On Friday, I noticed that this weekend was the monthly SKCC Weekend Sprint-a-thon. Since I'm a straight key guy, I figured this would be a good way to get in some of the CW practice that I desperately need. The event runs from 0000 to 2359 UTC on Saturday, but I didn't get on the air at any point on Saturday local time. I missed the initial rush of the opening of the contest, but I still had time to catch the second half of the event this morning.
My first couple of QSOs were not very pleasant, since it's one thing to copy CW at 15 WPM from a practice MP3 but quite another to do it under real-world conditions. However, once I loosened up, the CW ability started to come back to me more naturally. Since I still have a touch of the key fright, I was OK with S&P QSOs, but didn't work up the nerve to snag any contacts with a CQ of my own. I set myself a modest goal of 10 contest QSOs, but I didn't really sit down at the shack and make a serious effort at it. The bands weren't very good today, and there were long dry spells where I didn't hear any SKCC members calling CQ. In between stints at the key, I tried to get caught up answering e-mail and took care of some of the endless chores that need to be done around the house. I also have to admit that I didn't run QRP, but was at about 20 watts for the event. I guess going with higher power is a crutch carried over from my old QTH, but I think I could have used 5 watts or less just fine. No one seemed to have any real trouble hearing me (as long as the QSB didn't get me).
After all was said and done, I didn't quite hit my goal, but I did have an enjoyable time. I only managed to complete six QSOs in the event, altough I did work club call K9SKC in the old 40 meter novice band for extra points. If I did my calculations right, I got 80 points. Not very impressive, but I wasn't trying to be competative. I'm glad I took the time to try the event, since it got me some much-needed practice, as well as a handful of contacts towards my Centurion award. I had also heard that the organizers wanted 100 submissions for this WES, so I'm doing my part. Overall, an enjoyable way to spend some weekend time and a confidence booster as well.