I’ve read about being in a “Zone.” I’m not certain I’ve reached a skill level were I can fully appreciate an archery “Zone.” This morning I shot inside at 18 meters. It was an aggravating “Zoneless” practice. This afternoon I shot outside at 18 meters. The session started about the way the morning practice ended – “Zone-Free.”
One expert coach has written about staying positive, confident and thinking happy thoughts during sports training and competition. He advocates not carry any negative feelings. Another world champion pistol shooter rants and raves when he has a poor shot.
I’ve tried to the keep a song in my heart and think happy thoughts even when I am shooting arrows into the ceiling or bouncing them off the floor. Honestly, I have often failed, gotten angry and let the Dark Side take control.
It’s not that I get angry and stay foul. On occasion and as quietly as a church mouse a rare profanity might be slightly audible from under my breath. But, by the next shot I’ve totally forgotten the prior shot. Then, I am in my 60s and I forget a lot of stuff.
In frustration, today I moved my release deeper into my hand. Probably the wrong way to hold a release. But, immediately the drift reduced and I shot better. In fact, on the next 120 arrows where I scored the points I tied my highest score on the first 60 arrows then exceeded it by 6 points in the second 60 arrows. I finished with a total of 1142 and 62 Xs (out of 120 shots).
While I didn’t find a “Zone” I did shoot better with the slight change in way I held the release. I don’t know what goes through the minds of other expert archers while they shoot. For me it was a near “Zone” Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah.
Swimming in the lane next to me at the YMCA was a triathlete. This was evident because of his swim cap, it read Ironman Maryland.
Ironman Maryland was once named Chesapeake Man and is held in Cambridge, Maryland. Cambridge is one of the few cities (perhaps the only city) that hosts a 140.6 mile Ironman and a 70.3 mile Ironman race. When the Ironman group purchased the Chesapeake Man event they renamed it Ironman Maryland. The price for the “Chesapeake Man” also increased. Checking the prices to do another Ironman the entry fees ranged from $675.00 to $760.00. At those prices, well archery is a lot less expensive.
The triathlete in the swim lane next to me was preparing for Ironman North Carolina. Should I decide to do another Ironman this would be a race to consider. It’s the old Beach to Battleship course and the swim portion of the event is nearly as good as the swim segment of the Ironman 70.3 in August where you swim with the current.
Despite the price, the inconveniences, and early morning swim start time not a day passes where I don’t have the urge to enter another Ironman. Hardly day passes where I don’t run, ride, swim and many days a combination of the three. Granted, I don’t train with the intensity or duration I did preparing for an Ironman but I train hard enough to be successful at shorter distances triathlons, runs, or bike races. In addition, I train and practice primarily as an archer.
Training for archery and competing is essentially a full time endeavor. The triathlon-like exercise is part of my general fitiness plan. That plan includes weight liftng which is beneficial to protect muscle mass and help prevent injuries. Rarely, does a day end that I am not ready for a good night’s sleep even though I try to get a 20 – 30 minute nap after lunch everyday. What I am saying is I do a lot of exercise. However, I’ve never considered myself one of physically gifted people built for sports.
Unlike me this guy at the Y was built for triathlon. He was tall, lean, and muscular. He looked like a triathlete. See, I’m not tall and somewhat stocky (not fat – only 9% of my weight is body fat).
As is the case, it’s nearly impossible to cross paths with another triathlete and not exchange war stories. This phenomenon is true with archers as well as all other athletes. Naturally, the swimmer next to me and I momentarily exchanged a few past glories.
What I learned is that the youngster next to me was in the 40 – 44 year old age group. I recall that period most fondly – I recall it as a time when I was in the best shape of my life (at least for long distances.) I am not alone believing that the 40 – 44 years were good, it seems that is one of the toughest age group in which to race. I think after 60 it is more a matter of attrition.
He further explained he was tired and his body was worn out from overuse. That was surprising. That is also why properly planned, scheduled and followed recovery days are critical.
To be able to compete in several sports for a lifetime requires time off from hard physical activity to allow the body to restore itself. That doesn’t mean no physical activity, active recover is okay. Still, there must be times when lounging and sleep are the best forms of training. Part of my strategy is to outlive my competition. One of the tactics is to train hard and another is to get plenty of rest. Overuse is not good.
Finding the perfect anchor point after changing my release and stance has been a bear. It’s not that I am shooting badly; I’m not hitting as good as I should.
Shooting a 5-spot in practice I was all over the place. Some shots smack on others felt forced. After 30 minutes of warming up and fidgeting around with my equipment I shot a scoring session. The score ended up 297. Certainly better than 36 mounts ago, but not what I am aiming for and not as good as I feel I can shoot.
Shooting a 5-spot seems too easy when compared to a 3-spot. The X is a whole lot bigger. So, I figured I’d take a break from shooting a 3-spot, give my ego a boost and hit a couple of easy 300 scores. That didn’t happen.
I have not looked at a 5-spot since January of this year. My last score was, not to brag, a 300. Then, I stepped away from 5-spots in order to prepared for the USA Indoor Nationals. Today, when I tacked up the blue and white target I was feeling good and looking forward to a decent score for a change.
You know, when I lined up for few warm-up shots those blue and white rings, well they looked funny. It was weird to see them after a nearly eight-month absence. The warm-up shots were okay and I felt ready to shoot like a pro.
Man, that did not happen. The first 60 arrows I dropped 3 ending up with a 297, the next 60 shoots ended up scoring 296. After each less that great arrow I stopped to think about where I’d screwed-up. Then, I reset and got on with business.
Mostly, my off shots were associated with my anchor placement. It really wasn’t a total disaster. The practice is helping me find just the right place for my right hand.
Over the weekend, as I prepared for a day of outside adventure, I was sitting on my dock at sunrise. The plan for the day would be run, shoot, then go kayaking before my second archery practice.
River, as usual ran with me and we were – as usual – joined by our friend Coco after about a mile of easing running. Once the two girls get together easy is surpassed by hard play.
Following the run I got in about an hour of 18-meter practice. The sun is begining to migrate alone the horizon as the season starts to change. For a while I’ll need to take the shadow variance into consideration when shooting early. Seems I need to shoot from right to left starting on the bottom of a 3-spot. Otherwise, I end up with a shadow from the top X that falls directly over the bottom right X.
After the morning archery practice, Brenda and I loaded our Necky Looksha boats into the truck and searched for new creeks to paddle.
Not far from our home we found a couple of nice places to kayak. This isn’t white water but it is serene.
The water is swampy and around any bind you can paddle up on all manner of wildlife.
In places it does get tight and we are careful to keep watch for snakes.
River and I have a trail we use when running the roads becomes dull. I expect either run is fine with her. But, there does seem to be more to sniff when we’re off road. So, the day started with plenty to sniff.
The “sniff and run” was followed by archery practice at 18 meters. I have changed my stance, as result of my new coach, Charlie Sneed, suggesting I give it a try. Basically, the stance is opened up a bit and my feet are more angled. It’s taking a bit of practice to get the new feel of my feet.
I’ve also been shooting strictly with a hinge release for the past couple of weeks. During 3D the footing is often so bad that I prefer a thumb release. With a thumb, if I slip a little I can control the release and not waste an arrow. I’ve shot using both hinge and thumb during 3D. Essentially, I don’t see a difference and my scores remain the same (that is not statically difference.) So, the extra security I think I get with a thumb probably isn’t real.
Before I shot this afternoon, Brenda and I took a nice paddleboard trip down Little River. As we headed out the wind was to our face so the return trip was a faster paddle. Afterwards, it was more 18-meter practice.
For this session I used three releases, two hinge and a thumb. Again, no difference.
He’s seen me shoot. We’ve shot side by side. But, he’s never been my coach. Today, he is my coach.
My last coach, Norman, was just fine. I took weekly lesson from him for months. I had no complaints. But, years of training have taught me; there is a time when another coach’s perspective might be helpful.
In cycling I had two truly great international coaches, a Belgian and a South African. Both left a lasting impression on me. The Belgian is still alive. Just last week I met an old teammate of mine, Tomas Rahal, in Charlottesville, Virginia. We talked about the years we trained together and our coach, Nestor Gernay. What he taught us we took into our everyday lives. Nestor coached many State and National Champions as well as Olympic Team members and USA Cycling Teams.
The other great coach I had in cycling Gabe Stanley from South Africa is no longer with us. Gabe found me, quite by accident. I was out of shape having played at sports but not competitively while I finished my education and built a career. Gabe pushed me harder than I could have imagined. After a few years of training with Gabe, I never again thought about limits of what I might do in sports. As Gabe said, “It’s all in your head.”
Much of what we do in sport is in our heads. What I felt I was (and am) missing is the ‘head game’ when it comes to competitive archery. Perhaps, a way to find how to improve would be to try a new coach, to find a new perspective.
Charlie Sneed is a Level 4 USA Archery coach. According to Charlie, there are 150 level 4 USA Archery coaches. There are only 10 level 5. We had our first meeting over lunch. As we talked Charlie decided during that meal we’d give it a shot as student and coach.
On Saturday morning I pulled out a 3-spot and tacked it onto a Block target. I have not shot a 3-spot at 18 meters for anything other than checking my equipment in a while. This wasn’t a practice to check equipment. It was time to pick up my hinge release; I’d switched to a thumb for 3D and field archery. I’d also just gotten my primary bow back from having a new string connected.
Shooting at 18 meters is addicting. Before long was approaching 90 arrows. It seemed like a good place to stop. The new string was ‘off’ relating to my yardage calibration and that would be an afternoon project.
During the afternoon all I intended to do was find the graduation marks on my sight and attach the proper yardage tape. That in itself generally takes me more than an hour.
On my range distances from the target have been marked using a tape measure rather than a range finder. Range finders are not as accurate as a tape measure. As such shooting from known distances I found the graduated marks on the sight for the corresponding 20, 25, 30, 35, and 40 yards. Then I identified the matching yardage tape and applied it to the sight. That exercise didn’t take as long as I’d expected.
With more time to spend and feeling fresh I decided to do a test of 18-meters shooting 60 arrows using a hinge release. I shot using a Scott Black Hole Three and didn’t do great. Aiming at a Vegas style 3-spot and counting the smallest ring for 10 I ended up with a 542 and 12 Xs. (The USA Archery 10 Ring Count)
More curious than worried I did another few shots with a thumb release. Clearly there was no improvement. So, I started over with the Black Hole Three and changed that release after 30 arrows to a Scott Pro Advantage. That yielded a 552 with 17 Xx.
Now I was even more curious. I shot another 60 with the Scott Pro Advantage release and shot a 562 with 22Xs. I suppose I’ll stick with the Pro Advantage for a while and see how it goes.
When I finished shooting for the day it occurred to me that I’d shot over 300 arrows since morning. The weather was nearly perfect, very little wind and the temperature was only 84°F. Not a bad way to spend a day outdoors.
It was just right, an 8:20 morning start time, the first group on the range. When I arrived at check-in for the IBO World Championship, twenty minutes before my start time, I was alone. There wasn’t a marker to indicate the range check-in queue. Looking around I noticed an approaching storm and discovered two volunteers – I asked for help or information.
Inquiring of the two of them, neither was exactly certain of my checkpoint. According to the information in my packet, I was on the correct spot. Our trio waited and watched the not so distant storm as it appeared to come closer.
Other archers began to arrive, a slow trickle hopping off the “Polar Bear” ski lift. As they milled about an event official arrived with the delinquent check-in sheets for the range. We were in business.
Minutes later the initial group of the day was heading to stake number one. I among the group was happy to be going out hoping to stay ahead of the storm. The other three shooters, all experienced, were seasoned archers. One was even a representative of the IBO, today there as a competitor. Among the three others in this group were many honors and competitive victories.
By stake number four we knew we were making good time. There were no archers ahead of us and none behind us. The wind had been blowing all morning and was picking up. Then, it started to rain.
In the short time between stakes four and five we become disoriented. The wind had blown down the direction markers. We weren’t worried we be lost, we were worried about walking the incorrect way and finding ourselves between another stake and the target. Still, we didn’t see other archers and weren’t too anxious. We had a couple of large umbrellas and were making the most of the situation.
When the lightening begain to illuminate the sky and thunder rolled over the hills one fellow suggested we should head down off the mountain. The group, not hearing any signal to leave the range, decided to wait a few more minutes before we found the quickest path to safety. It was a little eerie to be alone as we were on the range. Eerie but nice, we were under no pressure from groups behind us or in front of us.
We were under a pressure from the rain and wind, but in the thicker woods there was a break. Alas, the break from the wind helped little since the mist arising from the slowing rain and cloud cover made it nearly impossible to see some of the targets. Once we all aimed for a silhouette and achieved a grand total of 20 points among all four shooters.
As the rain abated and we began our slide downhill there was not a lot of improvement in our scores. The ground was so wet and steep occasionally we tried kneeling to hold our positions while we tried to aim. That wasn’t any help.
We were so far ahead of other archers, none in sight, that on targets 17 and 18 we shot both before making a downhill and uphill climb that would be required to retrieve the arrows.
Eventually, our band of wet and muddy archers made it to the tent where we turned in our scorecards. Our scores were the first four recorded for the day. After a thirty-minute wait for a shuttle we headed away.
Five minutes into the ride back we looked up the mountain from were we’d previously scrambled. Near the top we could see a backlog of archers beginning around target 15 and on as far as was visible. It seems, as bad as our shooting might have been we did make good time.
On that day, I set a personal record – the lowest point score per arrow I’ve ever managed including the very first 3D tournament where I competed 34 months ago using a bow I owned for two weeks and having never before seen a foam animal target. Behind me on the range where I had bounced, slid, tripped and rolled remain a bow stand, a reusable water bottle, an arrow and one release. No doubt all missing equipment hidden in the foot high grass covering the slopes.
I considered replacing the bow stand and release before the beginning of day 2, then thought better of it. I made good time getting back to North Carolina.
Learning how to shoot 3D using a scope and adjusting for the yardage is more difficult than I’d anticipated. Last year I shot with pins. Over the 2015 season my average score per arrow was 9.61 in 3D. During the first half of 2016 my scores were lower, 8.3 points per arrow.
During the winter I stopped using pins to practice 3D. I was shooting a lot of 3-spots preparing for Lancaster and the USA Indoor National Championships. It was a slight pain to switch my equipment from pins to a scope each time I switched target styles So, I kept the scope and long stabilizers on the bow.
Using pins, I’d learned to estimate yardages for 3D. If I felt the 30-yard pin was the one to use, I used it. Then I’d aim a little high or low between pins to hit at 27 yards or 32 yards. There was a sort of feel for the yardage.
There is point with my scope where at 30 yards, I hit 30 yards. The same for 20, 40, 50, 60 etc. It’s calibrated down to the yard. The problem is with 3D I need to set the yards. If I am off, well I’m off. And I am off, but not by much, most of the time. I am getting a slight feel for moving my aim a little up or down to compensate for a yard or two after I have set my scope. But, lately, there has been that one shot where I am way off.
The way off shot last week was misjudged by 10 yards. Major brain fart. So, this morning I went out on the 3D practice range for practice and post-practice analysis.
I shot 20 targets. I took a range finder to measure the yardage after I shot. My estimate of yardage for all targets was 34.45. The range finder indicated the average yardage was 34.25. OK, close.
There were 11 shots greater than 35 yards with an average distance of 41.1 yards and 8 shots less than 35 at an average distance of 26.3 yards. The targets were at 24 yards to 46 yards. I shot a 167 and missed, undershot, one target at 40 yards (my estimate, 42 yards per the range finder.) I scored, per arrow 8.35, my average for all of 2016. There had to have been a major brain fart somewhere on the missed shot. There were also two 5s, one on a badger at 37 yards, the other on a mosquito at 24 yards.