This is a follow-up on the thread developed under Tips – Using a Spreadsheet.

Most course measurements appear to involve an unnecessary “course adjustment”. Official recommendation is that on the second measurement ride the measurer is urged to make no prior calculations or fresh split marks, but simply record counts for the marks made during the first ride. At the end of the second ride, he calculates net counts and converts these to standard units of length to discover which ride resulted in the longest course. I f the second ride gave the longest course, he calculates a course adjustment, and extends the final mark by this amount using a steel rule.

I have always adopted a simpler and more efficient procedure. Since I have always used electronic counters with their instant zeroing capability, calculated numbers for the second ride are the same as for the first. Thus on reaching the final mark, I know instantly whether or not this is the certified mark. If it is not, I note the meter reading and ride onto the calculated length of the course and make the certified mark there. On the Course Measurement Data Sheet I simply note the two readings and calculate the percentage difference between them. There is no unnecessary conversions to standard units of length, determining “the lesser of two lengths”, or measurement with a steel rule. Measurement is more efficient and results clearer for the reviewer.

I should like to propose that RRTC adopt the method I use as the officially recommended one for all counters and see the proposal debated at the National Meeting in two months.
Original Post

The common unit of measurement is the mile or kilometer.

A “count” is not a unit of measurement.

A “revolution” is not a unit of measurement.

I cringe when differences are reported to me in counts. Unless I know the individual conversion of counts to meters, the term is at best an approximation. I understand what 6 meters in 8 km means, better than I understand what 58 counts out of 78654 means.

Use of Neville’s “simplification” is already being done by many people, including me on occasion. I do it all the time, but not always. It is a useful field expedient.

It is in the reporting that I find it awkward. I believe that the best form of reporting converts all the counts and revolutions to meters or miles at the earliest opportunity, and that all calculations thereafter are done in real units of measurement.

The present method of course measurement is not mandated. It is simply a way for a measurer to get the job done, and to report what he does in a manner that is understandable to another person. If a person is unable to explain what he has done the chances are that he does not really understand it very well himself. If a measurer elects to do it differently, and can make it clear to me what he did, I have no problem with his submission. Most measurers elect to follow the instructions rather than to try to create their own method.

I am sure that the subject will be talked about at the annual meeting. How much time will be devoted to it? That depends on Mike Wickiser. There will certainly be other things to talk about. As for a “vote” that would be a first, as that is not the way RRTC has historically done things. We have never figured out who should get a vote. Should an inactive and silent certifier have the same vote as an active participant? Should the quorum consist of the people at the meeting? In past times we have argued things by public correspondence until a form of consensus is reached, and at that time the Chairman decides what, if anything is to be done. This may still be the way RRTC matters are handled.

Also, a change involves more than just taking a vote. We have documentation that will need to be changed. We have an online measurement book. USATF is selling some version of a measurement book. People all over the US have got copies of the measurement book. Getting a change implemented is not a trivial exercise. It takes hard work by people, and they who will be stuck with doing that work should have the major say as to whether and how the work is to be done.

Personally I think the proposed change is not needed because it is already being done and is perfectly allowable. The entire rationale behind it seems to be a desire to save one simple calculation. No increase in accuracy is claimed or results from the proposed change.
The idea to mark only one set of measurement points comes directly from our sometimes overly complicated course measurement manual. Of course the manual was written in a way to try to best eliminate error by the novice measurer. The single set of measurement marks tends to force a 1st and 2nd ride comparison calculation. This data is important for both the reviewer of the measurement application and the novice measurer. Too many undocumented field adjustments can make an application for certification nearly impossible to understand.

It is significant for a measurer to demonstrate their understanding of the measurement by showing these various comparisons on the application. Adjusting the course after the two rides are completed, and after a re-calibration, is very sensible. The single set of course marks is the benchmark all other factors rely on.

Granted, a more senior measurer can certainly use any method they have grown accustomed to. Sometimes I ride and mark a longer end point on a second ride. The novice measurer should really go thru the complete suggested course measurement exercise.

Editing the course measurement manual is a very good idea. There is more than enough data and testimony speaking to the manual’s clarity and understand, or lack of. A new edition would seek to streamline and un-complicate tricky topics and application forms. New edition readers/users would benefit while old edition readers/users would lumber along as we have for so many years. Most would likely welcome a clearer and more concise manual and toss the old one in a hurry.
Pete:
We should think of the difference between two measurements not in counts, revolutions or meters, but in the much more significant % difference.

My proposal is to save not just one but many calculations, and to avoid manipulations with a steel rule.
Last edited by neville
Kevin:
My proposal would document the comparison between the two rides just as well as the current official method.

When I first saw the calculations on the "Course Data Sheet" I found them difficult to follow. Contrary to your view I think a novice would benefit from not having to wade through them.
In half or more of course measurements the riding does not finish at the adjustment point. If I ride start-to-finish, and the adjustment is to be made at the start, seems to me I gain nothing from trying to do it Neville's way.

Similarly, if the adjustment is to be made at a turn-around point, it doesn't work.

I agree that our measurement manual is a bit weighty and confusing in spots, and could use work. When the manual was originally produced we had a lot of people involved, and it was difficult to say "no" when somebody's pet idea was insisted upon. As a result things got weighty.

Revision of the manual is a task not to be taken lightly. A suggestion that someone should revise the manual is less welcome than an offer to do it.

Seems to me we could leave the manual alone, and simply write a new and simpler one. This is a project I have had on the back burner for years. It is not an offer to do it.
Pete:
The method works in the situations you mention, although I had omitted mentioning this to avoid overloading people with too much new information.

For instance if I end up at the finish and need to extend the course at the start, I freeze the meter, go to the start, unfreeze the meter and make the extension. (This can be done using the Jones with a little more difficulty.) Preferably though I would make the second ride to the start and make the extension directly.

I do an extension at the U-turn similarly, but at half the distance I would do for the start. Of course if I measure an out and back along exactly the same route, I only measure one leg and do not have to half the extension at the U-turn.

In either of the above cases and whether using the Jones or an electronic counter is it necessary to make conversions to standard units of length or to use a steel measuring rule.

I would compare the current method to that of my adding numbers by counting on my fingers. Sure it gets the job done accurately, but I should be embarrassed if someone saw me doing it that way.

As always one has to weigh the advantages of adopting a more efficient method against the pain and effort of making the change. However since nothing has been changed in the Manual in over six years and several new tools and procedures have recently appeared, now seems to be a good time to update it.