This is for Non-Archers

If you’re an archer – you don’t need to read this. If you’re not an archer, this might be interesting.

I wasn’t at my home in North Carolina. We were off visiting in Georgia. When were off visiting I bring a block to shoot and my bow with everything I need to practice. Once on location I set up a safe place to shoot.

(I also bring a bike or two, maybe a kayak, running shoes and all the gear for that as well.)

This is what a 20-yard target looks like.

Anyway, I was practicing archery one afternoon on this trip. A fellow comes up to me that has no experience shooting a bow. During our encounter I was practicing at 20 yards.

It looks like an easy shot

He said, “That’s not a hard shot. Give me a minute and I can beat you.”

Seriously, those were the first words out of his mouth.

I don’t know why but I’ve gotten crap like that a lot. Once, on a bicycle-training ride a cocky triathlete gave me some similar crap. I was new to the group I was training with and wasn’t prepared for the ride. I was grossly over dressed and knew I was in trouble when the pace, mileage and temperature climbed. The triathlete, a very good athlete on an international level looked at me and said, “We’re just getting started. I’m not even off of my inner chain ring, yet.”

Another time, when I was practicing 3D archery with a group a guy said, “Shoot your own game, you’ll never beat any of us.” WTF.

In the latter two examples, I said nothing. The day on the bike, well I didn’t have enough breath to respond. After the 3D comment I didn’t respond because I was too surprised by the comment to come up with a witty retort.

But, add a dime for perspective

That day in the Georgia yard, shooting at 20 yards, I knew it wasn’t a long distance shot. I did, however, have a response. It was, “Well, I’ll tell you what. You can have a rifle and I’ll use this bow. We fire three shots. The highest score gets $100.00.” I added, “But you have to stand and hold your rifle while you aim and fire.” The bet went untaken.

Not quite as easy as it looks

Shooting 20-yards is easy. Putting an arrow in the center of the target is a challenge. Unless you’ve tired it you really can’t grasp the complexity. The absolute slightest hint of a mistake and you’ll miss the center. You might even miss the yellow rings and land in the red. On the other hand, if you practice long enough it isn’t all that hard. I know, I’ve seen people who make it look easy.

Moving Back to Georgia

We were only supposed to be in Georgia for a couple of days. It turned out to be longer. See, there was this property near Athens and it looked right for a move back to Georgia. We bought the land.

Front of the land cleared and the house is going up

There are a number of valid reasons to leave our home in North Carolina. The combined needs to get back home warrant the relocation leaving behind a house where we’ve put in renovations intended for a lifetime. Someone will end up with a dream home. If the North Carolina property were closer to Athens, Georgia we’d keep it.  The distance is simply too great to make it worthwhile.

The new home, for me, includes: amazing archery ranges, great cycling roads, and phenomenal water access to rivers and lakes. Athens is the Southern Cycling Mecca.

Athens Twilight Criterium Bicycle Race

Georgia, from what I can glean from the Internet will offer more competitive archery than where we live in New Hope (near Hertford, NC). It’s not that North Carolina doesn’t have a fair share of archery events where one can compete. It’s that many of them are so far away from where we live that it requires an overnight trip. Certainly, Georgia is another one of those larger states, but in and around Athens there is an abundance of archery competitors and tournaments to meet their needs.

Georgia Archery Association, along with Field Archery and 3D seems creates a full calendar for shooting in the deep South

To top that off there are endurance sporting events, from running to triathlon, nearly every weekend – to supplement my completion fix provided by archery.

For Brenda, my wife – a professional Yogi instructor – being near Athens offers an abundance of Yoga opportunities.  There are a number of Yoga studios within minutes of our new property.

Another major benefit will be our proximity to UGA.  Since our move to New Hope I have worn out a search for continuing education classes.  There’s just too little here to be academically satisfying.

The property we ended up buying is  minutes outside of Athens. Its just far enough to be out of congestion and enough to get into the city at the drop of a hat. The “lot” we bought is just over three acres in rural “Good Hope” (Population – 289) meaning archery ranges can be affixed. Yes, that is “Good Hope, Georgia” and we are moving from “New Hope, North Carolina.”

If all goes well the relocation will impact athletic training, hopefully to a minimal. The long term benefit to be so close to other cyclists, runners, triathletes and archers has great potential.

About a mile away from our new property in Georgia

It will be cool to shoot over in Social Circle and Snellville, GA. Since Georgia is our home, we’ll be surrounded by family and one of our two daughters. We hope to be moved back to Georgia by February 2018.

The Mental Game in Archery

Don’t look to me for answers. Still, I am offering what I’m going through.

All my life I have been an endurance athlete. Without doubt it was my mental toughness that got me through runs and triathlons. During every run and every triathlon I hurt. My legs hurt, my arms hurt, it hurt to breathe, and my heart was pounding. I never quit a race I’d started. Once, I didn’t show up for a race that I felt prepared for because I was sick. But, I never quit.

During any race when I really started to hurt I go through phases of anger and frustration. There was never doubt. I’d trained and I trusted my training. I could turn anger and frustration into the generation of effort. That led to calm energy and forward momentum.

Archery simply does not work that way. Scoring nines when I’m aiming for tens is amazingly frustrating. Hitting an eight makes me down right angry. I cannot channel those emotions into a calmness needed to shoot well. There’s no conduit to pound it out. The best I’ve come up with is blowing it off and restarting everything anew on the next shot.

For example, say I hit a nine a bit above the ten. Before the next arrow I pause and think about what I did that caused me to land in the nine-ring (aside from the ten ring being the size of a penny). I don’t think, “Don’t do that again.” What I think is, “Okay, your follow though was off, now follow though on this next shot.” Many times, that next shot remains a nine.  Often in the exact same hole was the prior arrow.  Sometimes, the next shot is a ten.

Let’s say, I know from a miss that I screwed up the follow though on a  shot. I know I need to remain calm and have a good follow though on the next shot. On the subsequent arrow, I slow down, and go though each of my shooting steps in my head, then I repeat them as I perform them. Sometimes it works.

It does not work 100% of the time. That well thought out next shot might be another missed ten. If so, I repeat the mental exercise and shoot the next arrow.

If I hit too many nines or an eight frustration becomes anger. Unlike a triathlon where I could channel anger into power I can’t exactly grab my bow harder, squeeze the grip tighter, and draw an arrow more viciously. What works for me is a quiet, under my breath bit of profanity. Then, I blow off the shot (after I figure out what I did wrong.).

During either the frustration or the anger moments I work to not let those emotions turn negative. I also don’t deny the emotional impulse. I feel it, experience it, and let it pass in seconds. That ability comes from shooting a lot.(I am still learning.)

If you shoot a lot you will have the opportunity to miss a lot. You’ll experience the good and bad shots and learn how to best deal with them in your own manner.

With every shot, I go through a process of setting my body to shoot.  Once, I’ve got the dot in the center, I try to go blank (hoping for brain ‘alpha wave’ clarity) and let the shot happen. Thus far, I’ll say my brain gives out before my arms and back during practice.

Certainly, a year from now I could have a different point of view. For the moment, this is pretty much how I try to keep a mental focus on the next shot.

Adding Some Endurance Racing for 2018

Years of planning and a bit of luck helped me retire at 57 from a typical job. When I retired I considered focusing on winning a major endurance event in my age group. Now, I’ve never won a lot of races. I had earned a spot on a USA World Championship Team for the Long Course Duathlon, which was pretty cool. I also got to compete in the Ironman World Championship on Kona, Hawaii. That is the Super Bowl of Triathlon.

Kona, Hawaii 2008.
World Championship, Long Course Duathlon 2007

But, I’d never won something like a marathon or a 140.6-mile Ironman. I’ve done a lot of 70.3 and 140.6 Ironman events, but I never finished among the top athletes. I did better at the shorter distance triathlons.

Get out of the water under your own power

The sprint distances were where I did my best. See I not a great swimmer, I am a pretty okay runner, and a really decent cyclist. My plan for the shorter races was this: Swim well enough to finish the swim in the top 25%, pass everybody, the better swimmers, during the bike portion, hang on to my lead during the run. That worked for me a number of times. (There was often that athlete that is better at all 3 disciplines)

Finish at Kona – Ironman World Championships

But, the more I thought about it I realized I’d never be a good enough swimmer to place well in the major events. Sure, I can swim. Sadly, while I can swim far, I will never be fast. It’s a matter of genetics and body type. (My best time for a 2.4-mile swim is 64 minutes) So, I put that out of my mind while relaxing in my front yard shooting a newly acquired compound bow a little more than four years ago. There is where the thought hit me; maybe I could do well in archery. Time will tell.

Picking up some hardware

In the meantime, I can’t let go of endurance racing. I tried for a year to pedal around on a bike, jog every morning and swim at the YMCA. I stayed away from racing any distance. Essentially, my day is this:

Up between 0530 and 0600 , stretch

Eat breakfast, run one to six miles.

Shoot my bow for one to two hours.

Eat lunch

Take a nap

Ride a bike ten to 30 miles

Shoot my bow one to two hours.

Often, one of the last things I do at the end of the day is take a walk through the woods with my dog, River.

If there is water, River will find it.

It works out to from 4 to 6 hours a day of exercise and training.

In 2016 I ran a number of 5K races for fun. Each time a little more slowly than the previous race. These were for fun and I had not been training for speed. Still every day I think about racing. While planning my 2018 archery schedule I thought – why not add a duathlon. So, I did.

2017 USA Archery National Indoor Championships, Snellville, GA

I’ll still train about the same amount of time only now I’ll add speed work. I’ve added a spring dualthon onto my calendar. I’ve got 5 months to get into shape. On top of that there are a number of significant archery tournaments where I’d like to perform well all occurring around the same time frame. Nothing gets me going like a good challenge.

See ya

Wind to My Back

The wind has been awful out here on the Little River. I can’t remember a day without white caps. It makes archery practice a challenge. Early in the mornings the wind is typically not so bad. That has not been the case for a while. Cycling is good in one direction.

Remember that feeling you had when you were a kid, riding your bicycle with a tailwind pushing you along. That how it was today on an out and back ride from home.

There was a cross wind as I pedaled down my road. Once I turned right there was a furious tail wind. Within minutes I was in my biggest gear pushing as hard as I could. It didn’t take long for that to taper into a nice tempo in a large gear cruising at 27 mph. It just felt so good.

Before too long I reached the turn around point, that is where things changed.

Chasing my shadow on the ride home.

Shorter Days and a Little Rain

After a day off, a rest day, I was eager to train. It rained. Nevertheless, River and I headed out the door at around 0630 for a run. Fortunately, it was a light rain. But even a light rain is a burden when shooting 18-meters outside.

With a tournament this weekend, and having that worry about the other archers that didn’t take a break day, I needed to shoot. So, it was off to PGF Archery in Elizabeth City to use their indoor range. For $6.00 I had the range to myself.

Four of my arrows ready to be picked up from PFG Archery

During this practice, I used a timer and played music. The last time, a few days ago, when I timed my shots I ended up having an average of 23 seconds remaining of my two minutes for three arrows. Today, I had on average 26 seconds remaining or about a second faster per arrow. That can probably be attributed to becoming more comfortable with my new Spot-Hogg arrow rest. The music, which I didn’t like a whole lot when I was first introduced to it, is something I practice with all the time indoors when I’m alone. It has taken a while to get used to music in the background.

Darrell, a World Class shooter

While shooting at PGF Archery a friend showed up unexpectedly. He’s an elite shooter and has won more titles shooting than I can image. In fact, he was just in the local paper, again, for winning another major tournament. In his case he does it with a shotgun. He was there on an errand for his brother.

As I left the range, the rain had stopped. It was still cloudy and cold. Those conditions didn’t stop a nice bike ride in the afternoon before my second archery practice.

Shoot three arrows, stand by the heater, warm-up, shoot three more.

Despite the lack of sunlight I shot better in the afternoon. These shorter days do put a damper on being outside.

It’s hard to find the dot when there is no light

A Day Off

Talking a rest day is sometimes more difficult than training. Today is a scheduled rest day. It is a complete rest day meaning, no riding, running, archery or exercise beyond walking. Being accustom to five or six hours of exercise per day makes sitting still days incredibly hard.

Taking scheduled rest days to recover is as important as the effort it takes to earn those days of leisure. Here’s the rub, it’s easy to worry about that other athlete getting in a few more miles running, more hours on a bike or shooting more arrows while you’re sitting around resting.  The psychology of it makes athletes want to train more rather than less. Sometimes less is better.

Over-training can lead to poor performance. Finding the right balance of practice and recovery is a bit of a trick. So, today, as badly as I want to exercise, I am listening to my body, sticking to a plan and taking a break.

Time those shots

Two minutes seems like plenty of time to shoot three arrows. Really, it is more than enough time most of the time. Still, on a line in a tournament there will be the occasional archer that screws up and loses ten points to the clock.

Last year, I came close to being that guy. After archers were called to the line the judges failed to blow the start whistle and had started the clock. The clock running without a whistle was making the line get antsy. Finally, someone figured it out, but the judges didn’t blow the whistle, they just yelled to start shooting.

Once everyone got the message and began flinging arrows, I joined along with less than a minute on the clock. Talk about taking away the mental game.

I nocked my first arrow with 58 seconds on the clock. Rounding up to 60 seconds that’s about 20 seconds per arrow. On the final shot of the end I was the last archer on the line. There was a crowd watching and they began a count down, “10, 9, 8,7…”

With a room full of people counting down I flung my final shot at the target as the audience paused between 2 and 1 and scored a nine. It was exciting, but an excitement I can do without.

However, I do want to use as much of my two-minutes as I need and not rush. So, at times I practice using a timer. To amplify my  need to rehearse my shooting times, I changed my arrow rest. What I have now is one of those fixed blade tournament style rests. It is requiring some practice to keep the arrow on that rest while I am drawing.  The result is I am drawing much more slowly. That eats up a few seconds on every shot.

Several times a year while practicing I will use a stopwatch to monitor my shooting time. The new arrow rest encouraged me to check out my times this week. The data I collected showed that I am shooting more slowly by an average of ten seconds per arrow. Using the old rest I had an average of 33 seconds remaining on the clock after my last arrow. Using the new rest the average time remaining is 23 seconds.

There’s not a lot of time left over after shooting three arrows off the new rest. Still 23 seconds ought to be a nice cushion. By taking the time to check my shooting time and know what I have to work with it reduces tournament anxiety over not knowing.

Fitness and thinking about 2018

My fitness program is not exactly what I’d call an archery fitness program. It is different because I still consider endurance sports and try to stay in minimal shape to perhaps compete in other events. Of course, once I make a decision I’ll make a plan. This is the time of year I begin planning for the next year’s events.

What should we do next year?

In that plan will be a weight loss program. I am not overweight but since my last triathlon in 2013 my body fat percentage has increased from 4% to 11%. That is not racing weight. 2013 was a hard year of racing for me. I raced 12 times in 2013 and that wasn’t a big deal. From 2006 until 2013 I raced at least 12 times a year. However, in 2013  two of the races were Ironman events and one was the Mt. Evans Ascent.

The Mt. Evans Ascent was one of the hardest races of my life. Here’s what the race’s website says about that race:

Although the air will be noticeably thin at the starting line, Echo Lake’s 10,600 feet of elevation is just the beginning. The climb totals nearly 4,000 vertical feet – much of it above tree line – as you make your way 14.5 miles to the finish line located at the summit of one of the most recognizable peaks on Denver’s mountain skyline – 14,264 foot Mt. Evans.

For a guy that has lived most of his life at sea level – that race was a bear! To make it tougher a week prior to the Mt. Evans Ascent I raced in the Ironman Eagleman. The day after I raced in Boulder, but it was only a 5K.  It was actually on that week in Colorado that I became interested in archery.

I was in a sporting good store and noticed some bows in the shop.  I was killing time so I asked a salesperson about the bows.  It all sounded pretty interesting. A couple of months later I bought a compound bow. I’d never planned to compete at any level in archery. That changed.

I like running events, triathlons, cycling (time-trials only – no need to risk a crash because of some squirrelly rider) and duathlons. I’ve pretty much ruled out another triathlon anytime soon. Archery, running and riding are about all I can fit into my schedule. There’s no time to swim.

Not my best discipline

Running is easy. I do that nearly every day. Running races are also easy. They’re inexpensive and can be short or long. A 5K is a breeze. A marathon is a bit more effort. I have no idea how many 5Ks I’ve run. I also can’t recall how many 10Ks or half-marathons I’ve done. Half-marathons are nice because you can pace yourself and still not feel totally wasted after a race. A 10K hurts the entire race and a 5K hurts a lot and then its over.

I do remember exactly how many marathons I’ve run. They all hurt in a different way. After my 7th marathon I figured it was enough, but perhaps not.

Running – you can do it anywhere (I just replaced to blue Nikes I’m wearing in this photo) This raced was a 1/2 marathon in Maryland.

I also ride a bike nearly every day. I run in the morning and ride in the afternoon. But, archery practice twice a day eats away at time needed to drive to a pool. An hour in the pool means another hour of travel.

Aside from specific archery goals for 2018 I am considering some endurance sports competition. In that regard, off-road duathlons keep popping into my thoughts.

It’s cold and raining – happens every year

Training in the cold and rain is not on the top of my list for enjoyment. I can take the cold or I can take the rain, but cold and rain sucks. Despite the less than wonderful training conditions most of the time I will train though it. Sure, if the weather is seriously bad I stay inside, but unless it’s truly awful I work to get outdoors.

Today the temperature was 49°F while I was running. Not at all bad for running. By the time I was shooting it was still 49°F and was beginning to drizzle. Since I was standing in a shed and shooting out toward the target the rain wasn’t a real burden. The wind, however, was a real hassle. Not so much the wind pushing me, but it was strong enough to impact arrows even at 18-meters. Such is training in the fall here on the coast of North Carolina. We are going to get wind, rain, and cold.

I have to admit, I am glad to have this shed where I can stand. Without it, I’d be driving into Elizabeth City to shoot indoors and get totally out of the weather. The rain has gotten worse, so this afternoon I may need to take a pass on archery.  But, I can hop on a bike and ride the CompuTrainer.

PS.: The rain actually lightened up a bit for the afternoon shooting.