2011 Summer Timing Season Is Just Around the Corner

Hello folks, the 2011 summer timing season is just around the corner. We have spent the winter updating our results presentation. Throughout the month of March we will tell you about all of the upcoming changes and new services.

A huge new service that we believe will change timing in the Mountain West is our adScreenLED A9. I can probably guess what you are thinking, “Cool words, but what in the world is an adScreenLED A9?” It is a 6 by 9 foot full color LED screen… as my son said, “It’s a freaking JumboTron.” Well, almost. Unlike a large screen TV that only 6 people can crowd around, it is large and bright enough for the entire venue to enjoy.


Why is this good for a race?

To launch this new service, we are offering 25% off of your first adScreen rental if you book before 31 March 2011. In addition, we are also giving away one day use of an adScreen to one lucky person in the Salt Lake City area. To enter the contest, follow Milliseconds on Twitter, and Tweet the following, only once and exactly as it is written:

Check out Milliseconds’ new adScreen and win the use of an adScreen for your favorite event. http://bit.ly/e5beZT Please retweet. #milli2nds

We will draw one person in the Salt Lake City area and will set up the adScreen for one day at an event of the winner’s choice. The event can be:

The application is limited only by your imagination.

Please Note: The winner is responsible for obtaining all the appropriate permissions, permits, etc., and paying any applicable taxes.

Rescued by CEP Timing

I just wanted to take a moment to thank Jason at CEP TIming for his help this weekend. We had an organization that rents timing chips from ship the chips they rented via ground instead of next air. We were depending on those chips for a race we were timing. When they didn’t show up on Friday as they were expected, I had to fly one of my staff members to Phoenix to pick up some loaners. Jason, valiantly, got the chips to the airport to and handed them off. We got what we needed and were back on the race site midnight before the race and all was well. Thanks Jason!

Splash ‘n Sprint Tri

This last weekend was the Splash ‘n Sprint Tri put on by the South Davis Recreation Center. We’ve done races for this group in the past. The folks at SDRC are a great group to work with and at a fun venue. It was a pool tri with interval starts, with two distances, novice and sprint. If only they could do something about the train… maybe a bridge in next year’s budget?

Thanks to Scott, Cindy and the rest of the crew.

Breakaway Ride

This last weekend I was in Thousand Oaks, California, for the Breakaway Ride presented by Specialized. It was a pretty cool event. The riders in this event could ride the same course as the pros will ride in Stage 8 of the Tour of California. I had an interesting lesson in diversity and perseverance during packet pickup. Our standard message to participants is for them to put our ProChips on their left ankle. This gentleman, who was standing next to me as I gave him our instructions, asks me “What if I don’t have a left ankle?” I thought to myself “What a joker” and looked down. He had a prosthetic leg! I have worked with wheelchair athletes in the past, and know how to help then get their ProChip placed correctly, but this was a first. We discussed placement of the chip, and it worked out for him. The cool thing about it is he completed the medium ride, 67 miles with two grueling hill climbs. I was pretty impressed… I know, I scoff at all those talking heads who broadcast from big sporting events and dig up all the stuggles the athletes have gone through to get where they are. But when you see it in real life, it’s different. Way to go!

Gun Time vs. Chip Time

One thing that consistently comes up for us as chip timers, is how start times are handled. Start times can be recorded two different ways. The first being “gun” time. This is where all racers receive the same start time; when the gun (or whistle, siren, air horn, someone yelling go; etc) goes off. The other way is recording a chip time; where each individuals start time is when they actually cross the starting line. The first thing that any racer should know about how a race will be handling start times, is that it’s a decision rarely made by the timing company. We leave this decision entirely up to the Race Director (RD). And in many cases, this decision has already been made for the RD by the sanctioning body for the race. USA Track and Field, USA Cycling and USA Triathlon rules all state that gun time is the official start time, and the time that the race should be scored on. Certainly, there are exceptions to these rules, but again, timing companies usually have very little to do with this decision. If a racer participates in a race where both times are recorded, but the race is officially scored off the gun time, the racer must understand that the chip time is really just given as a courtesy. Many times we, as timers, have been asked post-race, “what’s the point of chip timing if you don’t count the start?” This question is precisely the reason for this blog. As timers, our top priority is to capture the finish time of each and every racer. That is the main thing races hire us to do. Everything else; start times, interval times, etc. won’t matter if the timer fails to capture the finish times. Not to say these other times are insignificant, but overall, not AS significant as the finish. If you feel the race you are participating in is not being timed to your expectations, we encourage you to take your concerns to the Race Director. Ultimately, it is their decision about how their race will be timed.

Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day

The race this weekend was remarkable, not for the race (that went well), but the day before and getting to the race. It started out with not understanding that when FedEX Ground says 1 business day for delivery of a package, that actually may mean 2 days. So the chips my staff worked so hard to prepare were not going to make it to the race on time, and the race director was pressuring me to figure something else out. That’s where I learned my second lesson of the day… keys are not for breaking wire ties. Just before I was to leave, I broke the one and only key I have for the Sprinter. Fortunately, what could have been an over $300 “stupid tax” turned out to be only $32. (Apparently it costs $188 for a replacement key and fob from Germany, a reprogramming charge of $120 for the RFID chip imbedded in the key fob, and a tow to the dealer for the Sprinter. But I was fortunate, since the fob is not lost or damaged, I can just replace the key itself.)

Finally, with all the panic in trying to get on the road and getting a key ordered, I did not take time to “reset”. By reset, I mean to take an extra 2 to 5 minutes to sit down and relax, take a few deep breaths and just think about what I was doing. Because I didn’t reset, I made some pretty silly mistakes that could have had huge ramifications. Often, taking that time will pay huge benefits in the future… Scott Bourne, on his PhotoFocus blog wrote an entry called What To Do When Things Just Plain Go Wrong. It is mainly focussed on photography, but the principles can be applied to almost any profession. I think the key to his list of steps on how to “reset” have more to do with forcing you to take the time to take a breath and think about what you are doing, than the actual settings on your equipment. So, when you start having a horrible, no good, very bad day, take a few moments and reset. Perhaps it will make it into a great day.

Knoxville Marathon Weekend and MyLaps BibTag

As I am writing this, I am on the way to Atlanta. I am riding while Eric drives. It was a great weekend of racing, with Geoffrey Kiprotich of Atlanta winning the men’s race and local Kathy Wolski of Knoxville winning the women’s race. Jason Atlman and the Knoxville Track club know how to put on a great event. The weather on Saturday was beautiful, but by race time, it had started to drizzle. The rain held off for about four hours, and then the skies opened. There was one point where lightning arrived and we had to leave the 50 yard line of Neyland Stadium and seek shelter in the stadium tunnels. It seems not matter how good your rain gear is, you still end up getting soaking wet. Toward the end of the day Eric was complaining that he had forgot his waterproof underwear.

This weekend was our inaugural venture using our new MyLaps BibTag system. I have to say that I am impressed with the way it performed. We were able to pack 7 systems, associated mats and our luggage into a rented Rav4. We were especially impressed with the system given the rain and lightning. After about the four hour mark, all the racers were soaked to the skin and many of them had jackets or shirts over their numbers. We were a bit concerned about this, because we had heard this could be problematic. It turned out not to be the case at all. We set out eight timing points and captured over 17,000 times. At one point, it was raining so hard the mats at the 13 mile point became submerged and they kept on reading. From what I can gather, we missed reads for only two racers. This was due to a volunteer telling the two racers to tear the BibTag off the bib and tie in their shoe. Tearing the BibTag off the bib damaged the BibTag so it did not work.

We did find some things we didn’t like about the system. Just a caveat here, we used demo systems, and the MyLaps folks said some things may be different in the production versions. Most of these things we didn’t like are more in the category of cool engineering not really working out for the user. For example, the power cords have an plug I have never seen before. Why not use the standard computer power plug you see on the back of all the computers in the world? It will not be a matter of if, but when we loose one, we can go to your local office supply store and pick one up instead of ordering one from Holland.

We did have some production mats and the connections to these mats were difficult to manage. There was not much room at the mat connection to maneuver and the connectors themselves were pretty tight. With cold, wet and fat fingers, it is at least twice as hard. Finally, Toolkit is a vast improvement over the old ChampionChip connection tools, but for those of us who are Macintosh users, it adds a significant layer of complexity, and another computer. I understand many of the reasons behind having to use proprietary software to communicate with the timing points, but can we get some software libraries so we can integrate them into our software?

One final word of caution. If you have race day, or expo registration, be careful doing data entry. Summer’s mom will definitely call you on it when you replace the S with a D.

2010 Race Timing Season is underway

Today was officially the first race of the 2010 racing season. We had a great time at the Icebreaker Tri. A very well run race by the Timp Tri Club with a great turnout. And Icebreaker is right. There was frost on the grass in the transition area and, adding a new meaning to the word icebreaker, the blue stuff in the port-a-potties was frozen… When the sun came over the mountains, it warmed up and was just a beautiful first day on spring in Utah. It was reunion of sorts, of many of the big triathlon race directors in Utah. I say Chris from TriUtah, Travis from RaceTri and Travis from the Hess Cancer Foundation.

This is going to be an exciting year. Perhaps the biggest news is our acquisition of a MyLaps BibTag system. You may recall AMB bought ChampionChip and rebranded themselves to MyLaps Sports Timing. Well, what’s cool about this new system is that it is a chip in the bib system and is entirely disposable. What that means to race directors is no more lines waiting for chip assignment, but better yet, no chip collection. We are truly excited about it. Since the chip attaches to the bib, it will be a great system to use at running races.

Data, data, data…. It’s all about the data!

One of the most common situations that we as a timing company come across is a race that is not completely prepared with their registration data. 90% of the results process is the registration data. And sometimes, the data can be bad, and it is not known until we start posting the results at a race. Let me tell you, no one knows “heat,” until they have felt it from someone who has just spent an hour or two pushing themselves to the limit, then not have accurate results.

Most of the time, we time races that are only put on once a year. There is a core group of folks that come together once a year to put on a race. And one person gets assigned the daunting task of managing the registration data. Not an easy job considering that this person usually has a “real” job, a family etc. And since we (Milliseconds) are relying on this person to get us a good, clean data file, we offer up our assistance. We are here to help. If you have questions, or need to know what format we need things in, please feel free to shoot any one of us an email, or a phone call. We do this almost every weekend, are pretty savvy with spreadsheets, and ultimately are interested in the overall success of your race.

Again, the registration data is a critical piece of the puzzle when it comes to timing. Registration data that is not complete, or not accurate translates into poor results which produces unhappy racers.

One of our timing points was stolen!

Last weekend we had a timing point stolen at the Telos Timp Tri. Why any one would want to steal one is beyond me. It’s only good for a very specific purpose, timing races. It was set up in front of the Orem Rec Center where the race started and was stolen before the race even began. Here is a picture of one of our other timing points so you know what it looks like.

Milliseconds Trackside Box

If you have any information about it, please contact us or the Orem Police department (801-229-7070).