Category Archives: General

Timing a race and posting results

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:

  1. Watch the overhead clock as you run by the finish line
  2. Look at printed reports posted on a nearby telephone pole
  3. Look at a computer-based kiosk
  4. Receive stickers with personalized race results
  5. Receive a text message on your mobile device
  6. 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.

Race Timing: Be Reachable

Today, I received one of these via UPS:

lghbs730Necessary?  Sort of.  I mean, I didn’t have to get this particular type, nor even this particular brand and model.  Oh, what is it?  It’s an LG Tone+ Bluetooth Stereo Headset.  I’ve always liked the concept of hands-free phone operation, but have never found anything that meets my three requirements:

  1. Good stereo sound
  2. Good outgoing call quality
  3. Very very low geek-factor

In all fairness, not all Bluetooth headsets and ear-pieces look too geeky.  Manufacturers try to make some look elegant even.  But let’s face it, when I see people walking around with some chunk of plastic sticking out of one ear, it looks pretty geeky to me.  Now, call me a hypocrite because these do look geeky, too.  My only hope is that the “collar” generally stays hidden beneath my collar, and it looks like I’m just wearing earbuds.

This particular model is supposed to have one of the better outgoing call quality, which is very important to me.  I don’t want people to know I’m on a hands-free device, and not surprisingly the background noise commonly heard in lower-end Bluetooth devices always gives it away.

What does all of this have to do with Race Timing?  I’ll tell you: be reachable.  I mean, be very reachable.  Especially to the Event Director and volunteer staff.  And on race day, which can be rainy, windy, snowy, hectic, frantic, stressful, and just basically nerve wracking the last thing you need is to not hear your cell phone ring or have a low quality conversation.

How to time a race, race timing software, chip timing, and all of the fun things we do can quickly turn sour when you’re incommunicado because you’re not prepared with a decent way to talk with people.   Good luck!

(And, no, I do not plan on demonstrating these on our YouTube Channel.  I could be swayed, but you’d have to ask very nicely!)

Timing: More Lessons Learned

Well readers, I must say that at times I can get very frustrated with Microsoft Excel!  For instance, did you know that when Microsoft Excel encounters a long string of characters like this: 058002281248 it treats it as a number like this: 58002281248?  Well, it does.  Furthermore, it’s important to understand that in the world of chip timing, each one of the characters of a chip ID, whether it is numeric or not, is very important!  So treating 058002281248 like 58002281248 is not good!

Why, you ask, is Microsoft Excel even mentioned here in the same post about chip timing?  When it comes to how to time a race, sometimes you have to prepare data in the background and then import into Good Times.  For example, importing a bunch of racer bib numbers and assigned chip ID’s.  That’s what I did last weekend, and I used Excel to do it.  Two out of 451 runners failed to get results, because during the data prep (using Excel) I didn’t notice that Excel took that leading zero off of their chip ID’s.  Fortunately, we caught it early and were able to fix the chip ID’s and reprocess the results file: problem solved.

The positive outcome of this was just further evidence of the importance in using tools that do not automatically mess with your data!  Tools like: Notepad on a Windows machine, or TextWrangler on a Mac.  Lesson learned.

Race Timing Two Winter Races

Disclaimer 1: We only have 7 days left of winter.

Disclaimer 2: It doesn’t feel like winter.

Disclaimer 3: Technically I’m only timing one race, and even then it’s in an unofficial capacity!

Okay, now that I have those disclaimers out of the way, it’s going to be a fun and chilly weekend here in Southwestern Montana as I’m helping with one race tomorrow, then timing another race on Sunday as another live test of Good Times Software’s new RFID (Chip) Timing interface.

Those of you who are familiar with chip timing already know the importance of making sure your timing systems’ clocks are synchronized.  Many of the elements involved in how to time a race start to fall apart of clocks aren’t synchronized!  Automated syncing of the IPICO Sports Elite Reader clock with the timing computer clock will be something we test this weekend.  The new chip timing interface in Good Times allows the timer to choose whether to sync the Elite Reader clock to the PC clock, or vice versa.

Chip timers also know that when the same timing location is used for two different purposes (such as a shared starting line and finish line) that timing software must be magically aware of that.  When a runner crosses a timing pad and the electronics send a Chip ID to the timing software, the timing software must “know” whether that is the runner crossing the pad at the start of the race, or crossing the pad at the finish.  Timing software generally uses “time ranges” to accomplish this.  In the scenario above, an eight-minute time range setting in Good Times causes the software to calculate finish times only when seen occurring after eight minutes into the start of the race.  The time range is customizable, of course, and eight minutes is ample time for runners at the start of the race to cross the shared starting/finish line timing pad and move away from it as they enjoy their run.  Make sense?  Hopefully!  This has been tested before, but we’ll be proving it again this weekend, too.

Have you visited Good Times Software on Facebook yet?  If not, please do!  Also, readers, just over two weeks remain in our Winter 2014 Promotion.  Refer someone who ends up becoming a Good Times customer, and we’ll send you $100.  It’s that easy!  For more details, visit GoodTimesSoftware.com/reward.

RFID Chip Timing – Nearing Completion

Hello Readers…

Today is an exciting day!  Our development team has completed the “Alpha” release of Good Times software’s RFID Chip Timing interface.  An alpha release is essentially the point in time when coding is complete, and the software is ready to be tested in the wild, albeit at very limited scale.

It’s exciting because when considering race timing and how to time a race, chip timing is necessary for larger races.  And Good Times’ power, simplicity, and ease of use is something seriously missing in the larger race market where timing software is complex and archaic.  So our introduction of our chip timing capabilities is going to be truly remarkable.

Live testing with quite a few upcoming races is already scheduled.  The next one is one week from tomorrow!  I’m not sure I’ll have any videos on our YouTube channel, but I may.  Make sure you check just in case!   And if you haven’t browsed the rest of our site, take some time to do that now.  And you can find us on Facebook, too.

Spring Training

Well, time for Spring Training.  I’m not talking about the baseball scene, but the wonderful world of running!  And, readers, it’s still mighty cold here in the tundra better known as Montana (not to mention it’s not quite spring yet anyway.)

As evidence in the up-tick of Good Times Software FREE Trial downloads, event planners and timers must be prepping, too.  Which makes perfect sense: spring and summer is a huge ramp-up period for running races of all kinds.  With plenty of people thinking about how to time a race, it’s good to see them thinking about it now while there’s still time!

If you’re planning your event, check out Good Times Software on YouTube.  You’ll find plenty of “how-to” videos, demonstrating everything from setting up events, to registering participants, to timing events, displaying results, and giving awards!  I’ll be adding more videos soon, and when we release our RFID (Chip) Timing capabilities into the core software I’ll certainly be demonstrating that on YouTube.

 

Race Timing Backup Plan

It wasn’t all that long ago I was writing about things like: battery backup, electrical generators, etc. to make sure your high-tech timing solution doesn’t fall to its knees and leave you up the proverbial creek without a paddle.  I have a background in designing systems that are redundant and fail-safe in nature, so presumably it has carried over into how I time races.

Race timing surely isn’t a life or death situation, nor is a complete failure going to be comparable to something as major as the shutdown of a stock exchange or air traffic control.  But that doesn’t mean race timers shouldn’t have a viable backup plan.  The finest backup plan can even fail.  So what is one to do?  Your best!

While all of our chip timing coding is being integrated into Good Times, we’ve taken the time to slip in an old-fashioned technique albeit with a high-tech twist: the Tic Sheet.  Tic Sheets are invaluable for manual timing and allow a timer to record finish times in sequential order, then merge them with runner bibs also captured in sequential order to produce race results.  Fortunately, Good Times doesn’t need Tic Sheets under typical circumstances, yet the justification for having them was worth the development effort.

Consider an extremely high runner density at the finish line that would prevent the timer from recording racer bibs in Good Times.  Despite the fact that the association between elapsed time and racer bib has to be made at some time, it doesn’t actually have to be made the moment the runner crosses the finish line.  Sure, that’s the best way, but at an extremely high runner density it becomes impossible.  Enter the Tic Sheet.

The race timer captures as many racer bibs as possible, but simply records an elapsed time without the bib during high runner densities.  Periodically, the race timer also sends the Tic Sheet to the database where another race volunteer can print it when convenient.  The Tic Sheet contains all of the elapsed times, and every bib that was captured.  Bibs that were not captured can be filled in on the Tic Sheet, provided to the race timer, and entered into Good Times when convenient.

Now that’s a good backup plan to make sure you can time challenging races with a larger number of runners.  Chip timing, once released, will make it possible to time races with very large numbers of participants.  Stay tuned!

It won’t be too long and I’ll put up a video on our YouTube Channel demonstrating how to use Tic Sheets when you need them.  In the meantime, enjoy the rest of our website, or visit us on Facebook, too.  Thanks for reading!

Chip Timing and Registration

Hello again, readers, and I apologize for the delay.  I could make excuses like being sick, travel, and just overall busy.  But I’ll spare those details.

As many of you know, the ability to support RFID (chip) timing in timing software like Good Times is essential for larger races.  Our market has been races with a smaller number of participants, but with the introduction of our chip timing capabilities we’re hoping to expand that quite a bit.  And when you think about how to time a race, any race with a large number of participants will quickly convince  you to consider chip timing!

The last three use cases in development have focused on utilizing the IPICO Sports Registration Reader.  It’s a USB-connected device that transmits the Chip ID to whatever host software you’re communicating with.  Good Times uses the Registration Reader to capture a Chip ID and associate it with a participants racing bib.  For example, a participant wearing bib #123 will have a chip affixed to their shoe (or elsewhere.)  Good Times needs to know both of those things… the bib still allows Good Times to associate the participant with all of their data (name, date-of-birth, address, events for which they’re registered, etc.) and the Chip ID allows Good Times to find the bib.  The moral of the story?  Each chip must have its Chip ID captured into the Good Times software.

The Registration Reader is an easy way to accomplish capturing the Chip ID and associating it with a participants bib.  You can build up a “bib/chip cache” of dozens or hundreds of bibs, each with a Chip ID captured sequentially from the Registration Reader.  Alternatively, you can simply register a participant in real-time and have the Chip ID captured from the Registration Reader.

As we get closer to general release, we’ll publish videos on our YouTube Channel.  So stay tuned!

Race Day Madness!

Is race day stressful, busy, and overall just a crazy time?  Absolutely it is!  But it can be very rewarding, too, for all involved.  There’s a sort of thrill and sense of achievement that comes with seeing the results of your hard work lead to a successful event.

Timing a race, especially a larger one, is no trivial task on race day.  Sure, you have Good Times software ready, everything is configured, and your event staff are trained.  But now you have to look at the logistics of the day itself: getting up early, setting up before anyone else arrives on-site, having everything ready, timing the race (you’ve made sure people know how to time a race by this point, right?!) and then tearing down.

Here is a typical schedule:

  • 4:30am – Wake up, shower
  • 5:15am – Leave for the venue
  • 5:45am – Arrive, unload equipment
  • 6:00am – Setup power generators, cabling
  • 6:15am – Setup network router
  • 6:30am – Boot up all computers, test connectivity, setup printer
  • 6:50am – Ensure proper signage at registration area
  • 7:00am – Registration workers arrive
  • 7:10am – Last-minute questions from registration workers
  • 7:20am – Launch Good Times, confirm registration workers ready
  • 7:30am – Registration begins, be available to staff
  • 7:45am – Setup timing area at finish line
  • 8:15am – Briefing with timers to review plan
  • 8:40am – Cut-off registration, print Participants Report from Good Times
  • 8:50am – Briefing with starter, timers, person starting overhead clock
  • 8:55am – Last call to starting line
  • 8:59am – Thumbs up / visual from starter, timers, overhead clock
  • 9:00am – Race starts
  • 9:10am – Ensure timers are ready
  • 9:15am – Other staff to begin tearing down registration computers
  • 9:15am – Runners finishing, reports generated every five minutes
  • 9:30am – Prepare awards in Good Times
  • 10:00am – Awards ceremony
  • 10:30am – Tear down

Sounds so tidy and organized, right?  That’s a typical plan, however, it can definitely seem like madness.  Sometimes things don’t go according to schedule, people have a question, or something happens which makes you want to pull your hair out.  Whatever the case, timing a race is still fun!  It’s rewarding, and a great way to help people be healthy and experience the joys of running.

For more information about us or our race timing software, visit the Good Times Software website at GoodTimesSoftware.com, or visit our YouTube Channel.

Make Money Timing Races

How preposterous!  I mean, look at the title of this post: Make Money Timing Races.  Who would ever say such a thing, much less think it?!

Well, readers, it’s true.  You, too, can make money timing races.  It’s no secret that behind every good race is a competent and qualified person, people, or race timing company handling the registration and timing of the event.  In fact, timing a race properly is simply too much to worry about for most race directors, especially when they’re expecting a good turnout.  They need you, and if you ask them if they need you I can assure you they will say yes!

The very first race I was ever involved in paid very little attention to registration and timing.  Excel spreadsheets were king, and incompatible software laden with issues put the entire event at risk.  It took focus, luck, and pure will to make sure we could pull it off successfully.  And that was the last time I’d ever do it that way!  Soon thereafter, Good Times was born!

We’re proud to offer a Provider’s License for anyone interested in starting their own race timing company.  You can click here to learn more, but suffice it to say there is demand for timing companies who can provide professional service at a reasonable price for small- to medium-sized races.  That’s the market we serve here at Good Times Software, and it’s the market you can go after with our Provider’s License.

The sport of running continues to experience significant growth around the world.  Can you capitalize on that?  Sure you can!  Our Provider’s License allows you to get into the business at a very reasonable price, and does not burden you with royalties or fees for the events you will time.  This means you get to set your own prices, and keep your own profits.

You can learn more by visiting this page on our website, or just call us at (877) 244-5484.