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)

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.

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.

Cutting Practice in Half

Each week I develop a training plan. That week includes a rest day. That day isn’t always on a 7-day cycle. Occasionally, I add an active recovery day and bump out the day off by three days.

There are also days when I know, from years of experience, that I’m pushing the envelop of fatigue. Today is one of those days.

It is just as hard not to get on a bike and ride in the afternoons as it is not to shoot. Took this picture on my ride yesterday.

I felt it beginning last night. After a league shoot I came hope and felt more tired that usual. Walking up stairs I noted my legs were sore. This morning after stretching, running and shooting I didn’t recover as fast as usual. It is time to take an afternoon off.

That means no cycling and no more shooting for today.

Just shy of 100 arrows I called it a day and skipped the afternoon practice

There are times when you know you need a break. It is mentally hard not to practice. What goes through your head is that someone else is getting an edge on you. That’s not the case. Still it is a tough call to rest especially when things are going well.

The Younger Archers and Me

It can be a little weird being the oldest person in the room. Often I’m the oldest person nearly everywhere I go where their or other athletes. Sure, there are plenty of people over 60 in sport. I’m just not crossing paths with many of them.

This is abundantly apparent during archery league shoots. Some of the archers I shoot against aren’t much older than my grandchildren. And here’s the thing – they are all really good.

By really good I mean youngsters that already have professional backing. One of their fathers, during a 3D tournament, explained to me his son, in high school, earned over $70,000 shooting his bow last year.

The other night, I listened to a conversation about geometry class between ends and the speaker hasn’t missed an X in weeks. He’s plastering the walls of the indoor range with vertical 3-spots whose centers are completely shot out.

Last week’s league was tense. I found myself in a 1-arrow shoot off with one of these rising stars. We both hit the X. My arrow was farther from exact center.

In my defense on that defeat, I was shooting skinny outdoor arrows versus the larger diameter indoor arrows. 18-meter shooting is not my concentration until after September 16th and my last outdoor tournament for the year is history. When that’s done I change my bow over to match my fat arrows. Still, it was humbling not winning.

The thing about shooting with such elite archers it improves my game. I still haven’t shot a 3-spot 600, but I am getting closer to that mark.

Taking a Break From Archery to Race

There were two choices, a bow hunter 3D tournament or a 5K race in Watkinsville. I selected the race.

I’d not raced a 5K in a while and felt I needed to run one. I’d just shot in a league shoot two nights ago that was pretty intense. Besides, I enjoy 5K races and this one was only 11 minutes from home.

The race was the 11th Butterfly Dream 5K. The race collects donations for a special needs adults and children. My wife, Brenda, had pointed out a sign near our local grocery store that aimed at getting more runners involved. The night before the race I chose to run rather than shoot. It would be a nice competitive break.

It didn’t bother setting an alarm to ensure I got up in time for the 8:00 AM race start. Eleven minutes away from home and two dogs with stomach breakfast timers would be enough to get me to registration with time to spare. I did have plenty of time the morning of the race. I found a good parking spot and was amazed at the numbers of cars and people that had showed up to huff, puff and pound pavement for 3.1 miles.

Runners crowding the start line

During registration I learned all the awards were custom with each one being uniquely hand painted by one of the children that are supported at Butterfly Dream Farms. I wanted one. Seeing the crowd of runners I recognized I was not alone in this desire.

Starting my race at the back of the pack

There are so many 5Ks around Athens that you expect packs of runner to be on the smaller side. Of the two 5Ks I’ve done this year that has not been the case. Today’s run had about 200 adult runners. What was another surprise was the herd’s age split. There seemed to be as many or more runners over 50 as under.

The course was very scenic for a short race

As runners were called to the line I headed to where I am most comfortable starting – in the back. The really fast runners crowd the line. I’ve been there. No longer do I feel the need to grab a few extra seconds or get in with a small fast group for pacing. Nope, get in the back, run my race and pass people. I am perfectly fine with reeling in other runners and keeping a pace that feels good.

There were two horses at the turn around. That was a first. I tried to get better pictures but I was running.

With a mile to go I felt I needed to push a bit and ran my fastest mile. It was in that mile that I passed the most other runners. My pace was just right to earn me a 3rd place finish.

A good new t-shirt and cool award for the morning’s work

When the race was over and times were posted it was evident that the winner of my age group was a serious runner having taken 3rd place overall. Athletes over 60 cranking out sub-20 minute 5Ks are in great shape. I’m okay with a more leisurely pace at this stage of my life.

Each award is different. Each was painted by a child. They were random in the order presented. I was happy with mine depicting the University of Georgia colors, two paw prints and Uga in the center.

While running I did think about the 3D tournament. I thought about driving over and shooting in it after the run. I’ve done that in the past. In that instance it was a 10K followed by a 3D competition both in Maryland. That, too, was a lot of fun.

When I flipped my award over it became more special because it was painted by a child named David.

Today, however, I decided to skip the 3D shoot altogether. I’ll practice a bit this afternoon on my range. That is after a nap and before the Georgia football game.