Comments from the 2015 ASICS Los Angeles Marathon

Unprofessional radio transmissions:
Did you hear all them, Greg? There were three or four appalling transmissions to the Net Control. (I started wondering if they were doing it on purpose to trip up the new guy.) It was all could do to keep from announcing that people need to be professional and that we're all volunteers.
I heard: Something like,
" need to come up to speed"
"this is insane"
"you need to pay attention"
And a snide comment about a runner's age, "between 20 and 50." (Seriously?)
Are these new people? I wouldn't invite them back.

Water Station 17 was very well organized by the captain (her first year!) things went very smoothly.
one thing I heard was repeated complaints about people waiting over an hour and a half to be picked up by the shuttles.
I know that at least for WS17, the Drop Down location was about 1/4 mile west of our location, and not within sight, there was no ham operator there to report if any runners need a shuttle.
maybe for next year allocate some hams to Drop Down locations which are not in close proximity to the water station, so that they can report and coordinate a more timely pickup? (I know that this year we were short on ham operators, but next year, if we have more volunteers, this might be something to consider, maybe position one ham operator by the water stop, and the other by the Drop Down location?)
it seems that shuttles had difficult time reaching the Drop Down locations. maybe a better organized street closure, with a larger buffer zone around the route to keep traffic out, but let shuttles in? maybe have a police escort for the shuttles?
would a ham operator on each shuttle improve things???
also, I heard a few complaints about inaccuracies in the maps, and I believe that our area map was also not very accurate, as far as locations of the porta potties, and the Drop Down location.
I was one of the people that did not report a bib number, a runner asked about the Drop Down location, and by the time I asked my partner, who had the map, for confirmation on the location, she was long gone, and I did not have her bib number, though I am not even sure if she indeed needed a ride, or just asked about the location... however next time I'll get a bib number before I even answer any questions... sorry about that

We need to have a police liaison through Net Control or give us a phone number of their command post.
**The MACC is co-located with PD**

a bicycle operator at the end of the race would have been a great idea, my water captain wanted to know what the status of the runners were for these reasons.
1. volunteer staff, if the race was winding down, he could have adjusted his volunteer manpower to accommodate the remaining runners.
2. available inventory, not knowing the status, led to huge waste of water and manpower.
3. was break down, the team caption wanted to start breaking down the water stand, according to demand.
you choice of net control for the morning sift was not your better choice !!! I had to repeatedly ask for information that; I can only assume that the net control operator was not understanding, the information that he did understand, he did not acknowledge that it was received ? when there were pile-ups on the mike, he did not acknowledge who had priority and handle traffic accordingly and most of all he did not take note and give accurate responses.
personally, the problem I was having with my HT was had the wrong PL programmed and I was bring up a machine in north county SD ? it was reported back to me that I was transmitting simplex ? I don't know who made that call but Hum ? but and ordered role call with better support is needed ? I know it seam like I'm only reporting negative issues, but from my point of view, every time my water captain asked a question, net control was unable to answer it then the tiff fight over where the drop down vans really were was too much to bear since I had a mobile radio running with everyone in the back ground listening to two clowns argue over where the vans were and what they looked like? **Another good reason to have headphones**

The only real problem was the drop out vans. On Vermont and Hollywood the drivers parked two vans , locked their doors and left. When we needed the vans the net control told us the vans were on the way. We waited for a long time for these vans. Then finally the drivers returned and we loaded one van. Then we needed a second van and had the same problem. Waiting for the driver to return and he even waited long after we loaded his van to leave. There was a cooling van on the other side of the intersection. The woman refused to take runners to the finish line at the end of the time for med mile 8. There was a major problem which should be looked into to prevent problems next year.

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I had a great time and met a lot of great people.
OK now for the feedback.
1. Some basic ham skills need to be brushed up on by some, as it sounded like some (or one) seemed to be off frequency, a roger beep at the end of one station and some not getting all the needed information before starting their communication.
2. My water station (10) was very well organized and had more than enough supplies. Everyone worked hard and had the sprit of the event as they cheered the contestants on.
3. Control Net and MAC did a fantastic job of keeping it professional and getting the job done. At my water station we had only one drop out that was not an injury.
I hope these comments are received as positive and striving to have the system work even better.

1. Drop down van driver had very little useful info. provided to him, when he asked me for info. he should have or could have already been given; he said he was not
provided phone number or radio to have direct communication with MACC ("Serge"), which later contributed to delays and possibly miscommunication. One runner at mile #15
requested and waited for drop down runner van for approximately 1.5 hours before giving up and taking care of transportation by another means.
2. There were quite a few times radio operators were not listening to and checking for radio traffic. They would begin transmitting (seemingly blindly) at the same
time other operators were already using the frequency. By taking just a few more seconds and possibly minutes, during peak traffic, to listen would greatly enhance our
overall air time usage.

There was confusion about the Bib numbers and names. and Mile Nos and Med Nos.

What happened to the clocks? I thought the experts would be "johnnie on the spot." If I am involved on a HOT corner in the future I plan to bring a canopy. I don't know how the runners make it. With the exception of extra chatter I can't find a single thing to complain about.. See you next year if you will have me.

Well one lesson for the Mile Truck crew is don't run the battery down. Note I called it in immediately as it was going to be an obstruction on the course. Truck 3 ended up being stuck on the course during the race as they couldn't get a jump start prior to start of the race. In the sweep convoy DOT attempted to jump start it but couldn't get enough current through the jumper cable they had. Finally another truck from the Marathon came by with a heavy duty cable and got it started--long after the race was finished.
The street was fairly wide at that point so it didn't interfere with the runners going through that much, but I could see if it was elsewhere it could have been a problem.

it was pretty much the typical la marathon at mile 15 with the exception that is seemed there were fewer runners that passed our water station this year and there were more runners getting water or gatorade. and it seems more that 1 cup of water or gatorade was taken by many runners. also, water was often poured on the runners when they came. we had plenty of water and gatorade that was not used. there were no lunches for the volunteers at water station 15. someone told me that only 4 lunches were available for the volunteers there. the volunteers at station 21 did an outstanding job and so did everyone at net control, the mac and medical nets. it seemed there were enough trained medical people along the course and it appeared that water station 21 was staffed with a medical team from pasadena fire around noon so it seemed to help. many operators feel it isn't important to secure some identification of the runners needing medical assistance and information from the runners like obtaining prior medical conditions etc. volunteers and first responders should know that runners can lose consciousness before a trained medical person arrives and getting information on health conditions can be very helpful as well and information that will help in identifying the runners. many runners choose to not register as it is a little bit of money so i am assuming that ernie who was treated for heat and dehydration at station 21 was not registered. it is very easy for those that are not registered to join the main marathon group of runners after the elite runners start. they usually have at least one "gatekeeper" at the finish line that helps to keep out runners that aren't registered or without a bib number. many runners felt the effects of the warmer temps and some didn't feel any or very little.

All in all, I thought it went well.
There seemed to be unnecessary confusion about the drop down locations, as well as how and when to send a runner to the drop down. Even though the locations were listed on our assignments I was surprised at the number of people asking for location information and clarification, which I think put unnecessary pressure on net control. Perhaps a little more time should be spent on this in the meeting, having people actually look at their water station maps with you.

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Even with experienced operators, I think it might be worth spending more time on the communication basics and going over specific examples of how to report typical types of events (i.e. runner dropping out, runner needing medical aid, requests for supplies) – so that everyone knows how to work clearly and succinctly. This applies to both net control and people out on the course. Better technique would have avoided people losing their temper. However, I don’t think it is ever acceptable to snap at net control. Lecturing net control was disruptive and a time waster. Everyone can benefit from more efficient communication.
The whole van situation is frustrating. It has been my experience over the years they are just not reliable and you often have people, who aren’t feeling well already, waiting for long periods of time. For instance, in past years when I’ve had a lot of runners drop out at mile 17, they got so frustrated waiting for the van that they’d get together in groups of four or six and get a cab at the Peninsula Hotel. I’m not sure where the hang up is, is it maneuvering in traffic in Santa Monica? Perhaps this could be rethought in some way so that pickup could be more efficient. Another idea, have we considered putting a ham on the vans? An HT with a mag mount antenna would work and that person would be able to monitor the traffic about where groups of runners are stacking up and perhaps help maneuver the vans more efficiently.
I applaud the decision not have clocks at the mile locations. The clocks are not useful for the average runner as they don’t cross the start line at the time the clock is starting. In the past it has always been a time waster to find the clocks, find the clock operator and actually get the clocks started.

waiting for a Shuttle for the Elite Runners and being bounced between both nets and really got NO HELP. And the Beverly Hills FD EMS Supr. was using his system and getting the run-around as well. And then at the end of the Day They are using poorly marked Min-vans as Shuttles, Not Shuttle Bus as Earlier in the Day. Shuttle Service is Getting Worse NOT BETTER.

Hams nearer to the finish line arrive before the equipment and supplies show up. Our instructions say to be at our station at 5:30 am, but there is no way to tell where that station will be. Someone must know the specific street address; that should be provided to us instead of the general area. WS24 had to relocate the ham station and the trash barrels when the tables and water were delivered to the "correct" location, a half-block west.
There are no instructions for how to request the drop off shuttle. Evidently, there are specific pick-up points, but those points were not made known to me. Also, that doesn't work for runners who do not need transportation to a hospital, but do need transportation to the finish line because of minor injuries, such as blisters, severe fatigue, sprained ankle, etc. I was told that runners who needed the shuttle from Med24 had the choice of walking to WS22 or the finish line. That's a two mile walk either way.
We need better instructions on what to do with student runners who need approval from parents to receive medical attention. Perhaps a signed permission to treat or not for underage runners is a solution.
I seem to remember some mention of lunch. If I was to get something, it never showed up.
Hams should be required to wear reflective safety vests.
WS24 had a Baofeng radio and he was virtually unreadable. Please suggest that those cheap models not be used.
Net control either needs to be in a quiet area or needs really good headphones. Many times I could easily copy transmissions but Net Control had to have the message repeated multiple times because of ambient noise.
From my location, the SMPD, SMFD, and the local Ambulance service were all very professional, dedicated, and ready to take on whatever came their way. We were fortunate to not have to deal with any life-threatening issues.

The short form is that at Med22 we got a smaller shuttle, which was very good. It would have been better if it had worked properly since the rear air cond. worked, but the front put out heat. Fortunately the runners could be kept in the back and the front was left open to let the heat out. BTW, also at Med22 there was no lunch delivered.
Overall everything seemed to go well.
The long form is that I realized that there really is no accountability for the vendors which are hired. They can provide broken/bad service, but there really is no sign off on the services provided, so they can get away with it at not cost to them and only unofficial responses back. For a medical station, it would be nice if the doctor signed off or something that they provided the services that they were contracted for.
What is the expectation as to how long it should take for the DD shuttle? In my opinion, the Marathon should be doing the scheduling/routing of the shuttles, rather than allowing the company do it, again, a matter of accountability. We had a woman who needed a ride, but after around 2 hours, she decided to continue on and I don't think that was really a good idea.
It would also be nice if the medical shuttles could be used as a DD shuttle when the location closes. At a minimum just going to the finish line if there are runners waiting.
We ended up with one runner being picked up, after quite some time. I saw more of the DD shuttles after everything was done than during the day.
Also, the opening of the roads was a bit of a mess. People were getting on the road when it was still closed, which resulted in a showdown between an idiot and the street cleaning crews. Fortunately an officer happened by and "forced" her to backup, but unfortunately she was really an idiot and ended up going the wrong way on San Vicente and since the officer was on a bike, he could not catch her, but he was rather upset.
There should be a means of restocking medical supplies, but there is also the concept of learning from history. Part of the problem is that most of them have not worked the marathon before, so the concept of limited supplies and what is almost an unlimited amount of runners means that they run out when they don't realize that they need to be careful with their supplies. Also, they don't know how things work nor how things were setup in the past. I informed the doctor how the medical tent had been setup in the past (they were setting it up such that it would have been hard to use), she later thanked me for letting her know how it had been setup previously as she said the layout worked very well.
In hot weather, it would be good to have an awning to provide shade since due to the location, some of the cots were in the sun. The first year I worked, the medical tent was setup differently, which provided more shade, which would also retain more heat if it was cold. The next year it was moved to the current location with one of the long side open instead of just the short side open.
The ice machine (to store ice) was quite nice, although there was not enough ice (perhaps due to poor allocation), but the only place for it was on the road, which was an issue at the end of the event as it was there when the roads were opening. That section had to remain closed until the truck came back.
I never heard as to why the north side of Gretna Green was closed, as it never had been before. No one knew why or who did it and I never got an official answer as to whether it should have been closed (someone put yellow LAPD tape across it). Had the DD shuttle showed up, it would have presented a problem since that is where it was supposed to stop. When the one did arrive, they stopped in the lane of traffic.

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I was surprised to learn that the clocks would not be used at the Mile Marker. My purpose for being at the Mile Marker was to start the clock. When the truck departed and the only person remaining was a man to keep the generator fueled, I realized that I was not misunderstanding the recent radio communications. With that, I started the 0.6 mile walk westward to the Water Station (too late to drive) and shook hands with the Water Station Captain.
A matter previously reported is the Kaiser Hospital and LA Children's Hospital one block away at Edgemont and Sunset. It is amassing the number of employees and patrons that know nothing regarding the Marathon road closures. Suggest the Marathon Committee discuss the matter with the hospital facilities in attempts to preclude undue ill will.
It is understood that the transportation of "drop downs" is of little concern to us, but the voluminous amount of communications it develops is grounds for another voice to seek a possible solution.
>> Perhaps the Water Station could have an on-street permitted go-cart/golf cart w/driver to transport drop downs to a parallel street 2 or 3 blocks north or south of the route for drop off to await pickup by a designated bus following a route/schedule to the finish line. >>
The day started with an overcast sky delaying the expected heat until later. The Water Station personnel had a jolly time spraying water from a fire hydrant with about half the runners maximizing the cooling effect.
Net Control did a fine job managing the traffic and getting answers to questions.

The Drop Out Vans were our biggest source of radio traffic and cause for "tempers" among radio operators and runners. Two issues here, in my opinion:
There's a mismatch of expectations for these Vans: a) Runners seem to expect Vans are more like an on-demand taxi service; that's understandable when you are exhausted and just want to get back to Santa Monica as quickly as possible. b) The radio operators were concerned for the well-being of exhausted runners at their location--which is commendable--but they too need to realize the Vans are not a taxi substitute. (On the other hand, in many parts of L.A., especially the suburbs, one needs to wait 30-45 minutes for a taxi!)
There were some mismatches regarding the correct locations for these Vans: locations on the maps, especially in Beverly Hills, were different from where the Vans actually parked. This confused where drop-out runners needed to be.
On the whole, I felt the team of operators in the field did much better than recent years. There were only a few instances of a stuck mike but for very brief periods--no real problem. And WIRES wasn't a problem this year (thank you for advising everyone). But here are the few radio issues I noted:
Operators on the Medical net need to be reminded to use the Med Net frequency, not the Mile Net.
When reporting a medical situation where first responders are already on-scene our radio operators should mention "Advisory only" or something to the like. We had several situations where a radio operator reported an urgent medical need but they didn't mention paramedics were already treating the runner until I asked. That greatly changed the nature of our radio net's response.
Operators should be told it's OK to mention any names on bibs if a name appears instead of a number.
There were some really annoying squelch tail beeps and tones coming from certain field radios. All operators should be asked to turn off these sounds.

Tracy was amazing. I couldn't have asked for a better mentor. I really appreciated having a veteran be there as back-up as I had no idea what to expect.
As a newbie, my assignment at mile 2 was perfect. Very little action, but I got to hear what was happening from the veterans at the later miles and could model my communications after theirs.
After my shift ended, I continued to monitor the frequency. I was impressed with Mile Net, especially KI6OQ. It was a long day for him, but he was on his game all day and kept track of everything. Fantastic job.
Your communications prior to the marathon was great. Some coordinators tend to go overboard with daily mailings. Your once-a-week email was informative and clear. The site had all the information I needed, and I liked that I could look through comments from previous years to gain additional tips.

The good:
Med 14 had lots of supplies, water, gatorade and ice. Supply truck dumped extra water. So the hot day plan worked
Drop down vans worked fine. Med 14 is different from the others in that we are at the WeHo LA County Fire station. They handled commo for the drop vans. Over the course of the day, two vans came and left with dropped runners. As med was shutting down the cooling bus (about 30 or 40 seats) took the remaining dropped runners to Santa Monica. I thought using the cooling bus for this was a very good idea. I hope other sites did that, or will do that next year.
I was told the correct location for Med 14 this year
The less good:
USC Keck med staff was told the wrong location (like last year). The ice truck was also told the wrong location. When staff had not arrived by 0605 I hiked up to Sunset and Larrabie and found everyone and brought them to the correct location. Guys from med and LACFD retrieved the ice.
After I left, I continued to monitor Mile and Med nets. After the net controls shut down, a ham at Med 22 or Mile 22 called in that the ice truck had finally come for the ice machine. He had been waiting for it! I called and told him net control had shut down.

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Because of medical traffic, the reporting of 1-3 runners was delayed. Is it possible to have a separate net for 1-3 runners and one for medical reporting in the future? There is a plus value in having everyone on the same net, because of that I was able to delay the DD driver from going to a further mile site and stay a little longer.
There was a lot of water and Gatorade spilled into the street because on none use. It might be a good idea to for each station as the runners go by their site to give an update on how many runners are still in the race so that the next stations can get a better estimate to keep adding more cups and/or mixture for those cups or to stop filling those cups.
There was no time clock and I did not know that mile 7 did not require a time clock.
***This was mentioned prior to the race*** The toilets were open upon my arrival (0535hrs) and the key and lock was no were to be found. In the future, if we unlock the toilets, were do we replace the chain, key and lock?
***This was covered at the meetings. Locks, keys, and chains should go the the WS Captain***

My suggestion is that as the water captains know exactly where they set up they should give a more exact location so that everyone meets at the correct place. This is not hard to do and would prevent a lot of extra work and frustration.
One more thing; I suggest that the use of "rubber ducky" antennas on HT's be discouraged and replaced with an improved gain antenna.

The DD van is like a bus, not a taxi. It goes on its own route and schedule. We do not "summon" it or ask for its ETA. It arrives when it arrives, whether you've called for it or not.
Van stops and cool-down vehicles should be co-located with MED stations, so that those awaiting the bus are visible to MED station personnel. If it's necessary to track bib numbers or the count of passengers waiting at each stop, the MED Net should deal with it.
If a runner gets tired, he should be told the following: "If you can do it, your best option is to rest up and then walk to the finish line. If you are unwell or injured, paramedics will take you to a hospital. Other than that, walk to the nearest MED area, where you can sit in a shady spot under observation while you wait for the next van."
And, while they're waiting, we aren't interested in their impatient "How long will it be?" questions. The van arrives when it arrives.
About medical issues:
In at least one case that I heard, a runner complaining of ankle problems was told to walk to a DD stop. This was very wrong as it could have aggravated the injury.
The ambulance decision should be made only by a paramedic or dispatcher who is talking directly to the patient by cellphone. The call should go via 9-1-1 and not involve radio hams at all.
Other issues:
We are not a "marathon information service". If someone (other than a water captain or race official) approaches us with a question, it is not our job to answer it. We do not relay such questions to Net Control.
There is a potential emergency situation that we hams should be briefed on. It may come about that the course becomes broken at some point (examples: terrorism, car crash, water main break, building on fire near the course, ...) such that it would be unsafe for thousands of runners to pass. There needs to be a protocol by which the race director can issue a "Stop the race!" order, and the water captains will stop runners at water stations upstream from the break point. This order will be sent via the Mile Net with a code word known only to the water captains.
For us as hams, all we need to know is this: if Net Control broadcasts the words "Emergency message to water captains!", our job is to immediately grab the captain's attention and make sure he hears the broadcast.

We had too many runners waiting too long a time for a pick-up. Some runners were injured.
-Ham Operators shine when we communicate between served agencies - key word is communicate
-We are too involved logistically with the in-field DropDown Bus System
-Our presence on the field is Mile and Medical and not DropDown
-Idea is to have specific volunteers (non-Hams) stationed with clipboards at the various DropDown Points
-FRS Radios are assigned where they can relay messages to the Ham Operator at the closest Mile location
-The DropDown volunteer can now focus on their job -- bib numbers (SRLA), Elite, correct time in, time out, if the runner moved on, etc and etc.
-All the subtleties regarding the required minimum passengers before bus leaves, bus relocations, etc and etc are dynamically handled by the person with the clipboard.
-Obviously training will need to be provided by the Mile Ham to the DropDown volunteer, but it's on a separate frequency. I have to believe that someone with a Ham License can train someone on how to use an FRS radio...
-This idea flows from lessons learned in the MACC -- one-man one-job.

As you noted, there were many instances of no bib numbers. This is VERY time consuming to have to go back and ask for the bib numbers - and is also taking away from another radio operator trying to report an incident. I also noted that many of the incidents took way too long to report. In particular, after I reported a runner down requiring paramedics, I tried to report back where the runner was taken. This runner was close to four blocks from where our water station was. It took the entire walk from the runner back to my station PLUS another five minutes before one operator stopped transmitting. This was a total of about eight minutes with one radio operator.

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