RIAC 2011 Notes for next time

A collection of notes for the next time, taken as I went through the week. If someone else is going next year, this might be useful.

  • A grab-bag of some sort to carry books/papers/a netbook/water/food to and from the range is a good idea – your kitbag and rifle case stay in the range, your rucksack is too awkward and a suitcase way too big. A small messenger bag or bumbag would work well.
  • A netbook would be very, very useful. A good smartphone with a lot of storage would be okay too, but a netbook would make blog entries, facebooking (which you *will* wind up doing), skyping home and so on a lot easier.
  • Bring a sewing kit.
  • Bring headache pills. You can’t just buy asprin over the counter in the local petrol station shop it turns out. Hit the pharmacy after security in the airport on the way out.
  • Bring talc and/or foot powder.
  • Bring a few bandaids.
  • Check to see if you can get a data roaming plan for your phone that doesn’t include the phrase “first-born child” in the tariff.
  • You need an MP3 player and large, visible-to-everyone-else, over-the-ear headphones. In-ear earbuds will work for sound reproduction, but nothing says “Leave me alone” like the large visible headphones. Hell, even ear defenders would work…
  • Hydration. 2 litres of water per day as a bare minimum – the cold and the hotel air suck the moisture out of you. Also, remember to rehydrate aggressively on arrival – the plane’s air is even worse. Also, drink some fruit juice – you sweat more than pure H2O. Hit the local shop and buy large 2L bottles of water on the first evening.
  • Nutrition. You’re burning more calories than you think. Swipe fruit from the breakfast buffet, eat lots of carbs in the evening meal. The hotel’s breakfasts, alas, don’t really do hot food well.
  • Bring a pen, sideshow bob…
  • A small pair of binoculars or better yet, a small monocular would be useful for the observation deck.
  • The targets used by RIAC (and Intershoot) don’t show a timer in the screen and you can’t always see the range clock. Bring a watch to the firing point!
  • Hide your TV’s remote control. There aren’t any english channels and you need the sleep, but the eurosport coverage of biathlon season will be hypnotic…
  • If you forget to book lunch on the range the day before, ask on the day anyway; they usually keep a few extra servings just in case.
  • There’s not much in walking range of the official airport hotel (neither the IBIS nor the ETAP hotel, which are side-by-side and interconnected and seem to share a kitchen for breakfast and dinner); a large team ought to hire a car if possible. There are a few places though, enough to get by on. But you’ll end up eating hotel dinners for a few days…
  • …but the hotel actually does a decent hamburger. You just won’t get enough calories from the main meal to replenish what you burnt off during the day, especially if it’s cold.


RIAC 2011 Day Three

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
  • 0800 START!
  • 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.

Movement from 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 😀

Anyway… 😀

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…).

All alone on the line

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?

*That* moment


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.

Booya. 🙂

RIAC 2011, Day 3 (IBIS Cup)

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).

RIAC 2011 Day Two

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.
  • 1015, START!

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.

RIAC 2011, Day TwoSome 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…

Mouche 3D 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…

Media coverage of RIAC 2011


RIAC 2011 Day One

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.

Day 1

The printout from the system gives a better sense of what was happening though:

Day 1

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?

Firing line on the range
Firing line on the range
Observation deck over the firing lanes on the range
Observation deck over the firing lanes on the range
The view from the observation deck over the range
The view from the observation deck over the range
The admin area on the range
The admin area on the range

RIAC 2011

So there’s been a few bad matches in UCDRC (some truly awful, some just really bad), but training there outside of a match showed that whatever’s causing that was to do with the range itself; and the standard of shooting in WTSC has remained at the 97/98 average. So next tuesday, I get on the plane with Ray Kane and we go meet Peter Friend in Luxembourg to shoot in RIAC 2011, and in a rather unexpected twist, this won’t be as club shooters, but as the official Irish Team for the match, which will be the second time I’ve gone abroad on an Irish team and the first as a shooter.

RIAC 2011 Senior Rifle Participants List
RIAC 2011 Senior Rifle Participants List

Seeing your name up there like that – Woot!

RIAC range in 2010
RIAC range in 2010
Shooting in RIAC in 2010
Shooting in RIAC in 2010

The range looks nice and well-lit and clean, the target systems are all electronic, and though the field isn’t very wide, it’s going to be quite deep – I’m looking forward to watching James Huckle shoot in particular. And if I can keep my smartphone working during the trip, I should have a few nice photos for the blog during or after the match. Watch this space…