Radio Controls from A-Z

At recent USA national orienteering events, there has been a focus on improving the “arena” experience. Right now that means having radio communications from a few control locations to make the Finish arena experience, well, an experience.

In the middle of 2010 I purchased some radio control equipment from the UK. It turned out to be a bit painful to set up and use, and I was quickly disenchanted. Nice guys and all, but clunky equipment was one of the issues. I could go into details, but that isn’t going to happen at this late date.

So, fast forward to September 2011. I was contacted by a NJROTC program out of Florida about assisting them with using SportIdent and radio controls from at their national championships in February 2012.

They were planning to throw some serious money out there, and I was convinced that this was a case of more money than brains, but I was intrigued by their willingness to listen to my opinions (huge concession for a group of retired military officers), and I was liking what I saw on the O-Lynx website.

AND, then I “met” the O-Lynx developer, Phillip H, and I really liked what I saw. However, I needed to have some equipment of my own to test things out since I am very hands on. By December, James from had set me up O-Lynx, and the testing began in earnest.

I did a backyard test and then tested at four QOC events (details to follow). There was also a successful use of the equipment at the aforementioned NJROTC champs, and then the final exam was at the four events at the Flying Pig in late March/early April (again, more details to follow).

At present, I have five O-Lynx controls/repeaters, and I plan to expand that to eight so that there will be enough for two each at the Start, Finish, Go, and possibly a Spectator control.

Flying Pig – Day 3 Middle at Big Bone Lick

Final day at the Pig, and if the footing wasn’t sloppy enough for you on the first two days, then there would be no complaints today.

With the wired Finish controls not working perfectly yesterday, and with only one GO control out today, I put one radio control at the Start with two repeaters, one at the GO (255), and the last one on one of the Finish controls. OK, that was kind of lame since your Finish time only got announced if you punched the right control.

After walking up to the Start to put the radio control out, and with the advent of rain, I was pretty sure that I wasn’t even going out today, especially since I was very sore after the first two days.

So, I suggested that the OCIN SI operator go out on his course, and I would decide later.

Things ran smoothly, and the rain stopped, and a rainbow was seen over the mountain (OK, the rainbow part is not true), so I got myself mentally prepared to go. The MD was pressed into driving me to the restroom and then closer to the Start about 30 minutes after the last starter.

Across the dam, and then about 400 meters down a mud slide, barely managing to stay upright, and then 400 meters up a hill. Ugh, I should have skipped today.

But now I was out there, and I hadn’t fallen down the muddy trail, so I tried to enjoy the course, and I did, apart from a little fiasco from 4-5. Like yesterday, I skipped a control in my mind, so I headed from 5-6 when I was really going 4-5. Truly puzzled on why the trail out of 5 was missing but I forged ahead. Luckily, this was not a huge error, and I was able to easily go to 5 from where I popped out of 4.

Won the course split to 9, probably based on the fact that I was able to navigate to it in an advanced fashion.

However, I had nothing at the end, and my run in split is shown as an error. I did sound like a train, and my voice has been mostly gone since.

3/16 on the course. So, a successful weekend of beating up on the youngsters. And, thanks to my rankings magic, I am 10 in the Yellow rankings. Can I move up any in Georgia? We shall see…though I am pretty sure that I have F-Yellow #1 nailed down for 2012.

Really, really enjoyed this weekend. A perfect combination of working and competing. Who knows, Yellow just may be the course for me.

And, perhaps the best part was the cleverly designed T-shirt.

I’ve run courses like that, and I have the tracks to prove it!

Distance was 3.6 km with 80 m of climb, finish time = 50:27. Placed 3/16 on the course.

Flying Pig – Day 2 Middle at England-Idlewild

After David W. handed me a wonderful BK cheeseburger, I was set to go for round 2. The second event of the day had the same finish location, so that made things easier.

Went with the same as the morning – radio control at the Start, two at the Go control (200), and the USB wired controls for the Finish. Used no additional repeaters in the afternoon.

The White/Yellow Sprint course map

Map with tracks

To be low maintenance for the Start crew, for this course I started on my assigned start time, so I was 1/4 for the weekend. I did wear my bib number 2/4 times, which is a new record.

Anyway, I got a bit too cocky from 5-6, and eventually found 7, but then inexplicably I headed back to 5 and punched there again and was on my way to 7 again when I realized something wasn’t right. Back to 5 for another check, and a foul word or two, and then to 6 and the rest of the course. What made this such a painful error was that the entire area was just a slick muddy mess. Hey, but then it wouldn’t be the Pig, would it?

Another error when I decided to go through the tall stuff from 9-10 and then missed seeing the control. After that, there was a bit of head to head with a FU cadet who out kicked me by 10 seconds in the finish chute. Is it just me, or do we have the same expressions on our faces? Photo courtesy of OCIN.

Another enjoyable course. I could get used to doing Yellow on a regular basis.

Distance was 2.4 km with 60 m of climb, finish time = 36:19. Placed 9/16 on the course, my worst showing of the weekend.

Flying Pig – Day 2 Sprint at England-Idlewild

While yesterday was hot and sunny, and I got a touch of sunburn, today was cool and overcast with a threat of rain most of the day. I, for one, was really appreciative of the cooler conditions.

The first event of the day was the Sprint.

Sandy and I drove to the Start and put out a radio control there and the repeater at R1. Again, we may have been able to skip the repeater at R1, but it wasn’t being used elsewhere, so we put it out there.

Sandy then set out the two GO controls at 136, and I set up the two USB wired controls at the Finish. Today, I used a little different computer configuration to deal with the wireless connection and the connection of the O-Lynx computer to the second computer being used for displaying information for Vladimir. That combination worked out well enough.

Though, it turns out that the USB wired controls at the Finish were a bit flaky because one had older firmware, and I was also using extenders to extend the cords further then is advised.

Anyway, here is Vladimir manning the mike. Photo courtesy of OCIN.

And, with the QOC flag on prominent display. Photo courtesy of OCIN.

The White/Yellow Sprint course map

Map with tracks

The Sprint course was a lot of fun with people going in different directions. I was surprised that I placed 4/22 on the course, but I think the youngsters were having issues keeping track of the 19 controls.

Distance was 1.6 km with 39 m of climb, finish time = 15:22.

Flying Pig – Day 1 at Middle Creek

Due to issues with my right Achilles and hip, I had to accept that I was going to the Flying Pig on the injured list, at least in terms of overdoing it on the Green course. Instead of feeling too sorry for myself, I decided to embrace my status and run the Yellow course (generally reserved for M/F-14), and I would also offer my assistance to the OCIN crew.

Part of the plan was to set up the O-Lynx radio controls so that there would be live data sent back for the announcer.

Since I was traveling light, and there was minimal time to plan and set up before each race, the idea was to keep things as simple as possible while still getting useful information for the announcer.

Here is where the radio controls and repeaters were placed at Middle Creek.

There was a radio control at the Start with two repeaters sending the signal back to the Finish. It may have been possible to go from the Start to the Finish without the repeaters in between, but I didn’t want to walk up the hill to the Start more then once, so I erred on the conservative side and put the repeaters out the first time.

Repeater 1 by the cemetery.

Two radio controls were put out at the location of the last control (100) and one was put out at the road crossing control (39). Photo courtesy of OCIN.

I also set up two USB wired controls at the Finish and connected everything to the O-Lynx software on two laptops and a netbook. Since I was hooking into OCIN’s wireless network for the OE2003 event data, and this process hadn’t been checked beforehand, there was a bit of an issue getting everything to work flawlessly, but I cobbled together enough data that Vladimir was good to go.

So, I got ready to go back to the Start for my own course. I didn’t make my assigned start time, and I was very amused by the time I got back up the hill to the Start by the number of people I passed who told me that I had missed my start time.

For me, it was pretty hot with temps in the mid 70s by the time I did start, and I was also feeling the lack of fitness on the hills. But, I took it slow and easy, and I enjoyed the course.

The Yellow course map from today. No tracks, because for the first time since I have owned a gps watch, I arrived at the start line with a dead battery. So, I wore it around with a blank screen mocking me for my carelessness.

Distance was 3.1 km with 100 m of climb, finish time = 49:03. Placed 5/17 on the Yellow course.