It’s You Not the Bow!

It’s you not the Bow! Well, we’ve all heard that one.

Last year I bought a new bow specifically for USA Archery and NFAA target shooting.  The old bow was fine.  The old bow is a catchall advertised to be useful for hunting, 3D and target shooting.  It is exactly as advertised.

I was at a point where my groups were tight; I’d won a number of tournaments with the one-bow-does-it-all and felt it was time to invest in equipment that might yield a few more points.  Specifically, a bow marketed exclusively for target shooting.

70 yard group with the old bow

This would mean a longer axil-to-axil for certain and perhaps a few other target specific alternations.  I bought a highly recommended target bow, which according to the salesman, “All the top pros are shooting this bow.”  I bought it.

With the new  bow I practiced and practiced.  At each tournament, new bow in hand, I lost and lost.

Notice the shotgun pattern formed with the newer bow. Now look at the three arrows that missed the target! I paused, took a bio-break, returned and the arrows all shot right. This is when I put the new target specific bow down and picked up the old bow, again.

The groups would be rather tight then there’d be a flyer.  The groups would widen and my scores would drop.  I just could not figure out the problem.  One day things would seem okay, the next arrows flying all over the place.

In the middle of 2018, after losing in a major event where I was up 6 points going into the final six arrows I put the bow down.  I loaded up the catchall bow, went to the next tournament and set a new State record. I figured it was a fluke. I grabbed the fancy target specific bow and started working with it, again. And again, I lost and lost.

I took the new bow to my local archery shop and they checked it out, made some adjustment and returned it.  It shot well for a while – then arrows began landing in shotgun patterns. I emailed the manufacturer and explained what was happened.  There was no response.

Most notably, when shooting at increasing distance, the windage needed to be adjusted. Those adjustments were not slight.  Arrows would land wider and wider as the distance increased. Oh, there was no wind and it was the same target.  I’d shoot at 30 yards and work my way out to 70 yards adjusting the windage every ten yards.  It felt like it wasn’t me and I began asking more questions. I even hired a coach to see if I’d gotten out of tune.

When it came to the problem of shooting the new bow there were all manner of answers and voodoo remedy: “You have to bend your bow arm with this bow,” “You need to keep your bow arm straighter,” “ You bend your bow arm and keep it straight at the same time,” “Keep your bow arm and back really extra tight, “ “If you’re too tight you’ll shoot your arrows right with this bow,” “This bow likes to be closer to the thumb of your bow hand,” “You need a new string,” “The string has stretched, “ “It is a little out of tune,” ”Your peep rotates,” “You’re too short for this bow,” and finally, “Maybe you just shoot the other bow better.” No doubt about the last comment. But, the question is, why? The other older bow isn’t a true target bow.  The flawed new bow is a true target bow.

Working with bow techs every manner of adjustment was tried and tested.  More weight, less weight, different release, different arrows, new angle on the front stabilizer, shorter rear stabilizer, etc. The course of less tight groups marched onward.

The ‘flawed’ term is what I’ve determined.  Over and over the new bow fails to shoot consistently.  You’d automatically want to blame the archer. The archer gave the bow a solid year of practice and over that time scores diminished with the new bow, while scores increased with the old entry level catchall bow.

Today, I shot 5% better with the catchall bow compared to the super target bow.  The comparison was over two days. I went back to the data on the two bows. Looking back over two years I averaged 10 points higher at 50-meters with the one bow does it all. In a final test, I took the catchall bow to an indoor range and shot a 5-spot.

Using the target bow I’d lost, taking second place, at the State NFAA 5-spot indoor championship missing the 5 three times.  I’d wanted to go to Cincinnati and compete at the NFAA Nationals.  In order to make the trip I set a minimum requirement for the State Championship.  That goal was 600 points over two days and 96 Xs.  I failed to reach that mark.  However, when testing the catchall bow, using skinny outdoor arrows, I shot a one-day total of 300 points and 52 Xs.  That was the final straw.

Yes, I know I need to get get my elbow around. This lands the arrow wide right. Even so, wide right is still in the white if not a 3 o’clock X.

I believe good equipment is paramount at a certain level of competition with any sport.  I also believe, in archery, shoot the bow you shoot best.  Needless to say, I am extremely disappointed in the bow purchased with the intent to improve my scores a little.  That new bow didn’t pan out. No, in this case, it is the bow. But, the question why remains unanswered.

Lots of Competition Among the Older Runners

Before I left the house on Saturday morning, aside from stretching and eating breakfast, I took River for a run. We ran a short mile.  I kept it short because I needed to get on the road. I had a 5K race at 0900.

The race was really a nice run.  Over half of it was off road.  There was a good crowd even if the weather was a little sketchy.

Interestingly, the collection of subsets of runners on this Saturday is becoming more defined by my observations. I’ve been noticing this evolution of the running collective over years. It breaks down something like this:

There’s the young crowd of local track team members.  Then, there are women and more mature men.  By mature men, I mean the population of men over 50.

Here’s the thing about this group of runners at the 5K, some male age groups were totally unrepresented. There were no male runners from 19 years old to 24 years old.  There were two male runners between the ages of 25 and 29 and zero male runners between 30 and 34.  The age groups didn’t get populated for men until the 45 years old group. From 45 years old to 75 years old the grey haired male runners were abundant. Not only were there plenty of mature male runners those in attendance were fast.  The second fastest time of the day came from the 70 – 75 year old male group with the old fellow pacing out sub-7 minute miles.

After the race when I read the times I wanted to meet the 70+ year old man that ran sub-7 minute miles. So did another runner or two and we searched for him looking for his bib number.  We didn’t find him.  Obviously, he’d won and headed home, back to Snellville.  We all assumed he ran home.

I won my age group and did well overall.  I’d noticed the medals and wanted one so I stayed for the award ceremony.  Sometimes I see the award medal decide it isn’t worth the wait then head home skipping the award ceremony. But, this medal was clearly unique and a fair amount of thought had gone into its design.  I wanted it so I waited.

The wait wasn’t long – they started with the higher age groups and I’m in the third from the oldest group for this race.  When they called my name I walked to the awards area.  They’d handed the 2ndand 3rdplace finishers the cool looking medal each with a bronze or silver finish.  I received a water bottle!

To be fair, it is a nice metal water bottle.  I’m sure it cost more that the medal.  The water bottle has nothing on it to represent the race.  It’s a water bottle with a local middle school logo – the school whose grounds were used to host the race.  I am disappointed.  If I’d known, I’d had held back for second.

What I do know is there seemed to be percentage-wise few young adult males in this race.  When I first began running, then racing, the male population was by far the largest percentage of a race.  Not too long ago at major marathon the women, for the first time in that race’s history, outnumbered the male runners. Since then, not knowing the exact count, I think the races I’ve entered have been at least even based to gender and if anything the higher number of runners appearing to be female.  Certainly, in this 5K the female population was greater in number than the male population.

Turing the heat down


A new target – nice

Slowly spring is coming. There was a bit of a struggle during the past few days and it was cold.  It has starting warming up, and– hopefully – the struggle is over.

Started off okay then went downhill
Maybe, just maybe, this little heater can remain off until October

Practicing at 60 yards in the cold sucks. As practice continued to grind the temperature slowly climbed.  As it warmed apparel was removed. The little outdoor heater was cranked off and the gloves came off.

It warmed up and the jackets came off

Despite the warming I still shot poorly.  Far too many 8s.  Still the outdoor season is young and the first 50-meter tournament is not until May.

River is happy regardless of the temperature

Oh, Nike, My Nike!

On this very site there was once a page dedicated to my “sponsors.” I liked and used their products. For several years I kept in touch with them, sent the required quarterly updates, had links from my website to their website. Some provided a small discount to me when I bought from them. A couple even gave me stuff at no cost other than using their products.  Over time I decided to drop my sponsors.  I got tired of putting together all those reports, emailing them, and then following up to see if my report had been received.  I supposed the marketing folks at those former sponsor companies had bigger fish to fry.

Nike!  If you want a great sponsor don’t even consider Nike.  They’re a great sponsor.  Nike isn’t interested in your request for sponsorship.  If you are good enough, they’ll find you. In cycling, decades ago, Nike was one of my sponsors. Nike probably had no idea I was one of their athletes.

I got free Nike apparel because I raced bicycles for Trek.  I had a contract to represent Trek as a member of their “Mid-Atlantic Factory Team.”

A lot of my “stuff” is still in the original packaging

Trek gave me all manner of free stuff including bicycles, bicycle parts and racing kits.  Those kits were adorned with the Nike swoosh. One of those free bicycles was the equivalent of getting seven top end Mathews or Hoyt compound target bows a year.  It beats the heck out of a 25% discount on a dozen arrows or bowstring. To make matters better I never had to send in a personalized summary of my races. Someone knew and kept track.

Never been opened. (Most of my Trek kits have been well used and are still in use.)

A Nike sponsorship would be nice.  I need new running shoes.  This year I’ve run through four pairs of running shoes.  The last pair on hand is disintegrating with every mile.  I have a race tomorrow and am hoping the shoes don’t fall apart during the run. If they do, it won’t be Nike’s fault.

Running shoes aren’t so expensive that a new pair will break the bank.  A new pair is around $134.00.  Call me cheap, but I hate buying new running shoes.

Nike never provided me with running shoes.  My loose connection with Nike didn’t go past the free kits from Trek.  Once, a representative from Nike did give me a free pair of Nike bicycle racing shoes.  I think he just wanted to get rid of them and they happened to be my size. I still have them – I can’t run a step wearing them.

When it comes to sponsors I miss the free stuff.  Buying new running shoes or a new bowstring pains me.  It is also a pain to pay entry fees and travel expenses.  There was a time those costs didn’t come out of my wallet either. But, for the most part we athletes have to pay to play. I suppose I’ll have to bite the bullet and fork out the cash, again, for a new pair of running shoes.  Then, I’ll need to do the same for arrows and a bowstring.

The ASA’s Doping Announcement

It was 1973 when Howard Taylor, a teammate and friend, and I were at the US World Cycling Trials in California.  Our chance to make the team would come in an event on the Velodrome in San Jose.  If we made the team our next official race would be in Munich, Germany.

Howard and I were fast.  At any race we’d finish 1st or 2nd with each of us often fighting it out for the top position.  While we were just about even Howard beat me more times than I beat him. Before heading to the west coast from our homes in Savannah, Georgia we figured we’d make the team.  We knew whom we were up against and we knew how we’d do racing against them.

In California our dream didn’t end up as we’d imaged, at least for me.  All the races were fast, everyone was fast.  But, there was a group that seemed to have jumped ahead of the rest of us. The day of my chance to qualify, I was a bit under the weather, and didn’t even race.*

The bronchitis I was suffering was just an excuse.  I knew there was no way I could match the times coming from a small group of cyclists.  Prior to going to California I’d figured on a second to third place finish, at the worst and one spot behind Howard.  The times I was watching would at best land me in sixth place – not on the team.  I decided to save my legs for the regional and state champions.  Howard raced and earned the only remaining spot on the team.

That was 46 years ago.  I still remember the shock of seeing guys shave significant times off their prior finishes.  It seemed impossible.

Decades later, I learned those advances in performance had been assisted by doping.  Their coach and the riders all admitted they’d been doping.  At the time, the blood doping they used and other performance enhancing drugs weren’t yet banned.

In those days I knew nothing about doping.  Our coach never mentioned doping to us.  Thirty years later while I was visiting my former coach we talked about those trials.  He knew the other cyclists had doped.  Doping for our coach was cheating and he never even explained it.  It simply didn’t exist for any of his teams.

Yesterday, while at archery practice, a group of coaches was talking about a recent announcement by the ASA.  The ASA announced they would start drug testing.

Their conversation revolved around other archers, winning tournaments that take beta-blockers for their high blood pressure.  One archer, a top finisher at a recent major event, had explained he was upset by the ASA’s announcement.  He’d stated that he’d just gotten his blood pressure regulated with the correct dosing of his new beta-blockers. He also commented that the ASA’s announcement hadn’t come in time for him to get a therapeutic use exemption (TUE) before the next Pro/Am event.

The ASA has had an anti-doping policy for years.  They’ve just not been implementing it.  The complaining top archer knew that his beta-blockers are banned in archery. Yet, until the ASA’s announcement, they are going to begin testing,  he’d never bothered to submit a TUE.

A fellow I raced and trained with during the years I spent doing triathlons is a doper.  He was a professional.  He was really good at the sport of triathlon.  He eventually got caught doping.

In his defense he claimed he had a prescription. He’d never submitted a TUE.  To bad, said the USADA, you’re banned for two-years.

Would that triathlete have been as good without the banned substance – no he would not have.  He’d been good, only not as good.

What about the archer that has been using a beta-blocker because he has a prescription and has not submitted a TUE? Would he be as good without the beta-blocker? Is it honest to compete using a banned substance, when you know it is banned, and not disclose your use of the drug?

In archery:

“Beta-blockers are prohibited both Out of Competition and In-Competition. Beta-blockers are used by athletes who require a steady hand, increased focus and a relaxed state of mind to perform at the highest level. Beta-blockers are banned because they block the effect of adrenaline and help the heart work more efficiently thereby reducing blood pressure, heart rate, muscle tremors and even anxiety. Examples of beta blockers that are used illegally are Propanolol which is used to steady the hands and increase the ability to focus, metoprolol with its extended release formula and atenolol which helps athletes control symptoms of performance anxiety.”1

I don’t know about you, but during a tournament I get excited.  My heart rate is up, my adrenaline is pumping, and I expect my blood pressure (BP) may be a bit elevated.  My resting BP is 117/68. My resting heart rate (HR) is around 57 (taken sitting here typing while under the influence of Red Bull). I’ve never taken my BP before a tournament.  While I’ve not checked my HR during archery competition, I know it is up.  I can feel my heart pounding away.  Sometimes I don’t calm down until 20 arrows have been shot.  If I’m going to fire off a poor shot, it is going to happen near the onset of a competition.

I’ve never set a personal best during a tournament. Would a beta-blocker help with those performance related symptoms of heart rate and adrenaline?  Yes, it would help.

If I had high blood pressure would I take a beta-blocker? Yes. Archery is fun, strokes are not fun. If I had high blood pressure and needed a prescription of a banned drug would I apply for a TUE? Yes. Otherwise, I’d be cheating.

More to the point, have I ever competed against archers using banned substances? Frankly, I’m not sure I’ve ever competed at a major event where other archers weren’t taking beta-blockers.

Do I think archers should be allowed to receive a TUE for the use of a beta-blocker to compete in archery? No, I do not. If I needed a beta-blocker I’d submit a TUE.  I’d also expect it to be rejected.

When applying for a TUE the USADA has stated:

In these cases, despite undisputed medical indications for the therapeutic use of beta-blockers, the TUE applications were rejected because the athletes could not demonstrate the absence of an enhancing effect on their individual performance. 2

Archery is a sport.  As an archer, you are an athlete.  Athletes are fit. For most of us there are ways to reduce blood pressure without using drugs. 3.   The Mayo Clinic’s first two methods listed to reduce BP: exercise and diet. 3

If your dream is the be an athlete and your waist is over 40 inches for a man and 35 for a women, you probably need to take some action to reduce your risk of high blood pressure. Then, work on being an athlete.  You can’t be an athlete if you’re dead.

If you’re not going to put in the work and you are on beta-blockers, still shoot.  Only, compete in the “Fun” category until you’ve either gotten healthy enough to compete clean or can show that the banned substance you take doesn’t improve your performance as an archer.

*Years later, I did earn a spot on a USA Team to represent the USA at the World Championship in the Long Course Duathlon. And, yes I have been tested for performance enhancing drugs.

References:

1.)        http://www.greygoosearchery.co.uk/drugs-archery/

2.) https://www.usada.org/wp-content/uploads/TUE_guidance-cardiovascular-conditions.pdf

3.) https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/high-blood-pressure/in-depth/high-blood-pressure/art-20046974

 

Time to Go Long

After shooting at 20 meters for months it is refreshing to start 50-meter practice.  The next competition for me is not until May.  In May that event is the Georgia Cup.

50-meters

There are other tournament, like the NFAA Nationals in Cincinnati, Ohio and the Arizona Cup, but I’ll skip those events.  They both represent a huge expense for little reward.

There are 3D shoots but 3D probably isn’t going to be a major discipline for me in 2019. Certainly, 3D is enjoyable and I was looking forward to at a minimum the Georgia ASA State Championship.  Being bow poor, having one for skinny arrows only, it seems like a waste of time to train then compete against fat arrows.  Additionally, I’ve e heard that in Georgia archers who compete in the State Championship must complete two qualifiers.  Georgia is a big State and getting to qualifiers can be expensive.

Still there’s a pull to shoot in some 3D competitions.  I’ve got an old Mathews Conquest Apex 3 stored in a case; maybe I could bring that out and shoot it for 3D.  I’d sold the bow once and the fellow that bought it gave it back to me.  He said, “Keep this bow and keep the money.”  It is suppose to have been a good bow.

Something may pop-up between now and May, I hope so.  I need to feed my urge to compete.  Worse case, I run a lot of 5ks.

Changing Bows Before a Big Tournament

Last year I purchased a bow specifically for target shooting.  During practices I’ve had some decent scores with the bow.  In tournaments, it has been another story.

Yesterday, during practice, using the target bow, I wasn’t shooting badly.  However, I wasn’t shooting what I felt was going to reach my average score.  I stopped shooting, took the sight, scope, and stabilizers off the target bow and out it on my 3D bow.

I’ve not shot the 3D bow too often since last year and it took a few ends to get the feel of it with the longer stabilizers.  After practice I compared the scores.  The non-target bow ended up scoring 5 points higher.  While that might not be statistically significant, it could be extremely important in an archery tournament.  I’ve lost more tournaments by a point than I care to think about. Heck, I’ve lost three with the same points as the winner. Twice I had the same X-count as the winner as well. Of those, I ended up losing by a one by a single arrow closest to the center shoot off. Another time I lost to the inner X count, and once to a one-arrow X margin.  Those were hard loses.

Thus far, in tournaments, I’ve never set a personal best. In other sports competition is where all my personal bests were established.  Adrenaline may help in running or cycling, but it isn’t a friend to the archer.  In archery, anything than can help to reduce excitement and calm the performer can be a benefit.  Maybe going with a different bow that feels a little trustworthier will help over the next two days.

I suppose I know pretty soon.

Another Tough Tournament Done

Coming into the Georgia Bowhunter and Archery Association/NFAA Sectional I felt it would be a tight contest. I expected podium places would often come down to the X count and even the inner X.  I was right.

I heard the official talking as they were tallying the scores.  One commented that, “I think scores like this should be settled by a shoot-off rather than the inner X count.”

I’d gathered at two archers had scored the same points for a 1stplace finish and had the same number of Xs.  Choosing the winner was going to come down to the inner X count. Essentially, which archer’s Xs were, by a judgment call, closer to the center based on how a group counted the center or inner Xs. Little did I know.

For the second tournament in two weeks I’m busted down a level based on Xs.  Well, in this case, the inner Xs.  My score and the ultimate winner’s score were the same, our X count, the same and while the inner X score wasn’t posted, I must assume he had more inner Xs than me –it would have taken only one. (A measurement of less than a millimeter would do it). It is a hard way to lose.

No points separated the 1stand 2ndplace (or Xs) and only one point between that score and 3rd.  It was tight.

Georgia Bowhunter and Archery Association / NFAA Sectionals

Day 1: Things where going really well.  Then, they weren’t.

If you are unfamiliar with an NFAA Indoor competition in archery, archers standing 20 yards away, shoot at 5 targets per end. In other words, archers shoot 5 arrows, stop, wait, score, wait some more, shoot 5 more arrows, and repeat until 60 arrows have been shot.  For two lines of archers that takes about three and a half hours. Oh, then all of it is repeated the next day.

This is what a 5-spot looks like. Well trained arrows should stick into the target in this manner.

The maximum score is 300 hundred points per day in this type of tournament. 300 isn’t an uncommon score. Winning typically comes down to the X count.  And, the X count is often divided into inner X versus outer X. The arrow landing inside the middle of the X ring and not touching the outer edge of the X ring counts as an inner X and is scored by putting a circle around the X on the scorecard. Sometimes, the scores are the same, the X count is the same and the winner is decided from the count of those inner Xs (The archer coming closest to the exact center more often than the opponent.)

I was rolling along heading for a 300 when this arrow seemingly decided to shoot itself.  Now, that happens a good bit with me and today was no different.  All the other times those independently acting arrows ended up in a good place. But, this one time, well the arrow being somewhat new remains untrained and I lost a point.  Believe me, 299 is not the score I was aiming for.

Of course, I had about 15 more arrows to shoot when the “event” occurred.  And sure enough everything was fine after that occurrence.  Yep, in archery one mistake can screw up your entire day.

Archery: 10% mental and 90% trying not to quit.

 

First 3D of 2019

Saturday was cold enough for a 3D competition.  It was 43°F and a little windy.  I’d debated whether to shoot the 3D event or run a 5K.  3D won because I forgot to enter the race.

Trying to keep my hands warm

The 3D course was excellent. The targets were thoughtfully placed.  But, I’m yet to find a group to consistently shoot with during a 3D tournament here in Georgia.  So, I ended up shooting alone and doing the fun shoot because I had no scoring partners. I can do that on my property.

You can guess what’s out there..
It is an unwritten rule, no javelina less that 30 yards.

There was another fellow shooting alone and I thought about joining with him.  As I approached, I read his body language and decided against asking.  It is almost always awkward to ask, “Can I shoot with you?”  So, I shot for fun.

The trees lining this, the larger ones are easy to see, but there are also smaller ones that make this 35 yard target fun
Really fun shot

That fellow did speak to me once.  We were one adjacent targets.  I was looking for the animal.  Speaking from recent experience he said, “There!” while pointing an arrow at the target for which I’d been searching.  I replied with equal vocal conservation, “Thanks!”

Indeed, the course was fun. It was nice to shoot a course where the animals are not all sitting at the end of a straight open corridor as far away as possible.  It makes the shots more interesting.

It didn’t take long to score, pull and move on.

I shot in the hunter class. After the shot I recorded the distance. The average target was at 32 yards with the shortest at 21 yards and the longest in that class at 43 yards.

43 yards is getting back there for pins. For me it meant an 8 just off the 10 line

During the time on the range it began to sleet a little.  The wind picked up a little and it remained cold.  As the morning progressed more people arrived.  By the time I was at target 15 there was another group of 4 shooting behind me at target 4.  One of those archers was wearing short pants.  Beyond that fact, you can draw your own conclusions.

Yep, those are short pants

I did ask him, “Why are you wearing shorts in this weather?” He said, “I wear shorts unless the temperature gets down into the 20s.”  He added, “I don’t like the way long pants feel.”

I left the range a little disappointed.  I didn’t shoot the score I’d hoped ending up with a 191.  It could have been worse.  While in flight two arrows lost vanes and went forward a tad on the wobbly side. One flew left hitting an eight and the other when high and left landing a five.  In addition, I earned three more 8s, and only two 12s to compensate. Every other arrow, 12 of them, were 10s. If I’d not been shooting for fun this would have dropped me into second in the hunter class, the top score being 202.

Twice, really, twice?

Shooting 3D in 2019 is beginning to look as if it will only be done for fun.  With the Georgia ASA requiring two qualifying tournaments to shoot the State ASA 3D I’ll probably not fool with it.  It comes down to not enough reward for the money and time to meet the addition qualification requirements.  That, and I don’t think there’s a reason to qualify twice. (If this is incorrect, maybe someone will let me know)

Thanks to the folks at Social Circle Ace for putting out a great range!