Friday, May 16, 2008

Formal Proposals

My basic research complete, it was time to make my pitch. I knew that the best chance for me to get the money for a new archery set was to ask the powers-that-be to lend it to me. Initially receptive to the idea, I waited a few excruciating weeks while my proposal was considered and numbers were hammered out.

While this discussion was going on, I was trying to decide what color bow I wanted. Initially, I wanted a cobalt blue Inno. The problem with this was that between the two importers of Win and Win products into the U.S., Lancaster Archery Supply and Greatree Archery, only Greatree had even seen a cobalt blue Inno, and that only once at an archery trade show. They did, however, have a blue, left handed Inno, and the 34 pound Inno Power limbs that I wanted, in stock. And they were giving Anthony the right of first refusal on my behalf should someone else try to order it. I really had my heart set on the cobalt blue, though. At least until I saw what "blue" actually meant to Win and Win. The pictures I saw of "blue" where this uninspired and uninteresting light blue bow. When a different Win and Win bow, not the Inno, but a different model, arrived at Archery USA, Anthony showed it to me. This was no ordinary uninspiring blue. This was a deep, almost royal, blue. I was sold.

A few weeks later, I got a phone call from the powers-that-be during a break in class giving me the go ahead, that my funding was in place. I immediately put in a phone call to Anthony (and followed it up with an email due to the possibility that my excitement made the message incoherent) saying that we were go to get the bow. The bow would arrive that weekend. As if waiting out my classes for the week wasn't hard enough.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

The Bridge: Outshooting my Equipment

After the tournament, scheduling conflicts and an extended west coast vacation kept me away from Archery USA for over a month. I took my bow home for the first time, and did some shooting at Pacifica Archery in Daly City. On my return to Boston, I went back out to Dedham. I was still working on improving my scores, trying to get up to a 250/500. I did make it to a 230, but seemed to plateau in the 210s-220s. I switched to a 3-spot Vegas round target for a while to try to get myself out of my comfort zone, but as 2008 started, I found myself needed to get back to basics and work on all the little details about my form.

For quite some time, I had been hoping that I could get a new set of equipment. My initial thought was to get the ultralight Fiberbow, and the tentative plan was to make it a graduation present to myself in May 2009. My frustration mounted over the course of a few months as no matter what I did to improve, my scores had leveled off. Not that there was any way I could afford the kind of set I really wanted, I started talking to Anthony about my problem, and his comment was that I had started outshooting my bow. The inconsistency of the Samick Mizar, good as it was as an entry level piece of equipment, was not appropriate to the level of archer that my constant practice had helped me rise to.

One day, Anthony was telling a story about this amazing bow he once had, a Yamaha Eolla that was so perfectly tuned with the stabilizer that the vibrations were completely absorbed and the shot was dead silent. I asked him what was the equivalent (or as close as you could come) to the Eolla today, and his answer was the Inno, by Win and Win, one of the top archery companies in the world. I asked him to compare the Inno to the Fiberbow, without a second thought, his told me there was just no comparison. When I got home, I did a little research on my own, and decided that, if I could find a way to pull together the funding, the Inno was the way to go.

The next week, I asked Anthony what kind of money I was really talking about, so he put together a very unofficial quote for everything that I wanted, which was essentially an entirely new set of archery equipment, with the exception of a quiver, as I had grown quite fond of the one I picked up at AIM.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Archery Takes Off, Part 5: Tournament #2: The Bay State Indoor Open

I signed up for the Bay State Indoor Open a few weeks before the tournament. In order to participate, however, I had to be a member of the National Archery Association. Becoming a member of the NAA is not a complicated endeavor, normally. It generally includes filling out a form giving them your name and address, and sending them a check for a stipulated amount of money. Due to some confusion over what amount of money I needed to send the NAA (and a slightly outdated form that caused said confusion), my membership in the NAA would not be confirmed by the time the tournament rolled around. Fortunately, to shoot, membership only needs to be applied for.

The upshot of this NAA membership story is this. After trading phone calls and emails with the NAA over confirming the proper amount to be paid, I was able to get them to start running my one-year membership from the date of payment, instead of from the date of application. A small but significant victory (which required nothing more than asking "Can it start from this date instead of that one?") which means that my NAA membership would still be valid come the 2008 Bay State Indoor Open. I unfortunately will not be in Boston when the tournament date rolls around, but that is beside the point.

And now, the story of the 2007 Bay State Indoor Open, held at Archery USA in Dedham, Massachusetts.

On October 20, 2007, I headed out to Dedham a little on the early side. I was going to be shooting on the 1:00 line of my second archery tournament. When I arrived, the morning line was about halfway through their second round. I set up my equipment, checked in, and watched some of my friends finish up their round.

Then it was time for the afternoon line to set up to shoot. Because the afternoon group was smaller than the morning group, we would all shoot on the same line. I therefore had the choice of the top target row or the bottom. Flipping a mental coin, I pinned my target on the bottom row. The line was divided into groups of four, with a scorer, two scorekeepers (to write down the scores), and a marker, who would put a mark on the target for each hole caused by the arrows.

I discovered one of the most annoying and obnoxious things in archery at this tournament. Each group of four shooters has two clipboards, each with the scoresheets of all four archers. That way, there is one sheet for those running the tournament (and for the State Archery Association of Massachusetts), and one for the archer to keep. Well, when I finished writing the scores for an end, I placed the clipboard on the ground under our targets. Members of a team from a certain range (who shall remain nameless), were not so polite or considerate. Every time they finished with their clipboard, the lot of them would come crashing to the floor. While not a big deal in the grand scheme of things, of course, to this day, months and months later, I cannot fathom why they would make sure to drop the clipboards from such a height, instead of placing them on the ground, which takes approximately one half second longer, and does not cause annoying loud bangs to ring throughout the range at semi-random intervals.

I started slowly, but ended up with a solid performance. Once again, I was able to put all 60 arrows in the scoring rings. For rankings, I finished fifth out of six in the FITA Olympic Senior Male division.

Score: 428, including 3 10s and 12 9s (also known as putting a full quarter of my arrows in the gold rings).

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Archery Takes Off, Part 4: Upgrades and Preparation

I continued my weekly trips to Archery USA throughout my first year of law school and into the summer. As August turned to September, and fall began, I made a big decision, and a few things changed because of it. The decision was to enter the Bay State Indoor Open at Archery USA. The changes were upgrading my equipment, and upping my archery schedule.

Upgrading my equipment went to two items. First, I bought a clicker. The clicker is a draw-check device. Using a clicker properly helps tremendously with consistency, as you know that you are always drawing the arrows back to the same place. The main risk of a clicker is releasing a wayward arrow. Without a clicker, if you draw short, your aim will be slightly off, but most likely points will still be scored. With a clicker, if you draw short, and do not pull the arrow all the way through, the arrow will fly completely off the target, and if you are lucky, you might score one point, but I wouldn't count on it. The reason for this is that the clicker rests on the side of the arrow, and when the arrow is pulled through the clicker, it snaps in (or "clicks") against the riser or a clicker plate, and then you release the string and the arrow flies towards the target. If you do not pull through the clicker, however, it continues to put pressure on the side of the arrow, and will push the arrow in the direction of the pressure. In my case, not pulling through the clicker means the arrow will fly dramatically to the left. It is horribly embarrassing when this happens, but fortunately it does not happen often.

The other upgrade to my equipment was in the arrows themselves. When I got this set of arrows, they had been ordered for someone else, who ended up not needing them. The arrows were long, and had vanes (instead of feathers). Because I did not have a clicker plate for my bow (it having gotten lost at some point along the way), the arrows were too long to use a clicker. Anthony helped me take some measurements of my draw length, and determined that the arrows were actually too long and incorrectly spined for me. To fix the problem, I got my set of arrows cut to the proper length, and refletched with feathers. Things were starting to come into place.

As for my schedule, I upped it from once-a-week Saturday trips to the range to double-weekend trips. I also started running mock-tournaments, keeping score for a double-round each day. I cleared 200/400 (Archer level), and 210/420 (average score of 7 points per arrow). I was getting hints and tips, as well as some unofficial-official timekeeping, making my practice sessions as close to actual tournament conditions as I could. I had my final prep sessions the weekend of October 13 and 14. I was as ready as I would ever be for my second tournament.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Archery Takes Off, Part 3: Cross-Range Shots

At the end of (almost) every party at Archery USA, one of the good archers who happen to be at the range come out to "rescue" the kids in the party. After three ends of shooting at balloons for prizes of cash and candy, many of the young partygoers are left with nothing to show for their efforts. Out comes the hero of the day. Often Anthony, one of his top students, or the employee who is running the party, the hero stands on lane 1 on the far left side of the range, and attempts to shoot the balloon on lane 20. If successful, the hero has won every participant in the party, at least those who did not earn a prize on their own, a candy bar.

As I became well known at the range, I was sometimes given the opportunity to be that hero, and take the cross-range shot at a balloon (reminiscent of my pumpkin-shooting days in San Diego). The thing about cross-range shots, though, is they really are a feast-or-famine kind of situation. To elaborate, the first time I was given the chance, I was able to pop the balloon on the first attempt, earning the instant adoration and gratitude of about a dozen 6-to-12 year olds (the age range for a lot of these parties, as I do not recall the age of the kids in that first party). That first attempt would qualify as "feast." My second attempt, a few weeks later, qualified as "famine." My first shot missed. And so did the second. And the third. It took me seven attempts to pop the balloon, quite an embarrassing situation.

Since those early attempts, I have gone up and down like a yo-yo with my cross range attempts. Sometimes I have been able to get that satisfying pop on my first attempt. Even within three attempts is more than acceptable. And sometimes it takes four or five or six shots. When this happens, you can feel the tension in the room, and it is always a huge relief to actually pop that balloon.

Sometimes the shots have to go through the ladder that is kept behind the post between lanes 10 and 11 in the middle of the range. Sometimes between the ladder and the post. On a few occasions, two archers have lined up on opposite sides of the range, and shot crisscrossing arrows from lanes 1 and 20 into balloons on lanes 20 and 1, respectively.

The cross-range shot is one of the most nerve wracking and most satisfying experiences I have had as an archer. For one thing, it is always fun to shoot at something other than a target (NOTE: I am not at all interested in bowhunting, bowfishing, or shooting at people; by "other than a target," I mean things like balloons, pumpkins, the occasional dollar bill, and the like). For another, it is great to win prizes for kids. The downside is the pressure of every eye in the range being on you, and missing the balloon is not just a possibility, it is a fact of life thanks to the extra distance required to shoot along the hypotenuse of the right triangle that is the cross-range shot.

I keep aiming for it, though. What can I say? It is a great challenge to take on.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Archery Takes Off, Part 2: Becoming a Known Quantity

After showing up and shooting at Archery USA week after week, I started to be known by Anthony and his employees. I always showed up at roughly the same time on Saturdays, shot for an hour and a half, spent some time talking with the people there, and then being on my way back to Boston. I got a new bowstring, as the one that came with my bow was susceptible to stretching out while I was shooting, and occasionally picked up little things like replacement nocks for my arrows.

Going to Archery USA repeatedly, it was no easy task to stay anonymous. Not that I was trying to. The people there were nice and friendly, offering tips on my form when the need arose. And they trusted me. I started to help birthday parties with their opening end, started to answer some questions when the range's employees were busy, and sometimes even got to share in the tips the parties gave the actual range employees. Times were pretty good for me at the range, and archery really became my refuge from classes and readings and homework. And on top of that, I was getting better, which is always a plus.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Archery Takes Off, Part 1: Arriving at Archery USA

Before I left San Diego for Boston, I asked Lloyd about archery ranges in and around Boston that I could shoot at once I arrived. Having just bought a new bow, I was not about to give up the sport. Lloyd gave me a couple of names of range owners that I could email. One of them, Anthony Bellettini, owns and operates Archery USA in Dedham, Massachusetts. After trading emails with Anthony and another range owner, looking at maps of the Boston area, and checking out public transportation options, it became clear that Archery USA was not just the best option, but the only option for me to continue pursuing archery.

On October 7, 2006, I took my new bow out to Dedham and walked into Archery USA. Introducing myself to Anthony as having spoken by email. I asked Anthony if he could set my arrow rest on the new riser, and he agreed to do it. He was even nice enough to not charge me for the setup. I started firing arrows into the targets 18 meters away, and at the end of the day, made my way back to Boston.

The next Saturday, I made a return trip to Dedham. And the week after that, and the week after that. Over and over again, week after week, I put in appearances at the range. With the tips and advice I was getting, as well as finally having regular practice that was more than just social, I was finally starting to develop as an archer. And I had a sanity-maintaining distraction from the experience that is the first year of law school.