Heading to the Steel City

We’re heading to Pittsburgh today. We lived there for several years. It’s a great city; it’s a cold city. The cold ran us Savannahians out of town after four years of frigid suffering. We left one of our children behind, our youngest daughter. She attended college in the Steel City. She found her husband among the locals and there they remain.

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Leaving this for a few days

Over the course of their marriage they’ve had three children. This weekend is a birthday party for two of them. So, here we go, again.

It’s May and the temperature during the night in western Pennsylvania is going to the in the 40’s (F). We’ve packed our, once put away, winter apparel for the spring trip. We’ve also pack athletic gear.

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Among the gear is Brenda’s, my wife, fancy Yoga mat. I don’t do Yoga. I tried a couple of times, at Brenda’s encouragement – it didn’t stick. My gear includes running shoes, running jacket, and running shorts. It also includes my archery equipment.

There is a range nearby where we once lived, at Boyce Park. It’s an outdoor range and I’m going to give it a shot while we’re there. This should be a fun trip.

Swimming and 3D Practice

Swimming was my primary focus for today’s cardio training. Since it’s been raining non-stop swimming at the YMCA was perfect. Then, it was onto 3D or indoor archery depending on the weather.

I have a triathlon in a few weeks. My goal for this workout was time. I did a swim time trial for the distance I’ll be swimming in the June XTerra triathlon. The distance is not an issue. What I wanted to know is how slow (or fast) I might be over the 800 yards (sprint distance) for the triathlon. Whatever time I have the in pool it will be faster than open water. In open water it’s harder to keep a straight line. I tend to zigzag from buoy to buoy.

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Swimming in open water – I barely stay on a straight line

Heading back to my Ford F-150, after the swim, I was pleased to see it had stopped raining. Not really wanting to shoot indoors I knew I’d be on the 3D range soon. I’d recently gotten a new 3D target, a bobcat, and was eager to stick some arrows into the small cat.

Before I got to my new target I spent time shooting a bear, badger, coyote and turkey. Progressing through the range, I was anticipating the new animal. Shooting the same old targets day in and day out is fun, but a new target is exciting.

The bobcat is certainly a small target. Where it’s placed on the range the maximum distance it can be shot is 32 yards. That seemed like a good place to start. The rings on the bobcat are barely visible using binoculars from 32 yards. This wasn’t a freebee shot.

The cat sits so that it’s in a tunnel of foliage. From the stake, which is in the open, the shot enters a closed in path. This was done in an attempt to make the shot more difficult.

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Patch of blue sky through the leaves

I’ve seen bobcats similar to this one during tournaments. Each time the faux Lynx rufus was sitting straight down a lane less than 20 yards from the stake. Granted, it is a small target and during tournaments small targets are frequently arranged less than 20 yards from the stake. Small targets aren’t always so close. The last few javelinas I’ve had to shoot in tournaments were at 40 plus yards. I silently cursed before I took my shot.

My inaugural shots on the bobcat were a ten and an eight. The eight was the first attempt. I tried a few more times to hit the very small center ring from 32 yards – never got it and moved onto the next animal.IMG_5035

Where I wanted to spend some time was on this pig that is situated so that trees and angles make up the challenge. I have three stakes for this pig. There’s not much different where distance is concerned, two shots are at 37 yards and one is at 34 yards. The trick is to get the arrow between the trees and hit the pig on a slant for the longer shots. At 34 yards the shot is nearly straight on.

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You can tell the angle of aim on this pig from the arrow placement

What’s happened, as summer approaches (come on warm weather) is that the foliage in the woods has darkened everything. The black boar’s rings are impossible to see. Shoot it enough and maybe the rings can be committed to memory. If only all the pigs I see in tournament were at 37 to 34 yards and the size of this one.

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It’s almost like a rain forest in these woods

Back in the woods, out of the wind, I have a couple of targets where longer shots are possible. One is a Rinehart deer that, at the moment, has a 55 yards maximum range. There’s also a mountain lion, that if I wanted, I can shoot at from 100 yards or more. Note I wrote, “shoot at” from 100 yards not hit from 100 yards. I’ve never tested a shot over 85 yards. (I found that arrow cutting the grass last week)

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Practice kept me in the woods for around two and a half hours this afternoon. Not a bad way to spend an afternoon. The lighting in the woods because of leaves gives this forest a very different appeal than the bare trees of winter. It sure beats sitting in an office.

The Mother Load of Triathlons

If you read this website, you know it is not exclusively about archery. Among the posts here are writings about running, cycling, swimming, and triathlons. Yes, archery is the major topic – it’s the ambitious experiment with a study population of 1.

Regarding archery as an experiment, well in a manner that is exactly what the sport of archery is providing me. Using whatever training, science, and psychology available I wanted to see whether I could be successful as a competitive archer. The archery experiment has been underway for 34 months. As such, 34 months ago I shot, for the first time, a compound bow. The study remains inconclusive.

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Archery is also a competitive fix satisfier. I love to compete. I love sports. I have zero natural talent. I am somewhat short (5’8″ and shrinking) and slow.  Nevertheless, I been fairly successful in long distance sports.

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I do understand a lot of the science around sports.  I’ve used what brains I have to help compete against athletes that exceed my brawn. Sometimes it worked, many times it didn’t. In either case, I had some fun.

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When we moved to our home in North Carolina there weren’t many local endurance races. I’d bought a bow on an impulse and was soon hooked shooting. It is easy to understand why there are so many archers – it is very addictive. And, even a talentless retiree could hit a paper target with practice.

However, my need to race in endurance events remained strong. I have no desire to go after an Ironman; I’ve done plenty of them. Any triathlon would satisfy. The ones available were long drives away, expensive, and nearly always interfered with an archery tournament.  Not yet ready to give up on endurance sports I’ve continued to do moderate training in the, what seemed, unlikely circumstance that there was a run, ride, or triathlon nearby – at least in the State of North Carolina. The training, in my opinion helps with archery.

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In the past, and currently, I’ve traveled a lot to compete in sport. I’ve raced or trained in Europe, Japan, Asia, nearly every US State including Hawaii, and Australia. Most of this was associated with travel where I was not footing the bill. Today, I have to pay to play. Believe me, archery is a lot less expensive than an Ironman and the travel is more humane.

Still, it was sad that there did not seem to be a lot of endurance events anywhere near where I live in North Carolina. True, there are a few races over on the Outer Banks. I’ve done them several times. Locally, there was zippo. Then, by chance, I found the mother load of endurance racing on a website for North Carolina.

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What a relief. I was so disparate for an endurance race I was considering running an Ultra-marathon, a 100-mile run. The distance isn’t so much of a worry, the boredom is the obstacle. Since I found the races I’m already planning one race per month through November 2016. If I have a weekend that hasn’t been filled with an archery competition, well I’m racing. Heck, I am  considering another Ironman for 2017. Happy days are here again.

Recent Web Stats

Occasionally, I check the GoDaddy stats they keep on this website. It gives me information regarding visits, pages read, hits, time spent on the site by visitors and other data.

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I can’t read, but I’m happy to be on your site.

I’d not checked the stats a while and was killing time before I headed to the YMCA for a swim. So, I decided to take a look at the GoDaddy data. This is what it revealed.

Over the past 11 months there have been 116, 271 visitors here at Puttingitontheline.com. Y’all read 272,973 pages and it had 1.27 million hits.

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I can’t read either, but you can use my picture

In April most people spent 4.5 minutes on the site per visit. During the past 11 months (May isn’t included since we’re still in May) 15% of the visitors stayed on the site from 15 minutes to over an hour.

Thanks for reading – typos and all.

Sunday’s Decisions

Today was the USAT Long Course Duathlon National Championship in Cary, NC. I’d trained for it and entered. It was also the ASA State 3D Qualifier in Plymouth, NC. I had a choice to make: duathlon or archery. It was not an easy choice.

I’ve raced the long course duathlon many times. Basically, the race is a long run, followed by a long bike ride, and finishing up with another long run. In 2007 when I did my first long course duathlon I won the third spot for the USA Team to compete in the World Championship. It was a really hot day and I do better in the heat. I accepted the slot and competed.

The world championship was a rough one for me. It was cold, too cold. I never did get warm and finished 23rd. Still, I was a member of the USA Team and will never forget the Parade of Nations during the opening ceremony. There were 43 countries represented. It wasn’t the Olympics but it was cool. I was very proud to be racing for the USA.

In 2012 I once again earned a slot on the USA Team for the long course duathlon World Championship. When I got the call from the USAT I, regretfully, declined and they rolled down my place to the next athlete in line.

I turned down the offer because we’d just sold our business. It was a big deal, we were a public company and I was a chief officer. So, I turned the spot in the USA team down after explaining to the USAT my position with the company and stating I had “responsibilities to the company that prohibited me leaving for 10 days.” In hindsight, that was a mistake. The deal was done and the bigger fish that had bought us more than likely would have been (seriously) pleased to have me on the team. That bigger fish was heavily populated with amateur athletes, ex-college athletes, and even a few ex-pro football players. So, it probably would have been cool with them. I should have accepted and gone to Switzerland to race. Although I never raced in Switzerland I have trained there and knew what to expect. (It would have been cold.)

Today was another chance for a place in the USA Duathlon Team. I didn’t expect I’d win in Cary, I expected to finish in the top few, high enough to end up making the team. (I had already checked the times of other athletes and knew how I compared) I wouldn’t do it with my running; I’d do it on the bike. Or, at least, that was the plan. As such: hang on during the first run, a short one for this type of event only 5 miles, pull ahead on the bike, again a short distance only 42 miles. The short bike would give me space to come in among the leaders and after only 42 miles I’d still have plenty left in my legs for the final run, again a short one only 5 miles. It would have been the shortest long course duathlon that I’d raced. But, I bailed out of the race to shoot.

I’ve never done a 3D state championship. If I didn’t do the qualifier, well I’d not be able to compete. So, rather than go to the duathlon, I gambled on archery. The gamble is bigger than it appears.

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There were 3 in my group and we did this a lot.

The NC State ASA 3D Championship, to be held in Mt. Airy, NC, is a day after I finish at the USA Archery’s National Outdoor Championship in Decatur, Alabama. The timing is tight, really tight. By the time the ASA event rolls around I’ll have been on the road for several weeks. It falls on the weekend that was to have ended with the National Championships in Decatur, Alabama, which is the last leg of spending three weeks on the road shooting. That is going to be a grind. It will also be after spending three weeks in a 21- foot long Winnebago with my wife and two dogs. By then end of that adventure I’m not certain if I can make the drive to Mt. Airy, NC in time to compete or if I’ll have any mental gas left to make a go of it.

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Wagons for hauling gear, food and water has become popular on the 3D ranges here.

I can’t yet say whether I made the right choice today. Duathlon is my favorite type of racing. Duathlons are not real popular in the US because more people lean toward triathlon. So, they are a bit had to reach. But, it’s done.

Shooting in the Rain

It’s been raining all day. Not a hard rain. The rain has been light. So, I practiced in the rain.

It wasn’t raining when I got out of bed at 5:00 AM. Typically, I like to sleep until 6:00 AM. Lately, I’ve been hitting the sack earlier and as a result I am waking up earlier. I’m trying to get into a routine of waking earlier. I have a number of races with start times, over the next few months, where a 5:00 AM wake-up call is mandatory. At the ASA in Augusta I had a shoot time set for 07:30 AM. So, I figured I’d better practice getting up a little earlier than usual.

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My running partners, River in the lead and Coco on her heels.

The day began with an early morning run. It wasn’t raining during the run, but looked like it might start at any moment. I started shooting a little later that usual because I had some yard work that had to be completed. Once all of that was done – it started raining.

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It was warm and we stopped so the girls could have a break.

There are times when I’ve shot in 3D tournaments and it rained. Not a light rain, as today’s is, but a hard core float the Ark type rain. Today it has been gentle and not nearly hard enough to run me inside.

There will be days, I am certain, where I’ll get caught shooting in the rain. In cycling and running, events don’t stop for rain. In archery, we compete rain or shine most of the time.

Last week a 3D tournament was canceled due to rain. It wasn’t raining when the event was called off. It had been storming and the range along with parking were both mud bogs. I went and checked it out. I don’t mind mud on my truck. I suppose other more sensitive souls may have objected to mud.

You know, when we play outside we’re sometimes going to get caught in the rain. Really as long as it’s not freezing cold it doesn’t bother me. I can take the rain or I can take the cold, but I can’t take the rain and the cold.

Today’s rainy practice was fun. I shot better than usual. I think there’s an element of playing in the rain I enjoy. The bonus is now that I’m all grown up; Mama doesn’t fuss at me for getting soaking wet.

Rain, the Wrong Shirt, an ASA Shoot Done, and Riding the Trails

The 2016 McKenzie ASA Pro/Am Tour: New Breed & Leupold shoot is in the books. The second day was faster than the first. Still, it was a long day of shooting. By faster, we averaged one shot every ten and a half minutes.

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Heading into the park.

I was pleased with my shooting. This is the first ASA event where I’ve competed. And I nearly didn’t get to finish.

The weather called for rain. It was pouring when I left home. I dressed for the rain and carried an extra set of clothes to change into if necessary. I was considering the weather and didn’t pay attention to my shirts. Neither shirt had a collar.

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Randy, Sid, and Don – correctly dressed.

It stopped raining before we got on the range. As I entered I was blocked and told I could not enter the range because my shirt didn’t have a collar. I’m not one to argue with event officials. Arguing, I’ve learned over years of competitions, only helps the official justify their control and power over the athlete. Rather than try to explain I dressed for rain and had forgotten about collars I said, “Well, I guess I’m going home,” and turned to leave. The range official took pity on me and said, “Go ahead, this time,” and let me pass – he still was able to exert his control and power over me. I got to shot sans collar.

In an Ironman race, the Eagleman Ironman 70.3, I had a similar experience. There’s a rule regarding the material used to create a skin suit used for swimming. The officials were inspecting the skin suits, mine was inspected and passed. Minutes before the swim start a different official told me my suit was not legal. She suggested that I remove it, put it on the ground, and pick it up later. Despite explaining the suit passed the prior inspection, she refused to let me enter the water. Well, I wasn’t peeling off  the suit and leaving it on the ground – it cost over $300.00. I told her, “I’m not removing the suit, I’ll race for fun, don’t count my time” and raced. The suit was legal and I wasn’t the only person wearing that exact brand and material. I still have it and still use it. Control and power, I suppose being an official can go to some people’s heads.

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An old hunting shack I passed on my mountain bike ride

Despite the apparel faux pas I shot better today than the first day. The longest target was only around 44 yards per my estimate, which was good enough for a 12. I did have a windage problem that once corrected thing went better.  But, it took too many targets to figure out I had a sight problem – I was shooting to the left. I thought it was me, not my equipment.  Another archer pointed out I was hitting the exact same spot on the left every time. A few clicks and problem solved. I ended up setting my high score for the year breaking yesterday’s score by 5 points. I am still  pretty far away from the top guys but had enough good shots to know it’s coming together.

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Old school port-a-potty in the woods

Because the start of the shoot was at 0730 (delayed to 0800+) I got home in plenty of time to spend a couple of hours on my mountain bike. There are lots of trails through the woods here and I did my best to explore as many as possible until I needed to head home for dinner.

We had steaks cooked on the grill with roasted potatoes and green beans. After dinner I took River and Nixie swimming before River and I headed back out for another ride and run. A more than decent way to enjoy a Sunday in May.

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Your not having fun until someone is bleeding

Four Days

The past several days have been busy.  I shot in one 3D tournament and competed in two bicycle races. Then, I drove from Hertford, NC to Tignall, GA.

I haven’t done a pure cycling race in decades. I’ve done a lot of triathlons and duathlons. But, no pure cycling races in a very long time. A friend convinced me to enter a bike race so I did. Then, another guy I know talked me into a second race. Both were time trials so I wasn’t too worried about crashing.

In both I did pretty good, talking two second places. And after each race, there was no running to follow. I’ve got a dualthon and a number of triathlons in the near future so I’ll get the post-bike run during those events.

I wish I’d shot as well as I rode my bike, but I didn’t. I ended up 3rd in the archery tournament despite having my best 3D score of the season.

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River wearing my cycling medals while holding the ribbon in her mouth. This was her idea not mine. I really have no idea why she does this.

There are runs, triathlons, and other events where all an athlete needs to do is cross the finish line to get a medal. Archery and cycling don’t give out finishers’ awards. Heck, in cycling and archery you can’t expect to get any swag so don’t even plan on a t-shirt. But, you can earn a medal or cash if you do well enough. And if you have a medal crazy dog, like River, that furry friend will model the goods.

River and Medals

River has a thing about medals. Each one I bring home, without explanation, she approaches in the same manner she does her collar. That is, she walks toward me and lowers her head a little  in order to have the collar/medal placed on her neck. The difference, with the collar she dances away preparing  for a run, walk, play a game or take a ride. With any medal there is no dance.  Instead, she sits, poses, and waits until I take her picture. After I take the picture, well it’s game on.

This one, in the photo below,  was in my equipment bag, left there after a tournament last week. River watched me as I removed it from my gear to put it away. Before that could be done she had to have a picture. Following this picture, I had to chase her down to retrieve the medal which is now safely stored away.

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Dealing with the Central Nervous System

The role of the central nervous system (CNS) in enhancing sports performance needs special attention as it may hold the key to improved speed and power production, for example. Coaches and athletes need to realize the importance of the CNS and implement strategies in training and competition to maximize its contribution to sports performance.1

The above paragraph is from an article that considers how athletes can train to gain peak performance and apply the impact of their central nervous system. It is a good piece of work, especially if you run, jump, ride a bike, or perform in many sports aside from archery and shooting.

When I prepare for a race I mentally channel my excitement so that I remain somewhat calm. I don’t want to nervously waste energy – I want to apply it to force whether that force is on the road as my foot impacts its surface or on the pedals of my bike. Shooting an arrow is a different condition where nervous energy is not always a good thing.

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Someone yelled, “Get Him!” and everyone was looking at me – so I ran like I was being chased. (Not really)

In the excitement of lining up for a shot, either on the line standing next to other archers or at a stake in 3D remaining calm is important. Shaky arms aren’t beneficial for archers.

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In the first archery tournament where I competed, the Virginia State Indoor Championship in 2014, during the first several shots, my heart was pounding, and I was very nervous. In fact, I was far more jittery at that State Championship than I was at the 2008 Ironman World Championship in Kona, HI. Why the difference?

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Ironman Lake Placid – yes I’m the guy wearing the red swim cap.

 

IMG_0572One obvious reason, no one was looking at me in Kona – I was bobbing in the water, waiting for the cannon fire that would signal the start of a long day along with 1800 other triathletes. I wasn’t worried about “looking” bad or “stupid”. I knew what to expect from of my performance. I knew I would get a boost from adrenaline and I knew I’d do as well as I’d trained. I totally trusted my plan. Another reason, it wasn’t my first ‘rodeo’ – in fact outside of archery I have competed in over 415 competitive events (including 6 World Championship in cycling, triathlon, duathlon, and archery). What I have learned since 2014, in archery as well as triathlons, is no one is really looking at me. Most shooters are focused on their performance – not mine.

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The only person looking at me was the one with the camera.

Learning to control and handle the excitement of an archery event is vastly different than that of a race, yet with a lot of similarities. Running a marathon you can rest assured there will be a point where the race becomes increasingly mental. In an Ironman (140.6 miles of swimming, cycling and running) if you are not mentally tough, you will not complete the distance. In archery, mental toughness is a lot about control.

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You can’t control what is going on around you in a tournament. You can control how you react to conditions and unforeseen developments. How you handle them will impact your shooting and you can control your performance.

There are days when I practice and I am in a zone. Thus far, I have only been in a zone once during an archery tournament. It was a 3D shoot,  I didn’t shoot a perfect score, but there was a smooth relaxed feeling to the shots. During another tournamnet I was nearly that zone where mentally I was on my game. I say nearly since I didn’t feel ‘it’  until I’d shot several targets for 10’s and an 8, before I started hitting mostly 12s. That’s not imply I am smokin’ it at tournaments, at least not yet. I’ve screwed up at major events, missed targets at 3D shoots*, and smacked 8’s at 18 meters in competition after not hitting one in practice for weeks.

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For certain, you can’t control who you end up standing next to and standing next to a giant was different.

I expect I’ll shoot more tournaments like those in a few more months. Some will be better than others. It takes experience and confidence to improve. Practice helps. Pressure during practice also helps. It helps build confidence, which later will aid in support of control.

When I trained for bicycle racing, I nearly always trained in a group. There was always pressure. There was always someone trying to break away or someone trying to be the best during any given training exercise. We used to say our training was harder than racing.

In archery, I try to have days where I am not alone on the range. I want the ‘pressure’ of other eyes watching. That’s, in part, why I have a coach – I need him observing and providing feedback. There is an amount of ‘pressure’ exerted as I work to execute perfect shots under critical eyes. (I am still working at it)

In learning to shoot a bow, I have applied, where possible, training techniques taught to me by my former coaches. These coaches were from: running, swimming, cycling, and football. I’ve applied parts of what I know as a sports scientist / physiologist / sleep specialist and respiratory therapist. Every little bit has helped.

However, there’s the element that can only come with experience. During the past two years, since I began this archery adventure, I’ve competed in 43 events in eight states. The experience of those events has improved my confidence.

But, I also now know what I can expect to score from each competition. I don’t go into any competition blind as to how I will perform then hoping for the best. I can’t control how others shoot, but I can control how I shoot. With each competition, I aim to shoot a personal best. In order to do that I must be able to control the reaction of my central nervous system, and without that explosive outlet I get from racing. And at each event, I like to know my starting point, that is what are my average scores for this type of event. Then, I set a goal, each time, to walk away with an improved score. Afterwards, I head home and relax for a while.

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Reference:

http://www.pponline.co.uk/encyc/central-nervous-system-how-cns-training-can-improve-sports-performance-40836#

Notes: * Out of 410 3D targets I shot at in 2015 I missed three.  A coyote at 35 yard (undershot), a mountain lion at 42 yards (undershot) and another mountain lion steep downhill at 37 yards (shot it in the spine and the arrow did not stick.). Each time, I was embarrassed and each time the guys in my shooting group did their best to outwardly show that silent support. I expect inside they were either laughing or thinking “What an idiot.” But, hey – I can’t control that.