Thursday, May 24, 2007

Stay in the seat

I will be relating items from Contest University for a while as that event was crammed with information that I'm only now fully processing. One of the things emphasized by all the instructors at CU was "stay in the seat." You can't make QSOs (or points) if you are not in the seat. Ideally, you should be in the seat all 48 hours of a big contest. The top scoring operators do that, and you must do that, too, if you hope to compete with them. Students asked the obvious question: how can you stay seated in front of the operating position for 48 straight hours?

The answers varied slightly but came down to these points:
  • Sleep - do it before and after the contest but not during. How? What is the secret for getting your sleep schedule aligned with the contest? The answer was Ambien, a sleep medication. After a rush of horror passed over me at the mere thought of this, I confess I see the point. I am not tempted to try this, but neither am I likely to attempt a full 48 hour stint.
  • Nature's call - People eat. Later, people need to deal with the consequences. So, how does one deal with 48 hours without that bowel clearing exercise? The answer was to avoid fiber in the days prior to the contest in hopes that nothing would need to be moved. This idea was introduced as delicately as possible during discussions and raised more than a few chuckles. Given the sleep remedy suggested, I had wondered if there would be a suggestion of Imodium or other medication that would slow the digestive system. It never was. (I wonder if they've not thought of it, or if it wouldn't work as I hypothesize?)
  • Water - You need to drink water to stay alert. The suggested remedy is just as simple as you might imagine, and it includes a bucket. This idea drew far fewer laughs than the fiber idea, and it seems many in the audience had already given this a try. For the record, I did not rank among them (yet).
  • Caffeine - It was strongly suggested that you give up any stimulants in the week before the contest. That way, when you really need that kick late in the contest, the big cup of coffee, tea, or soft drink will do the trick. Of course, I was also thinking that caffeine, being a diuretic, also contributes to one of the problems mentioned above and should be avoided for that reason, too.

I was not particularly ambitious during my 2006 trip to St. John seeking only 500 contacts in the contest. Neither were we particularly hard-core on Montserrat (I made fewer than 1300 QSOs from there). I am planning on pushing hard during my St. Kitts trip this Fall. While a 48 hour effort during the CQ WW DX SSB is almost certainly out of the question, I may attempt something approaching a 36 hour effort. I've not formalized my goals for this trip, but that level of effort is intriguing--especially after being energized by Contest University. I'll have much more about this as the departure date for this trip draws near.

It seems to me that there is a significant overlap between contesting and DXpeditioning. It is not unusual, for example, to see famous contesters also on big DXpeditions. The crossover of experience is often mentioned. This message was recently passed on the Yankee Clipper Contest Club email reflector in response to the plethora of hyper-expensive radio offerings in recent years.

Date: Mon, 21 May 2007 13:46:28 +0000
From: "Donald J. Toman"
Subject: Re: [YCCC] Megabuck Radios
To: "Jordan, David"


It should be added that, with the experience of one DXpedition under an operator's belt, with that $1000 radio, small amp AND G5RV, he may perform at least as well as he did with the $3000 antenna system.

The missing ingredient in any station setup is the operator. There is no substitute for experience and training in developing an operator.

A DXpedition pushes the learning curve better than any other training I know, and it doesn't need to be a large investment.


I couldn't agree more.


Blogger Steve Weinert said...

I participated in some sleep deprovation studies in the early 1980's and found that 48 hours is managable.

The 120 hour sessions were very bad - at some point I'll write about that experience.

I got the impression that the Ambien was as much a tool to force sync with time zone changes, as well as some alignment with the contest.

Personally I'm thinking to plan some sleep into a contest would be wise. Taking two hours divided into three 30 minute power nap sessions with 10 minute personal hygine & snack sessions might be productive.

Though it would cut out roughly 4-1/2% of the available operating time, if one's QSO rate was sustained at a higher rate this would be offset.

One has to be careful as you go periods without sleep - literature suggests that 16 hours without sleep is like two glasses of wine, and every hour or two after like another one.

I very much enjoyed the CTU sessions and found I brought a lot away in new insight.



May 24, 2007 11:11 PM  

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