Looking back, I think I could've at least partially predicted my 2008 season. Coming out of a pretty good 2007 season, I achieved a life long goal... making Grand Master in USPSA's Open division. It was the culmination of a lot of investment (hard work, money, mental energy, you name it). Achieving that goal comes pretty easily to some folks, less easily to others. My improvement was gradual, but actually hitting that milestone felt pretty big to me. And... I didn't have a strong sense of what came next. I knew that put me in a position to be a little stagnant - I was OK with that, and gave myself permission to simply enjoy the achievement, without too much pressure to go beat the world in the next season.

So, I went out into the 2008 season with a goal to attend more major matches, and to really learn what it was going to take for me to win at the upper levels of this sport. The lessons - some big, some subtle - were many. I had a few failures along the way, but countered with a few successes. The matches - and the season as a whole - were something of a roller coaster. So... here are some thoughts, and a little video to go with it.

The first major match of the season was the Florida Open. Any way you slice it up, this was not an easy match. I got off to a slow start, and then had two big errors on the 2nd and 3rd stages I thought. I also ended up with misses on a couple of other stages. This is mostly lack of mental preparation, in the end.

Next up was the Double Tap Championship. This is always a fun match. I was recovering from a back injury I sustained early in the month while doing a workout (which was a stupid stupid thing, completely a result of lack of experience on my part, and an ego that was about three sizes too large). That didn't affect my ability to shoot, but was a distraction I didn't need. Another set of choppy performances, with hesitations due to lack of mental preparation. The Double Tap is a high speed drag race of a match, that punishes hesitations and rough performances mercilessly. I also took an up close shot for granted on the dark house, and had a miss as my reward. That cost me a stage win... Lots of extra shots, too. I also had a high primer in the match that cost a couple of seconds. This proved to be a theme...

Area 6 was a return to my old home range, at South River Gun Club near Atlanta, GA. Wow, how that range had changed. Wild stuff. I made a couple of errors due to rushing, and not being patient on the sights, but I had better mental preparation than the previous matches. I had another high primer. And I made a downright HUGE rookie move with a holster lock. This actually prompted me to consider changing holsters. Quite a number of extra shots, too.

I had a bit of turning point at Area 1, in Portland, OR. I picked up my first ever stages wins at a major match - and on two of the more difficult stages in the match. That was huge. There were some big names at the match, including a past world champion (Matt McLearn). I had some shooting errors - mistakes due to rushing. I also managed to about throw myself out of stage 1. That was totally the result of doing CrossFit, and not expecting exactly how strongly I'd be able to get out of the low middle position! Cool stuff, but you'd like to learn those things outside of the big matches...

After a short time off, we hit September, and the USPSA Open Nationals. Absolutely miserable. Without a doubt, one of the worst matches of my life. I was squadded in the morning of the first day. What was supposed to be a 4-5 hour, 6 stage rotation ended up taking us 8 hours... in the pouring rain, with bags on the targets the whole time. This is not an easy way to shoot. I made a large number of errors on the first day, and that took me out of the match. However... there was a huge bright spot. In the middle of all that misery, I was able to keep my head together, and stay focused on the present. There was a huge opportunity there to focus on the negative, and get upset about things I couldn't control. Instead, I focused on the the next stage, and enjoyed the company of my (also miserable) squad mates. We made the best of it, and still managed to have a good time.

One of my squad mates, David Ball, was kind enough to film the match for me. I then promptly erased it by accident at Area 2. D'oh!. Anyway, here, for the first time, is the only footage I have of that match...

By the way, in the official Front Sight coverage of the match, author Roger Maier writes "While the rain had cleared off, restoring sunny conditions by the time the first shots were fired, ..." I don't know what match Roger was at, but he clearly wasn't in Tulsa for the match!

Finally, to Phoenix, AZ in November, and the infamous Area 2 Rio Salado Desert Classic. Another roller coaster of a match, but what a great time. Its really easy to get ahead of yourself on some of these run and gun style stages. I had another stage win, this time on the so-called "memory" stage. I had a few big hesitations, again due to poor mental preparation. I shot several stages well, a couple "safe", and had a couple of big blow out train wrecks.

determined I needed to change my routine at local matches - as an experienced shooter, I often get squadded with less experienced folks, and have to do a lot of heavy lifting to keep the squad running. In order to avoid getting lazy in my stage prep, I've taken to volunteering to shoot first. That allows me to follow my routine, and prep the stage quickly, but without having to try to run the timer or something while trying to maintain that stage prep in my head.

Last year, my schedule got in the way of actually getting a lot of practice in. I have an hour+ drive to the range, right now, and that makes getting out there tough. Teaching lessons, and traveling to matches (plus shooting pictures for other folks) on the weekends makes it tough to get out there. That has already changed some this year, and I have a greater focus on getting done what I need to for me moving forward.

I have several cool things in the works this year, as well. I wrote an article for the CrossFit Journal early this year, that should be hitting the virtual stands any day now. I have a cool new practice related product in the works that will hopefully be available in the near future, as well. Stay tuned for that!

My schedule is going to be shorter this year, namely due to needing to pay for LASIK surgery. I actually had the surgery done in January, but its taking a bite out of my budget each month. So, less travel due to that. It also cut the FL Open out this year, due to needing time off from practice to recover. The eyes are doing great, though. I see better than I did with glasses, and far better than with contacts. Cool stuff.

The Double Tap Championship is coming up in just a couple of weeks. Its time to go shoot with my hair on fire... but focused and determined this year, instead of fishtailing around like a crazy man like I did in 2008. I always have a great time at that match, and I'm sure this year will be no different. The stages look great, and I'm sure it will be a blast (pun intended).

Watch this blog for updates through the year, and like I said, stay tuned for cool developments!!!

And, that cool picture at the top of the post? My buddy, Peter Tsai took that for me. I've got several more that you may see in the near future. If you're in the Austin area, and need some photos, don't hesitate to look Peter up, and tell him I sent you...