Running: That Was Gross

It was time to break down and purchase a new pair of running shoes. Generally, I keep a half dozen on hand and I rotate them. Plus, when they get really beaten down, they feel better to me. The rotating isn’t so much to prolong the life of the shoe as it is to prevent stink.  In addition, running in the morning my feet frequently get wet.  Wet shoes suck.

That’s probably not how you should treat shoes. That is, running the tread off. Shoe manufactures have all sorts of recommendations on the wear of the sole of a shoe and when to replace them. Those recommendations have not taken hold on me.

Once, back in the ‘80s I had a pair of Nike Pegasus that fell apart after about six weeks. I called Nike and complained. The product manager I spoke with asked how many miles I was running a week. When I told him he laughed and said be was surprised they lasted that long. The laughter was my only reward for the complaint. (I don’t run that much any longer)

Getting new running shoes is a treat. These new shoes are Newtons. I’ve been running in them as well as Nike, Asics and Zoots. To add to that list I have a pair of the Five-Finger running by Vibram. All of them are pretty much pounded to pulp. Hence, new shoes.

I selected the replacement pair, the Newtons, because I think they idea for archery. Whether they are or not is only a guess. But the toe box cushion on the shoe does, seemingly, help me feel my feet as I am preparing to shoot. Too much heel and I feel like I’m rocking backwards. But, as far as that goes, I’ve got work boots that seem to feel just as good.

At any rate, this rant isn’t so much about footwear and shooting. It’s about what happened while running this morning.

Running down the road, Coco (a Labrador retriever that joins the run nearly every morning) was headed out the door. Her owner was saying good morning to me and I was calling back the greeting. As such, I was not watching the road. While calling to Coco’s owner and waving I stepped on something. It felt unfamiliar.

Now, I run a good bit and do so nearly every day. As such, I’ve stepped into a lot of crap. (Crap in general, not necessarily specific, but that too is true) This foot contact was unusual and unknown.

When I looked back to see what it was I’d stepped on – it was a snake. My stepping on the snake had not immediately killed it; certainly it didn’t improve its health.

What are the odds? Thankfully, it was not poisonous and only about a foot long. But – damn.

Frustrated

Since September my average score at 18-meters is 562. The high score within this data is 580 with a low of 548. The average X count for that 562 is 22 with a high of 40 and a low of 14. A year ago my average score was 560. My low was 542 and high was 570 with an average X count of 21. That’s not much improvement.

Should I continue to advance scores at the current rate, 2 points per year, I’ll hit 600 at age 81. These scores are based on a 3-spot targeting the inner 10. Eighteen months ago my average was 554. So, that’s an eight-point improvement over eighteen months. During the first several months of shooting a 3-spot, with the outer ten counting for ten ring (for non-archers the 10 ring got smaller by about half) my average was 469.

So, another way to look at this is that I’ve improved my average, since I began, by 93 points in about 48 months or about 17% improvement while reducing the size of the primary target.

A score of 560 is 93% of a perfect score. It’s the final 7% that is killing me. Sure, a 580 is a decent score, but thus far I’ve hit that mark the one time. Still 580 is a long haul from 600. The world’s top archers are scoring in the high 590 range.

Compared to 2016 my misses are closer to the ten ring. In other words, my nines are tighter and closer to the ten ring than a year ago. The large yellow ringed nine means that a miss off the ten by a millimeter or an inch count the same.

Needless to say, despite what I perceive as improvement, I remain frustrated.

Oh, That Made a Difference! For a Minute.

Two nights ago, I searched YouTube for insight regarding what has happened to y scores. Most of what I watched wasn’t very helpful. A few left me with that WTF thought. Then, there was one that made me think, “Maybe I should give that a try.” Heck, I’ve tried everything else.

The video was of Niamh Jones. You might not know her. She’s Australian and shoot for Mathews. She was in need of a new thumb release.

( Here’s the link – blob:https://www.youtube.com/05e9655d-6895-4f67-8535-3ca4e364890b)

She competes with a thumb release. Using that style release she won the 2016 Ladies Indoor National Championship. Further, she uses a hinge release as a training tool, yet competes with a thumb. Okay, that sounds pretty much like what I’ve been doing for years.

The YouTube video wasn’t about training. She needed a new thumb release. She pointed out that after several years her old release wasn’t operating as smoothly as it did new. Wait a minute! My thumb release is four years old. So, was the one that Ms. Jones was replacing. I have a brand new exact duplicate of the old thumb release I shoot. Maybe, just maybe I ought to give that a try.

Occasionally, my old thumb release feels soft as I activate the trigger. It sometimes feels like it is snagging the D-loop. I’d figured it was just me – what if it isn’t?

Of everything I’d tried to get out of this hole, I’d not tried the duplicate thumb release I already own.  I gave it a try. To be sure, I did not shoot a 600. I did, however, end up with 40 tens and 20 nines.

After shooting a 580 I wanted to see if it might have been the release or was it all in my head. I took releases and put them into a pouch. Then, I juggled the pouch before reaching in and withdrawing a release without looking. I put the release into my pocket still without looking at the release. Looking I can see the differences between the two releases.  The old one is more scuffed and worn.

After I nocked an arrow, grabbed the release and shot three arrows I sate the release aside. I then looked at the release and scored the arrows. I repeated this four times until I had two ends for each release.

This morning’s 580 is about where I thought I’d be a couple of weeks ago.

With the new release, I shot six tens. With the old release I shot two tens, three nines and an eight. So, just maybe that was the issue.  Now, I need to see if this holds and find those remaining 20 tens.

PS: Alas, the momentary improvement didn’t stick. In subsequent practice I dropped back to a 562 then a 556. Today, it is raining. So, tomorrow back to the salt mine.

Where Did My Mojo Go?

Six weeks ago my average on 3-spot had been 564. During the past six weeks it has dropped rather than increase. My current average is 556.

I predicted by now I’d be approaching a higher average. Out of desperation I changed over to a hinge release thinking that might help. It didn’t.

I’ve added more weight to my bow and had it balanced. No improvement.

I changed my sight from a 4X to a 6X. Nope, still the same.

For the most part the nines are not wild. They’re just not tens.

Out of 180 arrows today, less than half were tens – 60 tens. There were four eights and all others were nines. This count excludes 18 unscored arrows used as warm-up shots between practice sessions.

On the positive side, I shot my best on the last 60 arrows – 562. But, I needed to go back to a thumb release to hit that score. Still a long way from where I am aiming.

Lots of Changes

There are a number of changes I am working through at the moment. Mechanically the major process change is how I’ve been drawing and loading. My friend, Big John Chandler, a USA Archery Level 4 Coach, worked with me at his location in Social Circle, Georgia this past week, and made a few recommendations on my mechanics.

Big John working with one of his students at the indoor range located in the Ace Hardware, Social Circle, GA.

Among the earlier changes I’ve, once again, switched from a thumb to hinge. The hinge I’m am practicing with is an old Scott Black Hole Three. I’ve used it as my primary release before changing to a thumb on the suggestion of a coach. His belief was that the advances in a thumb release surpassed the current state of development with hinge releases. I have no idea which release is best, I shoot about the same scores with either release – most of the time. There are days where one release seems to be working for me better than the other.

What Big John noticed was how I worked my scapula into its final position. So, I am modifying my draw and loading sequences based on his recommendations.

John also noticed my bow was out of balance. It had been balanced using the hit or miss technique and never placed into an official balancing scale. Balancing included adding another 8.2 ounces of weights. In addition, I increased the lens strength on my scope from a 4X to a 6X.

Those changes are a lot to work on all at once. It seems I was pretty far off on having me gear and technique on a proper path.

Starting Over Sucks

For years I’ve shot a certain way. Each shot I tried to improve my form, reach a point where every shot is the same and have every arrow land in the X. Now, to be clear, when I write that I’ve been doing this for years, while that’s true, it hasn’t been too many years. Years practicing a sport are often measured in decades. My years are limited to four.

Archery is an experiment whereby using a population of one (me) I am working to see how long it takes to become an “elite” archer. Part of the program is to determine whether “talent-transfer” from other sports might assist with archery. The other sports in the case here are cycling and triathlon. Both are individual sports, cycling is at times a team sport. Archery’s, also an individual sport, skill sets are vastly different from more vigorous athletics. Honestly, I thought I’d be further along than I am at this point.

There are plateaus that all athletes pass over. It would be easy to think, if a specific level was high enough to satisfy the individual, that some plateau might be associated with physical limits. In some sports such bars may be related to physical limits. Those limits could be imposed on an athlete because of genetics. For example, a five foot six inch male high jumper in high school will reach a vertical limit that might impinge his success while competing against six foot five inch jumpers in college. Sure, you might suggest there’s some springy-legged short fellow out there in a super hero costume that is an anomaly, but barring any Marvel-magic, the short guy loses to the giant in high jump competition.

Archery is a sporting equalizer. Size isn’t as relevant to the success of an archer as basketball player. Still, in every sport, archery included, athletes have occasional plateaus.

To surpass a specific level and improve, sometimes, there has to be significant changes. Those changes can lead to a momentary degradation in performance. Hopefully, sticking with sound coaching advice, the changes evolve into segmental improvement.

Which is where I currently find myself and waiting for the leap forward.

Going Backwards

Recent practice and local competitions have revealed: I am getting worse – not better. The thing is, I am not too worried about it. Frustrating to be sure, but not freakish by any measure.

It’s fall and the primary competitive season of 2017 has past. This segment of year is spent working to improve form and technique. It’s time to try new things that might help with the next competitive season even if during this interval of practice things seems to be going in the wrong direction.

Haven’t broken 580 on the inner ten. This is an overall average of 562.

Certainly, it is frustrating. It has been so aggravating that I changed bows from an Elite to an old Mathews. I’ve changed releases from a Scott Black Hole 3, to a Longhorn Pro, and finally a TruFire thumb. Essentially, there is no difference among the releases and how I shoot. This isn’t true with the bows.

I know from years of shooting the old Mathews Conquest Apex 7, I can’t shoot it. I tried my best to get the measure of that bow. So many other people have done well with that model bow that it seemed likely I’d improve with it. Nope.

Despite the current lower scores, I am not too worried. I am also not investing into all sorts of new gadgets and gear in a hope that some purchase will bring forth a miracle of accuracy. For sure, there are gadgets and equipment that will improve my scores. Like more weight on my stabilizers, a release that is just right, or a way to improve visibility during low light conditions.

Before I sink any more money into equipment, I need to know that I’ve done all I can to maximize what I can do with the primary component of the sport – me. I am not yet 100% satisfied that I done that. Actually, based on all my data – I am 94% satisfied when it comes to shooting paper.

Nope, I’m not too concerned with the drop in my average scores. I am more pleased with the knowledge that the decreases are likely associated with changes in the little things related to form. Those changes , with more practice, will hopefully lead to a positive shift in my scores.

A Good Day to Play

It was a good day to play. There was early morning running with River and Coco. Both have gotten over leg injuries and are nearly 100%.

The morning’s highlight, running with River and Coco

After running I drove into Elizabeth City to shoot indoor 18-meters with friends. Of all the fun things I did today, archery did not rank number one.

I shot all over the place, including a few tens. But, mostly nines and a couple of eights. It was just a royal pain.

Archery was so disappointing that after I got home I took my stabilizers and sight off my Elite and grabbed my Mathews Conquest Apex 7 and started from scratch. I’ve never done well with the Mathews bow. But, I really needed a change.

Cycling was the high point of the outdoor play. Seriously, riding a bicycle is such a source of freedom. I suppose some people feel that way about running. Sure, running is pretty good, but for me a bike is a tough act to follow.

About 2 miles from home I rode though all this glass. I didn’t notice it until I was in the middle of it. Made it home without a flat.

More archery followed the bike ride. It was not as much fun.

An Abundance of Nines

This was my 4th target of the day. I’d already shot up two 5-spots and another 3-spot. The 3-spot below pretty much is how my day went.

Sure there’s a ‘hopeful’ number of tens on this paper. There are also way too many nines. To be sure this is frustrating. The last 5-spot , with that seductively inviting large X-ring, was even more exasperating whenever I missed the X.

These misses, the nines, were sloppy rushed shots. You know that instant when the arrow is about to fly, your brain says no, your gut is hoping for a little luck. It’s already too late. You can’t hope for luck. You have to know without that mental debate over knowing that you are hitting the X.

Generally, I knew when I’d missed the ten before the arrow hit. In fact, I knew where the arrows were going to land the instant it released. That only makes some practice a bit more head bashing and aggravating than others.