Wednesday, November 6, 2013

The Start: The Final Word

The Mil-Spec, Nuclear Hardened ALGE timing system
At this year’s Challenge Advisory Board (CAB) meeting, Saturday morning, the 26th at the Stratosphere, the topic of the start system was addressed. Over the span of the past year, and longer, I’ve covered this protocol in my BlogSpots. As the old adage goes:“When you’re up to your ass in alligators, it’s hard to remember your original mission was to drain the swap“ - the change effected some two plus years ago- was to allow competitors a more natural start, versus the crouched one with fists on the pads. 

The design was expanded to determine false starts with a fail-safe, computer monitored system that was based upon drag racing.  A couple of things happened that no one liked. The start itself turned into a contest, where we encouraged people to see how close they could get to the edge before incurring a five second penalty. We call this the law of unintended consequences. The other downside was after spending thousands of dollars, this finicky system required a knowledgeable electronic technician to trouble shoot the numerous problems.

Despite our promises to not make changes during the season, we would have failure at the most inopportune times, resulting in our having to resort to other methods for the start. We did not have the luxury of being able to put everything on hold while we shut down the races. For example, in Hermosa Beach, after working on the system for hours, and effecting a fix, when next powered on, the system failed. We did a work around, and that fixed failed. So, I can share the frustration when you have to make two changes within a single competition. The alternative was to call off the event in order to satisfy those who believed that this was some trivial annoyance that could easy be dealt with. 

So, after all of these problems, I made the decision to retreat to the simpler, more stable system of going with the siren. We have abandoned the drag racing start. The brains of the current system has always been the Alge computer that costs upwards of $15,000. It’s the same one that’s used all Olympic and World Championship track events. In Las Vegas, the transformer for the Alge did a melt down and while we scrambled for a replacement, we had to resort to whistles and handheld stop watches. 

One of the CAB members opined that this was costing Competitors 1.5 seconds. I immediately challenged this baseless claim with data. Everyone one of our course officials has been vetted with the use of a stopwatch. We are typically within hundredths of the display times. So that is a frivolous claim. Within an hour of the meltdown, we had a replacement transformer and were back in business. 

This is not a professional sport. But, out attention to the details is consistent with measurement at the highest levels of any sport. From this point forward, the siren will be the start of the clock. Competitors who touch the high rise pack before the siren will incur a 5 second penalty. You may adjust the high rise pack forward or back, but it will not be curved when placed on the mat. The starter will step on the pack to ensure compliance. We have virtually eliminated the false start penalty for trivial movements of the feet and those who incurred a false start penalty earned it.


Joanne said...

I just wanna thank you for sharing your information.

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