Leadville 2013 race report

Just attempt­ed the Leadville 100. It’s 100 miles all above 9,000′, climbs to 12,500 at the high­est. It’s got sin­gle track, dirt roads, and paved high­way. I got to mile 75 and missed the time cut­off so was pulled from the race, but at that point I was hap­py; I was in a fair amount of pain and hypother­mic. It’s the first time I’ve been in that much pain or been that cold since I was 18, and while it was a fail­ure from a fin­ish­ing stand­point I’m OK with it. I gave it my best (I usu­al­ly quit long before that) and that day my best was­n’t good enough.
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Laying out the Leadville Plan

I’ve been cast­ing about for a goal for the last year or so, some­thing phys­i­cal, some­thing hard, some­thing worth doing for the expe­ri­ence of doing it.  It began to coa­lesce in Novem­ber as some kind of long dis­tance run­ning race, gained clar­i­ty on a Rim-Riv­er-Rim push at the Grand Canyon in mid-Decem­ber, and was final­ly nailed down when I decid­ed to run the Leadville 100 this August.
Con­tin­ue read­ing

Attempt at greatness

Run­ning hard up a steep hill, no shirt on, sweat and sali­va fly off an unkempt beard, breath hard and ragged and heavy. We pass a blind man going up, his stick held in front of him as he slow­ly climbs. The free­way roars to our right, imper­ma­nent hous­es stand silent to our left. We climb past well-kept gar­dens and aim for a gleam­ing work truck with wheels cramped to the curb, a white met­al cloud of guid­ance. It falls away off our right shoul­der.

The road curves, the final stretch in sight. We press hard­er, dri­ving our soles into the con­crete, run­ning out of oxy­gen, run­ning up our phys­i­cal debt, promis­ing lat­er pay­ment if only we can please keep going, des­per­ate to quit, unable to stop. The fin­ish is ahead and the top flat­tens out invit­ing us to slow and rest. The ease is a trap for the weak, for the unpre­pared, the unwill­ing. We charge past. Forc­ing our legs to move, we ignore our acid mus­cles, we dri­ve with our minds our­selves on to the end.

Pant­i­ng, we fin­ish. Hands in the air, gut mus­cles clench­ing with begin­ning dry heaves, lungs throb­bing, throat raw, we wan­der in small cir­cles at the top. The man­i­cured grass, the clean pick­et fence, the cracked con­crete road all pass in dizzy­ing order. We turn and walk down. Three more attempts at great­ness call us.

Camel trek

Ok, back from a 2 night 3 day trek into the deserts of Egypt. This odyssey began on the car ride to Adel’s house from the air­port, when he asked me what I’d like to do and I told him “camel trek”. Hav­ing worked with camels a very lit­tle time in the US I did­n’t have much expe­ri­ence to go on, but from what I did have I was stoked to go.

The first day we start­ed mov­ing around noon, tak­ing a mini-bus (the pre­ferred method of trav­el in Cairo for locals, these mini-bus­es run up and down the main drags with slid­ing doors open. You clam­ber in, pass your fare through the oth­er pas­sen­gers up to the dri­ver, wit­ness a few Arab-style yelling match­es dur­ing your voy­age as var­i­ous par­ties dis­agree with each oth­er, and pop off wher­ev­er you’d like) to Adel’s friend Mous­sad, who owns 2 camels and a don­key.

Mous­sad had the ani­mals ready to go, so I hopped on and rode it up about 8 feet. The first day Mous­sad kept my camel tied to the back of his; they weren’t sure how expe­ri­enced of a rid­er I was and it end­ed up being a good intro to rid­ing.

There are three seat­ed posi­tions for rid­ing. First was strad­dling the camel, as on a horse. Sec­ond was the usu­al Egypt­ian style of rid­ing, where you cross your legs at the ankle in front of the horn of the sad­dle and rest your feet on the camel’s neck. A wel­come relief from the strad­dle method. Third, once on open/flat ground, was to sit side sad­dle, an enjoy­able way to trav­el as you talked with anoth­er rid­er.

This first day I found the ride to be jerky and lurch­ing, but by day three I had begun to feel the rhythm and set­tle in to the gen­tly sway­ing glo­ry of the “ship of the desert”.

By the time we had walked through a war­ren of dirt roads and back alleys and past the pyra­mids it was already 4 o’clock, so we rode about anoth­er hour into the desert through what looked like a huge sand­box where bull­doz­ers and earth mov­ing equip­ment come to gath­er the major­i­ty of Cairo’s build­ing mate­r­i­al before we stopped and set up camp in a wind­break.

The camels were cushed (down posi­tion) and tied to a sad­dle, then A&M pulled off the sad­dles and laid out the camel blan­kets mak­ing them into the floor of an open air liv­ing space. The first order of busi­ness when mak­ing camp is to feed the camels, then to start a fire and make tea. Tea is a spar­tan and delib­er­ate affair con­sist­ing of mix­ing, heat­ing, tast­ing, adding sug­ar and then del­i­cate­ly pour­ing out a hot, strong, and very sweet tea into large shot glass­es. Deli­cious.

They had hon­ored me with a huge stack of very thin burg­ers for the first din­ner, brought out under the (cor­rect) assump­tion that I would enjoy them. They cooked these over an open fire (wood was also car­ried in) and along with an incred­i­bly stinky salty cheese (at first smell I thought, “Fuck it, I ain’t gonna like it but I am going to eat it”, end­ed up being well suit­ed to the occa­sion) and a mix­ture of chopped toma­toes, cucum­bers, and spicy pep­pers all eat­en with pieces of fresh pita bread we feast­ed under the stars.

By 6:30 the sun had set, din­ner was over and I had a good han­dle on how the tea cer­e­mo­ny was run (slow, hot, and with­out end), so with the temp drop­ping and after a envi­ous eye to Adel’s thick abaya (a tight­ly knit and well craft­ed heavy wool robe) I made for the sleep­ing bags. I was the first to go bed, and as I drift­ed off to sleep under the stars did not real­ize that I would be the only one to sleep that night. Through their own cul­ture and sen­si­bil­i­ty, they believed that 4 eyes were need­ed to stand a watch, and they were damned if they’d wake me up. So they did­n’t go to sleep.

Upon ris­ing in the morn­ing I saw both of them by the fire and asked how the slept. They said they did­n’t. I asked why not. Adel said, “We did­n’t come here to sleep.” Was­n’t sure what to make of that, but it sound­ed pret­ty tough. Hav­ing gone with­out sleep before in my life due to var­i­ous com­mit­ments, I ful­ly appre­ci­ate the val­ue of a good night’s rest, but if they had made it to 37 and 48 years old and had decid­ed to hold with a dif­fer­ent phi­los­o­phy then my own I was hap­py to let them.

Adel is a devout Mus­lim, and prayed the req­ui­site 5 times a day. I hazi­ly recall his first prayer at 0430, the phrase “Allah hu Akb­har” being repeat­ed over and over brought me out of a light sleep. Expe­ri­enc­ing this devo­tion is impres­sive. As a non-believ­er, how­ev­er, I’m just as glad I haven’t ded­i­cat­ed my life to the Mus­lim method.

After I awoke and had the “no-sleep” talk with the two of them, Adel decid­ed that he would sleep after all, and laid down for an hour. I was hun­gry as I walked bleari­ly eyed over to the still burn­ing fire and Mous­sad. I knew we would­n’t eat until after Adel had wok­en up, so I was hap­pi­ly sur­prised when Mous­sad rum­maged through one of the many bags they brought and came up with a plas­tic sack full of what looked like small red chili pep­pers but were actu­al­ly dates. He pro­ceed­ed to roast them on the coals, and they made an agree­able appe­tiz­er for the break­fast which fol­lowed.

Once Adel woke up he made prepa­ra­tions for break­fast, which was a small wheel of pre-wrapped in tin-foil wedges of cheese, hon­ey in a shal­low bowl, a deli­cious con­coc­tion called Halavah (can be bought in the States under the name Hal­vah) and pit­ta bread to scoop it all up in, all fin­ished up with 3 cups of tea. The first cup is sweet yet still car­ries the heavy astrin­gent qual­i­ty of the “dust” tea they make. The sec­ond cup is sweet­er still, and the third cup, mixed with mint, is a superb fin­ish to this ancient desert cer­e­mo­ny.

The trash from our trav­els so far was thrown about the camp at ran­dom. Incom­pre­hen­si­ble to me but seemed to be SOP for them. Indeed, all of Egypt (and the Mid­dle East that I’ve seen) is blan­ket­ed to a more or less degree with the detri­tus of the mod­ern age; plas­tic bot­tles, tin foil, old san­dals, and any­thing no longer use­ful. When I made an attempt to pick up some lit­ter they went along with it, putting it all into a small garbage bag which Adel then care­ful­ly car­ried to the oth­er side of the wind­break and deposit­ed on the side of the path. Rather than do the eco­log­i­cal­ly appro­pri­ate thing and insist on them con­form­ing to my ways, I fig­ured, fuck it, it’s their coun­try and if they want to trash it they can. This is the prob­lem of the mod­ern and pam­pered trav­el­er like myself; do we impose upon oth­er cul­tures what we “know” to be right, or do we allow them to make a mess of their own prop­er­ty and trust that in time they will come to the same con­clu­sions we have? Is it even appro­pri­ate to think that a civ­i­liza­tion old­er than ours (Amer­i­ca being only a few hun­dred years old and the Mus­lim world hav­ing uni­ver­si­ties dat­ing back 1,200 years) knows less than we do?

With the food and drink set­tled until din­ner (they only eat twice a day), we packed, sad­dled the camels and were off. The sec­ond day they decid­ed to let me ride free rein, which increased both my par­tic­i­pa­tion and enjoy­ment tremen­dous­ly. We walked in that slow and lan­guorous mile-eat­ing way camels have through the rest of the rough sand­box we had stopped in the night before, skirt­ed the Cairo dump (a har­bin­ger of the jour­ney ahead) and spilled out onto a wide plain with a view of the ancient bur­ial ground of Saqar­rah and the famous Step pyra­mid in the dis­tance. This day we would cov­er about 30 miles, and aside from a small sad­dle sore I would be none the worse for it.

This was the best part of the trip; wide open desert, great long views and few signs of civ­i­liza­tion around. There were the pow­er lines far off to the West that car­ry ener­gy from Aswan dam up to Cairo, and the fringe of civ­i­liza­tion that exists on the edge of the Nile to the east, but oth­er than that we were out of touch with the mod­ern world. All that would change on the return jour­ney, but for now I was total­ly hap­py with being in the desert with Bedouin and camels, car­ry­ing every­thing we need­ed with us. It was glo­ri­ous.

After about 3 hours of rid­ing south we turned back to the north and began to re-trace our steps. With only a few days to be in the desert due to my fre­quent­ly chang­ing work sched­ule they had decid­ed on an out-and-back trek. We re-entered the rough sand-hill area and began weav­ing our way through small wadis and roads that criss-crossed the whole area, evi­dence of human activ­i­ty in the recent past. Incom­pre­hen­si­bly to me, the two men decid­ed that a view of the pyra­mids from a dif­fer­ent angle was worth a trip through (NOT on the out­skirts off) the Cairo dump. It start­ed off inno­cent­ly enough, and in real­i­ty I think they just took a wrong turn and did­n’t want to admit it, but we began to wend our way around a huge canyon sys­tem toward the heaped up and steam­ing piles of refuse that mark civ­i­liza­tions every­where.

Grad­u­al­ly the piles of trash became big­ger and big­ger, the stench stronger, and the sounds of large equip­ment grew from dis­tant groans and sirens to the close up high pitched beep­ing and deep growl­ing of huge chunks of machin­ery as they plowed their way through, around, and on the trash of a city. Hav­ing not eat­en since morn­ing and hav­ing been in the sad­dle for 5 hours by the time we start­ed at the dump I was not in the best of moods, and the change from tran­quil and clean desert to the fuck­ing dump began to arouse in me a right­eous anger. I had to remind myself that, A: maybe we were lost and they just did­n’t want to admit it, which I could under­stand, B: I should have had more to do with plan­ning, and C: This was, if I stepped back and looked at it, pret­ty god­damned fun­ny. In any event I got much bet­ter at direct­ing a camel through uneven ter­rain.

We picked our way through the dump emerg­ing after a full hour to a view of the pyra­mids from the east, a fact tri­umphant­ly expressed to me by a beam­ing Adel. I let him know in the most cour­te­ous of ways that I would rather not ride through a dump again, even to be graced with the most glo­ri­ous of views, which this side of the pyra­mids were def­i­nite­ly not. Due to the nature of their con­struc­tion, pyra­mids look remark­ably sim­i­lar from every side. He apol­o­gized, first blam­ing it on him­self think­ing I would enjoy it, and lat­er on that day blam­ing it on Mous­sad’s opin­ion that I must see the pyra­mids from every angle.

While only a lit­tle over an hour long, this detour changed the dynam­ic of the trip enough that I decid­ed that fur­ther camel (or any treks) with Adel would be dis­cussed in much greater detail pri­or to depar­ture. It was some­thing I should have known and planned for and did­n’t, so I could real­ly only be upset with myself.

After break­ing free of the foul stench and sight of the dump we emerged again into sandy hills, and climbed up them in search of a camp­site for the night. Along the way we picked up bits of dis­card­ed wood for the night’s fire, hav­ing used up all we had car­ried in the night before.

As Mous­sad led us from poten­tial camp­site to poten­tial camp­site I deter­mined to take a more active role in the expe­di­tion, and indi­cat­ed that one wind­break was much the same as anoth­er after 7 hours in the sad­dle, so we set­tled down in one that hid civ­i­liza­tion and the pyra­mids from our view and made camp again, fol­low­ing the same pro­ce­dures as before.

The dif­fer­ence came after night fell. Mous­sad had decid­ed to take a two hour nap, and it was in the mid­dle of this that two youths approached the camp out of the dark­ness. One had his face hid­den with a black cloth, and as soon as Adel dis­cerned they were com­ing to us he woke Mous­sad. Adel walked toward young men with the usu­al greet­ing of Salaam wah Aleikum, which was returned in kind. Hands were shak­en all around with that pecu­liar limp grip com­mon to the Mid­dle East, and the four talked for a minute, with voic­es grad­u­al­ly grow­ing loud­er. This being a com­mon occur­rence in Egypt I took no notice of it, but stayed behind Adel & Mous­sad ready to jump in and lend a hand in whip­ping the shit out of these two punks, as it became quick­ly appar­ent that they had noth­ing pos­i­tive to offer our expe­ri­ence. This clar­i­fi­ca­tion occurred when Adel asked the one whose face was cov­ered to uncov­er so we could look upon him, and the youth declined to be iden­ti­fied. With a quick hand, Adel reached up to grab away the cov­er­ing, but the young man held it up. After a brief strug­gle Adel ripped the obscure­ment away and looked upon the now lit face. Soon after this, both men dis­ap­peared back into the night, and Adel proud­ly let me know they were bad men and he had sent them away.

I stayed awake long enough to par­tic­i­pate in the first of what I assumed to be many night tea cer­e­monies, and then, after offer­ing my ser­vices as a watch­men and being round­ly denied, again went off to bed to leave the two of them to stay up as long as they want­ed. As before, nei­ther of them slept until the next morn­ing when I woke up.

The mon­strous wail­ing that is the sign of the call to prayer arose from the dis­tant city, seem­ing to sig­ni­fy the awak­en­ing of the hordes. This is per­haps an over state­ment, but to one unac­cus­tomed to an entire cul­ture loud­ly pro­claim­ing their faith at the same time it had all the sound of an impend­ing bat­tle. I stayed in bed through Adel’s morn­ing prayers, then we fol­lowed the same pro­ce­dure of break­fast, tea, and sad­dling the camels for our return to the city.

As we rode back I saw in the expe­ri­ence how my time in the sad­dle had increased my rid­ing skill, and felt com­fort­able as we walked back through the dirt roads and alleys that before I had been led through, end­ing up at Mous­sad’s door. Unsad­dling and feed­ing the camels took all of half and hour, then Adel and I caught a tuk-tuk (3 wheeled cov­ered scoot­er) back to his house, and I head­ed to my quar­ters for a show­er and recon­nec­tion with the elec­tron­ic world.

Sri Lanka

Got in yes­ter­day from an overnight trip up to the hill coun­try of Sri Lan­ka, an inter­est­ing and edu­ca­tion­al expe­ri­ence as well as being almost com­plete­ly enjoy­able.

23Jan. Kandy, Sri Lan­ka
Dogs howl­ing at mid­night woke me, the expe­ri­ence of regain­ing con­scious­ness under the gen­tle haze of a mos­qui­to net was both pleas­ant and new. A small break­fast of eggs & tea and I was off for the day with Shaun, my guide for the day. We planned to do a 3 tem­ple trek in the morn­ing, then lunch, then a vis­it to Pin­newala ele­phant sanc­tu­ary fol­lowed by a train ride home. Although Shaun was a young dude and “hik­ing guide”, he did­n’t seem to be in shape, and appear­ances were not deceiv­ing: instead of the 3 planned tem­ples we only man­aged 2.

We drove to the first tem­ple via tuk tuk (3 wheeled scoot­er), get­ting off for a look ’round and tak­ing the first of what could have been inter­minable lec­tures on Bud­dhist tem­ples & their gods, which are all mixed up with the Hin­du gods. Oh well, nice to see the reli­gions get­ting along. Shaun’s Eng­lish was weak, so there was­n’t much for con­ver­sa­tion. Hiked from that first tem­ple through a bit of jun­gle, where S point­ed out cacao, cinam­mon, bread­fruit, jack­fruit, clove, black pep­per, tea, “long bean”, man­gos­teen, papaya, duri­an, avo­ca­do, gua­va, and coconut trees! Sri Lan­ka has a wealth of spices and fruits grow­ing wild through­out.

We broke out into the open and wend­ed our way along the dikes on the sides of extra­or­di­nar­i­ly green rice pad­dies for 40 min­utes or so on our way to tem­ple num­ber 2, our final tem­ple for the day. Lots of birds, appar­ent­ly this is a bird watch­ing par­adise. Along the way we stopped for a drink of coconut water, fresh­ly served in a cut-to-order coconut at a tiny road­side stand.

We hiked up into a tea plan­ta­tion, tea being grown on the hills and rice in the flat bot­tom land. Up in the heights you can see the rugged­ness of this place and under­stand why the king­dom of Kandy was the last of the island’s king­doms to fall to Euro­pean pow­ers (the British in 1815.) Shaun propo­si­tioned me for a lit­tle bang-bang on the hill­side after admir­ing the size of my cock as I was tak­ing a piss break. Flat­ter­ing, but I polite­ly declined.

Arrived at the sec­ond tem­ple at the top of a long flight of stairs carved out of rock. Carved into the stone grounds of these tem­ples are the prove­nance & patrons of each build­ing and con­struc­tion. After 6–700 years it becomes fair­ly weath­ered, but still inter­est­ing to look at.

By this time we had appar­ent­ly run out of morn­ing, for it was into the tuk-tuk and off to lunch at a fair­ly manky road­side stand. Rice, cur­ry, dhal, and pota­toes all gen­tly rest­ing under the assault of flies fee­bly fend­ed off with bare­ly fit­ting lids and fold­ed up news­pa­per graced my plate. Spicy and luke­warm, it filled my gut.

From there we drove to the Pin­newala Ele­phant Orphan­age, where around 100 ele­phants are cared for and dis­played to the pub­lic. Shaun had not been there before, so was not sure of where the entrance was or real­ly the best ways to enjoy the place. Aside from point­ing out many of the plants along the way, and know­ing how to get from one tem­ple to anoth­er, he was not much of a guide, real­ly. First we went to a milk feed­ing of two babies, a crowd­ed and unin­spir­ing affair (jos­tled by impa­tient Indi­ans to watch ele­phant calves suck down huge bot­tles of milk in less than 10 sec­onds, which some tourists paid for the priv­i­lege to have their hands on the bot­tle whilst the han­dlers actu­al­ly held it. Anoth­er exam­ple of the tourist indus­try’s pas­time of pro­vid­ing the least ser­vice for the most mon­ey), and then things took a turn for the bet­ter.

Hik­ing up small rise we came upon the herd sep­a­rat­ed from us by only a thin line of scat­tered boul­ders imi­tat­ing a fence. As we tourists stood gawk­ing on one side the ele­phant han­dlers would come up and with a flick­ing ges­ture of their wrist indi­cate we should cross the line and come have our pic­ture tak­en with the ele­phants, fol­lowed by the inevitable request for a tip. Real­ly cool to be so close to the great beasts. Makes me want to work with them for a while, maybe at a sanc­tu­ary some­where?

From there I ambled over to a huge tusked bull, again tak­ing a pho­to while stand­ing next to him, tip­ping the han­dler after my 10 sec­onds of “glo­ry.”

Know­ing from the guide­books that the herd would be led down to the riv­er across the street, we hur­ried down to get the last seat with a good view, and from there, with a cold beer, I enjoyed an excel­lent scene of about 50 ele­phants trot­ting down into the water and then just enjoy­ing them­selves. The babies in par­tic­u­lar offered many moments of gen­tle amuse­ment as they ram­bunc­tious­ly played, hold­ing each oth­er under­wa­ter, bump­ing heads, play-mount­ing, and gen­er­al­ly enjoy­ing their child­hood as kids do any­where.

What I had thought would be a 45 minute dri­ve to the train sta­tion turned out to be around 5, so I was left with an extra hour and half before the train for Colom­bo arrived, in which time I man­aged to have a short reli­gious con­vo with an Islam­ic fel­low and took a pic­ture of my “bench com­pan­ions.” Near­ly a 3 hour train ride lat­er in the 3rd class and I was back in Colom­bo just as dark set in.

An enjoy­able 2 days, much bet­ter than if I had stayed in the hotel, and I learned a ton about what not to do and how to get around eas­i­ly and very cheap­ly in Sri Lan­ka. Use­ful for when L** & I return.

The Big Four

I wrote this up for a shoot­ing forum, all of it applies beyond work on the range. These tech­niques are used by top tier per­form­ers around the world. In fact, every sin­gle pro­fes­sion­al per­former uses all of these. They may call them dif­fer­ent names but “the big 4” (Visu­al­iza­tion, Self Talk, Goal Set­ting, Arousal Con­trol) are unavoid­able if you want to become the best. For the rest of us mor­tals, they help us become a whole lot bet­ter and they’re free.

Visu­al­iza­tion: Lots of research has been done on this, basi­cal­ly your body does­n’t know the dif­fer­ence between what you visu­al­ize and what you do. Whether or not you have time for the range you almost always have time to visu­al­ize. The more aspects you can include the bet­ter. What it looks like, (your point of view, what you look like from anoth­er’s point of view), what it feels like from grip to stance, what it sounds like with ears on, what it smells like (smell is a direct con­nec­tion to your lizard brain) and even what it tastes like will all build your train­ing envi­ron­ment and allow you to prac­tice the per­fect shot or run.

Self Talk: Pros talk to them­selves, from Tiger Woods to elite mil­i­tary shoot­ers. What they say focus­es on the pos­i­tive (nice shot, keep going, hands steady, eyes clear) and NOT what they’re miss­ing (darn it, missed that one, oh well, need to speed up etc). The more “I can do this” and “I’ve got this” you use the more it’ll become true for you. It’s not mag­ic, it just makes the hard work you put in that much more effec­tive.

Goal Set­ting: From very short term (hit this next shot) to very long term (Grand Mas­ter in 5 years) you MUST have goals if you’re going to make mea­sur­able pro­gres­sion. If you’re seri­ous you’ll write them out enough times that they become burned into your brain.

Arousal Con­trol: This is what takes a bi-ath­letes heart rate from rockin’ and rollin’ down to shoot­ing between heart­beats. Com­plete­ly in the head. You can improve this with aware­ness, which must be con­stant­ly prac­ticed. Read Enos. For wazoo out there tech­niques check out John Alexan­der and The War­rior’s Edge. No longer in print that I’m aware of, usu­al­ly you have to wait on Ama­zon for a used one to show up. One tech­nique that is super effec­tive is some­times called 4–4‑4: take 4 sec­onds to inhale, 4 sec­onds to exhale, and do that for 4 min­utes (or as short/long as you have.) It encour­ages the brain to calm down and sim­u­late relax­ation pat­terns. Good to do if you have a time where you know you usu­al­ly “freak out.” Like before you shoot a match.

These are the basics. Tons of books have been writ­ten about this, if any of you would like to work on your men­tal game post up what you’ve got and we’ll make it help­ful to the whole forum. Used to teach this stuff to fired up young dudes, am hap­py to use that expe­ri­ence to help you.

****, lots of folks start off super relaxed and then they fire that first shot and events spi­ral out of con­trol, or at least beyond your con­scious aware­ness, and that’s the issue. Aware­ness of your men­tal state is crit­i­cal to con­trol­ling what you’re doing, whether you’re shoot­ing or talk­ing to your spouse or run­ning a hard race. You’re head­ing in the right direc­tion with more prac­tice and expe­ri­ence. When you do prac­tice, prac­tice aware­ness.

One thing you can do is try using “dots”. You can buy a sheet of lit­tle dot stick­ers of what­ev­er col­or catch­es your atten­tion at Office­Max or OfficeDe­pot etc. Paste those around the house (above sink, in bath­room, by the bed, at the front door) and wher­ev­er else you spend lots of time (steer­ing wheel, desk at work etc.)

Every time you see that dot, just pay atten­tion to what you’re think­ing, to your aware­ness. This is prac­tice, and it’s not restrict­ed to the range. When you do this you’re build­ing a habit of aware­ness that will have impli­ca­tions well beyond your shoot­ing game.

Now, when you’re at the range you can run a few drills of aware­ness, shoot­ing as fast as you can for a mag to amp you up and then doing a SUPER SLOW mag change and bring­ing your aware­ness back. You can also col­or a dot onto your hands where you can see it when you bring your gun up to bear, just some­thing to remind you to stay aware.

I’d wish you good luck, but I tend to believe that folks who work hard get the luck­i­est, so good work!

****, these tech­niques are com­mon­ly used by top tier For­mu­la One rac­ers. It’s fun­ny, you’d be hard pressed to find top com­peti­tors or per­form­ers any­where in any dis­ci­pline who don’t use the big four or some vari­ant of them. They work so well and are so nat­ur­al in the evo­lu­tion of high lev­el activ­i­ty that once you know what they are and look for them you’ll find them *every­where.*

I used to race (run­ning) and would specif­i­cal­ly use goal set­ting to plan out how to run. I broke the race up into 4 quar­ters and called them horse, boat, heart, and home. The horse, or first quar­ter, I viewed as if I was a jock­ey and rid­ing a super pow­er­ful horse, one that I’d have to pull back on the reins a bit in the begin­ning so I did­n’t blow it out. It was a reminder to me to pull back on my pace a lit­tle, because almost every pace feels good in the first quar­ter, even the one that will mur­der you. The more expe­ri­enced you get as a run­ner the more you real­ize that no one wins a race in the first quar­ter, but lots of peo­ple will run that as if it’s the most impor­tant one.

The boat quar­ter I thought about the way you dri­ve a boat, espe­cial­ly one with a slip­ping throt­tle; you know, you can put it at full speed but espe­cial­ly in any­thing oth­er than glassy con­di­tions it’ll slip back down a few notch­es if you’re not con­stant­ly and firm­ly tap­ping that throt­tle for­ward. That idea remind­ed me to keep check­ing my speed as I ran, to main­tain the sol­id pace I’d set in the first quar­ter.

The heart, or third, quar­ter was always my favorite. I saw a mil­i­tary recruit­ing video once where they showed a bunch of guys run­ning on a beach, obvi­ous­ly a hot day and a hell of a run. As they went along you could see the pain and sweat and strug­gle in each of them, and the nar­ra­tor read out a line I’ll nev­er for­get: “There’s noth­ing quite like run­ning to make a man reach deep down inside him­self and see what he’s made of.” That’s what the heart quar­ter was for me, the time to reach down deep and hold the pace I’d already set. For me, the third quar­ter is where a race is won. It’s where every­body wants to give up, it’s usu­al­ly in a place where the fans don’t go so nobody’s watch­ing you, and rac­ers are far enough away from the fin­ish line that they fig­ure “a lit­tle rest from the pace” is OK. It’s not, not if you want to win, and if you want to win you’ve got to set goals.

The fourth quar­ter is where they make movies, it’s the one where you’re run­ning home. While phys­i­cal­ly it’s the hard­est quar­ter because you’ve already expend­ed so much effort, men­tal­ly it can be the eas­i­est; you’re close to the fin­ish, you usu­al­ly start to hear the roar of the crowd, and you know that even if you charge and blow your­self out you’ll be done soon.

Those four quar­ters are super help­ful in phys­i­cal­ly demand­ing races, and it’s a good con­cept to think about and use when you’re shoot­ing your var­i­ous stages. Is there any­thing like it that you use?