A Tired Lab is a Good Lab

The day starts with a run. Some days lifting weights follows running. Other days there’s swimming and cycling. Still others it’s all of the above. And on nearly all days I shoot in the morning and afternoon.

This day started like so many others – running. River, my lab, runs with me. She’s basically a runner and swimmer even though she has a keen interest in archery. Together we run along with a friend, Coco. Coco, the lab down the road, is well mannered, but she can’t avoid nastiness. River, a bit more refined, stays out of the worst of Coco’s badly influenced romps, if I can signal River away in time.

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A couple of nasty but happy dogs

Mud was on Coco’s mind during this run. River didn’t haller in mud, Coco’s shame, but following the run she needed a bath. In fact, both dogs needed bathing and I expect Coco’s owners weren’t too pleased when she returned home.

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Coco enjoying the muddy bottom of this ditch, River looking on

One of the many things I’ve learned about labs is that a tired lab is a good lab. So, River hangs out me with after running while I shoot. I’ll spend hours outside practicing archery and throughout it all River watches. Some times I need to toss a stick but that’s fine.

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After checking out my arrow placement, River moves onto more interesting investigations

River prefers 3D practice to paper target practice. 3D is done in the woods and there are so many more things to smell. Occasionally, there’s a nice carcass to taste and roll over. Of course, there’s the possibility of finding the delicacy of a pile of rabbit poop, a favorite treat for many dogs.

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Finally worked out to 40 yards taking aim on this turkey
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At 40-yards, a bit low to the right. but tight.

This afternoon, practice was about yardage. The game was to estimate and check my guess against a range finder. Regardless of what the range finder measured, the first shot was always taken using my yardage estimate. The targets were then shot up to 6 times before moving, using the same target at distances from about 20 yards to about 50 yards at about 5 yard increments. It’s a slow process and by then end of the day both dog and man are tired.

Starting Over

The recent USA Indoor National Championship and the NC State Indoor Championship taught me a lesson. That was, I can’t shoot well. It’s not the bow, arrows, sight or other equipment. Something is very inconsistent with my form. So, when I got home here in coastal North Carolina, I decided to change everything related to shooting.

During the Indoor Nationals I watched a lady that is extremely good. We talked a bit, she was either being nice or thought I knew more about archery. I quickly explained I was still new to the sport and I simply didn’t know the answers to most of her questions. But, what I did was watch how she shot.

It was easy to recognize how relaxed she shot. It was clear she stood a bit differently than me, held her bow better, and her release was smooth. She had better follow through and she currently ranked number 1 by USA Archery. Watching her shoot it was obvious my form was awful.

When I’d returned home here in New Hope,  North Carolina I began the process of changing: how I stand, hold my shoulders, where I anchor, and how I release. By release, I mean I changed back to a hinged release versus a thumb. Of the ‘errors’ I’ve begun correcting is how I stand. It occurred to me I’d lost focus on my core and was sagging a bit. That alone probably accounted for a number of poor shoots.

It is difficult to change. The old style was comfortable, albeit stagnant. The new style is not yet second nature and that hit home in a 3D tournament last weekend. That along with not being par at judging distance having shot 18 meters for so many months.

However, in the long run, backing up a bit, being less comfortable will pay dividends in the future.

 

Shoot 3 arrows, throw a stick.

I forgot to bring my camera to provide a picture of today’s practice here in Tignall. Honestly, how exciting is it to see arrows stuck in a block. Not so exciting for River, my dog.

She’s fairly forgiving and let’s me shoot a bit before she needs to play. She let’s me know she’s had enough by getting in front of me while I am at full draw and barking. It is a real demand on concentration, which typically yields an 8. It is hard to not laugh when River is essentially going crazy in front of me.

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Show me the stick

The solution is a stick. Any stick that I can throw works. The game works this way: I shoot three arrows. Then, I retrieve them. Walking back to my bow I find a stick and grab it. Next, I toss the stick as far as I can chunk it. River runs after it, picks it up, and heads back. She’ll then sit next to me, stick in mouth until I shoot three arrows.

At that point she drops that stick, walks with me to retrieve the arrows and the process repeats.

It adds a little time to practice. That’s a good thing; I tend to shoot too fast. Maybe River is trying to teach me to slow down. Or maybe she’s just bored.

Uncooperative Weather

This morning is was cold and windy. I still was able to get in a decent practice, about one and a half hours, and around 70 arrows. I’d hoped to get in another 50 – 60 arrows this afternoon.

The cold morning sucked. The early A.M. wind sucked. The afternoon, well, it got worse. The temperature warmed to around 54°F and the wind picked up. Here’s the kicker, after about 30 arrows it started to pour down rain.

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Moments (it’s raining) before it really cut loose.

Now, rain was predicted, but it arrived early. While shooting outside is rarely perfect, today playing outside has been a challenge.

Too Cold for Comfort

It started out cold and then got colder. It has been warm and by next week we’ll have temperatures into the low 80’s. But, today it was cold. Cold is a matter of perspective. When we lived in Pittsburgh and Cleveland today’s temperature would have been spring weather. For a boy from Savannah, that never acclimated to cold despite life’s efforts to provide ample opportunity, 40°F remains cold. To enhance the wintery experience there was a brisk wind.

The morning’s run wasn’t so bad – I was running. Shooting was another matter. A new paper target started me with optimism. It didn’t last. The longer I shot, the windier it got, the colder I became. I was definitely underdressed. To make matters worse my bow and release had sat on the truck over night. Holding the release it felt like an ice cube in my hand.

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Well, archery practice started off on a good note.

After 30 or so arrows I left my bow on the range, arrows still stuck in the target and I headed back to the house to get another layer of clothing. The extra clothing helped.

Typically, when the temperature is cold I wear several layers of clothes, a glove on my bow hand, and a hand warmer in my right jacket pocket. Trying to tough it out today failed. I’m looking forward to next week when the temperatures are in the 80’s.

Getting Dialed in for 3D

Saturday begins the 3D season here in my neck of North Carolina. The following week I head to Georgia to shoot two in two indoor tournaments. Hopefully, I’ll find another 3D shoot while I am in Georgia. Friday, I shot outside and didn’t shoot all that well.

I did a practice round, without a range finder, at random distances over 20 targets. I tried to make each shot tough – judging by my score (188) I succeeded. To make a random sample I used a random number generator with a range from 20 to 50. Here’s how it ended up:

44       23       20       44       32

24       50       26       49       27

24       24       41       30       40

43       23       34       22       47

Then, the yards were assigned to targets 1 through 20 based on the random numbers generated. As it turned out target 1, for example, was a turkey at 44 yards. Then, on the range,  I estimated the distance for each shot without a range finder. So, at the first target, a turkey, I walked out to what I judged as 44 yards and shot it. I scored a 10 on that shot.

I did worse on target eight, having shot all 10’s and 12’s until that point. Eight was a small boar. This time I shot it from the reverse side – not my typical shot. I ended up with a 5. It was a difficult shot where I needed to place an arrow through a small opening in the bushes. The next shot was from 49 yards and I hit a 12, then back to 27 yards on a coyote for a 5 and so forth.

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All dialed in for 3D

It is a little bit backwards to walk the distance first, trying to judge it, rather than walk up to a target and make the call. I didn’t approach the target then walk away while counting steps. I walked the range approaching targets from a tangent.

In a comparison of known distance yardage (ASA State Qualifier where they provided the yardage on the 1st 10 targets – I still have the little slip of paper they handed out.), it was interesting to discover in that previous tournament the average known distance was 34.8 yards. My randomly generated average was 33.4 yardage (for 20 targets), or only 1.4 yards difference between the averages. However, with my random number generator the average for the targets 11 – 20 was 36.6 yards, or 1.8 yards further. (Unless you care about stats and numbers, you’re probably ready to click this page closed.)

Finding new ways to make 3D more challenging in training, especially on your home range, can be important during a tournament. Moving target around helps. Coming up with ways to make judging yardage ‘different’ should pay dividends later this year.

In Archery Maybe it is Best to Follow Your Heart.

Practicing the mechanics of archery takes patience and focus. It’s a matter of training your muscles to sense alignment and form while maintaining Jedi-like control.   Or maybe all you need to do is follow your heart.

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Keast and Elliot published a paper in the Journal of Sports Science that measured archers’ sway, aiming time, cardiac cycle (electrocardiac cycle) and the release of an arrow.1 The study included recurve and compound bows.  This is what they discovered.

Sway was measured at the postural center of the archers’ body and sway varied significantly both within and between two separate trials (the archers were tested twice, 100 days apart). As sway increased the quality of the shot decreased.

As aiming time increased the quality of the shot decreased except for bare bow shooting.  During bare bow shooting as the aiming time decreased the quality of the shoot decreased.

Cardiac cycle time was also measured.  Here they found that cardiac cycle time increased significantly as the archers approached the release of the arrow where there was a good shot.  When the shot was bad or average there was no significant increase on the cardiac cycle.

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The most consistent parameter related to the quality of a shot was the placement of the first finger movement within the ST phase or mid-cycle phase of the electrocardiogram for arrows of good quality.

How does an archer achieve the movement of the finger (to release) within mid-phase of their cardiac cycle?  You can’t feel the individual bleeps of your electrocardiogram.  I can only explain like this:  It is in that millisecond when you sense the target, feel the calm, unconsciously find that instance where everything is blocked other than the target, and then release occurs.  It appears that the heart knows when you have it right.

Reference:

1)  Keast D, Elliott B: Fine body movements and the cardiac cycle in archery. J Sports Sci. 1990 Winter;8(3):203-13.

 

Beat, Just Plain Beat!

I suppose I don’t recover from working out like I did when I was in my 20s. Well, I know I don’t. Lately, I’ve been on a tear of riding, swimming, lifting weights, running and shooting. On top of that I’ve been hauling lumber and moving loads of dirt. It seems to have caught up with me and I felt it this afternoon while shooting.

I try to take rest days. Most of the time I succeed. This morning I didn’t even run that far. Not so much because I felt tired, Coco, the lab down the road, joined up with River, my lab, and I on the run. With all the rain we’ve been having I knew the two labs would get filthy. That meant I’d need to give River bath. I’d just bathed her yesterday (mud related incident) and was not up for doing it again. So, I turned around before we reached cresting creeks and over flowing ditches – one that is the last resting place of a buzzard picked deer.

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If there is water, muck, or mud, these girls are in it.
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I shot this for 60 yards, it was 57 – yes sir that’s how to earn an 8.

Shooting in the afternoon I was on a muddy wet 3D range. I had no gittyup. Still I shot, and ended up 2 down (198 out of 200). It wasn’t so much a matter of not being able to judge yardage. At each target I recorded my distance, shot, then recorded the distance using a range finder. The average distance per my estimate was 32.3; the range finder’s average was 33 yards. The minimum distance, a mosquito was 18 yards and the maximum distance was 57 yards, a mountain lion. On both of those targets, the distance was one of convenience; water left me very few options regarding where to stand. I shot poorly, hopefully, just because I was tired.

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This mosquito is a tough little bug.

To complicate shooting the sun, which can come through the trees because the leaves are down, created a glare on the lens of my scope. I was happy I didn’t lose any arrows. At least two shots were as much of a guess made aiming as I like to make. Amazingly, both of those shots were 12s.

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I did run this morning, I shot twice, and I will force an easy bike ride in an hour. But, tonight, I plan to have a good nights rest.

17°F (-8°C) and Windy

The weather has been pretty bad lately. It is still cold, 17°F (-8°C), and windy but the sun is shining. Doing just about anything outside means getting cold. Today, I got cold.

Fortunately, I was only really cold while pulling arrows. I shot from a heated shed out toward a 3-spot target. Living way the heck out in the country has advantages.

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Nice and warm – warming my releases as well.

What I worked on today was my release. I have three different releases, two hinge and a thumb. I shoot them all about the same. I think if I could get the point of release just right for a hinge that would be what I would use exclusively. But, I continue to go from bad to worst whenever I mess around with either making the release lighter or heavier. Of the two hinges I am using, they’re both mostly right. One is a little heavy; the other is a little bit heavier. Neither is perfect. I’ll mess around with them some more at a later date. I rather just shoot, which means I fall back to using my thumb release. As thumb releases go, I have an inexpensive product, but it seems to be set just right. But, it is easy to get lazy with a thumb release and screw up shots.

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The 3 releases

Aside from dealing with my releases I have been working with the grip on my Elite 35. I do not like the feel of the grip. There are after market grips that can be switched on the Elite. They aren’t cheap and I’m not willing to pay for a test drive. So, I did what is probably the least expensive and best thing to get a better feeling grip. I wrapped it with bicycle handle bar tape.

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Bicycle handle bar tape. Cycling tape helps reduce the shock of vibration from the road that is transferred to handlebars. It ought to work on this bow.

I spent a few hours shooting and practicing with the newly taped grip and rotating releases. The tape felt nice, the releases just felt like the releases always have – no one of them is a clear winner.

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3 tens, 3 different releases.

It was still cold when I finished shooting. I closed the door to my shed and spend an hour on my Comptrainer. As I pedaled I watched Miguel Indurain win the 1992 Tour de France on DVD. Then, headed to the Y in Elizabeth City to lift weight and swim while Brenda, my wife, did her cardio-weight lifting work.

For the romantics out there, yes this is Valentine’s Day. We celebrated yesterday because Brenda wanted to get in a workout today. She’ driving to Atlanta on Monday and felt this might be the last chance she’ll get to lift weights for the next few weeks.

Despite the cold, it has been a very active and fun day to play.

Using data and notes to find a remedy

I examine the scores of other archers when I can find them. Going into a tournament, I like to know what I expect of myself and where I stand relative to the competition. Naturally, there are people that continuously preach to me “Don’t even think about the score!” During competition I don’t think about the score or at least I give it minimal attention. By the time I am in a tournament, I am so accustom to my scoring what ever I’ve shot rolls off my back once the score has been recorded.

But, I don’t go into a tournament blind to what I expect from others and myself. I know when I am off and I know when someone else is shooting below his or her usual. However, the score is not my focus. I let the score take care of itself – it always will. I just shoot one target at a time.

A few weeks ago I was off and week later I was on – taking a 9th place then a week later 1st place. What happened? That has been the question.

Because I keep data and logs of training I was able to go back and analyze my shooting. This is a habit I brought to archery that has its roots, for me, in cycling. Now, I don’t keep an extensive journal. I keep what I think I need; essentially I record what I can analyze and a few notes. I keep it simple. If it’s not simple, it simply won’t get done.

Yesterday, I was working on a problem shooting a Vegas style 3-spot. My best score shooting this group of targets, under the new USA Archery scoring rules (the littlest circle, the old X, is the 10, all the other yellow is a 9) is a 588. My average is 4.8% lower, when combining my hinge and thumb release scores. My best results come using a hinge. On average, the hinge release earns me 6 more points versus my thumb release out of 600 possible points. However, recently I’ve been off with my hinge.

Why? Well, I changed slightly with how I activated the hinge. My data and the few notes (the important practice observations I record) gave me the clue, which was confirmed by video. Of course, I am eager to correct my error and shoot. That needs to wait a few more hours until I’ll put what I’ve learned to the test.

If things work out I expect I’ll beat 588 real soon. Soon enough for the indoor tournaments coming up – I hope. By keeping scores, logs, and notes then analyzing my data I think it has helped me improve. I don’t keep an outrageous amount of data -I keep enough for me.