A Brand New Bow

Since I began shooting I’ve shot Mathews bows. I’ve had two, both were slow bows, a Conquest Apex 7 and a ZXT. For indoor shooting the Apex 7 is a fine bow. The ZXT is a nice little hunting bow and the one I liked best for 3D. I don’t think either is any longer in production.

Having two dissimilar bows that shot so differently has rubbed me the wrong way for a while. What I felt like I needed was a bow that I could shoot inside and out. Something that would give my 26-inch draw length a bit more zing and an axil to axil length around 34 inches. I also wanted a bow that was lighter than my Apex 7.

For target shooting the conventional wisdom is to should shoot a heavy bow. The idea is that the bow is more stable. The Conquest 7 is 5 pounds without any attachments.   Other criteria included an 80% let off. The 65% let off with the Apex 7 was never as comfortable as the 80% of the ZXT.

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Before buying a new bow I built a spreadsheet of the specs I wanted and bows that most closely matched those specifications. The bow I ended up with is the Elite 35. I’ve been trying to shoot it straight for the past two days.

The bow is definitely lighter than the Apex 7 and now I see I have a lot more sway. It is faster and my pin adjustments have been a pain in the rear. I haven’t yet tried the use my scope – there’s no real point until I get another yardage tape to paste on the scope after I’ve calibrated it. To amplify the aggravation I am shooting new arrows – the fancy ones that are those little nocks and rocket ship nose looking tips.

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So close

To be fair, there’s a learning curve with anything new. Sadly, mine seems to have a very gradual slope.

If You’re Going to Play You’re Going to Pay

Archery is a safe sport. Rare accidents happen that involve cracked arrows or people poking themselves with their broadheads. But, for the most part archery is safe.

It is possible to injure a shoulder by pulling too much weight or over use. Lars Andersen’s archery acrobatics will catch up with him and he’ll take a tumble. And bow hunters will continue to fall out of tree stands. But, next to badminton archery is the safest sport.

Archery, however, isn’t the only sport where I compete or play at it. Five years of football left me minus a meniscus. Boating put me in surgery when I impaled my leg with a sharp pointed chunk of galvanized steel. But, those aren’t the most frequent type of injuries for me – the majority came from cycling.

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Opps

In competitive cycling athletes are going to crash. I can’t recall the numbers of mornings, following a crash, when I’d awaken to find my road rash had sealed me to the sheets. Most of my crashes were near the finish line where things become chaotic. One particularly bad crash lost me a National Championship and landed me in the hospital. Another rough one was going downhill at 48 mph when my front tire went flat. I left a lot of skin on the road following that slide.

There are plenty of ways to get hurt when doing sports or playing hard. For example, bouncing through the woods on an ATV can leave wrists sore. Soreness isn’t a bad thing in my book. Crashing an ATV is worse. Jumping waves on a Yamaha Wave Runner will shake you up, but don’t lose control – ever. Crashing on water at 50 mph isn’t fun, and at 70+ mph can be real bad.

Running, as benign as that seems has hurt a lot of people. For me it has meant the lose of a number of toenails. Other folks complain of knee problems, foot problems, or hip problems. Once, while trail running I jumped onto a board to cross a small stream and landed on a nail. That was a shock. After a hard rain before the Ft. Yargo ½ Marathon trail run, the Georgia red clay was so slick I slipped and fell about 10 times. That only left the sore and frustrated.

Swimming has never been a burden to me – getting out of the water hasn’t been as forgiving. On three occasions I have been cut by something while getting out of the water and all three required stitches. The last time, I accepted the stitches in my hand and declined them on my foot. I had that glued closed. I was competing in an Ironman event within a week and didn’t want to bother having the stitches removed. I couldn’t reach the laceration on my foot to have removed the sutures. I took the ones in my hand out before the event. Actually, I got four of the out on my own. The fifth I couldn’t manage using my left hand. I was in a meeting with a group of business people and a physician. I asked the physician if he’d remove the remaining suture. When we took a break he took it out.

About two months ago I was playing hard with my dog. She’s a big girl and tackled me from behind. I knew she was coming, I thought I’d stop her. When she hit, I went up in the air and landed hard. On that landing I smacked my hip on a tree stump – it hurt. A few days later I was in an archery tournament. On downhill slopes, my left hip was uneven and excruciatingly painful. Each downhill shot was a distracting pain. I ended up a disappointing fourth.

To date, I can recall or have some account of 257 official sports events where I competed (excludes little league type events). This means that for every 51.4 events I end up at a world championship. The count doesn’t include the 2011 World Duathlon Championship in Switzerland where I gave up my spot or the 2015 IBO World’s since while I’ve qualified it hasn’t yet been held. If I added them now that is a World Championship every 36.7 events.

It has also meant: 43 stitches (8 separate occasions), two surgeries, three concussions, four broken bones, and too much road rash to remember with one exception. That time I crashed on my bike while on my honeymoon. The fall required an emergency room visit and subsequent mummy-like wrap on my face. Not good timing, not something close to being forgotten by my wife. To be fair to her it’s only been 35 years. However, just two injuries caused me to miss a competitive event. I missed my second Ironman Louisville and second Murrysville Classic Bicycle Race because of an injury.

What brings all of this to mind is the archery tournament in the morning. Why? Well, while playing hard in the yard I sliced my right thumb badly. It was a clean slice and although deep it will close at the expense of bleeding and leaking for a few days. The cut is just at the point where I hold the release while drawing. My guess is Sunday will be a bit bloody even if I’ll be in competing is a very safe sport.

Another Arrow Takes it in the Nock.

This afternoon I headed to the lot where the range is located. The plan was to shoot from 20 to 50 yards at 5-yard increments.   At each stake I’d shoot 6 arrows, beginning at 20 yards. When I reached 50 yards, I’d go in the reverse direction still shooting 6 arrows.

I changed my paper target to a single center X. This way I could measure my groups. The previous paper target had 6 Xs and it was hard to tell where I was having a problem and how to correct it. But shooting at the same point I thought I might get a feel for rights and lefts or ups and downs.

My first shot was a little low to my left. When I shoot to the left I regroup and manage my follow through. The next shot wasn’t dead center but hit the X. Giving it one more try, my third shot, landed exactly like the second shot.

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After that shot, I began walking back and forth more frequently. Bonus, I saved one of the arrows.

A Blown Out Shoe

Today the weather was perfect. Clear skies, a little breeze, and the temperature reached 78°F. It made for a nice day to practice some long shots and ride my mountain bike.

Shooting was a bit tricky since the early sunlight through the trees illuminated the target and left me in the shadows. It, of course, washed out my pins. Still, I shot for about an hour and a half until the call to ride my bike become overwhelming.

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My block type target about 30 yards out. I have this marked out to 65 yards at 5-yard increments.

Competitive riding has been part of my life for 45 years. Those were spent racing in cycling, duathlon, and triathlon competition. Because I’d started racing bicycles before adding duathlon and triathlon, during the multi-sport events cycling was my strongest component.

Cycling, when it was my primary sport, meant road racing and track racing. I also raced mountain bikes for about 5 years and it was always a blast. Where we live in Maryland and on the North Carolina coast there isn’t any mountain biking. Here in Georgia I can hit trails and ride all day never touching pavement.

I’d planned a long off road ride and had a challenging course planned. I’d leave the house; cut along wooded trails, then hit a power line break riding that out and back for an hour each way.

It took 30 minutes to get through the woods and onto the power line break. These are nice to ride. There are often trails perpendicular to the power lines made by ATVs and logging for exploration. It’s hilly and rough. It’s fun.

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Fifteen minutes into the power line portion of the ride I reached a steep downhill that merged into a sharp turn before working into a steep climb. It was broken up with rain washouts and ruts. I stopped to look it over before taking the plunge.

This is what it would take: Stay to the left on the down hill, let momentum carry me over a small hump on the uphill then slam it hard to the right to pull off the climb without stopping or falling.

I rode back about twenty yards to get the speed it would take to make the assault after the downhill. I cranked up speed and lifted off my saddle to handle the ruts, hit the outcropped hump on the rise, then jerked right when my right foot pulled free.

It was a surprise to have my right leg off the pedal. The torque on the pedal was in the wrong direction to have pulled my cleat free. This made me lose momentum, I put my foot down saving a crash and was honestly amazed that I’d pulled off the pedal.

When I looked down I was even more astonished to find the cause of the liberated foot. The jam to the right was going to require a bit of force to move the entire bike making it hop toward the new direction I’d wanted. What had happened, and this has never happened to me before, I pulled the shoe apart! The shoe literally separated into two parts, the upper and the lower. The lower half holding the cleat remained firm with the pedal. The upper half followed my foot. And, these were not inexpensive shoes. They’d only been used about a dozen times. All I could do was offer a disappointed glare.

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The ride was over except for the getting home leg. For that portion of the ride I found a road and gently pedaled back. Once home I tried using super glue to make the shoe whole. True to my experience with super glue, the only things that it seals together are fingers.

Regretfully, I only have one pair of mountain bike shoes with me in Georgia. I also only have one bow. In consideration of Sunday’s tournament, I hope it doesn’t fail me, too.

Practicing on the Porch

We’re back in Georgia. Here there’s a nice practice range set up where I can shoot up to 100 yards – if I wanted. It is only marked out to 65 yards. Yesterday, I shot there for hours. Today, I spent time in the woods and on the water. That ate up more time than I’d envision. I ended up practicing archery on the upper porch of the house.

The porch is long about 18 yards before bending around the side of the building. My bow is currently set-up with a 7-pin sight where the top pin marks 20 yards. Since I can’t stand on the porch railing I’d only be shooting at around 16 yards.

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Sixteen yards isn’t a long shot. It isn’t a given X with either. It is a tad more difficult with pins when the top pin will over shoot the distance. But, it is great practice for those close-in 3D targets that pop-up from time to time. You now the ones, the bobcat, that raccoon, the oddly placed turkey, and the ubiquitous javelina. During one recent tournament there were 8 of the 20 targets that I needed to hit under 20 yards. Even though my right and lefts were fine on all of them, my ups and downs, mostly ups, hurt a bit. (I ended up taking 3rd)

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Because the sun was setting and I didn’t have another option I used the remaining daylight to practice my close up shooting. The porch is the perfect place for this activity. From inside the house the Atlanta Braves versus the New York Mets, which at the moment is a disappointment with the Braves losing by 4 to the Mets, can be heard. A few outburst from inside added to my mental focus practice.

Tomorrow morning I’ll practice longer shots. In at pinch, like this evening, the porch is a great second.

Don’t Under Rate Rest

Rest may be under rated, but not by me. I do a lot of exercise. I always have enjoyed sports and typically found ways to compete and train throughout my “working” days. Now that I have retired from my medical career most of my attention stays on sports. Another way of look at it, most of my attention stays on playing outside.

Living where I do getting to a triathlon or run isn’t as easy as getting to an archery tournament. Whenever I can find a race, typically a run, that doesn’t include an overnight trip I sign up. Most of the events I did in the past were expensive. They included costly entry fees, travel, hotel, and food on the road. For the moment, I try to keep competitive events to day trips.

Runs are cheap and easy when I can find them. Short fast ones are my preference, like a 5K or a 10K. Marathons and ½ marathons are so crowded that they feel more like running in a herd. I’ve considered entering a 50-miler or a 100-miler but think I’d just get too bored.

C-Man Swim

Still, I run and bike a lot. Swimming is on the decline until the weather warms up. Living here in the sticks, there’s not a pool anywhere close by. The running, riding, and shooting takes up 6 – 8 hours of my time 4 – 6 days a week. Fitting in driving time to get to a pool 30 miles away isn’t a priority at the moment.

My typical day starts with a run. River, my dog, is my running partner. We’re frequently joined by a posse of dogs collected along the way. These runs vary in distance and speed.

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Once home I shoot. I’ll practice for an hour or two before heading in to take a break and eat. Not eat breakfast, I had that by 0630. I’ll eat a light mid-morning snack. That often includes nuts or pretzels (salty stuff) and is washed down with a “Red Bull”. I’ve got great a sports drink, TriFuel, but I treat that like liquid gold and use it for serious training. The Red Bull gets me mentally alert so I can write.

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When I’ve typed a bit it is time for lunch. Following lunch I always take a short nap. A short nap is 15 – 30 minutes where I doubt I go beyond Stage 1 sleep. (The lightest phase of sleep where one is easily aroused) Then, I regroup for the afternoon workouts.

In the afternoon I’ll ride, up to 50 miles now that the days are longer and warmer. I’ll also shoot again for for up to 3 hours (typically less). That means a lot of walking.

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When I say a lot of walking, I am not kidding. My targets reach 60 yards and I’ll shoot 18 arrows into them at that distance (3 ends of 6). I’ll also shoot the same count of arrows per target from 20 to 60 yards at 5-yard increments. That amounts to a lot of walking. Which isn’t bad, except I’ve run and ridden, so my the time the sun has set I’ve got a lot of miles in my legs.

What I know is that my recovery isn’t the same as when I was 25. Then, I’d ride 60 miles in the morning and 80 in the afternoon. Some days we’d do 200 miles. In one ultra-distance race I rode 406 miles in a day. After that race, I drove home from Davenport, Iowa to Kennesaw, GA – non-stop. Those days are behind me.

Today, I appreciate rest. I’ll take one day and do very little physical activity. Honestly, it is mentally hard to take a break, but I listen to my body. Thursday was that day.

When my body says, “stop” I pay attention. My former cycling coach, a Belgian, Nestor Gernay, used to say, “Don’t stand when you can sit, don’t sit when you can lay down.” Believe me I listened and haven’t forgotten.

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Since Sunday (Thursday when I wrote this), I’ve run 4 days, biked 4 days and shot twice per day. It breaks down like this: 4 hours running, 12 hours riding, and 20 hours shooting.   I have a race on Saturday and a tournament on Sunday. Thursday was a rest day I needed – even if I felt a little guilty.

If You’re Going to Cheat, It’s Best Not to Get Caught (Yogi Berra)

I’ve been an athlete basically my entire life. Reading this you might think, “Well, so have I.” If you think that, it’s probably true. If you are athletically inclined and you compete, you probably have encountered cheaters; I know I have.

Cheaters cheat over a broad spectrum of sports. For example, in endurance sports like cycling and triathlon performance enhancing drugs or blood doping isn’t uncommon. Mentioning performance enhancing drugs (PED), I’m not referring to the “little blue pill” so popular on television during the evening news and any sports show. (I’m glad my children are grown and I don’t have to try and explain those commercials)

When I write about PED’s I mean the products made famous by the likes of Lance Armstrong, Barry Bonds, and Marion Jones. When I raced I raced in cycling and triathlon we knew who was doping.

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Someone once told me that the top pros in archery “cheat” by using beta-blockers. Beta-blockers are used to control abnormal heart conditions. They can slow the heartbeat and reduce tremors and anxiety.

In a recent video by Archery TV I noticed they had the heart rates of the shooters displayed. It was clear to me none of these archers were on beta-blockers. Related to reducing anxiety, I think beta-blockers should be allowed. Why?

Well, a great shooter might have amazing “stage-fright” and is at a loss to demonstrate his or her athletic skill because of a psychological problem. But, that’s not my call, and as I mentioned, I’ve not seen any evidence of beta-blocker misuse in archery.

That doesn’t mean I am not aware of archers around me that are taking beta-blockers. Decades of working with patients in the medical field have left me with a pretty good idea of who is likely to be on “prescribed” medications. Of course, I have no problem in that matter. My problem with cheaters in archery is less pharmaceutical and more the plain old fashion, low tech, fudging the numbers.

Fudging the numbers seems to occur in the local competitions. At the major tournaments it is probably impossible to boost a score by entering false data. In the minor meets, it happens. Here are a few examples:

The two man hustle.

You might think this is when two guys are shooting by themselves and each falsely recorded their scores – nope that’s another situation. This is were two guys that know each other have a routine (which may be informal or even undeclared) of adding points to their buddies shots.

In the two-man hustle the companions volunteer to call the score and pull the arrows. This hustle works best when the group contains only 3 competitors. Bonus is when the outside man, now the guy recording the scores, is shooting in a different class. The hustlers have a pattern. The deceitful duo approaches the target. Both somewhat block the view. The fellow calling the score on any close shot boosts the score to next highest level. As such, an 8 near the 10 line, becomes a 10. The fellow keeping the score is often head down trying to get scores right and misses the variance between score called and shot made.

The Big Man Bluff

Not everyone can pull this off. It is best done by someone that has a reputation of getting good shots and works best on paper targets. What happens is that over the course of a contest the center ring become obliterated. (Before one of the judges has a chance to notice and replace the target) A shot that is clearly off the line is challenged by the shooter, “That’s a 10!” He does so with force in his voice. What can happen? Someone in the group might call for the judge and the judge will rule it a nine. If the group is properly intimidated (or doesn’t really give a darn) the Big Man gets his 10 without a judge’s ruling.

The Solo Shooter

This guy is too obvious. Now, he’s not exactly shooting alone. He’s in a small group and often has the biggest personality (at least in his mind). Frequently he’s a fast talker and in a group of one or two other shooters. He’ll say something like this, “Let’s just keep our own scores.” Others, perhaps feeling awkward at the request, and feeling a sense of pride that they can be responsible to keep an honest score, agree. Solo shooter is a pretty good shot, but rarely as good as his scores. When solo shooter can’t manage to retain possession of his own card, he’ll be proclaiming what a bad day he’s having.

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The Score Keeper

These guys might be a good shots and you will certainly not be a better shot based on your score. The “Score Keeper” manages all the cards (this doesn’t work where there are two score keepers). He’ll see that your occasional 10 becomes an 8. This works best if you happen to hit more than one 8. His scores may include a few extra points and so might his friends’ scores. It’s not so much that he has to win, rather you have to lose.

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Range Hounds

Range hounds are those folks that pre-shoot a course. Here I am not referring to the volunteers that help set-up targets. Those guys have a very slight advantage in that they’ve seen some of the targets beforehand. On a 30-target course, the volunteers might put up 3 – 5 targets each. They might even recall the distances. I’ve helped set-up a course. It did help a little, but not a lot. If volunteers have a very slight advantage – they deserve it. The Range Hound is different.

These guys are at their worst on long standing indoor or private ranges. They own the course – sometimes literally. They will have practiced on it so often have the distances memorized.

During one indoor contest I watched a few of these shooters. They’d shoot the first target, then without hesitation, adjust their sight’s elevation, then shoot the next and so forth. I suppose if the range is yours and you allow others to come shoot that is fine. But, if you’re going to charge a fee for a tournament, well, that person, the Range Hound,  really should remove himself or herself from the event or at least not compete against the paying shooters.

There are likely dozens of other methods to enhance a score that don’t require accurate shooting. What I’ve written about here are only those I come across a time or two. Should you be one practiced in the art of score enhancement, I’m not going to call you out. I shoot for the fun of it and don’t want the stress of pointing a finger. Truly, for those guys that select more nefarious scoring techniques, I don’t care too much for you.

Setting up a few 3D Targets

During last week’s 3D tournament, I heard the folks around me bragging about how many 3D animal targets they have on their property. One fellow claimed to have 10 another 30! Watching them shoot it seemed clear they knew where to aim their arrows.

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The alpha target in my collection

Earlier in the year I made a particularity bad shot on a coyote (I found the arrow). The guy  shooting after me mentioned, “Yes, those little buggers used to give me trouble, too. “ He then added, “So, I bought one and after awhile they didn’t bother me anymore.” It sounded like good advice.

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My little friend the coyote

Last week I added three worn-down, shot-up, weather-beaten, bird-pecked, and sun-bleached, used 3D targets to my prior collection of one. It seems that practicing on the objects that will be shoot at in tournaments might improve my scores. Having added new (well new to me) foam to my menagerie I am preparing to test that theory.

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This turkey is in pretty good shape – its head hasn’t been shot off

To create a more realistic range I called my neighbor, Carl, and asked if I could make a mini-3D course on his property. He has several wooded acres that are crisscrossed with paths. Carl also hunts with a bow and I explained he’d have full use these of faux-animal. Carl said sure and the next morning I setup the range.

While in the woods with my animal models, I came upon a spot that looked like pigs had been rooting. Wild pigs can a problem and I wasn’t overly pleased to see sign of them a hundred yards away from my front door. My wife’s and neighbor’s gardens could end up tasty treats for the varmints.

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River checking out an area where some pigs had been rooting

The pig investigation didn’t slow me down very much from the task of selecting the idea and most natural position for my foam targets. Once they’d all been arranged I shot at them and my other flat targets for a couple of hours. The mini-3D range is pretty good. I’ll need to collect more fake animals and continue working them into the wood.

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Another round with the wind.

My Mathews ZXT is in the shop. The cable rollers on the cable rod bit the dust. I’d purchased the bow in 2014. It was a leftover at a bow shop that had lost its Mathews dealership. I was surprised by this failure so soon.  The ZXT is, in my opinion, a lot more fun to shoot than my Mathews Conquest Apex 7. I shoot it a lot and parts do wear out.

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Because my ZXT is gone for repair, tomorrow I’ll be shooting my Apex 7 in a 3D tournament.  I plan to use pins and needed to remove the pin sight from the ZXT and attach it to the other bow. This meant setting the pins on the Apex 7.

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if I were in Maryland, I could have been doing this rather than fighting the wind here in North Carolina.

Par for the course, the wind here was relentless all day. Perfect weather for sailing but not perfect to sighting in pins. In order to get my yardage correct I used a tape measure rather than a range finder to set my distances. I marked the range at 5-yard increments from 20 to 60 yards. Even though I measured out to 60, I only set pins out to 50 yards.

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From 50-yards, in this wind, I’ll take it for now. (That’s a fresh target – definitely not my first 3 shoots)

After 2 hours in the morning and another 2 hours in the afternoon (broken up with yard work) I think I’ve just about got the pins where I wanted them. Bonus, I didn’t miss the target once.

River Being Proud

Cool, a nice medal from USA Archery and the perfect model to show it off.

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For years, River has “modeled” awards for me. This medal, from USA Archery, arrived today. When I opened the package she immediately tried to put it around her neck. Once it’s on, she seems serious and proud. It makes me wonder about reincarnation and who she might have been. When she sees medals she acts like she knows what they are and wants to wear them.