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Attackpoint - performance and training tools for orienteering athletes

Discussion: SI Air

in: dbakker; dbakker > 2019-02-26

Feb 26, 2019 6:24 PM # 
I would turn it on. It's only a minimal amount of work and little downside right?

Also, do all of your course setters know the short list of considerations to take into account when course setting with SI Air?
Feb 26, 2019 6:36 PM # 
The potential downside of turning it on (which I am in favour of), is that it creates something of an uneven playing field - especially in the west where SI-Air is not very prevalent yet. We would be the first event to offer SI-Air without an SI-Air rental option in western Canada.

The pro side to turning it on is that it is way better training for the elites, and anyone else who has it makes it a far more smooth experience.

"All our course setters" (that's the three of us!). Not explicitly, but I could guess, I haven't looked into it too much from that end yet, other than that I know it isnt' too much (I've already updated the firmware on all of our units).
Feb 26, 2019 7:34 PM # 
uneven playing field... true but... is it unfair that some athletes buy better shoes than others? Better compasses? Yeah it's a fair bit of difference from an SI 10/11 to an SI Air but there are other pieces of equipment that make an equal difference that people have to buy. You can always point them to stores where they can buy an SI Air if they want. (full disclosure...)

As for the course setting considerations:
1. Make sure controls are placed physically far enough from walls and fences that you can't punch from the wrong side of the fence.
2. Don't place ANY controls close enough together that an orienteer might punch two controls within about 10 seconds. 10 seconds is the standard time that an SI Air stick beeps for and while beeping it won't register another control. I think this caused a mispunch at WOC this past year. Basically never have controls less than about 20 m apart. (Even though the official rules standard is 15m minimum).
3. Make sure the course / area is designed so there is effectively zero chance of running by the finish control after a runner starts the race. Running by the finish punch turns off the SI Air stick so it won't register any future punches until turned on again.
Feb 27, 2019 4:32 AM # 
Personally I would leave SI Air off if you're not offering rental sticks. Otherwise you're giving Adam a 30-60s advantage over Graeme in every race.

Maybe as more people start to buy SI Air sticks the calculus will change, but for now you'd just be giving half a dozen people a huge unearned advantage (paying $100 for a faster stick doesn't count as "earning" a faster time to me...).
Feb 27, 2019 4:46 AM # 
Maybe as more people start to buy SI Air sticks ...

If race organizers either ...
1) Provide rental SI Air, or
2) Don't turn on the SI Air capability,
What incentive is there for more people to start to buy an SI Air stick?

I figure turning SI-Air on would be an incentive that might induce a few more people to start to buy SI Air sticks ... maybe it would be more than a half dozen.

That said, I'd like some indication from the Canadian community as to where this is going. I would happily buy an SI-Air if I figured I'd get to use the capability regularly in the future. As a one-off for OART, not so much.
Feb 27, 2019 1:42 PM # 
bmay, Orienteering Ottawa has SI-Air turned on at all of our local events and our regular competitive runners are buying SI-Air chips to use at local and national events. We, of course, have an official SI rep running our SI system and results so were naturally way ahead of the curve on this. It is really nice though and other than a few things to keep in mind it's not any more work than running the system with SI Air turned off.

Internationally, it definitely seems to be the way things are going. I dont think we should hold ourselves back by not using the system when we can.
Feb 27, 2019 5:22 PM # 
I feel like SI Air pertains only to competitive athletes, as the benefit it provides is only amplified with the speed of the runner. If you stop at the control you might as well punch it and it only has a significant impact when you run by at full or half speed saving you a second or two.

In Canada competitive athletes are a minority and we don't have large teams of athletes from different age groups competing on Provincial and National levels.

I think that in the club (at least my club) most people won't really feel there is any benefit to adding SI air as nobody has it at the moment, therefore this won't really take off until we have proper sprint competitions and not just Damian vs Jan and the Michael's 1-2 min behind them.

As bensmith said, we all know that it gives an unfair 20-30s advantage, therefore cannot be used in a race if everyone doesn't have it (to reply to Jeff; a Mosc star compass doesn't provide a 20-30s benefit/loss in comparison to a Silva compass, and innovates will do the same thing as La Sportiva shoes as long as the type is the same, obviously if you're running in sandals you'll be slower but no elite athlete does that)

Personally if my goal was to initiate SI Air in Canada, I would do it club-wise and get people to sign a form if they would be willing to buy one and would want to use it. Have the board of directors vote that they would switch all of their SI events over to air after either 100 signatures, or a certain percentage of the active members sign. Once the form reaches the cap, then I would order a bulk order with a 20-30% discount if possible and sell each one at that price back to the people who pledged they would buy one. This way the majority of the club would be using SI Air and then the remainder would need to buy an air by themselves if they wanted to have an even playing field.

I think that would be the simplest way to transition, where it would be done by majority rule.

Problem is; I think nobody would really feel like spending $100 or so to speed up everyone's times by 30 sec, as the current system works fine.

I do believe though that it should be provided at every major sprint event for rentals just like it was at the Vancouver Sprint Camp.

[Also when I train without SI punch, just flags or nothing, then the running style is exactly the same as air, so it isn't really a skill that needs to be worked on compared to running speed and navigation]
Feb 27, 2019 5:56 PM # 
The other aspect to consider is safety (for forest races, not sprints). In Air mode, the SI unit doesn't record who has visited each control - it's only recorded on the stick. I have previously been involved in events where we've interrogated SI units to find the last known position of a missing runner, to help focus the search area.

The consensus in GVOC is that we'll only be enabling Air for sprint races. It seems potentially negligent to enable a system that makes it harder to find a missing runner in a forest race.

So unless the GVOC exec become a lot less risk-averse, GVOC members will only be using Air a couple of times per year at most - not a huge incentive to upgrade.
Feb 28, 2019 3:33 AM # 
I think this is a really interesting discussion that is well worth having, so thanks all for participating.

Canadian, how do you manage Ben's safety concerns?

I agree with bmay that I don't want OART to be a one off with SI air. Is Sprint Camp planning on continuing to use SI air in the future?

If we are only using si air at major events, it might be worth it for the western clubs to buy a chunk of SI air rental equipment as a group.
Feb 28, 2019 1:59 PM # 
With respect to Ben's safety concerns - that has been the one comment that has given me pause. The truth is, we (the key players in the club) don't feel it's that much of a concern. As far as I know the units still record all of the non-SIAC punches and the folks using SIAC are the ones we need to worry about the least (generally speaking). As my dad pointed out when I showed him this conversation, we survived for many many years without have a record of who was at each control when we used pin punching. So yes our search procedures are missing a nice tool for an SIAC participant but I wouldn't go so far as to say it's negligent.

I still don't buy the argument about fairness. There are so many pieces of equipment that someone has to buy that $100 for a timing chip that will last for many many years is not a big deal. And for the competitions we're talking about I don't think there needs to be any onus on the organizers to ensure everyone has the same access to the same chips anyway. There isn't enough competition at local events to worry that one competitor has a 60s advantage over someone else. At Sprint Camp, NAOCs, etc. where the competition is higher and more important, these chips are being made available for rent already.

Michael, no a Silva vs Moscompass nor a Inov-8 vs La Sportiva might not make a big difference but running in a new Inov-8 vs running in an old shoe where the tread is completely worn out or a cheap pair of shoes from K-mart does which is a difference closer to the $100 expense of buying a new SIAC chip than buying one good brand vs another.
Feb 28, 2019 6:43 PM # 
Pink Socks:

CascadeOC has talked about SI-Air, too. When it was first brought up about 6 months ago at a board meeting, we kinda laughed it off as expensive and impractical. And then our Prez, VP, and Treasurer were all at Sprint Camp and like, "Whoa, this is cool!"

There's a chance that SART 2019 will be resurrected (not by me), and if so, we might be renting some SI Air for it.

I didn't know about the safety angle, and that's something that CascadeOC will need to consider, especially considering how many kids we have participating. If you're a parent, would you be willing to trade a bonus of 30-60 seconds for a little extra safety precaution for your kid? And what does that say about the club for making that decision available?
Feb 28, 2019 7:01 PM # 
Expensive and impractical... I'm curious, were you considering buying chips to rent out?

The units themselves are the same units you've always been using. You just need to make sure they have the latest firmware and then you can turn si Air mode on and off.
Feb 28, 2019 8:48 PM # 
Pink Socks:
Buying chips, yes.

We already have a large inventory of non-Air sticks (rentals for public and school league), so part of the discussion was what do we do with those? How many Air sticks to get, how to phase them in, etc.

We made the leap from paper punching to SI in the early 2000's, and in addition to a better experience for participants (easier punching, splits), it also had benefits to the club organizers (faster, easier, and more reliable results processing).

From SI to SI-Air, the benefits are there for participants, obviously (but less of a leap from paper to SI), but some small deficits for organizers (safety, higher frequency of battery replacement, higher scrutiny of course design).
Mar 1, 2019 7:51 AM # 
David, do as you please. I think for an event the size of OART it doesn't seem worth the cost (and hassle) to get the sticks shipped over. I think if there was prize money like Sprint Camp it might be a different story. But I think turning it on is not a bad thing given that you will announce with sufficient time to allow one to order a stick. (Then I can choose to spend 100$ on something I don't really want, or lose some seconds to Adam. Lucky me). If you announced it the morning of the race then no, that would not be fair.

To that end, Jeff I'm surprised you're holding firm on you're opinion that it does not create an unfair race. Perhaps you're mislead by the scene over there but some people here wouldn't have even known they existed before Sprint Camp. So to just turn them on one race, and give 1 or 2 runners in the club a 30s advantage without sufficient warning, is my definition of unfair. You must agree that a person with a SIAC has an advantage over a regular SI. The unfairness stems for a lack of awareness and availability - is it fair to only rent SI sticks but let people run with SIAC? Not really, but it's not a big deal at events of a smaller scale like this and if its publicized well.

Personally I don't really like the advent of them because we have a lot of mid-range sprinters who I doubt will spend another 100$ just for a stick when they're not winning many races anyways. It will just widen the gap if only the top people get them and it makes it harder to compare everyones splits. (Maybe winsplits needs an indicator showing your stick type?!)
Mar 1, 2019 1:34 PM # 
Graeme. Good point about awareness. I agree if people don't know the system and aren't aware it's been used then that's not fair. However, I think it would be totally appropriate for a race organizer to not offer rental chips if they state in the pre-race information that SI Air mode will be turned on and folks can use SIAC chips if they have them or any other SI stick. A note about the difference and where they can buy SIAC chips would also help. (And yes I have a bit of interesting in selling SI equipment...)
Mar 1, 2019 11:52 PM # 
I think 'totally appropriate' is a bit of a stretch.
I think it's less fun if everyone's not running on a even playing field and by not having them as rentals you're making it difficult/impossible for casual orienteers/newcomers to be on that even playing field.
Mar 2, 2019 2:40 AM # 
It depends on the level of event. Down to what level of event do you think rentals should be available?
Mar 2, 2019 6:58 PM # 
“ I don’t think we should hold ourselves back by not using the system when we can”

is what the forward thinking clubs thought during the pin punching to SI transition. good on ottawa for making the transition.

After losing a race to the finish against AG! at the ottawa training weekend last year (because she had SI Air and I didn’t) I went and got one of my own SI Air sticks. i’m awaiting a rematch

many sports much bigger than O (Xc skiing, cycling, hockey, etc) have equipment that is much more expensive and lasts a lot less than a SI stick and it is a no brainer to buying the newest equipment. And sure while there are races in skiing that put limits on what waxes you can use the performance difference and cost difference between equipment is huge...and i don’t see ski races renting top of the line eqpt to keep the performance equal.

My $0.02
Mar 3, 2019 4:13 AM # 
Thanks for everyone's input. There are really good points on both sides. I especially find it interesting that those contributing from clubs who have adopted a lot of SI Air are very pro SI air, but those from predominantly non SI Air clubs are more hesitant. I'm not sure which is cause and effect though.

I have been thinking about who I know who I am expecting at OART who currently has SI Air, and there are very few. I think based on this discussion, we don't have enough buy in yet to encourage people to buy SI Air for OART. Since there is no guarantee of future events in western Canada using Si Air, I don't think people would be pretty leary of investing that amount.

I think that unless the western clubs decide between now and the beginning of April to buy a chunk of SIAC for rental purposes and made a unified decision to move in that direction, OART is going to be tradition punching (I need to consult with my fellow organizers though).

Maybe I'll bring it up as a point at the OBC directors meeting later this month.
Mar 3, 2019 12:18 PM # 
David, Graeme,

I'm wondering if one of the other differences is the fact that in Ottawa we dont do a lot of sprinting and neither myself nor any of our HPP athletes have any particular interest in sprint orienteering. I've realised that I, personally, have been writing from that perspective where the difference between having a SIAC chip and not have one is probably less pronounced.

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