Distractions, A Stink Bug, and a Little Luck

Last week, on an indoor range, I was practicing at 18-meters.  There weren’t many other people there at that time.  Steve was there. Steve’s a coach and was working with a student.

I’m accustomed to practicing while coaching is happening around me.  I listen to what is being said between ends.  I’ve picked up more than one free tip from Steve while he’s coaching.

Anyway, I was working away at 18-meters. I’d been shooting pretty good. Then, on one shot I hit a 9.  Now a 9 isn’t bad but I’d been hitting 10s. Here’s what happened – Steve walks over to grab arrows from a ground quiver about 2 inches from me.  The distraction was all it took to miss the 10.

I laughed and said, “Thanks, Steve!  That 9 is on you.”  He, too, laughed and added, “You need to learn to block distraction.” Of course he’s right.  Who knows, I may have hit the 9 regardless of Steve nearly knocking me over.  (Yes, Steve that’s how I telling it) I mean, it wouldn’t have been my first 9.

Distractions happen. They really can’t be allowed to mess with your shooting.   The other day I had another distraction.  A stink bug.

This stink bug hopped off my bow after the shot. He stayed around for a photo opt.

Practicing at 18-meters on my outdoor range I was again doing pretty good.  At full draw, all focused, letting my brain relax, finding silence, being one with the arrow and channeling my inner Yoda, this stink bug lands on the lens of my scope. Yep, the arrow was off in the millisecond of bug to glass impact.

I heard the arrow hit the target.  I was expecting to find it some where in the white and glad it didn’t sail off into the woods.  I lifted my binoculars to find the arrow.  What I found was a real surprise.

100% luck

The shot turned out good. Sometimes luck is a good thing to have.

Rain, Rain and More Rain During Practice

A rainy night in Georgia
A rainy night in Georgia
I believe it’s rainin’ all over the world

It’s been more than a rainy night.  We’re on pace to break a record for annual rainfall here in Georgia.  The weather report two days ago said we only needed another 1.5 inches to set a new record.  It hasn’t stopped raining since that report.

Rain is not an archer’s best friend.  If you’ve done more than a few outdoor archery tournaments you’ve probably been caught in the rain.  Shooting in the rain is a mess.

It wasn’t a downpour, but it was coming down

I just left my outdoor range.  It was raining while I was practicing.  It is December and the rain and cold are a miserable combination.  Luckily, the temperature isn’t bad, it was 54°F – nice for December.

Still after an hour I stopped.  I was wet and the rain was getting worse.  The paper targets were disintegrating and my scope was covered with beaded drops of water.

It wasn’t the practice I hoped to get completed.  I’d hoped for a pause in the rain.  Being wet at 54°F isn’t bad if you’re running, but it is bad when you’re trying to stand still. There was, however, specific work needed to be done.

Didn’t want to run my little heater in the rain

Today, practice wasn’t only about hitting the X.  It was about getting a feel for 2 minutes.  Often, I’ll use the timer on my phone and practice against the clock. What I want to do is maximize my arrow shot process flow, see that I have ample recover time between shots, take my time on each shot, and have some time left over.

Practicing against the clock does a several things: 1) You learn how long it takes you to shoot 3 arrows, 2) You become comfortable with a timer counting down the seconds, 3) you learn not to rush your shots, and 4) you learn about how much time you have to regroup after an error like dropping an arrow off the rest.

Dropping an arrow off your rest during a tournament is going to happen.  For me it has happened when I was letting down.  The arrow had slipped off the rest while I was drawing. Rather than take my finger and put the arrow back on the rest I prefer to start over with the shot process.  Once or twice the arrow came off the string during competition as I was letting down. If that happens to you, don’t lean over and pick up the escaping arrow – let it go.  Collect the arrow after the whistle blows to stop shooting. A simple drill get comfortable if this situation – rather when this situation – occurs:  Using a clock, time 3 minutes, shoot 3 arrows, but have a 4th and intentionally drop an arrow so that up must use the 4th arrow within the two minutes. It’s an easy exercise and you’ll get a good understanding of the timing for when you do drop an arrow.

An arrow on the floor or ground doesn’t get under my skin.  I know that when this happens and I draw another arrow to start over I’ll still have time remaining to calmly get off all three shots. Generally, I have around thirty seconds remaining on the clock after I shoot three arrows.  That means it takes me about 30 seconds per arrow. So, I can easily get four arrows off in 120 seconds or 2 minutes.

When one arrow is dropped, I’m essentially adding a 4thshot.  It’s happened to me a few times during an event. I have gotten that 4tharrow, including the on the floor, fired leaving a second or two on the clock when I released the final shot.  But, I’ve never lost points for shooting after the whistle blew.

Today, in the rain my cell phone timer was getting pretty wet.  I have a protective case on the phone that is supposed to be water resistant. The protective case might work but a soaked phone was another reason I called the morning practice to a halt.  Additionally, it is New Year’s Eve and we’re having a party here this evening.  It was time to cut practice short.

Coaching tip

The rain may or may not let up.  If it does and I have time I’ll get in another practice.  For now, I did get some practice during the rain, which is good. I got to work against a clock and that too is a good.  I’ve been rained on bin the past during competition and it will certainly happen again. Having practiced in rain teaches me how to perform during inclement weather.

Win It All – At Least Knowing The Numbers Creates a Goal to Win it All

18-meter practice over the past eight weeks has been an up and down business. It feels mostly down because I hit a peak early on in a six-weeks cycle.  Naturally, going into the final two indoor tournaments of 2018 I was rolling around in the mire of a down turn in performance.  Still I won one of them.  The second, competing against the 21-49 year old men, it was all I could do not to embarrass myself.  Nevertheless, I finished respectably and used the tournament for an “educational” session.

For 2019 I am still working out in which tournaments to compete and the goals for those events and the year.  I keep coming up with an all-encompassing goal of ‘win everything.’  While it might sound brash the data suggests it might be possible.  So, why not have the foremost goal for 2019 to win everything.

2019 has major tournaments early in the year with two state championships in February.  In 2018 January and February were moving months.  For eight weeks I barely got in any practice.  The lack of training showed up with three consecutive second places.  Once I got back to practice things improved and I won the next three State Championships setting a record in one.  Then, I took a second place, at the Georgia Cup, competing against a younger crowd (thanks, Paul – he knows what I’m writing about).  Few more wins and a few more seconds, the younger guys still knocking me down after the Georgia Cup.

So, why would I have a goal to win everything?  It is because my data suggests that’s possible.

Here’s an explanation for 18-meters: In 2017 the top two places in my age group for the indoor Nationals finished with scores of 1155 and 1154.  Over the past eight weeks my lowest two scores totaled 1130 – not so good.  My highest two-day score is 1183 – a winning combination.  During this eight weeks cycle my average score for two-days is 1150, one point above the 2017 3rdplace finisher.  But, when I delete scores associated with a new release, new arrows, changes in stabilizers the average score is 1156. 1156 isn’t the best score; it is an average without variables that impact performance. It also places me one point up over the prior winning score.

You might think that 1150 is the likely finishing point puts me outside of a first place finish. You’d be correct.  The lowest two-day scores of 1130 knock me way down the line. That would place me in 9thplace.

Here’s the thing, a goal must be established.  The overall goal of winning it all is then broken down to achieve specifics in form, training cycles, and 30 arrow quantitative scores.  In each of those elements I am currently below my 2019 goal.  Now begins the cycle to work toward achieving each element of each goal.  When I do that, well I’ll win.

Christmas Morning Run

I try to run every morning. It is rare I miss it.  Christmas was no exception – I ran.

Running the backroads

We, Brenda and I, were in Tignall, Georgia for a Christmas celebration with Ray, my father-in-law and Wade, my brother-in-law. All the kids and grandkids where out to town either at Disney World or visiting in-laws in Pittsburgh. (Girls, should you read this and if given the option include Brenda and I next year in Pittsburgh. Just kidding – Disney World will be fine.)

Whether at home, on the road, in Pittsburgh or Orlando I’d run.  Many times I run and ride a bike.  And, if you’re a frequent reader and an archer – I do have a bow with me and Ray has a range here in Tignall.

Coaching tip – athletes run (even archers)

Running is the simplest way for me to exercise aside from stretching.  It is inexpensive, you can move along at your own pace, and running is fun.

This morning as the sun was rising I able to run near to and on the shore of Lake Strom Thurmond – Clark Hill for Georgians.  No cars, no dogs (other than River, my lab and constant running partner) and had a wonderful run.

End point of this Christmas morning run

Running in the Dark

Often you’ll read at this website that I post articles about fitness.  Many of those posts include stories about running.  While cardiopulmonary fitness isn’t essential to pick up a bow and shoot it, it does improve one’s health and ability to maintain an athletic posture during long archery tournaments.

During hunting season I wear orange every time I run trails

Among the exercises I do as part of my training regime, running is a major element.  One manufacturer of running shoes once had an advertisement that read, “Athletes Run.”  Whether or not archery is part of my life, I believe running will always be a part of it.

One of the running pleasures I find most appealing is trail running in the dark.  In the winter months running in the dark is easy – it’s dark when I get up to run. In the warmer months this isn’t the case.

A head lamp is a must for running in the dark. River, my lab, has a little read clip-on light on her collar.

For some, the thought of running through the woods in the dark might bring to mind some scene from a horror movie. Not the case for me.  I do run with a light – getting smacked by a tree or limb isn’t on my bucket list.

Some mornings we finish running just after sunrise

Running in the dark is peaceful in my mind.  The woods are quiet and calm.  Occasionally, I run in the direction of some critter and that can be startling, but never horrifying.  I do run with my dog, River, who’s a big girl who provides a sense of ease when I cross paths with an unexpected animal.

Find this at night and you’ll wake right up

There’s a 1.3-mile loop behind my house that cuts a perfect trail to travel whether running or hiking. Sometimes I’ll run it in the morning and hike it in the afternoon.  I try to cover a few laps each time, more laps when running.

I understand not everyone that reads this site runs beyond being chased.  If you do run and have access to trails try running in the dark it is an entirely new experience compared to running during the day light. Oh, carry a light, bring your dog, and watch how you plant your feet. Also, let someone know where you’ll be running and when to expect you home. Plus, carry your cell phone just in case.  Before you run a trail in the dark run it several times during the lighted part of the day to learn the trail.  If you happen to get off the trail it isn’t difficult to get turned around.  If you happen to get lost, wait where you are until the sun comes up to regain your bearings.  Clear lens running eye glasses are ideal for not getting an eye poked out by a low hanging pointy limb. Now that I think about, maybe you shouldn’t run in the dark – you’d probably get hurt.

An Impressive Younger Crowd of Archers

When I compete or practice in a group I am generally the oldest person in the crowd.  This is especially true during indoor practice or league shoots. Heck, while practicing at the local indoor range, I’m older than the parents that have driven their children to train.

At large events there will be people my age and older. During an outdoor competition last summer there were a couple of archers in the 70’s. Excluding league events where there are no age divisions, I’ve shot in 12 tournaments so far this year.  Of those I competed in my age group six times and in younger divisions six times.

In the senior division (the younger group), I won 3 times, got two second places, and one third.  In the masters (my age group) I won twice, got three seconds and a fourth. You’d think I had a slight edge against the younger fellas but the bulk of the loses came during the time we were moving and my practice wasn’t great.

Being the oldest person in a crowd is a bit weird.  There’s very little common ground for conversation.  Most of the people I routinely see on the range are more concerned with getting a drivers license, turning 18 so they can move out of their parents’ home, or where they’ve applied to college.  On the other hand, I worry about my portfolio, trade wars, and what my grandchildren are going to break next. (Either bone or property, I never know)

What strikes me most of the youngest sub-section of the group I see most often and shoot against on a weekly basics is the overall high degree of good manners and respectfulness of others they exhibit. There average age is 17 with a range of 15 to 22 years old. Each of them would make their parents proud.

They also make their coach proud.*  As a group they have a 70% win rate at tournaments.  Not just the local events, but national and international competitions. While taking a break on the range yesterday I was flipping though an archery magazine and there on the pages was one of the archers, highlighted for winning at a World Championship.

Here’s the competitive frustration about shooting with and against them – missing one X takes you out of the money on league nights.  A nine among this crowd doesn’t cut it.

It’s fun to shoot with this group.  But, I wonder, after some of them leave for college, get roommates, cars, and jobs will their performance falter.  For a few yes, the writing is already on the wall.  For others, will their future hold decades of shooting that provides an income to exceed that of those that sought a more traditional route to self sustainment? Probably.

  • There coach, Big John Chandler is a USA Level 4 NTS Coach.

Like the Stock Market, this Down Turn Will Head Up

There’s a lot of data on my archery spreadsheets.  Five years, one month and 18 days worth of data is a lot.  Over time the data shows a graphic of how scores have improved. It further covers equipment, environmental conditions and how I felt.

Over the past several weeks the steady rise in 3-spot performance I’d been so proud of has dropped. The drop was nearly instantaneous. I reviewed my shooting and went through deliberate practice sessions hoping to reset my form.  I did discover a few bow issues and perhaps those problems contributed to the falling scores.

Those drops may, as I noticed in the past, have matched the Stock Market.  When it drops, I worry.  I worry about the interest rate climbing (again), the trade war, and political unrest in Washington.  I can’t do a thing to change those variables, but I do not like millionaires and billionaires screwing around with the market based on their power struggles – especially when it negatively impacts me.

Or, the drop in scores may be over practice.  It is easy to fall into a pattern of worrying that the other guy is practicing more and practice more. There is a point where the return isn’t worth the wear.

The failure to move up to an average score of 590 for 60 arrows on the inner ten 3-spot may also be mental.  That’s a good score. I’ve surpassed it having shot a 593 a few weeks ago.  But, when X’s begin falling into place it is easy to think that it is a fluke.

The 593 told me I could shoot a 600.  Today, during the morning’s practice I shot a 568.  Nowhere near to where I’d been shooting.  Thing is this has happened before and it will happen again. Whatever the root cause of the dip, I know I’m missing the ten.  Not by much but enough to become frustrating.

Certainly, like the Stock Market, there’s no call for alarm.  Simply handle any potential cause, make any correction available, and continue to push for that 600. And like the Stock Market, the yield will improve over time.

(The day after I wrote this post the Market improved – as did my 3-spot score.)

 

A Cone of Warmth

Last month I paid $60.00 for unlimited use of a local indoor archery range. It was a good deal. In North Carolina the same deal was $30.00, a better deal. I made the purchase of the archery pass because the weather during the past month has been cold and rainy. The problem with the $60.00 deal is the drive.

The $60.00 range is excellent, the time spend going back and forth is in my opinion is wasted time. The round trip takes an hour. An hour might not seem like a lot but it does impact training. While an hour on the road might not be spent in direct physical activity it does impact how I recover from a morning practice period before entering an afternoon practice period. To make this matter better I got a gift from my son-in-law, an outdoor gas heater.

Glowing red this little heater does a decent job of keeping a limited area warmer.

The little heater makes a big difference. While it doesn’t match an indoor climate controlled environment it does provide an ever-escaping cone of warmth. It uses propane, which is selling for $0.76 a gallon. The gas heater operating on the lowest setting is all the heat needed at around 38°F along with a few layers of clothes. Hopefully, this will help save some cash and time.

Well, that was fun!

It was a pretty exciting day. It was cold and it started with stretching an indoor activity. It wasn’t long before River, my lab, and I hit the trails to run. By then, it had warmed to a toasty 28°F.

There are some big mushrooms in these woods. (My shoe is a size 10 for reference)

For sure, I’ve run when it has been colder. When I lived in Cleveland during the winter temperature around 0°F wasn’t uncommon. Still, I got up and ran.

Lake Erie in the winter

Running here, back home in Georgia, temperatures are as rough in the winter. Heading out on single track or animal trails through the woods is plain fun.

But, archery outside in 28°F isn’t a lot of fun. You just don’t work up enough internal combustion to stay warm. Wearing everything you own to stay warm while practicing is too cumbersome for me. The other night, after league shooting, a fellow and I were heading to our vehicles. It was around 8:20 PM and already getting cold. He bragged about the temperature not being cold to he – being from Boston and all.

For seven years I had an office in Boston, I lived in Pittsburgh, Cleveland and Baltimore. I worked for extended periods of the winters in Sweden. In all of those places, I ran in the morning before work. I understand cold. Spend a winter or two in Uppsala, Sweden and Boston winters seems cute.

Uppsala, Sweden

After running it was off to Ace Hardware is Social Circle, Georgia to use their indoor range. Yep, Ace has an archery pro shop and very nice indoor range. They are also the major sponsor for an archery club, where I am a member, in this area.

Mornings at the hardware store archery range often mean the early risers can have their choice of lane to use. I try to get to the shop as soon as possible. I’m never entirely alone, other shooters come in, fling some arrows, and leave. As a rule, I do have a solid place to practice away from the cold.

Perfect for winter practice

On this morning I used a new target after the first 50 or so arrows. I moved it higher on their archery butt to take some time shooting the top target with a bit more elevation. On my second end on this new target I screwed up.

My shoulders were all wrong, my anchor felt off, my peep had rotated, so I needed to let down and start over. As I was becoming aware to let down I blinked. It seemed that something hit me in the eye. Naturally, with my eyes closed and my braining thinking, “Ouch” the arrow launched away.

All I could do was wait to here the arrow crash into the wall above the target. But, that’s not the sound I heard. I was lucky I heard the arrow hit the archer butt.

Looking for a five at best I didn’t immediately notice the arrow. Looking off the target entirely I still couldn’t find the arrow. Then, no, that is too lucky – the arrow hit the X. Not only hitting the X but it couldn’t have landed more perfectly. It was probably a one in a million shot.

The top arrow, eyes closed, the arrow got away, but seems like a well trained arrow

The weather “person” promised rising afternoon temperatures. So, after the morning at 18-meters I hoped to practice at 25-meters in the forecasted warmth. Sure enough, after a short cold afternoon bike ride, the temperature peaked into the 40s. On top of that, my new target arrived.

The sad, old, poorly repaired, block targets on my range could no longer do their jobs. Sure arrows slowed down, but there was no stopping them. I’d resorted to shooting a bag, which isn’t a great butt for a 3-spot. On the bag I use a vertical 3-spot is too long and the Vegas style target has only on sort of flat target. It was time for a new butt.

Target are expensive. It is one of the items on which I hate spending money. I know that before long the purchase by using it will end up wasted. You can shoot a bow over and over, you can use arrows over and over, but anything you shoot an arrow into eventually is gone.

What I’d been looking at for a replacement cost over $300. The same item was available on Amazon for $260. Amazon also had another brand that was a little smaller, a few inches, but a third the price. I figured for around $100 I’d take a chance.

In this case, that chance paid off. The target is very high quality as good as or better than the more expense products. The bonus is that it arrived about 30 minutes before I was planning to practice 25-meters.

Found on Amazon for around $100. It is heavy, 70 pounds.

During 25-meter practice daylight began to fade. The range is on a cleared area in the woods behind our house. In those woods, off not too far, I could hear coyotes howling. Usually, I’ll carry at least a pistol with me on the range; particularly in the summer as defense against rattlesnakes and copperhead. During winter months I don’t always bring a pistol. Those coyotes were too close for comfort even though I had a bow.

The coyotes marked the end of a fun day. There was running and riding and shooting. Granted, it was all part of training to do well in archery, which is sort of like a fun job.

Leveling the Playing Field

Backyard archery isn’t as controlled as shooting indoors. Shooting outside is great and ideal for 3D practice or long shot archery. Its fortunate that I’ve got room for long shots, up to 100 yards, and practicing 3D. But, those short shot practice sessions, when conducting the work outside, can be a bit of a challenge.

A major part of the problem is a level archer’s box. My property slopes and rises. That’s great for 3D. It isn’t so great for shooting dots.

At intervals from the target I have little flags stuck in the ground for distance. Each flag, in 5-yard increments out to 80 yards (at the moment no flags from 80 to 100 yards). Every flag drops in elevation from the target. At all of the flagged positions my left leg lands a little higher than my right, which makes for some lope-sided shooting.

25-meter spot

In order to remedy the awkward stance I use a hoe and level the field. That makes for better shooting and less frustration.