On Being a Quitter -or- Knowing Your Limits

I was recently scrolling through 3 year old photos and came across this one.

Pediatrician Coming Through

It reminded me of the time I DNF’d a 3-Gun match. For those not familiar, DNF stands for “Did Not Finish”, and it is the acronym which stands in place of one’s score at the end of the match.

There are many and varied reasons that competitors may DNF a match. Sometimes there is catastrophic equipment failure. Sometimes there is injury. (I know people who’ve blown out knees and ankles running around obstacles in 3-Gun). But my reason was … I Quit. 

Yep. I was a Quitter, and I have no regrets about it. Let me tell you the story of my being a quitter.

For competition I’ve been mostly a pistol shooter. I was not a huge 3-Gunner, but had shot maybe 6 matches previously –  a couple of which were set up specifically to get more women into shooting these matches. I drove by myself to Iowa, to Kentucky, to Atlanta and to Louisiana all to shoot 3-Gun.

I had paid about $150 to register for this particular match. Like most of these matches, it was not local to me and thus required that I take a Friday off work for travel and also required that I spend several hundred dollars in hotel and travel expenses. I am not a sponsored shooter. I wear a T-shirt, not a jersey, and I pay out of my own pocket. I’m including this information so that you know that there is powerful motivation to continue the mission when there is significant financial outlay like that.

The match was seven stages long in one day. Anyone who has shot 3-Gun knows that seven stages in one day is pretty ambitious. There is a lot of time spent in re-setting between each shooter. There is often a par time for each stage that you can’t go over, in order to help keep things moving, but it’s still a slow process and there is often a wait between stages.

This day was very hot and humid with temps in the 90’s (in Pennsylvania, not Georgia). My squad was on its fourth stage of the day, but was over five hours into the match and we hadn’t gotten our lunch break in the shade yet.

I had drained the three 24-ounce bottles of water that I had packed. But I hadn’t needed to use the portajohn in five hours. I ate a granola bar I had packed. I used a wet bandana on my face and neck. But I still started to feel woozy and “out of it” while waiting for my turn on the stage.

My doctor brain and common sense finally prevailed. I was experiencing heat stress and dehydration and knew I had to remove myself. I hated to. I had spent a buttload of money to shoot this match. There were a bunch of younger people than me that I kinda wanted to prove that I could keep up with. I had my personal pride and my pink trimmed rifle to stand up for.

But I felt like crap, and regardless of financial investment and personal pride issues, safety still came first. I told the RO that I was withdrawing due to the heat and to DNF me. I was so disappointed I wanted to cry. But I figured that would be a waste of perfectly good body water content.

Certainly training and preparation are important components in making sure that one is ready for competition. Making sure your gear is maintained, zeroing with the right ammo, practicing at match distances are examples of such preparation.

But heat… Heat and humidity are not always conditions one can train for. Those of you who worked long hours in desert conditions courtesy of Uncle Sam understand the concept of hydration. I’m a physician. I thought I did too. I packed what I thought was an abundance of water. It wasn’t enough. I’m an over-fifty age female, and not exactly in top physical condition, so that probably didn’t help either.

I had already paid for my lunch ticket as part of the match fee, so I packed up my gear and dragged my wagon back to the lunch pavilion. I got a plate and some more bottles of liquids and sat in the shade.

I started to feel a little better, and as my squad mates dribbled in for lunch after they finished that stage I started feeling like a wimp and a whiner. They managed to handle it, why couldn’t I? 

But I made the right decision for my own health and well-being, and the safety of others. Pushing on until I passed-out with firearm-in-hand would have been an extremely bad move. Better to feel like a wimp than to need the EMS squad or to endanger others.

This is TMI but, I still didn’t need to pee until I got back to the hotel about two hours later, and it would not have passed the Gunsite bathroom color chart test. I was dehydrated and there was no two ways about it.

An Example of a Urine Color Chart

With Summer approaching, this is my gentle reminder that using firearms requires a clear head in order to maintain safety. One should never handle firearms while impaired in any way and that includes physical illness, heat stress, emotional turmoil, or anything else that means that your head isn’t entirely in the game.

Because absent a war zone it IS a game – only a game – and your safety and the safety of everyone around you is more important than a mere score or a prize table walk. If you don’t feel right, swallow your pride and take yourself out. Inform someone else about how you are feeling so they can keep an eye on you if needed. Find shade or an air conditioned car. Pound water and electrolyte solutions until you have to pee. But for the love of all that is holy, please do not keep on shooting. Know your limits.

Thanks for listening.

*Drags soapbox back to the corner and sits back down*