David Dobbins ddobbinswa at yahoo.com
Mon Aug 9 02:29:32 EDT 2004

I need to contact someone in the greater Phoenix area for some APRS
pre-planning for the Ironman Triathlon scheduled for the Spring 2005 in
Mesa. At our (Coeur d'Alene) Ironman Triathlon debrief recently, the
communications Captain said he had been contacted by the Ironman
leadership about traveling to Mesa for some communications team
planning. He asked me to start the ball rolling to make sure APRS was
part of the amateur radio support for the triathlon. I would like to
share what we did, which really impressed the Ironman leadership.
Apparently they have not had any exposure to APRS in previous Ironman
events, which is a big surprise to me. They want APRS involved at future
Ironman events, obviously.

We didn't do anything fancy, so no big deal for us. Here's what we did:

* Tracker on Lead Male. The tracker was initially installed in the same
vehicle with the race clock mounted. The race clock created too much RF
and kept the radio from going to TX. We had an ATV with another tracker
as standby, and substituted it. We don't recommend this for future
events, as at times the lead male, when on the bicycle, was travelling
in excess of 45-50 MPH, including around corners. We don't recommend
using an ATV for this role. Used a D700 and Garmin GPS.

* Tracker on Lead Female. We will do this next year at the CDA Ironman.

* Tracker on eldest runner. We will do this next year at the CDA

* Bicycle tracker. Paced the runners along the race route, using a D7A
and Garmin GPS.

* RELAY stations. We used two home (fixed) stations to help relay
low-powered tracker signals into the system.

* BOAT DIGI. A USCGA boat with a D700 and Garmin GPS was strategically
positioned in Lake CDA, to RELAY digipeat the low-powered tracker
signals. It worked great.

* SAG vehicles. It would have been nice to have a couple trackers on
some of the support vehicles. We'll try for that next year also.

* Sweep station. This was the ATV, following the last runner, along the

* Main APRS Support Station. In the Command Post, operated by a
knowledgeable person. We used UI-View32. This station had the RUN and
BIKE AID stations annotated on the map, and broadcast as objects.

* Alternate APRS Support Station. This stations was located in the
Medical Info Tent in the public area, along with the med-info team and
their computers on WiFi connection to 

* Ironman Jumbotron TV. They want to pump the APRS picture into the huge
jumbo TV that is truck mounted, for onlookers to see where the lead
runners are.

Besides APRS, the primary comms support was by amateur radio:

* Communications Command Post. Provided by Kootenai County ARES/RACES; a
converted school bus with numerous work stations. Communications
Captain, and with others, operated from here.

* Bike Aid and Run Aid Stations. There were hams at each of the aid
stations, positioned close to the aid station captain, to pass along
necessary communications. These included requests for more supplies
(ice, TP, bananas, etc), and also to report the runner number of those
who dropped out, for any reason. The hams who supported the aid stations
did a great job, usually on 3-4 hour shifts, some longer. The race
started at 0700 and concluded a little after midnight. You need several
shifts of people in place when/where necessary.

* Packet Support. As the voice reports came in reporting those numbers
who dropped out, those were sent from the CP bus to the Med Info tent.
The med info tent kept the master list of those who dropped out.

Non-Ham Radio Communications:

* WiFi System. Although power problems precluded the WiFi system from
being up more than about 50% of the race, it was a great tool when it
was up. The med info team had a secure link to the med tent, where a
database was kept on who reported for medical attention. In the med info
tent, we also had access to the Ironman web site that included runner
info and times when they completed each of the three events.

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