Frequently Asked Questions
We have tried to anticipate some of the questions that a person might have about rfid timing in general and our services in particular. If you have a question that you feel would be beneficial to other members of the running community and we have not addressed it here, contact us and we will add it to our site.
What is Total Race Solutions?
Total Race Solutions (TRS) is a race timing and management company based in Knoxville, TN. TRS was formed in June of 2005. Since that time, TRS has timed and/or managed over 240 running events in 10 states. Our largest event to date is 14000 participants and our smallest event is 26 participants.
Why are there two b-tags on each bib?
ChronoTrack recommends using two chips per bib in order to have a backup chip in case one of the two fails to function properly. Both chips are programmed with the same information.
Why does TRS put so much emphasis on data entry?
All timing companies live and die by the information that they use to generate results. At least 95% of the problems that we encounter can be attributed to incorrect data. We strongly suggest that each event let us do the data entry for their registrations. If this is not acceptable, we would at least like to receive the data in a timely manner and in a format that we can easily check and import into our scoring software. We prefer to receive as much of the pre registration data from an on line registration as possible. We have found that this cuts down on the key punch errors associated with paper entries (hand writing quirks can be a problem). For day of race registration, we require that our personnel enter the data into our data base. We require this because they are trained to work with our scoring software and are very sensitized to the problems that incorrect entries cause when we generate results. We have some check routines built into out scoring software such as comparing the participant's first name to their gender entry. If we have a James entered as a female, it throws up a flag to allow us to verify the entry. If both birth date and age are entered, it compares the two and throws up a flag if they do not match. Bottom line is we do everything that we can to make certain that the data base is correct.
Does TRS take any other action to assure that the data is correct in the scoring software?
We send out a registration confirmation to all participants who register by the pre registration cut off date if we have a valid email address for them. This text of this email welcomes them as a participant in the event and lists their individual data that we will use to generate results. The participant is asked to reply to the email if errors are present.
What services does TRS provide?
As part of our standard timing package we provide: pre race: posting of the event information on our website to include a link to the event website and online registration site, downloadable pdf copy of the event registration form, and data entry for pre registered participants. day of race: a generic bib with timing chip attached, personnel and equipment for data entry, start pistol, personnel and equipment to staff and operate the finish line chute (to include a finish line stanchion and banner, digital clock and stand), generation of a random drawing list for door prizes. post race: awards listing in whatever format requested by race director, transmit results to local newspaper, listing of results on the TRS website as an html file and an active data base, transmission of individual results by email if emails are captured, complete copy of data base and race statistics in electronic format, suggestions for areas of improvement. Other services such as course measurement for USATF certification, online registration, timed start line services, intermediate timing points, sound system, etc available as upgrades for an additional fee.
Why does TRS charge for travel to races located over 50 miles one way from Knoxville, TN?
In order to transport our equipment and personnel, we have to pull a large equipment trailer with a vehicle of sufficient power and size to accomodate our needs for each race. Additionally, we pay our personnel for travel and we pay their expenses on the road. We charge $1 per mile each way to absorb this expense. The only fair way to charge is by the mile since the distance from our base to the location of each event is different.
Why are there two sets of mats at each timing point?
We use a primary and a secondary mat at each location in order to give us redundancy in the detection process and to have a backup in case of a catastrophic failure. The controllers for each set of mats are powered independently and each controller stores all of the data captured by each set of mats. We have never lost a controller during an event. The chances of us losing both controllers simultaneously is very small.
How does the rfid system accumulate data?
Any time that a chip is in the detection field of the antenna, the chip is constantly being read and recorded by the system. the detection field extends in all directions around the antenna. As a chip enters the field, the detection software analyzes the strength of the detection and records the time at the point the detection is strongest. This detection will occur when the bib is closest to the antenna (when the bib is centered on the antenna). If a participant is standing on the mat (such as during the staging process at the start line), we will typically record several detections for each chip. At the start line, we program the controllers to start a new detection file when the gun is fired. We may record several valid reads for a chip because of the density of the participants so we set our scoring software to capture the last read detected for each participant. At the finish line, we set our scoring software to capture the first read for each participant.
What happens if my chip fails to read?
At the start line, if a chip is not read, we assign the gun time as the official start time. If a chip is not read at the finish line, we have to manually record a time to that particular chip. We use two types of backup at the finish line: First, we manually record the order of finish and compare this data to the order of finish generated by the scoring software. If a manual read is not shown on the scoring software report, we can manually add that read to the scoring software file. Second, for large high density finish lines, we also video record the order of finish. We can then compare this order of finish to the manually recorded order of finish and the scoring software order of finish and make additions as required. In all cases, our detection efficiency with the rfid chips is greater than 99.5%.
What is the difference between a gun fired event and a net timed event?
We see a lot of confusion over this issue. First off, All of the events that are serviced by TRS are chip timed. We do not manually time any events. In a gun fired event, each participant's time starts when the gun is fired. Their individual time is recorded as the time interval between the gun fire and the point in time that their chip is detected at the finish line. This is typically not an issue with smaller events in that all of the participants will typically clear the start line in a matter of a few seconds. In a net timed event, each participant's individual time is recorded when their individual chip is actually detected at the start line. When their chip is detected at the finish line, their net time on the course is calculated and recorded by the scoring software. Using net timing gives a more accurate time for each participant because it reflects the actual time that they ran the distance between the exact location of the start line and the exact location of the finish line. This is especially important in larger events where a participant may cross the start line several seconds (or minutes) after the gun fires. In other words, they are not penalized for their position in the start corral. With a net timed event, we are often questioned as to why participant A who crossed the finish line behind participant B ends up with a time that is less than that recorded for participant B. The answer is that participant A finished the course in less net time than participant B. The order of finish is not relative to the time of completion for net timed events.
Could you explain the term "jumping" as it pertains to race scoring?
The term "jumping" refers to the practice of allowing participants to qualify for the highest echelon award in an event based on their finish time regardless of their age. USA Track and Field recognizes three subsets of award categories based on the age of the participant: master which is a participant who is at least 40 years old, grandmaster which is a participant who is at least 50 years old, and veteran or senior grandmaster which is a participant who is at least 60 years old. Events that choose to recognize these additional subsets will usually recognize the following hierarchy: open overall, masters, grandmasters, and veteran or senior grandmaster. In years past, the open overall winners were usually younger runners whose age had not qualified them for one of the older subsets. What we see now, is that often a participant in one of the older subsets will be fast enough to qualify in either a younger subset (grandmaster participant faster than any master participant) or even fast enough to qualify as an overall winner. If the scoring software is defined such that a participant is only able to qualify in a subset based on their age, then they would not be able to qualify as an overall open winner even though their timer might be fast enough to qualify. In other words, if the top three winning times in a 5K event were 18:00, 19:00, and 20:00 and a 40 year old participant posted a time of18:30 they would only qualify as top master instead of 2nd place overall finisher. Events that utilize "jumping" seek to allow any runner regardless of age to achieve the highest echelon award based on their individual time. In the example above, the master participant would place 2nd overall and the second fastest master would qualify as the top master. Since the hierarchy of finish is defined as open overall, master, grandmaster, and veteran or senior grandmaster, in events that utilize "jumping" we occasionally see a grandmaster who is faster than all of the masters age participants; so we will see a 50+ participant listed as the top master.
Who are the principals of TRS?
TRS is owned and operated by Mike Tourville and Ron Fuller. Mike and Ron are runners and both have been involved in all facets of race administration and timing. They administer a local race in Knoxville, TN that had over 4000 participants in 2010.
What technology does TRS use to time events?
TRS uses radio frequency identification (rfid) technology to capture the unique time (start, intermediate, or finish) for each participant. Rfid systems consist of three main components: an rfid chip, an antennna, and a data storage device (mini computer). The rfid chip is a passive device that can be programmed with a unique data string. For our purposes, the data string is the same number as the bib number. We use a passive device because it does not depend on the state of a battery charge to be operational as is the case with an active device. The antenna has two functions; it generates an electrical field that the rfid chip uses for its power source and it captures the data string that is generated by the rfid chip when it is activated and transfers this data string to the data storage device. The data storage device uses software to assign a unique time stamp to the data string, converts the data string to a number, and stores this combined data in a text file. this text file can then be imported into a scoring program to assign the captured numbers and times to individuals and generate results.
What brand of timing equipment does TRS utilize?
TRS uses the rfid system designed and marketed by ChronoTrack Systems. ChronoTrack offers two types of rfid chips: the d-tag which is worn on the participant's shoe and the b-tag which is worn on the participant's bib. Both chips are disposable and are not required to be returned by the participant.
What type of ChronoTrack chip does TRS use?
TRS utilizes the b-tag from ChronoTrack Systems. We believe that this type of chip offers important advantages to the event and the participants. The chip is attached to and issued with the participant's bib. This means that the event needs fewer volunteers because there is no need for a separate distribution process for the bib and chip. Also, there is no need to have a chip verification point to verify that each participant has received the correct chip. At the finish line there are no volunteers required to retrieve the chips. For the participant, there is no need to stand in multiple lines for bib and chip distribution. No need to attach a chip to their shoe or ankle before the race. No need to stand in line at the finish line while their chip is retrieved. No charge back if they lose or fail to return their chip.
Are there any requirements for how the chip must be worn?
The chips should not be exposed to a strong magnetic field as this could corrupt the stored data string. The chips should not be folded or creased. The bib/chips should be worn on the outside layer of clothing--not under a coat or heavy shirt. The bib should be worn with the numeral and text horizontal to the ground. The bib should be pinned in all four corners.
Is there a problem if I do not hear an individual beep when I cross the finish line?
The earlier chip systems incorporated the beeper so that the participant and the timer had a warning if a particular chip failed or the equipment stopped reading the chips. As the technology has advanced, the need for this audio feedback has become less of an issue. In a high density start or finish, the beep becomes a continuous tone instead of an individual beep and thus negates the individual feedback. In the ChronoTrack equipment, the beep can be disabled and the volume of the beep can be adjusted up or down. When the beep is enabled, its tone is factory set to last five seconds after each detection. At some point in an event, the beep will approach a continuous tone as the finish density reaches a level where the finishers are crossing the antenna in increments of less than five seconds. TRS'S POLICY IS TO DISABLE THE BEEP AT THE START LINE AND ENABLE IT AT THE LOWEST VOLUME SETTING AT THE FINISH LINE.
What happens if a participant keeps the chip and wears it at a different race?
The chip would be detected at the antenna; but the scoring software would assign the results for that participant as an "unknown participant" and the results for that chip would not be included in the published results.
If there are multiple events with a common finish line, what happens if a participant decides to switch from one event to another?
You need to contact the timer and have your information changed in the data base to correctly reflect the event that you actually ran. We use a routine in the scoring software to place any finisher that has a questionable finish time for a particular event in a "quarantine division" until their time can be verified for a particular division. If the time can not be verified, that time is not included in the results.