So, That Took Too Long

It started at 10:00 AM. Five plus hours – sixty arrows. Over five hours shooting sixty arrows at a 3-spot. After five hours I did not care how I’d placed. I knew how I’d shot and figured it would be good enough for a top three finish.

Before the tournament, Brenda, my wife had come to see the range. When one of the owners of the range asked if she’d be back tomorrow to watch Brenda politely said no. I think archery could be a spectator sport. Presently, I don’t think it is a spectator sport. Brenda definitely is not an archery fan. She could be, she loves sports.

A sport where athletes stand real still needs some pizzazz. Live announcing, music, and of course, keeping the flow of arrows flying toward targets. Excessive pauses in the action are not spectacles for fans.

In retrospect, the two-minutes used for flinging arrows down range was strictly enforced. There were, at this five-hour plus contest, lengthy delays in addition. Three digits seem to be a remarkable feat of totaling for many. Believe me, 10 + 10 + 9 does not require a calculator. Double digits, like, 29 + 28, can be cyphered in your head. Heck, I can even deal with less accomplished shooting, where values of 8 + 6 + 5 appear on the target without a smart phone supplement.

No, at this contest it was our arithmetically vulnerable youth where the time began to accumulate. My wife, a retired teacher, when I pointed this out to her, went into one of her rants about the dumbing down of our youth by schools. The ubiquitous smart phone calculator in the hands of youthful shooters working out simple addition is a sad sign of math education.

Any day, I prefer a calculator to a slide rule. Yet, I loved my old slide rule. But, it wasn’t a tool for addition. For years I owned a Casio Scientific calculator. It was my favorite. It was stolen from me in Brussels, Belgium. I am certain the thief never appreciated the value.

As the precession back and forth to the addition line continued, I’d occasionally mark the time. By 11:00 AM we’d shot 12 arrows. The tournament started at 10:00 AM. By the break we’d lost a few archers – those having late afternoon appointments. One archer, in a panic of time, departed without his bow. Lucky for him, his friends said they’d take it home for him.

By 3:10 PM I was packing my gear. I’d called Brenda at 2:30 PM and told her we’d be done in twenty minutes, there were two ends to follow when I called. As I was packing my bow I recalled a day a couple of years ago.

On that day, in the morning, I swam 1.2 miles with a group of 2000 other triathletes. Next, we pedaled bicycles for 56 miles, and then ran 13.1 miles. It took less time than shooting 60 arrows and walking forty yards after every three arrows. (The prior sentence contains some math to ponder)

Archery requires a lot of patience.

An Abundance of Nines

This was my 4th target of the day. I’d already shot up two 5-spots and another 3-spot. The 3-spot below pretty much is how my day went.

Sure there’s a ‘hopeful’ number of tens on this paper. There are also way too many nines. To be sure this is frustrating. The last 5-spot , with that seductively inviting large X-ring, was even more exasperating whenever I missed the X.

These misses, the nines, were sloppy rushed shots. You know that instant when the arrow is about to fly, your brain says no, your gut is hoping for a little luck. It’s already too late. You can’t hope for luck. You have to know without that mental debate over knowing that you are hitting the X.

Generally, I knew when I’d missed the ten before the arrow hit. In fact, I knew where the arrows were going to land the instant it released. That only makes some practice a bit more head bashing and aggravating than others.

Dropping 3%

Vince Lombardi said, “Perfect practice, makes perfect.” Archery requires a lot of perfection to earn a perfect score. I’ve not done it, yet. Very few people have shot a perfect score against the current USA Archery inner ten 3-spot. In fact, at the 2017 indoor National Championships, no one shot a 1200 (two days with a maximum score of 600 per day.)

The highest score I found was by Brady Ellison, a recurve shooter and Olympian, with an 1192. In the compound bow divisions John Freeman took the top score with an 1189. There were no 1200 scores from what I could find.

My top score for 120 arrows is 1149. That score ties me for third in my division, only on the weekend of the nationals I didn’t make that score and finished a little further down the line despite winning in the region where I competed. Regarding the 1149, it has been several weeks since I’ve been able to put together a similar or better score. I’ve been in the ballpark just a tad off on the X count.

Practice started today is such a way that I was feeling pretty optimistic. The first 6 shots all tens. I finished the first 30 shots on a high note and was eager to keep going with the next 30 arrows thinking a personal best was on the line.

That first shot couldn’t have been any better. The fourth cut the line. (The hole off the line was expanded by the 7th shot a nine)

The next 30 arrows turned out to be a bust. Two tens and 28 nines. I nearly stopped practice recognizing I was simply off and there was no reason to continue a bad practice.

Except, the reasoning to regain my form and try figuring out that on earth was happening. The misses, not hitting a 10, weren’t all over the place. However, they were consistently high just above the 10 ring.

When I get tired I drop my release hand a little. The slight shift makes supporting the bow easier. This always pulls my arrows up a little. I wasn’t tired from today’s practice. The fatigue was built up soreness from many long days on the range. I recognized the problem, did what I could to correct it and continued shooting nines missing the 10 ring by just a little.

Only a few of years ago I was trying to stay above 500 after 60 arrows. Despite the fatigue and an abundance of nines today I was still hoping for around 580. (“Hope springs eternal”) I ended up shooting 3% lower this morning versus yesterday afternoon. I’ll rest this afternoon and tomorrow I’ll aim for 590 or higher. Perfect doesn’t come overnight.

Days of Going Backwards

For periods of time I have specific goals for archery. For example, a previous goal was to shoot 570 or better. Before that it was 560 or better, on a 3-spot. For a 5-spot it had been to score a 300, now it is 60 Xs.

A 3-spot has a smaller X-ring. The current goal of 580 means an average of 2 out of every three arrows is an X and the remainders are 9s. Of course, an 8 means more Xs to compensate for the point lost. But, I try to shoot at least 2 out of 3 Xs and the remainders are 9s.

Certainly, 60X on a 3-spot is a longer-term goal. It has been done. For me, I’ve never hit 60X on a 3-spot or a 5-spot. I’ve come close on a 5-spot, but it remains illusive.

Today, practice was not what I wanted it to be regarding my X count on a 3-spot. Having come back from a break that was longer than I’d intended my accuracy is a tad off the mark. Not horrible, but I’m not where I was before the break.

The break was extended by life. We had a relative expire and needed to head back to Georgia in a rush. To top it off Hurricane Irma reached Atlanta, where the service was held, on the day of the service. The relative was a sister-in-law whose family hails from Connecticut. They didn’t seem all that concerned with a hurricane. We live near the Outer Banks and both my wife and I are from Savannah, GA. We have a different respect for hurricanes.  At any rate, practicing archery has been on a back burner.

Yep, this is things rolled this morning.

Today, shooting didn’t improve. It didn’t get much worse other than shooting an 8 and not enough 10s. The X mark right now, as it has been since we returned, has been just out of reach.

All athletes have similar days. Whether it is track and field, triathlon, or archery, there are times that one seems to be going backwards. These past few days I’ve felt like I’ve gone backwards. Still, I aim to put each arrow into the X, do it over and over and realize this too will pass.