The 2009 Great TB Race – Lessons Learned

The race ended one week ago.  The results are in and the prizes have been distributed.  All that’s left is the shipping of the prizes.  Four of the five prizes were dropped in the mail 20 minutes ago.  The fifth is waiting for address verification.  As the 2010 race rolls on, I felt like sharing some of the things I’ve learned.

First and foremost, I learned what it is like to try and run such a large scale project by yourself.  Yes it got done, but not without some hickups.  The biggest one was time.  With all of the work that went into tracking the scores, time played a big factor in the four month break in my monthly updates.  For 2010, I have a group of volunteers who will be helping with this undertaking.

I’ve learned a lot more about using Microsoft Excel.  Now I’ve used it in the past, but in the last few months I have learned a lot about using the function feature.  With this added knowledge, I’ve updated the scoring system to make doing updates less stressful.  Just plug in the stats for each visited cache and the spreadsheet does the rest.

When I started the race in 2008, I had envisioned a small prize pool of donations from individual cachers.  Race sponsorship had not even been considered until late in the summer of 2009.  Soon after, I had several businesses signing up for sponsorship, increasing our prize pool to $227.   This was beneficial as the 2010 race started when several places sent me offers to sponsor the race through donations.  As of right now, the prize pool is already up past $150 for 2010.

While not a new lesson, I saw a surprising amount of cachers who took cursory glances at the race info, if even looking at it, before moving travel bugs.  Dipping was the primary cause of this lesson.  It was especially noticable when the travel bug page clearly indicated that dipping was against the rules and several days would pass between picking up the bug and going on a dipping spree.  This led to my next lesson:

In 2009, I provided everyone with a goal tag to attach to their bugs.  Then, after registration started, the rules changed a bit and we added the No Dipping rule.  But this wasn’t listed on many of the tags.  So in 2010, I decided to take care of this little deal myself.  In mid-December, I drew up a tag after establishing exactly what needed to be on there for the goals list.  I prepared, printed, and laminated them all.  Then, just before the race started, I attached them.  The No Dipping rule is clearly stated.  The race website is listed.  Info about monthly goals is provided with instructions on how to find out what they are.  The tag is better prepared this year.

Another interesting lesson deals with how Groundspeak measures distances.  As a result of dipping, I had to manually plot out both a starting and ending point, then draw a path between them, all in Google Maps.  This painstaking procedure had two purposes: recalculating distances and recalculating border crossings.  As time went on, I looked for alternatives.  I found several online calculators, including one that did both of those things for me.  However, I soon learned that there was a problem.  When path was curved, not straight like Groundspeak’s Google Maps.  Further investigation showed that the distances didn’t match Groundspeak’s distances, ever.  So I started doing some research and learned the Groundspeak uses a system of measuring distances that numerous sources indicate is inaccurate.  It’s inaccurate because it assumes a perfectly spherical Earth.  Earth isn’t a perfect sphere, therefore the calculations that produce a distance between two points needs to take that into account to be accurate.  So when you look at the distance traveled on a travel bug’s page, the farther the distance the more off it is (a 1,500 mile jump may be off by 1.5-2 miles).  Back to manual plotting on Google Maps.

Overall, the race has taught me a lot.  Some of it is unavoidable completely, though can be reduced.  Some of it changed how I am doing things in 2010.  And some of it was purely beneficial to the race.


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