Third Times the Charm

It was a local indoor 18-meter money competition.  They’re fun and at times I bring home some cash.

One night at the shoot a fellow (not a competitor) starting mouthing off about the Covid vaccine.  He got fairly loud.  Then, he stood (he’d been sitting behind the line) and got even louder.  Looking over I couldn’t help notice he’d moved toward me and squared off at me.

He realized he’d gotten my attention and simply turned red-faced with vaccine anger.  Not that he’s been vaccinated.

Some folks know I have a background in medical research.  Those folks often like to fuss at me about science.

Aiming his voice and posture at me he loudly proclaimed a raft of social media science toward me.  He told me he’d had Covid twice and each time came through it.  Obviously he’d made it, there he was raising his voice toward me.

His argument was weak but his passion wasn’t.  In cases like this it is often best to simply not engage.That is a case where a person is raising their voice, wringing their hands in the air and spouting verbal nonsense or VooDoo science based on information gathered from Twitter and Facebook experts.

Try as I might I couldn’t remain quite.  All I said was, “Yes, I’ve taken  the vaccine and booster.”  He suggested I’d need them every couple of months and the vaccine was only a method for other people to get our money. He strutted a few steps closer and empathically declared the Covid was no more than a cold, he’d had it twice and wasn’t going to take the vaccine.

All I could say to him after that announcement was, “Well, third times the charm.”

He walked out, it seemed all the wind was out of his sails or lungs.

Well, this sucks

Two major tournaments in two weeks.  Going into both events I’d been shooting well.  Practice was moving in the right direction. Then it all fell apart.

I understand that in sports we all have good days and bad days.  I track practice and do intermittent practice that simulates tournaments.  I record all the shots and scores.  Those results are added to a spreadsheet.  From that I can see my progression.  I can further look at statistics.  Those give me high and low scores, mean scores and clusters of low, medium and high averages.

18-meter 3-spot scores since picking up a recurve 18 months ago. The dip at the end of the line represents the USA Indoor Nationals and Georgia Indoor Championships

Generally, I have a good idea of how I’ll shoot going into a tournament.  In the case of the USA Archery Indoor Nationals and the Georgia State Indoor Championship I shot outliers that were significantly away on the wrong side of the bell curve.

When this happens whether in practice or competition I work to find the root cause.  At the National Championship I felt the root cause was warped limbs. I knew I had them going into the tournament.  They were all I had so I went with it. There, despite feeling good I landed my lowest scores.

Prior to the Georgia State Indoor Championship new limbs arrived.  In practice all was well.  During the three ends warm-up, at the tournament, all was well. All nine arrows landed as 9s or 10s.

That’s as long as it lasted.

An archery tournament is a bad time to have eye-floaters.  I get them occasionally.  Everyone has them.  Our brain is able to see past them – most of the time. As we age eye-floaters can increase, usually we see an increase between 50 and 75. (I’m 67 soon)

In this case the floaters were particularly bothersome.  The floaters were right inline with the target and floating about in direct sight with aiming.

Never during a tournament have I missed the target.  At the Georgia State indoor championship I did it twice.  I simply could not get a bead on the target.

In this case pathophysiology trumps preparation.



Messed Up Fun at the USA Indoor Nationals

After 18 months of recurve archery I felt ready for a major tournament.  My average scores during training at 18 meters were on track.  The poundage increase was at a holding point.  Then it fell apart.

The first indicator was the placement of my arrows.  The groupings were less consistent.  At times I’d catch sight of an arrow in flight with a cockeyed path.  When I pulled arrows they’d often have a variety of angles as they poked into the target.

It wasn’t awful.  I blamed it on hand placement. I was mistaken.

The mistake was bent limbs.  These weren’t expensive limbs.  They were 42# limbs retailing for $149.00.  I’d moved up in poundage from 32#, 36#, 40# then 42# over 18 months.  The latest upgrade, to 42# was new.  I was at 8000 or so arrows when my scores began to decrease.  An expert bow tech pointed out, as I was leaving the range after practice, the limbs seemed warped.

He doubled checked the limbs.  His associate verified is claim.  It isn’t like they were working towards a sale of limbs.  That particular shop doesn’t offer ILF limbs.

To triple check I drove to another town with a bow shop where they do have IFL limbs, World Champion archers train there, and their bow tech are some of the best in the work. The bow tech there when I arrived is well known around the world.  One look and he confirmed the 42# limbs were bend.  At this point it is two weeks away from the USA Indoor Nationals where I’d registered to compete.

Of course, it was the weekend, late Saturday afternoon and closing time for most archery shops.  On Monday I called Lancaster Archer to let them the under warranty limbs had been confirmed warped.  When I told them who verified the malfunction they didn’t even question me.  They gave me a return authorization.  As soon as they received the limbs I’d have a full credit toward an exchange.  The limbs left for Pennsylvania on Tuesday.  They would arrive at LAS on Thursday February 10th. (9 days before the Nationals)

In the meantime I only had 40# set $149.00 limbs to use for practice.  Going down 2# felt light.  Sadly, my scores didn’t improve.  In fact, they got worse. We, the local bow techs and I, noticed the 40# limbs warped worse than the 42# limbs.

While the warped limb potential remedy was under discussion an ex-pro golfer (top 10 PGA earning golfer, Tim Simpson) and bare bow archer had dropped in and was listening.  He noticed the $149.00 limbs and said, “I was pretty good at golf, but I couldn’t have won shit with clubs from Wal-Mart.”

Yeah, I get it.  I knew my gear was entry level.  I’m entry level. There’s no point in buying expensive gear until you are ready for expensive gear.

The remedy turned out to be a Galaxy Solstice IFL riser and the same 40# WNS limbs. The thinking here is that the PSE riser was the root cause of the limb problem.

This set up didn’t do much.  The bow felt very light.  The serious problem was the arrow rest.  On Thursday February 17th, two days before the Nationals I noticed the plastic Hoyt rest was cracking.  No one anywhere near had another arrow rest available.

An archery coach at the shop told me if the little plastic arm breaks off the arrow would still sit in the rest. “Just make sure you don’t let it fall off before you shoot,” he added.  Well, Easton X7 (the arrows I shot for indoor) arrows have a larger diameter than X10 and that whole ‘don’t let the arrow fall off the rest’ wasn’t confidence booster. It was easily foreseeable the plastic Hoyt rest would fail soon.

That afternoon, February 17th, the PSE riser returned to action.  It has a nice arrow rest. Before it was tested I’d tweaked the bow in every imaginable way possible.  This led to the bowstring at least lining up into the string grooves.  Looking at the bow during full draw it was plan to see the letter ‘S’ produced.

Friday February 18th I left for Newberry, Florida and the Easton Sport Complex. I’d paid; I’d rented an Airbnb, and was going compete for the experience. That’s when things really feel apart.

The Airbnb I rented was advertised an old quiet Southern home located in the charming city of High Springs.  The house was old.  Down stairs was a store.  Next-door there was a construction site on one side and a pizza joint on the other.  Directly across was a nightclub all on a busy intersection.  I knew this wasn’t realistic relating to quiet.

I pointed out the noise and the ‘Host’ offered to go buy me some earplugs.  She claimed success sleeping using earplugs.  I thanked her and told her I had earplugs with me. I needed them – they didn’t do much good.

I searched for anywhere else to stay. My wife searched online from home. We came up short.  My wife suggested I simply come home. I was stuck. A nightly live band outside across the street that can shake a building or house is beyond the 32 dB earplug comfort zone.

To make matters worse the upstairs of the old Southern house had no heat. The bed only had a sheet and spread.  By early Sunday morning there was no electricity. The temperature at night was in the 30s.  I used everything I could find: towels and clothes to pile on top of me at night for warmth while I lay awake listening to a band and being shaken by their drums and bass.  I could literally hear the words being belted out. Under different conditions I’d have enjoyed it. The band was good. They were not conducive for sleeping.

The first day of the tournament I honesty tried. By the second day I truly could have cared less where my arrows landed.  I used the event for practice.

When I got home my wife’s brothers came over for dinner.  One of them asked me, “So what ‘life lesson’ did you learn?” He was referring to the Nationals.  For a few minutes I simply stared at him.

Nothing that wasn’t foreseeable occurred.  I took a chance on an Airbnb, which I’d expected might not be great.  It wasn’t, it was as awful as everything I’d imagined.  My archery equipment did as well as possible considering the warped limbs.  I shot consistently on the low side of my scoring bell curve.  I shot the same as I’d been doing since the limb problem started.

I found the question both arrogant and condescending. He is, however, my wife’s brother so I kept my initial response to myself and said, “Never stay at an Airbnb that is a room in a stranger’s home and the best pizza ever is at The Steak Out in High Springs, FL.”

A Small Victory

The Georgia State / USA Archery Indoor 18-meter Championship where I competed, at Georgia Southern University, wasn’t too bad.  I didn’t win.  I ended in 3rd Place among the Senior Men’s category shooting an Olympic Recurve.

For those that don’t follow archery, men’s senior is 21 – 49 years of age.  If I’d entered using my age group allowance I’d been in the Master’s 60+ class. I’ve competed in both age groups shooting compound bow.

At Georgia Southern everyone inside the Georgia Southern Shooting Sports Education Center is required to wear a mask, a precaution against spreading the Covid-19 virus.  Since I am approaching 66 years old, a high risk group, shooting where masks are being worn seemed a better choice that the other location in Georgia where the competition was being held.

Some archers feel that a mask interferes with that shooting.  I don’t think wearing a mask is much of a problem.  Catching Covid-19 has a greater risk of being a problem and dropping a few points in archery because the mask got hung up in a bowstring.

Taking a 3rd place during a pandemic is just fine by me.  I am happy to be able to fine a safe environment where I can go play.

Just Because I Know Doesn’t Mean I’ll Get it Right

Weeks ago my arrows began landing all over the target.  During the State 18-meter indoor championship I shot my lowest score ‘ever’ when scoring the inner 10 ring.  In the USA Archery Indoor National Championship I earned my lowest score ever at that level of competition.

It all began at the State 25-meter championship.  Throughout the tournament my groups expanded.  From there it has been all downhill.  Sort of reminds me of the recent drop in a coronavirus stock market retreat.  Like the money that is sliding away from my retirement reserves – easy come easy go.

Unlike financial matters where all my eggs aren’t in one basket, in an archery tournament there aren’t any cushions.  With a missed shot in archery there’s no coming back – those points are gone forever.

In an archery tournament, for example a 3-spot with a maximum score of 600 for a day, everyone starts out with 600 points.  Each miss and points are lost.  If an investor has 600 bucks in the stock market and it drops 3% that 600 bucks becomes 582 bucks.  That investor might be able to wait a while and that 3% drop could become a 5% gain or up to 611 bucks.  No such luck in archery.

Or you could consider everyone begins an archery tournament with zero points (which is how it is done) and the better capitalists on the line end up with more points.  Those points are earned with a cool head and wise shot placement investments.   In any of the scenarios my maximal yields have been hurting.

On the second day of the USA Indoor Nationals my score plummeted into the abyss and a crappy performance reigned supreme.  Then, I felt a little something and thought “Oh?”  It wasn’t quite  clear what I felt hence the “Oh?’.  Not pain, good Lord at 65 I don’t want an old geezer orthopedic collapse.  The “Oh” was a general familiarization of malformed form.  I couldn’t see it or identify the problem.  But it was there.

I’d like to report that there was divine intervention and from the ‘Oh’ moment forward I landed all tens.  Alas, that is a report I can’t honestly deliver.

The other day at practice “Big John” one of the coaches at Ace declared as I dropped another shot that it was, “A lazy old man shot.”  Then Steve, another coach at ACE, a day or so later, pointed out the same error.  Being a slow learner it has taken weeks to discover what that ‘Oh’ meant.  Big John and Steve both recognized the error immediately. Now I know.  I knew before.  I did it anyway. Heck, if I’d been coaching me and not being me shooting I’d have seen it as well. What was happening in my head was not translating to my body.

I didn’t make the error as often while practicing today at Ace in Social Circle. Today the arrows landed mostly in the center of the target.  I made a effort to listen and do what both coaches had offered. The practice ended up producing my 4th highest X count on a 5-spot.  It felt good.  Now, I just need to remember to do what the coaches have coached.  Much easier said than done.

The 2020 USA Archery Indoor National Championship

In Suwanee, Georgia the range for the 2020 USA Archery National Championship was packed.  Every line was filled.  There were so many archers an additional Friday line was added to help accommodate the athletes.

I’d signed up early to help ascertain I ended up with 1:00 PM times over Saturday and Sunday.  Suwanee isn’t too far from Good Hope.  Suwanee is on the cusps of Atlanta which means travel to the event can be tricky. One mishap by a driver hoping to get into ATL can screw up precision travel times. I got the 1:00 PM times. Picking 1:00 PM gives me a travel buffer.

The traffic was innocent over both days.  Oh, there was a lot of it despite being the weekend but everyone was on good behavior.

During the Saturday shoot I was on the same bale as three women from a college team. Their manners were excellent.  These women, however, were not about to slip off a very competition edge and there was minimal talking.  Being stuck on an archery range in silence for four hours is punishment as far as I’m concerned. Fortunately, friends were in abundance on adjacent bales so company wasn’t lacking.

The Sunday bale was a whole lot chattier.  One of the archers was a woman from the same college.  In this case we knew one another and she’s fast to smile and laugh.  Prior to the start we discussed when either of us hits three 10s on the same end the archer achieving the 30 points would do a celebratory dance similar to those performed by NFL players following a touch down.  She struck first.  Before she danced, and yes she danced, she wanted me to loudly call her score.

I complied yelling out her 10 – 10 – 10 score.  She did a jig.  We thought it was fun as did most of the folks nearby.  A few seemed dissatisfied with the performance.  When she hit 10 – 10 – 10 again I yelled again and she danced again. This happened a lot. (She only dropped about 9 point) Day two went by faster than day one.

The Sunday bale also had representation from Georgia Tech making me the only non-colligate archer on my bales over the weekend.  When Tech showed up I was holding the clip to manually total the scores.  I looked at the Tech logo and handed over the clip board saying, “You’re an engineering student, you can do the math.”  He seemed puzzled asking, “I am an engineering student how did you know?” I pointed out it was a guess based on his Georgia Tech kit. He got 100% on his addition all done without touching his cell phone calculator for help.

Looking around over the two days noticed the athletes seemed more youthful than the past few years.  I over heard one ex-collegiate archer lecturing to a group from Emmanuel College, “This is great now.  But when you get out of school and have to get a job things will change.”  He was referring to the time he’d had to practice in college prior to getting a job. The current students will, of course, cross that bridge when they get there.

The number one element of enjoyment during the Suwanee version of the Nationals, of course, was mingling with so many of the folks I don’t get to see outside of tournaments.  Our conversations became infected with smiles and laughter.  Shooting in competition is fun, practice is more fun, and hanging out with good people is the most fun.

Getting Ready for Nothing Much in the Rain

It has been raining a lot here in north Georgia.  When it rains I’ll typically drive to Social Circle and practice on the indoor range at Ace Hardware.  If there’s no rain and the temperature is above freezing I’ll stay home and shoot on my range.

Two days ago there was a nice break, several hours, from the rain.  This saved me a drive into Social Circle. Don’t get me wrong; I enjoy practicing at the Ace in Social Circle.  I enjoy visiting the folks that work at the archery pro shop at Ace. I also enjoy simply walking out back to practice.

Practice at home often includes spectators.  Two days ago they were the girls from next door.  It is fun when they come over to watch.

The practice is prep for the USA Archery National Indoor Championships.  Today I read the local (regional) awards are not being presented after the events.  Rather, everyone must wait for the finish of all sections, the results submitted to USA Archery , results verified, and USA Archery will mail awards.

Personally, I like getting a cheap medal for finishing in the top 3.  That trinket is the period on a sentence.  Waiting months to find final results is less enjoyable.  If I’d known they were going to switch this up (learned about it the day before the event) I’d have skipped the indoor nationals and would have headed to Alabama to shoot the ASA tournament being held there.

Here’s the update regarding awards:

National awards will be mailed from the USA Archery national office after final results from all locations are verified and combined. No location medals will be awarded.”

The thought of spending two days competing after a whole lot of preparation knowing the results will be months away isn’t inspirational.

To add insult to injury the update includes information regarding parking.  For the first time athletes, in my experience, who have paid to compete must pay a fee to park or take a hike.

From today’s event information (one day before the event):

SSA has paid and unpaid options for parking. There is a $5 fee to park on site in the paved lot. There is additional free parking in the gravel lot across the street at the church. SSA also has additional free parking across McGinnis Ferry Rd. There is a trail from that lot to SSA. Do not try to cross McGinnis Ferry Rd directly. The City of Suwanee Police will ticket for jay walking! Please use the trail to cross safely!”

Honestly, I cannot recall every event where I’ve competed.  I can recall the last 140 or so events.  Those events covered triathlons, runs, cycling and archery.  They ranged from local to international.  This USA Archery event is the only one where an athlete, having paid to compete, now must pay $5.00 to park near the venue.  ($10.00 over the two days on top of the $80.00 entry fee)

For comparison, I parked downtown Athens a few nights ago.  I was parked in a parking garage.  I was there for several hours.  I’d expected to pay.  It cost me $2.00. To park and shoot at the upcoming archery tournament the cost, excluding food, gas, lodging (for some) is now $90.00.  Parking is 11.1% of that fee! Of course off site parking is free.  Families with kids shooting that might find the extra money harsh will end up the most disadvantaged.

Sure there may be other instances where athletes might need to pay to park once they arrive at the competition.  I’m saying have not experienced the requirement to pay a parking fee at over 140 events beginning in 2006 where I was a competitor.

You might not consider this a big deal.  I do, it is wrong.  The athletes are what fuel the sport.  The fees we already pay are enough.  Last year, there was no parking fee at the same venue.  This year someone decided to stick it to athletes to gain a few extra dollars.  Oh, there is free parking available – nearby.  For free parking athletes and their families are going to need to walk a way with all their gear.  I’m not opposed to a hike.  Heck, I ran for nearly an hour this morning.  It is the principle.

The trails, during this morning’s run, had plenty of spots where rain water hadn’t yet drained.

If there is a specific need for revenue ask for help.  Athletes will frequently do things outside of training or competing to support their sport.  But, grabbing a bit of last minute cash by adding a new parking fee is low.

I’m reminded of an archer that didn’t compete.  I watched him a lot and never once did he miss the X on a vertical 3-spot.  I asked if he competed.  He said, “Only local events.”  He added, “I’m not going to travel and pay to compete at a bigger ones – they’re a rip off.”

Sometimes, it is just more fun to practice in front of the girls.

Three of the girls for next door who’d dropped by to watch practice


Georgia State Indoor Championship versus the Super Bowl

It shouldn’t even be a conflict  – an archery tournament versus the Super Bowl.  While I don’t play football I love the game and did play for six years. Had I not raced bicycles and made the choice to focus on racing when I was 18 I’d have played football longer.  I wouldn’t have played at one of the big colleges, but I’d have played.

I don’t regret the choice to stop playing football irrespective of being scouted and having talks with a few colleges during high school.  Cycling was my choice and it took me further in sport than football might have done.

Cycling took me to World Championships and made me a member of a USA Team.  I still ride.  But, my competitive ‘fix’ comes from archery.

Sometimes at archery tournaments or while practicing with others I find that should the topic of football arise there’s a smaller group of fans than one might find in a bar on a Saturday or Sunday during the football season.  So, it comes as little surprise to me that a major archery event in Georgia has been scheduled on top of the Super Bowl. Heck, the past two tournaments here have been held in conflict with UGA games.

During the University Georgia Football game overlaps with Georgia archery a couple of friends and I managed to get the tournaments in before rushing to a bar to watch the college game.  After the game we made it back to the tournaments in time for the awards.

The next archery State Champion, the one on February 2nd, is a minor problem.  Picking the morning (0900) shooting line I’ll have plenty of time to make the drive home before game time. Those poor souls that love football who travel further and pick the afternoon (1300) shooting line will miss the televised game, have to record it hoping they don’t hear the score before watching, or listen on the radio.  That is unless they stay in a hotel overnight.

Super Bowl Sunday is typically a full day event for my family.  This year I’ll have to hold back on the pre-game festivities at least until I’ve shot my 60 arrows from 18-meters.  As far as hanging around for any award I might earn – I’ll find it later in the event I place in the top 3.

Nice Thing to Say

If folks have said nice things about me, well I don’t really recall any.  I mean, who says nice things to someone’s face other than a loved one. Honestly, when I have received a compliment in public what I recall is that it made me feel awkward.

There was a time in my career where I was often called upon to give talks.  During those times someone would introduce me and say lots of flowery things about my accomplishments and education.  I didn’t like those, either.  In fact, it got pretty old and I eventually gave whoever was introducing me a written introduction to read.  It was prepared, short, and not so ingratiating.

Last week, during an archery tournament, I was shooting with three kids.  There were enough older archers competing that I’d been bumped down the line and was on a target with kids younger than my children.  Two of them were in college and one was still in high school.

Archery is a big equalizer among sport disciplines.  Age isn’t a major factor when it comes to skill.  I mean, if I’d been competing against similarly skilled athletes in, say running a mile, a high school aged track star and two college track runners they would smoke me.  But, in archery it is another matter.

At that tournament, at 3-spot, a professional shot 118 Xs out of 120 arrows. His was the top score. (He’s younger, at 41, than my oldest daughter.) The next best score came from a 15 year-old clearing 116 Xs.  Back to my target.

Of the four of us, the high school student was shooting the best.  I’d changed bows the day before and had finally gotten it sighted and was shooting Xs.  On one end I shot two Xs and a nine.  The next end was three Xs.  Then, I repeated the sequence.

That’s when the high school student said to the college students, “That’s how an old pro does it!” He wasn’t saying it to me directly, he was providing evidence to the other two students.  It cracked me up. (I laughed on the inside rather that risk embarrassing anyone and said nothing.)

I don’t know if the speaker had intended me to overhear.  It wasn’t spoken loudly; more told in a tilted head conspirator softness. But, I heard it.  The speaker may have figured because I’m old my hearing isn’t so good.

At first, the word that grabbed me was “old.”  But, compared to them, I’m old.  Generally, it was a compliment.  And as I said, it cracked me up.

Georgia State Indoor Championship

It started badly.  The first arrow – 7.

In all honestly, I can’t recall the last time I shot a seven.  That is, if I don’t think about last Sunday at the Georgia Southern University Sport Shooting Center. And there it was as big as life, arrow 1, end 1, points 7. (The next two arrows were fine)

Shooting one bad arrow doesn’t necessary mean you can’t manage a good finish in an archery tournament. Nope, now that I’ve written that sentence, no –if you shoot one bad arrow you’ll pretty much be done, at least against the boys I compete against.

If you shoot a bad shot, your only reprieve is hoping: 1) you don’t do it again, and 2) everyone else in our division returns the favor.  You really only have control over item number 1.

There are quite a few fellas here in Georgia I know will be stubborn with their points. We all get 600 point to start; it becomes a matter of how many you can keep.

Sure enough, neither did much to return my favor. On the line that morning there was one guy that I knew would be tough – Bob.

Sure enough, Bob was tough. He tried to help me a couple of times and we finished tied.  He beat me on the X count.  As we were turning our scores in he asked about the other shooters in our division. (Bob was looking at a Gold medal)

There was still a whole bunch more shooting before any victory could be claimed.  I answered Bob’s inquiry about the other archers, “There’s David from over in Atlanta,” I told him, “He could easily outscore us.”

I’ve been watching David at other tournament.  He’s hard to miss; he’s about six feet and seven inches tall.  The rumor is he was a competitive archer for 27 years, took a little time off, and started back training last year.  Or he was a competitive archer 27 years ago and has picked up the sport again.  Either way he can shoot a bow. Sure enough, he shot on the last line of the day and took the Gold.

I know David and Bob are great archers.  I’ve seen them shoot, looked at their past scores and realize that giving them any points isn’t smart.  Despite every other arrow I shot being either a nine or a ten, I ended up third.

Congratulations to David and Bob.