A more relaxed wakeup this morning – still freezing cold, but don’t have to get up quite so early as yesterday. Breakfast, then head off around noon to get to the range. Plan is simple:
1230: Arrive at range, warm up
1255: Assemble kit
1330: Setup on line
1335: Prep time
Stretch first! Back will be sore!
Watch the sight picture!
I’m shattered though. It’s like the last day of Intershoot all over again. My aiming feels good, and the triggering feels smooth, but my legs just aren’t cooperating to give me a solid platform or a decent hold. My feet feel like I’m standing in a small pool of sweat in my boots, they feel like there’s no padding and they’re being pushed through the socks (the socks were an experiment all this week, I traded in my normal base layer socks for a pair of underarmour compression socks to try to counter the numbness I was getting in my feet around the 40-60 shot range in a match:
And no, this wasn’t Rob Bryden’s idea 😀
The experiment’s worked quite well at preventing numbness – I didn’t have a single problem with numb feet at any time, but they don’t give enough padding for the sole of the foot, so I might need to wear the base layer socks under the compression socks too. However, that won’t help the knees 😀 My knee was gone again by the end of the match – sore, unable to bend without pain, feeling like I’d pulled a hamstring.
I go through 23 shots with some difficulty (95 then 92 because of drift) but shot 24 was a seven, and mentally I gave up, I put down the rifle and walked away for a few minutes to get my head together. I came to the conclusion at that stage that the match was pretty much a lost cause in terms of a high score; and then I thought why not use the remainder of the match to test something – yesterday’s performance met the performance goals for the trip, and the match was pretty much shot, so why not at least learn something?
So I got back to the line and into position, and proceeded to try to shoot as fast as I could. Same shot routine as before, but take the shot as soon as it presents itself; no holding for any more than one to two seconds at most. The results were quite interesting.
There was a whanger of a flier in string four, but aside from that, the standard of shooting was higher over the next few strings. Looking especially at the decimal scores, slow shooting resulted in 99.5, 96.7; shooting fast gave 99.7, 98.8 and 99.6 despite my being more physically drained than the first two strings. It’s nothing that Matt and Geoff haven’t been telling me for a looooong time, but it’s so counter-intuitive that I never really could trust myself to do it; I was hoping that doing it here would give me sufficient confidence to do it in competition more often 😀
After the match, I got my name stitched on my Ireland team jacket (they had a chap there doing embroidery for Intershoot T-shirts and the like), and looked over the new Walther LG400 rifle (I’ve been worried for a while now that if any part of my rifle broke at a match, there’d be no way to get spare parts; Matt thinks I might change over rifles during my time away from the circuit). There aren’t many rifles I’d like; the LG400 is one of them:
We then got something to eat, watched and cheered on Ray in the finals, then packed our kit, hauled it back to the chalet, got changed and went out for a final team dinner in the local diner (lovely steak). After that, we walked back, packed away most of our kit for the morning and got some sleep. The next morning we had an early wakeup to take a team photo and bid farewell to Peter as he headed off; then we finished packing, cleaned down the chalet and hauled back to the airport by minivan.
Check-in at the KLM desk in Schipol took the guts of two hours to do. KL-bloody-M. And they tried to charge me excess baggage of €180 for the rifle instead of the €40 sports baggage charge – I pointed out that our tickets were booked via Aer Lingus and had the assistant call a colleague who sorted it out. It got to the point where the other airport staff were getting a bit narky with the girl on the checkin desk. Eventually we got through, got through security, and headed to the gate. And then Paul and I and Kealan took a few minutes to raid the duty-free for some gifts for home (married men can’t come home without gifts 😀 ). We barely made it back to gate in time! After that, the remainder of the trip back was incident-free and normal, we said our goodbyes in the airport and that was the end of the trip.
Overall the total is two new Irish records, five shooters hit the MQS scores (and the sixth missed it by a point and set an Irish record in the process), three competition personal bests, two international debuts, and a team medal. That was a good trip 🙂
Up at a reasonable 0700 or so this morning. Sweet brass monkey eunuchs but it’s cold. Somewhere between -8C and -10C. Peter’s diesel estate wouldn’t start first time yesterday for the first time since he’s had it because of the temperature, and today it’s colder. And I don’t like the look of that fairly large cloudbank we can see off in the eastern sky either. We do *not* want hail today thanks.
Down for breakfast (Rolled oats, water, milk and five minutes on the hob for excellent porridge! Breakfast of champions! Three minutes more than for that microwaved gunk, but it’s more than worth it!), and a cup of coffee, we pack the few things we’re carrying with us — my netbook and shooting diary (got it printed up as a book and it turned out nicely, we must see if we can sell a few of them to raise money for WTSC‘s new range fund), fruit and water for all of us, and Paul’s rifle and stand — and we head off for the range. It’s a brisk mile of a walk, interrupted only to scare the wits out of the chaparone for the Welsh junior squad by trying to be helpful and offer directions to the range without realising that they might have odd notions about strange Irish chaps wearing low-pulled caps, sunglasses against the glare and wind, and wearing neck gaiters over faces (did I mention it was cold?) 😀
Oh well, it was character-building for them 😀
Anyway, on to the range, and we got out our kit and got our heads into the game. Aisling was still shooting, having had the ungodly-hour start this morning, so we watched her for a while, but she seemed to be coping well so we left Kealan to keep watch and went to get ready. The plan from the diary was again, quite simple:
0815 Leave for range
0830 Arrive at range, warm up
0900 Assemble kit
0930 Kit on line, ready to go
0935 Prep time
Watch inner position and feet.
WATCH SIGHT PICTURE!!!
The sight picture was the lesson learnt from yesterday; I figured if I could watch it for this match as my main focus, I’d do reasonably well. My head was in the game, at least for most of the match; though I confess I did check the score near the end. Stupid, stupid, stupid…
Starters went off well, my zero looked okay and I spent a dozen or so shots just getting into the rythym and watching the sight picture. The backdrop was different today, we were back up on the firing points we’d trained on on the first day, so that was familiar. We were also smack in the middle of the webcam’s field of vision but alas, nobody thought to snag a photo of us 😀
Some folk commented about the shortened sleeves of the jacket here btw (it’s hard not to notice them) – the truth is that the only problem was that I didn’t cut enough off the right arm. I should have taken another two inches off of it. The arm doesn’t give you any support in standing – all it gives you there is a shoulder pad to put the rifle’s buttplate on. The rest of the arm is only there for those who shoot three positions – the sleeve’s needed for prone and useful for kneeling. Honestly, I might well just hack off the arm on the new Kustermann jacket too. But if you do hack it off, do so well above the elbow – otherwise when you bend you arm to reach the pistol grip, you may hit the material of the jacket above the elbow with your forearm, bowing it outwards and creating unnecessary wrinkles which can muck up your buttplate positioning. The left arm does need the sleeve, for the arm-side contact point, but that one got cut too, just because the arm was too long – it was down to my thumbs 😀
The sight picture worked really well – I’d mount the rifle as normal, watch the target while settling (looking over the rearsight, which is very easy with the MEC Free rearsight), check the foresight against the background to be sure it’s in roughly the right place and isn’t swinging about all over the place, then lowered my head down to the cheekpiece. But while lowering my head, I’d look through the rearsight for a final pre-aiming view, at which point the foresight tunnel would appear to be just touching the top of the inside of the rearsight. That let me check my horizontal centering, and then lower my head gently while fully exhaling to the cheekpiece to center vertically. Triggering followed naturally on from there.
Of course, that didn’t settle down until the middle of the first string, so there were two wild eights in there (well centered, just high because the cheek pressure on the cheekpiece was wrong)… but there was only one more in the next 55 shots, which was far, far better than the last few international matches. The series scores weren’t the highest I’ve ever shot, but they were consistent: 94, 95, 97, a slip down to 93 thanks to that third eight, then two consistent 96s to finish. And of course, I did check the score in the last string. Stupid, stupid, stupid…
Still, turned out well enough – a new International PB of 571 and my first international MQS 🙂 In fact, it’s a new competition PB overall – I’ve shot 574 at home in UCD in front of the NTSA before coming out to Intershoot, but not during an official match.
I was rather happy with that, in fact, and went off to decompress (my feet felt awful, like someone had put them in a vice and tried to squash them flat) and get some food (I was starving by the end), log into facebook and skype home and find a cup of coffee. Which is why, when they called out the team medals and I realised we were in contention, I had to sprint down from the spectators gallery. But I wasn’t caught as off-guard as Ray was, because he’d just finished shooting in his second finals of the week (Ray made the finals on all three days) and was just changing out of his shooting kit into his tracksuit when they called us up for third place (that’s why Ray is in his socks in the photos 🙂 ).
Oh yeah, third place, did I mention that? International medal for Ireland. You know, just another thursday…
That’s what the Americans so endearingly refer to as a shit-eating grin, and it took several hours to get it off my face 😀
Right now, some Irish readers who aren’t shooters are probably wondering why a third place medal is a big deal. Here’s why. The team medals went, in order to:
The Netherlands shooting team
turned up in their own bus (as in, they owned it, custom painted, the works);
had several coaches (famous ones like Dick Boschmann, who’ve written all the textbooks on shooting – open up the first few pages of Ways of the Rifle, the widest-selling ISSF textbook of all time and you’ll find their coaches right there), managers, gofers and so on;
are all fully-funded, full-time shooters and have been for a few years aimed at London 2012, and all started years before we can have a licence in Ireland;
England shooting team
fully funded full-time shooters who started years before we can have a licence in Ireland;
had the largest team contingent there with coaches and managers and staff;
there on holidays from work, training in our free time, paying for everything out of our own pockets;
one overworked sod as staff doing all the paperwork, management and dogsbody duties;
our coach back here on the other end of a phone line;
doing all our own cooking, shopping, and all the sundry stuff the others had taken care of for them (and that’s rather a lot – do you know how much 7 adults working 12-hour days in subzero temperatures at a rifle match can eat, and still lose weight?);
And despite all that whinging, we were only 20 points behind the English team, and only 32 behind the Netherlands team (out of 1800 points) and when you look to the PBs of our team we could have pulled up 16 points right there just by equalling our best. Add to that the point that my kit was ten years old and way past its best-before date and the point that my rifle hasn’t been serviced in the past ten years (the lads on the circuit will have theirs serviced at a minimum once a year, and more normally at every major international match by the manufacturers (who go to the matches to do so) and that’s another few points from the kit alone. So when you take the kit element out of it, our scores were right up there in contention for the gold medal.
Now don’t get me wrong – the lads on the other teams are lovely chaps, all of us are friends and they’d be the first to offer to help if anything went wrong in a match and vice versa (it’s not unheard of for competing nations to loan each other everything and anything on the line (yes, rifles included), and we usually stay in the same places and eat together) and I’m actually rather proud to get to compete with them and when Huckle shot that 598 we were all thrilled for him because he’s worked so hard for it.
It’s just that looking at those scores, there’s a part of me that wonders at how, in only our free time outside of our full-time jobs, we’re close enough to full-time fully-funded Olympic teams that the gap could be closed with just money, and not that much money at that. And that part of me is desperately proud of what us little Irish shooters can manage to do.
But hey, that’s just me.
Anyway, we figured that we’d pack up the kit and head back to the chalet, maybe get a nap in the afternoon after lunch. So we walked out the door to find that that cloudbank in the eastern sky that morning had shown up after all:
Feck. Three inches or so of snow inside of four hours. This does not bode well…
…but in the meantime it’s all pretty! 😀 (If fecking cold when all you’re wearing is underarmour and a light tracksuit designed for warmer climes!)
So back to the chalet, stopping along the way to photograph a very arty frozen beach (it was so cold, the wind was catching the spray from the waves and by the time it hit us, it had frozen into ice)…
…and also in the campsite shop to do another round of shopping, picking up more chicken for dinner tonight, some herbs and spices (exotic things like pepper!), some hamburgers and baps for a lunchtime treat and a packet of chocolate biscuits because feck it, medal 😀
After lunch (burger-flipping!), we watched Caroline maintain her score from yesterday, Peter shooting well, and I got started on dinner (chicken marinated in ginger, lemon juice, olive oil, garlic and white wine, cooked in barbecue sauce with tomatoes and mushrooms and other veg, served with egg-fried rice made from the first day’s rice pilaf leftovers – which won me the title of chef de partie, which roughly translates to wheresmebloodydinner 😀 ). After dinner, it was sauna time, and since it’s not every day in Ireland that you have both a sauna and a foot of snow on the ground…
PS. We heard later (we only ran into the lads once during the entire trip because we were always on different shifts in the range) that the Northern Irish Pistol Team also won a bronze medal in their event — well done lads! Ain’t it a grand view from the podium? 😀 )
Slept on a bit this morning, didn’t get out of bed until 1000h. We’re not shooting until 1545, no point getting in the way of the folks who have earlier schedules. That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it. It had nothing to do with the -8C temperatures at all, nope. Poor Caroline and Kealan walked to the range for an 0800 detail this morning and with the wind chill, it was down to -17C for them. Unreal.
After breakfast, I figure we’re going to have lunch in the chalet, and then on to the range for around 1430h or so. So I make a batch of chicken risotto, and we hoover that down. Aisling heads off for the range for her match and we get ourselves into our mental game and head off an hour or so after her. The plan’s simple enough:
1430: Arrive at range
1510: Assemble kit
1535: Preparation time
Preparation is a bit complicated by a severe lack of space. This is your preparation area, in which you must assemble your kit and don your shooting suit (we showed up wearing the underarmour stuff under our tracksuits):
It might look crowded, but that’s an illusion – there’s really far less space than there appears to be! You have the area of floor your kitbag occupies, the area your rifle case occupies, and you try to claim enough room to stand in and that’s it. And apparently this is better than last year. Yikes.
Anyway, I assemble the rifle, prep the kit, and do some wallwatching, then head to the line. I’m right down at the other end of the range from where we were training and the backdrop’s totally different with a big red door in the middle of the field, but that’s okay, and I sort out my position and shoot some decent sighters. But my head’s not really in the game – I’m just not keyed up enough, and things aren’t quite coming together right.
The wobbly settled down during the first string though, and it started coming together (slowly), but then something very weird happened in string four – every shot going into a tight-ish group off to the left. I thought it was position or sight picture, but nothing seemed to throw it, and eventually I got desperate and wound the sights… and that fixed it. Odd. And it cost me a few points too. But apart from the weirdness and my head not being in the game, the rifle and ammo felt fine, and there wasn’t anything horrible going wrong. I talked to Matt on the phone about it, got my head straight and figured to go back to the chalet, get some food (thanks for doing the cooking Caroline!) and some rest and do it all again tomorrow.
And the sauna helps a lot with the aches and pains 😀
In the meantime, Ray shot a 590! New Irish record, and the first time anyone from Ireland’s ever shot that high, domestically or internationally. Booya!
0530 and out of bed. Wake up in blind panic when I run my hand over my face to find that there’s something horrible on my hand. Turns out to be the Sauer trigger hand glove I bought yesterday and wore all day to break it in so I could test it today – I fell asleep wearing it. The internet phrase is “FML” for those wondering what that’s like. And the jokes I’ve had to endure since then… Oh well, get on with it…
Breakfast at 0600, we’re the first in the room. Coffee, lovely coffee. Scrambled eggs, finally, warm food! Lots of carbs. Everything hurts, we’re tired after two days of this and the travel before it. We’re too tired to be stressed, in fact, which isn’t as good as you’d think it would be; you need a certain – stop smirking, this is the technical term – arousal level in order to shoot properly. Yeah, I can’t stop smirking either. Who thinks up this terminology?
0630 bus, on the range for 0700. My goal is written in my diary – “60 Well-Executed Shots”. The plan written there is fairly simple:
0720 Eat banana pilfered from the breakfast buffet
0730 Prep kit
0740 Wall-watching in full kit
0750 Prep time
Sighters: no more than 15 min in total. 4-5 shots at match speed to settle in, ignoring score. Tweak position and cheekpiece as needed. 4-6 shots to dial in sights, then start the scoring shots.
Try a 4.0 foresight. Try the trigger glove.
Relax through hara, see the rifle settle, release smoothly though the ten
Dry-fire after any shot lower than 9.7 or any two consecutive non-tens.
“Hara”, by the way, is the point about two finger widths below your navel; it’s the center of gravity for most humans, and in aikido, you got taught that all motion should come from or go to the center.
Ignore the guy flying through the air there, that’s the easy bit, look at the guy who isn’t moving. See where his center of gravity is, note that he’s stable and not off-balance despite having just flung someone through what would be the rinse cycle in a washing machine. That’s why they focus so much on the center for aikido. The note “relax through hara” is shorthand for settling in position completely and eliminating all the sources of tension, including the one at the base of the abdomen muscles – in aikido, they’d refer to it as sinking through the center, and like most of the stuff you pick up in aikido, it makes complete sense when you’re doing it and is very efficient shorthand for describing what is a complex movement using lots of fine muscle control; and like most of the stuff you pick up in aikido, it sounds like complete gibberish when you try to explain it to anyone who hasn’t done it 😀
It’s not a bad plan, but it fails to account for the point that I’m approaching my physical limit, and 40 shots into the match, I run right into the wall. My mental state was fine – the best it’s been all through the competition in fact. The technique is grand as well. But when you get the shakes, that’s purely a physiological thing and there aren’t many match techniques to cope with that, you just shoot a little faster because your hold lasts for less time, and you try to coordinate breathing, head position and taking up the trigger so that when you reach that moment in the still point, you’re on target and ready to take the shot; because if you’re not, you’re not going to be hanging around there for more than a second before you have to break the shot and redo your routine from scratch.
This eats time, you understand. So by the time shot 40 rolled around, I knew I was in trouble. And I was right – I was loading shot 50 when they called the five minute warning (it should have been a ten minute warning, but hey, I was stuffed either way). That’s the point where you realise that you’re alone on the firing line, there are 200 people watching you to see can you get ten shots off in five minutes, and are you going to crack in public. And of course, folk are watching back home as well (Herself Indoors was screaming at a computer screen at this point…).
You know, that 568 on day one was sweet. It was nice to know that when I had the mental jitters and a case of nerves, that I could still equal my PB. And day two was nice because I learnt I could leave the nerves behind. But this, this last five minutes? This was worth the price of admission. Stand up all alone in front of that many people under that pressure and shoot? And then shoot a 10.9?
I don’t even care too much about the final score (562, not great, not appalling). I don’t care that I couldn’t walk properly for 20 minutes until my knee popped back to normality. I don’t care that I was exhausted and tired.
After this, we packed our kit and hauled it back to the hotel, prepped the kit for the flight home (discharge air cylinders, ensure everything’s ready for transport, and so on), packed our bags for the morning and then went out to dinner with the rest of the team to a little steakhouse Peter and Alan (one of the scottish pistol shooters) had found. The steak was fantastic (I think this was the first time we weren’t in calorie deficit for the entire trip) and the dessert… well, combine army personnel, ice cream and enlist the assistance of a funny waitress and you can easily crack up a table of people with a simple practical joke 😀
Then back to the hotel through a genuine blizzard that popped up mid-meal, and we hit the hay for an 0400 wake-up the next morning to catch our flight out. No, not a typo 🙁
Up at 0400.
PS. Thanks to the folks who kept the snowball fight going till after midnight. And the few dedicated souls who brought it indoors after that. And the chaps who went to bed and fell asleep, locking their teammates out of their room. Otherwise, I’d never have managed to stay awake all night 😀
PPS. Thanks also to the junior Luxair lady who tried to charge us a few hundred euro in excess baggage at 0400 in the cold gray morning for our rifle cases. But also thanks to the senior Luxair chap who remembered that because we’d started the trip on Lufthansa, that Luxair had to use Lufthansa tarrifs (€40 per rifle case, the new EU kind-of-standard-thingy. It was 0400, the details were fuzzy at best).
This morning was a bit of a shock to the system – we got back to the hotel last night to find that the bus timetables had been altered, and we’d only have ten minutes from arriving at the range to the start of shooting if we took the bus we were hoping to take. So we had to take an earlier one, which meant a rather unpleasantly early wake-up call, so instead of breakfast at 0800 for a 1015 start, we were up at 0600 for the 0700 bus. Remember, we’re a timezone over here, so to us it was an 0500 wakeup call, after a bad night’s sleep (I never sleep well the first night in someplace new, nor before a match) and food which was, well, decent enough but not plentiful enough (nobody ever believes how many calories a rifle match like this will burn off – by the end of the competition when I got home, I’d lost seven pounds in five days).
So up at 0600 local, the usual ablutions minus the shaving (stubble over cheekpiece makes a noise that warns of poor cheek welds — that’s my story and I’m sticking with it), and down to breakfast.
Look, european hotels, I get that you don’t do full Irish breakfasts, I really do. But seriously. What. The. Frak? Small steamed beef sausages that looked for all the world like a jack russell terrier had just used the chafing dish as a sandbox. No hot food apart from that at all. And yes, you had scrambled eggs in the chafing dish longside the distinctly unpleasant looking sausages, but It. Was. Cold. I mean, you have a major sporting event in your hotel, with a hundred or so shooters staying there, you couldn’t keep the scrambled eggs warm? Gah…
Anyway, after a DISTINCTLY UNPLEASANT BREAKFAST (I’m still looking at you, unnamed european hotel, don’t go thinking this is over), we got on the first bus out to the range, arriving there at 0730 and spent the next two hours basicly doing nothing, just waiting. Read a little, write up notes a little, but mostly waiting for 0930, which was down as our go time.We found a quieter area than yesterday by swiping an unused changing room (which we wound up sharing with Bindra while he hid from the documentary crew who were merrily playing havoc with his prep), and got down to the task at hand.
0930, Prep the rifle and kit.
0945, Wall-watching in full kit, getting muscles warmed up and getting our heads into the game, looking for that still point.
1005, On the line at the start of prep time, ready to go.
As matches went, it wasn’t horrible. My position from yesterday simply didn’t work though; I wound up giving up on the changes to the stock from yesterday and reverting to what I’d trained with in WTSC for the last few months, and that worked quite well. There were some nice series results and some bad; it was on the whole a less consistent performance than yesterday, but with much higher highs. The score was only off by a point from yesterday, but that one number doesn’t really tell the tale well at all. My mental focus for the match was actually really good – surprisingly so compared to yesterday’s mess; it was like all the worries had burnt themselves out. I still knew everyone at home was watching, I still knew we had a lot of spectators, but for the most part I was absolutely fine with it, it was just a background detail like the colour of the floor behind me.
There was one exception to this, and you can actually see it in the start of the fifth string; just before that I’m doing okay, with a 98, and then there are several low 9s and an 8. I’m reasonably sure that was because a rather daft cameraman from the Indian documentary team, in his quest for the best B-roll footage available, stuck his camera out around the side baffles at the target end of the range as I was loading my rifle which, because it was on the stand at the time, was pointed right at his head. This might sound minor if you haven’t shot before. If you’ve spent a decade or two shooting and training new shooters and the one rule that comes above everything else for you during all those years is to not point a firearm at another human being, well, you might appreciate that it can disturb your focus a little.
To be honest, I did entertain the notion of shooting his camera lens just to highlight the danger to him, but I’m pleased to say I didn’t. Even though he deserved it.
Anyway, aside from that kick in the pants, some things were learnt, including a possible new way to settle down in the sighters by just running through a half-dozen shots as rapidly as possible, ignoring the score, just looking to settle the mind. And a muscle (an abdominal one just below the navel) which I hadn’t noticed was tensing up before this. And finding that as much as we’d tried in WTSC to get me to shoot with air in my lungs, it just doesn’t work when I’m under stress, probably because I’ve had a decade or so of doing it that way. Maybe we’re on a hiding to nowhere trying to unlearn that habit.
Some nice groups in there in string one and in string four; string two has a tight group and three loose shots; string three is just a bit too scattered and string four is all over the shop at the start but it recovers, and then there was a serious drift for three shots in the last string. Good cores, with fliers in most cases. I can live with that, and more, I can improve on it.
Once the match was done, we packed the gear away into the armoury, bought a few beanies (or mingies if you’re in the Defence Forces 🙂 ) for the home range, and then found the latest Mouche synthetic suit…
If you’ve never seen one of these, or you’re not technically minded, you’re now thinking “It’s trousers. What is the eejit taking photos of them for?”. But these are the latest thing and they’re notable for a few reasons. First off, unlike the usual canvas and leather suits we wear, these pass the ISSF Equipment Control tests from the moment you buy them. They don’t age the way canvas ages so you don’t need a new suit every other year. They can be washed. Yes, that’s right, you can’t wash a canvas suit. Ever. For the two or three years you’re strapped into it, it can’t be washed. I leave you, gentle reader, to come up with a figure that indicates how much you’d pay to be able to wash a suit you’re going to be strapped into for a few dozen hours a week…
Was your figure €1900? No? Well, that’s the figure. Plus, add in the money for flights to Germany because you go there with your rifle and stand in position and they measure you and cut the material (which is for all the world like someone made loose-weave linen with a white plastic and then run it through heated rollers to make this kind of plastic weave) to fit you and they assemble it right there and then. So for Irish shooters, it’s €2500 or so by the time you get it home. Two shooters have them in Ireland now, and we’re seriously, seriously curious to see them in action 😀
Anyway, we then headed back to the hotel for a much-needed nap (and a jog for Ray) and to get some food and sleep. It’s a funny thing about these matches – you will burn off more calories than you think you can, and you’ll need far more sleep than you think possible. I’m sure we’re going through between three and five thousand calories a day here, we’re definitely needing to go through three litres of water a day at least, and you need to be trying for 12 hours sleep (you won’t get it, but it’s what you need). And tomorrow, it’s an 0530 (local time!) start to be on the firing line for 0800. Yay!
By the way, we noticed today that target shooting over here is – shock and horror – actually thought of as a sport by the media. Back home, we’re basicly treated by government and media alike as being criminals just waiting for someone to turn their back for a moment before we plough through the nearest creche eating babies. Here, we’re in the papers in the sports pages and people accept it as totally normal. In fact, they just don’t understand why the two crazy Irish lads thought this was a great thing – we must have looked like some random strangers ooh-ing and ah-ing at running water in a hotel bathroom…
So up earlyish, said goodbye to Herself Indoors as she headed off to work, then loaded the car and headed to the airport. Met up with Ray and off we went. The trip was fairly uneventful, oddly enough, but I guess that’s Lufthansa for you – efficient, unflappable, calm. All terribly civilised, and even the trip through Dublin airport was hassle-free, a first for me. The exact opposite of KLM… but that’s another entry. We got to the hotel, met up with Peter and squared ourselves away for the next day, which was for training and equipment control.
Training went well; some small modifications to the buttplate to get on target, and a good string or two (97 with an 8 in the last string) and I called it quits for the day and went to equipment control; only the rifle was checked and it was fine. So back to the hotel we went, got something to eat and turned in for the night to hit the first match early the next morning with an 0900 wakeup.
Day one was a nice easy wakeup at 0900, breakfast in the hotel (why, oh why, do european hotels never ever have decent porridge? It’s always cold meat and cold cheese and cold cereal and any hot food is usually fairly unfamiliar or hard to digest. Not what you want when you’re facing into a shooting match) and then to the range by bus. Arrived there well in advance. Got the kit prepped at 1315, was doing holding exercises at 1330 and trying to ignore the documentary team that was following Bindra around. Seriously guys, great to see you doing that, fantastic to see a shooter get publicity, we need it for our sport, but what we don’t need is a member of a film crew in the news because they walked into a danger area on a range and got shot…
Prep time was at 1350 and the match kicked off at 1400. And I don’t think I have ever been more anxious in a match in my life. You know there are 200 people on the range between shooters and spectators (and there aren’t that many shooters). You know everyone back home is watching your score and will be wondering if you’ll put in a score that doesn’t embarrass you. And it doesn’t help that up and down the line are shooters who are famous (at least in our little circles) for putting in high scores. Dick Boschmann (as in, the guy whose Rika/Scatt/Noptel traces are in every single textbook on shooting published in the last decade) is over there coaching the Netherlands team, the GB team is enormous with coaches and managers and lots of people, and we’re just these two chaps over here on vacation days. It’s an easy spiral to get into, and I spent my entire match fighting it, doing a little better in each string until the last string when I had a rather weak finish for a total of 568.
That’s my domestic competition PB. In my first international match. Feck. Not too bad for a start, that. I would have preferred the MQS, but you have to start somewhere and I’d say there were a few folks who didn’t think I’d hold my domestic competition standard (me amongst them), so that’ll do for a start.
The printout from the system gives a better sense of what was happening though:
You’ll notice the final overall group is large, but not particularly biased in any direction. Wider than tall, but that’s normal. Basically, my hold went to pieces, but not so badly as it felt at the time – I visibly had the shakes when I came off the line. It didn’t help that the electronic targets in use here do not show a match timer and I don’t normally take a watch to the line because the megalinks we use at home do show that timer, and I’ve been trying to ditch that urge to carry everything from my toolbox up to the firing point, instead taking a minimalist approach. However, the decimal scores (which are really a better indication of performance) rose string-on-string all the way through to the end when my worries over time got a bit out of control. The breakdown of scores wasn’t great – five 8s? Ich. But tomorrow is another day, so we pack our kit up and leave it in the armoury and head back to the hotel for food and sleep because tomorrow is an early start…
Oh, and what opening post in a match report doesn’t have photos of the range?
Back to training after the UCD August Open, and started with Matt and I having a talk about what went wrong in the Open. With the few days rest between the Open and tonight, there was a bit of perspective and we both came to the conclusion that while there are still small technical things to work on (like my trigger finger alignment), the main problem is a complete lack of proper mental preperation for the match.
Thing is, y’see, we’ve never really worked on mental prep before. Logistical planning for matches, yes; technical training, intensively yes; physical training yes; but mental training is the next thing for us to learn how to train in. When I started shooting air back in ’98, we didn’t know how to train people to shoot properly. Safely, yes – we weren’t exactly lax in the safety department at any time – but we just didn’t know how to train people. We’d show them the rifle, show them how to safely shoot, and then just let them repeat that until they got good or went home. We practiced, we didn’t train, and there is a very significant difference. Some individual shooters would go off and get coaching from outside the country, but that rarely works, if ever. At the time, we had a contract with a coach who’d come over to train the national squad once every 4-6 weeks, and he went blue in the face saying this over and again – you can’t train properly through this “masterclass” approach. You need to have your coach there on a far more regular basis, to see you progress, to see the failures, to see you under pressure and relaxed, and to figure out what route is the fastest from where you are to where you want to go.
Dirty little secret in target shooting – while good kit is important, you gain more points per euro spent if you spend the euro on good coaching than on any other possible outlay.
Which is why people drive hundreds of kilometres to get to WTSC – it’s not the range, it’s Matt and Geoff’s coaching.
However, we’ve spent the last decade going from not knowing how to train to knowing how to train physically and technically and how to do logistics; how to train mentally has always been the next step to take, but until now, we’ve never really been ready to take it. Now, we are, and now we’re taking that step. That’s going to be the next phase of training for me and Paul and Ashling and all the other WTSC shooters.
Though we will be fixing my trigger finger alignment too 😀
Anyway, after that rather productive chat, I kitted out and we just started shooting. Nothing specific, just shoot so Matt could watch the trigger finger again. Almost immediately, I could tell the difference between Sunday and tonight – my hips weren’t moving as much when they came forward at the start of the shot routine, and I noticed that that DURC dance (face the wall, hips square to the wall, then swing your hips from left to right repeatedly. It ain’t catchy, but every DURC airgun shooter seems to do it…) wasn’t happening because I was naturally moving my hip right slightly to load and then left properly to mount the rifle. In UCD, I’d had trouble with that – perhaps my stand wasn’t as well placed as I’d thought.
Some dry-firing to start, and after 20 mins or so, ten shots to check the sights:
Matt didn’t say anything, so I just kept on shooting, but I kicked it over into the first string because I’d moved the sights and wanted a clean target.
Matt still hadn’t said anything by this stage and I just figured what the hell, I’d shoot a match. Wasn’t planned or anything, and it didn’t feel like my position was as rock-solid as I’d like, but I wanted a baseline after Sunday’s mess.
At this point I had to take a short break for five minutes – my right knee was in a fair amount of pain (I couldn’t bend it) and my feet were going numb. Unfortunately, this was the point where I noticed the score, and between that and the physical fun, things just went downhill fast…
And at this point, I’m thinking “Feck. Just shoot another 95/96 here and I’m looking at a new PB in the mid-70s” which is of course, the stupidest thing in the world to be thinking. It wasn’t helping that my knee was now telling me that it was formally considering seceding from the rest of me and filing for independent recognition with the UN on the grounds of inhumane treatment (I hyperextended that joint rather badly a few years back and it’s never really forgotten or forgiven me for that). The next nine shots got progressively harder and more disappointing, and the tenth was pretty much everything I had to give…
So there we go. Another MQS, under rather imperfect circumstances physically. Kindof proves Matt’s point – I was far more rested and in far less pain on Sunday, but my head wasn’t relaxed and centered and so my performance was dire; tonight I was in agony at the end, hungry and tired after a long day of work, and I still managed a 70 despite two tail-end strings that were ridiculously bad.
Talking about it with Matt afterwards, we both agree that even with the ridiculously bad suit and shoes I’m using now, there’s a 580 there for the taking. Going over the actual shots and looking at the scores, there’s a good six or seven 9.9/9.8 type shots that just squeaked out, and an 8.9 at the start – that’s not even counting the falling apart shots in the last strings. So there’s a new goal – get that 580 in the current suit. Once I do that, and change up to a proper new suit, well, that should be another few points of a jump 🙂
First match since the holiday and the rust is showing…
My balance was all over the place, and things just refused to settle down. Anxiety levels were high, but it’s that annoying kind of anxiety that you can’t see as anxiety when it’s happening; think of it as just a generally heightened level of mental tension rather than anything specific – like the way you sometimes realise your shoulders are so tense that they’re touching your earlobes, but you didn’t have any one specific muscle in pain?
The sight picture problem from the July Open was completely gone though, thanks to the efforts of the UCD folk who spent the morning installing new lighting, and to moving to a new firing point (the ones in the center have more ambient lighting than the ones at either end because of the difficulty in mounting lights safely downrange). So that was a welcome relief, but it did just highlight the poor hold in the position 🙁
End result was that despite good logistical prep, despite decent time management, despite taking a break to talk with Matt and Geoff half-way through, despite lots of dry-firing and settling at the start, things just refused to calm down and settle into place the way they’ve done in training.
Matt says it’ll come, and so does everyone else, and I know they’re right – it’s just that knowing it’ll happen doesn’t make waiting for it any easier 😀
On the upside, Ashling set a brand new PB of 375 (that’s the ladies MQS, which is a nice result after such a short stint of training with Matt), and Paul blew everyone away with a new PB of 589 (up from 577 in less than a month – proof that it does come when you train long enough…) And Emma is coming back to training as well, and will be coming out to WTSC to train with us on Friday nights, so the WTSC gang is getting better and getting bigger again, which is nice to see after a few years of a lull…
Not a great match at all for me, this one. Hit the MQS (570) a few days earlier, and expected to get a decent shot at it this time as well. It didn’t go that way…
UCD July Open 2011
You can see the standard devolving through the strings – string 5 is particularly bad. There were some external problems – I couldn’t get sight alignment reliably because of the range lighting – there’s a plank across the back of the range above the targets which acts both as a mounting point for the target numbers and a baffle for the lights at the target end of the range; but the plank is not as well lit as the back wall the targets are mounted on. When you look at it with the naked eye, it’s not so bad, but when you look through the sights, that plank is very, very dark and the effect is that you get a black bar across the top of your sight picture and instead of centering the foresight in the circle of the rearsight, you’re trying to center in that circle with a big chunk taken off at the top. Ray and Paul have managed to do this; I’ve not got the hang of it yet.
There were internal problems too – I didn’t handle having sight alignment problems very well at all, and it felt like I’d gone from an environment where I had a good technical setup and coaching support to one where I had neither. Both of which aren’t external, they’re internal problems. There’s a deep need here to work on the mental side of things now and Matt’s been moving towards this a lot of late. Technically, there’s only one major thing left in my setup (my trigger finger alignment) and a few very minor tweaks (my right leg position, my match logistics & prep, that sort of thing) – the main thing holding me down right now is securely located between my ears.
Still, as Liam said on the day, “every day’s a schoolday”…
It took ten years, and the last push has taken eight months of hard work, both physically (I’ve lost over 30lb), mentally (lots of visualisation exercises, and lots of not listening to my own head), technically (3hrs on the range, 3 days a week, plus matches on the weekends and time training at home) and even financially (buying new kit and the like – and there’s more of that coming). It’s taken hard work and time from Matt and Geoff with coaching, but finally – I hit the MQS score of 570 in men’s air rifle tonight 🙂
(Excuse the 120-67 totals in strings 4 and 5, didn’t hit the “next series” button on the megalink fast enough)
Groups were pretty okay:
Scores histogram’s pretty okay as well:
And there’s still room to improve easily enough – that 91 for example, is down to my head being thrown, and there are two 8.9s in there (hell, cleaning the rifle could cause those…).
But to be honest, I’m still too busy celebrating finally hitting the MQS (and setting a new PB, natch) to worry for now 🙂