Stair Climbs are a popular type of race in the winter months when outdoor events become difficult to host because of low temperatures and inclement weather. Due to the nature of RF signal and its tendency to “bounce” off of hard surfaces, collecting reliable data with Gators indoors without testing and special configuration is very difficult. Below you will find a guide that will walk you through some best practices and helpful tips that will help your stair climb be successful.
Near-field "Wand" Method
Near field antennas can provide a much more accurate read rate than Gators since the Wands are operated by your employees or volunteers. Near-field antennas have a much smaller read field than Gator antennas or FlashPoints and are accurate within 6 inches of a tag.
Wands are primarily useful for controlled starts where Athletes start one at a time with several seconds between. Allowing athletes to simply run at will would require Gators since Employees or volunteers with Wands would likely not be able to keep up with scanning everyone.
Near-field antennas can be ordered from ChronoTrack using the standard order form.
This method is only practical when using Bib or Tri tags worn on the wrist.
- Turn the beep on for each controller.
- Attach the wand and test that it is collecting reads.
- Set up clear delineation to prevent Athletes from crowding the timing location.
- Brief Volunteers/Employees well before the race on proper use of the Wand and the frequency with which they should allow athletes to proceed.
- The Near Field antenna is most effective within 6 inches of the tag.
- “Waving” the Wand past the bib should be sufficient to collect the read.
- Employees/Volunteers should scan the bib ONLY when they are ready to let the Athlete run. Allowing at least a few seconds between Athletes will help avoid “packs” at the finish.
- Employees/Volunteers should advise athletes to listen for the controller beep before they begin their climb.
- We recommend having a volunteer entering numbers with a USB keypad or keyboard connected to the controller as another way to ensure that reads are collected. This is especially important at the Finish since not all Athletes will run at the same pace, and there may be multiple finishers in quick succession.
To further ensure you collect the maximum number of reads, you may want to use Gators and D-Tags as a backup at the finish. If you choose to do this, review the Gator Method below as well. Combining the two methods would require double-tagging each athlete with both a Bib tag and a Shoe tag.
It is strongly recommended to use the Wand method above when possible. The Gator method is only ideal for a “free-for-all” type Stair Climb where Athlete flow is not regulated.
If you are using Gators for your stair climb, ALWAYS carefully test equipment settings ON-LOCATION prior to race day.
We generally recommend D-tags as the best timing tag for stair climbs using Gators.
- Since most stair climbs occur inside, it may be necessary to reduce the power of the Readers in the controller since RF signal bounces around inside which may cause errant reads. Few buildings are exactly alike and setups may vary, so there is no specifically recommended Reader power level at which to operate. If possible, get enough people to simulate a small “crowd” near the mats as this scenario will help yield the most accurate test results.
- The ideal setup with Gators is a “Runway” where 4 Gators are lined up edge to edge instead of interlocked in a straight line as shown below. This configuration creates multiple overlapping fields where an athlete may be read.
- Perform a test to establish optimum Reader power levels on the Controllers for EACH of the Start and Finish points.
- If possible, establish what the maximum accurate power level is in case you find you are missing reads on race day and need to increase the reader power.
- Keep track of which controller belongs at which point on Race Day.
- Set up equipment as closely as possible to the configuration used during testing. We do NOT recommend that you change Reader power on Race Day if testing was successful before. If you notice a large number of missed reads as data is streaming, halt the race long enough to increase the power level by 1-2 dB. Do not overcompensate.
- Using Radiant Barrier is a good way to help ensure that signal is contained within a specific area. Consider purchasing some from your local home improvement store (Home Depot, Lowes, Menards, etc.)
- We STRONGLY recommend using a USB Keypad or Keyboard connected to each controller as a backup. You can stream Normal and Keyed reads to separate devices with defined Priorities in CT Live to ensure that times come from the Normal (Gator) reads whenever possible.
- If using a single Gator, set up clear delineation to prevent Athletes from crowding or missing the timing location. A single-file line is ideal. The fewer Athletes in the field at once, the lower the interference from body mass.
- We recommend having a volunteer entering numbers with a USB keypad or keyboard connected to the controller as another way to ensure that reads are collected. When using gators as your timing solution, we STRONGLY recommend this.
If you have any questions regarding Stair Climb setup or any other facet of this guide, please contact the Timer Support team.
We would like to thank all of the Timers who contributed to this guide with their personal stories and experiences.