Random Thoughts

SCSE Blog or better know as random thoughts

We get asked all kinds of questions and every so often even have a random thought that is meaningful, so if you have a few minutes of time to waste, read on.  Have a random thought, question, comment or concern?  Lets us know at info@silvercirclesportsevents.com


The weather was like totally clear.

As I sit here waiting for a storm to clear pondering hexadecimal formulas, I thought I would pontificate about weather.  Ok, I don’t really pontificate and I forgot how to use hexadecimals years ago.  

We get asked about weather policies all the time so here is the deal.  While there may be a “window” to get a run in, that window may not be big enough for us to set a course, get volunteers out, clear the course and get volunteers back in.  

Some courses take thirty minutes to set and some take days.  While we are cognizant of runner’s safety, we also need to be cognizant of our staff and volunteers carrying giant metal poles around in a thunderstorm - AKA finish line trusses. Ha, I used cognizant twice in one sentence.

All race directors would rather hold an event than cancel one.  Trust me, it takes way more time to cancel an event than to hold it. Besides, most of us got in the business because we love racing.

Don't believe me?  We still need volunteers tonight.
RD

 


How to save money on registration fees.

If you race frequently, then you know running can be costly.  Here are a few ways to run for cheap or even free.  Well at least at our events.
1. Volunteer
If you really want to run cheap, run for free. All you have to do is volunteer at one of our events and you can run any of our events for free. 
 
2. Register early
Early registration fees can be as low at 50% off of the race day registration cost.
 
3. Teams
If you register a large team, ask the race director for a discount. Most will offer you one.
 
4. Series
Consider running a series from the same race company. You can run our Chilly Willy Winter Series for as little as $145. That is 6 races, including 2 half marathons.  For summer, consider our Wisconsin Trail Assail Series.  Six races, including 4 half marathons for about the same cost.
 
5. Pledges
Some events will allow you to race for free if you raise money for them.  Our Move Your Mutt is an example.
 
6. Free runs
Our Last Call run is free is you participate in 8 of our events during the year.
 
7. Opt out of a shirt
Many races will let you opt out of a shirt to save a couple bucks.  99% of our races allow this.
 
8. Read our email
Our weekly email “What’s Up At SCSE” usually has a discount code someplace in the email.
 
9. Look in your race bag
At almost all of our events, we will slip a free race coupon in a race bag or two.
 
10. Join the crew or SCSE running team
Many of those folks you see working at our events with staff shirts or Silver Circle Sports Events Running Team on are actually volunteers that work at most of our events.  In turn, they are part of our team and run any of our events at no charge.


Top five things to ensure you get an accurate time at a race

  • Wear your bib on the front of your torso.  This is done for two reasons.  One because that is how the hardware works but equally important is most timers run a manually backup system and type your bib number into a computer.  If we can’t see your bib….
  • Fill out the registration form completely and clearly.
  • Leave the timers alone.  It is the most stressful job in racing and many times they are there just timing.  We own our timing equipment but most race companies do not.  If you have a timing question, see the race director.  At our races, see the Chief Athlete Herder.
  • If you switch races, just let the RD know so the timers can update the database.  Otherwise you just might get called out for running a 1.05 half marathon when you did the 10K
  • Never, ever, ever walk between the finish line barrier and the timing truck/tent.  There are lots of timing cables and equipment there and trust me, you don’t want to be the dude that rips out the timing feed.

At the end of the day, no worries mon.  We run backup systems and video to ensure we get everyone.  If you are not on the list, just let us know.  We will find you.  Nice emails get answered first, crabby emails get time added.

Happy nanosecond chasing.


Can I Run with my Dog?

You would not believe how often we get asked this question.  The polite, simple and short answer is nope.  We know that the majority of dogs are well 

behaved, won’t bother anyone and are better trained than Lassie.  However, many runners see all dogs as Cujo.

Don’t believe us?  Think of that yapping ankle biter you ran by the other day that jutted out at you causing you to jump off the curb while the owner says “he won’t bite you.”  It is not your dog that is the issue. It is what others think your dog might be.
 
Want to run with your dog at a race?  Check out HAWS Move Your Mutt.  We are also reviewing courses that may accommodate a dog wave where the course is not an out and back or a trail.
 
Yes that is one of our dogs.  He has a tennis ball issue.
 


Where did you get the name DoLittle Marathon?

Hey that is a great question.  We had planned a Boston qualifying marathon some time ago and wanted to have BQ in the title but that is a little lame since only you speed demons know what a BQ is. The rest of us common folk just try and do a little marathon.  Ha get it?

Plus the first Chicago Marathon female winner was named Dorothy Doolittle.


What to do the night before a tri?

One of the things I most frequently get asked is what to do the night before a race. Ok, no one ever asks that but they should.

For me, I panic if I am not 100% ready days before an event.  I’ve been to too many events where someone is asking runners if they have an extra pair of shoes or a bike helmet or extra goggles.  I don’t ever want to be that guy.

Laugh now but it will happen. I ran the LA Marathon one time and was staying with my sister in San Diego.  We got to the hotel and as I was unpacking my stuff, I noticed I left my shoes in San Diego.  We drove all the way back to San Diego and then to LA.  No so funny.

I always pick up my packet the day before.  I drive the bike course or run course. I swim the first 400 meters of the course. No you don’t need to but it you are like me, you just might have control issues.

The second most important thing I do is put everything I need for the race on my bed including my bike. Ok my bike doesn’t go on the bed but it is in my hotel room. Yes people look at you weird bringing your bike into the hotel but you’re a triathlete which by default makes you weird. 

I then go through my entire check list. Don’t have one?  We have posted one on our website under the Lake Country Tri race.  Actually I go through it a few times to double check.  Yes I have control issues. 

If it is a long race, I tape my nutrition to my bike.  I cool my drinks in the refrigerator or get a bucket ice.

Then I pack everything.  The truth is, I have no idea why I pack everything because I will check it all again that night and again in the morning.

Finally, the most important thing for me is to do nothing.  Nothing. Absolutely nothing except sit on the bed and watch TV or read.  I rarely even travel with my family because they want to have fun and I want to do nothing.  Ya I know it is weird but I was once at a hotel the night before the Chicago Marathon and as I was brushing my teeth the door of the cabinet fell off and cut my foot.

Hope that helps. Then again I could be totally wrong.  

RD


What does that dude in the trailer do and why does he always looked freaked out?

That dude is a timer. He always looks freaked out because he is a data freak.  See timing is a very complicated job consisting of tiny little packets of data called sockets.  Timers need to ensure that a socket gets sent from one place to another without interruption.  Much easier said than done.
 
In the old days, we would just enter data into a database and push a little button when you crossed.  Then we would funnel you into a chute and some smelly volunteer would yell at you to tear off the number on the bottom of your bib.
 
Today’s timer dudes are way more sophisticated. They not only do they deal with times but there is networking, televisions, cameras, photo data, the cloud, smartphones, wifi transmitters, powered USB & HMDI hubs and all those pesky sockets or packets if you will.
 
Happy running


Ever run a race and not show up in the results?  Here is why and what to do. 

While we will tell you timing is an exact science, it is not.  There are all kinds of things that affect your chip read.  Here are a few…

  • It is a bad chip. Hey chip happens.  Maybe we will blog about how chips get programmed.  It takes way more time than you think.
  • A gremlin reprogrammed your chip the night before as you slept dreaming of a new PR.
  • You entered your gender incorrectly and are now in the elite women’s division.
  • It was a race day registration and it was difficult to read your name so we guessed.
  • Something went wrong with an antenna and it was rebooted.
  • You are running with your husband's bib on and he has yours on so you show up in the wrong division – happens all the time.
  • Some chucklehead walked around the crowd barriers, cones, gates, security, neon signs and past the snipers only to then trip over our generator cord and causes a surge in the system (yes that happens).  Don’t worry we have battery backups and a backup generator.

No worries.  If you ran across the finish line we will have your time.  It might be in a backup laptop database, on a GoPro, or in photos but we will have it. However, we won't know you didn't get a time unless you tell us.  See we (the timer not the race director) don’t know if you started, dropped out or decided to chase a leprechaun through the woods.  Just let us know. 

At all of our races all you have to do is tell the race director or the timing contact and they will fix it for you.  It is that simple.  See one can't know what they don't know.

Here is a suggestion on what not to do.  Go on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or the Sunday evening news and say how much the race director and timer suck and that you will never do their race again.  If it is a quality RD and timer, they will likely have a video or photo of you crossing the finish line.  Some RD’s might just post that video or photo on Facebook along with your registration where you signed up as an elite women.

Happy Running


The great chip vs gun timing debate.

Well folks, it really is not a debate since it is crystal clear.  If you are running a race - note the term race - then the only official time recognized by the USATF is the gun start time. Sorry age groupers but that chip time does not count.  Here is an article from www.oklahoma.usatf.org that explains why the gun start is the only official time used. 

Chip Time Awards versus Gun Time Awards
USATF Rule 245.1 states "The order in which the athletes cross the finish line will be the official finish position." Further, Rule 245.3 - regarding transponder timing - "the actual time elapsed between an athlete reaching the starting line and finish line can be made known to the athlete, but will not be considered as official time." In short, official time per USATF rule is gun time.

Also, USATF Rule 165.16 covers the use of transponder timing systems (i.e., the chip) and Rule 165.16(h) states that "times for other competitors will be adjusted, based on the official winning time." In other words, "chip" timing cannot be used for official time(s) nor records unless the "chip" time is properly adjusted (i.e., gun time) except for LDR Masters age group records if the record setter wins his/her age group and the timing mats are properly placed before the start line and after the finish line (Rule 265.10).

Unofficial chip times should never be used for age group or any other awards in a road race.  

Unofficial chip times for awards destroys head-to-head competition. The winners are based on a separate time trial and it is not always the first runner to the finish. No one really knows who the winners are until the chip times are posted.  Runners will have to wait until everyone in the age group is finished and has his/her time posted.  It could be anyone in any order of finish in the age group. 
 
Here is an example; two 50-year-old men are in a 5 km chip timed road race.  The first 50-year-old runner starts with the gun and has an 18:00 official gun time.  The second 50-year-old runner sits on the curb or is in the rest room when the gun goes off.  Five minutes after the gun fires and the field clears he crosses the starting mats and finishes in a gun time of 23:00, but has an unofficial chip time of 17:59.  The18:00 minute runner is the first 50-54 runner to cross the finish.  His competition finishes five minutes later and after waiting for the results to be posted it is determined that the second runner has a faster chip time. The race organizers give the award to the faster chip-timed runner and not the real winner even though Rule 245.1 states "The order in which the athletes cross the finish line will be the official finish position.”  
 
The same two runners are in another race.  They are sprinting head-to-head toward the finish line with the announcer recognizing the competition.   One runner edges the other by a step.  After the results are posted it is determined that the runner finishing second had a faster unofficial chip time.  Again the award goes to the faster chip time and not the real winner.
 
A runner could be the last to cross the finish line in his/her age group and still be the winner by having the fastest chip time
 
Chip timing for awards encourages runners to wait around until the start field clears.  By waiting long enough runners could have a clear course from start to finish.   
 
There are literally hundreds of examples on how this system does not work.  It defeats the whole purpose of competitive racing.

SCSE policy - generally speaking we will chip start an event.  If it is a Wisconsin Trail Assail race, it is always a gun start.
 
Happy Running


What is the deal with no refund polices in races?

Wow it has been some time since I rambled on about something.  Here is one thing I get asked all the time.  What is the deal with no refund policies at races?

Good question.  The vast majority of races have no refund policies.  I can’t speak for the industry but I can for Silver Circle Sports Events.  It is difficult to describe the amount of effort that goes into promoting a safe, memorable and quality event before race day.   As you bore yourself reading this, think of all those great events you attended and the not so good events.

The amount of work and cost that is incurred behind the scenes is extraordinary.  We frequently get asked “how hard can it be.  It’s a couple of shirts and some water.”  Well that is true but there are a thousand other things to consider if you want to participate in a safe, memorable and quality event.

Remember that race a few years ago where they ran out of water?  Oops.  Here few things to consider……

  • How do you get power to the start line, finish line, registration, food tent and PA system when the race is in the middle of a park?
  • Where do porta potties come from, how many do you need and how to you get them placed on a course?
  • Where do you get 300 cones for a half marathon and where on earth do you store them?
  • How do you get all that stuff to an event?  We have two trucks, three trailers and five atv's.  Besides your front lawn, where do you store it all?
  • The course manager and his crew has to be on site by 4 am.
  • We start permitting 12 months in advance.  For the Lake Country Marathon we had to permit the event is 6 municipalities and 2 counties.  That is a minimum of 8 meetings but most communities require at least two meetings for the permit plus meeting with the police department and the department of public works.
  • At our Wisconsin Trail Assail races, we typically have 3 aid stations with around 25 gallons of water, sports drink and energy supplements at each aid station.  How do you get that to the aid station when it’s in the middle of a park with no vehicle access?  Geez just think of the coordination need for a marathon.
  • Exactly how many cups do you need?  What size and where do you get them?
  • Have you ever dealt with “elite” athletes or better yet their handlers? 
  • What is the course plan when someone moves all your cones, directional signs and mile markers?  It happens – a lot.
  • Tshirts have to be ordered about a week ahead of the race.  How many extra do you need to order for race day registrations?  See our tshirt tab for an explanation on tshirts.
  • Custom medals have to be ordered about 3 months before an event. Yes they all come from China.
  • How many people sign up two weeks ahead, one week ahead or race day and how do you plan and inventory for that?
  • Those are just a couple examples.  Running the event is actually the easiest part.  As a race director, my goal is to first ensure you have a save experience and second exceed your expectations.  If we completed all of those items and a thousand more on the list, we will.  Your job should be show up (on time), run a PR, have a great experience and never notice any of those things on the list. 

The reason why we have a no refund policy is because all of those items / costs are front loaded and based on your attendance. When you cancel, we have already incurred those costs to ensure we exceed your expectations.  That’s it in a nutshell but now you know why.

Still not a good enough answer?  You can always buy insurance from active.com when registering. 

I will let you in on a secret.  If you are really nice to the RD and staff they might move your registration to another event. Want to ensure they do, consider volunteering for the event.  If you volunteer at a Silver Circle Sports Events race, you will get your registration moved to another event.

That’s it.  Got questions or want to volunteer?  Fire off one of those newfangled email thingy’s to racedirector@silvercirclesportsevents.com

Happy Running

RD


Got Bloody Nipples?

If you are an experienced runner you just quivered with painful memories.  If you are new to running I’m sure you are thinking ya as a matter of fact…  What the heck?

Look we have all been there.  It is one of the most painful things to work through on a distance run.  However, it is one of the easier “problems” to fix.

Runner's World has a good article about it but there is a very simple answer. Band-Aids.  Yep grab a couple of your kids Sponge Bob Square Pants Band-Aids and slap those over your nipples.  Just make sure you peal them off before you go strutting around the finish line with your shirt off.   

Happy Running

RD


So you want to be a runner but not sure how to start?

The hardest part is starting.  What cloths do I need?  How far should I run?  Should I run in $200 shoes or those funny shoes that look like water shoes?  What should I eat and drink?  Do I really need to do fartleks and what are they?

It’s actually very simple.  Get off your rear and start with a walk.  That is the single most difficult thing to do.  Really!  Really?  Yes really.

The second hardest is to do it the next day and the next and the next.  Until shazam! The next thing you know you are a runner.  But be careful because soon you will be that slim dude or dudette who is planning vacations around marathons.  Ah the runner high….

Ok so seriously, here is a great article from Runners World that answers all those questions you want to ask your skinny runner friend but don’t want to ask your skinny runner friend.

Finally, consider going to the park and walking / running on a trail.  It is much easier on your body and mind.

Next we will tell you how to be an Ironman. Got an extra 600 hours in your year?

Happy Running

RD 


Need a training break?  Try a naked run.

Dreading your next run?  Can’t seem to find the motivation to lace up your shoes and get out there?  You may just be in a training rut. 

Try this – forget your regular route where you know every mile, every yappy little dog to watch out for, every house that you wonder why don’t they just mow the lawn, every intersection, stop light, stop sign, crack in the road to jump over, water stop……….

Go to a park and try a new course or a trail run.  Most parks have great trails that meander through forests and around lakes. If you are lucky enough to live is southeastern WI, try a Waukesha County or Wisconsin State park.  They all have trails of varying distances and difficulties.

Most importantly, leave your GPS, GU belt, heart rate monitor and iPod at home.  Just run.   We call it running naked.

What did you think running naked meant?

Happy “naked” running

RD


How does timing work?

As athletes, we frequently take timing for granted.  After all, how hard can it be?  There is a chip on the bib and when you finish it magically records your time.  You never even think about the timer hiding behind the finish line.  That is until they get it wrong…

Well, timing is actually a very sophisticated and complicated process. 

Here is how it works.  That chip on your bib is actually a tiny computer that stores data on it.  When you get near the finish line, an antenna (four in our case) sends a signal out to your bib.  When the bib sees that signal, it responds with the data on the bib.  Simple enough.  What could possible go wrong?

Do you remember at your last race when the race director was giving instructions about your bib placement?  Barking over the PA system to make sure you place your bib on the front of your shirt.  That’s because the antenna can’t see through your body and thus can’t communicate with your chip. 

Ever notice those random people standing around a finish line with a pen and paper or a laptop?  Those random people are typically the timing crew with backup systems and if they can’t see your bib, they can’t record it. 

Do the timing crew a favor and place the bib where they recommend.  You will get a much more accurate timing result.

What else can go wrong? 

You signed up for the 10K but only ran the 5K. The computer still thinks you ran a 10K but you are super quick.  Just let the timer know when you finish and they will take care of it.  Otherwise, when they call your name as the winner of the 10K you can do it then.  Really your friends won’t call you out on it.

When you signed up for the family friendly 5K, you used your name for all 4 members but put the right ages and sex in.  The computer doesn’t know this and when the results are printed, Mrs. Johnson won the 10 and under boys division.  Your son will be so proud of you. 

What can you do to make sure you get the most accurate result for your race?

1.       Place the bib where the RD or timer asks.
2.       Ensure all the data is correct when you register.
3.       If there is an issue with your results, do not approach the timers.  Most timers will have one person who is the point of contact.  That person will handle all the discrepancies.  Just let them know ASAP and shazam it will get taken care of.
4.       Run super duper fast and see if you can beat the antenna signals. 

Couple fun facts

1.       Our antenna starts to read your chip about 30 feet before you finish and tracks you all the way in.
2.       The results are accurate to 0.001 second.
3.       The chip on your bib actually has to be programmed by the timer before a race. Imagine how long it takes to program 1000 chips.
4.       Typically, there is a main timing computer, 1-2 back up computers, 1 computer used just for results & race clock TV’s and someone hand writing results.
5.       The antennas can read speed 200+ miles per hour.  Just in case you can ride your bike that fast.

So that’s it in laymen terms.  If you have an interest in more details, we would be happy to geek out with you and go through the system.  Just don’t ask the timer to do it during a race.

Happy Running

RD


What's the deal with medals?

Like t-shirts, it’s a love / hate relationship with race directors.  As a fellow endurance athlete, I love getting a medal as the overall winner. I also love it when I just win my age group.  Only problem....I am a middle of the pack age grouper.  However I have been fortunate enough to place three times in my racing career. Only problem, the race director at each of those events did not have medals. Ug talk about a letdown.  

So like shirts, we take medals serious.  We try to provide a quality finisher’s medal for all our half marathons and when our events are timed, we again try to provide a quality age group medal.  

If you're not lucky enough to have a wall full of winner or age group medals, then we hope you take solace in getting a quality finisher's medal from Silver Circle Sports Events. 

Couple facts about medals

  • They cost between two and five bucks each.
  • Custom lanyards cost a few additional dollars.
  • Custom medals must be ordered at least 8 weeks in advance and they all come from China on a boat.
  • We use Hasty Awards and our rep Rick is great!
  • Yes we have thousands of old medals sitting in our warehouse.  Like shirts, it is a complete waste of resources and not very green. Any ideas?

Now you know. Happy Running.

RD  


What is the difference between cross country and trail runs?

Great question!  Cross country runs are typically held at a high school, collage, golf course or some other area that has a large area of open space that is mowed.  Generally speaking, cross country runners wear spikes.

Trail running involves a much large terrain format.  It can include everything from cross country type space, rocky areas, open fields, dirt paths, hills or even groomed areas.  Much of it is up to the race director.  Occasionally, cross country involves trails but not frequently in southeastern Wisconsin.

All of the Wisconsin Trail Assail courses include an open field start where runners toe the line for a mass start - just like cross country.  After a sprint across an open field, runners enter the trail system.  For the Wisconsin Trail Assail, most are groomed trails and covered in compacted wood chips.  Most people do not wear spikes but you certainly can if you wish.

Happy running

RD


Why is running so expensive?

Why are half marathons so expensive? I don't know.  Here is an article in Esquire about the sky rocketing prices of half marathons.

"The average entry fee for the top 25 U.S. marathons has gone up 35 percent since 2007, to $112—three and a half times faster than inflation—according to the industry association RunningUSA. For the top 25 half marathons, which have become hugely popular, the average price has more than doubled, to $94. And while (today’s) Boston Marathon cost a comparatively cheap $150, the New York Marathon rose from $80 in 2004 to $255 last year, a 219 percent increase."

As a side note, you can run four 1/2 marathon and 4 10k's at Silver Circle Sports Events, LLC for the cost of running one marathon. 

How to save $$$ and run for free?

At SCSE we understand racing is expensive.  Heck that 140.6 distance triathlon is almost $800. We get it.  There are a couple ways to race cheaply.  The cheapest is free.  Volunteer at any event and you can run one of our events for free. That's good for 2 calendar years.  We have a couple that volunteer at every event and race all our events for free.

The other way is to register early.  Generally the entry fee is about 1/2 the cost of race day.  Either way, racing can be much cheaper with just a little planning.


FAQ

Lets start with some frequently asked questions..

How long does it take to cone a course?
That depends on a number of factors but in general it takes about 3 hours to cone a 1/2 marathon.

How many cones does it take to cone a 1/2 marathon.
Again, it depends on a number of facts but its around 500.

Where do you store all that stuff?
In a warehouse.

How long does it take to set up a mud run course?
We start preparing a course about a week out.  Generally we have the excavators dig the pits 5-6 days in advance and then test them. Sometimes we have to line the pits to keep water in but it all depends on weather conditions.

How much does it cost to promote a run?  It's just a tshirt, some water and a few medals right?
Sometimes but for us its always more than that. Here are a couple examples of some of the costs that your entry fee covers

Tents - couple grand
Permits - as cheap as free or we just permitted an event for $1,600.
Timing - we own our own timing company now.  They still charge us too much.
Police - generally its around $25 per hour with a minimum of two officers and two hours.
Medical - sometimes free and sometimes $1,000.  We always have medical on site just in case.
Insurance - don't ask.
Legal - you don't want to know.
Water - your not going to believe this.  Sometimes we have to pay to have a meter put on the water source.  That is around $400.  The cost of the water from the meter? Around $20.
Garbage - couple hundred bucks.
Income tax - ask our accountant.
Porta potties - couple hundred bucks each.
Want to start an event or need some help?  Click on contact us and send us a jingle. We would be happy to answer a few questions.

That's it for now. 
RD