One Point Is All It Takes to Win

There are a lot of points scored over an archery tournament.  The last event I competed in, the Georgia 25-Meter State Championship had a maximum (Perfect) score of 600 possible points.  I lost, landing in second place, by a 1-point difference.

River seems less excited with the 2nd place medals

Excluding 3D (where I shot mostly for fun and the scores are hard to find) I looked over the events where I’d lost.  There were 3-second place finishes and one-third place. The third place was a fluke.  Here I define a fluke as poor shooting associated with a yet undiagnosed equipment problem.  The bow’s cam bearings had cracked which resulted in some funny shots.  The data remaining, the 3-second place finishes, were lost by an average of 1 point.

The last loss, the 25-meter event, was a surprise.  The surprise was not the person who won, Bob.  Bob beaten me three out of four times in 2019.  I beat him once with the same score, same X count and took the win by the 9 count.

Archery didn’t pan out – camping on the other hand was first class

Now Bob’s good.  A few weeks ago, during my only 2019 win against Bob, we shot in the Masters 50 age group.  There was no Masters 60 age group at that event.  This is when I won as the score came down to the nine count.  The fellow that won the 50-year-old group, Paul, took first place by two points.  The top three compound bow scores for that tournament where from Paul, myself and Bob, in order of finishing positions.  (Fall Classic, Georgia Southern University) All of us in the 50 year old group.

Great views camping for the tournament at the George L Smith State Park in Twin City, GA

Going into the last tournament, the 25-meter shoot, I honestly expected a score in the range of the US record, for my age group.  I’d been shooting that in practice.  I didn’t come close during the tournament.  But for one bad shot, Bob might have broken that record. Sadly, we’ll both have to wait until next year to give it another go for the record.

Ended up the only camper in the Park

In the meantime, I admit, I’d rather be on the winning side of those 1-point finishes.

It’s Not Over Until It’s Over

I’ve watched an archer blow a shot early in a tournament and mentally quit.  He’s an excellent archer who rarely misses.  But, for a while, when he did blow a shot he mentally shut down.

His coach was aware of the problem and worked with the archer until he learned to move past those moments of internal anger that were causing him to give up.  Oh, for clarification the miss that might have caused his mental collapse was a 9.

There’s another fellow that I’ve frequently shot against that will nearly always make a bad shot.  His error would make a 9 (a missed 10) seem minor (which it is).  He will make the error; laugh about it, then won’t make another mistake.

Shooting arrows leads to misses.  Shooting a perfect score against a vertical 3-spot (compound bow inner 10) at 18-meters remains uncommon, although it has occurred.  Imagine you are competing at 18-meters, you’ve shot 32 tens then you land a nine. *

Coaching tip

You can let that 9 ruin your day or you can blow it off and shoot 27 more tens.  Know that  everybody will make a mistake.  What will matter to you is how you recover from your mistake.   That archer next to you may be having a better day or not.  You don’t know and you can’t do anything about that athlete.  You can do something about you and remember it’s not over until it’s over.

*My guess is that if you’ve shot 32 tens in a row you already are at a point in your practice and competition where you knew all of what I just wrote.  For those of you who still throw out 8s or less, don’t worry about them.  Regroup and fire off some more 10s.

Dang, that was cold! It’s been colder.

Yes, it is snowing up north and the temperatures are low.  In Boston it is 30°F.  It is 32°F in Pittsburgh.  I picked these two examples because I’ve lived and worked in those two cities. In Cleveland, Ohio, another northern city I am acquainted with it is 35°F.  All those cities currently have cold temperatures.  It isn’t that cold here near Athens, Georgia.

It is chilly enough here near Athens.  The high today was 43°F.  Not too bad compared to those northern towns.  Of course, the wind is blowing here.  The wind is always blowing here or so it seems. The breeze is flowing at 11 mph with gusts up to 22 mph.  The final leaves, those last dried up survivors of fall, are now few and far between – excluding my lawn, which is blanketed.

Fifteen years ago in Cleveland I was outside before and after work.  I’d run in morning and ride in the evening.  I lived downtown at 12th and Euclid Street in the Theater district.  I’d run before the migration of workers from the suburbs arrived and bicycle once the herd departed.  Downtown Cleveland was pretty empty outside of normal working hours other than around the medical centers. During the winter Cleveland is really cold.  I don’t care where you live the North Coast is cold in the winter by anyone’s standards.

I’d put every piece of clothing I owned before heading out in January and February there on the shores of Lake Eire.  I’d stay comfortable enough to enjoy the fresh frigid air.  By frigid I do mean those blasts from the Canadian territories.

By those standards 43°F seems mild.  Even adding the wind chill here in Georgia it was still above freezing at 37°F.  In fact, the weather was just fine while trail running this morning.  It was less fine while practicing archery.

Doing archery it is awkward to shoot while wearing 30 pounds of layered apparel. For the hour or so spent shooting outside I wore only long pants, a short sleeved t-shirt, a long sleeved t-shirt, a fleece sleeveless vest, and of course socks, shoes, at hat, etc.  I also stood next to an outdoor propane heater and stuffed my pockets with hand warmers.  It really wasn’t too bad.  I didn’t shoot all that well; neither did I embarrass myself in front of dogs or squirrels – spectators who seemed oblivious to the lower temperatures.

Cycling, after archery, too wasn’t all that bad.  It was bad enough.  Lycra is a poor insulator and half way into the ride I sensed my error in layers.  (Too few –for those who are not fond of guessing)

Training in any sport isn’t always easy.  Well, for me it is rarely easy.  There is work involved.  There will be times with the elements, the weather specifically, isn’t ideal.  The weather isn’t always going the idea during competition.  But, hey, it least here today it wasn’t as bad as the weather during the San Francisco 49’ers and Baltimore Ravens played in this past weekend.  We have pretty much the same conditions here today as yesterday in Baltimore except it wasn’t raining.  I mention that since I lived in Baltimore for 5 years as well.

The New Plan Has More Gym Time

“At your age you need to be careful to focus on that shoulder,” was the comment from Big John a Level 4 USA NTS Archery coach.  He was right and I knew it. I’d been somewhat aware of the error I’d been making.

The mistake was laziness.  It was easier to shoot having a weaker form.  Doing it right, well I admit, hurt.

I’d slipped into the poor form not from a lack of practice but from an overuse injuries.  I’d strained both my shoulders.  I compensated and shot weakly.

It was clear both shoulders needed rehab.  The joints needed to be strengthened.  I’d been there in the past having more than once injured shoulders in other sports.  This was a first in archery, but an old problem with a familiar ache.

The first step was rest.  Then, slowly followed by more time in the gym.  Eventually the gym time with specific exercises to improve both shoulders was doubled.

As we age we all run the risk of diminished muscle mass.  That can lead to an increase chance of joint problems.  In my 2020 plan there is double the amount of gym time compared to 2019.  Gym training is my least favorite routine but a practice that has on more than one occasion paid dividends.

Run Around and Run Around

Athletes run.

I’m a pretty good archer.  I’m a better cyclist and better runner.  Since beginning archery cycling and running have been adjuncts to archery training. Since beginning archery I’ve better at archery and less good running and cycling.

Certainly, I do not log the miles running and cycling I did before shooting arrows. Nevertheless, I run almost every day and ride up to 6 times a week.  But, I do both to stay fit for archery.

Now, you may be 25 years old and don’t yet see the reason to do either in order to shoot a bow well.  Hear me now and believe me later, your youthful fitness will not last unless  you work to keep it. If you don’t use it you lose it.

If I am going to miss one of the two, running or cycling, during a day it will be cycling.  Running is a demand by River, my lab.  She will herd me out the door.

Nice way to begin a morning – trail running
On a trail with River whose spotted something to chase

River is 9 years old and runs as well as she did at 2.  We run trails, which avoid traffic.  We both enjoy it.

Running can pay back in archery tournaments.  Those long hours standing on a range are rough.  There are times I’d rather have been running rather than standing and slowly walking for three and a half to four hours.

If you head out early enough you can catch some nice views

Archery over long periods of time takes a mental toll.  As you fatigue from a lack of fitness mental mistakes are more prone to appear.  Running can improve your fitness and may reduce the possibly of an error that is associated with being physically drained.

Stuck and Needing to Move

Heading out to the range to fire off a bunch or arrows is fun.  You will get better shooting a lot.  But, there is a point where you may need to change your training to make improvements.

Reviewing my results, those from training and competition, it was apparent the upward slope had leveled.  In some instances, those data suggested things were beginning to head in the wrong direction.

As frustrating as you’d guess this to be there are ways out of the funk.  Those methods are not as much fun as heading out to shoot. It means getting outside of comfort zones.

With every practice there is a plan.  That plan has evolved little during the past 60 months and 25 days.  The plan has worked fairly well. However, the results after little more than 5 years aren’t satisfactory.

A change has to take place in order to move forward.  In my case, a number of changes.  This meant rewriting the 2020 training plans, establishing new goals, and essentially being willing to drop even more points until the 2020 effort takes hold.

Refined 2020 training schedule. (One month only shown)

Continuing on the past course would lead to improvements.  Those improvements would take a while. If I were simply shooting for the fun of shooting that would be fine.  But, that isn’t the case for me.

In order to make more rapid advancements isolated technique work is required.  That work isn’t the fun part.  I suppose I’ll see how the revised practice routines work.

If you’re shooting to win competitions just shooting a bow isn’t necessarily the path.  To win you need to refine the minute steps in your process.  It isn’t always fun. It is like doing intervals running or on a bike.  They hurt and will leave you sucking wind. The the payoff is real.

Cool weather 25-meter practice

The cool weather is nice when running

Outdoor practice as winter approaches is slightly better than when winter arrives. Thankfully, I have an outdoor propane heater, which really helps during chilly morning sessions.  The heater was a gift that I continue to appreciate.

Really like this little propane heater

It wasn’t all that cold this morning.  It was 43°F, not too bad. The heater, a hand warmer, and layers of apparel helped. The clothes felt constricting but there’s really no other solution aside from trying to suffer through the lower temperatures while wearing less.  Perhaps those of you, north of the Mason-Dixon Line find this quaint.

25-meter practice
I’m getting the ‘eye’

Still, practice must continue.  During that training one spectator appeared.  Perhaps he was trying to figure out what I was doing in the cold.  Or he might have been hoping I’d leave his hunting ground and stop being a disturbance. Eventually, we both left.

This may have been, in fact, who was getting the ‘eye’

Southern Fall Classic at Georgia Southern

Georgia Southern University Shooting Sports Education Center

Georgia Southern University, in Statesboro, Georgia can be a day trip driving from our home near Athens, Georgia.  Making the drive of 170 miles one way isn’t too difficult.  Making the round trip of 340 miles is a tad less fun especially when there’s an archery tournament in the middle of the drive.

The Georgia Southern University Shooting Sports Education Center held an archery tournament in middle of that drive to Statesboro and back to Athens. The Southern Fall Classic was there on November 16th.   I entered but had no intention of a long haul on the road.  I’ve got a camper that is an ideal travel remedy for such events and distances.

Gotta watch for these guys during the warmer months

I didn’t haul the camper the entire distance stopping at Magnolia Springs State Park near Millen, Georgia for two overnight stays.  Similar to the other Georgia State Parks where we’ve camped Magnolia Springs provided plenty of space, things to do when not shooting arrows, and it was quiet.

Camping, while certainly an activity to have made the trip worthwhile, was the bonus to the archery main course.  Shooting at Georgia Southern is a nice and having once lived in Statesboro and taught at Southern it is nostalgic.

Being less nostalgic and more like Déjà vu was the competition at the tournament. Mainly that Déjà vu meant shooting with and against Paul and Bob.

There was no 60-year-old Masters division at the tournament meaning Bob and I, both past 60, would compete in a younger division where Paul shoots.  Moving down in age group is fine with me.  In fact, I nearly dropped down another age group to avoid shooting against Bob and Paul.  Alas, I stayed put.

Last three on the line, Bob in the red shirt, Paul in blue, and I’m the short guy on the end

The indoor tournament scored 30 arrows at 25 meters and 30 arrows at 18 meters.  Bob and Paul don’t too often make mistakes.  When they do both can brush it off and move forward unaffected. Paul made the fewest errors on this Saturday. In fact, I was leading by 2 points after the 25-meter portion of the competition. Bob made one “opps” shot at 25-meters and I made my fair share of missing it when we moved to 18-meters. Paul remained steady throughout the day.

25-meters

After all the arrows were shot the top 3 compound bow scores were from Paul, Bob and I.  Paul won by 3 points. Bob and I tied in score and 10 count (39 tens each).  As awards were called it was pointed out that our final placement came down to the 9 count. I was happy for it to have ended there.

Of course, Georgia Southern had their football games (reruns) showing overhead.

After the awards the three of us headed to a bar to watch the Georgia (not Georgia Southern) game against Auburn.  We stayed there until half time.

During half time, Paul and Bob headed back to their neck of the State, Savannah.  I headed back to Magnolia Springs where I finished watching the Georgia – Auburn game in the luxury of my camper. It was an exciting game; Georgia won and clinched the SEC East.

Even though it was second place, River was happy to wear the medal.

On Sunday I packed, hooked the camper to my F-150 and headed home.  I’m making the trip again in a few weeks for the Georgia 25-meter State Championship.  I won’t need to shoot against Paul.  But, Bob will be there.

Aside from Bob, David from Atlanta is likely to make the drive as will that fellow from Brunswick that won the State 5-spot in 2019. Buddy may show up, as might another dozen or so archers that could take the win in December.  All one can do is their best and hope everyone else screws up.

The Georgia Southern medals are pretty cool looking – even in silver.

What The Heck?

What the heck?  Seriously, what is up with these numbers?

Shooting an Elite Victory 37X with 60-pound limbs adjusted to around 50 pounds seemed a bit like pushing the limit on the bow regarding how much weight to take off the limbs.  I changed limbs and went to 50 pound limbs set for 50 pounds.  I expect to see an improvement in my scores.

The results weren’t what I expected.

The final ten practices using the weight reduced 60 pound limbs shooting a vertical 3-spot at 18-meters my average score was 580. The new 50-pound limbs, after collecting 10 sixty-arrow practice sessions the average score is 565. The arrows were the same as was the release.  The difference is extremely significant, unpaired t-test were t= 3.969 (this means the difference is real).

Shooting a higher average, the 580 score, the standard deviation was 12.07.  Shooting the lower average, the 565 score, the standard deviation was 2.89. The lower score is very consistent.  This suggests the shooting variance is similar on most of the shots.

The variance, however, is currently outside of sight adjustments.  Reviewing the misses, the arrows are evenly distributed around the X. In both sets of numbers there are no single arrow scores below 9.

Time to take the bow and the archer to get evaluated.

Peaks and Valleys

In every sport with every athlete there are peaks and valleys in performance.  In archery there are times when it seems easy to find the X.  There are times with arrows seem to circle the X just missing.  It can be frustrating.

Maintaining a log of data you can review your peaks and valleys.  Over time, with consistent practice, those gaps between highs and lows diminish.  The gap remains, only the intervals between them narrow.

When you begin entering a slump pause to evaluate what has changed?  Is it fatigue or over training?  Is your form slipping?  Is your mind elsewhere?  Did anything drift with your equipment?

The answer to a dip in performance may make itself obvious.  Sometimes having your coach watch you practice and that extra set of eyes may notice something amiss in your process you’ve overlooked.

If you don’t have a coach at hand try something different.  An easy approach to helping discover what is wrong is simply changing your release.  If you have two different releases they’ll activate slightly different. The change may help you keep or regain your edge.

If you’re over training take a break.  You should have recovery days planned within your training plan.

If all else fails check your gear.  Things can shift with a bow.  Cumulative incremental shifts can add up.

Expect that all days aren’t the same. But, you can work through anything.