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Road Running Technical Council Minutes
USATF 2009 Annual Meeting – Indianapolis, IN

1st Meeting – Friday, December 4, 2009

Attending:
Bob Baumel, James Bean, Ann Gaffigan, Jim Gerweck, Patrick Glover, Finn Hansen, David Harriman, Paul Hronjak, Justin Kuo, Carol McLatchie, Gene Newman, Jane Parks, Ron Pate, Roy Pirrung, Rick Recker, Pete Riegel, Tom Riegel, Bill Roe, Duane Russell, Mike Wickiser, Jay Wight.

The meeting was called to order at 14:34 by RRTC Chairman Gene Newman, with a comment about the unusually cold weather. Gene noted that all RRTC Officers were present except the Validation Chairman.

Officer Reports: All Officer reports had already been collected in advance of the meeting and posted online at http://www.rrtc.net/annual_meeting_reports_2009.pdf so will not be repeated here. Following are some additional comments and discussion related to officers’ reports:

Gene stated that RRTC isn’t affected by the structural changes taking place in USATF, and Gene will be free to fill RRTC positions as he sees fit (we shouldn’t see a repeat of the extra bureaucratic steps imposed in early 2009). Course certifications are moving along at record pace; we expect over 2000 of them for 2009 by year end. The course map quality requirements adopted last year, although somewhat of a challenge to enforce, have improved map quality significantly. Gene indicated that taking over the Course Registrar position, in addition to serving as Chairman, has been helpful in showing him who is doing what in RRTC. He emphasized that all steps in the certification review process are essential: from Measurer to Certifier to the Vice Chairs to the Registrar.

Jim Gerweck, RRTC Vice Chair West, noted that the report he submitted in advance of this meeting neglected to include the activity he considered the highlight of his year—his visits to the apartment of the late Ted Corbitt to sort through and recover Ted’s documents and effects, which Jim described as an “amazing body of work.” Jim handed out a revised version of his report including this information [and following our meeting on Dec 4th, the PDF file of officers’ reports previously posted online was updated to include Jim’s revised report].

Jane Parks, in the newly created position of RRTC Data Accuracy Officer, described her work in updating the Course Measurers list on the USATF website to make sure it contains only active measurers who wish to be listed and have valid contact information. The process included emailing measurers and phoning those who didn’t respond to the email (with the result, as Jane described, that she “talked with the nicest people”). After working about halfway through the alphabet, the list has been reduced from 663 to 550 measurers. Jane will continue the process in 2010.

In discussing Neville Wood’s Validation report, it was noted that the Course List includes Status Codes intended to indicate whether a course has been validated and the validation results; however, those codes haven’t always been set. Also, the currently defined status codes aren’t consistent with changes in validation policy adopted during the past few years. To rectify these problems, Gene will contact Neville to obtain an updated list of all validations performed during the last few years; Records Chair Justin Kuo will provide Gene with a list of validations that the Records Committee knows about; and all Regional Certifiers will be asked to inform Gene of any validations in their areas that they know about. In addition, status code definitions will be updated according to current validation policy.

In the RRTC Bulletin Board report, Pete Riegel expressed a desire for more participants, and suggested broadcasting emails about the bulletin board to measurers and certifiers. It was agreed that Gene will send a notice to all Regional Certifiers, introducing them to the bulletin board and RRTC website and online maps on the USATF site, and urging the certifiers to inform measurers in their areas to make use of these resources. This email will also ask the certifiers to notify Gene about validations in their areas.

In discussion of the Workshop reports by Mike Wickiser and Duane Russell, Jay Wight mentioned that he has PowerPoint slides from a presentation he gave at a race director’s conference in Chicago, and he suggested preparing slides that others in RRTC would be able to use. It was agreed that Duane and Mike would work with Jay to develop such presentations that can be used in workshops for various kinds of audiences.

In the report by RRTC webmaster Bob Baumel, it was noted that the portions of the USATF site containing the search engines for courses and measurers are outside of the areas that Bob has access to maintain, so any requests for changes involving those search engines must be directed to the USATF webmaster. Unfortunately, implementing such changes has been difficult because USATF lacks a full-time webmaster at this time, and is looking to hire somebody for that position. Katie Landry, the person who currently does updates on the USATF site, is actually an assistant webmaster. Even so, Katie is willing to help RRTC by making whatever changes she can. Therefore, it was agreed that RRTC will prepare a list of USATF website changes for Katie to implement. As one such change, Duane Russell suggested that the certified course search engine display an example showing the format of certification codes to enter in the form. Also, Gene would like to eliminate the bug that currently forces him to upload data twice.

Measuring Contest: Dave Harriman, who was recently appointed an IAAF level B measurer, had laid out a course for the traditional RRTC Measuring-By-Pacing contest. Dave described the course, located in front of the Westin hotel. Endpoints of both the contest course and calibration course (of length 15.24 meters) were marked by reflective tape on the brick walkways (fortunately, this tape remained in place for the duration of the contest). Contest entries were to be turned in at the Saturday RRTC meeting.

Agenda Items:

Course Certificates:
There had been a suggestion to remove the “Replaces” line on the Certificates. However, it was decided to keep the Certificates as is for now.

How long to keep certificates: After some discussion, it was decided that paper certificates will be kept on file by the Registrar for 10 years and by the Vice Chairs for 5 years. Meanwhile, electronic copies of the scanned certificates and maps will be kept indefinitely. For this purpose, in addition to storage media (such as CDs) maintained directly by the Registrar, on online backup system will also be obtained (this is especially important for the scanned certificates which, unlike the maps, aren’t normally posted on the USATF website).

GPS locations on course maps: Coordinates obtained using GPS may be used only as supplemental descriptions of key points, but cannot be relied on as primary descriptions. Thus, measured distances from landmarks are always required.

Annual checking of Maps online: Several courses recently turned out to be missing from the online database, pointing out the need for online checking As Registrar, Gene will look over the certification numbers and will send notes to the certifiers to check their records. All certifiers need to double check their data annually (for example, to avoid duplicate certification numbers).

Expiration/renewal policy debated (again): Ever since RRTC’s decision in 2000 to expire courses after 10 years without the possibility of renewal (a policy that’s being phased in over an 11-year period), suggestions have been raised to continue allowing renewals in some cases. At this meeting, a suggestion was made to allow issuing a new certification for an old course if the original measurer resubmits the original data and asserts that the available SPR hasn’t changed. Mike Wickiser, who had been RRTC Chairman at the time of the 2000 decision, explained the rationale of that decision by pointing out that after 10 years, all roads have most likely been resurfaced, which may have altered the SPR in ways that even the original measurer wouldn’t be aware of. A suggestion was then made to treat calibration courses as special cases, if the original nails marking the endpoints are still in place. It was noted, however, that it can be impossible to verify that the nails currently in the road are the same ones placed there when the course was originally laid out. And, in any case, remeasuring a calibration course isn’t a great hardship. The upshot is that the policy adopted in 2000 remains in effect, without any exceptions. All courses will simply need to be redone after 10 years. (Note: phase-in of the no-renewal policy will be complete by the end of 2011; after that time, no more renewals will be issued, and all previously renewed courses will have expired.)

The meeting was adjourned at 16:52.


2nd Meeting – Saturday, December 5, 2009

Attending:
Bob Baumel, Tom Bernhard, Ann Gaffigan, Dave Gammon, David Harriman, Irene Herman, Lena Hollmann, Paul Hronjak, David Katz, Karen Krsak, Justin Kuo, Glenn Latimer, Bruce Leasure, Carol McLatchie, Lester Mount, Gene Newman, Dave Oja, Jane Parks, Ron Pate, Rick Recker, Pete Riegel, Tom Riegel, Sonje Robinson, Frank Rodenbaugh, Greg Roth, Duane Russell, Joe Sarver, Lloyd Stephenson, Steve Vaitones, Mike Wickiser, Jay Wight

The meeting was called to order at 08:27. Gene announced a new Certifier appointment: Mark Neal (who lives in Michigan) will be the Certifier for the State of Washington, replacing Mike Wickiser. Mark will undergo his initial training under Mike Wickiser’s guidance. Gene welcomed the USATF Associations Chair, Karen Krsak for a special presentation:

Presentation by Karen Krsak, Chair of Associations Committee: Karen has been in touch with Gene, in order to develop a closer relationship between the Associations Committee and RRTC. Plans are underway for a Measurement seminar at the Associations Workshop, to be held this year in Buffalo NY (Karen said she’s been hearing rumblings of excitement from the workshop Duane held at the RRCA Convention during the past year). Her committee will work with Andy Martin to have bikes available for the seminar. Young, math-oriented people in the local Associations are encouraged to attend this workshop and take the course. Generally, the committee wants to recruit younger people as both Officials and Course Measurers. Karen had some questions regarding operation of the Course Certification program and, for this purpose, Gene promised to send her information. Karen said she wants to tell the local Association people where to get information, but doesn’t want to “spoon feed” them. Attendees at the meeting said she should just direct people to the www.rrtc.net website, which provides a comprehensive set of links to course certification resources on both the USATF site and elsewhere.

Electronic Counter Systems: An extensive discussion took place on use of electronic counters for course measuring. Neville Wood introduced this idea at the 2003 RRTC meeting, at a time when parts for the standard Jones Counter were becoming increasingly unavailable. Neville realized that with some trickery, various commercially available bicycle computers could be made to serve as precise wheel revolution counters. The technique has advantages such as lower cost, handlebar mounting, and ability to zero the counter. It has been used successfully by a number of experienced measurers, including some such as Bruce Leasure, who championed the technique at this meeting and has developed it into a high art form. Bruce has installed a Lucite ring containing 10 magnets on his bike wheel, and he calibrates his counter to read directly in meters instead of wheel revolutions.

Unfortunately, the electronic technique is also prone to problems, most notably that if you stop your bike while a magnet is near the sensor, any jiggling causes it to register extra counts (and since the electronic system doesn’t know whether the wheel is moving forward or backward, they’re all counted as if you were going forward). Since most people using an electronic counter would have only one magnet (unlike Bruce with his ring of 10 magnets), each count corresponds to a whole revolution, representing a much bigger error than one count of a Jones Counter. Also, if counts represent whole revolutions, counter readings must be supplemented with fractional revolutions, resulting in another potential source of error (e.g., some measurers have marked their wheel backwards). Some idiosyncrasies vary among counter models (e.g., whether the first sensed signal after zeroing the counter gets counted). In effect, electronic measuring turns the process of counting wheel revolutions, which would be relatively mindless with a Jones Counter, into an activity that requires more thought.

The biggest drawback of the electronic technique is from the viewpoint of a Certifier who must review the work of other people. The data presentation gives the reviewer virtually no information to tell whether the measurer did it right. Pete Riegel described his experience reviewing data from 3 measurers, all of whom screwed up one way or another, although it was very hard to tell from the data that they screwed up.

As indicated above, parts for Jones Counters were becoming unavailable at the time of Neville’s 2003 introduction of the electronic method, which seemed like a viable solution using items that were readily available commercially. It was noted at this meeting that the situation has largely reversed. Traditional Jones Counters depended on obtaining gear drives produced for mechanical bicycle speedometers (which aren’t made any more). Now, with the JR version of the Jones Counter, we developed our own engineering design for the gear drive, which can always be given to a fabricator to make the parts for us. This ensures a continuing supply of the JR counters. Meanwhile, the electronic method depends on availability of particular cyclocomputer models that manufacturers may discontinue or change at any time—so a model that works currently may become unusable after the next revision, or may require significantly different technique to make it work. [Ed. note: This trend may be likely to continue. As costs of GPS systems go down, future cyclocomputers may become all GPS-based, making it impossible to find any cyclocomputers that operate by counting wheel revolutions.]

Following our discussion, Gene decided that the policy on electronic measuring adopted earlier this year remains in effect, namely:
The Electronic Counter is approved for measuring courses for certification only by those that presently use this device.
  1. It may not be used for measurement of AIMS/IAAF courses.
  2. It may not be used for measurement for any big-city marathons, Olympic Trials, Olympic Marathons or National Championship Races.
  3. It may not be used for Validation measurements.

Electronic submission & transmission of Certification applications & data: This topic also produced an extended discussion. Some RRTC people think we need to go all electronic to bring our processes into the 21st Century, although the reality may be more complicated. Ann Gaffigan, an RRTC Active Athlete Member who also runs a web design company – see www.gazelleincorporated.com – has said she could program a web-based system where the measurers and RRTC personnel would login to send, receive and manipulate the data electronically, and this system would also do automatic conversions of graphic data (i.e., maps) to the desired format. Some RRTC members, such as Duane Russell who has long advocated a more electronic data stream, were quick to embrace Ann’s idea. Others have been more cautious.

Many of our Certifiers already receive many of their applications electronically, although formats can vary, as agreed to by measurer and Certifier. There are also measurers who still submit applications on paper with hand-drawn maps. Questions were raised as to what the suggested all electronic web-based system would do for us. Time savings would probably be minimal, as the interval from certification approval to posting on the USATF site has already been reduced to about two weeks. Will the new system reduce work, or might it actually create more work for people at some points in the process, such as the Registrar who would still need to print everything to get hard copies to file? Whatever changes are made, it will be essential to preserve all of the checks and balances in our current system; i.e., the complete review process from measurer to Certifier to Vice Chair to Registrar. As another complication, small amounts of money, often in the form of cash, are included in our current stream (Measurers include a review fee when sending applications to Certifiers, where the amount can vary among different Certifiers, but is never more than $30; Certifiers include a $5 per course handling fee when sending courses to the Vice Chairs).

It was suggested that, at least at first, an all electronic system might cover just the transmissions from (final signatory) Certifiers to Vice Chairs and from Vice Chairs to Registrar, while omitting the initial applications from measurers to Certifiers. Including the initial certification applications would be more difficult, given all the complications and variations in real world measurements, which need to be documented in those applications (This would probably require, at the least, a rather open-ended system that permits multiple attachments in various formats). Starting at the Certifier level would limit the number of authorized users who need to login to the system, and would limit the kinds of data to transmit (basically, just Certificates and Maps). Nevertheless, champions of an all electronic data stream want it to include the Measurers.

RRTC policy on this issue has not been established. At this time, Duane will work with Ann to develop a proposal. Meanwhile, RRTC has not committed to spend any money on the project.

Measuring Contest: Dave Harriman announced results of the measurement-by-pacing contest. The official distance was 167.64 m (550 ft). Thirteen people entered the contest and, incredibly, their measurements spanned a range of only 6.2%, ranging from 2.8% below to 3.4% above the correct answer. We had a tie for first place, as Lester Mount (who submitted a joint entry with Irene Herman) and Carol McLatchie turned in identical answers. Paul Hronjak was awarded third place. A special prize was also given to Justin Kuo for finishing last (but at only 3.4% off the official answer, it was still an impressive entry). All winners received “valueless” prizes consisting of Indianapolis Colts paraphernalia (The last-place prize was a Colts dog food bowl). Complete results have been posted on the RRTC Bulletin Board at http://measure.infopop.cc/eve/...08102977/m/459106272

Insurance and USATF Certified Official status for Course Measurers: Irene Herman and David Katz combined to lead discussion on this topic. Irene, the past Insurance Committee chair of USATF, indicated that current USATF insurance policies provide liability coverage for working on both sanctioned and non-sanctioned events. The catch is that the person doing the work must be a USATF Certified Official. The issue is how to bring more of us in as Certified Officials. David stated that he has been in touch with the Officials Committee chair, who is very open to creating a special category of USATF Officials for Course Measurers. This category of officialdom would be administered entirely at the national level, with RRTC in charge; thus, it would not require working through the local Associations who normally administer the certification of other kinds of USATF officials.

The title for this new Officials category will be “LDR Road Course Measurer.” USATF Officials are always designated as certified at one of three levels, known as “Association,” “National” and “Master” level (Note that the lowest level is always called “Association” level even though, in our case, the process will not involve local Associations). RRTC will be free to set the criteria for attaining each level. After some discussion, Steve Vaitones suggested the following criteria:
  • Association level: Answers a “20 questions” Rules Review, measures at least 3 (or some other number) courses successfully for certification, recommended by State Certifier.
  • National level: Certified at Association level for at least 2 years, has measured at least 10 courses during that period, recommended by State Certifier.
  • Master level: All Regional Certifiers and IAAF “A” or “B” measurers.

To start the ball rolling, we can immediately grandfather in all of the Certifiers and “A” or “B” measurers at the Master level, and we can probably designate many other known, prolific measurers at the National level. We’ll need to create the “20 questions” test for the Association level; then, we’ll be able to start soliciting measurers who wish to become Officials at this entry level. The measurers to be designated as Certified Officials will need to provide a photograph and other information to include on a USATF-issued ID card.

Irene and David expressed a desire to start setting this up as soon as possible, ideally, immediately after the end of the meeting.

The meeting was adjourned at 11:10.

Minutes prepared by Bob Baumel, RRTC Secretary

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Bob Baumel
 
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