Back On Track

I knew I hadn’t written a blog post for a while, but checking my last published post I realised that I hadn’t noticed how long it had been. (It was on the 5th of July, now two months ago!)

Don’t get me wrong, I have wanted to write again, but I just haven’t been inspired. A huge slump recently in confidence severely affected my shooting, and though I had made significant progress at the beginning of the training year, my last few coaching sessions in the last six or so weeks just seemed to be producing a massive backwards step. I was more frustrated than excited, and this was reflected most obviously in the weekend just gone.

Training took place at Nuthampstead on Saturday, and I hoped that taking a week off work following a stressful few days would give me the focus and enthusiasm to attack coaching the way I wanted to. I was wrong. 

Whilst I had had a lovely week off, the nerves and lack of confidence caused constant second guessing – am I placing my feet the way I normally do? Have I given that bird enough lead? Is my hold point correct? Things I was learning not to question and trust my instinct to do. No matter what I did, what I remembered from previous sessions, I just could not put it together. Our final scored round that day, I think I put in a measly 12.

The real disappointment was knowing that I had already put my name down to shoot the registered Olympic Skeet the following day at the same ground. Given that the previous registered – my first – had gone disastrously wrong, and that my coaching session this Saturday had gone the same way, my optimism had quickly faded and I was genuinely considering backing out of the event. Why waste my fuel and a lay in to come to a shoot that I knew would go horribly wrong?!

After a pep talk from Jess – my training bestie – and a chat later with one of our coaches, I reluctantly decided to come back the following day. I needed to try again, take the bull by the horns, and to overcome my nervous disposition in scored rounds – every time I approach the stand, my heart starts to thump faster and I can hear the blood thudding through my ears until the end of the shoot – so that when I do start competing, I can control myself a bit more!

I woke up on Sunday trying hard not to think about going back to work the following day. Thankfully, I did not have to drive again – my husband offered to take me to the ground, which helped enormously in relaxing me. Driving does require a lot of concentration, which I needed to retain all of if I was to shoot better than the last time, so I was incredibly grateful.

As usual, the moment I approached stand 1, even being on peg 4, my heart started to pound. My husband had taught me some breathing techniques from when he used to do karate, so I began trying to slow my heart rate as the other three shooters took their three clays. By the time I stepped onto the concrete slab, I was back to ‘training heartrate’. I missed the single high bird, but hit the pair.

With my new breathing routine in play, taking a second’s break before stepping foot onto some of the stands, and taking more time to ensure that my gun was resting in the same position every time before calling for the bird (you have 30 seconds from stepping onto the stand in which to call for the clay, and while that sounds like it isn’t a particularly long time, it actually seems far longer when you shoot!), I started to relax a bit more into the routine. I noticed that, round by round, my heartrate was becoming slower without even trying, and that I wasn’t pressurising myself to do well – knowing, as I did, that it couldn’t possibly have been any worse than the registered on the 4th of June!

Imagine my elation when I set a personal record on the first round, 17/25, and the absolute jaw-dropping surprise when I bettered that again in the second round, to 18/25! Whilst I was trying not to get ahead of myself and set any goals that I would inevitably not reach, I decided that I would consider the day a success if I could shoot the two remaining rounds with a 15/25 each. So ending with 17, 18, 17 and 18 was far better than I was hoping for! A total of 70/100 was something I had never expected from the day, especially given how poorly I had shot the day before on the same layout but with better weather conditions!

On the drive home, I reflected on the success of the day and what it really meant for me. In five months, I’ve gone from never shooting gun down to putting in a fairly respectable almost-three-quarters-of-the-total score in just my second registered event in this discipline, with hours on the range in those five months probably totalling less than a full week. Whilst I was beating myself up week after week for not being consistent, losing the confidence I had once had in my shooting ability, I had actually managed to achieve something that, realistically, I never expected to do. I feel proud of myself, and am now looking forward more than ever to winter training and working on the things that will hopefully have me shooting scores in the 20s!

Photo credit to Charlotte Austwick.

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