  The aperture on my sight has a black dot.

As the day progressed the shadows casting on the targets increased the difficulty.

I’d wanted to change the aperture before the contest but what I needed was and remains on back order.  It is one of those expensive apertures with the light gathering monofilament.

Alas, I was forced to compete with the black on black.  Certainly, I’d practiced shooting the black-faced targets.  It isn’t impossible but it is uncomfortable.

I didn’t shot poorly even though I have shot similar distances against a white-faced target and scored higher.  But, you can only shoot with what you have in your hand.

Weak and Tired

Rolling into a tournament tired isn’t good.  I’m tired. It showed my practice this morning. I compete in 3 days.

The fatigue isn’t from shooting.  It is from planting spring crops, running, cycling, building an extension on the chicken run, blowing leaves and pine straw, and power washing the back of our house.  All of this happening on my archery ‘recovery’ day.  I need a recovery day for my recovery day.

While shooting felt good this morning I looked at my arrow placement afterwards. I am practicing on a 5-spot.  Typically, 70% if my arrows on a 5-spot are Xs or 5s the reminder (out of 100) are 4s.  I do this twice a day.  This morning, 45% of my shots were 5s or Xs.  It was weak.

It was raining a bit and very dark at 0830 when I began practice.  But, I often shoot in similar conditions or worse.  I can’t blame it on the weather.  Nope, I blame it on a 17-year-old brain in a body that is nearly 70.

The 5-Spot Dilemma

The Georgia State Championship and NFAA Sectional (5-Spot) are in a week. I am still shooting my low-end beginner Olympic Recurve – riser $149.00, limbs $99.00.

The arrows, a recent change, are Black Eagle Intrepids.  These arrows are $4.42 each. By competitive standards not typical high-end gear. Nevertheless, I am shooting well with this entry-level equipment.

The initial plan for the upcoming competition was to shot a single spot.  The problem is that when I shoot 5 arrows at the same spot I break one every 10 to 15 arrows.  Often it is just the nock.  The problem with that is the nock won’t release from the shaft for a quick replacement.  The inner diameter of the Intrepid arrows is simply too tight for a fast repair.  In fact, I’ve yet to have a successful repair.  I end up cracking the arrow trying to free the remained of the nock.

Of the broken arrows, that is while shooting 5 arrows at a single target, over twenty ends it us usual to have a Robin Hood.  I have, from practice wear, 15 arrows remaining.

At the pace the arrows break after the first day of shooting the upcoming tournament, using a single spot, I have just 9 arrows remaining. That means on the second day at 2/3 of the way through the tournament’s second day I have 5 arrows remaining.  If the stats remain true on the last end I’d be an arrow short.

The solutions: 1) buy more arrows before I depart for the tournament, 2) shoot a 5-spot.

I’ve been practicing exclusively using a 5-spot.  This is specially to save arrows. Occasionally, 1 out of a hundred times, I miss the four line by a hair.  A single spot would be a never miss.  My 5-spot practice scores aren’t for a beginner recurve archer: mean is 283 with a range of 278 to 292.  Out of 100 arrows 66 of them will land in the white for a 5 and out of 60 arrows (tournament quantity) 18 will be Xs. (average)  My concern is the 1 in 100 where I miss the blue.

The dilemma is whether or not to shoot the 5-spot versus buying more $4.42 arrows and shoot the single spot.

A Small Victory

The Georgia State / USA Archery Indoor 18-meter Championship where I competed, at Georgia Southern University, wasn’t too bad.  I didn’t win.  I ended in 3rd Place among the Senior Men’s category shooting an Olympic Recurve.

For those that don’t follow archery, men’s senior is 21 – 49 years of age.  If I’d entered using my age group allowance I’d been in the Master’s 60+ class. I’ve competed in both age groups shooting compound bow.

At Georgia Southern everyone inside the Georgia Southern Shooting Sports Education Center is required to wear a mask, a precaution against spreading the Covid-19 virus.  Since I am approaching 66 years old, a high risk group, shooting where masks are being worn seemed a better choice that the other location in Georgia where the competition was being held.

Some archers feel that a mask interferes with that shooting.  I don’t think wearing a mask is much of a problem.  Catching Covid-19 has a greater risk of being a problem and dropping a few points in archery because the mask got hung up in a bowstring.

Taking a 3rd place during a pandemic is just fine by me.  I am happy to be able to fine a safe environment where I can go play.

Taper

In nine days I’ll be heading to the Georgia State and USA Archery Indoor Championships. At the moment I am shooting like crap.

Over the past week or so my practice scores have been decreasing.  The volume of practice has been high.  Obviously, fatigue (hopefully) is a symptom of reaching a point of diminishing returns.

A friend of mine is an ex-pro golfer. He once said not to go into a tournament tired.

From past sport experience I understand that excessive fatigue can impact quality of performance.

With that in mind I’ve dropped my daily arrow count o 140 arrows broken into two practice sessions.  Still my scores aren’t competitive.  However, they are creeping up, again.

This afternoon during the 4th quarter of my practices my groups began getting tighter.  I’d jumped from 8.45 points per arrow to 8.8 points per arrow. Then, on the final five ends the average increased to 9.125, closer to where I expect to be shooting at this point with my recurve.

It was hard to stop shooting, but to continue deviated from the plan.  There’s nine days left before I hit the road for the tournaments.  That is a realistic taper.

Since I began shooting an Olympic recurve 186 days ago I’ve taken 49 days for compete recovery.  I understand that shooting a recurve isn’t something that can be picked up over night.  Still, I’ve managed, starting with a lower volume of arrows per day and working my way up, to shoot 16,728 arrows. That’s an overall average of 122 arrows per day.  I’d peaked at 1000 arrows per week but have now dropped to 700 (allow two days break per week at this point) per week.

It feels like a huge drop in volume.  I hope it works.

Arrows, Arrows, Arrows….

It didn’t seem like a wise use of money to fork out big bucks for high-end equipment when switching to an Olympic recurve from compound bows.  (145 days ago) Why do that when the compound bows were in the $800.00 range purchased new. It wasn’t as if prior archery gear had been high-end.

When it came to high-end gear the nicest pieces of equipment associated with the compound bows had been the sight and release.  Those were high quality Axcel/TruBall products.

The arrows shot using the compound bows had been purchased and prepared by folks that, at the time, seemed to know better.  Two out of three times their suggestions were correct.  For the remaining third the arrows are too stiff.

Some ‘expert’ on YouTube presented a video suggesting that spine calibration is a myth so long as the arrows shot are fletched.  The video he posted was an experiment where he fired off sets of arrows of various spine strength using fletched and bare shaft arrows.  He was shooting a recurve bow. I repeated his experiment.  My results yielded an opposing result.

I’d hoped for similar results.  I’ve got some nice arrows, those among the good 2/3 of my moderately priced arrows and wanted to upgrade the Easton 1000 arrows I’ve been shooting with the Olympic recurve.  What I found is that the stiffer more expensive arrows didn’t bend properly and the tail end of those arrows hit my riser.  The flex between nodes simply wasn’t flexing properly. I was hoping to save some money by avoiding the purchase of new arrows.

The Easton 1000s are excellent beginner’s arrows.  I’ve won two State Championships using a $249.00 Olympic recurve in the Men’s Senior Division shooting those $5.00 arrows.  However, I know the $5.00 arrows are holding me back when it comes to a few extra points. (For now there is nothing wrong with the inexpensive bow)

The tip of the Easton 1000s comes included along with fletching for the five bucks.  The tip is 65 grain, which is okay.  The fletching is a bit tall again okay for indoor tournaments.  Okay is not great in competition.  The set up does mean being just a hair off on form and the shot will be completely uncompensated.  In words too often associated with archery gear – these arrows are not very forgiving.

Part of the lack of forgiveness is that the spine of an Easton 1000 peaks at around 29 pounds.  As I’ve improved I’m pulling 34 pounds. On a 3-spot with the gear at hand I’m averaging 9 points per arrows without a clicker (I don’t have one yet). I believe with a stiffer spine and more weight on the tip I’d get my average per arrow up a little.  The current fletching is dragging on my rest and that too can be improved by shooting a smaller profile vane.

If I cut the 1000s a bit that would stiffen the spine. But, adding a heavier pile weakens the spine.  Changing the fletching isn’t an issue aside from I know it needs to be done and simply haven’t done it.

The best bet is to purchase new arrows with the correct spine, cut them to the correct length, add the correct pile weight to compensate for the cut and have low profile vanes.

Victory Archery, a maker of arrows, does have a moderately priced arrow that, per their spine calculators, meets the spec for my current shooting. Lancaster Archery does have them on clearance (the 2019 version).  Even so, spine, nocks, vanes will still run around $250.00.

My estimate of points per arrows gain for the $250.00 investment is 0.18 points per arrow against a vertical 3-spot.* It seems like just a little but it really is a lot of gain.  I just hate spending the money right now. (It also might help to adjust the tiller to positive versus neutral)

* calculation based on distance from center, 60 shots, measured in the yellow only. (45 our of 60 arrows. 15 red arrows attributed to form errors and dropped) Distance mean variance on average times spine weakness estimated percentage.  (1.6 X 0.11 = 0.176 rounded up) 3-spot, outdoor, no wind – when it is windy all bets are off.