Monday, April 21, 2014

Hormonal Hell & Other Things a Man Will Never Experience Out On The Shooting Range - My experience with Beyond the Basics and Competitive Pistol 1

Last weekend was a perfect storm for me.  I'm going through menopause early at forty-five and I haven't had my period since December of last year, so when I started menstruating the night before a full day of pistol classes, I was less than overjoyed. 

I have to wake up early for these classes since they're an hour away, there is a lot of gear to load in my vehicle and I need to arrive by 7:45am at the latest, and since I'm not a morning person I don't really look forward to my classes out at KR Training until after I'm on the firing line, gun loaded in holster, waiting to hear the beep to start shooting.

I knew things weren't going my way when I woke up Saturday morning and had already saturated the tampon I'd applied right before going to bed, so I added 2 tampons to my go-bag instead of my typical one.  I felt bloated and tender causing my lower-back to hurt, and my problem rib was dislocated both front and back again too so I was short-tempered before I even stepped out the door that morning, but I had signed up for these classes well in advance and didn't want to skip it due to something so trivial as my period or a chronic rib dislocation (it'd been in place for my earlier classes, so this was my first class with it out).  So I sucked it up, loaded up my gear and headed out to A-Zone range.  

I arrived early which was great because I didn't have to rush. Karl smiled when he saw me and said "There's a familiar face!"  That made me feel very welcome.  He also mentioned that next year I'd likely be ready to take the instructor courses so that was a vote of confidence I wasn't expecting either. Karl is a great teacher and an all around nice guy.  So are the rest of his staff.

The morning class was Beyond the Basics and a good portion of the class was review of things taught in Basic Pistol 2, but with a lot more background information about WHY we do things and HOW techniques evolved. Being much more of an intellectual than a jump-in-and-figure-it-out-as-I-go kind of person, this class was extremely helpful to me.  I wish I'd taken it much earlier in my curriculum at KRTraining.  

Before we even got out on the range, I already had to visit the bathroom due to bleed through and I was freaking out that I was wearing a white shirt and khaki duty pants instead of dark clothing.  Sure it was more compatible with the Texas sun standing out on that range all day but when I was bleeding like a stuck pig and had to navigate getting my pants down with a holstered gun without getting blood stains everywhere, especially my brand new Under Armour tactical duty pants, well let's just say I've never wished more that I was a dude instead of a PMSing chick in my entire life. And of course there was a line at the bathroom waiting behind me.  No pressure.  

Once out on the range, we went through drills again very similar to Basic Pistol 2, but there was more emphasis on technique and trigger management and reference to aspects specific to competition which was new material.  

One of the instructors actually noticed that my shoulders weren't even.  He said I hadn't been doing that before so I'm pretty sure it was due to the dislocated rib (the rib is out on my right side and my left shoulder was raised). I told him I had scoliosis and a bad back so he'd understand that I wasn't just jacking up my posture for shits and giggles.  He was really cool about it.  And I tried to stretch out my trap as best I could to get that shoulder down.

This was the warmest day I'd been out on the range, and I found that the heat made my palms really sweaty, making gripping my gun firmly a really challenge.  The longer I stood, the more my cramps increased, the more the blood flow increased, and by the end of the first session, I was really worried I was bleeding through but didn't want to leave the firing line early.

I've never put my speed belt through pant belt-loops, preferring to just cinch down the velcro tight against my everyday belt.  I've never had a problem with it.  But Saturday I was so bloating that I didn't cinch it down tight and Karl came up to me and said I had to fix my belt.  This was the first time in all my classes that he'd noticed I wasn't using a belt loop so it was obviously not tight enough and I'm sure my shirt wasn't staying tucked and at that point I really didn't friggin care any longer.  I was not in a good mood.  But I did what he told me to do and then had really bad problems getting my paddle holster and mag holders to stay put (they slid around) and going to the bathroom just became a comedy of errors.  I was not happy on so many levels. Obviously I am doing something wrong with my gun belt setup but I knew I didn't have the temperament to even ask for help that day.  Karl did try to help me as he brought it up again and I finally just told him I was having problems going to the bathroom so much because of my monthly and he just left me alone after that, bless his heart.  

Incidentally, when Karl told me I had to go fix my belt, I had just bent down to pick up my dropped magazines and my bra came unclasped. I'd apparently never worn a front closure bra to the range (and I never will again) and the movement trying to hold my belt in place and stoop over was enough to unhook it.   So I was standing there with my wrists to my chest to keep things from popping out in my fitted white shirt as the instructor was lecturing me about how my belt was not correct.  I'm sure I looked retarded with my arms up like that, but I didn't really have a choice. When he told me to go to Bay 2 and fix my belt I was thankful for that small miracle as it allowed me to fix my bra as well as my belt! If I'd had a sense of humor that day, it surely would have been one of much laughter, but alas I was not in the smiling mood. 

So now I'm standing there with sweaty palms so I can't get a good grip on my pistol, my back is killing me, my gut feels like it's been used as a punching bag, my belt isn't holding my holster in place, I'm worried I'm going to squeeze my arms together and make my bra pop open again and I'm freaking out that blood stains might be spreading in my nether regions for all behind the firing line to see. What happens next?  My electronic ear muffs start making these louder than hell long beeps repeatedly.  I figure my batteries must be getting low but the damn things keep beeping like 10 times, and I completely miss what the instructor has told us to do, did he say shoot at target A or target B first and then was it target 1 or target 2 after that, and how many shots go to which? So instead of focusing on "shot cadence" like I was supposed to be, I was just confused and distracted as my muffs continued to beep halfway through the exercise before completely going dead.  At that point I was just thankful they stopped blaring beeps in my ear, and the totally botched exercise over with, the damnable earmuffs!  

I had spare batteries and a screw driver in my range bag so I replaced the batteries right after class (and of course someone decided to start shooting again on the range while I was unprotected, perfect).  Then I ran to the bathroom for more menstrual triage and none too soon (luckily no stains in my pants thought).  Finally I had time to eat lunch and regroup.  But at this point I had used all my tampons and I had another full class to get through and my cramps were so bad they rivaled those of my early teenage years when I had to miss school they were so bad.  I was in pain and Advil wasn't touching it.

The second class was Competition Pistol 1 and we learned about the differences and requirements for USPSA, IDPA, Steel and other competitions. It was very informative and helped prepare me for what to expect if and when I decide to compete.  Since I just purchased (thank you, Jason!) a 5" barrel Walther PPQ, I figure it's in my not so distant future. 

The range work we did included: 5 steel targets in the Steel Challenge stage, 6 6-inch steel targets on a resetting plate rack, and two separated shoot house stages (one set to IDPA and the other to USPSA).  

Unfortunately, my performance on the range was the most inconsistent it's ever been.  One minute nailing everything perfectly and the next missing multiple targets multiple times.  It was the most frustrated I've been by far on the range.  So much was going wrong, that there were too many variables to troubleshoot and I finally just lowered my expectation to getting through the class without leaving prematurely (if my pants didn't bleed through that was) and without losing my temper.  

There was a sweet, sweet female student that ran to her car and gave me a spare tampon when I shared my women-woes with her so I was able to run to the bathroom midway through the second class for my final menstrual machinations at the range.  Thus I did make it through the class, and learned that I definitely prefer the USPSA and Steel style competitions to the IDPA style competitions which are much more restricted and scripted. The more open format without limiting the rounds in my magazines felt more fun and creative problem solving to me.

When I got in my car, it was the first time that I didn't call Jason excited to tell him how it went.  I just took the hour to decompress and chill and eat a Big Mac (you know I'm having a bad day when I stop and get a Big Mac). When I got home, I ditched the range duds, climbed into bed and I didn't get up until the following morning. Man, that sure didn't go the way I'd wanted it to.  

Out of all of it, I learned that I need to do more consistent dry fire practice. And I am in serious need of learning proper trigger management.  Tom Hogel, on of the instructors, has been trying to help me work on this, but I am really starting to feel like I'm retarded when it comes to how I'm supposed to press the trigger. It's clear to me that I'm yanking the hell out of the trigger and that I'm not holding a tight enough grip on my pistol grip, because Tom has stopped and told me so.  I very much appreciate that he's taking the time to stop and tell me what I'm doing wrong, but I don't feel like I'm actually understanding how to do it right.  

I'd started out doing dry fire practice daily after my first class with Karl but it changed after the conference mostly because my guns were dirty and I didn't feel like cleaning them and if I took them out to dry fire I'd feel obligated to sit down and clean them because I bought that expensive Sure Strike laser for dry firing and I couldn't very well insert it into a dirty gun.  So I avoided it.  I'm positive that my lack of consistent dry fire practice had a great deal to do with my inconsistency at the range on Saturday. While I'm sure that my hormones and my back/rib problems played a secondary role too, I know I'd have done better even with everything else, if I'd been practicing dry firing regularly.  On the other hand, if I don't know what I'm doing wrong with my trigger press, then dry firing incorrectly could cement the things I'm doing wrong and do more damage than good.  I'm really not sure where to go from here.

I don't have any classes scheduled with KR Training.  I have a Defensive Carbine class scheduled at in May. And that's it. It's probably a good thing though considering I didn't find last Saturday very much fun.  I'll wait until I'm no longer in the PMS parade, and see how I feel about just going to Reds and shooting a couple hundred rounds using the practice drills that Karl taught (well I can't draw from holster, but I'll be able to work on trigger management for sure).  

Jason also bought me a SERT gun this weekend, so I'll be able to practice still even when my gun is dirty from now on.  This man is truly a gem.  I am so very luck to have such a supportive spouse.  

I feel like I'm getting worse instead of better now and that pisses me off more than a little.  So hopefully I can turn that around quickly.  I hope so. Because if it stops being fun I'll stop doing it and I really did love doing this stuff until last Saturday.       

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