Ò€œFailure is not falling down but refusing to get up."

Shooting during the British Open
Shooting during the British Open Championships in Bisley

It’s taken a few days to write this, not because I’m disappointed with the scores from Bisley (though I am), but because I’ve been taking a few days off from target shooting to wind down. Bisley was, like last year, physically and mentally rather draining – I’m still getting back up to normal even now, a week later.

The scores weren’t even close to what I’d hoped. The first match saw a 553; the second a 551; and the Championships themselves a 562. Nonetheless, I’m actually finding I’m satisfied with the weekend – the scores were well below my goal, but I feel I learnt a great deal about what was going wrong with my shooting and I can live with that.

Winning a prize in the ASI/Feinwerkbau match helped a bit too πŸ˜€

ASI/Feinwerkbau results

So, what happened? Well, left with Claire a bit too early on Thursday morning and got to the airport well ahead of time (had been expecting bad traffic; happily none to be seen). All the gear was at that time already en route by van and ferry to Bisley (thanks to Paddy and Dick for driving for fourteen hours to get it there!). The entire team assembled and made its way through security (with far less hassles this year than last year) and had a rather uneventful flight (with occasional pauses to rub Iain’s head for good luck) to Heathrow, and a similarly uneventful trip to Bisley itself. We arrived around 1600 or so, sorted out who was in which room, and agreed to head off to a local restaurant for dinner. Meanwhile, took Claire around the LRC so we could get a look at where we were going the next day. Dinner was fine, then an early night with an alarm call for me at around nine, but the others much earlier (I was the last one shooting on Friday, so we thought there wasn’t much point in me going on the training line or through equipment control first).

Turned out that that plan didn’t work so well. The others were on the range training when I got there so Matt suggested that we just go up and get through equipment control before the others, who were still training. So I assembled my gear and wandered upstairs for equipment control.

Equipment Control Gauges
The new stiffness gauge in equipment control
Equipment Control Gauges
Various thickness gauges
Equipment Control Gauges
The rifle measurements table

My gear passed easily; others had a bit more trouble with the new stiffness gauge giving some odd readings at first until someone figured out that it was trapping fibres from a previous jacket. With that over with, it was back downstairs, a quick wander round the pretty things in the NSRA shop πŸ™‚ and onto to air rifle range in the Cooper Range for some training.

I was pretty happy with my training downstairs, though the groups still seemed a bit too large for comfort, circling around the nine ring as before. Shot for about forty minutes or so, just getting my head back into the flow of things and then packed the gear and left it upstairs in the air rifle range with everyone elses, and went back to the George’s Lodge to get a nap. Slept lightly for an hour or two, work at five and had a light snack and went over to the range. Got the kit ready, was ready well ahead of time and got my head into the game well enough, but when I got on the line, it all went sideways. Or more accurately, everywhere. The same pattern as it had been that morning and before in wilkinstown, but much worse – now circling the nine ring rather than the ten. Nothing worked. And it completely threw my head so that by the end of the second string I was pretty much shell-shocked. Forget a 570, I put in a 553 and didn’t expect it would be that good at the time. It was rather a solid kick in the head. We went back to St.George’s, put on a coat and headed off with the rest for dinner, feeling rather low. Came back, had a hot bath and went to bed feeling horrendously low. In retrospect; that was the big mistake. Sitting down with Matt at that point would have been far more useful, but I didn’t figure this out until later.

The next day was an early rise. In the breakfast hall by 0710, and not the first there (though decidedly not the last either. Finished breakfast, wandered to the range, got ready for the 1045 shoot and got to the line, as before, and exactly the same thing happened again. Slightly worse result this time, 551. And by the end, I was completely calm, just putting shots down the barrel exactly as in training; only nothing was working as in training. I couldn’t tell from where I was of course, but the others could see I’d started to over-hold again, same as I did last year. So this was a second kick in the head in a row. Not so good.

We went out that evening as a group to Woking, wandered round bookstores, drank coffee, read books, had dinner and met up for some bowling around six; then back to Bisley, reasonably refreshed. Collected everyone, went to the L&M and watched Tommy Tiernan (there’s something surreal about a bunch of shooters from around Navan watching Tiernan on a telly in the middle of Bisley Camp πŸ˜€ ) and tried to relax.

Got to talk to Matt for a half-hour at the end of the night and got to talking about what was going wrong, and here we found the technical crux of the problem. In training, I’d had to open my rear iris enormously compared to normal. Usually, it’s meant to be kept to between 1.1 and 1.2mm; but because of my eye relief, we’d had to open it to 1.4-1.5mm to get a clear sight picture. And with the darkness of the LRC range, in order to maintain that level of light in the sight picture, I’d had to crank the rearsight to 1.8. Which was of course far too large and it was causing the ring-around-the-nine problem. Having identified a technical problem helped a lot; at least it gave me something I could correct.

Next morning, set up the rifle sights as I’d discussed with Matt and got on the line, finding I was a place over from Chris Hector. Nice to have a good pace car πŸ˜€ Matt and I had also talked about speeding up my shot plan a lot, and I spent a fair bit of time in sighting trying that. It wasn’t so much running faster through the match as it was not spending so long in the hold – everything else actually slowed a little. I tried to get through the match taking no longer than three seconds in the hold before breaking position and rebuilding and for the most part it seemed to work. I was tired, however, so I didn’t reach the score I feel I could have on the first day had I shot the same way then; but I was so relieved that the sight changes and the revised shot plan had worked that I frankly didn’t care. I came off the line knowing that I’d been in a pretty deep state of despair at my performance the day before and had managed to haul it out for the last day, even if not to the level I wanted it at. 562’s nothing to write home about, but putting it in under those conditions is definitely something to put into the training diary.

Anyway, didn’t come away with nothing but memories and electrical burns from all the static off the LRC range floor; there’s a gold medal for a class prize from the ASI match on it’s way. Not much, but a gold medal more than nothing πŸ˜€ It was also good to see that the other shooters went past last year’s results; a total of four golds, two silvers, three bronzes, three finals places and four cash prizes and five PBs recorded, not too shabby all told.

And next year I’ll kick Chris Hector’s ass πŸ˜€

For the next week at least, no shooting though. It’s time now to take a breath, get my feet back under me and decide where I go next. And pretty much everyone else is thinking the same thing – noone’s been on the range in a week or more at this point and are under orders not to show up for a while more yet. I’ll be thinking about this one for a while. I may not post again till it’s sorted. Anyway, in a month or so there’s a fairly large prizegiving to do, so that will take up some time; and so will working on the WTSC website. So I’m not dropping out, just regathering πŸ™‚

Full Team in the L&M
The full team in the L&M

Just the Shooters
Just the shooters…

Final preperations before departure

Heading off to Wilkinstown after work today to drop off the rifle, equipment stuff and the overnight bags. There’s a bit of stress in this, as there always is with going abroad – have I remembered everything, will I get there and find I’ve left the sights at home, and so on. Making up a checklist helps a lot though, but it never quite gets rid of the butterflies! Oh well. Onwards, ever onwards…

DURC Squad

To teach is to learn twice.
-Joseph Joubert

Haven’t said much about the squad in recent days, but it’s been training away as hard as ever. All of the shooters are showing excellent potential already and several of them have started to achieve some of that potential on the firing line. We’re getting into the final stages of the Intervarisity preperations now – there are only four training days left before the match – so we’re down to the last few steps. Hopefully we can get the entire squad into the WAA Postal match though, so that after the Colours they don’t just drop away from training. There’s too many good shooters there to let that happen. If they keep training as they have been, we’re going to break club records this year…

Last day…

Woke up with the sniffles and a cold. Dammit. Went back to bed for two or three hours. Then went to WTSC to train. Got there around 1630. Shot 20-odd shots to warm up, then a 20-shot match. 91,95. Felt pretty sick while shooting. All the 9’s were high though (9.7+) so it’s more a loosening of the hold than it is a technical flaw. If I can kick this cold in time, it shouldn’t be a problem. Lots of fluids, vitamin C and Neurofen Cold&Flu for the next few days!

Spoke with Matt and Geoff for a while about match plans and general mental preperation. Next few days will be nothing more than rest and building up energy levels for me. Maybe 10-15 minutes of balance exercises during lunch, and there will be some mental drills, but that’s it. Got an interesting mental drill from Matt – visualise the shot, as per usual (for those non-shooters; a key mental training exercise for shooters is to mentally rehearse and visualise their shot plan from the very first movement to the very last, in as much detail as is possible), but time it with a stopwatch. Do this repeatedly and check the consistency of the timings. That’s definitely one for the next few days.

Took the shoulder strap for the prone sling off my jacket, removed the nonessential crap (spare glove, socks, .22 stuff, etc) from the equipment bag. Come wednesday evening, I just drop out the rifle, pack one or two last things (the sights box, for example), drop off the overnight bags for myself and herself, and that’s it – off to Bisley the next morning, to stay in the St.George’s Lodge (don’t you love organising accomodation months in advance? πŸ˜€ ). I’m not quite “looking forward to it”, but I’m definitely anticipating it in a positive sense – it’s going to be an excellent challange and I’m going to feel good about it, but it’s definitely got a sense about it of being hard work!

And I love my new sights box. Keeps everything I need with the rifle safe and secure and lets me set the rifle up in no time flat:

Also, I’ve managed to set up my laptop and my mobile phone so I can use a bluetooth link to make the phone act as a broadband modem for the laptop in Bisley, so I can post photos and entries while there. So there should be some neat photos and stuff on here during the weekend!

It's all about size…

…foresight size, that is. Decided to see what varying the size of the foresight would do to my group size. Matt moved me from a 4.5mm to a 4.4mm a few weeks back, so I thought I’d try a larger and a smaller size. So warmed up and shot two 20-shot matches with a 5.0mm and a 4.0mm foresight, then a ten-shot string with a 4.5mm triangular foresight for curiosity’s sake. The scores from the 4.0mm were better (96,96 with at least 2 points dropped due to sights not being clicked two clicks left) than the 5.0mm (98,91), but the 5.0mm will probably be better for training as it makes you work a lot harder on the hold (while the 4.0mm makes you work much harder on sight picture).
Must talk to Matt on this. Last real training day tomorrow before Bisley!

Nan

T.H. White, “The Once and Future King”
The best thing for being sad,” replied Merlin, beginning to puff and blow, “is to learn something. That’s the only thing that never fails. You may grow old and trembling in your anatomies, you may lie awake at night listening to the disorder of your veins, you may miss your only love, you may see the world about you devastated by evil lunatics, or know your honour trampled in the sewers of baser minds. There is only one thing for it then Ò€” to learn. Learn why the world wags and what wags it. That is the only thing which the mind can never exhaust, never alienate, never be tortured by, never fear or distrust, and never dream of regretting. Learning is the only thing for you. Look what a lot of things there are to learn.”

Got a phone call on the way to training on Wednesday evening, to say my grandmother had had a second stroke and it didn’t look good. Mom said to go ahead and train and to go see her the next morning, and I was ten minutes from the range and two hours from the hospital at the time, so I said okay and trained. It’s become a sort of security blanket for me in some ways I suppose – training settles everything out, and virtually anything can be fixed. There’s not much in life you can say that about.

The training itself went well. Warmups without the jacket had a string or two above 90 (nothing lower than a 9.0). Shot a 30-shot match, and wasn’t happy with it. After some work, Matt and I came to the conclusion that I’m getting an inconsistent head position as I roll my head forward to the sights. I’ll have to watch that in the match. Must also work on getting the shot rythym perfect; on those shots where my breathing and rythym coincide properly, all went very well – when they didn’t, it was very akward and slow and usually off-target. If we had more time, we’d adjust the cheekpiece, but for now, I just keep training as I have been and do the big changes later, after Bisley.

Obviously no training on Thursday, so it’s just the daily lunchtime training for the next while, then range time on Saturday and Sunday, lunchtime training till Wednesday and then drop out the rifle and overnight bags to WTSC for Wednesday night and meet the team in the airport on Thursday morning. My pelican 1150 case for the rifle sights was ordered on Tuesday afternoon and got here yesterday, which was impressive – the sights now have their own custom-fitted foam case along with some allen keys, the flat plate I check my foresight position with, and soon my earplugs, a box of foresight elements and any other small thing that would be useful to have in there.

NTSA Squad training

I have learned silence from the talkative, toleration from the intolerant, and kindness from the unkind; yet, strange, I am ungrateful to these teachers.
–Kahlil Gibran

Finally convinced by Matt (well, actually more like being told!) to go to the NTSA Squad training. Pretty much the entire line was either WTSC or WTSC-trained. Picked a bad firing point (concrete under my heels and metal inspection hatch a few millimetres lower under my toes) – one of the pistol firing points. Then went working on balance for the next hour or so. Very fustrating – shooting bad groups but knowing that I can do better. Didn’t have to worry in the end about being coached by a different coach so close to the Championships, as Barry never came near us, being too busy with the other WTSC shooters.

Did notice a rearward sag in the shoulders when raising the rifle. Must keep an eye on this and talk to Matt about it.

Far too tired…

Again, late getting to WTSC last night because of work running over. I swear, it’s like they know I’m training for Bisley and are ramping up the workload just to make it interesting πŸ˜€

Started by shooting the same exercise I had shot the day before, and the group sizes were pretty good. I was focussing on the position of my right arm during the mounting of the rifle and making sure the rifle was far enough forward to get a flat contact between my arm and the buttplate. This was going well. Problem was that when I went on to start a 40-shot match, it all went sideways. The hold got much worse, I couldn’t stop the fore/aft swaying, it all went to heck. Quite demoralising. Then Matt had me shoot a few shots with one of the new Hammerli AR30s – lovely design of rifle stock those, but the action’s a bit meh. And they’re unbelievably light. The entire rifle weighs not much more than the air cylinder on mine. And with this, I had my hold back, and the shots started going through the same hold again. Problem was that I was too tired and had run out of energy. So, next time, eat a sandwich on the way to WTSC, and try to get more sleep.

Late again

This work malarky is getting out of hand now. Didn’t get out of work until 1830, got to the range after 2000. Only the one place left free on the line, and everyone else already training. Most annoying. Shot the new exercise Matt showed me with looking off while aiming. The results weren’t fantastic, but I could feel the change in my level of focus when I returned to shooting normally. More time needed to train with it, I think.