Archery takes you places

ArcheryOnce you decide to become a competitive archer you will need to start planning to travel. Traveling is a big part of competitive archery, and the higher the level of competition, the further you need to travel.

Indoor archery can take you all over the planet at the upper levels however most competitions can be “mailed-in” because the conditions are controllable. For indoor archery, I have had the pleasure of visiting Louisville, Kentucky a couple of times for the NFAA Indoor Championships and Las Vegas, Nevada for the World Indoor Championships.

bb45s5817Since, hosting any outdoor archery tournament requires a fair amount of space, in Canada, you will need to travel a lot. Canada is the world’s second largest country by total area and stretches about 5000 KM (3000 Miles) from the Pacific Ocean to the Atlantic Ocean.  Since 2009 to participate in the Canadian National Outdoor Championships I have visited Laval, Quebec; Halifax, Nova Scotia; Delisle, Saskatchewan; Victoria, British Columbia and this year our family will travel to Woodstock, New Brunswick.

Even competing at the provincial level requires a lot of travel since the province of Ontario is larger than Egypt, Spain or France and therefore even for Provincial competitions you will have to travel a lot. I have visited London, Sudbury, Ottawa, New Market, Petawawa, Caledon, Athens, Peterborough, Toronto and Sault Ste. Marie. All this and I do not participate in every tournament.

Budget is a large factor in participation; our family uses our family vacation budget to participate in tournaments. Unfortunately, only the highest level of Canadian archer receive funding to help pay for travel, lodgings, tournament fees and equipment. For the rest of us, it often falls on us or our parents to help fund those Olympic dreams.

So if you are planning to venture in the realms of competitive archery, I offer the same advice that was afforded to me when I started. “Start saving now” however be assured that it is a worthwhile investment.

2012 Ontario Target Championships

This past weekend, Algoma Rod and Gun Club in the Sault Ste Marie hosted the Ontario Provincial Target Championships. Sault Ste Marie is situated in Northern Ontario on the eastern point of Lake Superior and 12 hours away from Kingston. Wow, what a long drive for my family, and to give some perspective, in Europe you could travel from Rome, Italy to Frankfurt Germany in the same amount of time. Although it was a long drive 85 of the top archers from around the province travelled to compete in the two-day tournament with a FITA 1440 on day one and a FITA 720 on the second day.

Upon return from the National Championships in British Columbia, I finally received my amazing new bow from Cartel Doosung.  With only two weeks of practice, typically you wouldn’t change anything however this bow is perfectly suited for me; possibly the best bow I have ever shot. Since this is really the last competitive tournament of the outdoor season, I decided to use it.  In my opinion, it was a very good decision. The winds were extremely tricky; flags on targets beside each were other pointing in opposite directions. Every one was having troubles with them. For only two-weeks practice I feel I shot extremely well, perhaps the best I have shot all season, and was able to capture the Bronze medal.  I know this will translate into success in the upcoming indoor season and next year’s outdoor season.

This tournament was also a complete family event as all my siblings participated. My sister Sydney competed in the female cadet recurve division finishing fourth. Joshua competed in the Male Cub Recurve division finishing second, even though he could not complete the tournament because of a shoulder injury. Last and not least, my youngest brother Cole competed in the Male Pre-cub Recurve Division also capturing silver.

It was a great successful tournament and a great family trip since we camped at the KOA campgrounds. I am already looking forward to next year’s family tournament trip.

Competition Baby Powder

This past weekend, I participated in the Ontario Spring Classic held at Woodlands Park in Toronto, Ontario. Toronto just happened to have very hot and humid weather during the tournament.

Heat and humidity can affect your arrow flight. Humidity can cause your arrows not to spin as quickly leaving your shot grouping lower since they do not gain as much distance. Heat affects the archer too with hot and sweaty hands. Sweaty hands affect your grip on the bow possibly changing your point of power and the heat causing your hands to swell which in turn affects your feel for the string in your fingers. Check out my previous blog about other effects of various weather conditions.

 Weather is a great metaphor for life – sometimes it’s good, sometimes it’s bad, and there’s nothing much you can do about it but carry an umbrella.  -Terri Guillemets

This year I packed baby powder, something that every competitive archer needs to bring with them to every outdoor competition.

A little baby powder on your…

…under your anchor point will help allow your hand ride along your chin smoothly

…inside of your string arm keeps your arm from becoming too sticky keeping your draw and release smooth.

…bow hand helps deal with sweaty hands that can affect your grip of the bow

… string fingers to allow your fingers to have a good grip on your finger tab making it easier to control your drawing and releasing of the string cleanly.

…cheek bones under your eyes, if you wear glasses or sunglasses, will help prevent them from fogging up.

The Ontario Spring Classic is a two-day tournament with high-performance archers including past, current and future Olympians hopefuls with the winner in each category receiving $500.00 prize money. This open tournament is a great way to measure your development against some of the best archers in Canada. If you are ready to take the next step in competition in Canada, I suggest you plan on attending next year and pack a little baby powder just in case.

Drying Feathers

Now that we are in the outdoor season there is an opportunity to shoot in all kinds of weather. Weather itself effects the way we shoot, and you can read my earlier blog about different weather conditions and their effects on shooting. As competitive archers, we love our equipment. We have invested time, money, and countless hours in finding the perfect setup for us. So,once the tournament is complete we need to care for our equipment. We need to have our equipment in perfect condition for the next tournament.

Perfect shooting conditions rarely require additional maintenance, however not all tournaments are shot in ideal conditions and rain has the potential to do the most damage if not dealt with immediately since metal rusts, wood warps and fletching matte.

Once out of the weather, take the time to properly and thoroughly dry all your equipment. Using a clean dry cloth, wipe down your limbs, riser and stabilizer. Carefully dry your sight making sure not to lose your sight marks or damage your scope. If you use a spotting scope or binoculars make sure no water has damaged or fogged up the lens.

Finally, carefully dry your arrows by wiping the shafts dry. Plastic Vanes can be dried using a clean dry cloth however feather fletchings will need to be air dried so that are not squished. If your fletchings, plastic or feather, are matted, you need to open them up again and allow them to air dry by following the following guide:

How to dry your feathers

You will need: your arrows, a pot, water, and an oven/stove

  • Fill a pot with water and bring to a boil
  • Hold each arrow’s fletching over the steam
  • Patiently wait for the fletching to start to open up. Remember the fletchings will open the rest of the way as they dry.
  • Place the arrow in a clean dry spot with the points facing down until dry.
  • Repeat for all your arrows and turn off the stove.

Taking the time after a rainy tournament to attend to your equipment, can save you money and grief.

Getting more Distance

Summer is here and with it the outdoor archery season. One of the biggest differences between indoor and outdoor archery, other than weather, is distance to the target.

Indoors everyone typically shoots at 18M however outdoors, depending on your age, division and category, you can shoot anywhere from 15M (Peewee) to 90M (Senior Male). As young archers get older and move up in division so do the distances they are asked to shoot. For instance, a pre-cub only needs to shoot maximum 30M in a target competition, however as a cub they need to shoot 50M. I remember trying to shoot Junior/Senior distances as a Cadet; 70 meters was a challenge. My sight was at the bottom and I was still not getting the distance I needed.

If you are struggling with a new distance you can make some equipment changes that can help such as ….

  • Heavier Limbs

Increasing draw weight will give you more force and therefore greater distance.

  • Move the entire sight down

Some sights, like the Cartel Mighty sight, you can move the entire T-bar lower. This allows you to lower the scope. Just remember to keep it out of the arrows flight.

  • Finger tab with a Shelf

Some finger tabs, like the Cartel Midas Finger Tab, have a shelf. If you adjust the shelf to be fully extended, you can lower your anchor point.

  • Spin vanes

For target archers you use synthetic feather fletchings, switching to plastic spin-wing vanes manufactured by Range-O-Matic can help a lot. Spin-wing vanes are lighter, offer less drag and are more forgiving as they help the arrows get into a tighter spin earlier.

Some times equipment changes are not an option because of cost, physical limitations and some times they only get you part way. Here are a couple of simple tricks that may help you reach those last couple of meters.

  • Wear a Mouth-Guard

Using a mouth-guard (or a piece Lego between your teeth) keeps your jaw open lowering your anchor point.

  • Mount your Sight Backwards

Mounting your sight backwards inside your bow, moves your sight marks lower and therefore changes the trajectory.

  • Use your Limbs as a Sight

In clout, a long distance (100M to 200M) sport you use your bottom limb as the sight. This can work for target archery as well. Pick a spot near the top of your lower limb to aim with for your possible distance.

If you have any tricks or tips to help gain more distance, I encourage you to share them.

Magnification: Zoom in on the Target

If you have ever competed outdoors in a field, 3D or target tournament you can understand the importance of being able to zoom in on the target to see how you are shooting. Although using a telephoto scope on your bow is not allowed in competition, you can use some after-the-shot magnification with binoculars or a spotting scope which can be extremely valuable.

For field and 3D, most archers use binoculars, since they are portable and much easier and quicker to align with the target and can be positioned quickly, which is important since you are changing targets often. The use of a spotting scope would be cumbersome to carry and setup from target to target.  Although binoculars are allowed in field and 3D tournament, range finders are usually prohibited.

For target, most archers use a spotting scope (also known as a sport telescope, fieldscope or minocular) because once setup the spotting scope does not need to be changed very often. Although you can use binoculars, the value of a spotting scope over binoculars is the magnification and the angled eye-piece which reduces the need to reposition your shooting stance to check the location of each arrow. The rules allow you to set-up a spotting scope within your shooting line space of 80cm. The challenge is making sure it is set up so it does not interfere with your or your opponent.

If you are new to outdoor competitions, consider investing in some type of magnification, since no matter how good your eyes are, the distances become farther and farther as you get older. Understanding how you are doing during each end, instead of after it can be the difference between standing on the podium or admiring it from a distance.

Silver at the Pan Am Games

Congratulations to Canada’s Crispin Duenas for capturing a Silver medal at this year’s Pan Am Games in Guadalajara Mexico.

Crispin Duenas participated in the men’s Olympic recurve class and was second after the qualification round with 1337 points and breezed through to the quarterfinals with 6-0 victories over Cristobal Antonio Merlos of El Salvador, Jaim Quintana of Cuba and Jake Kaminski of the USA.  In the semi-finals Crispin faced Daniel Pineda of Colombia, the eventual Bronze medal winner, in a very tough match reaching 5 sets which Crispin won 6-4 to advance to the Gold medal match.

In the Gold medal match, Crispin faced number one ranked Brady Ellison of the United States. Crispin fought until the last arrow in a match as it needed to go to a fifth set. The US archer was ahead 4-2, but in the fourth set Crispin shot a perfect 30 to tie the match. Ellison’s 29 was just a single point better than his Crispin’s 28 in the fifth end, and Ellison captured the Gold with a 6-4 win and Crispin captured the Silver medal.

Congratulations to the entire Canadian team for their efforts at the Pan Am games.

Weather Conditions

For outdoor tournaments, it has been my experience that organizers only cancel archery tournaments for lightning and tornadoes.  Therefore, as an archer, you have to shoot through a wide variety of weather conditions. Although wind is a common troubling weather condition for all archers there are many other types of conditions can also adversely affect your shots at any given tournament.

SUNNY

 “A day without sunshine is like, you know, night.” Steve Martin

Most people would think that a bright sunshiny day would be the ideal conditions for shooting outdoors and this is “usually” the case. However, it depends on how the target field has been setup. If the sun is behind the target, then you can have the sun shining directly into your eyes, which it not that ideal. If the sun is directly behind you and the target has a reflective surface you have the same effect.

Sun reflects off everything, so if it is bright in your eyes you need to protect your eyes with a brimmed hat or sunglasses.  Although most tournaments try to abide by the rules about direct and reflective sunlight it is not always possible.

WINDY

“I can’t change the direction of the wind, but I can adjust my sails to always reach my destination.”  Jimmy Dean

The wind conditions are something every archer needs to watch. They are completely unpredictable and can quickly change speed, direction and location.  Windy conditions can be a nightmare for young archers who have a lightweight bow or low draw-weight for different reasons.  Lightweight bows sometimes can become a sail, catching the wind, creating a constant fight to keep it steady and aligned. Low draw-weight bows usually force the arrows into a greater arch to reach the same distance; therefore, they are in the air longer and more affected by strong winds.

Quick Tip: Check the trees, grass, and flags to understand the wind through your shooting plane.

Most archers need to be patient when shooting in high winds and wait for as long as possible for low winds. Remember, the more you practice in different kinds of winds the more you learn about how they affect you.

RAINY

“Anyone who says sunshine brings happiness has never danced in the rain”Unknown

Unlike wind, which can blow your arrows off the target, rain only adds weight to the arrow and causes the arrow to fly a little lower.  Try to remember to keep strong through the entire shot and aim a little high. If your shots were weaker than normal, the rain will make that mistake 10 times more noticeable than it would be in clear weather conditions and produce lower scores.

HOT AND HUMID

“I like to play long matches and in hot weather. Those are my conditions. I like it hot because it’s bad for other players. A lot of them don’t like it hot.”Yuliana Fedak

Most new archers do not think about humidity affecting their arrows however, if the air is heavy it can cause varying effects. If it is very humid, it can cause your arrows not to spin as quickly leaving your shots grouping lower since they do not gain as much distance.

The heat affects the archer too with hot and sweaty hands. Sweaty hands affect your grip on the bow possibly changing your point of power and the heat causing your hands to swell which in turn affects your feel for the string in your fingers. Another possible affect is quicker dehydration resulting in loss of energy that is extremely bad for any endurance athlete. Therefore, in the heat it is important to know how you react in the heat and humidity and know how to keep cool.

FOGGY

“It is not the clear-sighted who rule the world. Great achievements are accomplished in a blessed, warm fog.” Joseph Conrad

Shooting in the fog can be one of the most difficult and dangerous weather conditions. Whenever you are unable to see the target or able to review the shot and compensate it can be extremely trying on your patience and self-esteem. Some archers absolutely refuse to shoot in the fog with associated dangers and for fear of loss of arrows and the associated costs.  If you choose to continue to shoot in the fog focus on hitting the target and understand that tight grouping of your arrows can be a real problem.

Quick Tip: Numbering your arrows and tracking your arrows can help so you can adjust your shots.

COLD

“It doesn’t matter if the water is cold or warm if you’re going to have to wade through it anyway” Teilhard de Chardin

Although outdoor tournaments are rarely held during frigid weather with conditions of snow or hail, it can be very cold in the morning at the start of a tournament in the spring or fall.  Muscles tend to tighten up and you can injury yourself if you do not properly warm-up or wear appropriate clothing. Make sure you are appropriately dressed in layers that can be shed as the day warms up.

“I don’t see pitches down the middle anymore – not even in batting practice.” Hank Aaron

It takes time to figure out what happens to your shots in the different types of weather conditions; therefore, it is important to practice a lot, in all types of weather, to prepare for not so ideal weather conditions.

 “Practice is the best of all instructors.” Publilius Syrus

Thanks to Luke Pacholski for the use of his web images

Travelling with Archery

As soon as I decided to take archery outside, an archery friend offered only one piece of advice. “Start saving now”. I travel by car for just under 2 hours each way to train with my coach Kathy Millar of South Nation Archery in Winchester Ontario. Between regular training sessions, private sessions and competitions, I visit an average of twice week all year long in every type of weather including snow and sleet.

Travelling is a big part of competitive archery, and the higher the level of competition, the further you need to travel. Canadian’s have to travel for archery, since Canada is the world’s second largest country by total area and stretches about 5000 KM (3000 Miles) from the Pacific Ocean to the Atlantic Ocean.  Even the province of Ontario is larger than Egypt, Spain and France and therefore even for Provincial competitions I have to travel a lot.

Travelling can take a toll on your body, especially at the national, international and the world level, since most of the time you are either driving for days or flying from one location to another. You are in a different time zone, with strange food, and completely different schedules.

I recently drove to Saskatchewan from Ontario, about 3000 KM (1900 Miles) and it took three 12-hour days. It was difficult to spend that much time in the car, I found it very difficult to eat properly, when driving you have to make quick stops and keep going so it is difficult to eat as well as you would at home. My muscles were starting to tense up from lack of  stretching and practice. It also took it’s toll with my sleep schedule since we travelled through different time zones.

It is now my understanding, that to compete at the next level, there a several things that you should do to increase your chances for success when travelling.

  1. Employ some discipline to eat healthy and according to your regular schedule
  2. Setup a good sleeping schedule to make sure you are well rested for competition days
  3. Arrive early, two days if possible, to become accustomed and acquainted with your new surroundings
  4. Practice, whether shooting of just stretching, to get your body ready to compete after your trip.

Epiphany

This past weekend, I competed in the Provincial Championship in London, Ontario.  Although the competition shot really well, I personally did not shoot anywhere near my personal best and I was extremely surprised and fortunate to capture the Bronze medal.  I want to congratulate Odelia Wong &  Nataliya Mushchenko who shot extremely well and deserved to win Gold and Silver respectively.

Capturing a medal was a huge surprise and an honor since I do not believe I shot well enough to win. However, the medal was not the best thing to happen this weekend; I had an epiphany.

“An epiphany, from the ancient Greek, is the sudden realization or comprehension of the (larger) essence or meaning of something. The term is used in either a philosophical or literal sense to signify that the claimant has “found the last piece of the puzzle and now sees the whole picture,” or has new information or experience, often insignificant by itself, that illuminates a deeper or numinous foundational frame of reference.” Wikipedia

I have been struggling all outdoor season to understand why my scores have not gained the ground I have expected and I have not reached the heights I wanted. I practice regularly, almost 6 days a week averaging 100 arrows a day.  I shoot well at home and in practice however, this has not translated to higher tournament scores.

At first, I thought it was my late start for the outdoor season, then equipment, then location, then injury, however it was none of these. It was the space between my mental game.

A target is a target is a target. No matter what, I just need to shoot the target.

I was not shooting the target, I was over analyzing every shot. I just need to shoot the target no matter where I am, and not micro-analyze the wind, the location, the whatever. Just shoot the shot strong.

“Mental toughness can take you to the top, and mental weakness straight to the bottom.” John Schiefer

Now I know what the problem is, and I can overcome it.