When I ran earlier this morning it was 40 degrees. Dressed in shorts under warm-up pants, gloves, t-shirt, a running jacket and knit cap it wasn’t too bad. It was, actually, nice.
Archery was another matter. It had warmed to 45 degrees. Again, not too bad. I was wearing a long sleeved t-shirt, jeans, boots, a sleeveless sweater, and baseball cap. It felt fine – for the first 21 arrows.
Actually, by arrow 9 I was noticing my hands were starting to get cold. My face was next. That was quickly followed by legs, arms, and torso. The wind picked up a little and convective heat loss began to generate a chatter of teeth.
When I began shooting I hit 10, 10, and a 9. Those scores remained unchanged for the first 5 ends at 18-meters. The sun was still low and trees were blocking any radiant heat gain it could have provided.
When I sunk two 8s into the target it seemed like a time to stop, go inside and thaw. No, be a man, shoot some more! I shot some more and ended the next two ends with 9,9,9 and 10, 9,9. That was man enough for me.
It is with regularity that you can read on this site about more than archery. There are frequent posts about other sports and events. These can include running, swimming, cycling and weight lifting.
Those topics are covered because being fit is better than not being fit. Loads of medical and scientific research points to fitness and health being strongly related. But, does improved fitness improve archery performance?
“To many people, archery is not usually seen as a sport requiring high levels of fitness, however archers need to attain a certain level in many aspects of fitness to allow them to perform the action of shooting with accuracy and be able to repeat the actions without fatigue. With high fitness levels the archer can shoot with greater intensity and frequency during training, and to shoot without fatigue during competition. A successful archer requires good vision, hand/eye coordination and balance, flexibility, strength, aerobic fitness and low body fat level.”1
Aside from the potential health benefits there is the potential to shoot better for longer if efforts are made and maintained to become and stay physically fit. There are other benefits to fitness one of the major ones being fun.
I keep extensive records of my archery practice. Today, I looked back over the past 3 years to evaluate the changes at 18-meters.
In October of 2013, a month after I’d purchased a Mathews Conquest Apex 7; I scored a 447 shooting a 3-spot. At the time the score was based on the larger inner ring being 10 points. (The old USA Archery Scoring)
That is the scoring system I used until switching to the current USA scoring where the former X ring and the next ring where both valued a 10. Today only the smallest ring is a 10.
With the old scoring method in October 2014 I shot a 539. That turned out to be my largest increase in score; consistent with advancement in a new sports disciple. The following October (2015 for non-math folks) my score was 551, still using the old scoring system.
The new scoring system makes hitting 10 a little more difficult. It further complicates data analysis – trying to monitor new versus old scoring methods and improvement. Nevertheless, for November 5, 2016 the score is 570 or 30Xs and 30 nines. It’s not my best score under the new rules, the best score was 584. I don’t include that score because it remains an outlier.
The jumps in annual score between the 1st and 2nd year was 90 points, between years two and three there was a 12 point gain, and the current jump is 19 points.
The final 30 points, 570 to 600, don’t seem impossible. The percentage difference is 5%. When I measure size of the groups, the holes left my arrows, they are getting tighter. In other words there are less wide nines and more nines that are closer to the penny-sized 10 rings. Equipment has made a difference as well as 36 more months of practice.
Until recently I had been shooting an improperly set stabilizer system. Believe me when I say don’t trust the sales person to set up your equipment unless you’re totally confident. I was so naïve I trusted everyone that spoke the archery language.
A new coach during our first lesson pointed out I had an incorrect stablilizing system.
The stabilizers, the same brand – Bee Stinger, where switched to more appropriate length and weight. The average scores since the change is 6 points higher than the last corresponding scores. That comes to a 2% improvement.
I am still shooting 3D arrows at 18-meters. I have new ones ordered. Aside from practice where I can gain another percentage point or two, I am looking for changes in equipment that might add a percentage point or two. I am trying to reduce my need from 5% to 0%.
I think there is another 2% can be gained from equipment adjustments. (Arrows specific for 18-meters and a target arrow rest versus a hunting 3D style arrow rest) This could mean an average score of 581.4. More practice with those changes (and the strictly back tension hinge) needs to reach the remaining 3% improvement.
The past couple of days have been models for archery. The sun was just right, warm but not too warm, and the wind was totally absent. Last night that changed. A cold front brought in heavy rain and wind that reeked vengeance on the reminder of what had been an otherwise calm week.
There was no time to drive into Elizabeth City to practice on the indoor range at PGF Outdoors. See, my wife, Brenda, has been out of town visiting friends on Mystic Island, Connecticut. Before she returned it seemed like a good idea to restore the house from a temporary bachelor pad back to the home she’d left.
In addition, she’d been eating seafood a lot, you know lobster and such, while on northern coast and I wanted to prepare for her a delicious red meat meal. I’d decided on beef bourguignon, wild rice, Brussels sprouts and fresh baked bread.
So, I cleaned, prepped food and began cooking. Those activities meant staying home and dealing with the wind.
It was obvious that shooting at 18-meters would be futile. Instead, I headed to the 3D range where I hoped the remaining Fall leaves would help block the worst of the gale.
I don’t shoot the same arrows for 18-meters as I do for 3D. That meant re-sighting my Elite Energy 35 for the shorter lighter arrows. I made a quick twist of the windage and took a shot aimed at a point on a block target. The arrow landed within a millimeter of where I’d aimed. Figuring that was a good sign I headed over a path that led to my 3D targets.
The 3D exercise was not as much fun as shooting and moving. The revised training plan was to shoot individual targets at 20, 25, 30, 35, 40, 45 and 50 yards. At each yardage increment shoot 3 arrows, retrieve them and repeat at the same distance then move to the next point. Essentially, this is yardage practice.
Even in the woods the wind made shooting a challenge. No doubt, it was not as frustrating, as shooting in the open would have been.
There was no wind. Not even a puff of it. That usually only happens when it is about 100°F. Not today, the temperature this morning was around 70°F. An ideal temperature for running three miles. The lack of wind made it perfect for shooting.
The next event on my schedule is an 18-meter indoor competition. It starts at 10:00 AM. A 10:00 AM start means shooting through lunch and impacting naptime. You know the first scoring arrows aren’t going off until 10:30 AM. It will take three and a half to four hours to finish shooting. That means by the midpoint of the tournament it is lunchtime. Shortly after lunch is naptime.
So, I’ve been moving slower in the morning to adjust my body to the cycle of the upcoming shoot. As such, I run a little later. River, my four-legged running partner, doesn’t seem to mind the delay. The issue is that running later means that there is a greater chance the winds will have picked up a bit off the river. Today, at 10:00 AM there was still no wind off the river.
Not wanting to push my luck I didn’t even change from my running clothes before shooting. There aren’t too many wind-free days here and I enjoyed this one. Once the morning exercise and training were complete I had a nice lunch and took a short nap. A short 15 to 30 break after eating is a good way to break up a day of training. The break resets the day. Following the break it is time to begin the afternoon training schedule.
At the upcoming competition I will bring a small lunch. The sandwich will be quartered. I’ll eat a quarter every 15 minutes or so starting around 11:30 AM. The idea is not to put a large bolus of food into my gut at once. What that does is shifts blood flow to the stomach to aid digestion and is one of the reasons we might get sleepy after a meal. The tournament judges don’t offer a break for nap time. So, small bites are best.
Once I commented to a judge that we were shooting during naptime. He didn’t respond with a snide remark. He concurred and seemed saddened by the reminder. We both soldiered on.
By shifting my training schedule I hope to get ready to reach peak performance during a specific time of day. There are days where I shoot indoors to best replicate the competitive environment. Travel to and from an indoor range kills about an hour of time that could be otherwise used to train. A day without wind is a pretty good deal when is comes to saving time. Shooting at roughly the same time of a scheduled tournament helps get the body ready to perform at a specific time.
As John Kessel of USA Volley said, “The Game Teaches the Game.”
You’ve probably been there. Standing behind a stake waiting for your turn to pop an arrow into a foam critter. Waiting while the archer in the limelight of the moment readies for the shot. The studious athlete, at the stake, takes mental renderings of the environment, the wind, impact of lighting – present or absent – verifies with binoculars and moves through a process that appears to take a little longer than the allotted two minutes. Even at that point in the process the nocked arrow remains undrawn. Occasionally, the stake star waves to friends in passing shouting out what are meaningless comments except to the shouter and passing recipients. By stake 11 there is a back up on the range as the stake hogs make a day of it.
You have two minutes. You don’t need two minutes but there yours to use. But, only two minutes and whatever you do with your time don’t check out your shot until you’ve moved off the stake. Step away stake hog, once your arrow is released the clock starts on the next archer! Really, the shot is over, the arrow will wait.
During indoor 18-meter competition there is also a two-minute time limit. True, you must shoot 3 arrows in 2 minutes. So, there is a little more pressure. If you’ve been there, you know that two minutes is ample time to fire off three arrows. Yet, there is always that person that covets every second on the line. You see them, the last archer standing; you hear the countdown, 10, 9, 8, 7, 6…. Most of the time the arrow is loosed without fault.
Unlike 3D, there are judges watching everyone during indoor competition. You get 2-minutes and no more. Should you fail to sail 3 arrows in 2 minutes only the points for the arrows shot before the 2-minute deadline count. It is too bad too sad should you miss the time limit. There are marshals in 3D and they could encourage any slow archer to pick up the pace. From my observation, there aren’t too many people that want to force the 2-minute rule. In 3D, people appear overly polite when it comes to exception.
Often everyone around knows the slowpokes. Everyone quietly works around the pontificating shooters.
Inside shooting, well everyone knows the clock. If you don’t often compete under the pressure of a clock, those large bright numerals steadily dropping in value can get to you. This is especially true when there are three arrows to shoot at a penny sized bulls eye you can’t really see and a super nova bright LED is right in your face.
Out of curiosity and for the fun (I make my own fun) among notes on each indoor shot while training I added how much time remained on a 2-minute timer following each end. The timer is not fancy; it’s the timer on my iPhone.
I placed the iPhone on a table within reach at the line. I started the timer then settled in to shoot twenty 3 arrow ends. I’d start the 2-minute timer, shoot 3 arrows, stop the timer and record the times. I shot 60 arrows into a Vegas 3-spot followed by 60 arrows into a vertical 3-spot.
Until today, I’d never recorded the time consumed to shoot an end. There’s never been an occasion when I thought I was running out of time and I’ve never gotten the countdown.
Here’s what I learned about time expenditure shooting 3-arrows per end: Applying the Vegas 3-spot it took an average of 85.03 second to shoot 3 arrows. Against that target my slowest three arrows took 97 second to shoot and my fastest 3 arrows took 72 seconds to shoot. On both of those ends, the slowest and the fastest I shot a ten and two nines.
Against the vertical 3-spot the shooting was slightly faster. The average time to shoot 3-arrows was 82.31 seconds. The slowest end took 95 seconds and the fastest end took 71 seconds. With the vertical 3-spot after the 95-second end scored 10, 9, 9 and the 71 second 3-spot scored 10, 10, 10. Let me point out that those scores, at this point mean very little. There not enough data here to suggest anything about the accuracy of my shooting versus time spent per 3-arrow end. What I mean by the lack of data is that those few data points don’t mean much statistically.
I was a little faster overall shooting the vertical 3-spot. It makes sense because once my feet are set on a vertical 3-spot there’s very adjustment between arrows. The Vegas 3-spot requires, at least for me, more lateral movement. That is a likely explanation for the 2.74-second difference between times shooting the two targets.
Time on the line or at the stake might be one those nagging thoughts that creeps into consciousness when shooting. Two minutes is a fair interval to fire off 1 to 3 arrows. It’s probably a good idea to practice with a timer so that you get a feel for the clock. Use all the time you need up to 2 minutes – then back away.
The wind was a pain today. It never slowed and certainly didn’t stop. The wind made shooting in the yard, just adjacent to the river a special kind of challenge. That was in the morning where I’d been working at 18-meters. Hitting a penny-sized X at 18-meters in the wind is frustrating. Scoring a nine isn’t so tough, getting close to the X happens, but an X is a rare occurrence when you are being wafted around like a banner.
When I started shooting in the afternoon, after a dozen or so gale fought attempts an idea sprang to mind. It’s not as windy on the 3D range just across the way. Seemed to me that if I practiced long 3D shots that would be an okay substitute for 18-meters.
Last Friday, I worked on short shots. The average distance was only 24 yards with a range of 10 yards to 40 yards. Up close and personal I ended with an average score of 10.53 points per target. Often there are short shot targets sprinkled about in tournaments just to throw off archers. Typically the close shots are small targets. I was also preparing for an indoor 3D contest that featured 15 targets between 14 and 24 yards.
But, my maximum competitive distance is a tad longer and well I’m still scoring better when shooting a tad closer. So, with the wind in mind or rather in my face I decided to switch things up and see how I’d do shooting over a greater distance.
On the 3D range I retreated from the wind as best as possible. The leaves are beginning to thin and there was some motion in the woods. It was, nevertheless, a whole lot better than the yard.
I ended up shooting an average distance of 39.8 yards with the shortest shot, on a bobcat of 31 yards and the maximum distance of 53 yards at a deer. The shots yielded an average score of 8.5. A lot lower than the close up shooting from a few days ago. Every shot was either a 10 or an 8.
On the bright side, I finished practice having the same number of arrows with which I began.
A little bit high, a little bit low, a tad to the right and a tad to the left. That’s how this morning’s 18-meter practice went.
It was a prefect morning for practice. The temperature was 68°F and no wind. Excellent conditions to work on form.
During the past week a lot has changed. The bow has new limbs, a new string, new stabilizer and more weight with which to deal. To complicate it more, the practice arrows are shorter and lighter than the usual indoor target arrows and my PEEP aperture reducer fell out. (I ordered a new one, but selected the wrong size. A phone call to Lancaster Archery, a RMA number received and the correct size on the way.)
The session this morning focused on form more so than hitting the X. Almost like blind bailing except with open eyes and 18-meters from the target. Of course, hitting the X would have been nice.
Occasionally, an arrow ended up in the X, about 25% of the shots hit home. All the others landed close, all just a little off the mark, all nines.
After 90 minutes, during which very few shots felt right, it was time to give if up for a while and watch the Washington Redskins vs. Cincinnati live from London. Hopefully, this afternoon things will fall in place.
Addendum: The afternoon practice was moving along much like the mornings. Have you ever been shooting and think, “Damn, I shoot better than that!”? You know something is slightly off. Then, you feel where the screw-ups originated, make an adjustment (for me the culprit was the thumb of my release hand) and things begin to return to par or better.