“90% of the game is 50% mental’” Yogi Berra.

Shooting, like other sports, requires practice. Practice isn’t simply heading to a range and firing away at the target. For each session there should be specific goals, physical as well as mental. Then, there are those days where mental breakdown leads to really dumb shots. When that happens, it is best done during practice not in a tournament.

Last summer, in a 3D tournament, I had a momentary lapse in brain. Seriously, my brain seemed to have been totally elsewhere. I’d approached a target. It was a shot I felt, I knew I had the 12 (it was an ASA tournament), and my confidence was overwhelming. I went through my form, alignment, drew, aimed, and then dry fired by bow. I’d never in my life dry fired my bow. I didn’t even know what had happened until my brain returned.

Yesterday, I had a very specific mental exercise I’d planned for practice. I was excited to give this technique, as explained by sports psychologist Gary Mack, a try. I’d gathered my bow, the target was set, quiver and arrows on my hip, binoculars hanging over my neck, baseball cap on, and my Rudy Project shooting glasses donned. I looked the part and felt the part.

Setting up for the shot, I worked through establishing my form, added the mental bit from Mack’s lecture, found the X and fired. The arrow went high. Not a little high – HIGH. It sailed over the target. Obviously, something was wrong. I repeated the process with another arrow. Exactly as before the arrow went high. Again, not a little high but over the entire target. It was like deja-vu all over again. Then, my brain caught up with my body.

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The day before, I’d been shooting longer distances. My last round was at 50 yards. The two high shots were from 20 yards. My brain decided let me know I’d not adjusted the sight for 20 yards and had been aiming for a 50-yard distance.

Yogi was right, 90% of the game is 50% mental.

 

 

Outside in the country

As most often the case my day began with a run. It was followed by archery practice, lunch, a boat ride, more archery and finally grilling fish for dinner. When the weather is as nice as it was yesterday, it is nearly impossible to stay indoors.

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Beginning of a good day

In the morning, running with my dog River we have two agendas. I run for fitness as much for pleasure. For River running is all pleasure and is followed by a swim. Before she hit the water she was already soaked having run through every creek, puddle and ditch we passed.

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There is no keeping River out of water

My morning archery practice was devoted to a 5-spot at 20 yards. In that morning session I worked on form and mental relaxation. As the day warmed, I put down the bow and readied my boat for time on the water.

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My 5-spot for the morning

There was little wind so the river was very flat. Flat water is great in a Carolina Skiff. Rather than head out to the Albemarle Sound we, Brenda my wife and I,  took a cruise of the more swampy parts of Little River. The clear sky and bright sun gave us an inspirational view of nature in in North Carolina.

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Brenda at the helm

 

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My iPhone camera didn’t do this duck justice

The boat ride over I began my afternoon archery session, this time working at longer distances and odd angles. I didn’t shoot any further than 50 yards. Because my bow is slow (thanks in part to a short draw) it is as much fun waiting to hear the arrow strike the target, as it is shooting from further away. Because we live in such seclusion the main sound we hear are those of birds and animals. It isn’t difficult to hear the pop of an arrow at even 60 yards.

IMG_2908It was dark by the time we began dinner. Today it was grilled perch and striper, cheese grits and green beans. The fish was cooked slowly over lump coal and wood – pretty incredible.

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Living in the country is the best.

One Percentage Point

In the past, I’ve mentioned keeping records of my shooting. I keep scores, where I trained or competed, the bow, arrows, tips and other bits of data. The other data often includes physiological and nutritional data. The physiological and nutritional data remains a bit too sparse to draw conclusions. The equipment data is more enlightening.

One of the most frequent paper targets I shoot is a 5-spot. The data on this target spans twelve months, January 2014 until January 2015. The earlier data scores are lower than the scores recorded later in the year. There is a clear progression of improving scores. However, the improvement is not statically significant.

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Morning practice target

Statistical significant is important when determining whether or not a test method difference is meaningful. In sports, data that isn’t statistically significant doesn’t mean that something important has or has not occurred.

A great example are data that were collected during my cycling career. For months I repeated a 10-mile time trial to measure the effect of a training technique. The data wasn’t statistically significant. The improvement in time to complete the trial was a major improvement – about 2 minutes. Two minutes could be the difference between 1st place and 10th place.

In archery, the data collected revealed that over the course of the year I had a 6% improvement in my scores, which leveled out after a few months. What is interesting is that over the second half of the year, my average is a 1% below a consistent 300 (100%), or an average score of 298. Is it me, or is it the equipment?

Scoring a 300 every time I practice on a 5-spot isn’t likely. Still, improving my 5-spot average is possible. So, where do I make minor improvements that can defeat one or two poorly placed shots?

There are little adjustments that must be made in the physiological (form) of my shooting. These seem somewhat apparent when I lose form. In the meantime is there anything else missing?

In all sports, there is the equipment. In cycling there was a time I competed on a mid-level racing bike. Not the best bike and certainly not the worst. Then, I was given a bike that had been ridden by one of the professional cyclists in the Tour de France. Not a replica, the very same bike ridden by Rodolfo Massi before he was disqualified for using performance-enhancing drugs. When I rode the bike, it was nearly 3 pounds lighter than my previous one; it felt like I was cheating. I wasn’t taking performance-enhancing drugs, but in this case, the change in my equipment was significant, especially during climbs.

In archery very minor adjustments have an impact. My bow is a Mathews Apex 7, a bow with a good track record in tournaments. My sight is a top end Axcel with a high end SA Scope. My release is a Scott Pro Advantage. My arrow rest is a mid-range model that has raised eyebrows and earned questions.

Thus far I have been fairly pleased with the arrow rest barring a time or two when it didn’t drop and once when it broke. But, a bow technician asked way did I have such nice equipment and still used a mid-range rest. Does my rest account for a very slight variance in accuracy?

If it does, that occurrence might only happen less than 1% of the time. Maybe it is that 1% of time when a very slight “arrow rest” variance led to a less than perfect shot. If so, maybe it accounts for the 1% gap recorded from my average to perfection. (I do occasionally shot a 300)

In practice today, I used my mid-range arrow rest. I shot a 5-spot for training this morning. Later, today I’ll work on yardage. Later this week, I’ll investigate changing my arrow rest to a top end model. Today, I shot a 298. The lessor shots where entirely not the fault of the arrow rest.

Getting outside in January

A few hours after shooting today, following lunch and a short nap, it was time to run. The weather remained less than excellent, but it was not raining – at the moment.

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My Rudy Project shooting glasses have more than one function.

One thing for certain is that where I train is beautiful. It is common to see eagles above our river, in the woods, and at times in our yard. Yesterday, we had two in the trees beside our house.

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With all the rain the little creeks that led to the larger river were over flowing. River, my full time running partner, jumped in nearly every creek we passed.

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Shooting and running outside in the winter can be a challenge. But, if you are like me and enjoy being outdoors, you will find a way to get there.

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A cold, wet and windy run.

The weather has played havoc with my training. The cold, wind and rain have been relentless. Today, I wasn’t able to shoot outside.  My friends that have an indoor range had other matters that keep them from shooting so I had no where to shoot. Alas, I’d run despite the adverse climatic conditions.

Lately, I’ve been competing in shorter events, 5K runs. Five kilometers is quick, the pain is over shortly after starting and they don’t take all day. But, I am running in a longer event, a ½ marathon, in April so it is time to increase my mileage.

The rain decreased to a light misty drizzle so I took that as my chance to run. The run was only a 10K. The wind was coming off the river and for the first 5K I’d have the wind to my back.

Heading out, that first half of the run felt great. With the wind to my back and wearing plenty of clothing to stay warm, I worked up a sweat. Then, I turned for the 5K-leg home. Sweat gets cold fast.

Some people enjoy the cold. I expect many of my friends in more northern latitudes would have made the 31°F run in shorts and a light jacket. Not me, I wore several shirts, a super heavy jacket, gloves, a thick cap, and dense long cycling tights.

The wind would have felt worse on a bike. In fact, I’d considered cycling, but my training plan called for a run. Still, the gale force wind did its best to stop me in my tracks.

I’ll admit it was great to get outside. An hour back from the run I was taking a nap. I never did get around to shooting. I didn’t thaw until around 4 PM. My toes are just coming around.

Tomorrow doesn’t look much better. Nevertheless, I’ll be out there – running.

Running in Easton, MD

In North Carolina, River (my dog) runs with me ‘free-range’. By that I mean she isn’t connected to a lease. I carry a lease in case its needed, but as rule, she doesn’t need it. There aren’t any cars. In Maryland, there are cars everywhere.

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River is the best running partner. She enjoys getting out and moving. My biggest complaint is that she stops a lot particularly during the first mile or two.

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We always pause so she can sniff and at times drop off a little urine  to let other dogs know she’s in town. After two miles River settles down for the long haul.

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Even though River is good on a 3D range and enjoys visiting with other archers,  she is at her best on a run or in the water.

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River loves other archers – especially the ones with food to spare

Running free range in North Carolina is always topped off with a swim. But, while we’re in Maryland we’ll follow the rules and run leased. It also means she can’t jump in the ponds we pass during our runs in Easton.

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Good month down South, cold here in Maryland

During the past month I’ve completed two three 5K races and 2 archery tournaments. I raced in Georgia, North Carolina and Maryland and placed 3rd twice and 2nd once. The archery tournaments were in Georgia and North Carolina. The temperature during the race in Maryland was 29 degrees F.  Yuck!

Georgia’s shoot was a USA Archery event, 18 meters, indoors on a 3-spot and I was second in the masters’ class. In North Carolina the shoot was an indoor 3D event and I placed 2nd in the bow hunters’ group.

We also had some success hunts in Georgia and we are stocked on venison.

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Man, it is cold and windy here in Maryland

Currently, I am in Maryland. We’ll stay here until early December. After that Brenda, the dogs, and I will be heading to North Carolina to check the progress on our house renovations. Then, back to Georgia where I hope to thaw out, hunt and compete in a tournament in Conyers, GA.

Putting it on the line at Darleen’s Flamingo 5K

On November 1st,  I ran in the 5th Annual Darleen’s Flamingo 5K. The run is a charity event with proceeds and donations benefitting the Shepard Cancer Foundation. It is held in honor of Darleen Smith. It was a unique experience among 5K runs.

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Darleen fought a hard battle against Breast Cancer and lived by her favorite slogan, “Make Your Own Party”. The run took place in the waterfront community of Smithton, NC.

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View from the start finish line

The event was a scenic drive from my home  that took nearly two hours to complete. As I approached the race I recognized I was getting close because signs and Pink Flamingos were posted on roads and in yards. Nearing registration I was directed to a parking area some distance away. The weather was windy, wet and cold. I wasn’t looking forward to a hike or jog back and forth to my car to get ready for the run.

Pulling into the parking area I was saw dozens of ATVs. This caravan of ATVs was on hand to shuttle people back and forth to their cars. And, the caravan was in full operation.

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Shuttle service to registration then to the start line

I was amazed at the turn out for this 5K. It seemed the entire community showed up in support of Darleen’s Flamingo. Her motto, “Make you own party” appeared to have been adapted en masse. The start / finish line were in the community which had the atmosphere of a block party.

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Start line

The race started without delay and the wind did its best to remain forcefully in our faces. I drafted two ‘big’ guys; they looked like high school football players until there was a tail wind. The tail wind, short lived, was enough to help me gain a lead over the ‘big’ guys and I maintained it until the finish where I placed third in my age group.

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The 80 year old Winner of the 66 – 99 age group. He finished the 5K in around 30 minutes

After many races there is food for the runners. Food often means a bottle of water and perhaps a piece of fruit or cold bagel. Darleen’s Flamingo did it differently – they served breakfast. (The race started at 5 PM)

This wasn’t a half-hearted Hampton Inn breakfast. They served: grits, eggs, cheese biscuits, pancakes, bacon, sausage, a variety of desserts and fruit. It was incredible. I am going back next year if for nothing else the food!

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Post-race food line

It seemed hundreds of people turned out for this block party charity event. Each, in their way, “Put it on the Line” for a good cause. Darleen’s Flamingo stands out as one of the coolest 5Ks I’ve ever run.

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Running, shooting, and picking up poop.

When we drive back to Easton I look forward to seeing friends living there. It is also fun to shoot on familiar ranges and train on well-worn running courses. So far, this trip has played out pretty much as expected.

Shooting at Cypress Creek is always warm and friendly. So many harsh winter days were spent firing away on their range. Throughout the winter, Charlie and Harry gave me frequent tips and pointers. Both are experienced bow hunters and accomplished competitors.

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The range all to myself at Cypress Creek.

Shore Sportsmen was my second indoor range to visit. Much closer to my home in Maryland, about 2 miles, it is my choice to practice where “shooting short” is not going to matter. Their attic range distance is only about 16 yards.

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Kenny, Archery Manager at Shore Sportsmen in Easton, MD
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Fun times (expensive way to loose arrows) in the attic at Shore Sportsmen

Running our neighborhood offers it’s own adventure. Not so much for the run course, but for the interactions with people along the run. However, the backside of the 3 mile loop is adjacent to protected  land that has several miles of trails. Running the trails increases the distance from 5 to 10 miles depending on how I run it and where I exist.

The real entertainment comes from greeting the people that live here. We live in a “retirement” community in Maryland. Most, rather all but perhaps three, of the people that live in our community either don’t or can’t run. I can and do run. That causes suspicion among the people that live here.

Rarely do the neighborhood folk venture too far out and their travel is almost exclusive to where they can go while sitting – in their cars to someplace else where they can sit. Runners, those that live outside of our community, occasionally pass through the subdivision. The entrances are marked with “Private Property”, “No Trespassing”, “No Soliciting”, “You aren’t wanted here”, and other non-welcoming signs.

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River and I running the trails near our house in Maryland

When I run, I wave, smile, greet people and often run with my dog, River. This infuriates other residents. They are certain; I don’t belong anywhere within their boundaries.

I’ve been approached, as I near lawns of others here with questions like:

“Did you see the signs? Can you read?” a-hole neighbor.

“Yes, I did see them. I can read. Do you need me to help you read them?” me.

“Hey! Are you lost!” a grumpy old man yelled and hacked in my direction.

I couldn’t think of anything catchy to rebuke and only said, “Nope” and kept running. Looking as I turned the corner, “Nope” was perfect. The old man was clearly outraged I had not stopped for further redress.

Once, someone sic’d the community manager on me. She chased my down by golf cart to warn me off the property. As a resident, I assure you, I was no way pleasant or polite to her false claim against me. If she had asked whether I was a resident my attitude and manner would have been calm and polite. However, she accused and threatened – that has never worked against me.

Running with River pisses off the neighborhood. Especially when she poops. I clean it up, of course, I always carry poop bags. Poop happens, just pick it up and keep on going, is a dog owner’s mantra.

Once, River pooped on a strip of public land between the community and a road. A neighbor, unfamiliar with clandestine techniques, pulled her car over to observe whether or not I’d clean up the mess. Of course, I could see her.

I walked over to the pile of poop. Took the empty poop bag, bent over the poop, reached down next to the poop, and grabbed nothing into the bag. The old woman in her car was too far away to confirm or deny my retrieval of the feces.

As see watched, I straighten, reached my free hand into the empty poop bag, pulled my hand free of the bag, and acted as if I was consuming what might have been in the bag. Even from 40 yards, I could see her mouth fall into her lap and her eyes bug out. It was a performance I have laughed over many times.

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Heading home in Easton

Not everyone living in our Maryland subdivision is a jerk or acts self-entitled, but too many fit that bill. In NC, where it is extremely rural, on those rare times when I pass someone  while running they always smile and wave.

Running through the Easton neighborhood is always a treat one way or another. Shooting at Cypress Creek and Shore Sportsmen will forever be enjoyable and leave me with great memories if not some improvement in my shooting.

Augment your shooting with other forms of exercise

It is important to augment archery with other forms of exercise. Some people advocate weight lifting, swimming and running. All are good. In addition to these, cycling is a great way to improve fitness and see the countryside.

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Tough guy on the side of the road

Typically, I do cardiovascular workouts early in the day. I’ll practice archery afterwards, in the morning and again in the late afternoon. Cycling is my favorite of the major disciplines in which I participate. While I enjoy running and swimming, aside from archery, I am a cyclist at heart.

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This old girl always greets me when I ride past her. She never chases and is always eager for an ear scratch.

As we age, we lose muscle mass, so weight lifting can help slow or reduce that loss. Going to a gym can be social and is more fun when your friends are involved.

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5 Mile turn around point of a 10 mile run course

Regardless of what you chose to augment your fitness, additional exercise can help improve your health and performance as an archer.