Train, train, more training and a little madness

Over the next several weekends I have a State 3D Championship (Georgia Bowhunter and Archery Association), a race (5K) and finally the Georgia State Outdoor Championship (Georgia Archery Association).  Getting ready for all of them means a lot of training and practice.

Trails used for running and 3D – you can just see that foam deer

When I go to the gym to lift weight the week of an archery tournament I dial it back.  Pushing it lifting weights before a major archery event can leave my arms wobbly. Neither will I crank up the repetitions or weight on my legs with a 5K coming up.  A 5K isn’t a long race, but I know I’m going to hurt for the entire race. I prefer my legs feeling fresh.

During runs and rides I nearly always see deer – not the foam type

Each week I have a plan with a peak and taper based on the next competition.  Last week was a heavy week with some taper this week in archery. Last week there was this one day where things went a bit crazy.

That was a  day when  I trained a maximum load schedule for that week. This meant, fortunately not on a gym day, 30 minutes of stretching and balance, and hour and a half long trail run, 50 arrows in the morning and 60 in the afternoon and an hour and fifteen minutes on the bike. What did me in was the bike.

In rural Georgia you can ride for hours on roads like to one over my shoulder

Now 75 minutes on a bike isn’t hard.  It can be an easy ride depending on the course. This course on this day was not an easy one.

The ride is extremely hilly.  Still, 75 minutes means the course is ridden at a comfortable pace which was my intention when I got on the bike. I didn’t stick with the plan.

Starting out on the ride I had a rare day with a light wind.  The course usually provides a not so light wind that feels like it is always in my face.  Not that day – the course seemed to have very little wind and what it did have felt like it was pushing me along rather that trying to stop me.

Cycling in this part of the country you will ride through cow pastures. They are often scenic and frequently smelly.

I tried to hold an easy pace at 17 mile per hour.  About half way into the ride reading at my bike computer for the current mileage and time lapsed I started thinking, “I bet I can break an hour on this ride.”

I’d done the ride in less than an hour once before.  I tried to stop thinking about it remembering I already had 90 minutes of running in my legs and another 60 arrows to shoot.   Then, I lost my mind.

It is too tempting to try and go fast on these roads

If I’d intended on trying to ride the course with a sub-hour time I should have started the ride trying to hold the pace at 20 miles per hour.  I hadn’t done that.  Having 6 miles to go I started really pushing it.  Because I’d began the ride at a more leisurely pace the final 6 miles would need to be fast.

Fast is fine on a flat course, but the final six miles of this course are rolling hills, long uphill grades and 3 tough climbs over the last 2 miles.  It would be hard to complete the distance under an hour with six miles remaining on a flat course. On this course it was just a stupid idea.

An easy part of the ride.

Turning right onto Georgia State Highway 186, which leads home, the distance is 2 miles. That’s where the three tough climbs lay ahead.  (There are no pictures of those climbs.  If I tried to snap a photo while riding a bicycle I’d probably start rolling backwards or fall over)  There was also wind blowing fast and furious right into my face.

I looked at my bike computer and decided to keep pushing. Days of bygone glory drifted through my head. I was out of my saddle climbing and determined to break an hour or bust a lung.

I got home just as my wife was driving up from a yoga class.  Her first words were, “Look at your face, it’s so red.”  I bet it was red. The temperature was 92°F.  My bike computer read 58 minutes and 32 seconds.

It took me two days to recover.

Numbers, Process, and Monitoring

In professional sports, where athletes and their coaches are making money, believe me those individuals know their numbers.  When Usain Bolt prepared for a 100-meter sprint he knew about how fast he’d run.  So did his opponents.

When Coach Belichick begins a game against any team in the NFL he knows what that team’s expected yardages are for nearly every play and his defense works to read which play is coming their way in order to stop the play. Odds makers and bookies know this on  broader scale – football isn’t a total mystery. 

Feb 3, 2019; Atlanta, GA, USA; New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick looks on during the first quarter against the Los Angeles Rams in Super Bowl LIII at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

If you are a professional athlete you know how fast, strong, or accurate you are in your sport.  You may not be as fast as Usain Bolt, then no one else is either, however, you do know how fast you run – if you’re a runner.  If you are a power lifter you know how much weight to add to a barbell during exercise and about where you’ll lift in competition. 

There are variances to that knowledge. These variances in performance don’t amount to huge gains or loses. But, it is those variances that often make sport so interesting. Like an NFL upset or Bolt losing to Americans Gatlin and Coleman at the World Championship in 2017. (2017 was Bolt’s final year as a professional)

Eli Manning data

Suppose, for example, you are an archer that has been preparing for a tournament shooting a 5-spot.  You might not keep records your practice scores.  You might record how well you perceived your adherence to your shooting process.

If you’ve created a method of gaging your process of success that excludes knowing the scoring result you’ve missed a critical piece of information. 

While you might perform well at the 5-spot tournament you may be surprised, one way or the other, as scores are being called and recorded while you watch.  Without having trained to recognize scores as only one part of the process you could find that during competition a mental pressure to achieve a score creeps into your thoughts.

On the other hand, during your practice sessions if you’ve kept a measurement of your scoring you will become desensitized to the numbers.  What those numbers can provide is a floating bar to inform you of how you’re performing within your process.

In a tournament you don’t need to be thinking about your process.  Competition is a time where you trust your training and shoot. Process practice is for practice. During competition “You get the job done or you don’t,” Bill Belichick once said. Afterwards, you can sit down and evaluate your performance. Then, you’ll find what you need to work on for the next event.

Say that prior to the 5-spot tournament you’ve kept a database of the practice outcomes associated with scoring.  From that database you can review your most recent 30 scores.  Your data teaches you that your average practice score is 299.5 (300 is the maximum score).  You might further learn that your standard deviation is 0.99 points and your range  (‘range’ in this context means – minimum and maximum scoring)  is 297 through 300. Additionally, you can discover from your data that of the past 30 scores you ended up with 297 (3 times) for 10%, 298 (2 times) for 6%, 299 (1 time) for 1% and 300 (24 times) for 80% of your recorded practices. 

Numbers in sport are important

Understanding your numbers should give you the confidence to see yourself earning 300 points (you do it 80% of the time) at your tournament.  You also know that your variance is less than one point, 0.99.  But, your range is 297 – 300 or 3 points. 

Obviously, you aren’t likely to win a 5-spot tournament with a score below 300, although it has happened outside the professional divisions. Knowing that you score 300 at a rate of 80% means there is immediate room, 20%, for improvement.  Once you are landing 300 scores 100% of the time you set a goal of achieving 60X.

Coaching tip

While monitoring your performance can be done using a variety of matrices, scoring is one very objective value.  By following scores you’ll see improvement and create goals. You’ll further learn not to be intimidated by numbers and not reach a panic point when you are off on a shot. What matters is how you recover from that missed X. 

Remember, everybody misses and the score will take care of itself.

You Win Some, You Lose Some

At the Georgia ASA State 3D Championship I finished in a sad third place.  At the Georgia Bowhunter Archery Association/NFAA Section Field Championship I ended up taking a very tight second place.  There the top three scores in my division all surpassed the previous state record score.  Finally, at the Georgia Archery Associations State Field Championship I got my 5thwin for 2019.

In that event, unlike the ASA Championship, I competed in my age group.  If I’d shot in the 50 year old group I’d have finished 2ndto my friend, Fran.  In the seniors, 21 – 49, I’d have been a bit further back in 6thplace.

I like competing against the younger age groups and sometime I do and sometimes I don’t.  But, I assure you; there are plenty of fellows in the 60 – 69 year old division that could compete and do well in the younger divisions.

The major advantage I see, or don’t see, competing against the younger archers is their eyesight. I’m not meaning 20/20 vision, I’m referring to light gathering.  As we age our eyes’ ability to gather light diminishes.  Sometimes, especially in 3D, I’m aiming by putting the fuzzy dark dot in the middle of the fuzzy dark foam animal and hoping.

Hope is as likely to score an 8 as it is a 10 and real luck lands a 12.  Bad luck earns a 5 or the opportunity to search for an arrow.

Practicing for the next tournament, the Georgia Bowhunter Archery Associations State 3D Championship I working on dark targets in shady holes.  If I’m going to use some hopeful luck I might as well practice for it.

Getting Your Mental Picture

“I have never hit a shot, not even in practice, without having a very sharp, in-focus picture in my head.  It’s like a color movie.  First I ‘see’ the ball where I want it to finish, nice and white and sitting up high on bright green grass. Then the scene quickly changes and I ‘see’ the ball going there; its path, trajectory and shape, even its behavior on landing. Then there is sort of a fade-out, and the next scene shows me making the kind of swing that will turn the image into reality.” (Jack Nicklaus, Gold My Way, Simon & Schuster, New York, p. 79, 1974)

One expert on mental efforts in sport has written to see yourself as the champion.  It seems to fit the fake it until you make it philosophy.  While this appears silly it there is some merit to the mindset. However, faking it doesn’t supplant practice and training.  Those you can’t fake.

During practice don’t daydream you’re the winning of the next event. Use that time to focus your mind on the shot.  Before the shot, in your head go through your process and see your arrow land exactly where you want it to go. Then relax and make your shot.

Once that shot has completed clear your head, relax and move to the next shot.  Sure you’ll visualize yourself on the podium.  But, before you can get there you’ve got to execute one arrow at a time.

Paying to play and solo practice

When I practice, perhaps like many of you, I don’t often have company to share the practice session. When I trained for triathlons, cycling and running there was always a group or team which whom to train.  There is a group of archers that practices together near me. However, their practice sessions require a fee of $15.00 to play.

I understand the fee. The folks that put it on are not volunteers and it is a lot of work.  In addition, the practice includes a ‘pot’ ( from those $15.00 fees) where a percentage of your payment goes to the winner.

I practiced with them when I first moved home to Georgia.  But, paying to practice seemed a bit too rich for my pocketbook.  That and the fact I rarely left with any cash in my pocket.  Still the group is pleasant and the environment is nice.  Certainly, I’ll end up supplementing some ‘kids’ gas money in the future.

See many of the ‘kids’ that come to those practices are ranked top in their class in the Nation or the World.  A couple of them only ever shoot an X.  One of them I have never seen miss the X.

When I lived in Maryland there was a group that got together at least once a week to practice at no charge. Being invited I joined those practices whenever possible. These were younger folks and everyone was over 23 years of age.  The oldest is probably in his 40s. Among them one once shot professionally, one won an IBO World Championship, and the others have all been State Champions at one time or another.  However, they were exclusively 3D archers.

Tuesday night training rides – cycling. Near Atlanta, GA. (Count back 4 riders. That 4th rider is yours truly)

I’m frequently invited to run with groups here near Athens.  I’ve also been invited to ride (cycling) with groups several times near where I live .  Their schedules haven’t made joining possible without infringing on archery. Still I sometimes connect with other cyclists on the road.

In North Carolina there was a group that gathered to practice archery and I often shot with them.  They had a huge indoor range where they often held indoor 3D tournaments. The tournaments’ entry fee was $10.00. The practice cost zero dollars.

What’s up – you shooting your bow?
Shooting in Maryland

Racing bicycles was an activity that nearly always meant having others with whom to train. One group that trained together was coached by a high level USA Cycling coach who didn’t charge a fee. The coach also ran one of the bike shops in town, the “Yellow Jersey Cyclery” on Waters Ave in Savannah, Georgia. The “Yellow Jersey” was there for decades and is now gone.

The coach, Nestor Gernay, remains one of the more famous USA Cycling coaches and cyclists.

Nestor Gernay and me (wearing the red top) around 2002 after a training ride during the winter in Savannah.
This fellow ran up and down the tree between ends


You can’t see me

If setting up a practice costs the organizer then those practicing should provide some reimbursement to offset the cost.  Paper targets aren’t free and athletes should pay for their targets. So, paying to play in archery is a bit different than playing in other sports like cycling or running.

Golf on the other hand is going to cost you to practice.  So is swimming and nearly every other sport.

If an archery club organizes the practice dues can supplement against cost.  If a bow shop organizes the practice for their team, of course, some small fee can be paid for targets.  Aside from that in regard to shop supported practice, I consider the practice part of a marketing program to keep archers returning to make purchases. That’s how cycling shops support their riders.  The shop puts together rides at no cost to those participating. If the bike shop, for example, began requiring cyclists to pay to get together and ride, I expect those cyclists would find somewhere else to ride.

I’m not a biter

Now, I admit I am tight fisted when it comes to spending money.  I admit I do miss the fellowship of training or practices groups.  I’ve also, regardless of the sport, done a great deal of training alone so I can and will train alone.

Dude, you grass is pretty tasty – try some

Alone, specifically means no human companionship. Over the years of archery practice I’ve had numerous non-humans hanging out watching me shoot.  For example, River, my dog, loves to hang out while I practice.  She requires an occasional toss of stick but aside from that she’s no bother.

I’ll just wait right here while you pull those arrows

In North Carolina I had horses that seemed to enjoy coming over and watching practice.  They were very polite and although they stood nearby they never roamed between the target and me.

Don’t shoot me, don’t shoot me, don’t shoot me (Rabbit telepathy)
This frog got a little too close.

There have been rabbits and squirrels that have hung out and watched me shoot.  The squirrels are always bolder than the rabbits.

Cruising across the range at high speed
I’m your friend not a meal

Today, River didn’t join me for practice.  It has been really hot here so she remained indoors.  (not her choice) Still, I wasn’t alone even if the company was non-human.  Throughout practice one of my neighbors chickens followed me around.  Maybe the chicken hoped for some feed to come her way and maybe not.

There was also a fox on the range this morning. It didn’t pause for a photo.  I’m pretty sure it was hunting for chicken. Maybe the chicken was hoping I’d shoot the fox.

Having a group to practice with makes the time on a range nice.  Without a group (of humans) it can take a lot of self-discipline to remain at work though training. Every sport requires some time spent in solo training.  When doing so it is entertaining to be joined by non-humans that remain for the most part non-judgmental. (Squirrels can have an attitude.)

Despite the small fee I’ll pay to play with a group nearby I’ll soon be heading their way as the indoor season approaches.  Several of the top gun ‘kids’ are heading off to college.  Maybe this year I’ll break even.

There are different meanings to exercise and sport

We were at pizza joint with a group of my wife’s friends. They’re mostly her friends from yoga. Yoga folks are pretty cool and I enjoy hanging out with them.  As a rule they are all fit and health conscious. It never fails that one or two of them quiz me on the subject of my less passionate view of yoga. I don’t do yoga, but I stretch every morning for about half an hour plus or minus a few minutes here and there.

My daily run which begins in my backyard

Mixed in with the purest yoga students there are runners who practice yoga. While I never bring up the subject of running many of them know that I run or at least have completed many somewhat difficult runs. (Brenda told them) They are all younger and will at times ask for advice. (Often the advice relates to a medical concern. Brenda also told them of me medical background.)

Sooner to later, like the yoga inquiry, I get quizzed about my running, which is only about 2 miles a day.  That’s enough for me for the moment.

Trail running in North Georgia with River

When I mention 2 miles a day jaws may pop open as if I’ve uttered a severely unacceptable comment or committed some sacrilege. One fellow asked me if I missed it referring to running longer distances.  I said no, plainly and simply I don’t miss running long solo miles.  If I keep the mileage at three or less per run River, my nearly 9-year-old lab, is happy to run along with me.  Beyond 3 miles and she gets bored. At two miles she’s happy and I have company while running.

Another inquisitor asked me if I missed triathlons. (Brenda, again)  He’s training for a triathlon.  He’s heard I have completed lots of them.  As with running, “Nope,” I answered.  When I said “Nope” the yoga runners and yoga triathletes looked at me with saddened eyes as if I had nothing to live for.

“Look,” I said to the small audience watching to see if I was going to die on the spot, “I do a lot of exercise.”  I added, “ I stretch every morning, which is a lot like your yoga.  A number of the stretches are actually yoga moves.” The audience appear unimpressed.

Then, I pointed out that indeed I run only 2 miles a day. I also ride a bike by time rather than distance or some combination of time and distance everyday for an hour to 90 minutes.  So, I pointed out I get a lot of exercise. The additional cycling seemed to satisfy many that I was doing the correct amount of physical fitness training.

Some scenery is well worth the ride

I was going to mention that those exercise intervals are warm-ups sessions only.  That the 2 to 3 hours per day doing those workouts are, in fact, not my primary sport.  Further I didn’t mention that I head to the gym once or twice per week.  All of which are secondary activities to the 2 to 5 hours per day of archery practice.  It seemed to me, that in the setting of the conversation, bringing to light the nearly 8-hour day of work to be a decent archer would have been wasted breath.

Beyond our backyard fence is where 3D practice is the current primary focus
There’s always a dark target in a hole in 3D – gotta practice this shot

Everyone around Brenda and I eating pizza was a lot younger.  The top end age, outside of Brenda and I, was probably upper 30s to at most 42 years old. The majority of those in attendance were younger than our children. They all workout several times per week at yoga and a few do train to run or work toward completing an international distance triathlon. Most of them have jobs, not all, so working out or training  much more than they’re doing takes a certain frame of mind. The question becomes what it is you want and what are you willing to give up to get it.

What I learned is that what time most of them put toward exercise and fitness max’ed out at around 14 hours per week.  That’s good and overall for most people a lot of exercise.  None of them is working toward any specific sport goal beyond a completion of some target event.

Good to practice the shot, but it sucks to break an arrow

“I’m training to do a triathlon,” or “I’m training to run a 5K,” are great goals and eventual achievements. There is, however, a difference when your goals include breaking records, winning titles and championships, or  being ranked top in the world.  This difference in the meaning for the exercise or training in no way implies one set of priorities is more important than the other.  There’s just a difference.

Are We Having Fun?

I get it; sports should be fun, maybe.

Training, just maybe, isn’t all that much fun.  Archery tournaments don’t leave me sore from laughing. Certainly, during practice or training there are epochs of fun.  When a practice session is over you should feel you enjoyed the workout with some degree of satisfaction.  Tournaments have moments of satisfaction. But, fun? At times archery feels like work.

We all know fun when we’re having fun. Archery, without a doubt can be fun.  But, it is also work.

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines fun as:

“What provides amusement or enjoyment,a mood for finding or making amusement, to indulge in banter or playproviding entertainment, amusement, or enjoyment.”

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines work as:

“To perform or carry through a task requiring sustained effort or continuous repeated operations. To perform or carry through a task requiring sustained effort or continuous repeated operations.To function or operate according to plan or design.  An activity in which one exerts strength or faculties to do or perform something.”

You can decide which of these definitions best matches your practice of archery.  You may decide there’s some overlap.  Admittedly, I am almost curious enough to ask for responses to the question.

You can, of course, respond. But, to get the larger answer to whether we’re having fun or is what archers do more like work I’d need to generate a more scientific type survey tool.  I’ll give that some thought. Creating a bona fide survey tool collecting the data then compiling the results could be fun.

Home in the nick of time

If you do a sport that’s an outdoor activity you have probably be caught in the rain. If you’ve been there, then you will understand:

Run looks pretty good. There are some clouds coming in, but seems okay
It appears to be getting darker rather than brighter as this morning runs progresses. Maybe its going to rain earlier than predicted
“River, here” – feels like a good point to start heading home
Barely a drop on me

Sure, some folks might have continued on their morning run.  I admit, I turned around shortening the run.

Trying to Get Ready for Field Archery

In preparation for the Georgia State Field Archery and NFAA sections, coming in a few more weeks, I’ve been studying how to shoot a Field Archery Tournament.  I’ve read the rules, watched a tutorial on how to shoot them and the scoring, and purchased the targets used for the event.  It is a lot to remember.

Practicing on Hunter style targets for field archery

I’ve already booked a campsite and signed up for the tournament.  Too bad there aren’t any closer similar archery contests near me.  I’d feel better having a more solid foundation with the venue.

In the meantime, all that can be done is to prepare as best as possible. Part of that preparation means having a bow on which everything works properly.

80 yards if a long shot

My target bow is still AWOL.  It’s been gone, sent back to Elite, for months. I’m shooting an older back up bow. That bow needs a new rest.  The QAD rest clicks and rubs and feels like it could enter a complete meltdown at any moment.  I’ll give QAD a call for help tomorrow. They’ve been helpful with the problem in the past.  It happened to me before.

Had to pause during practice to trim some long hanging tree limbs to reach the target at 80 yards.

The back up bow is a 2014 Elite 35.  It has a lot of mileage and the limbs have been replaced once.  I upgraded to the Elite 37X in 2018.  That bow never did seem to shoot right.  After a while I noticed cable guard pitting which clearly isn’t right.  The bow was returned in March. Over two months later and Elite has the bow and the money.

Shooting 4 arrows at the same 35 cm target can be costly

I’ve also gotten my hands on an old Mathews Conquest Apex 7.  It was my first bow and it was sold to get the Elite 35.  The second owner returned to me that Mathews bow.  I shot it for 3D last week and won competing in the Hunter class (ASA) at a local competition. I’m considering making that the bow for the Field Championship.

Before I retired, I’d have just gone and bought a new bow. Since retirement, seven years ago, I’ve become a bit tighter with my cash.  But, the best bow out there is always the one in your hand.

Going into the next State Championship, everything is not ideal.  There are still a few weeks to go and in the meantime, I’ll do all I can to get ready. And hope I’ll get in a group of friendly archers that won’t be put out having me tag along.

Designing Practice and Training

In our USA Archery Level 3 NTS Coaches course we were given a ‘Weekly Training Plan’ template.  It’s a basic template that provides coaches with a simple tool to plan an athlete’s weekly training activities.  It is important to have a plan for training. Otherwise, you’re just shooting arrows.

You’ll improve by just shooting arrows.  However, you’ll reach a point where you either decide to go to the next step or enjoy shooting arrows. The latter approach can make to a better archer,  a formal plan might make you excel.

Beginning a new practice plan

I use six weeks cycles for training. It is a method I’ve used for decades in other sports.  The volume of work and type of training floats with the plan. The plan itself is a rotation of six-week intervals that incorporates a year or years.

The plans revolve around specific tournament goals.  Those goals and tournament are further categorized into ‘A’, ‘B’, and ‘C’ events. Those events can change based on performance and other factors.

Performance changes might be based on how an archer is shooting.  An event may be removed from the schedule and another added in its place. One ‘other’ factor, for me, can be shown in the example of the Gator Cup in Florida.  That event was dropped due to the cost as well as my most recent performance at 50-meters. I won the tournament, but felt my score wasn’t competitive enough to spend the money on the Gator Cup.

Based on 2018 results, my recent 50-meter tournament’s score would have landed me in 5thfor the Gator Cup Qualification round and my elimination score would have earned me a 4thplace in the Masters 50 year old group. Spending over $1000.00 for not earning a top 3 finish isn’t worth the expense.  So, the Gator Cup moved out of the 2019 rotation.  Because there doesn’t seem to be a 60+, 70+ or higher age group, in order to keep the Gator Cup in the rotation for 2020, knowing if I go I’ll need to compete against archers potentially 15 years younger, I need to stay fit. My plan incorporates significant time for fitness.

These don’t come about without a plan. (Ironman Lake Placid, Louisville and World Championships on Kona, HI)

A weekly training plan should include fitness training, strength training, and a general idea about nutrition.  Nutrition is important in that learning to eat like an athlete supports athletic endeavors. (more on nutrition in the future)

Some of the archery hardware collected over the past 5 years using a specific plan

My personal training plans are long range.  There’s an ‘A’ tournament on the horizon, 6 weeks out.  That plan includes others for 2019 and one tournament already in the queue for 2020 with specific goals.

Having a plan, not just in your head (that’s a dream), which is formal, on paper and reviewed daily will help you improve as an archer and athlete.