Timing Races and Staying Cool…

…and hydrated.  And nourished.  And energized.

Yes, of course, we know runners should stay hydrated while running.  But if you’re a timing service provider, make sure you remember to do the same.  It’s surprisingly easy to get so wrapped up in the activities of race day that one forgets to drink water, have snacks, and maintain a healthy amount of energy!

Fortunately, most of the software development for Good Times Software happens inside, and without extraordinary requirements for nutrition and water.  But timing a race is different, and the elements and craziness of race day can simply make these basic requirements too easy to forget.

Sorry for the short post, readers, but (speaking of the need for hydration) I’m on a brief hiatus in Tulsa, OK where it’s a balmy 96 degrees!

Recent Registration and Timing Changes

With the release of Good Times 3.6, we saw some new (and very necessary!) changes introduced with the registration module.  The most important change is a significantly better way of handling international addresses.  Though our current customer base is primarily US-based, a number of races have international participants from all over the world.  Even recently, we’ve seen race participants from Canada, Chile, Belgium, and UK.

We’ve kept the change to accommodate international addresses as simple as possible in the user interface.  For manual registrations, an additional street address line has been added, as well as country.  The ZIP Code field has been more appropriately changed to Postal Code, and State to State / Province.  This alone should help capture the vast majority of the world’s different addressing schemes.

Importing registration data now permits the inclusion of the third street address line, as well as the country field.

In the participant registration window, as well as when importing data, if a US or Mexican State is detected, the country will default to US or Mexico as you’d expect.  If a Canadian Province is detected, the country will default to Canada.

In the upcoming 3.7 release, age bracket configurations now include a “Display As” field, which is auto-populated but can be changed to anything you like.  This is mostly a cosmetic change so certain age brackets can appear with a meaningful name; for instance, instead of 40 and over, an event director may wish it to be displayed as “Master’s.”

Divisions are also being introduced, so participants can be registered to either the default (“Open”) division for an event, or a specific division established and defined when the Event Profile is setup in Good Times.  Divisions will have a name, and can really mean anything.  Some divisions are age-related (though you can–and should–use age brackets for that) and I’ve seen some which are weight-related.  Right now, we’re not planning on asking for people’s weight if you register them to a division based upon weight!

Watch for videos on our YouTube Channel that demonstrate these new features, and as always we invite you to check out our Facebook page, too.  Are you interested in a live web presentation, demonstrating Good Times to you or your race committee?  Then please contact us.  We’ll be happy to do that!

Timing a race certainly has its advantages!

Today I had the fortunate experience of helping the owner of a chip timing company time a race in the remote wilderness.  Well, not all that remote I suppose.  After all, I’m sitting here on a laptop with Internet connectivity writing this post!

But I am about an hour away from civilization, amongst only the cool mountain breeze, a few (but surprisingly cooperative) insects, and acres and acres of high-altitude mountaintop scenery. What can be better than this?

Though I must admit my mind has been far from the technical details of race timing software, it has occasionally pondered the necessity of software that must be reliable, accurate, and able to run all day.  Literally!  I’ve been here for eleven hours (it’s a 100-mile mountain bike race) with about two more to go.

Back to work, readers, I hope you’re having as fun of a day as I am, even if you can’t enjoy the mountains quite like this!  (It’s a tough job, but someone has to do it.)

 

Successful Race Timing, Successful Events…

Readers, do you know what makes for a successful event?  It’s the people!  I had the pleasure of providing services to a race this morning in a small Montana town; the people made it successful.

Arriving at 4:30am and finding volunteers who arrived early (as if 4:30am isn’t early enough already!) and anxious to work is so incredibly nice.  And not only that, they were hard-working, smart-working, and anxious to do whatever it took to help make the event successful.  And though it wasn’t a very large event, it was indeed successful: fun, enjoyable for the participants, enjoyable for the workers, accurate timing, smooth registration, great weather… I could go on, but you get the point!

As I think about race timing software, how to time a race, and the many things which make Good Times Software successful, I must not forget that it’s the people that make the events successful!

Visit us at GoodTimesSoftware.com.  And please like us on Facebook, and visit our YouTube Channel for some great videos.  Happy surfing!

Race Timing Software, Timing a Race, and: Kiosk Heaven!

Readers, a ton of work has been put in to adding two new Kiosk Screens that were released as part of Good Times v3.5.2 last night.

First, an Events Results kiosk screen which shows either Overall or Age Group / Gender results for a selected event.  On-screen controls allow kiosk visitors to select the event, what view they wish to see, and whether they want to see results displayed by Gun Time or by Chip Time.  The other is a Personalized Results kiosk screen which shows individual results (gun time, chip time, placement overall, placement by gender, etc.) whenever the kiosk visitor enters their bib number.  Additionally, the Personalized Results kiosk can be configured to send those results to a label printer that can instantaneously generate a sticker for the runner.

Other things in 3.5.2…. a “custom output designer,” an advanced feature that allows an HTML report to be customized with Good Times output and then transferred to an FTP server; pace calculations; and an unlimited number of Age Brackets.  Other minor enhancements were made as well, and current customers will receive a copy of the Release Notes that go into more detail.

On a completely unrelated topic, I had to go by an additional flat screen monitor this week.  Craigslist is often a good choice, and I’ve spent (and made) lots of money over the years with them.  But for the first time, I actually received a nicely written “receipt” for my $79 purchase.  Here is the picture:

Craigslist Receipt

Craigslist Receipt

Pretty cool, ‘eh?  At first I thought it was a little strange, but then an admiration of the fellow grew within me, knowing that he probably runs a pretty tight ship in other areas of his life.  Granted, the admiration wasn’t enough to motivate me to start providing receipts like this, but nonetheless I ended up being impressed!

Gotta run… helping out this weekend at what was voted the Best Overall Marathon of 2010 by Runner’s World Magazine!

Visit our FREE Trial Download page to get a copy of Good Times Version 3.5.2, and check out our YouTube Channel for how-to videos.

Timing A Race: When does “technical” become “too technical”?

Well that’s certainly a great question!  If you’re an event director, or involved in timing races or handling some elements of race registration, then you already know things can get a little “dicey” at times!  For instance… grabbing a few thousand rows of raw data from an online registration site and trying to manipulate it, upload it somewhere, etc.

It’s inevitable readers, timing a race (unless you do it by hand the old-fashioned way!) requires just a bit of technology savvy.  Not an enormous amount, but some… so can you use Windows?  Can you use tools like Microsoft Excel, or a file editor like Notepad?  Are you comfortable adding a computer to a wireless network?  You’ll be fine!!

And if you’re concerned, you can always give us a call.  In fact, our Premier Support customers have 24×7 access to telephone support, which is very helpful on race day.  If you haven’t checked out our YouTube Channel, take a look.  Another video was added today, too.  It’s a great resource for Good Times Software how-to videos.

I hope you all had a terrific Independence Day!

Race Results Stickers

Stickers.  Yes, the joyful little things from childhood… in fact, I was just telling someone the other day that I think it was around the age of 10 that I stopped liking stickers.  Maybe that’s typical for people: you like stickers as a kid, and then they sort of lose their appeal.

But wait!

Within the last two months, I’ve seen no less than 3,000 fully grown and mature adults clammering around in huge lines to get stickers.  Yes, stickers!  Seems like all the craze up here in my neck of the woods is to get your own little sticker with personalized race results right after you cross the finish line and head over to the timing company’s results kiosk.

What is the big deal about the race results sticker?  I’m not quite sure I’ve figured it out yet, readers.  But I’ve jumped on the bandwagon, and soon we’ll be releasing another version of Good Times Software that supports a multi-computer Results Kiosk, complete with support of…  wait for it… stickers!

The idea is simple: runners finish their race, and walk over to the results kiosk.  They enter their bib number on the USB number keypad, and a sticker with their personalized results prints immediately before their very eyes.  The sticker has a logo (an option), plus all of the stats for the participant: gun or chip finish times, paces, current overall placement, etc.

One last thought… those 3,000+ adults asking for stickers at some of these races I’ve attended were extraordinarily environmentally friendly!  I didn’t see one sticker lying on the ground.  What was the destiny of said sticker then?  You be the judge: a refrigerator door?  the trash?

Thanks for reading.  Please visit our website at GoodTimesSoftware.com, or you can find us on Facebook, or even on YouTube.  Have a great day sticker-lovers of all ages!

Oh, the memories!

Readers, I’ve been out of the “Event Director” stage of my life for a few years now, and focusing on the software side and growing the Good Times business has been tremendously fun, challenging, and rewarding.  But yesterday I had a call where I was essentially being asked to be Event Director, and I must admit it was a refreshing change of pace!

There’s something exhilarating about working together with other people to take a heap of puzzle pieces and somehow put them all together just right and see a successful event happen right before your very eyes!  Sure, you have to deal with the headaches but the reward of a job well done makes them all worth it.

Even in the earliest of planning stages and asking questions about expected volume of participants, course layout, number of events, volunteer coordination, signage, backup plans, timing strategy, registration strategy—all of that is simply fun to discuss.  Well, it is to me at least!

Speaking of planning stages, where are you in the planning of your races for the rest of this year?  The end of June is quickly approaching, and late summer and fall race planning is hopefully in full swing for you.  This is a great time to consider Good Times software for your race registration and race timing needs.  Call us, and we’ll be happy to give a live webinar to show you the software and how easy it is to use.

You can also check us out on Facebook, or YouTube.

Have a great weekend!

Timing a Race and Avoiding Unnecessary Issues

Readers… While working in and around the race timing field for quite some time, I’ve come across numerous pitfalls that lead to inconveniences at best, and epic failures at worst.  Some I’ve shared with you in other posts.  But here are a few that some people simply don’t think of that are simple to avoid:

(And these apply mostly to the timing crew, but lessons can be learned for everyone!)

1. Screensavers

Have you ever been timing a race and at a critical moment in time you look down and find your screensaver running?  Many people password-protect those things, and even if you know the password sometimes the delay in unlocking the screen can cause issues.  Don’t use screensavers on timing computers!

2. “Sleep” Mode

I guess this is a similar issue to what you can encounter with Screensavers.  But some computers are set to go into “Sleep” mode after a certain amount of time idle.  Worse yet, I’ve seen some simply hibernate or shutdown!  You sure don’t want that to happen in the middle of a race.  Make sure you disable this sort of thing altogether.

3. Running Windows on a Mac

Well this isn’t inherently bad; I do it myself, and quite successfully I might add.  But when you’re running Windows in a “Virtual Machine” such as VMWare or Parallels, you have to remember that some things on the Mac may affect things on the Windows side… like the clock on Windows syncing up with the clock on the Mac.  Or the Mac “hot corners” that are still active even when you’re in your Windows session.  So pay attention to how your Virtual Machine software interacts with Windows.

4. Brightness

Automatically adjusting brightness is a nice “feature” of modern operating systems.  But if you turn it off, make sure you know how to manually adjust the brightness of your display before you get out and start working a race in the sunshine!

5. Windows Update

Oh, this is my favorite.  I’ve been a victim of this one numerous times, fortunately not during a race though.  And I’ve taken measures to make sure it never happens again.  But with the Windows Update set to Automatic, it’s liable to start updating at any time.  Furthermore, even if you’re not actively updating software during a race (what a no-no!) maybe you did recently and upon a reboot you find yourself having to wait 15 minutes while Windows applies its updates.  You definitely do not what that happening as a race is about to begin.

 

Those are just a few things.  There are more–plenty more.  Just be careful, and think about how you have your computers configured.

Please check us out on Facebook, and visit our YouTube Channel for some great intro videos to Good Times, and plenty of How-To videos.  Call us at (877) 244-5484 and we’ll setup an appointment for a free product demonstration.

Timing Races: Multiple Races

Timing multiple races (the kinds that usually occur on the same day, at the same venue, with different start times, but ultimately are all part of the larger “event”) is one area where I consistently see timing software handle it in different ways.

One approach is to have all individual races wrapped up under a single event.  For example, consider an event, “Run With The Beatles” (guess readers know what I’m listening to right now) that actually has a kids 1-mile fun run, a timed 5k, 10k, and half-marathon.  With all of those separate races wrapped up into one “event,” software that approaches it this way will usually have separate Divisions for each race.

The approach we take with Good Times is a little cleaner.  Each individual race is what Good Times Software considers an “event.”  That’s right, each race has its own Event Profile (options, timing system, rules, age brackets, etc.) and actually maintains a separate set of participants for each of those events.

You see, with this cleaner approach also comes a much more intuitive way to use the software and produce results for your participants.  When information for multiple races is intertwined with each other and tied to a larger single “event,” managing all of the settings, rules, reports, participants, etc. can really become tricky.  And why?  The result ends up being the same!  If I can do something with the same or less effort, in a much more organized way, and produce the same results then I’m going to do it!

And that’s exactly what we’ve done with Good Times.  Not just with how we handle timing multiple races, but with everything we’ve built: the software has been built from the ground up to be intuitive and handle all of the complexities easily so you (the timer) do not have to worry about it.  After all, all we want you to worry about is impressing your event directors and participants with timely, accurate results and a successful event!

Please check out some of our YouTube videos, or better yet Contact Us for a free demonstration so you can see, I mean experience, firsthand how easy we’ve made it for you.