Starting to Come Together

I’ve got this 2014 Mathews Conquest Apex 7. Mathews no longer makes that bow. I’d sold it to a friend, and then got it back from him. My coach Charlie Sneed, a Level 4 USA Archery coach,  has encouraged me to shoot the Mathews rather than the Elite 35 Energy that had replaced the Apex 7. Statistically, there is no difference between my shooting regardless of the bow. There may not be enough data to measure the interactions of the numbers recorded for the bows. To complicate the math, I’ve improved over time. I’ve also changed arrows, releases, sights, scopes, and stabilizers. All of those variables make the math tough. I enjoy math so I’ll play with the number more later.

What I know is that I have been in a slump. While in this slump I changed bows. Whether or not the switch back to the Mathew made a difference I honestly cannot support with data. In two days of practice I shot my worst and best scores with the bow.

To clarify, I have not been shooting the Mathews bow. My plan was to use it only as a 3D practice bow so I wouldn’t have to mess around with changing my sight/scope setting between shooting paper targets and 3D targets. I use different arrows for 3D than used for indoor shooting. My objects are yardage practice as well as general practice. Changing arrows with the same bow means wasting time aligning the scope/sight after 18-meter shooting.

The past two competitive 18-meter shoots have resulting in two 2nd place finishes. Each time I shot below par. Last night, while reviewing my notes on those contests my errors popped into clarity. Today, I planned to verify my finding. I did it with the Mathews bow.

To start, and a potential error in my test, I used 3 pistol targets arranged like a Vegas 3-spot. What I intended to do was isolate the center ring. On those pistol targets the center 10 is orange and all other rings are black. Essentially, there’s a real clear frame of the center ring. The 10-ring and nine ring are the same size as the archery target.

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This desk is a cluttered, but there’s room to record notes on shots.

Next, I worked through 25 warm up shots to get a feel for the wind that was kicking up off the river. I ended up having to shoot from inside my shed out toward the target.  Then, I shot 75 arrows of which 66 were tens and 9 were nines. Sadly, I didn’t get an arrangement where I had 60 tens in a row.

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My pistol targets with a highly visible center ring in a Vegas 3-spot arrangement. (Looks about right)

The better shooting was even more of a surprise since this was ‘arm’ day at the gym.  It was also swim day and run day.  I always swim before I lift. Trying to swim after lifting weight is tough, archery after swimming and lifting can be a bear. The weight lifting and swimming can lead to fatigue during the afternoon archery practice session.  Today, it didn’t appear to be much of a bother.

What I did get was a more confident feeling, which is all-important. I also worked to eliminate the form errors that have been plaguing me of late. I suppose the Mathews bow is what I’ll be shooting during the upcoming events.

“What the heck am I doing.”

There are days when I think, “What the heck am I doing.” The past few days have been among them.

Archery is a humbling sport. Just when you think things are getting good well things fall apart. Lately, my shots have been flying all over the place. That is all over the yellow ring and just away from the center. To be fair some arrows land in the center. To be sure, not of enough arrows have been landing in the center. It leads to a degree of frustration.

That level of irritation is complied with the pressure of knowing I have not been shooting enough 3D. All the time being spent on 18-meters has limited the occasion where 3D takes priority.

From around 9:00 AM this morning until noon I flung arrows 18-meters. Back and forth I walked to collect arrows that seemed to land all around the center. Only 12% of the 100 plus projectiles smacked home with all the others scoring nines. It was truly aggravating.

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Of the last six shots the first 2 landed in the nine ring and then an X. The next 3 were all Xs. I decided to stop on a high point, rest and head back out after lunch.

Reversing a Downward Spiral

The past few weeks have been a flurry of competitive shooting.  It began with a USA Archery Sanctioned Indoor 18-meter event in Columbus, NC.  That was quickly followed by two leagues shoots and a Christmas Tournament in Elizabeth City, NC.

All four of these were interposed on other forms of sports training. Not to mention hours of archery practice everyday. After competing today, my wife Brenda mentioned, “You look tired.” Well, I admit, I was a bit tired. Maybe that had a little to do with shooting below par, maybe not.

The four shoots mentioned are not ‘A’ events.  They are all ‘C’ level events.  I rank competitions based on the goal of the contest.  Certainly, it is nice to win, but the primary objective in a ‘C’ is to discover what it takes to win.  In that effort I often try something I’ve practiced that I am not 100% comfortable with.  Examples of this are: a change of my release, my anchor point, or weight distribution on stabilizers.

During the all events I make notes, sometimes during the shooting, but always afterwards on problems or about things that worked.  What I know from the data is that I have been dropping points at each shoot.  Not horribly, but definitely moving in the wrong directions.  Reviewing my notes and data indicated the point degradation was associated with change I made in my release. It probably wasn’t a matter of fatigue as Brenda’s earlier comment suggested.

After shooting another low score today, dropping 19 points at 18-meters, it seemed clear there needed to be an adjustment.  I made one, another, then another, and after shooting to verify those changes I set up to test the modifications.

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River checking my groups between playing catch

Those modifications weren’t huge, the misses had not been that far from center.  It turned out on a test at 18-meters in my yard and at that point 3 hours of shooting behind me, my test results revealed an improvement of 8 points, still down 11 by moving in the right directions.

Tomorrow I’ll be back on the front yard range hopefully continuing to move a positive direction.

All Day Training

It was cold enough this morning, 36° F, and windy enough to run me into my shed to practice 18-meters. The space heater inside the shed makes a significant difference and being blocked from wind is a bonus. But, this practice was just part of a long day.

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This space heater on the wall is excellent on cold days.

I shot for about an hour before heading into Elizabeth City for my fitness training. At the Y the first order of business was swimming. For whatever reason the Y here keeps their locker room at meat storage temperature. It’s bad preparing to get into pool; it is awful during the return trip. Being wet walking into that locker room is painful. Not as bad as sitting in a tub of ice, but bad enough.

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I moved the Tower of Targets to face the shed. Typically it sits closer to that leaning pine tree.
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The view from inside my shed toward the target (prior to moving it forward)

There is no break here in the locker room. A quick shower and change for weights. Weight lifting is a Monday, Wednesday, Friday activity. Afternoon archer practice following those mornings can be a challenge. Before getting to that challenge and after weights there was time spent on a treadmill.

Some folks can run on treadmills all day. I have a friend that routinely spends two hours exercising like a human version of a hamster. Six miles is the maximum I every gone on treadmill. If I plan to run far, I prefer doing it outdoors.

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Preparing to ride inside

With the treadmill behind me, it was home for lunch and more archery. Yes, as I thought, my arms let me know I’d been to the gym. While I didn’t shoot any worse or better than par for me, Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday archery practice is less of a muscular marathon.

Writing now, I am on a break. Next on the plan is time on a bike. Why all the exercise, well it is good for me and good for archery.

Shed Shooting

It was cold and windy this morning. Not real cold and not real windy. The combination, however, was enough to hurt.

Of course, in the cold, we can bundle up. The problem I have with the bundling is that it makes for weird shooting.

The solution, when there’s not indoor range open, is to do ‘Shed Shooting.’

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‘Shed Shooting’ is pretty darn nice. Its name is an apt description. I shoot from a shed out toward the target. The shed is really nice. It blocks the wind and has heat.

Mental Error

I was ready to practice this morning.  I was shooting outdoors at 18-meters.  The was little wind.  The light was perfect.

I lined up for the first warm-up shot. I went through my mental process.  I drew back an arrow. I put the dot in the middle and it was holding steady.

The hinge released and I felt a perfect follow through.

My ear told me milliseconds before my eyes confirmed it.  I heard the arrow sailing away.  Not a poor shot.  The shot was great. But, I knew I’d never find that arrow.

The last arrow I shot the evening before was at a target 85-yards away.  The first shot of the morning 18-meters.

Not for the first time, I did everything except check the yardage on my sight. Opps.

A Rare Day Without Wind

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.

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No white caps today

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.

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Barely a hint of a breeze

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.

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River is good to run on any schedule or hang out and eat a stick. Either way, no problem.

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.

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Hurry, hurry, hurry. (I’ve been trail running hence the orange cap.)

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.

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Shoot and pull

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.

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A problem with running shorts is that the quiver wants to slip down.

As John Kessel of USA Volley said, “The Game Teaches the Game.”

Running, Paddleboarding and Shooting

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.

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River pausing while I catch up

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.

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First six shots of my second practices, three 9s followed by three 10s. It started better than it ended (572)

For this session I used three releases, two hinge and a thumb. Again, no difference.