River, my lab, is often with me with I shoot. She’s a keen monitor of form and barks if she thinks I need advice. Today, after running we headed out to practice archery.
During the hour or so we spent outside she: stole a bone from the neighbor’s dog, ate a small tree branch, sent swimming, rolled around on a dead mole, barked me while I shot, ran around the yard with a stick, and tried to steal a glove.
Avoiding mental distractions is important in archery. Seems River is doing her best to help me focus.
I just finished reading Greg Moriaties book The Zero Athlete. I read a lot of books. Many are non-fiction and among I occasionally pick up one that might have a pearl or two in it that might help me become a better athlete. Many of them are so much of the same but every now and again there’s a tidbit of something I haven’t heard or read. I picked up a couple of ideas from Moriates’ book. There was one theme that has been common in a number of books, take a nap if you can.
Taking a nap is nothing new for me. When I trained exclusively in cycling we’d often ride 60 miles in the morning and another 60 in the afternoon. We’d get in about 20,000 miles a year. It was a lot of riding. Our coach used to preach to us, when we weren’t on the bike, “Don’t stand when you can sit, don’t sit when you can lay down.” During the mid-day, the team would often be laying down, taking a nap before the afternoon training session.
I’m no longer hoping to earn a spot as a cyclist on an Olympic Team. That dream died in 1980. Following the mess with the 1980 Summer Games in Moscow and getting hit by a car during a training ride, my wife, Brenda, suggested I get a real job. That meant finishing college and that meant no more racing or at least at the level I’d been prepared to race. Some things, however, didn’t change, and one of those was the mid-day nap.
My body had become so accustom to taking a nap after lunch it was often a struggle to stay awake in class and at work. I eventually learned that if I didn’t eat very much for lunch my circadian dip wasn’t as severe – so I managed.
Today, I have different goals set than I did in 1980. My career and work goals accomplished, I set new goals around athletics. Certainly, I’m not going to race bikes or do a triathlon competing against 20 and 30 year olds. There are only two sports where a 60 year old can compete, pretty much equally, with a 20 or 30 year old athlete: shooting and archery.
Because I love to compete, I decided, in August 2013 to buy a compound bow and learn how to shoot it. I’m still learning. I’m also still riding a bike, running, swimming, and lifting weights. All of this exercise is demanding. It’s also a lot of fun. One thing I now have the luxury of is the mid-day nap. I do my best not to miss it.
I don’t nap long, rarely over 20 minutes. I don’t get in the bed or lay on the couch. I lay down on the floor. I don’t want to be too comfortable and slip into a full sleep cycle. So, the floor is fine, as is Stage 1 sleep. It’s a light nap I take between morning training and my afternoon training. And everyday, I share the time with my dogs.
Around mid-day on Tuesday I took a short bike ride. The bike was a steel frame retro style rig with down tube shifters. It is one of my favorite rides. To be fair, all my bikes are my ‘favorite.’ And for perspective, I have one bow, and I have 12 bikes.
Here, on the eastern shore of North Carolina, the roads are so beaten up by hurricanes, heat, and farm equipment that riding steel or titanium is going to be the most comfortable. So, I’m frequently riding a neat steel retro Peugeot or a LiteSpeed with its titanium frame.
If you’re a cyclist and cover seriously rough roads you know they can loosen teeth. Some folks might be partial to carbon fiber frames, but I’ve never been overly fond of mine. It’s a great bike and wonderful for climbing, but I’ve never really like the feel of the bike. Aluminum is what most of my bike frames are made from and I do like them. But, they can be harsh on really rough roads.
Steel makes for such a good riding bike. Riding a steel frame is like cruising in a Cadillac. Yet, good steel ‘springs’ with a cyclist when they ‘jump’. Great steel frames feel ‘alive.’
As I was enjoying the ride today, and the feel of steel, I decided to turn onto a road I’d not ridden in several months. I was shocked at what I found. Smooth as glass, like a flat velodrome, a newly re-paved road.
Even riding steel, the roads here will rattle bones. When I turned and hit fresh pavement it was so pleasant I had to stop for a minute and take a look. Man, it was so nice! Smooth and fast, really very cool.
I like having a schedule. I know when to train, what my plan is, and where I’d going to do it. It is important to make a plan and stick with it. There are times, however, when small changes can help improve athletic development.
Using a regular interval I measure my progress. The measurements I take include scores, targets, distance judging, and equipment. I don’t do this during every practice or everyday – still I do this every often. Some sessions I just go out and shoot for fun.
By monitoring my training sessions I can see when the data begins to plateau. When that occurs, I change up my shooting plan. Typically, that means a minor change, but it means some change. I’ll go to a different range, move targets around, or change my shooting positions. When results become flat, it is time for a change.
At other times, I become bored with shooting the same target, at the same time, day in and day out. It is important to keep times fresh and I’ll switch the paper targets I’m aiming at to different styles. That keeps me motivated and the new target becomes a new challenge.
It is easy to get hooked shooting. The mental aspects, for me, are often clarifying and nearly meditative. There is a physical element to this sport and even though the brain may want to continue, the arms and shoulders need time to recover. I shoot a lot of arrows and I try to be careful to keep practice time according to my plan in order to allow for recovery. I’ve blown that more than once and the outcome wasn’t good.
From the other sports where I’ve competed, I take lessons learned and apply them to archery. When I see results level out, begin to feel bored, or get that burn in my arms that is different that usual I pause and evaluate, then often I will adjust my routine.
This morning, another spectacular sunrise over the water, River, my Lab, and I took a short run before I practiced shooting a 3-spot. During the afternoon, I headed onto the 3-D range. Neither practice resulted in perfect scores, although there were more than a few decent shots.
Shooting paper at 20 yards is a great way to start the day. Actually, a run starts my training for the day that is followed by shooting. Mornings are best to shoot because the wind is usually least during that time.
Even though it’s December, the temperature reached into the low 70’s and before the day was out I was in short pants. My kind of winter.
The morning session wasn’t my best and I ended up with a 581, using the new USA Archery scoring system. I’m struggling to get the release point just right on my hinge release. Adjustment after adjustment still it seems either too light or too heavy.
While shooting 3-D in the afternoon, I switched to a thumb release. I feel more comfortable with a thumb release, but my data is beginning to suggest I shoot a few points higher using a hinge style. The difference isn’t statistically significant, but statistical interactions aren’t necessarily indicative of finishing places.
3-D was pretty good despite I haven’t been spending as much time on that range as on indoors or aiming at paper targets. Because it was early afternoon and the sun was getting low a few shoots were very tough – it was hard to see the target. Nevertheless, it was a good practice. Ended up with a 206. (20 targets)
I practiced on a 5-spot this morning. The weather was a crisp fall 47°F. There was no wind; it was going to be perfect for a perfect practice. It didn’t turn out the way I’d imagined when I pinned up the target.
Most of my shots were good – there were four strays. Shooting a 300 is still not a given for me, but I am beginning to expect a 300 when shot a 5-spot. This morning, well what can I say, it happens.
I recorded each poor shot so I’ll know what I did wrong. There were no surprises with my errors, the same ones I am working to correct that I make too often.
This afternoon, I’ll see if I can’t improve on this morning’s performance. Until then, off the lift weights, run, buy a Christmas tree, and put up more outdoor lights.
Rain and fog complicate outdoor archery practice. So far, this week that is about the extent of the weather we’ve had here on the coast in North Carolina.
It rained off and on all day yesterday. During breaks in the precipitation I was able to work in a couple of practice sessions. Overnight, it has warmed considerably bringing with it fog. Fog isn’t really a problem when aiming at a spot 20 yards away.
We’re expecting more rain later this evening. So, I’ll shoot through the mist until the rain begins.
Seventeen days of competition and hunting can break a routine. It is good to have breaks. It is also nice to have a routine.
For me that routine is a formal exercise program that meets competitive goals. Those 2015 goals meant a number of faster 5K wins. I only missed one win. Going long is fun, however during the past decade I’ve done a lot of long distance racing. This past year I wanted to practice going faster and over shorter distances. In itself, it was a break from routine.
I also have a formal archery-training program. That program is not as refined as my running, swimming or cycling. However, there are overlaps. Swimming, in particular, is an excellent way to maintain fitness and strengthen muscles used in archery.
Shooting remains at two or three sessions a day. Typically, I shoot twice a day. There are days where I practice for shorter time periods and adding a session accounting for the three session practice days. Recently, my focus has been exclusively aiming at paper. Form has been a key element as well as coming to some conclusion with my release. As yet, I still bounce back and forth attempting to judge which style release is best for me: the thumb style or a hinge style.
Yesterday, I shot entirely with a thumb, this morning exclusively the hinge. Still seems to be six of one, half a dozen of the other. In either case, and in general, being home means moving into my daily schedule of working on my performance.
Hunting, spending hours each day in the woods, eats into practice time. Getting two practice sessions per day wasn’t a top priority. Hunting was the top priority, at least for the moment. Actually, a couple of days, I didn’t go over to the range. Today was another matter.
Eager to shoot and well stocked with venison, I took time to practice. Shooting dots is fun, but after a 100 or so shots I needed to mix it up. I started practice in the morning. I took a break for lunch and a short rest before headed back to the 20-yard Vegas style three spot.
The three spot had been a vertical three spot. To make the vertical targets fit on the blocks to which it was pinned I set one block on top of another. That failed on the first shot. The bottom arrow shot through the lower block. The block was less robust than it first appeared.
So, I cut one of the three vertical spots off, turned the other two sideways and tacked the freed spot above them making a Vegas style three spot. The for real excitement, I turned the makeshift target upside down.
When I was done for the day, the change in target perspective made no difference to my shooting performance, but it was kind of fun.
After running this morning I did a session of practice shooting a 3-spot. I finished with a frustrating 576. The afternoon was reserved for 3D.
The 3D practice was sans rangefinder. It went better than usual (208) so I kept shooting. Finally, the mosquitos chased me out of the woods, but I wanted a bit more practice.
Shooting at another paper archery wasn’t ringing my bell. So, I grabbed a 5-spot pistol target. There are still five targets but four of them are really small. However, they sure to help break the monotony of shooting everyday paper.