Finding Space to Shoot at Home in Georgia

We fenced in part of our property here in Good Hope, Georgia. For the first time our dogs, River and Nixie need to live within the box. Both grew up on the Little River in North Carolina and have little experience with a fence. Their days of being free range dogs are behind them.

It’s not a small box, around 14,000 square feet, but it is still a box. And within that box I needed to set up an 18-meter stop for targets.

The first arrangement was nice and level. However, the sun was always in my face. The area within the fence has little to offer when it comes to level ground. But, the sun always directly in my eyes at the initial target placement meant finding the next best place to set my blocks.

Along the northeastern edge of the fence lays the second most level potential and didn’t need addition tree removal to shoot 18-meters. So, there is where the target now sits.

Shooting a bit downhill. More blocks of brick will fix this problem.

One of the things I’ll miss about our place in North Carolina is the shed where I stood while practicing against a 3-spot. No wind hitting me, level and best of all heat. That little space heater was a real treat even on the coldest of days.

Practice was a little rough. It has been weeks since I’ve been about to have a practice routine. You can see the metal fence we ran across the from of the house facing the road. In the woods I put up black vinyl coated chain link.

This is Georgia, so I am hoping for some warmer days coming soon. Before it gets too warm I’ll have the 50-meter range and 3D ranges in place. For now, with all these 18-meter tournaments on the calendar it’s all about short shots at little dots.

Working Hard and Looking Like a Model

We’re fix’in to move. Nearly everything I own is boxed packed and disassembled. Where are the movers? They’re not late; I’d hoped they’d be early. So, here I sit, bored with nothing to do other than waste brain cells scanning the Internet of anything at all of interest.

During that scan I uncovered a common theme among a select group of individuals. The more apparent it become the more comical is seemed. Collectively, I’ll judge and label them as Posers.

In cycling we have a similar group. In cycling we refer to them as “Freds”. A Fred is that cyclist that has all the gear; wears expensive Pro-team replica uniforms, has watched every Tour de France, and is eager to toss out self-worth at a moments notice. The only flaw with Fred is Fred can’t ride.

Sure, Fred can peddle a bicycle without crashing. That is unless Fred happens to be in a group of other riders and has not yet been dropped off the back of the pack. Fred in a bunch of riders is a serious hazard. Not that other riders worry for long, Fred is gone soon after the pace begins to climb.

In archery there is a counterpart to Fred. These are the individuals I refer to here as Posers.

As is scanned and scrolled over the Internet these Posers began to pop. Common threads began to catch my eye. The first suspicion was how often  these Posers had so many absolutely pristine photographs of themselves.

Admittedly, I am jealous. Online, in my case, the photographs are awful. Those I discovered of me reek from nerd or geek to sweaty, snotty nosed, and disheveled. How is it that any image of me seems totally without the composed grace of a Poser?

Taking a deeper dive into the Poser, I sought remedy to my shamed ego. Then, another clue surfaced. The Poser images seemed to have been professionally captured.

I confuss that professional photographers, mostly lining some race course, have taken a number of pictures of me. I have shamelessly posted them here and on social media. I am not without sin.

The difference is that, unlike the Poser, I was mostly unaware of the shot being taken. Occasionally, I’d see a photographer on a racecourse and I knew she was snapping pictures. Sadly, my awareness was often too late to “fix” myself up. I’d round a turn in a race and there’d sit someone with a fancy camera and ‘Press’ name tag. There I’d be with a grimace, snotty nose, and glazed eyes.

The Poser photographs are of people composed, clear-eyed, sporting perfect skin, and wide smiles with sprinkling teeth. Occasionally, they’re emitting a stern look almost philosophical in nature. It is as if the Poser is somehow trying to portray a spiritual appearance before or after something meaningful that is about to or has just occurred. Seeing such sincere expressions on other athletes made me glad I’ve only once been digitally frozen in time while taking a “natural break” on the side of a road. (Lake Placid Ironman, 2011 – urinating next to a bush. Posterior view only. Professional Photographer, Larry Ten Ecyk. Thanks, Larry.)

The final clue of the Poser that pushed me over the top of this ridiculous barrage of posing is make-up. Upon close inspection it was obvious many of the Posers are wearing make-up!

Wearing make-up to compete. Wearing make-up to shoot. Wearing make-up to hunt! (Women and men) Yes, we’ve seen those Olympic sprinters lining up for a 100-meter sprint wearing make-up. We’ve noticed their beauty and grace. We are aware they are wearing make-up. They are also being paid millions of dollars to run great and if they look good while doing so, fine. Pay me millions (even thousands) to shoot a bow, run or ride a bike, and someone can slap make-up on my face. (It won’t help; I’ll still sweat it off, grimace, blow snot and look bad in general.)

These Internet Posers aren’t Olympians. They seem to be individuals with more money and ego than necessary. They engage professional photographers and make-up artists to capture them posing as make believe athletes. Certainly, there are Posers that look good doing whatever it is they are trying to look good at while doing it. I remain apart from that group.

Two years ago a photographer was accompanying a newspaper reporter at an archery tournament where I was competing.  The reporter wanted a picture of me to use with his article and asked permission before setting his photographer loose upon me.  I agreed and the photographer followed me around doing gyrations with her camera while clicking away pictures.

That day the news duo showed me the picture they’d selected to run with the newspaper article.  The article ran, the paper’s editor had chosen to exclude the picture of me. Again, my fifteen minutes denied.

Perhaps, Posers think the image of them looking good doing something athletic will encourage Nike to send them a contract. It won’t. If you’re good enough Nike will find you. Should that happen you won’t need to worry about make-up or looking good. You’ll just need to be great at your sport.

Archery manufacturers don’t seem quite as discriminating as Nike. Hunting apparel companies, well… a nice face and body can lead to an income as a model. Heck, is many cases, when it comes to archery or hunting a beer belly is not a disadvantage.

In fact, Posers seem to be play-acting as models in hope of becoming an outdoor adventure model. Certainly for some it has worked. To them I say, “Good on you!” From what I’ve scanned online today, among Posers many aren’t seeing what I’ve seen. All of them, however, are better looking than me. At least, they are more photogenic. And overall, no sweat, dirt, grimace, or run away boogers.

Talent Transfer

It was not my intention to be competitive in archery. It was only suppose to be a backyard pastime. Then, I read, “Faster, Higher, Stronger: The New Science of Creating Superathletes, and How You Can Train Like Them” by Mark McClusky.

In his book McClusky writes there are two sports where an athlete over 50 can be an elite: shooting and archery. He further writes about talent transfer and the 10,000 rule. Looking into this with more depth archery became a sport wherein I decided to become competitive.

The first order of business, aside from getting a bow, some arrows, and such, was to determine if that 10,000 hour rule could be broken by a 59 year old cyclist/triathlete turned archer. There also needed to be a measure of where that might be properly evaluated.

The measure I selected as a goal was equivalency in cycling. At my best, as a cyclist I won State Road, time trial and sprint Championships in the same year. In 2017 in archery I won State Indoor, Outdoor and 3D Championships. It took less than 48 months to achieve those objectives in archery. It did not take 10,000 hours.

The 10,000 hour rule is based on what judges might say is a summary of the time it take anyone to became an elite performer. I do not have 10,000 hours of archery practice under my belt. Because I’ve some championships does that mean I’ve broken the 10,000 rule to become an elite performer in archer? Simply, no.

Look at three archers considered elite: Brandon Gillenthien, Jesse Broadwater, and Reo Wilde. Their last published scores for 120 arrows at 18-meters comes to an average score of 1183 or 1190, 1190, and 1170, respectively. My best score for 120 arrows at 18-meters in 1158 or 2.1% lower than the elites’ average over one event where they competed. While 2.1% doesn’t look like a lot it is a huge difference – 25 points. It is this variance that separates me from an elite based strictly on score.

Cadel Evans, mountain biker (photo from:http://www.treadmtb.co.za/cape-epic-2017-day-6-tread-notes-observations/)

The next question is how long will it take to close that 25-point gap? As a rule, I generally know how many arrows I shoot per year. I have not kept hours of practice logged but do have a rough estimate of 1250 hours per year. Along with the 10,000 rule this matches the eight-year rule. The eight-year rule says it takes eight years of deliberate practice to become an elite. At my current rate of practice I should reach the elite level in 2020. However, my improvement percentage change year on year has me reaching the scoring level for elite status late 2018 or early 2019.

Cadel Evans, Tour de France Champions (photo:http://www.cyclingnews.com/features/cadel-evans-the-legacy-of-australias-greatest-rider/)

What I have learned is that Talent Transfer from cycling, for example, to archery has only minor advantage. The main benefit is focus on training. In cycling there are a lot of long hours on the bike. In archery there are a lot of long hours on the range. Beyond that, the sports are so dissimilar that there is little crossover. It certainly isn’t like being a mountain bike rider that crosses over to road racing as in the case of Cadel Evans winner of the Tour de France (2011) and Olympic Mountain Bike racer (9th place Atlanta 1996).

Snipers, Zen, Fitness and Hitting the X – Response for Jack

A good friend of mine, Jack, frequently reads my posts here at Putting it on the Line. He has often sent me a comment after reading; he is kind enough to rarely make editorial comments. As a writer I know there is “No pain or passion that exceeds on man’s desire to edit another man’s manuscript.” (M. Twain) So, I am indebted to Jack’s restraint.

Jack may not be an endurance athlete, but he is a serious sailor.

A few weeks ago after reading “The Mental Game in Archery” he sent me a some note that got me to thinking. Jack has always made me think. Some folks can just think, I have to work at thinking.

So, here’s Jack’s note from November 16th :

“A very interesting perspective. I know absolutely NOTHING about endurance sports, and even less about archery. I understand quite clearly your well thought out self-analysis, and two questions come to mind. Both are multiple part questions.

  1. Roughly how many archers of your caliber are also endurance athletes? Since the disciplines between your two arenas of effort are so different, can you seek (or glean from casual conversation) advice from others like you?
  2. (Not really a question, just some thoughts) While you mention relaxing between shots, you describe more self-analysis than relaxation. Everything I have ever read about the top snipers describe that they enter a Zen like state to reduce any undue mental influences on their stillness and aim. Have you explored this path?
    I’m not one to advise you, but sometimes we are so close to an issue, a fresh perspective may help.

Just sayin.”

Regarding question number one – I don’t know. Probably not many. I do know of couple of archers that are endurance athletes. One is a triathlete and was once the Virginia State ASA 3D Champion. The other is an ultra-marathoner. She is an amazing runner and shoots bare bow. She is a better runner than archer. Neither successfully mingled the disciplines.  By success I mean both today have dropped either archery for exclusive running or doing a little of each as a past time.  Which is certainly fine and in itself is success depending on goals.

There is also Cameron Hanes who is an extremely fit athlete and professional bow hunter. Mr. Hanes has competed runs like the Boston Marathon and even 100-mile runs. But, Mr. Hanes is not a competitive archer. Although, I’d bet he’s making more money than 99% of all professional archers.

I don’t know other archers that might be considered fit enough to suggest they are endurance athletes. My guess is that the percentage is extremely low among the entire population of archers with that percentage dropping inversely with age.

As far as advice to archers that are not physically fit – find a fitness plan and use it. In the near future I’ll be adding one to my website. Only wish I was as smart as Cameron Hanes and could get paid for it.

Regarding your second question –  I do work toward being calm when I shoot. However, I remain a distance away from Zen-like calmness even when sleeping. As far as Zen goes and snipers, well I asked a sniper.

It just happens that we have a sniper in the family. (I am leaving his name out of this as a precaution) It took a few weeks to get to him because he has been deployed. He got home on Thanksgiving Day and heads back on December 17th.

Here’s what he said about his shots and Zen:

“Most of my shots were within a 100 meter range – half of which were quick, reactive engagements.  I was at Camp Shark Base in Ramadi with Chris Kyle in 2006, and this is when he began to transition away from much of the “sit and wait” type shots he had in Fallujah (2004) like in the movie. The scenario that most envision of a sniper spending days in a hide sight to shoot one shot from a mile away… I’ve never done that. “

“There was definitely no “zen like” moment.  Only on a couple of occasions would I have the luxury of deciding when the shot was going to take place, like if we needed to take out a sentry before moving closer.”

This may take some of the ‘glamour’ away from what most people think of snipers. Those comments are from a Ranger sniper. His work is like this:

“The scenario typically goes like this; we have a target, we either do an ‘offset infil’ a click away (so they don’t hear the birds), or we land right on top of it.  My spotter and I would usually set up on the “black side” (the back of the objective).  We usually get on a rooftop as close to the objective as possible.  We have an IR strobe on to identify us as friendlies.  Some time we even watch alternate breach points to neutralize maneuvering elements once the charge went off. “

My relative also added, “To be honest, a sniper in the ‘big Army’ usually has a lot more cool stories.  SOCOM (United States Special Operations Command)  has so many assets at their disposal that they rarely need snipers to kill people.  But if you talk to a sniper in the 3rd ID during 2005 – wow.  They did some shit.”

Regarding how much practice he got, I did want to know how many rounds he used in practice realizing that only 10% of the Army’s best shooters make it to sniper school. In other words, most snipers are good shots when they get there.

His response was, “I’d probably shoot 5,000 rounds through it. (‘it’ being a 6-month rotation D.L.) That’s just a rough figure though – of course you also have to spend time on your other weapons systems too, and there’s so much more than shooting.  In fact, shooting is only 10% of it – maybe less.”

Granted, a relaxed state, (Jack – alpha wave brain activity) is beneficial for excellent archery. Some folks equate that to a Zen-like meditative state. Certainly, I work to achieve a calm state of mind. I have that luxury compared to a sniper since no one wants to kill me.

Here the rub, in a tournament you have so many arrows to shoot in a very limited time. You must learn to be comfortable and confident with your shot in seconds. If you took a minute seeking a Zen-like state for each arrow you’d run out of time. So, you practice getting perfect shots within a limited time. I often use a stopwatch in the same manner a quarterback uses his 25 seconds to get off a play. You have to learn to feel the time since you can’t stare at the clock during a competition.

Did anyone see where that arrow landed?

Regardless, in order for that to work an archer must have years of practice. That is applicable in any sport. You can’t take a Zen monk, place a bow in his hand and expect him to shoot X after X after X. It’s not his frame of mind that creates flawed shots. A target bow is heavy. It takes a lot of conditioning to hold the bow, draw an arrow, hold it steady for about 8 seconds and release the arrow. All of this without swaying while you extend an eight-pound bow that’s resting on your hand (no not being gripped by the bow hand).

After looking into Jack’s questions, I think the most important factors in good archery are: confidence, attitude and practice.

Cycling and Training on a Computrainer

(This is not about archery. It’s regarding cycling and training. The abstracts below are linked if you’re into sports physiology and medicine.)

This is about the Computrainer by Racermate. It is without doubt the best training tool I’ve ever owned. I’ve had the one I use for over two decades.

My set-up

It’s a product I purchased originally for research. At that time I was studying oxygen desaturation during maximal effort among elite cyclists. (1) A decade after that initial study I repeated it and found the same result. (2) The abstracts are linked below and both appeared in peer-reviewed journals.

One of the many data screens

The device is a trainer connected to a computer. The name “Computrainer” isn’t much of a leap. I actually have a dedicated computer and leave everything connected including one of my bikes. As you might image, there is a wealth of physiologic data that can be collected from the Computrainer. In my research I added more diagnostic devices and discovered some cool stuff, which is included in one of my patents stemming from the research.

I use this screen a lot

These days, I’m not doing data collection. I use the decades old Computrainer for its primary purpose, for training. What is gives me is enough live data to keep pushing. It also let’s me ride courses, like the Ironman Hawaii (which I did yesterday). It is an excellent way to enjoy long hours in the saddle while not going anywhere.

Virtual cruise on the Queen K in Hawaii
200 Tour de France on another screen

During long sessions, I’ll add a video, yesterday’s was the 2000 Tour de France, and watch that as I ride. It does help the time pass. The Computrainer remains unparalleled as a training tool. There have been days I chose to ride it rather than going outside. A bonus is no cars being driven have phone addicted drivers to contend with.

You’ll notice it is dark outside – it was only 5:15 PM.

Reference:

1.) Lain D, Jackson C: Exercise induced hypoxemia (EIH) desaturation zones: a use or athletic training. Chest, Vol 118, No. 4, page 203S, 2000. Lain, David, and Chris Jackson. “EXERCISE-INDUCED HYPOXEMIA (EIH) DESATURATION ZONES: A USE FOR ATHLETIC TRAINING.” Chest, Oct. 2000, p. 203S. Academic OneFile, Accessed 14 Dec. 2017.

http://go.galegroup.com/ps/anonymous?id=GALE%7CA71127451&sid=googleScholar&v=2.1&it=r&linkaccess=fulltext&issn=00123692&p=AONE&sw=w&authCount=1&isAnonymousEntry=true

2.)Lain, DC, Granger W: Oxygen saturation and heart rate during exercise performance. Anesthesia and Analgesia

https://www.stahq.org/files/1813/5845/7616/18_Lain2_Abstract.pdf

(Click the site above – this has neat color graphics. Check out the wattage the elite cyclists cranked out over a 10 mile course)

The More I Look Into the Current Use of PEDs in Sports the More Amazing

If you have read many of my post you may know that I don’t like competing against dopers. A lot of work that goes into training to be competitive in any sport. It seems unreasonable that there are still people trying to win by using performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs).

In cycling doping remains too much a part of the game. You’d think mature athletes not competing for prize money wouldn’t bother with PEDS. Sadly, non-professional cyclists as well as amateur multi-sport athletes are using PEDs to the tune of about 25% of the competitors. Consider for a minute that one in four people that you are competing against is taking an unfair, not to mention illegal, advantage over you. In archery, initially it did not occur to me that there were dopers. I was mistaken.

Among the druggiest Olympic sports, there are 57 sports in the Olympics (combined Winter and Summer Games), archery ranks as the 10th druggiest. The athletes that get away with doping the most are Masters athletes.

Those athletes that have been caught have their shame posted by WADA and the USADA. Most of the cheaters had a mean age of 27. The cheating older athletes had a mean age of 42. In one group of Masters athletes 50% confessed to using PEDs. 1

On a number of occasions I have brought up the topic of beta-blocker use during archery competition when associating with Masters archers during competition. The response has consistently been sheepish looks and silence.

Beta-blockers are used to treat hypertension and heart conditions.

Metoprolol is a beta-blocker that treats high blood pressure and heart failure, but it also treats angina and can be used to prevent heart attacks in people who have already had one. Lisinopril and metoprolol are both antihypertensives, the top selling drug class in the U.S. in 2014 with 705 million prescriptions filled. The common brand metoprolol comes as Lopressor, and this drug was dispensed 85 million times last year.2

Beta-blockers are the dope of choice for archers. When you consider 1 out of 3 Americans have hypertension you might not be surprised to learn many of them may be among the archers competing next to you. 3

WADA does have a process whereby an archer may be able to receive a therapeutic exemption to use a beta-blocker. 4 But, it is a process wherein competitive advantage is a consideration. In any case, I doubt NFAA, USA Archery, ASA, or IBO are paying much attention. It’s pretty much, “If you got ’em, smoke ’em.”

1.) http://mtntactical.com/knowledge/peds-tactical-athlete-follow/

2.) http://www.foxnews.com/health/2015/06/07/5-most-common-medications-in-us-and-how-to-save-on-them.html

3.) https://www.heart.org/idc/groups/heart-public/@wcm/@sop/@smd/documents/downloadable/ucm_319587.pdf

4.) https://www.wada-ama.org/sites/default/files/resources/files/wada-tpg-cardiovascular_conditions-1.1.pdf

 

 

PED Use in Masters’ Athletics

In a few months, if all goes well and the creek don’t rise; I’m racing in a national championship. That race happens after two national archery championships. It is going to be a busy spring.

Getting ready for all three championships takes a lot of effort. It’s not more work  it comes to time spent training. It is how that time is spent.

The least amount of training changes is with archery. That said, the intensity of archery practice has changed, as has the focus during the training. To win (or place well) I know the scores needed to be achieved. Knowing the must hit scores goals can be established.

In the endurance race I know the distance and the speed required to win. This translates to much more speed work and intervals during training.

Before preparing a “speed” plan I started by studying the times recorded at the 2015 – 2017 championships. Seems many of the masters age group competitors have gotten really really fast.  The review of those results recorded  by many Masters athletes appeared artificially enhanced.

You might think, “Who in their right mind would use performance enhancing drugs (PEDs)?” The answer is many with some estimates of dopers is as high as 25%. Here’s how it’s done:

An athlete in his 40s (for example) finds that he is naturally slowing down. To retain or in some cases increase speed they may take PEDs.  This is accomplished with the help of an innocent physician. (Generalized approach)

On a doctor’s visit the mature athlete complains of low stamina, loss of energy, diminished libido and feeling fatigued. The athletes’ blood work is fine other than his natural testosterone being low compared to a 20 year old. This may warrant to a prescription for testosterone. A bonus is they may end up getting human growth hormone (HGH) as well. Want to drop your natural testosterone to help with the doctor’s blood assay? Easy. Train harder than usual, stay indoors, and reduce sleep time.

After the doper gets the PEDs he may seek out an EPO boost or take a less risky and legal pathway of drinking an abundance of beetroot juice (legal works to some degree). Both help with oxygen uptake and utilization.

What a shame.

From an aging point of view HGH has limited, if any, negative effect and can be of tremendous value men over 40. I strongly believe HGH should be removed from the banned list for athletes over 40. Overall, PED use is widespread among age group endurance athletes.

In archery, we have another set of dopers, the beta-blocker users. Beta-blockers aren’t like the PEDs of other sports. A beta-blocker will not make one faster. It also will not make an archer shoot better. It will however help the archer to not shoot worse.

The issue here is (despite it being banned) is that the older archers on beta-blockers need the drug’s help to stay alive. So, know this – that archer on a beta-blocker may not shoot better thanks to the drug, he just won’t shoot any worse. Beta-blockers will calm and steady the performer. When it comes down to it, if you shoot the X 96% of the time and the beta-blocker hits the X 89% of the time you still win. That is unless you freak out during competition in which case a beta-blocker would be beneficial to you.

There is some suggestion that beta-blockers may offer a slight improvement in scoring.  Suppose, for argument, that an archer using a beta-blocker gets a 1% benefit from the calming and stabilizing effect of the drug. That archer typically can shoot with a 96% accuracy.  That beta-blocker archer that normally scores around 96% accuracy as do non-beta-blocker archers, a 1% advantage wins the day. Meaning the beta-blocker reaches 97% accuracy.

So, do you think archery isn’t really that bad? If so, you’d be wrong.  Among the druggiest Olympic sports archery ranks 10th, tied with pistol. Do I have any doubt that I’ve shot against archers on beta-blocker? None whatsoever.

In the case of the endurance athlete doping, even though both situations are banned, I see the endurance athlete as the greater cheater. Really, if you are on a beta-blocker to support your heart or manage your high blood pressure and compete keep taking your drug. I’d rather shoot against you on your meds than have you risk your health in order to enjoy archery. If you have a pill box with beta-blockers used exclusively for tournaments  you are an ass. If you are getting injections of testosterone under the pretext of a needed prescription you are a deliberate cheater. It pisses me off to race against you.

Here’s the thing – of the older dopers I’ve raced against or trained with everyone around them guessed they were doping.  I only know of one age group athlete, an Ironman World Champion, that was ever caught for doping.  By contrast, of the young dopers (all cyclists) everyone suspected all were caught.

Who do I partly blame for the widespread use, aside from the dopers themselves, of doping among Masters level athletes are WADA and the USADA. Both are more interested in tracking the younger athletes that are making a living in their sport as professional athletes.  That is, of course, where the money is so they chase the money.  So long as Masters athletes receive so little sponsorship money and recognition WADA and USADA will turn a blind eye. No one really seems to care a lot aside from the clean athletes that are considered Masters.

Once companies like Nike and Asics understand the marketing value of clean Masters athletes WADA and the USADA will have new targets. Until that time dopers among age groupers have little to fear.

Reading list [(Hear me now believe me later)credit to Hanz and Franz of SNL]

https://www.thefix.com/content/olympics-london-drugs-doping90411

http://www.stltoday.com/sports/other/older-athletes-now-testing-positive-for-peds/article_dc9828c3-a4d1-5180-be18-1e5fabc071ae.html

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Doping_in_sport

Steroids and Amateur Athletes

PEDs for the Tactical Athlete – Follow Up

This is for Non-Archers

If you’re an archer – you don’t need to read this. If you’re not an archer, this might be interesting.

I wasn’t at my home in North Carolina. We were off visiting in Georgia. When were off visiting I bring a block to shoot and my bow with everything I need to practice. Once on location I set up a safe place to shoot.

(I also bring a bike or two, maybe a kayak, running shoes and all the gear for that as well.)

This is what a 20-yard target looks like.

Anyway, I was practicing archery one afternoon on this trip. A fellow comes up to me that has no experience shooting a bow. During our encounter I was practicing at 20 yards.

It looks like an easy shot

He said, “That’s not a hard shot. Give me a minute and I can beat you.”

Seriously, those were the first words out of his mouth.

I don’t know why but I’ve gotten crap like that a lot. Once, on a bicycle-training ride a cocky triathlete gave me some similar crap. I was new to the group I was training with and wasn’t prepared for the ride. I was grossly over dressed and knew I was in trouble when the pace, mileage and temperature climbed. The triathlete, a very good athlete on an international level looked at me and said, “We’re just getting started. I’m not even off of my inner chain ring, yet.”

Another time, when I was practicing 3D archery with a group a guy said, “Shoot your own game, you’ll never beat any of us.” WTF.

In the latter two examples, I said nothing. The day on the bike, well I didn’t have enough breath to respond. After the 3D comment I didn’t respond because I was too surprised by the comment to come up with a witty retort.

But, add a dime for perspective

That day in the Georgia yard, shooting at 20 yards, I knew it wasn’t a long distance shot. I did, however, have a response. It was, “Well, I’ll tell you what. You can have a rifle and I’ll use this bow. We fire three shots. The highest score gets $100.00.” I added, “But you have to stand and hold your rifle while you aim and fire.” The bet went untaken.

Not quite as easy as it looks

Shooting 20-yards is easy. Putting an arrow in the center of the target is a challenge. Unless you’ve tired it you really can’t grasp the complexity. The absolute slightest hint of a mistake and you’ll miss the center. You might even miss the yellow rings and land in the red. On the other hand, if you practice long enough it isn’t all that hard. I know, I’ve seen people who make it look easy.

So, That Took Too Long

It started at 10:00 AM. Five plus hours – sixty arrows. Over five hours shooting sixty arrows at a 3-spot. After five hours I did not care how I’d placed. I knew how I’d shot and figured it would be good enough for a top three finish.

Before the tournament, Brenda, my wife had come to see the range. When one of the owners of the range asked if she’d be back tomorrow to watch Brenda politely said no. I think archery could be a spectator sport. Presently, I don’t think it is a spectator sport. Brenda definitely is not an archery fan. She could be, she loves sports.

A sport where athletes stand real still needs some pizzazz. Live announcing, music, and of course, keeping the flow of arrows flying toward targets. Excessive pauses in the action are not spectacles for fans.

In retrospect, the two-minutes used for flinging arrows down range was strictly enforced. There were, at this five-hour plus contest, lengthy delays in addition. Three digits seem to be a remarkable feat of totaling for many. Believe me, 10 + 10 + 9 does not require a calculator. Double digits, like, 29 + 28, can be cyphered in your head. Heck, I can even deal with less accomplished shooting, where values of 8 + 6 + 5 appear on the target without a smart phone supplement.

No, at this contest it was our arithmetically vulnerable youth where the time began to accumulate. My wife, a retired teacher, when I pointed this out to her, went into one of her rants about the dumbing down of our youth by schools. The ubiquitous smart phone calculator in the hands of youthful shooters working out simple addition is a sad sign of math education.

Any day, I prefer a calculator to a slide rule. Yet, I loved my old slide rule. But, it wasn’t a tool for addition. For years I owned a Casio Scientific calculator. It was my favorite. It was stolen from me in Brussels, Belgium. I am certain the thief never appreciated the value.

As the precession back and forth to the addition line continued, I’d occasionally mark the time. By 11:00 AM we’d shot 12 arrows. The tournament started at 10:00 AM. By the break we’d lost a few archers – those having late afternoon appointments. One archer, in a panic of time, departed without his bow. Lucky for him, his friends said they’d take it home for him.

By 3:10 PM I was packing my gear. I’d called Brenda at 2:30 PM and told her we’d be done in twenty minutes, there were two ends to follow when I called. As I was packing my bow I recalled a day a couple of years ago.

On that day, in the morning, I swam 1.2 miles with a group of 2000 other triathletes. Next, we pedaled bicycles for 56 miles, and then ran 13.1 miles. It took less time than shooting 60 arrows and walking forty yards after every three arrows. (The prior sentence contains some math to ponder)

Archery requires a lot of patience.

The Mental Game in Archery

Don’t look to me for answers. Still, I am offering what I’m going through.

All my life I have been an endurance athlete. Without doubt it was my mental toughness that got me through runs and triathlons. During every run and every triathlon I hurt. My legs hurt, my arms hurt, it hurt to breathe, and my heart was pounding. I never quit a race I’d started. Once, I didn’t show up for a race that I felt prepared for because I was sick. But, I never quit.

During any race when I really started to hurt I go through phases of anger and frustration. There was never doubt. I’d trained and I trusted my training. I could turn anger and frustration into the generation of effort. That led to calm energy and forward momentum.

Archery simply does not work that way. Scoring nines when I’m aiming for tens is amazingly frustrating. Hitting an eight makes me down right angry. I cannot channel those emotions into a calmness needed to shoot well. There’s no conduit to pound it out. The best I’ve come up with is blowing it off and restarting everything anew on the next shot.

For example, say I hit a nine a bit above the ten. Before the next arrow I pause and think about what I did that caused me to land in the nine-ring (aside from the ten ring being the size of a penny). I don’t think, “Don’t do that again.” What I think is, “Okay, your follow though was off, now follow though on this next shot.” Many times, that next shot remains a nine.  Often in the exact same hole was the prior arrow.  Sometimes, the next shot is a ten.

Let’s say, I know from a miss that I screwed up the follow though on a  shot. I know I need to remain calm and have a good follow though on the next shot. On the subsequent arrow, I slow down, and go though each of my shooting steps in my head, then I repeat them as I perform them. Sometimes it works.

It does not work 100% of the time. That well thought out next shot might be another missed ten. If so, I repeat the mental exercise and shoot the next arrow.

If I hit too many nines or an eight frustration becomes anger. Unlike a triathlon where I could channel anger into power I can’t exactly grab my bow harder, squeeze the grip tighter, and draw an arrow more viciously. What works for me is a quiet, under my breath bit of profanity. Then, I blow off the shot (after I figure out what I did wrong.).

During either the frustration or the anger moments I work to not let those emotions turn negative. I also don’t deny the emotional impulse. I feel it, experience it, and let it pass in seconds. That ability comes from shooting a lot.(I am still learning.)

If you shoot a lot you will have the opportunity to miss a lot. You’ll experience the good and bad shots and learn how to best deal with them in your own manner.

With every shot, I go through a process of setting my body to shoot.  Once, I’ve got the dot in the center, I try to go blank (hoping for brain ‘alpha wave’ clarity) and let the shot happen. Thus far, I’ll say my brain gives out before my arms and back during practice.

Certainly, a year from now I could have a different point of view. For the moment, this is pretty much how I try to keep a mental focus on the next shot.