Some Days I Get the Range Pretty Much to Myself

Typically, I practice archery at home. I’ve got a really nice range. The archery butts are a mess. But, a short walk versus and 30 minute drive to shoot at an indoor 18-meter range is a real pleasure.

When it is raining I’ll still shoot at home unless it is just too much. With Hurricane Michael bringing wind and rain I decided to make the drive to stay dry.

The range,at Social Circle Ace Hardware, is nice, has good lighting, the butts are in pretty good shape and arrows are easy to pull. There’s always a bit of friendly conversation from the pro-staff. It is a bit of a drive but the atmosphere makes up for the hour round trip loss of time.

All arrows shot from the same position.

It is usual to find a few other shooters at the range. The past two days, I’ve pretty much had the place to myself. Other archers came in, shot a few arrows and left. I don’t think anyone came in and practiced more than 15 minutes. They seemed to be simply checking out their equipment for hunting.

No matter, I was there for a good long time and got my money’s worth. Oh, that’s the other thing; at home I don’t have to pay an extra fee to practice. (It isn’t too pricey)

Hump Day

It’s Wednesday. Sunday was a recovery day. Since then I have an hour and a half of running, an hour of stretching, three hours of cycling, a trip to the gym, and nine and a half hours of archery practice under my belt.

Big Sky over a bicycle ride near Athens, GA

This morning we, River my lab, and I were practicing. Well, I was practicing and entertaining my canine companion between ends, which is mostly tossing sticks as I walk the 18-meters back and forth to pull arrows. River seemed to have more spring in her step than me.

River runs with me in the morning. She’s almost 9 and still has plenty of spring in her step.

Working toward an athletic goal is demanding. At times it can be grueling. The long-term effort needs to have breaks. Those breaks are periods for recovery. On Thursday we go on vacation. On this break I am not bringing a bow. I will, however, bring a mountain bike and running shoes.

The sun is coming up later as winter approaches and the air is cooler at 8:00 am in the morning.

The cycling will be easy active recovery rides. Running may turn out to be walking. For sure, after archery practice this afternoon I won’t pick up a bow for a week. If I carried one on the trip I would no doubt be tempted. But, I also know that rest is too important to take for granted. So, the bow will be left behind.

There’s a coaching tip in this post.

 

A Beta-Blocker and Pot Use Bust at Vegas

Chris Perkins has been named 2018 Champion of the Vegas shoot. The 2018 Vegas shoot has long passed. The prior champion was busted for using a beta-blocker during competition and the USADA found THC in his tested samples.

THC, the active ingredient is marijuana is legal in some states. But, you can’t smoke dope and legally compete in WADA sports. At the first Olympics where snowboarding was introduced the men’s gold medalist was stripped of his award because he tested positive for pot. Looking back at that situation it comes as no surprise.

Pot is legal in 9 states and legal for medical us in another 30. In other states it is decriminalized or illegal. I don’t know where the busted Vegas ex-winner lives, but perhaps his home is in a puff free zone. Either way, smoking a joint isn’t going to improve shooting a bow. I think the THC ban by WADA and the USADA is a bit puritan, but don’t really care enough to make a big deal about it.

What I do care about is the use of beta-blockers. Beta-blockers can improve shooting. I’ve fussed about beta-blockers on this site in the past. For archers with conditions that require use of beta-blockers they can apply for a therapeutic use exemption (TUE). For the archer that simply wants an edge beta-blockers are easily within grasp.

When I raced bicycles I can say with complete confidence I have trained with and raced against dopers. Sadly, in archery I can say with conditional confidence (no testing done to prove or disprove) I have competed against archers using a beta-blocker without a TUE.

https://www.thevegasshoot.com/news/perkins-named-2018-vegas-champion-following-disqualification-of-eyler

 

The Big Dot Versus the Little Dot

The big ten on a 3-spot has been a nine for a while. The little dot, which was once an X is now just a ten. Shooting an ego friendly 300 or 600 isn’t what it once was. In fact, it is gone.

I admit, I am as yet to feel the satisfaction of a 60X or even a big dot perfect score. But, Lord, I have come close on the old big ring ten. Through the first 10 ends this afternoon I’d dropped two. By the final arrow I’d dropped six, all by just a hair.

Against the small dot X, now just a ten, I finished the day with a 576. So many were so close. My goals are to shot on average 590 aiming at the small dot and 600 on the old big ten.  The misses are just so close.

Another Day More of the Same

Each morning I wake up and stretch. As we age we can lose flexibility. If you don’t stretch you range of motion will deteriorate.

My wife, daughters and mother do yoga. Yoga is outside of my physical aptitude. I still stretch in the morning. Then, I eat, run, and shoot. During the afternoon I ride a bike and shoot some more. A couple of times a week I head to the gym to lift weight. There are days where I might not run, ride or shoot. There are scheduled recovery days in my program. But, stretching is done nearly every day.

All this exercise has, as a good friend once said, given me the metabolism of a hummingbird. I eat a lot. I eat throughout the day. With all this eating comes the byproducts of metabolism.

Typically, by the time I’m on the range in the morning, all dawn necessities have been eliminated. Sometimes, there’s a stubbornly timed clearance that arrives during archery practice. This is inconvenient.

First 3 shots of the day before a biological warning alarm

Maybe you’ve been in a similar position. You find yourself on the range and the urge strikes you. Don’t you just hate that?  Your warm-up is moving along great and you need to make an unrelated movement.

“Hey, where you going? We just started”

For me, that means taking a hike back to civilization and the luxury of the house. Sure, there are woods all about and I could manage things more primitively. In conditions of dire pressure, when shooting seems more important, I’ve learned that despite all efforts to have the brain override basic physiology the more primal elements will be victorious. Before there’s clear indication of a failure of control, there will be a dash home.

Only another 100 yards or so

Once, during a marathon in Delaware, less than a mile from the start, I saw a poor runner that had mis-judged her morning.  Rather than pause and seek shelter she let nature take it’s course while running.  That was, no doubt, repulsive. At most big races there are well placed portable stations posted along to course to provide privacy.  Sadly, she’d missed her opportunity before the start.

A well-timed hike off the range will lead to greater comfort, a brief moment to relax with a magazine, and better focus while shooting. Thankfully, in archery we have better resources at our disposal than sports like running, cycling, and triathlon.

If you’re involved with sports and do a lot of training, you know your body well.  You know your daily routine. Having a practice routine can, most times, help you not need to make a mad rush or get embarrassed. There’s value, at times, of doing the same things day in and day out.

Every Had One of Those Days

Ever had one of those days where everything seems to go right. In sport we say we’re in a zone. In the case of archery every shot feels great and every arrow lands in a 10 ring. You know, that day on the range where others stop shooting just to watch you place arrow after arrow in the exact same hole in the center of the X. Well, today for me it was not that day.

I’d started the morning practice fresh off of a scheduled rest day. Going into the break I’d been shooting well and was aiming for a personal best. Instead, I shot on par with scores from two years ago. Needless to say, when I enter this morning’s work into my 3-spot database it isn’t going to help with averages.

Looking forward to this afternoon’s practice

As bad as practice was this morning perhaps optimistic is how I’ll go into the afternoon practice.

Day Two of Short Shots

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

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

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

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

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

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

Working the Short Shot

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Your Stance

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

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

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

Coaching tip

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

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

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

Proper placement – Source: USA Archery

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

River’s Bone and Stick Pile

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

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

River has chewed every stick here

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

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

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

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

This vertebra didn’t provide much meat

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

River can’t get to this leg, now

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