Shorter Days and a Little Rain

After a day off, a rest day, I was eager to train. It rained. Nevertheless, River and I headed out the door at around 0630 for a run. Fortunately, it was a light rain. But even a light rain is a burden when shooting 18-meters outside.

With a tournament this weekend, and having that worry about the other archers that didn’t take a break day, I needed to shoot. So, it was off to PGF Archery in Elizabeth City to use their indoor range. For $6.00 I had the range to myself.

Four of my arrows ready to be picked up from PFG Archery

During this practice, I used a timer and played music. The last time, a few days ago, when I timed my shots I ended up having an average of 23 seconds remaining of my two minutes for three arrows. Today, I had on average 26 seconds remaining or about a second faster per arrow. That can probably be attributed to becoming more comfortable with my new Spot-Hogg arrow rest. The music, which I didn’t like a whole lot when I was first introduced to it, is something I practice with all the time indoors when I’m alone. It has taken a while to get used to music in the background.

Darrell, a World Class shooter

While shooting at PGF Archery a friend showed up unexpectedly. He’s an elite shooter and has won more titles shooting than I can image. In fact, he was just in the local paper, again, for winning another major tournament. In his case he does it with a shotgun. He was there on an errand for his brother.

As I left the range, the rain had stopped. It was still cloudy and cold. Those conditions didn’t stop a nice bike ride in the afternoon before my second archery practice.

Shoot three arrows, stand by the heater, warm-up, shoot three more.

Despite the lack of sunlight I shot better in the afternoon. These shorter days do put a damper on being outside.

It’s hard to find the dot when there is no light

Time those shots

Two minutes seems like plenty of time to shoot three arrows. Really, it is more than enough time most of the time. Still, on a line in a tournament there will be the occasional archer that screws up and loses ten points to the clock.

Last year, I came close to being that guy. After archers were called to the line the judges failed to blow the start whistle and had started the clock. The clock running without a whistle was making the line get antsy. Finally, someone figured it out, but the judges didn’t blow the whistle, they just yelled to start shooting.

Once everyone got the message and began flinging arrows, I joined along with less than a minute on the clock. Talk about taking away the mental game.

I nocked my first arrow with 58 seconds on the clock. Rounding up to 60 seconds that’s about 20 seconds per arrow. On the final shot of the end I was the last archer on the line. There was a crowd watching and they began a count down, “10, 9, 8,7…”

With a room full of people counting down I flung my final shot at the target as the audience paused between 2 and 1 and scored a nine. It was exciting, but an excitement I can do without.

However, I do want to use as much of my two-minutes as I need and not rush. So, at times I practice using a timer. To amplify my  need to rehearse my shooting times, I changed my arrow rest. What I have now is one of those fixed blade tournament style rests. It is requiring some practice to keep the arrow on that rest while I am drawing.  The result is I am drawing much more slowly. That eats up a few seconds on every shot.

Several times a year while practicing I will use a stopwatch to monitor my shooting time. The new arrow rest encouraged me to check out my times this week. The data I collected showed that I am shooting more slowly by an average of ten seconds per arrow. Using the old rest I had an average of 33 seconds remaining on the clock after my last arrow. Using the new rest the average time remaining is 23 seconds.

There’s not a lot of time left over after shooting three arrows off the new rest. Still 23 seconds ought to be a nice cushion. By taking the time to check my shooting time and know what I have to work with it reduces tournament anxiety over not knowing.

Dealing with Light and the Lack of It.

Previously, I’ve written about light absorption, how our eyes gather light, and archery. Occasionally, I end up on an indoor range where I can’t see a thing. This is a reality and it is going to continue to happen.

I often wear shooting glasses. Mostly I wear them for outdoor shooting, well exclusively for outdoor shooting. But, some articles I’ve read suggest the correctly tinted lens might be helpful regarding light absorption.

I don’t wear shooting glasses on every shot, primarily when the sun is a problem. I’d like to wear them all the time, but the light on every shoot is not always the same.  Even though I have multiple shades of lens, I can’t worry with changing them to match every level of illumination. It’s too much to worry with in competition. So, I keep the dark shades installed.

Outdoors they have saved me more than once. Indoors is another matter.

Many of the indoor tournaments where I shot the lighting has been good. Some are better than others. Lately, all my practice has been outside. I went indoors this week and was shocked.

I know I need to practice on the range where I trained yesterday simply because of the poor lighting. The targets are arranged beyond the overhead lights and they have a bit of shadow cast upon them. I can’t see squat in there. It good training for the day I end up in competition and the lights are poorly situated. But, it is frustrating.

As we age we have a disadvantage in that our eyes don’t gather light as well as they did in our youth. I understand that some tinted lenses can help with light gathering. I think I’ll begin experimenting with the tinted lenses I own to see of it helps.

Frustrated

Since September my average score at 18-meters is 562. The high score within this data is 580 with a low of 548. The average X count for that 562 is 22 with a high of 40 and a low of 14. A year ago my average score was 560. My low was 542 and high was 570 with an average X count of 21. That’s not much improvement.

Should I continue to advance scores at the current rate, 2 points per year, I’ll hit 600 at age 81. These scores are based on a 3-spot targeting the inner 10. Eighteen months ago my average was 554. So, that’s an eight-point improvement over eighteen months. During the first several months of shooting a 3-spot, with the outer ten counting for ten ring (for non-archers the 10 ring got smaller by about half) my average was 469.

So, another way to look at this is that I’ve improved my average, since I began, by 93 points in about 48 months or about 17% improvement while reducing the size of the primary target.

A score of 560 is 93% of a perfect score. It’s the final 7% that is killing me. Sure, a 580 is a decent score, but thus far I’ve hit that mark the one time. Still 580 is a long haul from 600. The world’s top archers are scoring in the high 590 range.

Compared to 2016 my misses are closer to the ten ring. In other words, my nines are tighter and closer to the ten ring than a year ago. The large yellow ringed nine means that a miss off the ten by a millimeter or an inch count the same.

Needless to say, despite what I perceive as improvement, I remain frustrated.

Oh, That Made a Difference! For a Minute.

Two nights ago, I searched YouTube for insight regarding what has happened to y scores. Most of what I watched wasn’t very helpful. A few left me with that WTF thought. Then, there was one that made me think, “Maybe I should give that a try.” Heck, I’ve tried everything else.

The video was of Niamh Jones. You might not know her. She’s Australian and shoot for Mathews. She was in need of a new thumb release.

( Here’s the link – blob:https://www.youtube.com/05e9655d-6895-4f67-8535-3ca4e364890b)

She competes with a thumb release. Using that style release she won the 2016 Ladies Indoor National Championship. Further, she uses a hinge release as a training tool, yet competes with a thumb. Okay, that sounds pretty much like what I’ve been doing for years.

The YouTube video wasn’t about training. She needed a new thumb release. She pointed out that after several years her old release wasn’t operating as smoothly as it did new. Wait a minute! My thumb release is four years old. So, was the one that Ms. Jones was replacing. I have a brand new exact duplicate of the old thumb release I shoot. Maybe, just maybe I ought to give that a try.

Occasionally, my old thumb release feels soft as I activate the trigger. It sometimes feels like it is snagging the D-loop. I’d figured it was just me – what if it isn’t?

Of everything I’d tried to get out of this hole, I’d not tried the duplicate thumb release I already own.  I gave it a try. To be sure, I did not shoot a 600. I did, however, end up with 40 tens and 20 nines.

After shooting a 580 I wanted to see if it might have been the release or was it all in my head. I took releases and put them into a pouch. Then, I juggled the pouch before reaching in and withdrawing a release without looking. I put the release into my pocket still without looking at the release. Looking I can see the differences between the two releases.  The old one is more scuffed and worn.

After I nocked an arrow, grabbed the release and shot three arrows I sate the release aside. I then looked at the release and scored the arrows. I repeated this four times until I had two ends for each release.

This morning’s 580 is about where I thought I’d be a couple of weeks ago.

With the new release, I shot six tens. With the old release I shot two tens, three nines and an eight. So, just maybe that was the issue.  Now, I need to see if this holds and find those remaining 20 tens.

PS: Alas, the momentary improvement didn’t stick. In subsequent practice I dropped back to a 562 then a 556. Today, it is raining. So, tomorrow back to the salt mine.

Where Did My Mojo Go?

Six weeks ago my average on 3-spot had been 564. During the past six weeks it has dropped rather than increase. My current average is 556.

I predicted by now I’d be approaching a higher average. Out of desperation I changed over to a hinge release thinking that might help. It didn’t.

I’ve added more weight to my bow and had it balanced. No improvement.

I changed my sight from a 4X to a 6X. Nope, still the same.

For the most part the nines are not wild. They’re just not tens.

Out of 180 arrows today, less than half were tens – 60 tens. There were four eights and all others were nines. This count excludes 18 unscored arrows used as warm-up shots between practice sessions.

On the positive side, I shot my best on the last 60 arrows – 562. But, I needed to go back to a thumb release to hit that score. Still a long way from where I am aiming.

Time to Head Home

We’re leaving Georgia in the morning to head back to North Carolina. It has been a very nice trip. On this visit to our home State, Brenda and I stayed with our oldest daughter and her family for a few days. There we enjoyed an early Halloween party that was the best ever.

I, also, got to visit my friend Big John Chandler at his archery shop attached to the Ace Hardware in Social Circle, Georgia. It is always good to see John.

After leaving our daughter’s home, in Watkinsville, GA, we drove to Tignall, GA to stay with Brenda’s father for a few more days. There, River and I ran trails and gravel roads. She helped me practice archery by slowing me down between ends. River was adamant about the between shots stick game.

18-meter practice

It became obvious; I didn’t leave an adequate supply of paper targets here in Georgia. There were only two remaining in the garage. I’ll need to bring a fresh supply when we head back in November.

The last target

One thing for sure, we ate well while we were here!

Lots of Changes

There are a number of changes I am working through at the moment. Mechanically the major process change is how I’ve been drawing and loading. My friend, Big John Chandler, a USA Archery Level 4 Coach, worked with me at his location in Social Circle, Georgia this past week, and made a few recommendations on my mechanics.

Big John working with one of his students at the indoor range located in the Ace Hardware, Social Circle, GA.

Among the earlier changes I’ve, once again, switched from a thumb to hinge. The hinge I’m am practicing with is an old Scott Black Hole Three. I’ve used it as my primary release before changing to a thumb on the suggestion of a coach. His belief was that the advances in a thumb release surpassed the current state of development with hinge releases. I have no idea which release is best, I shoot about the same scores with either release – most of the time. There are days where one release seems to be working for me better than the other.

What Big John noticed was how I worked my scapula into its final position. So, I am modifying my draw and loading sequences based on his recommendations.

John also noticed my bow was out of balance. It had been balanced using the hit or miss technique and never placed into an official balancing scale. Balancing included adding another 8.2 ounces of weights. In addition, I increased the lens strength on my scope from a 4X to a 6X.

Those changes are a lot to work on all at once. It seems I was pretty far off on having me gear and technique on a proper path.

Starting Over Sucks

For years I’ve shot a certain way. Each shot I tried to improve my form, reach a point where every shot is the same and have every arrow land in the X. Now, to be clear, when I write that I’ve been doing this for years, while that’s true, it hasn’t been too many years. Years practicing a sport are often measured in decades. My years are limited to four.

Archery is an experiment whereby using a population of one (me) I am working to see how long it takes to become an “elite” archer. Part of the program is to determine whether “talent-transfer” from other sports might assist with archery. The other sports in the case here are cycling and triathlon. Both are individual sports, cycling is at times a team sport. Archery’s, also an individual sport, skill sets are vastly different from more vigorous athletics. Honestly, I thought I’d be further along than I am at this point.

There are plateaus that all athletes pass over. It would be easy to think, if a specific level was high enough to satisfy the individual, that some plateau might be associated with physical limits. In some sports such bars may be related to physical limits. Those limits could be imposed on an athlete because of genetics. For example, a five foot six inch male high jumper in high school will reach a vertical limit that might impinge his success while competing against six foot five inch jumpers in college. Sure, you might suggest there’s some springy-legged short fellow out there in a super hero costume that is an anomaly, but barring any Marvel-magic, the short guy loses to the giant in high jump competition.

Archery is a sporting equalizer. Size isn’t as relevant to the success of an archer as basketball player. Still, in every sport, archery included, athletes have occasional plateaus.

To surpass a specific level and improve, sometimes, there has to be significant changes. Those changes can lead to a momentary degradation in performance. Hopefully, sticking with sound coaching advice, the changes evolve into segmental improvement.

Which is where I currently find myself and waiting for the leap forward.