The Waiting Game

When I was racing triathlons Brenda, my wife, occasionally came along to support me and enjoy watching the race. Typically, these were the larger races, Ironman events and a couple of World Championships when she attended. The shorter races, sprints, she came less often.

It was more fun for her when a group of us traveled together and competed in the same race. In this way she had friends to hang out with during the race. The Ironman Eagleman 70.3 was the most fun and there was a party throughout the event that she enjoyed while I swim, biked and ran.

At Ironman Lake Placid a group of us where racing. We’d rented at house for ten days with another couple, good friends, and neither one was racing. The house was smack on the bike course leading into Lake Placid. It was an ideal location to set up chairs and watch the athletes ride past.

At the Ironman World Championship in Hawaii, I flew out first to get acclimated to the weather and time changes. Brenda flew out a few days later. Even though that race is the SuperBowl of triathlons, she was alone at the finish line while she waited for my to complete the 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike ride, and the 26.2 mile run. Admittedly, I worried about her the entire day.

Brenda hanging out at Kona, HI.

Throughout all of that day I was concerned about her being alone. After that race, I began doing most of the triathlons solo. At the Ironman Kentucky in Louisville she stayed home. In the off-season I competed in running races, again solo. There were exceptions when a group of us would sign up for a marathon, rent and house, and turn the race into a social event.

It’s an exciting event for fans where tens of thousands line the course to watch

After a few years I began to become eager to get home after a race. Once after finishing a 24-hour World Championship Ultra-cycling race I took a shower, loaded my gear and drove straight home – a haul of 18 hours after racing 24-hours non-stop. I didn’t even wait to see how I’d placed. That method of finishing and heading home become my standard operation procedure from then.

Golf certainly gets a huge crowds of fans following. Both the athlete and the fans knows the score.

At the shorter races I frequently placed in the top 3. There was never any money involved since I didn’t race professionally. But, there were trophies or medals, at times very nice ones. If I wanted the prize, and I’d left before the award ceremony, I’d send the races organizers a check to cover the expense and their time to mail the award to me. None of the awards are on display in my home; they are all in a storage closet or in a gym bag.   Still, it is nice to have them. That has held with archery.

There is a difference; Brenda does not ever attend archery tournaments. I can’t say that I blame her. Unless someone is ‘into’ archery the sport is dull compared to a triathlon. It’s slow and there is a lot of sitting around looking at the backs of athletes standing still. It’s even difficult to see the arrow placement of a cherished athletes performance from the spectator seats (when seats are available).

The waiting around is tough for friends and family that want to support an athlete. Years ago at the USA Track and Field Masters Indoor National Championship my start time (for a short race) kept getting pushed back. Brenda was with me and I could see she was bored to tears. Heck, I was bored to tears and nearly left before my start.

There was a span when I race a lot. By a lot I mean one race per month for 8 straight years. Additionally, those where years when I worked and with work traveled globally. So, spending any more time that required away from home was bad. Hence, I’d race, finish and head home.

Occasionally the race was a short trip others required a plane flight. Either way I got home post-race as fast as possible. Once home, if I didn’t know how I’d finished, I’d go online and check it out. When possible I let the race organizers know I’d be leaving immediately following the race if I was expecting to win or place. They’d have the results almost immediately and just hand me my prize.

Many people don’t consider that athletes, especially those not getting paid to attend, often have other obligations. Having a family that’s home waiting for the return of their competitor is a big draw to leave. Having to wait for results is a big push away from a sport.

Working hard, hour’s everyday, paying (at times a large registrations fee), adding an expense to travel for an event, then days later unable to find a result is frustrating. At one tournament in Georgia, a long haul from North Carolina, the results are still unavailable – nearly a year after the event.

Talking to the father of a young man that competes in the JOAD ranks he mentioned to me it had been a week since they’d last traveled to an archery tournament and still no posted results. Personally, I’d like to write that I don’t care whether or not I find out how I performed in a sporting event. I can’t – I do like to know. Otherwise, I might as well save my money stay home and shoot in the yard.

River Shares a Treat With Coco

If you’ve been following this site you know I run with my dog, River. On our morning runs we’re joined, almost without fail, by Coco who is also a Labrador Retriever. Other dogs join and I am often times running with a pack of dogs. But, River and Coco are the ringleaders and seem to be amazingly good friends.

I don’t understand how dog friendships are developed or evaluated. I can only observe what seems to be an extremely playful and happy response by River and Coco when they see one another and how they interact. Today, I watched River do something I can’t explain in dog terms but it appeared to be sharing.

When I run I never carry dog treats. If dogs make it back to my house they are given treats. But, typically all the dogs, Coco included, turn back a few hundred yards away from my front door. They used to come all the way to the house. That doesn’t happen any longer.

Three years ago we bought a wirehaired dachshund, Nixie. She’s a great dog around people and River. But, she has no tolerance for vagrant animals and chases all others away. She’s a lot smaller, an 18 pounder, than any of the other dogs, but she is aggressive toward them and the bigger animals don’t want to deal with her.

Today I did bring dog treats on the run. Only Coco and one other dog showed up for the outing. On the way home I remembered the treats in my jacket pocket. With about a third of a mile left to run  I stopped and gave River and Coco a treat.

The treats are nothing special, they’re Milk Bone MaroSnacks. River and Nixie seem to really like them. Well, I handed one to River and she took it. Then I handed one to Coco, she too took the Milk Bone.

When Coco finished gulping hers down River faced Coco nearly nose to nose. Then, River bowed her head and dropped her unmolested Milk Bone on the road. Next, River looked at Coco, eye to eye.

I was shocked; River always eats a treat. Still, here it was, a Milk Bone on the road in front of Coco’s paws. Coco seemed to understand, bent head down, took the treat and ate it. Both dogs then wagged at each other and ran away through water filled ditch.

I tried it again with the treats to see what would happen. This time River ate her treat, as did Coco. I’m not sure what it was I had witnessed with the first treat. By human standards it appeared to be sharing. Once home River got a bath and another treat.

Get Outside and Play

I write a lot about ‘playing’ outside.  It is my opinion that too many people are not giving themselves time to enjoy the outdoors.  There are times when I notice others outside and to my dismay I see them typing away on cell phones. That’s crazy!

View from my morning run

I own a cell phone.  It’s primary function is to take pictures and play audiobooks.  Nearly every picture on this site was taken with my cell phone.  I listen to audiobooks when I run.  I don’t always have audiobooks on while running.  But, for those long out and back runs it’s a good way to learn something new.  Most of the audiobooks I listen to pertain to sports, history or science.

But, I am outdoors everyday regardless of the weather.  I’ll spend hours practicing archery outside even on the days where I add an indoor session to my training.

A little snow and cold is not a barrier to being outside

No one can shoot all day.  When I take breaks, I find there are plenty of other activities that keep me outside.

Need a break, take a boat ride

When I worked, I found time to get outside.  Before work I ran or rode a bike.  Travel didn’t keep from fresh air.  I found a great way to experience a new city or country was to get outside and run.  I even have a Bike Friday that I traveled with so I could ride.

You know, an hour or so playing outside is a great way to refresh yourself. I’m fortunate in that my work paid off and I can spend a maximum of time doing outdoor activities.  But, you can find the time – so do it for yourself.

3D, a New Sight Tape, and Some Longer Yardage Practice

This morning was a 3D test. Lately, I’ve had my Axcel Achieve set up for indoor shooting. It has been connected to my Elite Energy 35 bow. For months I’ve been working to gain a few points here and there. What I’d been doing was having a run with the Elite, now I’m switching back to my Mathews Conquest Apex 7.

The change meant re-working the site and changing the sight tape. That’s another post in itself. Back to the Mathews, well I now want to measure what happens with some deliberate practice using the Apex 7.

The Elite and Mathews have a very different fell. But, for the most part, I score roughly the same shooting either bow. So, I’ll give the Mathews some exclusive work and see how that pans out.

This dirt mound is about 3 feet higher than the ground. Standing on it gives me the highest elevated shots on the range

The first order of business, following the sight change, was to go out to the 3D range. The reason I selected 3D over paper for a start was, well I needed a bit of a break from paper. Shooting 3-spots day in and day out can become stale.

This turkey is a bit close at 42 yards from the dirt mound. The mosquito is shot from another angle.
Had to work this bird a while until these 8s improved

Last week, when practicing 3D, using fixed pins on the Apex 7  I did a lot of work from 14 to 35 yards. The reason was that I’d be competing in an indoor 3D tournament where the longest target is only around 30 yards. Today, I used a sight and was eager to test my tape setting on long shots.

This turkey, from my elevated height of 3 feet, is a 52 yards shot.

Nearly every shot today was at 50 yards are greater. The new tape did just fine. I practiced for three hours before hunger sent me off the range. There is a real benefit to having a 3D practice range only a few hundred yards from my kitchen.

River inspecting a longer shot placement on this turkey.

Shooting Back to Back Indoor 18-Meter and Indoor 3D

In the past, I’ve done multiple sporting events over a single weekend. For example, I’ve raced a 5K and 10K, then after each competed in a 3D archery tournament. The 5K was a quick short run and there was no “DOMS”, delayed onset muscle soreness. The 10K was another matter. The race was a trail run, hilly, and left me with some minor DOMS. The next day, the 3D range was not flat. I can say, having sore legs and climbing around on a hilly 3D course wasn’t hard, but definitely not my easiest day on a range. I’ve even raced in cycling time-trials, racing against the clock, then the next day going out for an archery tournament.

In archery, I have shot back-to-back days at tournaments a few times. In all of those, I was a bit behind on the first day and pulled up a bit on the second. Those events encompassed, indoor, field and 3D style events. Until recently, one combination I hadn’t done was indoor and 3D on the same day.

When that opportunity presented itself I jumped on it. The first was an indoor 18-meter 3-spot shoot, followed by an indoor 3D shoot.

Both events were fun. Here’s what I learned – bring more to eat. I ran low on gas during the second tournament. It didn’t sink me but I wasn’t a long way from ‘Bonking.”

I’ve bonked in triathlons and cycling training. It’s not a good feeling. Archery isn’t as physically demanding as those other two sports, but mentally an archer needs calories. On this double tournament day, I had miscalculated how long it would take and was low on my caloric intake. I’ll be more careful next time.

In the long run it didn’t matter all that much as I ended the day with two first places. But, I’ll be more careful on the food I bring from here moving forward.

A Little Winter Fun

Years ago I spent a lot of winters working outside the US in some cold places. In the US I lived in Cleveland and Pittsburgh, it’s cold during winters there. Outside the US winters in France and Sweden were seriously cold. Here in New Hope, North Carolina it is cold today. Not Swedish cold, but cold enough.

In addition to the cold we have a little ice and snow. By Cleveland or Pittsburgh standards, what we have here in New Hope is a light un-newsworthy event. But, here in the South it is newsworthy. In fact, I expect much of the South impacted by this cold snap to make the news for the next few days. After a few days, the temperature for us will be back in the upper 50’s and low 60’s.

Winter and snow in France is bad. Winter in Sweden is a totally difference form of life. On the coast of North Carolina it is simply a bit of cold weather fun where a nice hike around the 3D range beats sitting indoors.

Third Annual Trip to Wildcat.

Three years ago, while in Savannah, GA, I discovered Wildcat Archery in nearby Pooler, GA. Naturally I visited the shop where they informed me there would be an indoor league competition during my stay in Savannah. An archery novice I had never shot in a competitive situation. It seemed like it would be fun so I joined the event.

Wildcat Archery in Pooler, GA

In that – for me inaugural – tournament the targets were paper screened with animals. I recall being nervous, I didn’t even know how to score. After the shooting was completed I was quietly happy to have not missed an entire paper animal.

A year later, another trip to Savannah, and again on the path to Pooler to practice at the Wildcat indoor range. Their range is small and can handle a line of about 6 archers. But, it’s well illuminated and their backstops are nice. It’s an ideal range for practice.

December 2016 now in my third year of shooting ( actually three years, three months, and 4 days) I found myself back in Savannah. I also learned Wildcat Archery’s 5-spot league was having their final night of competition during my hometown visit. Pooler was again on my itinerary.

I like 5-spots because shooting a 300 seems somewhat possible. Hitting a 60X 300 is a  challenge, but a whole bunch easier than getting a 60X 600 against a 3-spot using the smallest ring as the ten (the USA Archery scoring method.) That 60X/600 remains elusive to me for now.

My practice of late has been exclusively shooting a 3-spot. This in preparation for the USA Archery Indoor Nationals. I expected to shoot well at the Wildcat Archery’s event.

The Wildcat’s final league shoot was scheduled to start at 7 PM. I’d planned to leave from Windsor Forest in Savannah a little before 6 PM. The 18-mile drive should take around 30 minutes according to Mapquest and my Garmin GPS.

Inside Wildcat Archery

Since moving from Savannah in the 80’s a lot has changed. I’m rarely there and retain my Old Savannah traffic memory.  I’ve been stuck in a lot of nasty traffic in cities like: London, Boston, Atlanta, Paris, Singapore and New York. Those cities stand out as miserable places to drive. Of smaller cities Norfolk, Virgina takes the bad traffic prize.

I’d allowed an hour and 10 minutes for the Wildcat drive.  It seemed ample time to make an 18-mile journey leaving plenty room to pay the $10.00 registration fee and take some warm up shots.

The plan to arrive early was a flop.  Traffic was shockingly bad – not how I’d remembered Savannah.  The trip to Pooler felt more like a drive in Norfolk.  Still, I arrived it in time to pay my ten bucks and have a few practice shots before our five shot official practice prior to scoring.

When it was all over I didn’t shoot a 300.  I was seriously disappointed.  I’d let an off centered target get the best of me as we began.  After a few frustrating shots, I figured, ‘oh well, I’m a bit off line’ and ended up with a 296.  I’ll wait to see what it is that will draw me back to Wildcat Archery in Pooler in 2017.

No Gains to Be Found in the Release

PGF Outdoors in Elizabeth City has a league competition underway. There are a number of really good archers shooting. Several have attended USA Archery Indoor Nationals and many are upper level 3D shooters. One travels the country competing – and she’s the youngest among the top archers.

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I’ve been shooting in those league events. There will be eight contests before the conclusion and were at number four in the series. The target is a Vegas 3-spot, 30 arrows and they are scoring the outer 10 ring as a 10 and in inner as a 10X. With that larger 10 ring I would hope to have been shooting 300 every time.

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Because the range is small (still a nice size for an archery shop) archers can compete on Thursday night or Saturday morning

I shot my best score the first night. That time I used a thumb release. All other times I have used a hinge release. My average has been 287 with last night’s low of 285 and the thumb release night earning a score of 289. It has been somewhat frustrating. I feel I should be shooting no less than 296 with by now at least one 300. But, it just isn’t happening.

It’s not like my arrows are all over the place. The groups are tight even though last night I hit one 8.

A recent article in Live Science investigators pointed out something all elite swimmers already know – they go faster with their fingers slightly apart. The increase in speed is very little, however, when hundredths or thousandths of a second separates these athletes every little marginal gain counts. I’ve written about marginal gains and where they might be found in archery.

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When it comes to swim fast is good – coming out of the water under your own power is Rule Number 1.

By marginal gains I mean those small measures of improving an element of performance that when added together mount up to important differences. I’ve also mentioned that I am looking for a 4% gain in the past in order to reach an elite competitive status. That 4% had been 6%, then 5%, and 4%. I don’t attribute much of the 2% gain to practice. The gain came too fast for athletic improvement. I feel that small amount came from a change in stabilizers and addition weight.

Equipment can account for margin gains. The stabilizer improvements attest to the value of equipment to some degree. It still takes practice to get the most out of equipment and I practice a lot.

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In an experiment to learn whether the thumb release is an approach to gain a percentage I shot all morning going back and forth with a thumb versus hinge. Absolutely no difference over 120 arrows. Exact number of 10s and 9s every time. At the end of all scoring exactly 4% off the mark. But, I am fairly sure there are no more gains to be found from the release products I own.

You’re Touching Me, You’re Touching Me

I’ve done a lot of sports competitions. They’ve ranged from full contact sports like football and karate to less physically impactful sports like archery. Even cycling is a contact sport where bumping shoulders and elbows while sprinting is normal. Sometimes you crash in cycling – I have the scars to testify- and that is full contact. In triathlon during the swim you can bet, you will be hit, pulled, clawed, and kicked. Many sports include physical contact. Not so much in archery.

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I am in that mass of swimmers – there was contact during the swim

At smaller indoor tournaments space can be at a premium. Occasionally, there can even be unforeseen obstacles that reduce lane size. This is simply not a problem to worry over, if it happens it happens. Or so I thought.

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A touch during a bike ride can hurt

At a recent indoor competition a problem occurred while I was standing at the left side of my lane. The archer next to me, in a lane beside an unforeseen obstacle, found he had slightly reduced real estate. Therefore, he needed to position himself at the extreme right of his lane. I needed to stand at the extreme left of my box because the target, set by the range keepers, was not centered. Even when I was due left, I was shooting at an angle. Nothing that I was going to cry about and nothing I couldn’t handle. As you can envision, the two of us were closer than usual.

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To avoid being touched during a run simply run faster than everyone else.

The atypical box arrangement meant, that on occasion, when my bow was down, its side stabilizer touched archer’s, in the next lane, puffy fanny gear pack. Well, it wasn’t exactly a fanny pack; it was a large bag puffed out holding stuff. Many of us have smaller ones on our quiver belts.  The one in question seemed to be the gallon sized edition. It happens that my side stabilizer doesn’t extend with much of an angle.  It runs nearly parallel with my bow pretty much the exact opposite direction of the front stabilizer.

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There can be a lot of archers on a line. It will be tight. You might get touched – be prepared to deal with it

I never felt my side stabilizer touch the fellow’s puffy pouch. It didn’t matter, he made certain I knew. Of course, I did everything possible to not touch the fellow. With my best effort, while not shooting, my side stabilizer touched the archer’s large waist purse more than once. He made it clear he did not want to be touched.

Proposing, after pointing out he was shooting from a size reduced box, if he slid his waist purse around an inch there would likely be no further contact. His waist purse, I implied, seemed to be extending beyond his invisible vertical box limit into my lane. He was not inclined to slide the offending purse off his front hip.

After a while I was reminded by another archer that some folks are whiners. The sad and sometimes touched archer, his stress exhausted, stopped whining and began to imply that I didn’t need to worry about a potential future touch. I supposed he realized that much of the fault was generated by his need to adorn large archery attire. Long before this decree of box freedom, I had stopped paying attention to him.

Without reservation none of his shots were in anyway affected by a foreign stabilizer brushing past his front facing fanny pack. On every shot, prior to loading an arrow, I leaned back to ensure there was ample distance between the two of us.

Archery is not a contract sport. In other athletics, where contact is the norm,  I’ve been injured severely enough to require hospitalizations and surgeries. Contact with another athlete has never caused me mental stress even though at times has resulted in physical discomfort.

Justifiably, archery is a mental sport. Part of an archer’s mental conditioning should include preparation under less than optimal shooting circumstances. Otherwise, how is a mentally squishier competitor going to deal with it?