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  If I’d achieved my goal set for points per arrow average I’d have not withdrawn.

Moving on Back

Practicing archery, for me, is more fun than tournaments.  Tournaments are slow.  Practice moves at a livelier pace.  Still, there are times when flinging arrows for hours can become monotonous. That can be improved by adding training games to your practice.

If you practice solo there are ways to make your planned sessions exciting.  There are a number of games I use.  These are: the yellow game, the tournament game and the Move Back game – among others.  Of these I find the Move Back game the most challenging.

The yellow game is simple; shoot as many arrows in the yellow rings at any given distance.  Record the shots at aim for 100% of your arrows in the yellow. The tournament is where you work to duplicate the conditions of an actual tournament.

The Move Back game is where you select a starting yardage and don’t increase the distance until a set number of arrows hit the center ring.  For example, 30 out of 30.

Thirty out of thirty can be tough as distances increase.  To reduce frustrations make changes.  You can personalize any way your want based on your ability. A change I use is 10 center shots in a row starting at 30 yards.  I also move back using increments of 10 yards; some folks might rather use 5-yard increments.

For me, 30 yards is usually just 10 arrows.  Forty yards takes a few tries, fifty yards gets more difficult to get 10 center shots in a row, 70 yards – well that remains a frustration for me.

Generally, I stop shooting after 100 to 120 arrows.  At that point I take a break.  When I resume shooting I pick up where I left off.  That is I start at 60 yards if that is where I left off during the earlier practice.  (This is on the same day.)

The day after shooting a Move Back game I’ll not continue the game.  The Move Back game is tough so the next day I’ll plan something else.  Once I’ve taken a break from the Move Back game the next time I practice it I start short and work my way back.  Even if I am close to 70 yards when I shoot a Move Back practice session I’ll start at 30 yards after any break extending into another day.

That doesn’t mean I won’t practice at 70 between Move Back practices.  If I shoot a couple of 100 arrows at 70 the next Move Back might be easier.

The Move Back game is also a good way to verify your sight calibrations.

Rain Drops Keep Falling On My Head

Of the past three outdoor tournaments where I’ve competed it has rained during all of them.  One was soaking rain, another was paused due to lightening, and the remaining event was a drizzle.  Lately, practice has followed suit.

Today, I was debating taking a break.  I’ve not has a full day off in five days.  While I didn’t feel the build up of lots of arrows today really needed to be a recovery day.

I caved and went out to the range.

Not yet raining – it didn’t last

Mother nature seemed to know better and began pouring rain on top of me.  It rained on me yesterday and the day before.  On both days I shot through it. Today was different. I was getting soaked.

Taking the drenching as an omen I packed up and headed indoors.  Perhaps it will clear up this afternoon. Almost a half a day off seems okay at the moment.

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.

Recovery Time

I have shot an Olympic recurve bow 226 days out of 316 days I’ve owned one.  It seems to be going well.  Over those 226 days I’ve shot 30,426 arrows.  At 26,010 my original bow broke in have at the riser.  I got a replacement.

During the past 316 days I moved up from 32 pounds to 40 pounds.  I’ve upgraded my arrows three times moving from the $4.90 arrows to the $6.90 arrows.  I’ve worn through three tabs and have just ordered replacement leather for my current tab.

I’d like to upgrade my arrows but I am considering moving to 42-pound limbs.  I have upgraded my sight and aperture three times.  I’ve also kept every receipt for every item purchased in pursuit of improving archery.

I don’t shoot everyday, hence 226 days out of 316 days.  The missing 84 days were recovery days.  (About 25% of training is recovery using my schedule)

Today was a half-day and a short day, just 60 arrows in the morning.  There will be no archery practice in the afternoon and no practice tomorrow.

I find it harder to stop shooting than to practice.  But, I know recovery is important.

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

26,011 Is All It Had

When I switched to an Olympic Recurve I did it at a remarkably low price.  Everything from stabilizers, tab, stand, limbs, sight – everything for $460.00.  The riser and limbs set me back $249.98.  A riser purchased for $149.99 bucks and limbs for $99.99.  I was pleased.

There seemed to be no point in playing top dollar to try something of which I had very little exposure.  Heck, my arrows cost $4.42 each.

Sadly, my low-end riser reached its limit – 26,011 arrows.  It was at that point the little red Galaxy Tourch gave up.

The inexpensive bow did a good job for 200 days of shooting.  Then, it broke in two on arrow number 26,011.  It had given all it had. Even the last arrow, launched from an exploding riser,  hit the target.

I really enjoyed that little bow and am sad to see if go.

I figured I call Lancaster Archery and let them know hoping the bow was under warranty.  This happened late in the day so; again, I figured I call the next day.

When I got to this computer the next morning I had a message waiting from Lancaster Archery’s Supply’s (LAS) Southern sales representative.  He wanted me to call him when I got a chance. Okay.

When the riser broke I was shooting with George Ryals, IV.  He’s the USA Archery Head Coach for the Paralympics Archery Team.  He took a picture of the broken riser.  Apparently, some of the folks at Lancaster Archery follow Coach Ryals on social media and they saw the picture online.

Before I called the LAS sales representative, it was too early in the morning,  I checked my email.  There was an email from LAS informing me that a new riser had been shipped to me.  It was less than 18 hours since the ole riser had failed.

Once the morning had worn on a bit I called the LAS sales representative, Tony.  I know Tony from archery here in Georgia. He wanted me to know that the riser, which had busted was out of stock and that LAS had shipped me an upgrade.  They also included a t-shirt, pouch and hat in the shipment.

Admittedly, I was surprised.  That really is unparalleled customer service.

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.