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.

Morning Run

I run nearly every morning.  If I miss a day it is generally due to travel.  The weather is rarely a factor that limits time on the trails behind my house.  I don’t run alone, River, my lab has been a running companion for going on nine years.

Because some of the trails are now posted, for weekend hunters (who have as yet not hunted) River and I stick to trails outside of the posted property. River can run without being leased so long as we’re on our property.  Once we hit the trails that are easements for surveying and beyond private property she gets hooked.

River’s nose is much better at sniffing things out to explore during our runs.  On our property, while free ranging, I noticed she’s moved a few feet off the path.  Curious as to what it was she was examining I moved closer.

She’d discovered a massive yellow jacket nest.  We eased away and continued down the trail.  I hoped, that until I can spray this nest, so long as I leave them alone maybe they’d not attack me.  Oh, I’m going to get them.  Yellow jackets are often relentless when it comes to stinging me.

Moving down the trail River nosed what seemed to be a trespasser who’d met its ultimate demise.  Later, I’d learn that was indeed the case.  Only the posted sign hunters didn’t bring about the end.  The trespassing critter had been wreaking havoc on plants at a neighbor’shome.  I suppose this section of the trail will project olfactory offense soon.

If you’ve been reading this you are likely an archer.  Possibly, you are not a runner.  Possibly you enjoy getting outdoors to hunt.  If you’re an archer that runs, especially on trails, you know that sort of outdoor activity, trail running, is a nice way to enjoy the woods.

 

That Was Fun?

At a recent archery tournament a fellow archer asked, “Are you having fun?” Well, I was enjoying myself – but fun?

First off the temperature was approaching a record high.  Secondly, the bathrooms had malfunctioned.  And third, there was the pressure of the tournament.

Temperature-wise it wasn’t the hottest tournament where I’d shot.  That misery belongs to an outdoor event in North Carolina where the temperature did break the state record for heat.  Now, the heat isn’t something that too often makes me suffer.  Still, it wasn’t a fun time to play outside.

You’d think that in the blazing heat the need to have a bio-break diminishes and it does, but I drink a lot in order to stay hydrated.  So, having somewhere to seek relief is a nice benefit. That bathroom failure was less fun.

The pressure to shoot well is a hard problem. All an archer can do is shoot the best possible, remain as relaxed as possible, and not worry about anyone else.  Some archers claim they only want to have fun, on the other hand some archer show up aiming to win. The added intensity of a tournament isn’t fun especially when you’re behind.

My wife and I went to a party last night.  It was, without doubt, fun. The recent archery tournament doesn’t really fall into that category of fun.  Don’t get me wrong I enjoyed the tournament. It was a bonus to have won.

Like many people, I’m not alone, I am wired to compete.  If I wasn’t competing in archery it would be cycling, triathlon, duathlon, or running. There was a time when competing meant achieving academic goals.  That was later moved to research goals and publication goals.

There are situations where competing is not appropriate.  There’s no need to compete in friendship and marriage is certainly not a competition.  Sport is, by it’s design, competition.

I admit the tournament was fun.  Otherwise, I’d not compete in archery.  Perhaps, it is the way I’m wired and you’re wired if you are a competitive archer.  For me, I know, I must compete. I suppose that’s fun.

The Competition Has Gotten Tight

Georgia is a hub for great archers.  There’s an elite archer everywhere you turn in the Peach State. The result is intense local competition. In my neighborhood alone there are four archers (out of 15 homes) that I know of. Everyone here has 3 to 10 acres and it is easy to spot the archers – their targets being visible from the road. I’ve practiced with two of them.  The one that I’ve yet to shoot with is the most recent to the neighborhood and we’ve not yet met. (I’ve included myself in the count.)

The greater the competition the better for everyone competing.  In some areas there are only a few archers and winning is less of a challenge.  Not here.

In the division, where I compete, there are always four or five archers that can win on any given day.  Championships have been won by a point, by the X count, and even by the inner X count. (Me be the loser in that match up)

Many of the local Masters level archers don’t travel to the big tournaments. The younger archers do travel.  Among them are World Ranked, Nationally Ranked, USA Team members, and potential Olympians.  Among then a cadet recently set a new World Record for 50 meters (355).  Georgia is a rich environment for the sport.

The State has at least on level 5 USA Archery Coach, at least 4 level 4 coaches and a number of level 3 coaches.  The abundance of good coaching is another benefit to the Peach State athletes.

The level of athlete here and the quality of coaching makes for an excellent environment to shoot. It shows at every tournament.

A Hoosier At A Bulldog Event

“I’m originally from Indiana, but have lived here for 25 years” he said then added, “I consider myself a Southerner.”  I simply looked at him for a few seconds and thought, “No, you’re not.” I didn’t say those words; I only thought them.  It might have been considered rude to have actually said them to the fellow. My Mama would disapprove of rude behavior.

If you were born and raised outside of the South your geographical upbringing is obvious to any Southerner.  It was apparent the fellow who’d adapted the South as his home is a transplant.  Many of his mannerisms could have clued a Southerner to his un-Southern heritage before he’d ever spoken a word.

The first give away was his Indianapolis Colts cap. Aside from his blue and white cap every other baseball style cap on the range sported at UGA logo. (If you don’t know what UGA stands for, well Bless your Heart!).  Had he’d chosen another cap other than a UGA cap, if he was a Southerner, that cap might have sported an Atlanta Braves logo or an Atlanta Falcons crest (often worn by diehard hopefuls). Another clue was that his foldable chair sported an Indianapolis 500 logo as opposed to an Atlanta Motor Speedway logo adorned foldable chair.

Certainly he is friendly enough.  He’d talk to anyone within three feet of him.  You needed to be careful because it could be difficult figuring out to whom exactly he is aiming his words.  By the end of the tournament he’d hit everyone on the range with at the minimum a monologue.

Another telltale sign he wasn’t a native was his ‘one-up’ when he compared hurricanes to tornadoes.  Hurricane Dorian had just passed the coast of Georgia.  The storm had led to evacuations along the coasts of Florida, Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina.

Hurricane Dorian bringing some wind to Northeast Georgia

The tournament organizers were talking about moving the dates of the shoot so that it is less close to prime time hurricane season.   This year, 2019, is the 3rd year in row when archers were dealing with wind developed on the cusps of a tropical cyclone reaching more inland areas of the State. Among those inland areas sat the range for the tournament.

His ‘one-up’ was, “You know how much time you have as a warning for a tornado?” He then answered his own question, “Three minutes.”  He’s from Indiana – he should know!

His dead give away he isn’t truly an adopted son of the South was when he called a ‘Coke’ a ‘pop.’ If you’re from Georgia and hear someone call a Coke a pop, you just can’t erase the hearing.  It sticks with you for a while leaving a mild irritation. ‘Pop’ is the wrong sound for a true Georgia native – Coke being that native.

During a two-day archery tournament you meet all sorts.  I like the talkative Hoosier.  He was the big winner when it came to passing the time between ends.  And there’s common ground where we do understand one another’s positions on a matter.  That of being stuck behind a farm tractor while driving.

Give Me A Break Facebook Hero

She is very proud.  So, proud she’s posted on Facebook, “Why are the doctors and nurses so surprised when I tell them my resting heart rate is 38?”  Here’s why, they don’t believe you and neither do I.

Certainly, the writer of the post is fit.  Being fit is good.  She’s fit at an age when most of her friends are waiting to be called Grandmother. Not that she’s singular in her Masters level fitness.  There are a lot of Grandmothers that can smoke me in a marathon.  I know, it has happened. However, this athlete, to be polite as possible, is over 50 years old and she’s full of crap.

A disclaimer here: some people have a resting heart rate that is between 30 and 40 beats per minute.  I just don’t believe the person I’m writing about is in that group. There’s a simple reason, she’s been exercising for years – seems counterintuitive. You’d expect an athlete with decades of training to have a low resting heart rate. She probably does compared to non-athletes, just it isn’t 38 bpm (beats per minute).

“While the normal resting heart rate for adults ranges from 60 to 100 beats per minute, conditioned athletes and other highly fit individuals might have normal resting heart rates of 40 to 60 beats per minute.”(1)

Why is it that every time I see a post by some athlete bragging about their low heart rate it is 38?  That’s because their heart rate isn’t 38.

It is like when I read in medical records containing a patient’s respiratory rate. It was almost always 16 breaths per minute as recorded by some caregiver.  No one’s respiratory rate is always 16.  That is especially true when the patient is in the back of an ambulance, in the emergency room, or asleep at night –for examples. Another common respiratory rate is written as 12.  In those cases, the patient was alive, so they were breathing (the two go together), and the person recording the number simple wrote done what seemed likely. I promise, they didn’t take the time to count respiratory rate.

Let’s look at 38 for a heart rate. Take your heart rate right now – I’ll wait.  What did you do?  Did you count your pulse for 15 seconds and multiple by 4? If you did you couldn’t get 38.  You could have counted your pulse for 30 seconds or a minute and gotten 38, but your heart rate wasn’t 38 unless you are one of those younger elite athletes or on a drug to lower your heart rate or have an bradycardia and living with a pacemaker.

If you’re an athlete, an older one, say over 50, and you have a heart rate that runs around 38 you might end up with a pacemaker. (2) “New research suggests that athletes with low resting heart rates may experience irregular heart patterns later in life.” (2,3) A number of my friends, all elite athletes ended up with heart problems.

These friends with heart conditions later in life included: One Olympian, two National Champions, and one winner of the Comrades Race in South Africa. (4) The Comrades athlete also held a World Record in endurance cycling. All are very close friends or were, one recently died from his heart problem.

The Facebook braggadocio seemed extreme. The author is a woman in her 50s. “Gender is another factor in resting heart rate norms because women at various fitness levels tend to have higher pulse rates on average than men of comparable fitness levels. For example, the average resting heart rate of an elite 30-year-old female athlete ranges from 54 to 59 beats per minute, while the resting heart rate for men of the same age and fitness level ranges from 49 to 54..”(1)

In a peer-review article, investigators looked at athletes near 50 (all men with a mean age of 48) and found, “Resting HR was significantly lower in athletes than in controls (62·8 ± 6·7 versus 74·0 ± 10·4 beats per minute (bpm), respectively; P<0·001).” That is a resting heart rate of 62.8 in male athletes – women run slightly faster when it comes to heart rate. (5)

Furthermore, the author with the low heart rate claims to be a life-long athlete.  That actually creates the opposite of what she’s claimed. “Long-term sport practice at a world class level causes an increase in resting heart rate, diastolic and mean blood pressure, and decrease of the parasympathetic dominance and this may result from decreasing adjustment to large training load.” (6)

Being fit is great.  Making statements about fitness that are scientifically invalid are wrong. The 38 beats per minute athlete runs one of those self-employed fitness programs where she’s the head (and only) coach. Her claim, the 38 thing, was a marketing piece to share with her followers suggesting how well her program works for her and hoping perspective clients will suppose they’ll get similar results.  Her claim is false.

I contacted a friend who is an ex-college cross country runner. She’s maintained an elite level of fitness now that she’s out of college.  I asked her,”Sarah, what is your resting heart rate?” She replied, “In the 50s.”

Reference:

“You’re in pretty good shape for the shape you are in.”

That’s about the size of it.  Dr. Suess couldn’t have said it any better had he been a spectator at an archery tournament.

Archers are not the most fit of athletes.  Oh sure, archers can stand real still.  That alone is a skill.  But, as a long tournament wears on that standing still part becomes less still. Being fit can help you sustain the still focus you need for archery.

USA Archery sent out the first edition of the Athletes Development Model.  In it the authors break down age groups.  When the model reaches the 15 – 17 year old age group the instructions includes: Training will include mental, strength, cardiovascular and coordination training.  They further suggest strength training along with nutrition training.

That remains a theme for athletes until the age of 60 where they drop the strength, cardiovascular and change it to – May include light strength and coordination training.

Here me now and believe me later, if you are over 50 and are not doing any resistance training like lifting weights you are going to lose muscle mass.  If you’re over 60 and have neglected cardiovascular training you’ll be in for a surprise should you start.

You don’t need to be a lean cardio machine to be good at archery. However, being fit at a young age and hanging onto that fitness can pay dividends as you age. 
Even if you’ve never held onto any general fitness working to improve your health through fitness training is a good thing.

The 2019 Georgia State Outdoor Championship – Hot!

Another hard fought tournament was held in Conyers, Georgia over the weekend of September 7thand 8th. It was sunny, hot, and extremely competitive. There was some simply amazing archery equipment in the hands of almost everyone. If you mess up a shot it will cost you in this crowd, hence some of the best gear money can buy was on the line.

The State Championship, for me meant shooting from 70 meters, 60 meters, 50 meters and 30 meters – 36 arrows at each distance. All distances feel about the same to me.  There wasn’t much difference between my scores at those distances. I shot the same score at 70 meters and 60 meters, two points higher at 50 meters, then 9 points higher when I moved up to 30 meters. Same deal with 10s and 9s over the final count.  Each distance pretty much scored like the prior distance.

Conyers is only 27 miles from our home so the drive is decent. During the afternoon’s return trip there’s always a chance that parts of the drive will be overwhelmed by Atlanta traffic.  That happened in 2018, but not so in 2019.

Food I brought. That sandwich was great. I also carried: 3 bottles of water, 2 Gatorades, and 2 small Cokes.

Conyers is located so the commute to compete brings in a good crowd.  The rumor was that the number of archers was less in 2019 than in 2018. If that is true it wasn’t obvious.

Like 2018 it was hot.  The heat didn’t seem to impact all the shooters.  One archer set an unofficial world record at 50 meters. The winner of the men’s recurve division is currently in second place in the USA Olympic Archery trials. Wherever you look during archery competitions anywhere in Georgia there stands some sort of archery hero. (Real and self proclaimed)

Heading home around 2PM. It cooled down to around 96 after a few more miles

Even among the group where I competed nearly everyone had decades of experience, loads of wins, and all types of gift giving sponsorship. Two of these athletes were comparing notes on how many dozens of free arrows they’re provided from those sponsors. Admittedly, I am envious of free arrows especially at the price point of their free products.

I even overheard exchanges describing bowstrings, free or discounted, bows, free or discounted, and all manner of ancillary equipment from bow shops heavily discounted or free.

I wish I had such deals.  I tried the sponsor battle and all I every earned associated with archery ‘stuff’ were half-assed discounts.  Heck, in most cases it was less expensive to buy the exact same product on Amazon, eBay or waiting for a local shop to run any sort of special. Those local shop specials didn’t follow me from North Carolina to Georgia. But, I have gave up on the “ProStaff” sponsorship when the benefit / detriment ratio seemed unbalanced.

Nope, no deals for me.  In fact, I can’t even get new Elite limbs ( at full price) for a Victory 37X. Elite, per the bow shop,  is backordered on the limbs.  When I mentioned this to one of the swag-enriched archers in my division he acted shocked! “I got these new limbs in 3 weeks,” he said pointing out his high end Mathews product. I need the limbs to make the bow work for me.

The bow, a purchase that seems to be a never ending problem was totally foolish on my part. My mistake entirely.  I let myself get talked into buying a 50 – 60 pound bow that needs to be shot at 48 pounds.  I’ve since learned how risky it is to shoot a bow rigged in this fashion from experts and manufacturers. [ Safety Precaution: Be careful that you do not unscrew the limb bolts passed the bow’s lowest weight setting. If the limb bolts are unscrewed too much, the limb bolt’s threads can come out of the riser and cause damage to the bow and injure the mechanic. (1) In addition it leaves the bowstring too loose and the limbs no longer reproduce the proper flex. (2)] In the meantime I just roll with it have hope it doesn’t break.

It didn’t matter the bow isn’t working as the engineers designed and the product assurance department required (as it is set for me), it flung my inexpensive arrows down range. By inexpensive I mean $144.00 a dozen via Amazon. (3)

Those $12.00 arrows, vanes included, are a whole lot less pricey compared to some the $35.00, no vanes shafts only arrows being shot. (4) In fact, I overheard those $35.00 each arrow shafts are now better and cost $41.00 each.  That is the price of the shaft, no vanes, no nocks, no bushings, and no points. Those parts needed to complete the arrow are probably another $10.00 per arrow.  Some of those men and women have forked out about $51.00 per arrow or $612.00 for a dozen. That is about the price of my bow without the attachments (stabilizer, scope, etc.).

Seeing all the beautifully engineered precision gear on the range over the weekend made me envious. Overhearing how many of the archers got that gear free or paid an extreme discount was amazing. Good for them!

It wasn’t just the younger archers with seemingly incredible money saving arrangements.  The Masters group was filled with shooters riding the sweet sway wagon. I am glad to see manufacturers and bow shops recognizing Masters level athletes by providing gear, discounts and support.

Still, there were lot of guys paying full price (or more) for whatever is available and doing the best they can with it. A Masters recurve archer laughed at what he was shooting compared to the gear of more pampered athletes.  I understood and told him, “The best bow out here is the one in your hand.”

There was even a proud four legged friend

Having excellent equipment wasn’t much help when it came to reducing the heat.  It was plain old Georgia summer hot the entire time. The host, Archery Learning Center, provided free cold bottled water, which was a treat.

The outdoor environmental furnace didn’t send most folks running toward air conditioning as soon as the last arrow flew. The awards ceremony was well attended.  There were loads of proud parents, spouses, and loved ones as the smiling winners received their medals and headed home.

And this ends the outdoor archery season for me. (Winter is coming!)

Reference:

(1)https://shootingtime.com/archery/adjust-draw-weight/

(2) As explained by a world class level bow expert.

(3) https://www.amazon.com/Victory-Archery-Elite-Shafts-Black/dp/B00TP82ZWO/ref=sr_1_1?crid=2ESTU3LF15800&keywords=victory+vap+500&qid=1567976174&s=gateway&sprefix=Victory+VAP+500%2Caps%2C229&sr=8-1

(4)https://www.lancasterarchery.com/nsearch/?q=easton+arrow+shafts

Hope No One Throws Anything At Me

“I’m fixin’ to go for a ride,” I called to my wife, Brenda.  “Take your phone,” was her instruction.  She wasn’t looking at me her attention on some word game played on an iPad.  “I hope no one throws anything at me,” I added.

It has happened.  Once while riding in Maryland someone tossed a full can of Mountain Dew at me and missed.  The can landed in soft bushes and didn’t rupture.  I picked it up, took it home and drank it later.

Another time, during a hot summer ride, a lady’s bathing suit top was flung toward me.  It happened while cycling toward Savannah, Georgia on Highway 80 leading away from Tybee Island, Georgia. The lady who tossed the top was a passenger. There was no doubt it was her top. Aside from those two times spanning 36 years nothing else has flown my way aside from bugs.

“I hope no one throws anything at you either,” said Brenda still not looking.  So, I asked her, “Look at what I’m wearing.”  She looked then seriously warned, “Oh, be careful.”

Where we live is essentially Athens, Georgia.  The SEC is a near religion and the University of Georgia Bulldogs practical deities.

I am a Graduate of the University of Tennessee among other schools.  There I studied art and earned a ‘Professional Certificate’ in Cartooning – really. There is no ‘degree’ in cartooning.  Although, many degrees are jokes. (The last sentence is a gift for proofreaders.)

I drew this for a soap company.

The cartoon program was completed decades ago. I don’t believe the program remains in operation. It wasn’t likely to have been a moneymaker for the University. It was a fun program. There’s more money to be made teaching art and illustration pricing it out over 4 years with loads of electives and fees.  It was a simpler time when cartooning was meant to be fun.

I painted these and eventually threw them away. They hung at our place in North Carolina. There was no room for them when we moved to Georgia. They were practice pieces for a larger painting.

The ride was event free. Go Dawgs!