Race Report - Burrator 10K

 It's a few weeks back now, but I timed the Burrator 10K with Sportiva Events. Under normal circumstances this a closed road, fast, mass start event which is done and dusted in a couple of hours. Not so in covid times. The race starts were spread out over the course of five hours, with the 10k runners starting in small waves every two minutes and the 5k runners starting after that, also in waves.

As anyone who has timed any race in the last 18 months will know - wave starts, especially with a lot of people, can be a headache due to wave changes etc. This was no exception, but those changes are easy enough to rectify. The start was a point A on the map below (for the 10K) and the finish and point B, and there was no mobile signal worth talking about. Starting times were recorded using webscorer on a mobile phone.

The finish line was made up of three UHF RFID readers (we were using passive tags), four floor antennas and six side antennas. Network was provided by a small consumer 4G modem/router. All was housed in peli case style boxes. The timing device on the finish was a Lenovo M10 tablet.

Start Timing

Worked flawlessly. merging the taps from phone via webscorer using bluetooth was great. The only hitch was the human element of the system as I forgt to configure the finish line for two laps (for the 10K runners) which meant the race clock was out of sync on the finish. I was able to correct this in excel after.

Finish Setup

The side antennas were amazing, and continue to be one of my favourite pieces of kit. The readers (impinj speedway) worked flawlessly, even as the temperature rose. The 4G modem/router did not, and overheated. Some rapid cooling and opening of cases later we were sorted. It's fair to say I don't trust it though and would like to move to more commercial spec option (ideally with large external wifi antennas) as soon as possible.

The tablet did not perform as well as I expected. Not sure what caused this but I am investigating it. it would beep instantly on a chip being detected but take a few seconds to show this on screen. When I got home a system update happened, I'm hoping this solved it, but need to do some more testing.

The real disappointment on the finish was the performance of the floor (linear polarized) mat antennas. They simply did not do the job as well as expected. At best they got 50% of the reads, with the rest being mopped up by the side antennas. Some more investigative work required here. Please not these are not the expensive impinj floor antennas, there are cheaper imitations.

Lessons to take away

  1. Test everything before hand - extensive testing might have allowed us to pick up the floor antenna disappointment beforehand.
  2. The timing tent needs to be downstream of the finish. In this case I could have achieved this by running a long ethernet cable to the gazebo from the readers and putting the modem/router under there. Would have solved the over heating issue too.
  3. Procedure, procedure, procedure. Write out the procedure for setup on race day beforehand. Less likely to miss things like laps etc.
  4. If it's not raining - ventilate the timing gear. Stops overheating.