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.

Recovery Time: What Everyone Knows That I Don’t Understand

Chris McCormick is a world champion triathlete.  He wrote a book about his experiences as an athlete.  In that book he described a younger triathlete who McCormick felt could become great.  A problem McCormick noticed with the younger athlete was that the fellow was working too hard.

McCormick talked to him suggesting he might add some recovery time to his training.  McCormick at the time of their meeting and training together was mature for a professional triathlete being in his 30s. The younger man was in his early 20s.  McCormick warned him to ease up on occasion to allow for adequate recover without which could lead to burn out or injury.  The twenty year old ignored the advice and not too long after was injured and a bit burnt.

In a post here not too long ago I wrote about recovery.  In that post I described my training. I pointed out that I don’t maintain a level of cardio training today as an archer that I did in my youth.  Still, I do train at what I consider an age appropriate level.

Cardio training is a method to help prolong health and give me a longer runway for archery.  Archery satisfies my need to remain competitive.  Certainly, achieving competitive goals remains possible as an age grouper in other sports.

I have a friend that is 69 and runs ultra marathons.  He’s an amazing athlete.  I know a woman in her mid-80s that still does high-level triathlons.  Again, amazing.  Neither started at a early age both picking up endurance sports in their 50s.

I started endurance sports at 17 and stopped at 57.  Forty years seemed to have been a limit for me.  When I tried stopping I was very unsatisfied.  I needed to compete.  Archery is an outlet for that desire.  Of course I still run and ride but the primary goal is to maintain fitness and prolong my experience in archery.

Along with that sport experience comes decades of understanding recovery. I understand it but do not always follow my own advice or knowledge.  I am prone to over training.

In the prior article about recovery I pointed out that as we age recovery times are often required to be more often and longer.  A reader somehow got another message.

He sent me a note pointing out that everyone understands recovery.  That was news to me.  I am still trying to find the right balance.  He somehow believed I am still in my 50s.  He further suggested my training along with the aches and pains associated were typical for a 50 year old, with the luxury of time, however not realistic for someone approaching 70 as he is approaching 70.

I took that comment as a compliment. The older critic, approaching 70, is pretty close to my age as I approach 70.  He is older by a few years but within my age group. He seems to be fairly fit results of his foundation of years of hard work.  He suggested my life of luxury has afforded me at 50 to be able to train the way I train.

That’s not true.  I’ve been able to train the way I train because I have had great coaches that ensured I had adequate recover whether I wanted it or not.  The result was minimal injury and little burn out.  Sure it is unlikely I’ll do too much racing in the future but not entirely out of the picture.  It isn’t that I burnt out on it after four decades, it became too expensive.

Archery is a lot less expensive than triathletes, easier to find events compared to cycling, and a sport that is much less age dependent.  So long as I maintain the best level of activity and recovery I should last a pretty long time shooting arrows.

Here’s the thing, finding the best point where recovery is needed and just plain soreness needing to be worked through is a tough balancing act.  As the 60+ critic pointed out everyone understands recovery and aging.  So, everyone, of you have sound advice I’m listening.

It’s Not What You Know…

Mama often told me, “It’s not what you know, and it’s who you know.”  There’s a lot of truth to what Mama said.

When I worked a day job I knew a lot about my field of employment.  Academically, I’d earned a doctorate and a law degree.  Even so, I never let my schooling get in the way of my education (M. Twain.). Along the way, as I piled up college credits, if some credentialing exam’s testing requirements had been satisfied by my study I took the test.  I piled up a lot of credentials as a result.  Most I never needed.

Over the years I built up a lot of knowledge and made a lot of contacts.  Those contacts eventually led me to a very satisfying career.  Without the contacts I’d still have had a very enjoyable career in academia but not one that could have been as richly rewarding.  As it turned out I was able to retire at age 57.

The early retirement offered me a chance to work at a sport.  At 57 cycling or triathlons would have only been fun pastimes. Archery, which I stumbled upon by chance, meant if I got good enough I could earn a few dollars.

I have earned a few dollars here and there.  Those rewards have been exclusively shooting league events.  Among them all I’ve had to compete against archers often younger than my children.

In my age group I’ve done well at the NFAA and USA Archery events as a non-professional.  USA Archery, of course, doesn’t have cash on the line.   The ASA and IBO offer cash winning as does the NAA.  There is also money available via contingency programs.  However, the big money is set-aside for the young professional archers not the Master/Senior level athletes.

Shooting, as a Senior Pro and winning everything wouldn’t yield the return of a young professional winning one of the major events.  On the bright side archery is not as age impacted as other sports. On the down side, all the young pros are really good.  In other words, once you hit 50 and if you shoot outside of the Pro division you’re not going to reap much reward. That’s too bad if you consider most competitive archers are over 50. (1)

There’s the potential for an older archer to become a “Pro” Staff shooter.  I have no idea to the extent of support a “Pro” staffer receives.  I tried that pathway with minimal success.  I mostly got support in the way of discounts on equipment. One company, that had known me as a triathlete, gave me some free stuff.

During a tournament I learned an opponent was a “Pro” Staffer with one of the companies where I held a “Pro” staff position.  I further learned he’d received hundreds of dollars of free gear where I had been awarded a 25% discount.  The gifted archer has never beaten me.  But, he knows somebody at the company whereas I know no one at the company.  Mama was correct.

Reference:

  1. hitting-the-bullseye-reel-girl-archers-inspire-real-girl-archers-full

The Goat is Home

My TRU Ball Goat release busted.  I called TRU Ball.  They gave me instructions for it to be returned so that they could repair it.  I shipped the Goat back regular (the less expensive method) mail.  Seven days later that Goat was back in my hand. That is hard to beat when it comes to customer service.

During the Goat’s absence I tried shooting an old True Fire thumb release.  The trigger on that release has no sensitivity adjustment.  This meant having to move my thumb to active the release.  That didn’t pan out.

Next I tried an old Scott Black Hole 3. It was just too cold. Sure, you might be a wizard at adjusting this type of release to make it more sensitive – not me. I’ve tried and given up. Every attempt at finding that perfect spot where the hinge releases, when I make the adjustment, is either too hot or too cold.   Next I used an old Scott Long Horn Pro Advantage release.  That was just right. The release setting set by a tech at Scott.

Even though I ‘mostly’ use back tension to active my Goat in the thumb trigger mode I am less comfortable with a pure back tension hinge.  When I make a mistake with a hinge style release it is a whopper. With a thumb activation I can be a little less careful.

Still, I enjoy shooting exclusively a hinge style release.  For years it was all I shot.  Then, a bow tech, who seemed knowledgeable, claimed thumb releases were the better approach.  It wasn’t as if he was trying to sell me a thumb release, the shop where he worked didn’t have any thumb releases in stock at the time.

I’d been using a Scott Black Hole 3 my wife had purchased me as a Christmas gift in 2014, a few weeks after I’d started playing around with archery.  A buddy of mine used a Black Hole 3 and it the total extent of my knowledge of hinge releases.

Because this buddy was a ex-pro (he made certain you became aware of his past and present glory) I thought he must be doing something better than me. So, when Brenda asked what I wanted for Christmas I told her a Scott Black Hole 3 release. With that request I exhausted my complete knowledge base of hinge releases.

Until that point I’d been using a finger trigger release.  I think it was a Scott Little Goose.  The Little Goose was a nice release.  I lost it when I sold a bow and the case it was in.  I’d forgotten to remove the Little Goose  from the case and it was gone forever.

On Christmas morning of 2014 I unwrapped my new hinge release then watched a YouTube on how to use it. Despite a bit of nervousness having heard all sorts of tooth breaking, lip busting, and nose bleeding horror stories of hinge style shooting I set out to master pure back tension.  The mastering remains unattained.

Thus far, I endure injury free using a back tension.  Nevertheless, I let the bow tech at the thumbless release shop convince me to use a thumb release over a hinge.  I found one at a different nearby archery shop.  It was the True Fire release.  They were too happy to accept my money.

Over time, it became clear that that choice, the True Fire, was excellent for hunting, less so for target shooting.  The sensitivity on the model I owned was simply too dull in that it required to great of a movement for me to activate.

Months into working with the True Fire, I was mentally stuck with a thumb.  Each time I worked to switch back to a hinge every poor form habit, which you can get away with using a thumb release, was so much a part of my shooting that the practice with pure hinge release was frustrating.

Luckily, another bow tech at another shop suggested I try the TRU Ball Goat.  I could set it to trigger the way I wanted.  It fit so that I could use, to some degree, back tension to activate the release.

Actually, a good archer can use the Goat with back tension with or without the thumb approach.  In my hands, well a hybrid approach is a fair description.  Sometimes I get the back tension, sometimes I thumb it, and sometimes is fire an arrow seemingly by magic. (The arrows is flying toward the target and I’m not yet ready)

Then, my Goat broke.  I pulled out the old True Fire. I gave up on the True Fire, after shooting a 533 out of 600, and eventually migrated to the Scott Longhorn Pro Advantage.

A few hundred arrows with the Scott release helped reestablish a better shooting form.  I really had to focus.  It was focus or miss.  After 500 arrows using the hinge or so I was shooting pretty good with it.  (No arrows were lost during the transition)

Just as I was getting comfortable with the Longhorn Pro my Goat came home.  The day it arrived I used it in a local league competition.

The league competition here is tough.  It came down to 2 ex-pros (both have only ever had jobs in archery), a kid that is ranked number 1 in the Nation for his age group (he never misses the 10 ring when it is the outer 10) some fellow I don’t know that seemed like a big shot.

I say he seemed like a big shot because he talked a lot about the shoot offs he competed in at Vegas and Lancaster. He was using some thumb style release.

I’m not  sure he could have shot a hinge release.  His chest was so puffed up he scapulas were practically fusing between ends.  He, too, didn’t miss any ten rings. And then me shooting the just returned Goat.

The Goat did just fine even if I was a bit off the mark.  I ended up with 2 nines for the evening but that was good enough to put me in the shoot off.  Oh, there’s money on the line at these local events and I wanted the money. During the evening I’d gotten the feel back for the Goat and felt there’d be no more nines.

Using the Goat I’d need to shoot against, Steve, an ex-pro cover boy.  By that, he I mean he was once a celebrity archer who his many sponsors used in their marketing material.

The final bit for the evening was the shoot off.  After 6 arrows, the amount used for this shoot off, Steve and I were tied.  It would come down to one final arrow, closest to the center wins.  My arrow was 50% in the center X and 50% out.  His was 75% in the center X and 25% out.  Steve won.

When it was over (for me), Big John, a USA Archery Level 4 Coach, commented that I’d shot well.  I hadn’t.  The league is only 30 arrows, not 60.  I should have been able to hit the larger 10 ring 30 times, I managed it only 28 times.

Maybe if I’d used the Scott Longhorn Pro I might have performed better and maybe not.  It seems I end up with about the same scores regardless of what release I’m holding. Sure the True Fire didn’t work out, but in the past, using that insensitive release I’ve scored well. Either way, I remain more comfortable with the Goat.

Comfort is good, laziness with form isn’t. It is easy to get lazy using a thumb.

My Goat Broke

A few days ago my TRU Ball Goat release malfunctioned.  The hinge seemed to lock in place and failed to release.  TRU Ball / Axcel will have the release in a day or so in order to make repairs and return it to me.  In the meantime, I’ve been shooting a Tru-Fire thumb release during practice.

Busted

After the Goat broke I first shifted to an old Scott Longhorn Pro Advantage release.  The rubber band that helps bring the hinge into the proper location to load an arrow busted after a few shots.  I jiggled and flipped the release until the hinge had aligned with the little half moon to make ready, but that soon became old.

The next release in the trial queue is a Scott Black Hole.  I skipped it and went to the Tru-Fire thumb.

The Tru-Fire thumb isn’t a bad release other than the model I own has no method to make the release hot or cold.  You can move the knob for the thumb position, but the sensitivity is set.

I use the thumb method to trigger the Goat.  But, I use back tension to activate the trigger.  I feel more comfortable not using exclusively a hinge style back tension even though I initially shot that way.  The Tru-Ball needs a rather significant depression on the thumb trigger to release as opposed to a whisper of movement, like with the Goat,  making the switch a real challenge.

The Tru-Fire release seems to be more of hunting tool versus a pure target release.  Even though I can practice with it the groups are obviously less tight.  Points-wise the difference (averaged over 3 days using the True Fire; 360 arrows scored after 12 arrows warm-up.  A total of 396 arrows shot after sighting on day 1) is 21 points lower than with the Goat against a vertical 3-spot at 18 meters.

Among the arrows shot using the Tru-Fire there were no scores less than 9 points.  But, hitting the center 10 at 18-meters has been a frustrating activity. I decided to look deeper into the problem.

I went back to my data collected over the years when I used the Tru-Fire prior to getting the Goat.  The larger data set showed that the points difference is only 12 points over 100s of recorded scores for both releases. Twelve points is a lot!

The Goat does work better for me.  I expect once it is returned it will one day malfunction, again.  There are a lot of parts and adjustment points on the release.  It isn’t unforeseeable it will fail.

This year I’m on track to shoot around 34,500 arrows in practice.  All my equipment is put to test over than many arrows.  This is a main reason I wish I had multiple bows set up exactly the same, an abundance of arrows,  and duplicate releases.

Clearly, I’ve got to reestablish the feel for the Tru-Fire while I wait for the Goat to be returned.  That is one option. The other option is to grab the old Scott Black Hole and see how that performs.

Morning Run

I run nearly every morning.  If I miss a day it is generally due to travel.  The weather is rarely a factor that limits time on the trails behind my house.  I don’t run alone, River, my lab has been a running companion for going on nine years.

Because some of the trails are now posted, for weekend hunters (who have as yet not hunted) River and I stick to trails outside of the posted property. River can run without being leased so long as we’re on our property.  Once we hit the trails that are easements for surveying and beyond private property she gets hooked.

River’s nose is much better at sniffing things out to explore during our runs.  On our property, while free ranging, I noticed she’s moved a few feet off the path.  Curious as to what it was she was examining I moved closer.

She’d discovered a massive yellow jacket nest.  We eased away and continued down the trail.  I hoped, that until I can spray this nest, so long as I leave them alone maybe they’d not attack me.  Oh, I’m going to get them.  Yellow jackets are often relentless when it comes to stinging me.

Moving down the trail River nosed what seemed to be a trespasser who’d met its ultimate demise.  Later, I’d learn that was indeed the case.  Only the posted sign hunters didn’t bring about the end.  The trespassing critter had been wreaking havoc on plants at a neighbor’shome.  I suppose this section of the trail will project olfactory offense soon.

If you’ve been reading this you are likely an archer.  Possibly, you are not a runner.  Possibly you enjoy getting outdoors to hunt.  If you’re an archer that runs, especially on trails, you know that sort of outdoor activity, trail running, is a nice way to enjoy the woods.

 

If Your Butt Is Big Enough

The evening indoor league begins either this week or next.  I called to check, because I don’t know.  I’ll need to call back.  When I called the fellow that organizes the shoots wasn’t yet at work.

I also don’t know what targets will be selected on any given league night. I do know the distance, it will be 18-meters.  At 18-meters there are a number of target options.

I’ll just practice on all of them. Sooner or later I’ll need to shoot well against whichever piece of paper is hanging down range.

If the butt fits…

Expensive Targets

If it’s not simple, it simply won’t get done.

Someone wrote an article I read wherein he advised to cover all targets and target butts. I don’t cover all of my target butts.  None of my 3D targets are ever covered.   As little 3D as I shot last year maybe that should change.  I doubt there will be a change. Two targets butts are always covered.  Those seem to be the most impacted by rain so I put a large outdoor grill cover over them for protection. Aside from those two every other target butt and 3D animal on my ranges are waiting for an arrow.

We’ve not had any rain to speak of in this part of Georgia so the damage from water has been a non-issue. Sure, that will change.  In the spring I’ll be conducting amateurish repairs to everything that ends up with an arrow in it.  Those repairs last about a year.

A big expense and watching money burn is when it comes to paper targets.  I buy them in bulk looking for the best deal, typically found at Amazon. Last week I paid a premium for vinyl 18-meter targets.  I thought the extra money might equate to longer lasting targets.

The vinyl targets are certainly high quality.  The center, however, shoots out just a little more slowly than inexpensive paper.

I ordered 10 of the pricey vinyl targets, which are great for outdoor shooting.  If it rained on them they would hold up.  They’re really nice.  But, after 90 arrows the center is pretty much gone – just like paper. Ninety arrows is one morning practice.

The vinyl targets stayed up between morning and afternoon practice.  They’ll need to be replaced for tomorrow. I use two pinned to a butt trying to make the most of my time.  Walking back and forth every 3 arrows eats a lot of time.

I’ll definitely have days where I’ll just shoot ends of 3 rather than 6 – just not all the time. Sometimes I even shoot three targets pinned to a butt having ends of 9 arrows.

Nine shoot before pulling is one way to go

 

Five years ago the vinyl would have been perfect.  Five years ago I got my money’s worth out of paper.  That is, I shot all the colors.

I’m still not going to cover my target butts.  It takes too much time to cover them.  When I’m ready to shoot, I’m shooting.  Anything that eats time away from practice or makes practice less simple to achieve I try to remove.  Removing extra covers is not difficult but less simple.

The vinyl targets were a good idea for outdoor practice.  When I shoot up these I’ll be going back to inexpensive paper.  No matter which target I flinging arrows into, it is nice to have them ready and waiting for practice.  Simple.

That Was Fun?

At a recent archery tournament a fellow archer asked, “Are you having fun?” Well, I was enjoying myself – but fun?

First off the temperature was approaching a record high.  Secondly, the bathrooms had malfunctioned.  And third, there was the pressure of the tournament.

Temperature-wise it wasn’t the hottest tournament where I’d shot.  That misery belongs to an outdoor event in North Carolina where the temperature did break the state record for heat.  Now, the heat isn’t something that too often makes me suffer.  Still, it wasn’t a fun time to play outside.

You’d think that in the blazing heat the need to have a bio-break diminishes and it does, but I drink a lot in order to stay hydrated.  So, having somewhere to seek relief is a nice benefit. That bathroom failure was less fun.

The pressure to shoot well is a hard problem. All an archer can do is shoot the best possible, remain as relaxed as possible, and not worry about anyone else.  Some archers claim they only want to have fun, on the other hand some archer show up aiming to win. The added intensity of a tournament isn’t fun especially when you’re behind.

My wife and I went to a party last night.  It was, without doubt, fun. The recent archery tournament doesn’t really fall into that category of fun.  Don’t get me wrong I enjoyed the tournament. It was a bonus to have won.

Like many people, I’m not alone, I am wired to compete.  If I wasn’t competing in archery it would be cycling, triathlon, duathlon, or running. There was a time when competing meant achieving academic goals.  That was later moved to research goals and publication goals.

There are situations where competing is not appropriate.  There’s no need to compete in friendship and marriage is certainly not a competition.  Sport is, by it’s design, competition.

I admit the tournament was fun.  Otherwise, I’d not compete in archery.  Perhaps, it is the way I’m wired and you’re wired if you are a competitive archer.  For me, I know, I must compete. I suppose that’s fun.

The Competition Has Gotten Tight

Georgia is a hub for great archers.  There’s an elite archer everywhere you turn in the Peach State. The result is intense local competition. In my neighborhood alone there are four archers (out of 15 homes) that I know of. Everyone here has 3 to 10 acres and it is easy to spot the archers – their targets being visible from the road. I’ve practiced with two of them.  The one that I’ve yet to shoot with is the most recent to the neighborhood and we’ve not yet met. (I’ve included myself in the count.)

The greater the competition the better for everyone competing.  In some areas there are only a few archers and winning is less of a challenge.  Not here.

In the division, where I compete, there are always four or five archers that can win on any given day.  Championships have been won by a point, by the X count, and even by the inner X count. (Me be the loser in that match up)

Many of the local Masters level archers don’t travel to the big tournaments. The younger archers do travel.  Among them are World Ranked, Nationally Ranked, USA Team members, and potential Olympians.  Among then a cadet recently set a new World Record for 50 meters (355).  Georgia is a rich environment for the sport.

The State has at least on level 5 USA Archery Coach, at least 4 level 4 coaches and a number of level 3 coaches.  The abundance of good coaching is another benefit to the Peach State athletes.

The level of athlete here and the quality of coaching makes for an excellent environment to shoot. It shows at every tournament.