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.
Over the past few weeks I’ve been doing something I’ve needed to do since I started shooting. I’ve got a full time coach. He’s made a number of suggestions. I listen and learn. One of his pointers was to relax the hand holding my release.
The shift in the way I hold my release wasn’t too difficult. I’d been gripping it with a lot of hand. Primarily, I was afraid of it slipping out. A friend of mine had this happen to him in a tournament. His support group, the Soggy Bottom 3D range group from the Eastern Shore of Maryland, blamed the mistake on improper wiping of his hands following a snack of fried chicken.
Relaxing my release hand felt odd and definitely felt as if the release might do a chicken grease launch. I’ll just have to be careful with finger foods while shooting.
Morning practice is typically at some paper target. Early in the day the wind off the Little River isn’t as forceful as it is in the afternoon. During the afternoon I’ll move onto the 3D range where the woods offer some protection from the wind.
Shooting 3-spots and 5-spots can become monotonous. I shoot a variety of targets; most of them are designed for a rifle or pistol. My thought is that will keep me fresh and help prevent me from falling into the routine trap.
Today, I set up two exercises, one to shoot the center out of the target and the other, without out altering my sight (set at 20 yards) walk away from the target and see where the arrows landed.
I was a fun practice session. The lack of wind was a bonus.
This morning I shot a Vegas style 3-spot. Mid-day I swam, lifted weights and ran. My afternoon 3D practice seemed like an endurance sport.
The 3-spot practice was 60 arrows with 6 for warm up. Shooting outside and dealing with some wind I ended up with a 594 and 22 Xs. Tomorrow I’ll practice indoors and see if I can improve that score. (20 yards.)
I drove to the YMCA in Elizabeth City to begin my next round of training. Remaining a bit sore from the race on Saturday I hoped the swim would work out some of my stiffness. Swimming was first up for this indoor session. Believe me, that first plunge into just about any pool will open your eyes. Today was no exception.
In the lane next to me was an ex-collegiate swimmer. He’s faster than me. However, when we hit the wall together the next lap, at least in my mind, became e a race. I’d planned to limit my swim to a kilo, maybe a bit further if I felt good. After doing intervals against a better swimmer I stuck to the 1 kilo plan.
We talked a bit before I left the pool. He was doing a 4 K workout. He shared with me he’d done some triathlons in the 80’s when they were getting popular. I never mention to strangers at a gym I’ve done a lot of triathlons. However, I have the tattoo (triathletes know which I mean) and that frequently inspires others to initiate a conversation regarding the matter of their former greatness.
It was hard not to rain on his parade but I was polite and remained silent. I’ve found it’s best to be quiet when listening to someone regale their past accomplishments.
I left Aqua Man to finish is workout and headed to showers. For some reason this YMCA keeps the men’s locker room cold enough to store meat. It didn’t take long to hit a shower turned to full heat. I like to thaw before lifting weights.
Weight lifting proved that swimming a kilometer does not take soreness out of muscles. As a precaution, against damaging something of mine (like a back, arm, or leg), I reduced the normal amount of weight I lift on nearly every exercise. Then came the run.
I hate running on treadmills. I know a fellow, David Clark, who is an ultra distance runner. A few days ago he ran 100 miles on a treadmill in a little over 18 hours. Personally, and no offense David you are an amazing athlete, but that is a special kind of crazy. I ran 3 miles in under 30 minutes. I was ready to get off the treadmill at 0.5 miles. If I need to run long distances trails are the best and anywhere outside beats running on a treadmill.
Training inside is a necessity for all athletes. At some point every sport requires specific or general indoor activity. The entire time I’m in a gym or at the pool I’m daydreaming about getting outside. So, when I got home I was ready to get onto the 3D range.
On the range I shot 20 targets. Nine shots were 35 yards or greater (up to 50), eight were between 25 and 35 yards, and 3 were less than 25 yards. I was doing great until targets 17 and 18, a mosquito and mountain lion, respectively.
The mosquito was at 20 yards and I scored a 5. The mountain lion was at 43 yards and I hit an eight. I was certainly running low on steam but hit 12’s on the last two animals, a pig and wolverine from 33 and 23 yards. I ended up with a 203 for the practice.
Now, having written this and had a rest, I’ll head out for an easy active recovery bike ride.
Man, I am hurting today. The race yesterday left me with major delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS – yes that’s the real acronym). Getting out to shoot wasn’t easy. Next weekend will be harder. Friday night is an indoor 3D shoot, Saturday afternoon a 5K race, and Sunday morning another 5K.
The weather didn’t cooperate, either. The wind was kicking up white caps on the river and it was unseasonably cold. My practice plan for archery (you can bet I was taking a day off from running) was to take aim at a Vegas style 3-spot. When I stepped outside there was no hiding from the wind.
My ‘go to’ wind break is to stand behind a shed, which I did. My back was about two feet away from the shed and still the wind was pushing me from behind. Shooting at 20 yards wasn’t possible unless I moved my entire target five yards closer to the shed. After a muscle aching deliberation, I decided to shoot from 25-yards.
For 45 minutes what seemed to be a swirling gale bounced me about. Cold, frustrated, and sore I figured today was a rest day and retired to more Sunday football.
The past several weeks have been devoted to shooting paper. However, there’s an indoor 3D tournament coming up in a couple of weeks. So, I’ve changed my practice. In the afternoons, rather than shoot paper twice in a day, the second practice has been against 3D targets.
Last week, I replaced a well worn 60X string with a new 60X string. That meant making some minor adjustments on my sight. Once that was concluded it seemed ideal to take a test on the 3D range.
The test method is simple. The day before I moved my targets around a bit. During the test they would look different. The first step, following a 6-arrow warm-up at 20 yards, was to approach each target and record what I perceived as the distance. Then, take the shot. Before leaving the stake take a measurement of the distance using a range finder. There were 20 targets in total. Ten animals shot once each, then the sequence repeated from a different stake.
The results weren’t great. The difference between my estimation of yardage and the range finder was 1.1 yards. This seems petty good at first glance, but there were three targets with too great of an error: one at 7 yards, one at 5 yards, and one at 3 yards.
The 5-yard and 3-yard errors were both on the same target, a mosquito. The mosquito, a Reinhart product, is a little on the dark side. The target is positioned in a dark spot with dense foliage surrounding it. The resulting scores on the insect were a 5 and an 8. The 7-yard error seemed to be in my favor and the shot resulted in a 10.
Overall, I shot a 198 with 8 Xs at a maximum distance of 45 yards. This wasn’t close to my best score of 216, however, the maximum distance for that score was 35 yards. (An old hunter class score using pins, 20 targets.)
When I “take a test” I attempt to set-up a range where I am cold to the targets. I vary the distance. The targets are also arranged to that the shot is realistic and fairly difficult. I record data and notes during the test. From those notes data is entered into a statistical database using Excel. Review of the data helps build a training plan for the new few weeks.
In the past I’ve had a number of archers expound to me that I should not keep my scores and that I shouldn’t worry about them. I should simply shoot and work on form. From the onset I completely disagreed. True, I work on form with every shot. But, without data and notes I’d be losing valuable information about my progress. Not only do I frequently “take a test” I log notes on shots, crunch the data, and record what target I shot. That is, I record the animal type for the shot (if shooting 3D), or whether it was a 3-spot Vegas style, 3-spot vertical, or a 5-spot.
During some training I specifically don’t keep records. Why? It is too much to keep records, and a bit weird, during a tournament. So, I conduct many practices in the manner of a competitive event. I also have days that I relax and shoot entirely for fun. But, without a written record of progress that is aimed toward specific goals, well every shot is simply shooting for fun. And that, too is okay should it be what you’re aiming for.
Shooting and practicing solo can lead to bad habits and a stagnation in skill. At least that’s my opinion. I think it is good to have a coach. Thursday, I had a lesson with my third coach. He’s also a good friend, Norman Mitchell.
Norman is a USA Archery Coach. He’s, also, a competitive archer. During a one hour coaching session I picked up two pointers that I’ve already begun incorporating into my archery.
You can shoot all day and chances are you will improve. Well, you can’t really shoot all day, but you can shoot a lot in a day. I shoot a lot and my scores are consistently less than perfect. If perfect equals 100% (hitting the center every time) my average is 92%. Occasionally, I’ll hit 100% in practice shooting a 5-spot, but I’ve never done it on a 3-spot. Actually, my 5-spot average is 98%, but it’s the 92% that has the greatest room for growth or 8% improvement.
Two-percent improvement might come from marginal gains associated with equipment. The correct set-up of my bow, correct point on my release where the arrow is freed, the right arrows. Little technical elements to shooting, at this point, should give me very small gains, no more than perhaps 2%.
The final 6% is tougher. That’s where another set of eyes looking for slight errors in form come into play. I estimate a good coach can help with at least 4% the 8% marginal deficit. The final two percentages I think are strictly mental.
If you’re shooting competitively a coach can be very valuable. In fact, all sports have coaches for athletes. No matter how good you are, there’s not a downside to getting a qualified coach to keep an eye on your practice.
The weather is still not supporting a nice outdoor archery practice. The wind wasn’t as bad today as it has been, gusts up to 40 mph and a steady 21 mph off the river. It felt as if the gusts were coming about every minute.
I headed into Elizabeth City to shoot on an indoor range. It was really very nice.