Hey guys, I'm sorry I've been so delayed. But here are the minutes from the RRTC meeting at the Convention this past December:
Road Running Technical Council Minutes
USATF Annual Meeting
Indianapolis, IN – December 2, 2006
Attending: Bob Baumel, John Boyle, Norm Brand, Fred Finke, Jimmy D. Freeman, Jim Gerweck, Jim Gilmer, Norm Green, Peter Hawley, Paul Hronjak, David Katz, Justin Kuo, Bob Langenbach, David Lawhorn, Bruce Leasure, A.C. Linnerud, Carol McLatchie, Al Morris, Gene Newman, Rick Recker, Pete Riegel, Stu Riegel, Tom Riegel, Bill Roe, Donald R. Shepan, Larry Smithee, Lloyd Stephenson, Phil Stewart, John TenBroeck, Steve Vaitones, Jay Wight.
The meeting was called to order at 08:38 by RRTC Chairman Gene Newman. All present introduced themselves. Officers’ reports were presented, as summarized below (full reports may be downloaded from http://www.rrtc.net/annual_meeting_reports_2006.pdf).
Chairman, Gene Newman: According to Gene, it’s been an interesting year with records set in several races, new certifiers (Tom LaBlonde (Utah), Jim Gilmer (NY), Don Garrett (OK), Jane Parks (CT) and David Moore (WI)), several Measurement Workshops conducted and more planned for next year. Pete Riegel’s web-based bulletin board was adopted as the official voice and sounding board for RRTC. Gene thanked the many people who have given him support and guidance to get him through his first year as RRTC Chair.
Vice Chairman East, Paul Hronjak: The East has been very active, with 781 race courses certified so far this year, compared with 699 at this time last year. All of the certifiers who submit certificates to Paul are doing a good job, including the new ones in KY/WV, CT and NY. Paul also noted a slight increase in activity in his own assigned state of North Carolina.
Vice Chairman West, Jim Gerweck: The West has also been busy in course certification, with two of the top four states (TX and CA). Jim took on the Western Vice Chairman job at the beginning of 2006, relinquishing his previous duties as editor of Measurement News. He quickly developed an efficient paper flow and an email list for communicating with the Western certifiers. Among the two new Western certifiers, Don Garrett in OK has already been granted final signatory status, and Tom LaBlonde in UT should be ready soon to do the same.
Course Registrar, Stu Riegel: The overall numbers of courses certified are down slightly from last year, although this is due mainly to extensive housecleaning performed by Stu, as he eliminated more than 200 duplicates. In his first year as Course Registrar, Stu had to cope with many changes including the transition to paperless record keeping and selection of appropriate electronic storage formats (chosen in consultation with many people), and switching from Excel to Access for keeping the course list. Stu survived all that and then succeeded in tracking down maps for all but one of the courses that were listed as active but didn’t have maps online.
Validations Chairman, Neville Wood (report delivered by Gene Newman): Validation activity during the past year included: four courses approved without requiring remeasurement, three approvals based on validations in earlier years, four approvals based on pre-race validation measurements done this year, and 3 approvals from post-race validation measurements. Two courses failed validation in post-race measurements. One intended pre-race validation found the existing course to be short (thereby delisting it) and produced a new certified course, which is considered pre-validated by IAAF but not by USATF. One remeasurement was scheduled for later in the year. There has been a perception that RRTC has a big backlog of courses requiring validation. Such is not the case. If any backlog exists, it’s higher up in the chain: We can’t do a validation until Neville receives the official request for a validation. Currently, RRTC is quite up-to-date in handling all the validation requests that have been made to us.
Workshops Coordinator, Mike Wickiser (report delivered by Gene Newman): Following last year’s meeting, Mike took on the newly created position of Workshops Coordinator, established to provide a centralized mechanism for coordinating Measurement Workshops & Seminars conducted by RRTC. The goals of such workshops are to improve awareness of the certification program, provide hands-on training to people interested in course measurement, increase contact between RRTC certifiers and the local road racing community, and bring new measurers into course measurement. During 2006, workshops were conducted by Tom McBrayer and Bill Grass at the RRCA Convention in Houston, by Jim Gilmer and Mike Wickiser at the University of Albany, and by Kevin Lucas and Pete Riegel at a USATF Associations Workshop in Pittsburgh. Plans for 2007 include workshops at the RRCA Convention in Chicago, at the Distance Running Hall of Fame in Utica, NY, and one for the Potomac Valley Association. Efforts also continue to organize a workshop in the Western USA. The main problem observed in measurement workshops is that very few of the attendees go on to measure any courses, so this doesn’t seem to be a very cost effective way to produce new measurers.
Bulletin Board Operator, Pete Riegel: Pete has been managing the online Road Course Measurement Bulletin Board at http://measure.infopop.cc/eve since October 2004; however, until 2006, it was basically Pete’s personal project, paid for out of his pocket. This year, it was adopted as an official RRTC communication vehicle, so its cost is now paid from RRTC’s budget. The board currently has 168 registered users and receives about 15000 page views per month. Information flow is somewhat greater than Pete observed in Measurement News when he was editor of that publication. Everyone with an interest in course measurement is welcome to register and post on this board.
Webmaster, Bob Baumel: As RRTC webmaster, Bob maintains the pages on the USATF site devoted to Course Certification (not counting the Search Engines) and to RRTC committee matters. Also, as decided at last year’s meeting, he continues to maintain the separate website at the easily remembered URL www.rrtc.net, which is now mainly a handy set of links to resources on course certification, most of which actually reside now on the USATF website. Bob’s biggest change in 2006 occurred early in the year, when he turned over the Oklahoma Certifier duties to Don Garrett. Bob remains the RRTC webmaster and secretary. Among his projects this year as webmaster: He participated in the deliberations (mostly with Stu Riegel and USATF webmaster Keith Lively) to select our electronic map format. He completed porting of the online Course Measurement Manual from www.rrtc.net to www.usatf.org. He played a behind-the-scenes role in preparing and posting the Measurement News issues produced by Kevin Lucas. Also, when Keith Lively announced, less than 2 weeks before this year’s Convention, that he was redesigning the USATF site and that this would require all pages to meet the newer XHTML web standard, Bob did the HTML to XHTML conversion for all the pages he’s responsible for.
Comments by Fred Finke and Bill Roe
Fred Finke, Chair of the USATF Long Distance Running Division, spoke about the stressful situation we’d been through recently due to the persistent attempts by one party to radically alter the structure of RRTC and Course Certification. Drastic action was required to deal with this situation. Fred expressed his support of RRTC in this action. He asserted that RRTC is working well and its Chairman, Gene Newman, is doing a great job. And now, it’s time to move on.
Bill Roe, USATF President, also stated that he fully supports RRTC. He’s sorry about the recent problem and hopes that it’s over.
RRTC Budget: Gene Newman announced that this year’s RRTC budget has been set at $11000, which is the same as last year. In addition, since 2007 will be a pre-Olympic year, Gene has asked for an additional $4000 to conduct pre-validations of the Men’s and Women’s Olympic Trials Marathon courses. Gene will appoint leaders for the Men’s and Women’s pre-validation measurement teams (prior to these pre-validations, initial measurements to certify the courses will be done by David Katz and Ray Nelson).
Electronic Counter Measuring: For the past three years, Neville Wood has promoted the option of using certain electronic “cyclocomputers” which can, with some trickery, be configured as precise bicycle wheel revolution counters to replace the mechanical “Jones Counter” which has been the standard counter used in course measurement since its invention by Alan Jones about 35 years ago. The cyclocomputers are widely available and considerably less expensive than a Jones Counter. A number of experienced measurers have tried this “electronic” method and, after a period of initial experimentation, found that they liked it. The main concern involves its use by a first-time measurer, whose measurement must be reviewed sight-unseen by a regional certifier. In this situation, the standard Jones Counter is considered sufficiently fool-proof so there’s little need to worry about the mechanics of revolution counting, allowing greater attention to the aspects that are really most important to a quality measurement, such as proper riding of the SPR (shortest possible route). The electronic method adds a few additional complications that require attention to ensure the accuracy of recorded revolution counts. Also, at this time, relatively few of our regional certifiers have any experience with these electronic counters.
To allow at least limited use of the electronic method in routine certification measurements, Gene Newman announced the following policy: Any measurer who wishes to try this method must first contact Gene, who will put the measurer in touch with one of several certifiers who have experience with the method and will work with the measurer in trying to make sure that everything is done correctly. Currently, the only cyclocomputer models approved for use with this method are Protegé (wired) models.
Regarding the dilemma that the Jones Counter is considered more fool-proof for a new measurer, but may be regarded as too expensive by a new measurer who has only one course to measure, Steve Vaitones described a solution used by his Association: They keep a number of Jones Counters on hand and rent them out at low cost to measurers who need them for just a limited time.
Policy on GPS Measurement: In response to requests to formulate an RRTC policy on use of GPS (Global Positioning System) for course measurement, Gene Newman announced the following: GPS is never acceptable for measuring a race course. GPS may be used for measuring a calibration course, provided that the GPS device used is a professional surveying-quality instrument (these typically cost $30,000 to $60,000), and is actually operated by a licensed surveyor. Coordinates determined by GPS may be useful in documenting positions of points along a race course, although only as a supplement to the distances from landmarks which are specified conventionally for documenting point locations.
To understand the reasoning behind this policy, professional surveying-quality GPS devices can achieve accuracy within a centimeter, whereas consumer GPS devices of the sort that could be mounted on a bicycle (or, worse yet, that a runner might run with) have errors on the order of several meters (sometimes as much as 20 m)—and that’s just in measuring the location of a single point. Errors in measuring a course length are much greater, as the course must be approximated by making point measurements at some number of points along the course, and the overall error depends on how densely the points are sampled, the errors in locating the individual points (inevitably mis-positioned somewhat to left or right of the true path), and the algorithm used in calculating the course length from all the point locations. Also, some points along the course may not have clear views of the satellites used in making GPS measurements, resulting in very large errors in locating those points. For all these reasons, GPS is not acceptable for measuring course lengths.
Regional Certifier Issues: Gene Newman pointed out that, in spite of recent confusion about this issue, all Regional Certifiers must be appointed by RRTC (thus, for example, Associations cannot appoint their own Certifiers). The current system, where each state is assigned a single Certifier, seems to be working well; Gene sees no reason to split up states by assigning them two or more Certifiers. We are always concerned about the timely processing of certifications, so, if they seem to be taking too long in any state, we want to know about it. RRTC will seek opportunities, such as workshops, to provide training for measurers and Associations, and to improve communications between the Associations, RRTC Certifiers and RRTC Officers.
Gene stated that all certifiers ought to be USATF members, so those who are not currently members should join. There was a question on whether e-mail addresses need to be entered when filling out certificates for certified courses. Gene stated that the certifier’s e-mail address should always appear on the certificate, but it’s optional whether to include e-mail addresses of others, such as the measurer and race director.
Gene also announced an intention to honor Amy Morss, who served as New York State Certifier for many years and retired during the past year.
Grading of Measurers? Gene noted that the online measurers list, started in early 2006, has been very useful, both in helping race directors locate course measurers, and in helping RRTC to identify new certifiers. RRTC is, however, under some pressure from USATF headquarters to supplement this list by assigning some sort of “grades” to the listed measurers, perhaps an A-B-C grading system, analogous to the grades assigned to track Officials. There was considerable discussion on how such a system could be implemented, and whether it’s actually desirable to create such a system.
On how such a system could be implemented, the simplest suggestion was to devise an algorithm that computes grades automatically from information in the course list; i.e., just base grades on the number of courses measured during some recent period of time (e.g., in the past “x” years). A suggested refinement of this scheme was to assign an “A” grade to any measurer who has final signatory status, then compute grades of others based on number of courses measured. It was indicated that quality doesn’t necessarily correlate with quality; however, people expressed a desire to keep the scheme simple and avoid subjective judgments.
On the desirability of such a scheme, people wanted to know the intended end use. Precisely why does USATF want these grades, and what use will be made of them? It was also pointed out that, to the extent that grades are based simply on number of courses measured, that information is already available in the online measurers list: Just click the “courses” link next to the measurer’s name, and you’ll see all the courses that person measured recently, and you can also view maps of those courses.
It was noted that measurers are independent contractors performing a service, where the basic test in any measurement is simply whether the course does or doesn’t get certified. Concern was expressed that assigning grades to measurers may have unintended consequences, maybe even the establishment of standardized payments to measurers based on their grades. An opinion was also expressed that maybe it’s really the RRTC Certifiers, rather than measurers, who should be graded, as the certifiers are more analogous to officials in the track world. [Ed. note: Actually, we do have grades for certifiers: non-final-signatory and final-signatory. All new certifiers start out as non-FS, and are then promoted to FS when the Vice-Chairman decides they’re ready.]
On the topic of a grading system, David Katz pointed out that RRTC has had a “PR” problem, and although it’s been getting fixed, USATF’s desire to institute grading of course measurers had been one of the factors responsible for last year’s proposal to massively restructure RRTC, and still needs to be addressed. The Officials Committee is apparently willing to give us our own category of officialdom (e.g., “Road Course Surveyors”), so we really need to do something to “keep the wolves away.” Carol McLatchie advised taking advantage of the offer from the Officials. She volunteered to form a subcommittee to work on this problem with the Officials Committee and others as necessary, to try devising a system that will be acceptable to RRTC and all relevant USATF officers.
This topic was left open for further discussion in other venues.
RRTC Fund based on Increased Certification Fees? David Katz suggested the possibility of increasing the fees that course measurers pay to certifiers (currently capped at $30 per course) by some amount, perhaps $10 per course, and directing this increased amount to a special RRTC fund. The money would be kept by USATF but would be available for RRTC to use for various projects, such as validations and workshops. David noted that various other USATF committees have “slush funds” of this sort.
Discussion of this proposal centered on whether small races would be willing to pay the increased certification fees and whether RRTC really needs the extra money. It was noted that RRTC hasn’t been going over-budget. David’s proposal seems to have been based largely on the perception that RRTC has a big backlog of courses needing validation, so extra money would help. In fact, RRTC doesn’t have a validation backlog (see Validation report earlier in these minutes). David claimed that, on this issue, it looks like we’re at fault, even if we aren’t. Records Chair Justin Kuo promised to investigate and find out who’s actually blocking the pipeline for records needing validation.
Overall, David believes that the proposed fund would provide RRTC with greater flexibility. No action was taken on this proposal. RRTC will discuss the issue further.
Local Issues: Apparent delays in processing certifications in Florida and Oregon were discussed. Gene emphasized that anyone experiencing problems of this sort should email him. Carol McLatchie pointed out that the problem in Oregon has nothing to do with the certifier; it’s just that races need more motivation to get their courses certified.
Adjournment: The meeting was adjourned at 11:30.
Minutes prepared by Bob Baumel, RRTC Secretary
Bob - the statement on GPS is great - almost looks like what I scribbled based on the BB thread from last month. I've passed it on to my local running group and will forward it along to the running clubs in my region.
Thanks, guys, for providing something that closes the mouths of all those users who come to beat us measurers up five minutes after every race is ended.
"Extensive listing of (useless) certifications available upon request."
The summary of electronic counting is negatively biased against the electronic counter. It gives the impression that you can save a few bucks as compared to the price of the Jones, but you get a much more difficult-to-use counter.
In fact, there is much more to the electronic counter than its low price. The superior readability and the instant zeroing capability make it much easier to use and less prone to errors. While riding a bike it can be read at a single glance without the distraction of getting a reading from the Jones and the fear of overshooting a goal. Thus it allows better attention to road safety and determination of the shortest path. Also, if this path is not obvious in the road ahead, the measurer can easily freeze the meter on a road mark and scout ahead on the bike before resuming measurement.
I fail to see why a certifier has to have experience with the use of the electronic counter before he can judge if a measurer is operating it correctly. The easiest way for a measurer to demonstrate his ability is to use the electronic counter simultaneous with a Jones and show that he always gets precisely the same on both counters. (If the measurer does not have a Jones, I should be willing to lend mine.) Alternatively, he could remeasure a certified course and show that results are close to that of the original measurer at all points.
Neville - my partner-in-crime (fellow measurer/business partner) just recently purchased one of the electronic counters in question. Since I have a JO, a side-by-side comparison might be possible.
I have a local 5K to measure and get out to Doug Loeffler (I know Doug's business sometimes gets in the way of speedy certification - we've talked on the phone a couple of times.) very soon. Would you like me to send you copies of Protege and JO measurements if I can get my partner to ride the course with me?
"Extensive listing of (useless) certifications available upon request."
I have posted an answer to this in the Electronic Measurement section of the Bulletin Board.
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