A Few Practice Notes

Making notes and keeping data of my practice is important to me. Without measurements it seems very difficult to monitor change. Below is one example of data for 40 practice 3D shots. Both columns of practice session data where “cold” shoots. That is, there was no warm-up.

Some training sessions I do are as close to tournament conditions as I can make them. Competitive events have time allotted for warm-up shots. There are events, however, when the warm-up and the actual start of competitive shooting can be an hour or more apart – especially in major 3D events. Therefore, during 3D, I view warm-up as a time to see that my bow is functioning properly. Often by the first scoring shot there’s been an allowance for cooling down.

Anyway, here’s an example of some of the data I collect. The data is transferred to an Excel spreadsheet where additional information is entered.

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A 40 target field data page

Numbers, Stats, and Video

Do you measure and record your practice? How about your tournaments? Not just wins and places. Recording and measuring your progress is an important element in sports.

I’ve had three archer coaches in nearly 3 years. The first coach I had was level 4 coach, and a scientist. He had a PhD and a law degree – we spoke the same languages. I really liked him. But, he drove more than an hour each way to give me an hour lesson. His fee barely covered his gas expenses. I felt a little guilty after every lesson. But, he made notes during our practice and developed training plans for me to follow.

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It was only my third lesson when he mentioned to me the Virginia Indoor Tournament was only a few weeks away. He said, “I think you should enter it, I think you could be competitive.” I entered, I shot, and I didn’t feel competitive. (February 2014) It was my first archery tournament and I didn’t have a clue.

Along the way, actually, from the start, I’ve kept my data. I keep scores on all types of practices and tournaments. Currently, I am looking into methods to expand the data I record and analyze.

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My second coach was anti-data. He said, “Don’t worry about your score just go shoot.” First, I don’t worry about my score. Second, I rarely go out to “just shoot.” Although, I do allow myself easy recovery days where I’ll shoot for fun only.  But, seriously, I don;t worry about the score.  I think about it afterwards.

Coach Bill Walsh was an amazing guy. I met him in Chicago. We were both giving lectures at the same conference center at different meetings. It was one of those moments I won’t forget.

Apparently, we’d both finished lecturing about the same time. We were  in the hotel lobby waiting for our transportation. We were looking out toward the street when we glanced at one another. Of course, I knew he was the Super Champion coach. He was probably looking at me thinking, “Medical Geek.”

I figured, what the heck, I’m going to introduce myself. I think we might have both been a little surprised. After a few minutes we were talking like long time acquaintances. Eventually, our rides came and we went our separate ways.

Coach Walsh has said, “The score takes care of itself.” True enough. But, to think the coach didn’t look at numbers – before the results – would be a mistake. Like all coaches in the NFL he knew the numbers and stats for his players and others. You have to in the NFL.

Back to my second coach, I think he meant well. I don’t think he understood the power of data.

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I often use my Garmin to look at time and distance spent on the range. That data is applied to caloric needs for a tournament

Professional athletes are monitored and measured on nearly a continuous basis. Amateur athletes, thanks to all the inexpensive products that record and monitor physical output that are available, can become nearly as sophisticated as the pros. What can be learned from data can help improve athletes in all sports.

In the first half of 2016 my 3D scores were down. My known yardage scores where down. Had I reached my peak? Maybe this was it for me. Video recordings identified a change I had slipped into – I was tilting my head down, just a little before shots, and then dropping my bow. I’d gotten sloppy. I learned this from my third coach’s videos of my practice.

My scores for the first half of the 3D season were averaging only 8.4 points per shot. Working to break bad habits (identified through video analysis), my second half scores are now 9.62 points per target. The improvement is still lower than my goal of 10.5 points per target.

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This is old data where I compared one bow with another, over time, using short stabilizers and pins. (3-spot at 20 yards)

You might think, why set a goal that is not 11 points per target (IBO scoring) or 12 points per target (ASA scoring). Well, because I am realistic and know better than to set goals too high too soon. Once I achieve 10.5 points per target, then I can change goals.

Everyone I shoot against is good. Most have gotten good after years of practice. Less than 24 months ago a 35-yard 3D target was my maximum distance. Today, it is 50 yards. I’m still getting beaten a lot having won only 2 events this year. But, data and analysis is a factor in continuing to improve as fast as possible.

You might not collect data or make recording of your practice. If we are competitors, well for now I encourage you to not change a thing. And, bye the way, I never worry about the score.

Trust Your Training

A common expression heard in triathlon is “Trust Your Training.” A triathlete should know before going into an event his/her approximate finish times for each segment of the race. No matter the athlete’s conditioning or training hours a triathlon will be demanding. Many of the elite triathletes refer to the sport as a mental exercise.

At the Ironman on the Big Island of Hawaii there were nearly 2000 triathletes milling around in the small town of Kona. I was among them. It was amazing to see so many ultra-fit people in one place at the same time. Never before did the phrase “Trust Your Training” mean so much to me.

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Yes, this can be a little intimidating.

In archery the same reference to training applies. As an athlete and archer you should have some idea of how you will perform during any given tournament. If, during your training, you hit mostly 5s and 8s, it would be a leap to expect you are going to begin smacking out 10s and 12s.

If you are competing in order to advance your skills, “Trust Your Training.” Know first to not expect a miracle. It’s like that test you had in high school. You’d not studied. No matter how hard you prayed, the results reflected the amount of effort you put into your preparation. Second, know that you are unlikely to start missing targets. If miss one, oh well – it happens to everyone. I was shooting with a two time IBO World Champion. He missed a target. He didn’t dwell on the bad shot, he got into a grove, and made up for the miss with an abundance of 12s.

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This can be a little intimidating, as well. But, trust your training.

In practice, if your scores are nearly perfect, odds are you’ll shoot nearly perfectly in competition. If you consistently score perfect – well you get it. There is no reason your skill at archery should fail you unless you mentally collapse.

Trusting your practiced and learned ability, ‘Trusting Your Training” is one step closer to achieving a mental frame of mind to ensure your best outcome.

(So, I keep telling myself!)

Talent Transfer and the 10,000 Hour Rule (1,2)

It is popular to believe it takes about 10,000 hours to become an elite athlete in most sports. There are exceptions, that seem to have clear explanations. Those exceptions are few and far between. Furthermore, a close examination of those exceptions reveals some associated phenotype or uniqueness to an endeavor that complimented the sport. Essentially, those exceptions are based on talent transfer.

For example, in the UK, female athletes were selected to train for rowing based on height and weight regardless of having ever rowed. Rowers are ideally shaped if the are tall and light. Their height gives them leverage on the oars. Being light is a speed benefit while in the boat. In rowing, physical size plays a major roll.

The UK placed ads in the press seeking female athletes of a certain height. Those meeting the requirements were physiologically tested for sports performance. From there a group passing the grade were trained as rowers. It worked and the UK earned a gold medal during the Olympics by a pair of rowers with relatively few years (4*) of training and experience. (*Helen Glover, 2012 Gold Medalist – Olympics)1

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Helen Glover with her Gold Medal (photo from Wikipedia)

Helen Glover, the Gold Medalist, had no experience rowing just 48 months prior to winning Gold. She was, however, already an accomplished athlete at the country level playing field hockey on a second-tier English national team.2 UK Sports, following a search based on specific phenotype criteria and testing, transferred Glover’s physical talent to rowing.

Years of practice aren’t the same as quality of practice. Each of your practice sessions needs a design and a goal. Every competition should have plan for the engagement. After shooting, practice and competition, it’s good to log notes that include range, type of competition, score, what went well and what did not go as planned. This will aid you in creating  training sessions.

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Participating in a charity event for the Special Olympics wearing my Team USA gear (made the team for the long course duathlon World Championship in 2007 – seems like yesterday)

I reviewed data one of the top archers in the world. He first picked up a bow at 12 then put it down until he was 18. Nineteen years later, and by my estimate 12,950 hours of practice he quit his day job to shoot full time. Note: he was approximately 2,950 hours beyond the 10,000-hour mark some suggest is needed to reach an elite level.

Most working people easily fit in 400 hours of training a year. Some do more, other less. Top amateurs practice, by my estimation, 750 hours per year. The bulk of that training is on the weekend. The fellows I shoot with, as gathered through causal conversation, have an average of 25 years shooting experience and are at the 10,000-hour mark regarding practice time. (Based on 400 hours of training per year.) They’re a tough bunch to shoot against.

Of the folks I shoot with and compete against, none is at a professional level that allows them to earn a living exclusively from archery.  Yes, they all seem to have passed the 10,000 mark to have reached an elite level.  Many of them are elite archers.  Several have been world champions a few of them more than once.

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For certain I’ve got well over 10,000 hours of training on a bike.

10,000 hours (or sometimes equated to 10 years of training) is a long time.  Many archers, in fact, have 10,000 or more of practice.  Obviously, not all them or even most of them are elite archers.  To muddy this a bit more, there are archers competing in all types of archery event at the elite level with far fewer hours of practice than 10,000.

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How much training can I transfer to archery or is it good enough to simply look this cool (Yes, I know this isn’t cool. Once a geek, always a geek)

The difference may be the talent transfer.  An athlete that was good or pretty good in one sport can occasionally excel in another. Glover is just one example. There’s another matter, that of deliberate or highly focused training.

An archer that goes to the range, shoots 20 to 30 arrows without a plan isn’t accomplishing much. If that effort takes an hour, the practice is done four times during the weekdays and that training augmented by another four hours on the weekend, it comes to 10,000 hours (allowing for holidays) after 25-years of practice.  You might imagine, that archer, while pretty good, and regardless of having achieved the 10,000 hour mark, is in most likelihood not an elite archer.

Then, in archery there is Crystal Gauvin who, after one year of archery experience, dropped everything to turn professional.  Something I consider important is that she had been a serious athlete prior to finding her place in archery – talent transfer and way less than 10,000 of archer practice.

It doesn’t take 10,000 of practice for everyone to reach an elite level.  It does take practice.  Archers with 10,000 or more hours of practice may never reach the elite level. The practice isn’t enough without specific practice goals.  Individuals that do succeed in archery by what appears to be a fast-track, are often those that switched or transferred athletic talent into archery.

Reference:

  • https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Helen_Glover_(rower)
  • McClusky: Faster, Higher Stronger: The New Science of Creating Superathletes, and How You Can Train Like Them. Chapter 5, The Fast Track to Greatness, Talent Transfer and the 10,000 Hours Rule, pp 78-81 PLUME NY, NY 2015

Shooting Cold

Getting a warm-up before a tournament is possible most of the time. There are those events where the warm-up might happen an hour or more before actual scoring begins. There are, although rare, competitions where getting properly warmed-up simply does not happen.

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I’ll take this a 32-yards any day

At the IBO World Championship there are two qualifying rounds before the final 10 shots taken by the top finishers. At the two IBO World Championships I’ve entered warm-up time was pushed, targets were crowded, and the 3D practice (Defense ranges) ranges were backed up and extremely slow.

This morning I decided to take a 20 target 3D practice round with no warm-up shots. The targets would be approached tournament style – no range finder. What I wanted was to establish a baseline of how I might shoot without a warm-up and at difficult targets.

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First shot of the day was okay right and left, but a tad high

I tried to make the shots as competitively realistic as I could imagine. One thing I can’t control, the weather, may have been a bit unrealistic for Seven Springs, Pennsylvania, where the IBO contest will be held this year. Here, in New Hope, North Carolina this morning, the temperature was 103°F with the heat index. Hot and humid to say the least.

My score was not great. The maximum I shot in this practice was 47 yards with a range from 20 yards (one shot at a small bobcat) out to 47 yards. The average distance was 35.6 yards with nine shots greater than the average, 37 to 47 yards.

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A short shot at 27 yards

My sad score was 173 or 8.65 points per target. Comparing that score to the field of archers from the 2015 IBO World Championship I would have finished 42nd. The winner in 2015 averaged 10.5 points per target.

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However, that 27 yard turkey was placed about right to make the shot a challenge

When I compared the first 10 shots to the second 10 it seems that a warm-up helps. The first 10 arrows yielded a score of 8 points per target at an average distance of 33.4 yards. The second ten arrows resulted in an average of 9.3 points per target at an average distance of 37.8 yards. Interestingly, the second set of arrows, targets 11 – 20, had a score that would have jumped me from 42nd place in 2015 to 22nd place.

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The shadows at 47 years are a real burden

This exercise tells that in my case I shot better after I’d warmed-up a bit. In 3D, it seems to me, there are two warm-up requirements, one for archery form the other for distance judging. In the worst case, a tournament without any chance to warm-up, it’s likely good practice to develop enough skill so that shooting cold can be done well.

Practicing Long Shots in the Heat

Well, it is hot in Georgia. The past few days have been in the mid-90’s. Tomorrow we’ll be shooting outside in Madison and it promises to be a scorcher.

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The practice field here in Tignal

The start time for the competition on Saturday is 2:30 PM. After naptime, which is good and reaching peak thermal exposure.

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Zoomed photo of the target from 60 yards

On Saturday we’ll be shooting 72 arrows from 50 meters. I’ve been practicing here on a field. I can get a clear shot out to 80 yards. I limited practice to 70 yards and focused on 60 yards. It’s a little further than the distances for Saturday and the USA Outdoor Nationals. My hope is that by practicing a more difficult shot maybe 50 meters will feel easier.

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That might do

The other factor I’m practicing in is the weather. Both upcoming events will be hot and there is no doubt practice has been hot.

Desperate to Shoot

My Elite 35 is in the shop. The string needs to be replaced. 60X is one of my sponsors I use their strings. Because I have red bicycle handle bar tape on the grip of my bow, this time I requested a red and black string from 60X. It should look cool.

The shop where the sting is being replaced is moving. PGF Archery, owned by Bumper Williams has operated out of a shed on his property in Winfall, NC. Bumper has expanded his business and is relocating to a storefront in Elizabeth City, NC.

In fact, the property he’s rented for his expansion was the former location of the Cutting Edge Archery store. The Cutting Edge closed this week and PGF Archery is moving to that location.   In the meantime, my Elite is in transit with the rest of the goods from Bumpers shed.

Without the Elite I still had two options to shoot: a $78.00 recurve and my old Mathews Apex 7.

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I gave the recurve a few hours of time. It is amazing; I did not lose a single arrow. I tried to get a feel for shooting tradition style and had some success out to about 20 yards. I shot around 60 arrows with the recurve and all hit the target. A few even landed in the center. Nevertheless, I admit I had no idea what I was doing.

My second option was the Apex 7. I’d sold the bow last year and ended up getting it back. Since last year I’ve not shot with pins. I didn’t want to do the work on the scope in order to set it for the Mathews bow so I connected my old pin sight. (I removed the scope and stabilizers from the Elite while it’s being restrung)

It took awhile to acclimate to the 65% let off, the spongy wall, and pins. Eventually, I was shooting pretty well out to 50 yards – the bottom pin. Out of curiosity, I decided to shoot twenty 3D targets with my old friend.

The Mathews Apex 7 was my first bow. I’d bought is two years and 10 months ago from Shore Sportsmen in Easton, MD. It was nice to get reacquainted with it.

Since I was using pins, a bit cold to pins, I didn’t shoot any target farther away than 40 yards. Not having a scope makes a real difference. Being unaccustomed with the bow also took a toll. I ended up 6 down after a twenty target session with the Apex 7.

On Tuesday of next week my Elite 35 will be ready for me to retrieve. Even though I shot pretty well with the Apex 7, I’ll go into the next volley of tournaments with the Elite.

But, I still got to shoot even if the score was a bit disappointing

Tapering

This weekend there’s a two-day field archery tournament and a triathlon. I’m entered in both events. It’s going to be a stretch making both of them, but it’s worth a try.

With the triathlon in mind, I’m tapering a bit. The race is an Xterra sprint. That means a short swim, only 800 yards. The swim is followed by a 14 mile off road (mountain bike) ride and finishes with a 5K-trail run.

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The swim is, well just that a short swim. The distance is par for a sprint triathlon. The mountain biking and trail running are different for me.

I’ve done both and did pretty good in mountain bike racing and was okay as a trail runner. But, I’ve never done an off road triathlon. I’m looking forward to it.

It is going to be tight. The archery tournament is a two-day event. The finish time for the tournament is approximately 2 PM on Saturday. The triathlon, 45 minutes away from the archery tournament, starts at 4:30 PM. However, check-in ends at 4:00 PM. It’s very cool to be doing a race starting in the afternoon. Most start around 7:00 am or earlier. I hope I can pull it off.

Tapering for the race means little for a sprint. I still swam today and ran. But, not as far as usual. Short for the swim means I only swam 800 yards. I’m not a fast swimmer and it took about 14 minutes to go the distance. I also ran slower than usual simply enjoying an easy pace.

Archery was also a little easier. Yesterday I shot for about 5 hours. Today, I practiced only two and a half.

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60 yards was far enough today

I practiced for a while shooting at paper out to 60 yards. I went out to 80 yesterday. In order to get an 80-yard shot I moved my targets, used a 100-foot tape measure and reeled out 80 yards – marking at 30 yards, then 60 yards and finally 80 yards.

I ended up two doors down on my road and practiced shooting from one of my neighbor’s front yards. I shot across his property, the house between us onto the target in my driveway. There’s only two families here full time, including us, so it wasn’t a problem to shoot across the middle lawn where there’s a currently vacant house.

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River waiting for a toss

Today, 60 yards was enough. Since I’ve changed arrows for the field tournament and the USA Outdoor Nationals I am having a bit of a problem getting a yardage tape that aligns with the calibration on my sight. The yardage marks are good out to 35 yards, but beyond that everything is off by 2 to 3 yards.

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It’s getting thick in these woods

It was also a day for 3D practice. The range has gotten very thick with foliage. It will need to be trimmed this week. Parts of it were too wet for running shoes, which I was wearing at the time. We’ve had a lot of rain here over the past few days. Tomorrow, it will be rubber boots in order to keep my feet dry.

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River inspecting a coyote

River was a big help throughout practice. She seems to have learned a new trick. What she does is goes swimming. She then leaves the water and stand near me as I prepare a shot. Once I’m at full draw she shakes the water from her coat. Neat trick.

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Struck this branch with an arrow on the way to a bear. Couldn’t believe I still hit the target.

 

 

 

A “Hot” Dog, Turkey, and a Fish Eating Snake

River and I got out a little later than usual to run. It was already hot. It felt good to me, less good to River. Because it was hot I directed the run toward an area where River could go swimming if she wanted. She wanted to swim.

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River cooling off

It was a good day for a brick (a brick is a back to back run / ride for those of you that aren’t triathletes) and that was on my schedule. Back home I changed over to cycling and headed away on a bike. This day I took a mountain bike.

There are paths that lead into swamps about five miles from my home. The swamp is where I wanted to ride.

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Shortly after I left the road and hit the trail I scared up a turkey. The hen had been hiding in some brush. Along with her were six babies. I took a couple of pictures then left them alone.

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In the swampy area I noticed an unusual track – that of a human.   What on earth anyone would be doing way back on this trail barefoot is beyond me.

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When I got home Brenda wanted to go out on the boat. She has two friends visiting. They’re all three Yoga girls. One of our daughters, Candace, has been a yoga instructor for years. Brenda and her friends are yoga instructors.

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Ok, she’s showing off a bit

I know a lot of people enjoy yoga. I understand it is good for you. Brenda even talked me into trying it – twice. It didn’t stick. Anyway, Brenda wanted to take her friends out for a ride in the boat.

I’d just finished about 3 hours of cardio – running and riding. She found me asleep on the floor in one of my sheds. I suppose I’ll need to find a better hideout. But, Brenda got me up and moving so we could get out on the boat.

As I was gathering what I needed to take on the boat Brenda found me and asked me to get my shotgun to shoot a snake. She said, “There’s a moccasin eating a fish on the steps leading into the water.”

Sure enough, there was a massive water moccasin slowly mouthing a fish into its gut. The snake never stood a chance.

After that excitement we did get on the water for an hour or so. We headed back sooner than expected because the ladies were getting hungry.

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The remainder of the afternoon was devoted to archery. It was nearly 90 degrees when I started shooting. After an hour and a half I took a break to write this post. Once this is done, I’ll be heading back out to shoot some more.

Toss the ball, shoot the arrow, run from the rain

It was going to rain, again. No doubt. Staying close to the front door was going to come in handy when it arrived. So, along with River, we went outside to shoot dots.

It was a bit windy, the wind pushing the rain toward us. In order to get in as much practice as I could in a short time I selected a 5-spot. I’d not shot a 5-spot in months. It would allow me 5 arrows before I needed to retrieve them.

River was not even a little interested in archery, today. She wanted to play. The rain has kept her inside more than she is accustom. As I’d line up for a shot, she’d get right behind me a bark.

Her barks are good practice for focus. Blocking that noise out and hitting a good shot is difficult. She can become relentless.

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Game on!

So, here’s the game: Shoot, toss a ball, shoot, toss a ball. Get barked at, shoot, fuss at River to be quiet, she gets quiet, I draw, take aim, she barks, I toss the ball.

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So, you think this is over?

The rain did come and it was hard. It looked like fog floating over the river. It wasn’t fog. River and I headed inside before the deluge hit. Pretty much a repeat of today’s earlier practice.

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Game Over!