Slow Down

Over the past month the exercises in my training plan have all been those associated with starting from the beginning.  Weeks were spent shooting at targets 11 yards away.  Then, those targets moved to 15 yards, 17 yards and finally 20 yards.  Each move occurring after scores had reached an acceptable level.  Each arrow was judged not on the score rather whether or not the shot had occurred properly.

Admittedly 100% proper form was not achieved.  At 11 yards the arrow might land in an X but the form may still have been off.  The further back the more pronounced a poorly formed shot scored. With an indoor State Championship less than three weeks away 18 meters is the distance of focus.

Rushing shots or depending on luck are not methods for consistent scoring.  Both of those bad methods to shoot remain in my quiver.  They are hard habits to break.

Two things hamper shooting: rushing the shot and slamming off an arrow hoping for a bit of luck.  We’ve all been lucky a time or two.  On the other hand that luck isn’t always good.

A friend and early coach once told me, “Get one arrow, shoot it, retrieve it and shoot it again – one arrow at a time.” Boring!  Shooting arrows is fun, if it weren’t archers would probably become runners. (I know you are unlikely to run unless you’re being chased – that was a joke.)

I took the advice after years of avoiding the one at a time practice.  I held in the game for 15 arrows from 18 meters before I broke.  It was a boring as I’d imagined.  (I considered going for a run at arrow 10)

Off to a goot start
Okay, one 9 and one 10 the rest Xs

The practice did make me slow down and focus on just one arrow at a time.  The results were painfully good.  It taught me that if I slow down I shoot pretty good. Hopefully, once was enough although I doubt it.

Sometimes You Just Grin and Bare It

This past summer we got very little rain here in Athens, Georgia.  We seem to be catching up now that the weather has cooled down.  It has been raining non-stop for the past few days.  It has also been cold.  I can take the rain or I can take the cold but rain with cold is a whole other agony.

Yesterday was a wash – literally.  Running wasn’t missed.  Archery and cycling were scheduled rest days so it worked out.  This morning we awoke to more rain.  Running on trails does provide some slight cover, less so now that the leaves are mostly on the ground.  There are plenty of large evergreen pine trees and the trails are dense but running still leaves one human and one dog wet.   On top of the rain and cold the wind pitched in to support sub-optimal conditions.

River, my lab and running partner doesn’t mind the rain.  In fact, puddles provide opportunities to crash through water at full speed.  She comes home a happy mess.  I come home wet and cold. Still, it is more fun to run than not to run.

The weather forecast suggested there would be a short break in the rain.  The forecast was accurate.  The break meant at least an hour of archery practice could be attempted.

We got a short pause from the rain

As soon as the rain paused I headed out to the range.  Today’s practiced was a focus on form; an effort to reclaim the accuracy I had a year ago.  Since November of 2018 my scores have been slowly sliding into an abyss.  Recent training has all been about regrouping.

The rain on pause, the temperature into the 40s, it was go or miss the day.  Rain was predicted to return after a short breather.  The wind on the other hand was in full form.  In fact, in our woods we’ve had four pine trees blown down during the past few days.

That’s a full tank of propane that remained useless.
The wind was so bad I couldn’t even hang the targets straight

The wind was harsh enough to prevent my outdoor propane heater from staying ignited. It would fire up and fade out.  But, it was just going to be an hour or so of shooting so all that could be done was grin and bare it.

Conditions remained windy without rain for the hour and a half I got to practice.  It wasn’t so bad temperature-wise.  The wind did get me a couple of times but I kept everything in the yellow. Certainly practicing outdoors was more fun that staying indoors, maybe less pleasant that practicing at an indoor range. (The indoor ranges were all closed)

Re-hanging the right target and finishing. The last 6 arrows of 75.

A Christmas Miss

Locally, there was a Christmas indoor tournament over the weekend.  I’d heard the start time was 0900.  It was actually ay 1000.  There was no way around the extra hour and errands that needed to be completed.  Maybe I’d have made it home in time to have completed my assignments and maybe not.  So, I chose to miss the competition.

That was likely for the best considering the way I’ve been shooting.  For a while things were looking up.  Now, things are looking rather flat. Those things are scores.

Data is important to record.  If you’ve not collected your practice and performance data you really don’t have much information to establish way to manage your progress.

After the completion of the weekend’s errands following the abandoned Christmas shoot I looked over my 18-meter data.  It wasn’t inspirational regarding advances in performance.

The data reviewed includes just those post 18-meter inner 10 ring rule changes.  There was a linear slope upwards over time.  However, the log of those numbers showed a much flatter slope.

Scoress were moving in the right direction then did a nose dive

Nope, there weren’t any moments of insight regarding practice changes to improve the slope.  But, there were a number of little adjustments found in the notes associated with the score. Those notes may help refine my 2020 training plans and hopefully I can get back on the right track.

I missed the local Christmas shoot but ended up having a little extra time to take an in-depth dive into my 18-meter data.  That review may end up having been a better way to have used that time.

Dang, that was cold! It’s been colder.

Yes, it is snowing up north and the temperatures are low.  In Boston it is 30°F.  It is 32°F in Pittsburgh.  I picked these two examples because I’ve lived and worked in those two cities. In Cleveland, Ohio, another northern city I am acquainted with it is 35°F.  All those cities currently have cold temperatures.  It isn’t that cold here near Athens, Georgia.

It is chilly enough here near Athens.  The high today was 43°F.  Not too bad compared to those northern towns.  Of course, the wind is blowing here.  The wind is always blowing here or so it seems. The breeze is flowing at 11 mph with gusts up to 22 mph.  The final leaves, those last dried up survivors of fall, are now few and far between – excluding my lawn, which is blanketed.

Fifteen years ago in Cleveland I was outside before and after work.  I’d run in morning and ride in the evening.  I lived downtown at 12th and Euclid Street in the Theater district.  I’d run before the migration of workers from the suburbs arrived and bicycle once the herd departed.  Downtown Cleveland was pretty empty outside of normal working hours other than around the medical centers. During the winter Cleveland is really cold.  I don’t care where you live the North Coast is cold in the winter by anyone’s standards.

I’d put every piece of clothing I owned before heading out in January and February there on the shores of Lake Eire.  I’d stay comfortable enough to enjoy the fresh frigid air.  By frigid I do mean those blasts from the Canadian territories.

By those standards 43°F seems mild.  Even adding the wind chill here in Georgia it was still above freezing at 37°F.  In fact, the weather was just fine while trail running this morning.  It was less fine while practicing archery.

Doing archery it is awkward to shoot while wearing 30 pounds of layered apparel. For the hour or so spent shooting outside I wore only long pants, a short sleeved t-shirt, a long sleeved t-shirt, a fleece sleeveless vest, and of course socks, shoes, at hat, etc.  I also stood next to an outdoor propane heater and stuffed my pockets with hand warmers.  It really wasn’t too bad.  I didn’t shoot all that well; neither did I embarrass myself in front of dogs or squirrels – spectators who seemed oblivious to the lower temperatures.

Cycling, after archery, too wasn’t all that bad.  It was bad enough.  Lycra is a poor insulator and half way into the ride I sensed my error in layers.  (Too few –for those who are not fond of guessing)

Training in any sport isn’t always easy.  Well, for me it is rarely easy.  There is work involved.  There will be times with the elements, the weather specifically, isn’t ideal.  The weather isn’t always going the idea during competition.  But, hey, it least here today it wasn’t as bad as the weather during the San Francisco 49’ers and Baltimore Ravens played in this past weekend.  We have pretty much the same conditions here today as yesterday in Baltimore except it wasn’t raining.  I mention that since I lived in Baltimore for 5 years as well.

Stuck and Needing to Move

Heading out to the range to fire off a bunch or arrows is fun.  You will get better shooting a lot.  But, there is a point where you may need to change your training to make improvements.

Reviewing my results, those from training and competition, it was apparent the upward slope had leveled.  In some instances, those data suggested things were beginning to head in the wrong direction.

As frustrating as you’d guess this to be there are ways out of the funk.  Those methods are not as much fun as heading out to shoot. It means getting outside of comfort zones.

With every practice there is a plan.  That plan has evolved little during the past 60 months and 25 days.  The plan has worked fairly well. However, the results after little more than 5 years aren’t satisfactory.

A change has to take place in order to move forward.  In my case, a number of changes.  This meant rewriting the 2020 training plans, establishing new goals, and essentially being willing to drop even more points until the 2020 effort takes hold.

Refined 2020 training schedule. (One month only shown)

Continuing on the past course would lead to improvements.  Those improvements would take a while. If I were simply shooting for the fun of shooting that would be fine.  But, that isn’t the case for me.

In order to make more rapid advancements isolated technique work is required.  That work isn’t the fun part.  I suppose I’ll see how the revised practice routines work.

If you’re shooting to win competitions just shooting a bow isn’t necessarily the path.  To win you need to refine the minute steps in your process.  It isn’t always fun. It is like doing intervals running or on a bike.  They hurt and will leave you sucking wind. The the payoff is real.

What The Heck?

What the heck?  Seriously, what is up with these numbers?

Shooting an Elite Victory 37X with 60-pound limbs adjusted to around 50 pounds seemed a bit like pushing the limit on the bow regarding how much weight to take off the limbs.  I changed limbs and went to 50 pound limbs set for 50 pounds.  I expect to see an improvement in my scores.

The results weren’t what I expected.

The final ten practices using the weight reduced 60 pound limbs shooting a vertical 3-spot at 18-meters my average score was 580. The new 50-pound limbs, after collecting 10 sixty-arrow practice sessions the average score is 565. The arrows were the same as was the release.  The difference is extremely significant, unpaired t-test were t= 3.969 (this means the difference is real).

Shooting a higher average, the 580 score, the standard deviation was 12.07.  Shooting the lower average, the 565 score, the standard deviation was 2.89. The lower score is very consistent.  This suggests the shooting variance is similar on most of the shots.

The variance, however, is currently outside of sight adjustments.  Reviewing the misses, the arrows are evenly distributed around the X. In both sets of numbers there are no single arrow scores below 9.

Time to take the bow and the archer to get evaluated.

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.

 

Time for a Break

I’d planned a short break between the final outdoor tournament in indoor training.  The day after the last outdoor event I set my practice range up for 18-meters.  Once it was arranged, resistance was futile.

All week I’ve shot and shot. I’ve shot morning and afternoon.  Through record breaking temperatures I sweated and shot.  In addition, I stretched every morning, ran everyday, went cycling (during the hottest part of the day), mowed, cut, and trimmed property, planted 8 trees, and completed daily chores.

On Saturday (a week after the two-day outdoor tournament began), after stretching and running, I headed out to the range. Twenty-seven arrows later I was heading off the range. There was no doubt it is break time.