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!
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.
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.