Defeat of the 'flu? And air pistols.

Wow. So up and about by Monday, eh? Not the best prediction, thanks Doc. It’s now Thursday evening, and today’s the first time since last Friday that I could swallow without pain. The penicillin worked, albiet waiting until the last three tablets to do so, and the swelling is going down and I’ll be back to work next week, but that’s now three weeks without training. Gah. There is an informal match in Wilkinstown this weeked because the UCD open was postponed for two weeks (the Open got scheduled on top of the UCD midterm break… *sigh*. Gotta love the admin, you really do. Otherwise, you’d wind up being a contrary so-and-so who criticised stuff like that all the time…). I might make it to that to humiliate myself, but I don’t know for sure – given that I can’t walk upstairs without needing a sit-down right now, a 105-minute standing match sounds a tad ambitious. We’ll see…

Annnnyway, some good news on the air pistol front, we seem to have found a possible source for a Baikal IZH-46 air pistol. Nice basic model that would take you to World Cup level if you were good enough – sortof like the Feinwerkbau 600 series of the air pistol world, which may make as much sense to the non-air-rifle shooters amongst you as a Dutch translation of Homer’s Illiad. Put it this way: it’s Russian; it’s very rough in the non-essential areas; it’s a beginner’s pistol with a lot of potential; it’s cheap; and it’s very popular with those that want to hit the ten instead of having the flashest pistol on the range ๐Ÿ˜€

Baikal IZH-46 Air Pistol

Return of the 'flu

‘cept it isn’t ‘flu. It’s tonsilitis. Thought it might be, given the amusing red-and-yellow colour of my tonsils and their somewhat large and uneven shapes in the mirror this morning. So now I’m on penicillin tablets (which I thought I was allergic to – the Doc says that my reaction to them as a toddler was probably something I grew out of. If, however, I turn purple from the tablets, I’m supposed to stop taking them. Nice to have the Doctor’s Orders on that one ๐Ÿ˜€ ).

So the upside is, I should be okay by Monday. The downside is, there’s no way I’ll be training on Sunday. That’s two weeks without training. Not good. Not good at all. Hardly an example to be setting.

DURC Coaching

So, two RO duty stints done this week for DURC (first on the rota, second to cover an RO who got a last-minute glitch in his schedule). Frankly, I’m quite happy – we seem to have a fair crop of good shooters so far this year, including one who put in two nines and a ten in a three-shot string on his first time shooting air rifle without the stand (we use a 3-position stand to take the weight of the air rifle for the first session or two so the new shooters can get used to trigger control and sight picture stuff before going on to do the position proper). That’s pretty darn good. We’re seeing newbies with very decent groups almost every night, and even those with the least success are still good enough that I think we could get them to the 500 mark by the colours, if they just trained once a week. Personally, I’m aiming to have at least one shooter go from scratch now to a 540 by the time the colours comes round in March/April next year.

We are feeling the pinch of low manpower, mind, but we’re coping so far. Also been looking at the budget for the year, and while it’s not extravagant, it looks like we’ll get a few things we could really use this year – new buttplates for the rifles, for a start (the rubber ones they have now are pretty dire for position shooting).

The falling target system seems to be a bit of fun for the new shooters as well, and we’ll use that a bit more in upcoming weeks.

More interestingly, for the first time in a long time, there’s been interest in the colours squad right off the bat. Hopefully, we’ll be able to pick out training squads that are larger than the team again, and actually have some good competition for places on the team. More on this in weeks to come.

WTSC AGM

So up far too early on a Sunday morning and an hour’s drive to Wilkinstown for the AGM. Bit of a wake-up adrenaline jolt when I opened the wrong door in the hall and walked in on a class of korean sword-fighting. You find the oddest things out in the middle of the countryside these days…

Anyways, first two hours were a run-down on the events since the last AGM. Most of it good, some of it not so good, lots of it scraps with the NTSA. No-one was unduly worried by the latter, happily. There was a fair bit of discussion on training and how we’re going to progress it, the basic plan is to get the seniors and developmental shooters to take a slot each week and train together. Myself and Richard Stapleton Jr. are already signed up for it; others on the list for the seniors include Susan Cunningham, Liam Spillane, and a few other well-known names. This is definitely going to drive up my game ๐Ÿ˜€

There was much chatter about the Bisley trip. Last year was an excellent success, with medals taken home and PBs shot on the range, though personally I was very disappointed with my score, which was dire. This year, I will be shooting a 575 or higher, so I won’t be feeling so bad afterwards, but last year still rankles. Anyway, last year we had a 19-person team including shooters and support staff and we were pretty sure that that was about as big as it would ever get. *ahem* Whoops. So far, this year, we’re at 27 people and we may still increase on that. Plus, most of the big names are signed up to go, so those medals are coming home with us this time ๐Ÿ™‚

As to the rest of the AGM, Matt and Geoff are still in the spots where they do most good (Chairman and Secretary), we’ve a vice-Chair elected to stand in if Matt needs a deputy, our Treasurer, vice-Treasurer, PRO (no, not me, I’m not local so I asked not to be asked – though I’ll be doing the WTSC website and generally helping out with resources and information), the fundraising committee (who are bloody important and are why we are able to look at problems and say “this, this and this, we solve just by buying new gear”, thus leaving us with the core problem to address of how to train people ๐Ÿ™‚ Thing is, I don’t understand why we seem to be unique in this. We don’t do anything special, we don’t have some lotto-winner benefactor or something, we do table quizzes and act as car park attendants and pack bags in shopping centres and just do the stuff that GAA clubs and the like do; they don’t bring in nice big cheques for fifty thousand euro or whatever, but add it all together, a hundred euro there, a few euro here, and pretty soon everything’s paid for. There’s no rocket science involved, just hard work. In return, parents see their kids training with the best gear we can get them, they go to international competitions on decent ranges and stay in decent conditions, you see decent prizes at competitions (okay, so we’ve been remiss at the presentation side for a few competitions thanks to manpower shortages, but they’re sitting there awaiting distribution, and the next competition is coming up so they’re going out then), and generally things move along.

There’s a lesson in there, y’know…

Other things, the membership fee was upped from รขโ€šยฌ70 to รขโ€šยฌ120; but the per-use range fee of รขโ€šยฌ3 was abolished. So if you were shooting once a week, you just saved รขโ€šยฌ100; and if you only shot there once or twice a year, you’re now subsidising those that train all the time. (BTW, that รขโ€šยฌ120 includes your insurance which costs รขโ€šยฌ60 seperately normally, so it’s still one of the best deals you’ll see outside the college clubs).

There’s a new rule that says that a serving member of the committee can’t serve on a committee in any other shooting group/body/club/whatever. Idea’s simple; you do one thing at a time and do it well. Plus, this way, you never get a case of a legal conflict of interest (say you’re on the NTSA committee and up comes a decision which benefits everyone greatly except your club, where you’re the secretary or whatever – do you obey your NTSA fiduciary duty to vote for it; or your club’s fiduciary duty to vote against it? Legally, both have equal claim on you).

Geoff was given a presentation then, of a photo of the team that went to Bisley, in recognition of the back-breaking he and Matt and Leslie did on that trip; it goes up on the wall in the pub along with the rest of the club’s history for comment unto the ages ๐Ÿ˜€

And that was it. No training for me today, I was only able to get through the AGM with the aid of Lemsip again, but by next weekend I hope this flu will be gone and I’ll be training properly again. Several of the others were down in the range as I was leaving, mind, so it’s still full steam ahead on the training plans for the British Open in Febuary ๐Ÿ™‚

'Flu continued…

Been down with what feels like a low-grade dose of the ‘flu for the last week. Doped up on Lemsip and those Lemsip flu relief things in order to get to work, but I feel about as focussed as a very unfocussed thing. So no training at all done since the last day (if you can’t pick up the bag with the gear in it without feeling drained, you probably don’t want to try getting into the gear ๐Ÿ˜€ ). Plus, an air rifle range is like a classroom in that it’s an enclosed space with other people. Go in there with a cold and everyone leaves with one. Not a civic thing to do!

So no training this weekend, but I will have to get to Wilkinstown for the club’s AGM on Sunday morning, so on the road by 0930 probably ๐Ÿ™ Blast it. I like my Sunday morning lie-ins, especially when I’m a bit sniffly and miserable. Oh well. At least I’ll be off with the Lady to watch Serenity tonight and The Curse of the WereRabbit tomorrow, that’ll put me in a good mood ๐Ÿ™‚

Anyway, this AGM won’t be much like the AGMs I’ve had to go to in the past while. Less political, for a start. Yes, we’ll do the usual AGM stuff of reporting on the year and electing the officers for next year, but there’s no real changes expected there. There are some new club rules to be talked about, but most of the AGM will be taken up with forward planning for the next year; what the club’s aims will be, how we’ll go after them, and so on. This AGM I’m actually looking forward to attending!

RO Meeting

Last night was the RO meeting in DURC. I didn’t realise how much of a recovery year we’re looking at – with only 201 people on the books so far, we’ve a lot of work ahead of us for the year. Plus, we need to do some training days for our ROs, and pass on as much of the knowlege we’ve accumulated over the years to our newer ROs and our new TROs, which we’re going to have to grab in numbers rather earlier than usual, and get trained up this year before Trinity term. On the upside, the club’s not as badly off financially as it was when I got drafted for the committee – and we have a lot more equipment than we did then as well, so we can attend more competitions. We just need to get the interest in training back up and put some squads together.

'Flu & Safety Briefings

Bugger. Hate ‘flu. Hate it I tell’s ye…

Was at the DURC Safety Briefing last night, and the post-briefing party. The Briefing is basicly a quick talk given to as many new DURC members as can be squeezed into a lecture theatre to lay out the basics of the sport for people, give them a quick demo of the rifles and the positions they’re shot in, to quickly go through the basic rules of the club, and then to take them to the range (where the firearms have been all locked away!) for a beer or two. It doesn’t do a huge amount for safety other than to point out to them that we actually do worry about it; which is why every new member who comes down to shoot is given a full safety drill when they start by the range officer.

What the briefing does do is to ensure that new members get to meet the range officers and the club committee in a very informal atmosphere and to make a connection with the club. That’s absolutely vital for the health of the club, especially since the next year’s committee and ROs get picked from today’s new shooters. Well. Not quite [i]next year’s[/i], we tend to give them two years in the club before tapping them for ROs unless they’ve had previous training (we’ve a fair few RDF members in the club this year, for example, they would make good ROs once they’ve gotten used to the club and shown some enthuasiasm for it).

But the point is that unlike other clubs, DURC has a high turnover of people at all levels from ordinary members to range officers to committee members. So we have to keep in mind at all times that whomever is in office right now is only there for a short time, so you have to constantly keep the next guy in mind. So we keep notes on how we do our jobs, on what the next guy has to watch for, and so on. And it’s a surprising thing, but in the good years, DURC is probably the most professionally-run rifle club in the country; and not one of the people running it will be over 25. There’s a lesson in there to be learnt I think, and it’s that fresh blood in a club is always a good thing.

There are the bad years, of course; we’ve seen years where the entire committee and most of the ROs all graduated and left college simultaenously. When I joined the committee first, several years ago now, we’d just been gutted like that, and it took years to recover. But for the most part, the good heavily outweighs the bad. You do tend to notice better results when postgrads are on committee, purely because they have more time to dedicate to the club; but the undergrads do a pretty decent job regardless. So you need fresh blood in the club; but you also need the knowlegebase of the old guard as well. The trick is finding the balance; fresh blood tends to try stuff that hasn’t worked in the past and sometimes fails but sometimes succeeds. The old guard tried it once twenty years ago so obviously it’d be a waste of effort to ever try it again! ๐Ÿ˜€ On the other hand, the old guard knows the importance of getting important stuff right, because they remember the club’s smallbore shooting being shut off for a year because of a paperwork glitch…

Anyways, this year looks like it’ll be a recovery year for DURC; there have been paperwork hassles all last year that prevented the smallbore side of the club from taking off like it did in past years. Hopefully this year will see that fixed. There are certainly enough alumni members volunteering to help out as much as they can towards this; I’m volunteering to coach, so is John Keeney (a past National Champion in smallbore shooting), so are several others. From last night’s membership attendance, it looks like we’ve a few candidates for Trainee Range Officers already, though we’ll hold off on tapping them for a while. We’ll start looking for colors team candidates pretty much immediately, but the squad itself won’t get picked and start training for a month to six weeks. Fingers crossed, this should be a good year.

So, tomorrow we have the RO meeting, where we do a recap of basic safety procedures and coaching for the ROs to get them back into the game; I’ve gone and volunteered to do the air rifle section of that and John’s doing the smallbore section. I’d like to see us stealing a few ideas from Wilkinstown for the air rifle, so we’ll look at that tomorrow.

Now if this blasted fresher’s flu would bugger off and leave me be, I’d be sorted…

The rebuild continues…

Back out to Wilkinstown yesterday at 1500 to continue the rebuild. Several photos taken of the new position for training (but not on my digital camera, which has managed to get itself lost somewhere in the house, so it’ll take a while before the photos are processed and developed and scanned in). Lots of shooting a few shots and then breaking position and rebuilding it up. One of the problems with the new position is eye relief and head position. I need shooting glasses to get a sharp focus on the foresight ring and my Anschutz rearsight iris is anodised orange (it seemed like a good idea at the time when buying it). Thing about the orange is that while it seems many people got good results from using it, it just doesn’t work for me ๐Ÿ™ So it was starting to look like I’d have to paint it matt black again. Up to now, I’d been using a black rubber cup over the iris, but that resulted in the overall length of the iris assembly being rather long; which meant my head had to be an inch or two back from where we’d like it to be.

So, throw money at the problem. New rearsight iris from Centra. The thing is about an inch and a half shorter than the current rearsight iris, it’s much simpler (no polariser, only one bank of coloured filters), so it might not be as useful for smallbore shooting, but for air rifle, it’s perfect. And best of all, my head is now in a better position, my rifle is further back towards me and thus more stable, and my glasses aren’t hopping off the back of the iris all the time.

Unfortunately, that was the moment the ESB chose to cut power to the entire area, so training was cut short before I could spend much time with the new iris. And I learnt it takes a lot longer for me to strip my rifle and pack it and my gear away in the dark ๐Ÿ˜€

One of the things we were chatting about afterwards was the idea of getting the five or six top shooters in the club to pick one night a week and to come down to WTSC and train together that night so we have a greater sense of competition. Right now, in Ireland, there’s no real sense at the higher levels of olympic shooting of having any real competition in this country. And that has horribly bad effects on shooting – we keep seeing shooters get up to the 570-580 level and then finding that they’ve reached the top of the heap, and just losing interest in staying there because there’s nothing for them in this country to justify the effort – noone for them compete against and no prizes worth winning. We’re hoping that by getting a reasonably sized squad to train together that the inter-squad competitive spirit will drive the performance levels up. It’s not a new idea, but it’s been a while since there was sufficient motivation in the shooters to try it. More on this later, and hopefully it’ll lead to a few medals – we’ve certainly got shooters good enough to come home with several medals in both the Mens and Women’s Air Rifle event!

Finding time

Part of the whole challange of olympic shooting is that you’re going up against people in International competition who are residential athletes; which is to say that their day job is target shooting and they would live on a campus for that task. Groups like the US’s Army Marksmanship Unit and other, civilian groups in Australia, France, Italy and so on, would take in shooters with potential, and then it’s a case of get up in the morning, hit the gym with your personal fitness instructor, then breakfast prepared by nutrition specialists, then training on the range with your coach, lunch (again prepared for you), more training and then relaxing in the evenings before doing it all over again. And in amongst there is the planning and goal-setting and so on.

Here, however, we don’t have anything even near that. We’re all amateurs in this sport, in the original definition of the word; we all have other day jobs. So part of the challange is finding a balance between work, your social life, your home life, your love life, and your other interests, which lets you get in the training you need to achieve your goals.

If anyone has a tried-and-true method for this, they’ll make a bloody fortune selling it ๐Ÿ˜€

Me, I’m looking at having range time in WTSC twice a week on Monday and Sunday if all goes well, but Sunday can get wiped out by competitions, and Monday can be cut short if traffic is awful. ๐Ÿ™ The rest of the training I need has to be done at home in the evenings. Get into the under-gear (the polo-neck and the tracksuit and the shooting cardigan thingy) and the glove and just practise the position and the shot plan over and over again, watching for balance and so on. And of course, doing flexibility exercises and balance exercises, which you can do pretty much anywhere that noone’s going to point and fall over laughing…