Well I should certainly practice was I
preach blog, right? Here is the post from January that I spoke of protecting your computer equipment from the elements.
Today, while timing a race, I had my Macbook Pro sitting under a tent, safe from the rain. Yes, readers, it was safe from the rain. It wasn’t, however, safe from the water which decided to drip off the side of the tent and somehow make it’s way onto the mouse/trackpad.
Computers and water generally don’t mix too well, I knew that. But I did not know a few little droplets could seep under the cracks of my trackpad and cause havoc in the middle of a race! Thankfully this was a longer race that had just started, hopefully giving me enough time to do something. Because at that moment, my computer was useless. The mouse was extremely erratic, and not only was it moving the mouse pointer around, it was also causing mouseclicks to occur. I could control nothing.
I was able to take my Macbook into my rig and stick it on the floor while the heater was running. About 10 minutes later, things got better, and eventually I was able to get back out, re-start the timer, use some of Advanced Event Settings capabilities I added into Good Times Version 3.4, and continue processing results. It’s always great to see some of the fail-safe mechanisms do what they’re supposed to do.
Now if only I had gotten one of those protective covers for my computer mentioned in that blog post, none of this would have happened. Timing a race can certainly be adventurous! Take warning readers, when thinking about how to time a race, make sure you account for the unexpected.
One area where I often notice event directors struggling is the awards ceremony. When the question of how to time a race comes up, the subsequent question of how to plan and provide awards sometimes goes unanswered.
Think about the planning part of it for a moment. Considerations include:
- Will we be categorizing finishers into age brackets?
- Will we be giving awards for age brackets?
- If so, will we give 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place awards for age brackets?
- Will we just be giving overall awards?
- Or awards for gender only?
- And will we allow “double-dipping,” where a finisher can win in two different award categories?
- What will our actual awards consist of? Medals, trophy’s, gift certificates, a new car?
There are other things to think of, too, but those are just a sample of the common items. The Awards Ceremony itself normally happens near the end of the event, or when the vast majority of finishers have crossed the finish line. It’s not uncommon, especially in smaller races, to have casual runners or walkers taking their time and never expecting an award in the first place. Not once have I seen them be upset that the awards ceremony had already begun by the time they arrived at the finish line.
Announcers often have either a hand-written list of award recipients, or are left to look at basic finish-line reports in an attempt to decipher who should be getting awards. This process leads to frustration, and even errors.
We’ve taken another approach in Good Times, and I highly recommend all event directors at least consider this method. Before your event, setup the Award Types and Award Categories in Good Times. An example of an Award Category would be: First Place – Overall. And example of an Award Type would be: Trophy.
About half-way through your event, someone can use one of the available computers to look at the Event Results, and begin assigning awards to the finishers. This is all done in the software, and very simply I might add. Continue to assign the awards until all of the available awards have been assigned. Then, an Awards Report can be printed and handed to the announcer at the end of the event. The Awards Report contains all of the finishers who are to be provided an award, their finish times, the Award Category and the Award Type. (We provide the Award Type so the announcer or an assistant knows specifically which award to grab off of your awards table!)
We have a video on our YouTube Channel demonstrating how to setup and assign awards. Please take some time to check it out!
Mentioning “timing a race” and the word “typical” in the same sentence is not entirely an oxymoron! Sure, part of the excitement of running races, timing races, providing race timing software, helping people learn how to time a race, etc. is the variety involved in those things. But some things are indeed typical, like my network and computer setup I usually use.
So here is a rundown, for a medium-sized race of about 400 participants. (Well, that’s what I call a medium-sized race, anyway!) And I’ll assume (gulp) that the event organizer decided to provide on-site race day registration.
- Wireless router, WPA secured, plugged into uninterruptible power supply (UPS) plugged into an electrical generator
- Seven (yes, 7) laptops handling new participant registration
- Four laptops handling pre-registered participants
- One laptop to serve as the Good Times “database server,” in a secure location, plugged into electrical generator, screen locked
- One printer connected to any of the new participant registration laptops
- One laptop to serve as the timing computer, plugged into electrical generator
- Two IPICO Sports Elite Readers (one to serve as starting and finish line, the other to serve as finish line backup) plugged directly into the wireless router, and sucking power from the electrical generator
All devices share the same Local Area Network (LAN) space with 192.168.x.x IP addresses. The new participant registration laptops and the timing computer can receive IP addresses via DHCP; the database server and the Elite Readers should have static IP addresses.
One of the features of Good Times for which I’ve grown especially fond is the shared database. This eliminates the need for the various computers to be sharing files (via Dropbox, etc.) in order to do their jobs. It also makes it significantly easier for me, or for any of the Good Times service providers. And the shared database, provided by Microsoft SQL Server, has been incredibly reliable.
Oh, and to leave you with a semi-random thought around reliability: When working with the IPICO Sports Elite Readers, everything except the Elite Readers could come crashing down and you’d still be able to recover. Why? Because the Elite Readers keep the chip result files in their own memory, allowing Good Times to pick them up at any time. With the computerized timing with manual entry, recovering is a little more difficult. We’ve built in a logging system so every bib entered is logged on the timing machine itself, in addition to being saved to the database. If the database server goes down for some reason in mid-race, you could still recover. Unfortunately, if the timing computer itself went down (and you were only using one) then recovering would be basically impossible. Stopwatches anyone?
We’ve recently added some videos to our YouTube Channel demonstrating how all of the chip timing integration works. Please check them out if you haven’t already!
Happy Tuesday Afternoon, Readers!
A while back, I wrote about our Provider’s License and nearly forgot that I had done so. (Let the old age jokes begin, I suppose!) But knee deep in Spring and seeing all of the race advertisements pop up around me, I realized it would behoove me to make sure you’re equipped with the right information about the Good Times Provider’s License. Opportunity to make money timing races is all around.
Fortunately, everything you need to begin taking advantage of that opportunity is within arms reach. Let’s review:
- Good Times Software Provider’s License (call me, and we’ll you setup at a very reasonable price)
- Training (as soon as you get your Provider’s License, we’ll setup a series of online webinars to get you trained)
- Race “Best Practices” (I’m always happy to help mentor with best practices for pulling off a successful event!)
- Ongoing Support (as a Provider, you’ll receive access to our Premium Support services, to ensure you have the help when you need it.)
Now I realize not everyone wants to time races as either a career, job, or hobby. When the casual event director or timing personnel need to figure out how to time a race, Good Times is still there to meet those needs. But for those of you who want to take it a step further and provide the service as means to making additional income, then the Provider’s License will be ideal.
Contact me for more information, or you can always message me on our Facebook page, too.
Well good Spring afternoon readers!
Let me pose a question to the runners in the crowd: How do you like to receive your race results? Seriously, think about that a moment. Race timers are always thinking about the best ways to time a race, keeping costs low and accuracy high. But what about you, the runner? Besides accurate results and a great overall race, how do you prefer to receive your race results?
Here are some options:
- Watch the overhead clock as you run by the finish line
- Look at printed reports posted on a nearby telephone pole
- Look at a computer-based kiosk
- Receive stickers with personalized race results
- Receive a text message on your mobile device
- Wait until you get home to look at a website
I’m interested in knowing because let’s face it, your results are important to you (at least the competitive runner!) and getting them shouldn’t be a grueling experience for you. But the best way? I’m simply not sure. Personally, I’d love to send a text message to you. I could easily communicate your gun finish and chip finish time, and even your rank overall and within age bracket. But I only see a small percentage of runners crossing the finish line with their phones. A growing percentage, yes, but is it really a viable option? And I’d have to collect your phone number during registration, of course.
So let me know. Feel free to use the blog post ‘comment’ feature to provide feedback.
Or if you prefer, you can message me on our facebook page, or even our YouTube channel.