Deliberate Practice – Yardage Repeats

Most of my practice sessions have a goal, a specific aim for the time spent on a range. Granted, sometimes I simply go out and shoot for fun. Since I shoot a lot I give myself periods of recreational archery.

Because I started archery late in life, less than 3 years ago, and I take it more seriously than a fun hobby, I need to do things that will rapidly improve my performance. As I’ve mentioned in the past there are only two sports where someone over 50 years old can become an elite: shooting and archery.

Some data suggests the process of becoming an elite athlete in any sport can take a decade. Other data indicates that’s not necessary true citing examples of athletes earning Gold Medals at the Olympics after only a few years of training at a specific new sport. Currently, I’m reading a book about a fellow, Rich Roll, an unfit 40 year old that became a World Champion at an Ultra distance triathlon at age 42. That does seem rare and extreme.  In sports, I think there is a practical and achievable middle ground to achieve excellent – that is it is not 10 years and not 2 years for the most part. My best guess is that it takes 4 – 6 years for a novice archer (never have shot a bow) to reach a level of elite status (depending on the archer’s age and physical fitness) if sound training and some science is applied to performance development.

Going out and shooting at targets can make a novice shooter better. It is unlikely that technique is going to turn a novice into a bono fide professional level archer. In order to reach the highest level of archery, aside from good coaching and lots of practice, having a training regime is critical.

At times, as part of a customized training schedule, deliberate practice can be a bit boring. Today’s morning practice fit the criteria for being a tad on the dull side of shooting.

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Four arrows shot from 45 yards. Yes, the group is tight, but it’s easier to group them when I’ve been working at 5-yard increments.

Here’s how it went (specific for 3D in this case): First, 30-arrow warm-up on paper from 20 to 40 yards. Next, shoot small 3D targets (badger, bobcat and a turkey). Start at 20 yards and shoot 4 arrows, repeat at 25, 30, 35, 40, 45 and 50 yards. Finally repeat that sequence on larger 3D targets (a bear and a deer). In total that’s 170 shots.

What this does, for me, is to provide a feel for the distances I come across in 3D tournaments. This afternoon, I shot only about 40 arrows, 30 at paper to check my sight followed by 10 more shots, one arrow per 3D animal target.  I’ll finish with 3D and having a light workout in the afternoon.  This will allow time for recovery prior to tomorrow’s competition.  It also leaves me with the last targets I’ve seen being 3D.

The key objective for this practice day was working on yardage. I finished the day with over 200 arrows shot.  I don’t always set an arrow count as a goal.  Some of my practice days there is a specific quantity of arrows I’ll shoot. Other days, the practice is based on time.  But, today the focus was on yardage.

2nd Quarter 2016 Results

A version of this was sent to my sponsors:

This quarter has been a frustration – no wins. I competed in 8 events. Six in archery and two were bicycle races.

Yes, doing a bicycle race was a bit risky. A crash could wreck an archery season. Both bike races were time trials so odds of a crash were low. The cycling races yielded two-second place finishes.

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This can mess up archery

Archery produced 3-second place finishes, including 2nd place at the Maryland IBO State Championship. There were also 2 third place finishes and one where I ended up out of the top 10.  (we all have those weekends.)

The Maryland State Championship was also the IBO World Championship Qualifier. My 2nd place qualified me to compete at the IBO World Championship.

Two archery events I’d planned were canceled because of storms. The NFAA Sectionals messed me up for the Xterra Triathlon. I was competing in the sectional that ran long infringing on the triathlon – both were on the same day. The archery in the morning followed by the triathlon in the afternoon. An afternoon triathlon – an Xterra – would have been very cool. As it turned out I had to be satisfied with the 3rd place finish after the 2-day sectional competition in archery.

I’ve been on the road a lot having traveled 2490 miles this quarter to compete. I am looking forward to some time back home before heading out to the IBO World’s.

The website, Puttingitontheline.com, where I post remains strong. During Q2 it had 32,860 visitors in Q2 who read 84,567 pages. It also has a new logo.

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To reduce costs (based on a three year ROI) we bought a Winnebago. For example, the past 25 nights on the road cost $592.00 using the Winnebago (lodging only) whereas hotel and kennel fees would have been $4,520.00.

That’s pretty much it for Q2.

Dark versus Bright Vanes

When I started shooting a bow, 34 months ago, I took a shot a 3D archery. It was early September and I’d just purchased a Mathews Conquest Apex 7. I missed the very first target.

In that event the first shot I took with the bow was from a stand. It had stairs that led to a platform surrounded by railing to help prevent people from falling off the platform. I’d only shot the bow a few times and never from any elevation. My arrow sailed over the target.

Before the day was out I was hitting the foam pretty consistently – no more misses – shooting from the IBO “Hunter” distance at a maximum of 35 yards. Even at that distance using binoculars at times it was hard to see where my arrows hit.

One of the advanced guys shooting from the “Hunter” stake laughed at me when I mentioned it was hard to see arrow placement under the thickly leafed canopy. With the voice of experience and a bit of braggadocio he pointed out that his arrows were fletched with black and blue vanes.

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From 45 yards, this is a tough arrow to see

He explained, “That way, when I have g good shot, it’s hard for others to line up on my arrow.” I understood his position of this strategy. After I lost, broke, or damaged the brightly vanned dozen of arrows I’d acquired when I made my Mathews purchase I followed his recommendation. I had black and blue vanes mounted on the arrows’ shafts. Overtime, I’ve come to my own conclusion regarding the camouflaged vanes. That is, I don’t like them.

Granted, if I do have a good shot another archer might end up aiming at my arrow. What I’ve learned is the archers that I shoot against are happy if I have a good shot and they are able to use my arrow as a reference. What I’ve experienced is that unless I shoot first and hit a center shot – the color of my vanes is somewhat irrelevant. See, all the guys I shoot against are so good my arrow has little impact on where they aim. My arrow might help, but probably not much.

Another reason I no longer have an affinity for dark vanes is because I can’t see them. If it was hard to see fletching at 35 yards maximum, at 50 yards maximum (3D) they are pretty much invisible. In field archery, maximum distance of 80 yards, well a spotting scope is better than my binoculars. (But, you aren’t going to haul a spotting scope around)

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Arrows are more easily seen on days like this and venues like this

During a 50 meters outdoor shooting, I use my binoculars – I don’t own a spotting scope. But, those tournaments are in the bright sunlight (unless it’s overcast or raining) and then I can see my arrows.

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I still have a lot of the dark vanes

When in the woods, using dark vanes, if the sun is bright and there is a break in the leaves and a ray of sunshine is just right there may be a refection off the bushing. Beyond that, there’s little chance that I can identify where my arrow hit when targets are out over 40 yards.

I like knowing where my arrows have landed sooner rather than later. Sure, I take some practice shots before I get on the range – when I can. I’ve been to shots where getting 4 practice shots is the best you can hope for. There have been times when I had no warm up shots. Furthermore, the practice range is often bright and that might have a slight impact on sighting compared to a darkened 3D tournament.

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This photo is zoomed in a bit, but the group is clearly visible against this rifle target.  Having bright vanes makes it easier and faster to make fine adjustments.
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Yep, you can see this group from a distance

When practicing alone being able to see my arrows is a key element for my improvement. Others may be fine not being able to see their arrows. One fellow once said to me, “It doesn’t matter after I’ve shot my arrow, it’s too late to do anything about it.” I disagree. If I’m off in practice, I can make corrections once I’ve identified exactly where my arrow hit. Granted, I somewhat know where my arrow is going to stick before it lands. But, it’s the small adjustments that can be discriminating.

Shooting today from 50 yards my brightly colored nocks seemed just about right. The group of them seemed to illuminate. If I lose an arrow because someone breaks a nock or Robin Hoods my arrow in a 3D tournament, well I am okay with that. In the meantime, I can see where my arrow lands.

Short Shots and a Little Trash Can Ingenuity

It takes a while to mow the field where I shoot here in Tignal. The field was being mowed when I headed out to practice. I ended up working on my short game.

This target is only 21 to 25 yards out depending on where I stand. The target was a rifle target – these are often more easily found at sporting good shops. The center ring and the Xs are a lot smaller than a standard 5-spot.

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A little trash can ingenuity needed to level the block

One advantage to shooting short shots is it takes less time to fire 70 to 100 arrows. Walking 42 yards round trip is faster than making a 160-yard round trip trek. But, long shots are so cool.

After around 90 minutes I stopped shooting. I’ll get the long shots in when I come back from mountain bike riding.

Toasty and a Hungry Bird

It’s 97°F, that’s hot. It was hot when I practiced this morning, not yet 97, but close. It’s going to still be hot when I shot again after I finish this post. Typically, I write these posts at night. Today, I’m typing a little earlier to share what happened during the morning practice.

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Started off shooting to the right of center

The target I’m shooting sits in a chair in a small dip. Without the chair the target can’t be seen once the distance reaches 43 yards. The ground isn’t level and there’s a hump that makes the target invisible when you start adding yardage if its not on the chair.

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This was a drill. I set my sight for the center. Then, walk back 5-6 yards and shoot. The low arrow is the mark when I’m off 5-6 yards. Then, I walk forward, not moving the sight. Finally, I pass the center shot and end up shooting high. Gives me some idea of what happens when I’m off a few yards.

There still isn’t a lot of variance in the topography. To make shots have more of a slope I stand on trailers used to haul tractors.

While standing on one of these flat bed trailers I heard a buzzing sound. I looked down and there was a humming bird searching the nocks on my arrows for nectar. I’ve seen some unusual things outside but that was a first. This little bird was putting its beak into the each nock on the hunt for sweetness. Sadly, it was disappointed and flew off.

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Without the chair this target is below the horizon.

Back to the heat:  Brenda just informed me it is 107 with the heat index. Yep, this afternoon is going to be toasty.

Practicing Long Shots in the Heat

Well, it is hot in Georgia. The past few days have been in the mid-90’s. Tomorrow we’ll be shooting outside in Madison and it promises to be a scorcher.

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The practice field here in Tignal

The start time for the competition on Saturday is 2:30 PM. After naptime, which is good and reaching peak thermal exposure.

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Zoomed photo of the target from 60 yards

On Saturday we’ll be shooting 72 arrows from 50 meters. I’ve been practicing here on a field. I can get a clear shot out to 80 yards. I limited practice to 70 yards and focused on 60 yards. It’s a little further than the distances for Saturday and the USA Outdoor Nationals. My hope is that by practicing a more difficult shot maybe 50 meters will feel easier.

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That might do

The other factor I’m practicing in is the weather. Both upcoming events will be hot and there is no doubt practice has been hot.

Boat Races and Good Friends on the Choptank

This past weekend we celebrated Memorial Day with friends in Cambridge, Maryland. We didn’t take the Winnebago; instead we rented a small cottage on Hudson Creek near Cambridge. We spent the days on the Choptank River.

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Brenda’s friends in attendance were mostly associated with education. She was a teacher in Easton, Maryland before she retired. The guys I hung out with were a mix of athletes, businessmen, and medical professionals. The conversation was something I miss at times living so remotely here in North Carolina.

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This was also the weekend for the Cambridge Powerboat Races held on the Choptank. These races have been going on for over 100 years. On Saturday, along with our good friends, the Brohawns, on their Boston Whaler, were able to anchor just outside the caution buoys for the races and watch. Seeing boats race at speeds of 100 mph or more is pretty awesome. The fastest I’ve gone on water is 71 mph. It would be pretty cool to add 29 mph more to that 71 mph.

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Naturally, we stopped at Great Marsh Park where the EagleMan Ironman 70.3 race starts and finishes. It’s a really hard race. The current in the swim is always against you, the ride is always windy and the run is always hot. We lived just down the road from the start, so despite the hideous conditions it was always on the list of events for a year.

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Many of the guys at our weekend gathering wanted to know if I was doing any more triathlons or other racing. They know that I am now focused on archery. I explained that I have three triathlons on my calendar for 2016. We also discussed the fitness of other archers; some of them have read my posts here and are aware that archers aren’t the most physically fit athletes.

Looking at those friends, you would not mistake them for being out of shape. Despite them not doing triathlons they are still very active.

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Scenes along the way during morning runs.

Among them are two serious runners. Brad who now lives in New Jersey and is a marathoner and Jimmy who lives in Cambridge and remains a speed demon when it comes to running and is now a running coach.  Joe, is a competitive sailor (he was that before he became a triathlete) and aside from staying physically fit he races and wins with a J30. David B, still rides and runs, but has returned to his sporting roots in tennis. Fred is a long distance cyclist and kayaker. Alan, a physician, has worn out a hip and is having that fixed in a few weeks. He’s already planning post-surgery events. These aren’t all the guys, just a few of them.

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Scenes along the way during morning runs.

I missed seeing Tim. There wasn’t enough time. Tim’s a former triathlete and active shooter (not archery). He’s taught me a lot about shooting that I’ve related to archery.

But, here is what I found very interesting – there were zero war stories during the entire weekend. None, not one of these athletes talked about their “glory” days. That was entirely refreshing. It really becomes tiresome listening to someone talk about how good they once were and I hear it all the time. It’s much more fun to hear about current adventures.

I am happy to hear about what someone did last week. Or listen to an interesting tale about some event or tournament. But, those sagas of past greatness and glory – please.

For the most part, my friends in Maryland are not young men. The mean age is 60. They are all very active. I’d guess their mean body fat % in this group was about 9%. These guys remain extremely fit even if triathlon isn’t the number one sport on their minds. They did take a poke at archers.

They talked a bit about archers who can’t walk from stake to stake without becoming winded or needing to sit down and “catch their breath” before they can shoot. I’ve witnessed walking fatigue in the men’s open, bow hunter, and in the men’s pro hunter classes. I’ve even seen physical exhaustion when an archer couldn’t walk back and forth at 18 meters without a break because of her size.

Here’s an example of archer’s a take on fitness:

“…wondering if the ASA is ever going to take into consideration the distances the senior class shooters have to walk to shoot? ………. I really enjoy shooting the events, but [it] seems to me that the senior class ranges are getting to far for me to walk to shoot. …… I love shooting the ASA events, but please take into consideration the walk distances for the senior folks.”

Granted, health issues can develop that might impact walking. However, the predominate health issue I’ve noticed is obesity in archery.

The guys in Maryland suggested I write a little more about fitness for archers. Believe me, they aren’t fanatics when it comes to fitness. They are pretty normal guys who enjoy sports. With one exception, me, they all still work at their normal jobs. Yet, they all find time for sports.

Archery, like all sports, takes a lot of time if you want to be good. Being fit doesn’t take all that much time. If you are out of shape, you can probably find at least 30 minute a day to begin a program to improve your health. You could probably even find an hour. And you can do this without impacting your archery. One easy place to gain time is to take some time away from television. There’s nothing worth watching anyway.

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Finishing the day at the Cambridge Yacht Club

It was wonderful to spend time with friends. I even thought about buying another home in Cambridge this past weekend. But, then, I can just pull the Winnebago there and spend as much time as I want while saving the cash.

That Was Hard and There Was a Little Vomit

Last night the wind had picked up, again. This morning trees were bowing to the wind’s force. This was the morning to practice archery indoors.

I’d planned to shoot inside on Thursday. Plans can be amended so I headed into Elizabeth City to practice. On the range I ran into Charlie. He’s a retired Naval Officer that settled here on the coast of North Carolina.

Charlie is a local JOAD Coach and has been involved with archery for decades. We exchanged our “How ya been” and shot side by side for about an hour. Charlie is not a 3D archer having never tried shooting a foam animal. He has, however, a wealth of information and experience at shooting everything else.

Charlie is a member of archery / gun club in Chesapeake and invited me to come shoot their field tournaments beginning in May. These are on Sunday where the 3D shoots I compete in around North Carolina are on Saturday. Looks like this will work out just fine except on those weekends I’m racing or shooting out of the region.

As far as racing goes, getting into race form is progressing. Today’s training plan called for cycling. Of course, there was the wind.

Cycling in heavy wind it is a good idea to go out into the headwind. That’s exactly what I did today. I, also, wanted to start training on my racing bike used for triathlons. Most of the time I train on a less expensive machine. With a race next week it was time to get a feel for the bike I’d not be on in about a year.

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Let me say, I hammered it into a headwind. I mean I went really hard. Tucked in an aero position, pumping my legs, and pulling for every breath, I ended up with a little vomit in the back of my throat a time or two. I hate those little regurgitations. Yes, I’d eaten a decent lunch, finished it two and a half hours before the ride. Seemed like ample time for the food to have cleared my stomach. Another error in judgment.

If you’d ever ridden a bike in an aero position, gone really hard for a long enough time, you more than likely understand that little urp experience. If you haven’t – no great loss.

Now, off to the 3D range, where I hope the trees can help block some of the wind. Another bright note – there is no vomiting from exertion in archery.

Scenes from Cycling in Georgia

Riding a bike on the east coast of North Carolina there is always wind. But, the roads are always flat. For the past few weeks we’ve been in northeast Georgia. The roads aren’t flat; there are constant rolling hills plus wind.

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The scenery is really wonderful. It’s nice where we live in New Hope, near Hertford, NC, as well. But, it is sure good to ride in my home state.

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To me, Georgia represents a lot of good things about the South. Yes, North Carolina is certainly a Southern State. There is, however, a difference. It’s like growing up in Savannah. You live there year round. When you are out of school for the summer your parents send to you Atlanta to spend time with your cousins. It’s nice, they’re family, but it is difference. That’s sort of what it’s like living in North Carolina and being from Georgia.

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When we lived in Maryland, well that like visiting your crazy cousins. It was good, but crazy.

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It sure has been great riding here in Georgia.

An Archery Story From Carl

I received an email from my friend, Carl who lives in Virginia.  He is also a neighbor here in North Carolina.  I asked for his permission to share this and he agreed.

David, I want to share an archery story.

My son Mike and I were going to hunt Thanksgiving morning in Suffolk (about 20 minutes from home).  I called Mike at 4:30 A.M. to let him know I was on my way to meet him and he then told me he wasn’t able to go.

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Carl here in NC

Someone had gone through his truck the evening before or early morning and stolen his bow.  His bow which he loved  (Diamond Marquis)  #70 lb. left hand.  QAD rest, HHR single pin, Alpine archery quiver and Gold tip arrows, wrist release – all gone. As you know the accessories actually cost as much as the bow.  He was devastated.

We took his old #60 Parker, found an old rest, quickie quiver, and fixed sight; I had a few old arrows. He tied in a peep I had in my archery box.  He tried it out about 6:30 in his back yard at 20 yards on Thanksgiving evening.

We hunted on Friday and he killed a doe with it.  He doesn’t miss very often anyway. Crisis averted except he was still going to have to buy a new bow for his elk archery hunt to Colorado in August. Now back to the stolen bow.

Mike of course checked pawnshops etc. around the area and nothing showed up.  In the meantime he posted on face book about what happened and he had an outpouring of offers from friends and strangers to lend or give him a bow if he needed it.   In his word, he was humbled.

In the meantime I looked at craigslist time again just in case.

On January 2, l looked and to my surprise I saw a bow that looked like Mike’s.  It was left handed – (we could tell by the picture,-not a lot of those around) and it was listed as- Diamond Bow by bowtech.

We reported it to the police, nothing happened; it was still listed a week later.  I wrote an email to the police chief and within 24 hours the bow was recovered less the arrows and release.

The guy who had it lived less than a ½ mile away from Mike.  He wasn’t very bright either. The police just did a search of his phone number, got his address (he also had a police record for theft). Went to his home and said we are here for the bow. Mike just had to identify it.

A happy ending, other than having to buy a new bowstring.

(A late addition from Carl “….. a kind string maker in Maryland is making a new string at no charge.”)