Is it wrong to obsess about the NAR Championship?

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JonathanDunbar

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Hello Group,

I don't post much anymore, but I am CONSTANTLY thinking about model rocket competition.

I am thinking about NARAM 52 and currently building for the next contest year.

I am wondering if all the mental machinations are really worth the energy?

I can design, test, and re-design, but in the end, if I don't hit lift, if I screw up with a cluster ignition set-up, if the other gal gets a few meters more in altitude, it is all for not.

I just wonder what does it take to win a NAR Championship? I see Chad do it year after year after year after year without much challenge from the overall
NAR membership. That is NOT to say the membership can't beat him, we just don't. I think consistancy is the key, but is there random luck involved?

Well, back to my thinking (obsessing) on the subject. I WILL be at NARAM 52 next year. Its drivable and I don't care if I only have 100 points after 12 CF, I will still be there baring physical injury. I just want to win once ... just once and then I can move on... maybe.

Jonathan
 
If it's important to you then it's not a waste of time. I think you hit it onthe head though, the issue is repeatable good results. It doesn't hurt to have a full load of high WF events throughout the year too.
 
Actually, consistency is the watchword. You don't have to win every event at every contest to do well. (Of course, Chad Ring did win most of the events at the Launch Crue regionals this year, but it wasn't for lack of trying on my part! ;)) I started competing in 2007 and placed 68th nationally. This year I came in 26th - and that was on only four regionals - I couldn't go to NARAM this year.

Some of that was experimentation - I've been flying a lot of cardstock models in competition and have been doing pretty well with them. I've also been competing for the last three years against a very competitive group (Chad Ring, Jim Stum, John Buckley, Patrick Peterson, Chan Stevens) so the learning curve here has been really steep.

A couple of the things I've learned this year:

* Pistoning from a tower is a must against these guys - leaving off the launch lug and the extra oomph from the piston makes a lot of difference, and since most of them do the same, it is the only way to stay competitive with them.

* Fly light but large diameter models for duration events. You can put a much bigger chute in a 30mm model than in a 13mm or 18mm, and get it open. I've learned that trading a bit of altitude for more effective thermalling is a good trade off.

* Make all the flights available to you. I usually try to have a backup model for every event - if I crash or thermal away the first one, I've still got something to fly. If you have to cobble something together or make something else work, flight points are better than no points at all.

* Ask questions - even at LC, where the competition is really stiff, the others are always willing to answer questions and help out. We may be cut-throat, but we are also all practice good sportsmanship. That includes things like loaning out engines if someone runs out, answering questions about how to do something and helping find the other guys model, even if that return knocks you down a position or two.

Primary things to remember: don't be afraid to ask lots of questions and have fun while you are doing this!
 
The luck factor washes out at the end--how else would Chad be where he is every year? Most competitors don't practice enough to get consistent results. I'd recommend lots of flying with contest models--reliable models on contest weekends and prototypes when there isn't a convenient contest to fly.
 
I fly rockets for fun - and obsession isn't fun for me. BUT - if you enjoy being obsessed (as Chad and a few others do) then by all means go for it.
 
Well as the only living person to have beaten Chad for a year, I feel obligated to weigh in. YMMV, but I won the second, third and 4th NARAM meets I entered (all C division), choked big time this year mainly through a stupid mental/emotional error and came in 3rd (eliminating the single error would have won the overall meet). I personally would probably be considered over-the-top obsessed with NARAM and that's the main factor behind the success. For me, though, it's 90% mental/attitude and 10% rocketry skills. I am practiced. I am confident. I know what I and my models can/can't do. I make good decisions and manage risks very well. Yes, I catch some lucky breaks, but all that work/preparation puts me into position to benefit from those breaks (and helps me avoid the "unlucky" breaks that typically have nothing to do with luck).

Of course, despite the fact that I slay at NARAM, I can't even get a stinkin' B-SD qualified flight when I'm flying in regionals during the year, so wind up being way behind the pack heading into NARAM, and strong NARAM performance is usually not enough to overcome that (note--this year I almost posted a stunning come-from-behind performance, and for a few days had Chad a bit worried). The difference? Mental--for whatever reason, my head is not in the game at regionals to the extent it is at NARAM. It's not the models--I tend to fly the same (literally same, not just copies) models, same techniques, but I find myself just not making the best decisions, not prepping the chutes as carefully, etc.

Want to win a championship? Forget obsessing over the design, rolling your own tubes, etc. Go fly about a hundred streamer/chute duration flights until you can hit 20-30 in a row of good/not great performance and zero DQ's. Pick the 3-4 events at NARAM that you want to place in and really push yourself on those, building at least 3-4 generations of designs and 20+ flights. Forget the rest, other than making sure you at least hit flight points.

Most important advice, though--speaking as a guy who does tend to obsess over it, don't obsess over it. It's supposed to be fun, not stressful. If you wind up feeling crushed or disappointed for "failing", you're blowing it. The first NARAM I won (meet, not the national championship), between the fact that I was one of the main helpers in the host club, and the fact I was on the road for business travel almost constantly, over the 7 days before NARAM and 7 days of the meet I got a cumulative total of 12 hours of sleep spread over those 14 days. It was fun, a rush, loved it all, but not even remotely healthy. Taking it further, this past summer I lost my job, and knew the market was going to be rotten. With about 8 weeks between my last day and start of NARAM, I decided to put everything I had into trying to pursue the championship, even though I was seriously out of contention going into the meet. I went really low budget for obvious reasons, but invested every mental/emotional ounce I had into it, seriously hoping to place not in 3-4 events but in all but 1. Almost nailed it, but on Friday when the stupid mental error caused me to miss all my goals, I was in the most pain I've ever experienced. So much pain that I seriously thought about walking away from rocketry. I'm still scarred enough that I haven't even touched a competition model since, have no desire to do so, and may not even fly a contest this year (tried to go to a meet last weekend as an excuse to visit my dad, but it got rained out). A good friend caught me at my lowest point at NARAM and reminded me that if it weren't for that type of pain, winning wouldn't be nearly as much fun.

Obsession is often necessary to win, but the cost is probably too steep for the benefit. I think practice and experience are the biggest factors, far more important than anything else. Chad wins, not because he wakes up every day and wonders what he can do to improve/win, but because he's been competing for 20+ years and tries to learn something new each year.

Practice, manage your flights well, learn something every time you fly, have fun, and make sure at the end of the day you've done the best you reasonably can. That's all you can ask for. If that's enough to beat Chad or whomever else you're chasing, all the better. If not, you did what you could and the rest was out of your hands.
 
My competition days are far behind me (1975 Reserve Team, 1976 National Team and 1979 C Division Reserve Championships), but here's some exerpts from my NARCON Talk "A Baker's Dozen, or What's Wrong With Contest Flying, or "A List of Urban Legends"

This section of the talk dealt with folks who wanted to go beyond introductory competition, and compete seriously for a national title.



Taking The Next Steps: So You Want To Go "Uptown"?

1. Understand that winning a national title takes real commitment but isn't impossible.

2. Steal stuff (ideas, models, techniques) from other competitors

3. If you want lots of points, fly all the time

4. Hit the "home run" (i.e. high weighting factor) events first

5. Get a notebook, or keep an electronic journal

6. Develop a prepping routine (Aside: Ryan Woekenberg's effort in FAI RCRG at NARAM this year was a textbook example of that.)

7. Practice, practice, practice

8. Take "one giant leap" a year (by learning a new event)

9. Pay forward by continuing to help others new to the game
 
Was hoping to compete in the Birmingham Rocket Boys Regional this weekend, but I'm committed to meetings on Saturday. Grrr.
 
Well as the only living person to have beaten Chad for a year, I feel obligated to weigh in. YMMV, but I won the second, third and 4th NARAM meets I entered (all C division), choked big time this year mainly through a stupid mental/emotional error and came in 3rd (eliminating the single error would have won the overall meet). I personally would probably be considered over-the-top obsessed with NARAM and that's the main factor behind the success. For me, though, it's 90% mental/attitude and 10% rocketry skills. I am practiced. I am confident. I know what I and my models can/can't do. I make good decisions and manage risks very well. Yes, I catch some lucky breaks, but all that work/preparation puts me into position to benefit from those breaks (and helps me avoid the "unlucky" breaks that typically have nothing to do with luck).

Of course, despite the fact that I slay at NARAM, I can't even get a stinkin' B-SD qualified flight when I'm flying in regionals during the year, so wind up being way behind the pack heading into NARAM, and strong NARAM performance is usually not enough to overcome that (note--this year I almost posted a stunning come-from-behind performance, and for a few days had Chad a bit worried). The difference? Mental--for whatever reason, my head is not in the game at regionals to the extent it is at NARAM. It's not the models--I tend to fly the same (literally same, not just copies) models, same techniques, but I find myself just not making the best decisions, not prepping the chutes as carefully, etc.

Want to win a championship? Forget obsessing over the design, rolling your own tubes, etc. Go fly about a hundred streamer/chute duration flights until you can hit 20-30 in a row of good/not great performance and zero DQ's. Pick the 3-4 events at NARAM that you want to place in and really push yourself on those, building at least 3-4 generations of designs and 20+ flights. Forget the rest, other than making sure you at least hit flight points.

Most important advice, though--speaking as a guy who does tend to obsess over it, don't obsess over it. It's supposed to be fun, not stressful. If you wind up feeling crushed or disappointed for "failing", you're blowing it. The first NARAM I won (meet, not the national championship), between the fact that I was one of the main helpers in the host club, and the fact I was on the road for business travel almost constantly, over the 7 days before NARAM and 7 days of the meet I got a cumulative total of 12 hours of sleep spread over those 14 days. It was fun, a rush, loved it all, but not even remotely healthy. Taking it further, this past summer I lost my job, and knew the market was going to be rotten. With about 8 weeks between my last day and start of NARAM, I decided to put everything I had into trying to pursue the championship, even though I was seriously out of contention going into the meet. I went really low budget for obvious reasons, but invested every mental/emotional ounce I had into it, seriously hoping to place not in 3-4 events but in all but 1. Almost nailed it, but on Friday when the stupid mental error caused me to miss all my goals, I was in the most pain I've ever experienced. So much pain that I seriously thought about walking away from rocketry. I'm still scarred enough that I haven't even touched a competition model since, have no desire to do so, and may not even fly a contest this year (tried to go to a meet last weekend as an excuse to visit my dad, but it got rained out). A good friend caught me at my lowest point at NARAM and reminded me that if it weren't for that type of pain, winning wouldn't be nearly as much fun.

Obsession is often necessary to win, but the cost is probably too steep for the benefit. I think practice and experience are the biggest factors, far more important than anything else. Chad wins, not because he wakes up every day and wonders what he can do to improve/win, but because he's been competing for 20+ years and tries to learn something new each year.

Practice, manage your flights well, learn something every time you fly, have fun, and make sure at the end of the day you've done the best you reasonably can. That's all you can ask for. If that's enough to beat Chad or whomever else you're chasing, all the better. If not, you did what you could and the rest was out of your hands.

Chan,

Thanks for the FREE and helpful information! Chad has 20+ years ... OK, that makes me feel slightly better.

Your tip about focusing on 3-4 events and placing is well taken. I have heard from others that placing is what matters at NARAM.

I have read books about model competitions, IPMS, R/C Scale, R/C Gliders amd they all have said, winners get involved with the club and the running of the meets.

Now with that said, I did better in the 2008 season, then I did in the 2009 year. To be honest, in 2008 I was closed and had tunnel vision through the meets. In 2009, I opened up, talk with fellow flyers, was involved more with timing, and helping out. I also made real fundemental mistakes in what I flew and how I flew.

I look back at 2009 and ask myself, 'what was I thinking or not!?'.

SSS members took the simple and straight forward approach to flying, while I had to be cute. SF&F was a DISASTER for me... why fly a clustered/staged model when it would only crash meet after meet after meet! I still have the Friede sitting on my bookshelf waiting for finishing ... it is the 4th rebuild of the kit so far, only the 'Sandman Turned' - nose cone has been salvaged.

In B/G, I flew experimental elleptical-dihedral wings (R/C glider folk might remember the Hobby Hawk with its graceful curve to the hedral). If I had just flown a basic dihedral design I would have had a FAR better chance at placing for points. Heck, I could have just copied one of Gassoway's designs and had a better chance.

It seems the one thing that I do well is scale. Not because I have all the vacuum forming equipment or the casting resins, or the alps or vinyl printers, its because I love the reasearch part of it. I goto museums, militatry bases, order blue prints from the Smithsonian and defense contractors. I make sure that the model is a true representation at least in size and appearence. At NARAM 50, someone had told me I had the paint scheme wrong on my SA-207 Sat 1b ... no the LOX and Fuel tanks are supposed to be all white :)

Well this season will be VERY interesting. I am sure some of you know the dual between SSS and SMASH! They have already had one regional and they did very well! We (SSS) are trying for 6 in a row as section champs and face it, eventually we have to lose the title; just don't want to lose it in 2010.

I personally like model rocketry, LPR, HPR, and Amateur activities. Back in the 1990s we (myself and others) fought about HPR vs. LPR. I was on the HPR side, but secretly, I still loved and flew LPR. I am glad to see that we are all now on the same page.

I just want to win the NATS and Title and live a few more years beyond it to think about it. I told my wife I am stoping by Lowes on my way home from work today to buy a tool box (looking for a clam shell or drawer style). She asked me why? Well I gave my grandson my old tool box, so he could hold his rocket stuff (my old launch equipment).

Here are pics of my grandson from July '09 ... 114 degrees by mid day, so i took him out just after sunrise:

2hmqbdw.jpg


2qjggvr.jpg


9qlguc.jpg


2h8cugi.jpg


et79zt.jpg


But back on topic, the weather is cooler now and I have designs to fly that are simple and straighforward. That is why I need a new tool box :) My concept scale model is finished and I have 10 more hours or so till I finish my scale model for next year. My super roc is built and I need to test and refine; its a lot of work in the end isn't it Chan? I think its worth it.

Jonathan
 
they all have said, winners get involved with the club and the running of the meets.

Yes, if you run meets you get to learn from everyone's mistakes! Unless you are retired you can't possibly gain the experience of an active group on your own. More importantly, you get real competition experience. If you are smart, you will share your winning ideas to keep your friends competitive, and they will return the favor.

I find competition rocketry fun, and I love building, but I just can't handle the travel required to be a National Competitor. I briefly got back into competition when the Steinbergs lived nearby. What works for me now is rose gardening and exhibiting--I just happen to live near John Mattia, who sets an exceptionally high standard for rose exhibiting! He is the fellow featured in the chapter "Crazy Rose People" in the book "Otherwise Normal People."

Zack
 
Don't have much competition rocketry experience (yet), but based on various athletic pursuits I'll offer my opinion:

It takes a certain level of obsession to compete well in anything. Sure most folks can do well on any given day, but if you want to consistently be in a position to win, you have to be obsessed about it.

The flip side to that of course is that its a short walk to the dark side of obsession, been there, done that, lost things that were way more valuable than what I was obsessing over.

So I guess my answer to your question is "No" it isn't wrong to obsess, but don't put anything important on the line over it. After all, it is only just a contest. :p


Having said all that, I competed in my first NAR competition ever this past weekend, a regional event put on by the Birmingham Rocket Boys. Had a great time getting ready for it, although I had to catch myself walking towards the dark side a couple of times late at night... :rolleyes:

Had a great time flying as well, only competed in 3 of the 5 events, made a deliberate decision that might have cost me a place in one event, and didn't have enough recovery options in my arsenal that might have allowed me to move up in another event.

Still placed second overall, pretty psyched about that. :cheers:

I allowed myself to to obsess about the meet during the 2.5 hour drive home, and now I'm just trying to figure out when the next regional close by is... :D

My lessons learned from this first event...?

1. Fly every event
2. Fly your best performers all the time (don't test fly at the meet)
3. Bring everything you have, even things you don't think you'll need... rockets/chutes/streamers... (flexibility is the key to air power)
 
I allowed myself to to obsess about the meet during the 2.5 hour drive home, and now I'm just trying to figure out when the next regional close by is... :D


You're more than welcome at the Launch Crue Regional coming up the 7th and 8th of November. Our contest is held at Holland Indiana, which is about 3 hours from Nashville via Owensboro Kentucky. The events we're flying are:

OSL—4
1/8A HD—21
1/4A BG—18
1/4A SRD—13
1/2A SD—8
A CA—16

The URL is: https://launchcrue.org/

You can get info on how to contact us, hotels and maps to the launch site. I will warn you - it is a VERY competative group! ;)
 
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You're more than welcome at the Launch Crue Regional coming up the 7th and 8th of November...

I will warn you - it is a VERY competative group! ;)


Thanks Greg, I've been checking out the contest page on your site recently. I will almost certainly come to one of your events this season, if for no other reason then just to watch Chad and the rest of you all fly. One of the main reasons I went to Birmingham was to watch George Gassaway fly... of course it was so frappin' cold I spent most of my non-flying time in the car... :p

I'm hoping to drum up enough interest to add a regional contest to the Music City Missile Club schedule this year, maybe in May...? The sod farm is a great place to fly!
 
Congrats, Matthew, on your first contest, and winning 1/2A Parachute Duration.

Attached is a photo of Matthew getting his 1/2A Boost Glider ready to fly (middle pad, glider on left).

The contest was the Birmingham Rocket Boys (BRB) Regional this past Saturday. Photos from the contest / sport launch are here:

https://birminghamrocketboys.com/BRBGallery/main.php?g2_itemId=130030&g2_page=1

I have not yet put the results into electronic form for the web.

- George Gassaway

IMG_7616.JPG
 
Congrats, Matthew, on your first contest, and winning 1/2A Parachute Duration.

Attached is a photo of Matthew getting his 1/2A Boost Glider ready to fly (middle pad, glider on left).

The contest was the Birmingham Rocket Boys (BRB) Regional this past Saturday. Photos from the contest / sport launch are here:

https://birminghamrocketboys.com/BRBGallery/main.php?g2_itemId=130030&g2_page=1

I have not yet put the results into electronic form for the web.

- George Gassaway


Thanks George,

By the way, the glider next to mine on the rack is George's... It stayed in the air much much longer than mine did... :rolleyes:
 

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