Sunday, July 29, 2012

After Action Report - Not Superman Rally

Synopsis:  The NSR was a 100 hour scavenger hunt format rally.  The NSR had 6 hour every 24 hours mandatory rest starting before midnight and a warning from the Rally Master regarding “excessive” speeding.  SPOT personal locator with tracking was required for this rally.  Each route task location would require a SPOT OK message as well as the mandatory rest stops.  Bonus routes , locations and other route markers were distributed weeks before the rally.  

My overall route strategy was St. Louis – Dodge City – north along the  Mississippi – east along the southern route of Lake Superior – south to the bottom of Illinois  - back to St. Louis.  See the MapSource plan for routes, bonus locations and GPS track.  Magenta routes = 5,000, Red routes = 10,000, Green routes = 2,500  and Green flags = 100 points.  All other marker have zero point value.  Only one red route is allowed.  See the SpotWalla trip map.
See the bonus location photos on SmugMug.

GEEK WARNING:  See the NSR Plan vs Actual MS Excel workbook for all the details.
Left to right worksheet tabs:
Plan vs Actual -- Ride stats with comparison of planned vs actual route elements
2010 NSR Rally Book V2 -- Official rally book annotated with actual task location arrival and departure times.  Also, difference between rider log time vs SPOT date/time stamp.
Route Plan -- Routes and associated timing elements.
2012 NSR Score Sheet -- Score sheet for all rally riders.  Source:  Rally Master

Ride Summary: The ride to Dodge City was hot!  Temperatures in the triple digits.  My ride plan called for a direct route.  I did not catch that when I loaded the routes into my GPS the changed the route which cost me almost an hour.  And, I virtually tripped over two 100 bonus locations while on this route.  When I loaded the MapSource routes and waypoints to the GPS unit I verified all the way points were on the route and in the correct order.  I did not confirm the route distance/enroute time.  This navigation setup error and not catching it while enroute put me behind plan at the end of the first route.  I would make up some of the time riding the next bonus route out of Dodge but not enough to put me back on plan.  I took my first mandatory rest stop at the end of the first bonus route.

The second day was also very hot.  I was hydrating while riding so I was in good shape.  The routes were scenic and if I were not on the rally clock I would have stopped to take it all in.  The road speeds were all below 55 MPH with many small towns and sever medium sized cities with it's traffic and construction.  The cumulative effect of this was to increase my enroute time.  My time-at-task location was good. (see the Plan vs Actual analysis)  During the second bonus route my GPS went through several "Re Calculating!" instances while negotiating construction in a small city.  This recalc took me off the planned route and sent me up a feeder highway.  I followed it a short distance then back-tracked to try to get onto the planned route.  After wasting about 20 minutes I abandoned the attempt and ended up having to reach the next required bonus location from the north.  This put me back on the bonus route.  I rode to the start of the Lake Superior route and took my second mandatory rest stop.

It was raining on day three leaving Duluth MN.  I switched from my paper printout of the Rally Book to my write in the rain note book.  At each stop I needed to record the bonus number, the odometer reading and the date/time.  The small note book worked well but it was still subject to smears.  The strategic goal for this leg of the rally was to arrive in St. Ignace, MI to catch the ferry to Mackinac Island and the 1,000 point Arch Rock bonus.  The last ferry would leave at 8:30 PM EDT.  I need to be there by 19:30 CDT motorcycle time.  This 1,000 point bonus was not critical for a respectable finish but I wanted to score it.  I don't consider myself a "Rally Competitor" in the classic sense.   Scoring it was important to me from a riding efficiency standpoint.  But, I wasn't going to purchase the bonus with the currency of excessive speed.  I did not arrive in time.  I rode the 2,500 point bonus route to Charlevoix MI and took my third mandatory rest stop.

At this point I had to make a couple of decisions.  By scrapping the Arch Rock route I picked up almost 2 hours.  I had programmed three routes to get to the last bonus route at the bottom of Illinois.  It ended back at the rally start La Quinta.  The three routes I programmed were a 1,000 direct route at 8:00 hours ride time, a 1,600 point bonus route at 10:00 hours and a 2,000 point bonus route at 12:33 hours.  I wanted to make sure I would not DNF on the last bonus route, worth 5,700 points, so I selected the short 8:00 hour route.  Like I said, I'm not a competitor.  This was my third competitive motorcycle rally and I wanted to finish it.  With more experience I could easily see myself going for the big points.

The last bonus route was packed with 7 100 point bonus locations and 9 zero point required task stops in 400 miles along the Ohio river at the bottom of Illinois.  By the time I got to the middle of it a line of severe thunderstorms was training west to east.  I stopped twice for about 20 minutes each waiting on the lightning intense cells to pass by enough to continue to ride safely.  My gear was performing well in the rain and the write-in-th-rain workbook was working well.  By the time I got to the Lincoln-Douglas debate picture task I was about 3 hours from the finish.  I decided to take my last mandatory rest stop and consolidate my records and logs to make scoring easier.  It was still pouring when I stopped at Wal-Mart for the date business receipt, a pint of 2% milk and a healthy deli sandwich.  The next morning offered me clear skies.  After securing the rest period ending DBR I headed out to finish the Not Superman Rally.  I had a safe ride with no close calls other than the thunderstorm/lightning issues on the Moonshine route.  I had a blast.


Route Data -- The process I use to time out the ride plan is straight forward.  I use MapSource which is no longer supported by Garmin.  So, when I load the planned routes/wayponts to my Garmin GPS it recalculates the routes.  I always compare the ride time, mileage and verify that all waypoints got carried over correctly.  For some reason that I have not yet discovered my GPS changed the route while enroute taking me more south west.  I will now verify the route path with the other route elements.

Navigation -- I need to pay more attention to the results of "Re Calculating" routes.  I have found it sometimes useful to cancel a route then start it back up.  I did this several time during the rally to force the unit to re calculate the route.  Whether I initiate it or the GPS does I will verify the results are within expectations.  I will also monitor more closely the wandering around issues.  Both at rally task location and picking hotels. 

Stop Time Management --I had 2:45 hours of none task time during the rally.  I can account for about 1:00 (weather stops, DBR time).  That means 1:45 hours of unaccounted time during the rally.  Traffic stops may account for a small portion this time.  Something to ponder...

STOPPED TIME          Time    Count   Task Avg
Photo / Tour Task       4:39      41         0:06
Spot Task                   0:22       9         0:02
Fuel / Pit Stop Task     1:03       9         0:07
Rest Stops                25:24       4         6:21
None Task  Time         2:45
             Task Total    34:15      63

SPOT --  This was the first time I used "Tracking."  It was required for this rally.  There are several issues using tracking that were discussed before the rally.  Tracking will cancel itself if the unit is left on more than 24 hours.  This is not an issue for me as I always turn it off when on rest stops.  I did discover that when the bonus locations are close together I had to turn off the SPOT at a new location if the unit was till transmitting the last SPOT message.  This technique worked well.  Whenever I mark a location I press the OK button and watch of the activation light.  Then I observe the GPS light as well as the EMAIL light to verify the message takes.  During the rally I SPOT'd each required task location.  I used the procedure to verify the unit worked as expected.  I then recorded the time in my log.  Rally Book spreadsheet I recorded the SPOT date/time stamp next to the log time.  Of the 54 SPOT transaction I initiated 7 were more than 5 minutes later than log time and 2 did not record to the SPOT database at all.  The 7 outliers:  8, 6, 14, 7, 10, 7, and 8 minutes after my log entry time.

Equipment -- All my gear worked as usual.  I did start to notice some "monkey butt" even through my LDComfort shorts.  I attribute this to the extreme heat. 

BMW R1200GS Adventure -- What can I issues.  It turn over 152,000 miles on this trip.

Scoring Table --  I prepared for scoring the night before by consolidating all my write-in-the-rain tablet log entries onto the NSR Rally Book spreadsheet.  This streamlined things at the scoring table.  I was awarded 500 bonus points for submitting the bonus location, US Ski and Snowboard Hall of Fame, that was visited by the most riders of those submitted in advance.  I chose this bonus location because it was on the 10,000 point Lake Superior route.   It pushed me into 4th position with 33,300 points. 

Financials:  $1,470.07
Rally Fee -- $100.00
Lodging -- $533.56
Fuel -- $493.51
Out of pocket -- $280.00
The experience -- Priceless!

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Riding the Not Superman Rally

Start Odometer:  147,710  Ending Odometer:  151,420  Trip Mileage: 3,710

Friday 7/27Knock out the last stops and head into the rally finish.  After scoring I ended up in 4th place with 33,300 points. 

Thursday 7/26:  Ride to the 1,000 point bonus location near the start of the 5,000 point Moonshine route. The route is jam packed with mandatory photo stops and 100 point bonus locations.  It ends at the La Quinta motel and the end of the ride.  The last mandatory rest stop is worth 1,000 points if over 6 hours.  I took it at Anna IL, site of a Lincoln Douglas debate. 

Wednesday 7/25:  The Lake Superior southern route is worth 10,000 point.  The critical point for my overall ride plan is to capture the 1,000 bonus at Arch Rock on Mackinac Island at the end of the route. 

Tuesday 7/24:  Ride to the start of the and complete Eddie James to Curt Gran memorial route.  This route is also worth 5,000 points with several 100 point bonus locations along the way.  It meanders along the Mississippi River.  My ride plan goal is to complete this route and ride to the start of the Lake Superior south shore route.

Monday 7/23:  The rally started at 10:00 am right on time.  My I headed west to Dodge CIty KS to capture 1.300 points and put me in position to ride the Dodge City to Piggy Bank route.  The route is worth 5,000 points.  I will finish it with a mandatory rest stop starting before midnight. 

Sunday 7/22:  Got up early and did executed an S3.  At breakfast received my NSR rally flag, #15.  I loaded the routes and bonus locations into my GPS and verified the route times, distance and via points.  The plan today is to ride to the Gateway Arch for a bonus picture, off the clock.  The rally master wants the NSR riders to enjoy the ride.  He opened the Gateway Arch bonus on Sunday so riders could spend some time visiting the Jefferson Expansion Historic Memorial site.  I scored it as a NPT passport stop.  The rally ride meeting is this evening.  After that I'll make my last posting until the end of the rally.  But, you will be able to see my progress on the SpotWalla map above.  Or, if you like click on this SpotWalla Map for a larger view.

CONOP -- Concept of Operations
I'm riding in the Not Superman Rally which starts Monday, 7/23 and lasts till Friday, 7/27.  This is my third ever competitive motorcycle rally, although, I don't consider myself a "competitor."  I'm in it for the challenge, practice and experience riding "on the clock."  This multi-day 100 hour motorcycle rally starts and finishes in St. Louis, MO.  Follow my progress starting at 0600 Monday using the map above.

I entered this event at the urging of my rally mentor, Dr. Howard.  He's been coaching me on rally techniques and strategies.  I like this rally because it provides me great practice doing route planning, bonus location task execution and fuel stop practice along with rest management all under the time constraints of the rally.

I selected a series of published rally routes and along with connecting routes that total a little over 3,900 miles for the 76:00 hours of available riding time.   These combined routes contain some 50 bonus and mandatory task points.  I will be stopping for fuel at least 10 times during the 100 hours of the rally.  I expect my fuel endurance distance to be around 375-400 miles given the road speeds of the routes I planned.  My BMW R1200GS Adventure has a normal FED at interstate speeds of 350 miles.

I've timed out the routes using my MS Excel route planning tool and I have a  conservative plan with a little over 3 hours of slack time.  I will eat up that slack time with end of course extra bonus location opportunities.  If all goes well, that means as planned and baring any problems at the scoring table, I should end up with around 33,000.

When the rally is finished and the scores tallied up I'll give a blow by blow account of my performance.  I'll focus on lessons learned, how well the pre ride plan did at predicting the route timing and how my planning assumptions fared against reality.  Should be interesting.

Here are the particulars of the rally:

Rally start time -- 0600 Monday, 7/23
Rally finish time - 1000 Friday, 7/27
Rally hours -- 100:00
Rally mileage cap -- 4,250
Rally mandatory rest -- 24:00 (6 hours start before midnight)
Rally minimum points -- 26,000

The Rally Master sent out the routes and bonus location well before the rally for participants to do route planning.  Riders could select from over 10 routes with points ranging from 2,500 to 10,000 points.  Bonus and mandatory route points numbered over 200.  All green flag bonus locations had a value of 100 points each.  There were 4 red flag bonus locations with a value of 1,000 points each.  There were many locations where rider are required to take a picture and/or send a Spot OK message that have no value.  These represent route verification points the Rally Master designated to make sure the rider would follow the predesignated route and not taking short-cuts.  Spot Tracking is required for this rally.

Several constraints were built in to this rally.  The Rally Master wanted to minimize the hours riding in darkness so he declared a 6 hour mandatory rest stop which must begin before 12:00 midnight.  Also, he declared an "excessive speed" prohibition but didn't explain how that was going to be enforced.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

National Parks Tour - KS and MO

Start Mileage: 146,673  Ending Mileage:  147,719  Trip Mileage: 1,037

Off on another hard riding adventure.  I'm riding up through Kansas to Missouri.  Next week I'll be participating in the Not Superman Rally.  It starts in St. Louis on Monday, 7/23, and last till the following Friday.  Should be good training for the big dance rally next year.  Check out the blog posting when it's published later on this week.

On the way to St. Louis I'll be picking up a couple of National Park Tour passport stamps.  Also, I'm plan to stop by at the BMW Motorcycle Owners of America 40th anniversary rally in Sedalia, MO.  The Houston BMW club invited me to their area to hang out with them. 

Saturday 7/21:
Heading into St. Louis today.  First stop is the U.S. Grant Farm and get a passport stamp.  Then head over to the NSR hotel and hang out till Monday morning.  So, check out the blog post above starting Sunday. 

Friday 7/20: