Dang, that was cold! It’s been colder.

Yes, it is snowing up north and the temperatures are low.  In Boston it is 30°F.  It is 32°F in Pittsburgh.  I picked these two examples because I’ve lived and worked in those two cities. In Cleveland, Ohio, another northern city I am acquainted with it is 35°F.  All those cities currently have cold temperatures.  It isn’t that cold here near Athens, Georgia.

It is chilly enough here near Athens.  The high today was 43°F.  Not too bad compared to those northern towns.  Of course, the wind is blowing here.  The wind is always blowing here or so it seems. The breeze is flowing at 11 mph with gusts up to 22 mph.  The final leaves, those last dried up survivors of fall, are now few and far between – excluding my lawn, which is blanketed.

Fifteen years ago in Cleveland I was outside before and after work.  I’d run in morning and ride in the evening.  I lived downtown at 12th and Euclid Street in the Theater district.  I’d run before the migration of workers from the suburbs arrived and bicycle once the herd departed.  Downtown Cleveland was pretty empty outside of normal working hours other than around the medical centers. During the winter Cleveland is really cold.  I don’t care where you live the North Coast is cold in the winter by anyone’s standards.

I’d put every piece of clothing I owned before heading out in January and February there on the shores of Lake Eire.  I’d stay comfortable enough to enjoy the fresh frigid air.  By frigid I do mean those blasts from the Canadian territories.

By those standards 43°F seems mild.  Even adding the wind chill here in Georgia it was still above freezing at 37°F.  In fact, the weather was just fine while trail running this morning.  It was less fine while practicing archery.

Doing archery it is awkward to shoot while wearing 30 pounds of layered apparel. For the hour or so spent shooting outside I wore only long pants, a short sleeved t-shirt, a long sleeved t-shirt, a fleece sleeveless vest, and of course socks, shoes, at hat, etc.  I also stood next to an outdoor propane heater and stuffed my pockets with hand warmers.  It really wasn’t too bad.  I didn’t shoot all that well; neither did I embarrass myself in front of dogs or squirrels – spectators who seemed oblivious to the lower temperatures.

Cycling, after archery, too wasn’t all that bad.  It was bad enough.  Lycra is a poor insulator and half way into the ride I sensed my error in layers.  (Too few –for those who are not fond of guessing)

Training in any sport isn’t always easy.  Well, for me it is rarely easy.  There is work involved.  There will be times with the elements, the weather specifically, isn’t ideal.  The weather isn’t always going the idea during competition.  But, hey, it least here today it wasn’t as bad as the weather during the San Francisco 49’ers and Baltimore Ravens played in this past weekend.  We have pretty much the same conditions here today as yesterday in Baltimore except it wasn’t raining.  I mention that since I lived in Baltimore for 5 years as well.

The New Plan Has More Gym Time

“At your age you need to be careful to focus on that shoulder,” was the comment from Big John a Level 4 USA NTS Archery coach.  He was right and I knew it. I’d been somewhat aware of the error I’d been making.

The mistake was laziness.  It was easier to shoot having a weaker form.  Doing it right, well I admit, hurt.

I’d slipped into the poor form not from a lack of practice but from an overuse injuries.  I’d strained both my shoulders.  I compensated and shot weakly.

It was clear both shoulders needed rehab.  The joints needed to be strengthened.  I’d been there in the past having more than once injured shoulders in other sports.  This was a first in archery, but an old problem with a familiar ache.

The first step was rest.  Then, slowly followed by more time in the gym.  Eventually the gym time with specific exercises to improve both shoulders was doubled.

As we age we all run the risk of diminished muscle mass.  That can lead to an increase chance of joint problems.  In my 2020 plan there is double the amount of gym time compared to 2019.  Gym training is my least favorite routine but a practice that has on more than one occasion paid dividends.

Cool weather 25-meter practice

The cool weather is nice when running

Outdoor practice as winter approaches is slightly better than when winter arrives. Thankfully, I have an outdoor propane heater, which really helps during chilly morning sessions.  The heater was a gift that I continue to appreciate.

Really like this little propane heater

It wasn’t all that cold this morning.  It was 43°F, not too bad. The heater, a hand warmer, and layers of apparel helped. The clothes felt constricting but there’s really no other solution aside from trying to suffer through the lower temperatures while wearing less.  Perhaps those of you, north of the Mason-Dixon Line find this quaint.

25-meter practice
I’m getting the ‘eye’

Still, practice must continue.  During that training one spectator appeared.  Perhaps he was trying to figure out what I was doing in the cold.  Or he might have been hoping I’d leave his hunting ground and stop being a disturbance. Eventually, we both left.

This may have been, in fact, who was getting the ‘eye’

What The Heck?

What the heck?  Seriously, what is up with these numbers?

Shooting an Elite Victory 37X with 60-pound limbs adjusted to around 50 pounds seemed a bit like pushing the limit on the bow regarding how much weight to take off the limbs.  I changed limbs and went to 50 pound limbs set for 50 pounds.  I expect to see an improvement in my scores.

The results weren’t what I expected.

The final ten practices using the weight reduced 60 pound limbs shooting a vertical 3-spot at 18-meters my average score was 580. The new 50-pound limbs, after collecting 10 sixty-arrow practice sessions the average score is 565. The arrows were the same as was the release.  The difference is extremely significant, unpaired t-test were t= 3.969 (this means the difference is real).

Shooting a higher average, the 580 score, the standard deviation was 12.07.  Shooting the lower average, the 565 score, the standard deviation was 2.89. The lower score is very consistent.  This suggests the shooting variance is similar on most of the shots.

The variance, however, is currently outside of sight adjustments.  Reviewing the misses, the arrows are evenly distributed around the X. In both sets of numbers there are no single arrow scores below 9.

Time to take the bow and the archer to get evaluated.

Peaks and Valleys

In every sport with every athlete there are peaks and valleys in performance.  In archery there are times when it seems easy to find the X.  There are times with arrows seem to circle the X just missing.  It can be frustrating.

Maintaining a log of data you can review your peaks and valleys.  Over time, with consistent practice, those gaps between highs and lows diminish.  The gap remains, only the intervals between them narrow.

When you begin entering a slump pause to evaluate what has changed?  Is it fatigue or over training?  Is your form slipping?  Is your mind elsewhere?  Did anything drift with your equipment?

The answer to a dip in performance may make itself obvious.  Sometimes having your coach watch you practice and that extra set of eyes may notice something amiss in your process you’ve overlooked.

If you don’t have a coach at hand try something different.  An easy approach to helping discover what is wrong is simply changing your release.  If you have two different releases they’ll activate slightly different. The change may help you keep or regain your edge.

If you’re over training take a break.  You should have recovery days planned within your training plan.

If all else fails check your gear.  Things can shift with a bow.  Cumulative incremental shifts can add up.

Expect that all days aren’t the same. But, you can work through anything.

Recovery Time: What Everyone Knows That I Don’t Understand

Chris McCormick is a world champion triathlete.  He wrote a book about his experiences as an athlete.  In that book he described a younger triathlete who McCormick felt could become great.  A problem McCormick noticed with the younger athlete was that the fellow was working too hard.

McCormick talked to him suggesting he might add some recovery time to his training.  McCormick at the time of their meeting and training together was mature for a professional triathlete being in his 30s. The younger man was in his early 20s.  McCormick warned him to ease up on occasion to allow for adequate recover without which could lead to burn out or injury.  The twenty year old ignored the advice and not too long after was injured and a bit burnt.

In a post here not too long ago I wrote about recovery.  In that post I described my training. I pointed out that I don’t maintain a level of cardio training today as an archer that I did in my youth.  Still, I do train at what I consider an age appropriate level.

Cardio training is a method to help prolong health and give me a longer runway for archery.  Archery satisfies my need to remain competitive.  Certainly, achieving competitive goals remains possible as an age grouper in other sports.

I have a friend that is 69 and runs ultra marathons.  He’s an amazing athlete.  I know a woman in her mid-80s that still does high-level triathlons.  Again, amazing.  Neither started at a early age both picking up endurance sports in their 50s.

I started endurance sports at 17 and stopped at 57.  Forty years seemed to have been a limit for me.  When I tried stopping I was very unsatisfied.  I needed to compete.  Archery is an outlet for that desire.  Of course I still run and ride but the primary goal is to maintain fitness and prolong my experience in archery.

Along with that sport experience comes decades of understanding recovery. I understand it but do not always follow my own advice or knowledge.  I am prone to over training.

In the prior article about recovery I pointed out that as we age recovery times are often required to be more often and longer.  A reader somehow got another message.

He sent me a note pointing out that everyone understands recovery.  That was news to me.  I am still trying to find the right balance.  He somehow believed I am still in my 50s.  He further suggested my training along with the aches and pains associated were typical for a 50 year old, with the luxury of time, however not realistic for someone approaching 70 as he is approaching 70.

I took that comment as a compliment. The older critic, approaching 70, is pretty close to my age as I approach 70.  He is older by a few years but within my age group. He seems to be fairly fit results of his foundation of years of hard work.  He suggested my life of luxury has afforded me at 50 to be able to train the way I train.

That’s not true.  I’ve been able to train the way I train because I have had great coaches that ensured I had adequate recover whether I wanted it or not.  The result was minimal injury and little burn out.  Sure it is unlikely I’ll do too much racing in the future but not entirely out of the picture.  It isn’t that I burnt out on it after four decades, it became too expensive.

Archery is a lot less expensive than triathletes, easier to find events compared to cycling, and a sport that is much less age dependent.  So long as I maintain the best level of activity and recovery I should last a pretty long time shooting arrows.

Here’s the thing, finding the best point where recovery is needed and just plain soreness needing to be worked through is a tough balancing act.  As the 60+ critic pointed out everyone understands recovery and aging.  So, everyone, of you have sound advice I’m listening.

The Goat is Home

My TRU Ball Goat release busted.  I called TRU Ball.  They gave me instructions for it to be returned so that they could repair it.  I shipped the Goat back regular (the less expensive method) mail.  Seven days later that Goat was back in my hand. That is hard to beat when it comes to customer service.

During the Goat’s absence I tried shooting an old True Fire thumb release.  The trigger on that release has no sensitivity adjustment.  This meant having to move my thumb to active the release.  That didn’t pan out.

Next I tried an old Scott Black Hole 3. It was just too cold. Sure, you might be a wizard at adjusting this type of release to make it more sensitive – not me. I’ve tried and given up. Every attempt at finding that perfect spot where the hinge releases, when I make the adjustment, is either too hot or too cold.   Next I used an old Scott Long Horn Pro Advantage release.  That was just right. The release setting set by a tech at Scott.

Even though I ‘mostly’ use back tension to active my Goat in the thumb trigger mode I am less comfortable with a pure back tension hinge.  When I make a mistake with a hinge style release it is a whopper. With a thumb activation I can be a little less careful.

Still, I enjoy shooting exclusively a hinge style release.  For years it was all I shot.  Then, a bow tech, who seemed knowledgeable, claimed thumb releases were the better approach.  It wasn’t as if he was trying to sell me a thumb release, the shop where he worked didn’t have any thumb releases in stock at the time.

I’d been using a Scott Black Hole 3 my wife had purchased me as a Christmas gift in 2014, a few weeks after I’d started playing around with archery.  A buddy of mine used a Black Hole 3 and it the total extent of my knowledge of hinge releases.

Because this buddy was a ex-pro (he made certain you became aware of his past and present glory) I thought he must be doing something better than me. So, when Brenda asked what I wanted for Christmas I told her a Scott Black Hole 3 release. With that request I exhausted my complete knowledge base of hinge releases.

Until that point I’d been using a finger trigger release.  I think it was a Scott Little Goose.  The Little Goose was a nice release.  I lost it when I sold a bow and the case it was in.  I’d forgotten to remove the Little Goose  from the case and it was gone forever.

On Christmas morning of 2014 I unwrapped my new hinge release then watched a YouTube on how to use it. Despite a bit of nervousness having heard all sorts of tooth breaking, lip busting, and nose bleeding horror stories of hinge style shooting I set out to master pure back tension.  The mastering remains unattained.

Thus far, I endure injury free using a back tension.  Nevertheless, I let the bow tech at the thumbless release shop convince me to use a thumb release over a hinge.  I found one at a different nearby archery shop.  It was the True Fire release.  They were too happy to accept my money.

Over time, it became clear that that choice, the True Fire, was excellent for hunting, less so for target shooting.  The sensitivity on the model I owned was simply too dull in that it required to great of a movement for me to activate.

Months into working with the True Fire, I was mentally stuck with a thumb.  Each time I worked to switch back to a hinge every poor form habit, which you can get away with using a thumb release, was so much a part of my shooting that the practice with pure hinge release was frustrating.

Luckily, another bow tech at another shop suggested I try the TRU Ball Goat.  I could set it to trigger the way I wanted.  It fit so that I could use, to some degree, back tension to activate the release.

Actually, a good archer can use the Goat with back tension with or without the thumb approach.  In my hands, well a hybrid approach is a fair description.  Sometimes I get the back tension, sometimes I thumb it, and sometimes is fire an arrow seemingly by magic. (The arrows is flying toward the target and I’m not yet ready)

Then, my Goat broke.  I pulled out the old True Fire. I gave up on the True Fire, after shooting a 533 out of 600, and eventually migrated to the Scott Longhorn Pro Advantage.

A few hundred arrows with the Scott release helped reestablish a better shooting form.  I really had to focus.  It was focus or miss.  After 500 arrows using the hinge or so I was shooting pretty good with it.  (No arrows were lost during the transition)

Just as I was getting comfortable with the Longhorn Pro my Goat came home.  The day it arrived I used it in a local league competition.

The league competition here is tough.  It came down to 2 ex-pros (both have only ever had jobs in archery), a kid that is ranked number 1 in the Nation for his age group (he never misses the 10 ring when it is the outer 10) some fellow I don’t know that seemed like a big shot.

I say he seemed like a big shot because he talked a lot about the shoot offs he competed in at Vegas and Lancaster. He was using some thumb style release.

I’m not  sure he could have shot a hinge release.  His chest was so puffed up he scapulas were practically fusing between ends.  He, too, didn’t miss any ten rings. And then me shooting the just returned Goat.

The Goat did just fine even if I was a bit off the mark.  I ended up with 2 nines for the evening but that was good enough to put me in the shoot off.  Oh, there’s money on the line at these local events and I wanted the money. During the evening I’d gotten the feel back for the Goat and felt there’d be no more nines.

Using the Goat I’d need to shoot against, Steve, an ex-pro cover boy.  By that, he I mean he was once a celebrity archer who his many sponsors used in their marketing material.

The final bit for the evening was the shoot off.  After 6 arrows, the amount used for this shoot off, Steve and I were tied.  It would come down to one final arrow, closest to the center wins.  My arrow was 50% in the center X and 50% out.  His was 75% in the center X and 25% out.  Steve won.

When it was over (for me), Big John, a USA Archery Level 4 Coach, commented that I’d shot well.  I hadn’t.  The league is only 30 arrows, not 60.  I should have been able to hit the larger 10 ring 30 times, I managed it only 28 times.

Maybe if I’d used the Scott Longhorn Pro I might have performed better and maybe not.  It seems I end up with about the same scores regardless of what release I’m holding. Sure the True Fire didn’t work out, but in the past, using that insensitive release I’ve scored well. Either way, I remain more comfortable with the Goat.

Comfort is good, laziness with form isn’t. It is easy to get lazy using a thumb.

If Your Butt Is Big Enough

The evening indoor league begins either this week or next.  I called to check, because I don’t know.  I’ll need to call back.  When I called the fellow that organizes the shoots wasn’t yet at work.

I also don’t know what targets will be selected on any given league night. I do know the distance, it will be 18-meters.  At 18-meters there are a number of target options.

I’ll just practice on all of them. Sooner or later I’ll need to shoot well against whichever piece of paper is hanging down range.

If the butt fits…

Expensive Targets

If it’s not simple, it simply won’t get done.

Someone wrote an article I read wherein he advised to cover all targets and target butts. I don’t cover all of my target butts.  None of my 3D targets are ever covered.   As little 3D as I shot last year maybe that should change.  I doubt there will be a change. Two targets butts are always covered.  Those seem to be the most impacted by rain so I put a large outdoor grill cover over them for protection. Aside from those two every other target butt and 3D animal on my ranges are waiting for an arrow.

We’ve not had any rain to speak of in this part of Georgia so the damage from water has been a non-issue. Sure, that will change.  In the spring I’ll be conducting amateurish repairs to everything that ends up with an arrow in it.  Those repairs last about a year.

A big expense and watching money burn is when it comes to paper targets.  I buy them in bulk looking for the best deal, typically found at Amazon. Last week I paid a premium for vinyl 18-meter targets.  I thought the extra money might equate to longer lasting targets.

The vinyl targets are certainly high quality.  The center, however, shoots out just a little more slowly than inexpensive paper.

I ordered 10 of the pricey vinyl targets, which are great for outdoor shooting.  If it rained on them they would hold up.  They’re really nice.  But, after 90 arrows the center is pretty much gone – just like paper. Ninety arrows is one morning practice.

The vinyl targets stayed up between morning and afternoon practice.  They’ll need to be replaced for tomorrow. I use two pinned to a butt trying to make the most of my time.  Walking back and forth every 3 arrows eats a lot of time.

I’ll definitely have days where I’ll just shoot ends of 3 rather than 6 – just not all the time. Sometimes I even shoot three targets pinned to a butt having ends of 9 arrows.

Nine shoot before pulling is one way to go

 

Five years ago the vinyl would have been perfect.  Five years ago I got my money’s worth out of paper.  That is, I shot all the colors.

I’m still not going to cover my target butts.  It takes too much time to cover them.  When I’m ready to shoot, I’m shooting.  Anything that eats time away from practice or makes practice less simple to achieve I try to remove.  Removing extra covers is not difficult but less simple.

The vinyl targets were a good idea for outdoor practice.  When I shoot up these I’ll be going back to inexpensive paper.  No matter which target I flinging arrows into, it is nice to have them ready and waiting for practice.  Simple.

Time for a Break

I’d planned a short break between the final outdoor tournament in indoor training.  The day after the last outdoor event I set my practice range up for 18-meters.  Once it was arranged, resistance was futile.

All week I’ve shot and shot. I’ve shot morning and afternoon.  Through record breaking temperatures I sweated and shot.  In addition, I stretched every morning, ran everyday, went cycling (during the hottest part of the day), mowed, cut, and trimmed property, planted 8 trees, and completed daily chores.

On Saturday (a week after the two-day outdoor tournament began), after stretching and running, I headed out to the range. Twenty-seven arrows later I was heading off the range. There was no doubt it is break time.