I can’t believe I did it!!

The hills are alive with the sound of music....well you get the idea. 

This past weekend, as most of you may have known or seen, the bands were alive with a CW contest, all except the WARC bands. The annual running of the CQWW CW contest was in full swing for the entire weekend.  I try to take part in most of the large CW contests, and this one was not exempt. In this contest, for the first time EVER, I did not operate search and pounce. (search and pounce meaning searching out stations in the contest who are calling CQ and trying to contact them) I was for the first time ever a running station. (run, meaning you sit on a frequency and call "CQ contest" and wait for stations to contact you)  I CAN'T BELIEVE I DID IT.....

For those of you who are not into CW contesting when you are running (for me anyway) it's a big deal, and you have to  be on your CW game. You send out your call sign (for me at 26-28wpm) and wait for the grease to hit the fan and at times it did!  Below is how it feels to be a first-time CW running contester. 

Before I begin with the adventure, just a little background. They say that preparation is the key, and that I worked on. Over time, getting my code speed up to copy around 30wpm.  Every day I practiced with programs such as Morse Runner and RufzXP.  These are both free programs and  excellent tools. I also downloaded the CWops intermediate CW course and worked through that each day.  I worked on my keyboard skills, so I am now able to copy calls without looking at the keyboard. This allowed me to concentrate on the contest program. 

Well here we go......first thing that occurred to me was a contest simulator and the real deal is very different! I was not sending code to a computer program but a real person, it's a hobby and all, but I was very nervous about the whole thing.  Out the code went, "TEST VE9KK VE9KK" I did this about 3 times and then a station came back to me........it didn't turn out as planned. 

I heard the code but my N1MM+ contest software was just met with my blank stare.  I heard the call again, and this time it was a full out fumbling act between reading the call and keyboard stumbling. Eventually the op just moved on to another running station.  Well, that was a bell ringer for sure! I took a deep breath and tried again, and this time it was worse. The next station came back to me in around 35 wpm, and I was clueless. This time I did not even attempt to answer them, they gave their call a few times and moved on. 

I decided it was time to go back to search and pounce and that contest running at this stage in the game was not for me. I took a little break from the contest with a walk, and once I got back to the operating desk, I began to search and pounce. After making a few contacts it occurred to me that  this was the first time I tried running in a contest and for sure there are going to be hiccups. Heck after all I just did not grab my first bike and started riding it, I had training wheels..........wait a minute training wheels! 

I took a deep breath and set my N1MM+ contest program back to running but this time I opened up a program called MRP40  an excellent code reading program. Now just wait a minute, I am not giving up and relying on a code reader......it's my training wheels and will be used when needed.  Well off I went again......"TEST VE9KK VE9KK" 

The contest is now in the history books and I did keep running throughout the contest except when I did some search and pounce for needed multiplies for a better score.  Midway through the contest, I started to loosen up and began to get the hang of things. Sure, I had op's get frustrated when I messed up their call and when I asked for repeats, some just moved on. 

Some highlights were: 

-The obvious one being, running for basically the entire contest. 

- Being spotted in the cluster and BOOM I'm not trying to work a pileup, I am the pile up. They were not huge pileups and did not last for long but exciting nonetheless. 

- Having the time fly compared to search and pounce where the time went slowly. 

- My highest number of contacts ever in a contest of 412 and my best score as well of  113,775.

- Depending less and less on MRP40's decodes. 

Some funny moments: 

- With N1MM+ you are able to program macros to send preprogrammed messages.  It's when my fingers press the wrong key and send thanks for the contact before the was made! 

- Finding out the hard way that the code reader is not always correct.  I copied a call in my head and then glanced at the code reader, I may have messed up on a letter. So I change it and low and behold my head was correct and MRP40 was wrong. 

- This has happened more than a few time......forgetting to change N1MM+ from search and pounce to run and send out the incorrect message. 

- Finding myself answering one call after another and sounding  to others that I have really pulled this off to only then totally screw up the next few callers.....the way the contest can humble me.

Finally, I want to apologize to those of you with whom I messed up your call or made your contact with me a bit painful. Then those who just gave up and moved on I hope next time things will be better.  

Mike Weir, VE9KK, is a regular contributor to AmateurRadio.com and writes from New Brunswick, Canada. Contact him at [email protected].

4 Responses to “I can’t believe I did it!!”

  • trevor smith:

    Hi I am a Newbie, and would find it really frustrating and demoralising if during an attempt to contact they dumped me because i was not fast enough !! Also I consider this to a little bad mannered.. We all need time to learn..


  • Mike VE9KK:

    Good morning Trevor and welcome to the hobby, as for some contacts moving on to make other contacts, well for some ops out there they take contesting very seriously. I just let it roll off my back like a duck with water.

  • Elwood Downey, WB0OEW:

    Nice writeup, I can really feel what you went through. Congrats on diving in. I’ve never tried a contest, I’m not the competitive type, but I can see where some would like it. There’s room for everyone. 73.

  • Mike VE9KK:

    Good afternoon Elwood and very nice to hear from you, I am happy that I was able to convey the feelings I was having. For sure this hobby is large and has room for all modes.
    Have a good weekend.

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