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August 20 2012 / Emily

Innovative Timing Systems and Timing Chip Stains

After the Mission 5k the other week, I came home to discover a black stain on the front of the shirt which I had worn to the race.  I turned the bib over and noted the attached timing chip was from Innovative Timing Systems.  I thought back to a mystery stain on another shirt I had raced in earlier this year at the Double Creek Half Marathon and went and checked the bib number from that race… yes, also an attached chip from Innovative Timing Systems.  You may remember (or read again in my linked post) that I complimented the timing system from the Double Creek race.

My conclusion from these two bibs and shirts is that Innovative Timing Systems is not using durable enough ink on their timing chip system to stand up to the conditions of the races.  I took some time this evening to look at all my bib numbers all the way back to my first race in 2008, and saw three other races which had used this timing system: St Leo’s 10k 3/17/12; Mistletoe Half Marathon 12/3/11 and Green Legs and Hamstrings 10k 3/12/11.

As you can see from the dates of those races, they were not in the heat of summer.  I had a photo from the St. Leo’s 10k and so I was able to check the green shirt which I wore to that race and there is no stain there.  It seems the sweat and humidity were factors in the staining.  While I might humorously suggest that women glow instead of sweat, I will certainly admit to sweating when I run.  There, I said it!  Then again, I think I’m rather average in that department.  I have seen many runners with a lot more sweat.  It is possible the smooth, white fabric was also susceptible to staining, but again, they are quality technical fabric shirts – the very kind a race timing company should expect the race participants to be wearing.

I emailed Innovative Timing Systems this evening with a complaint about the quality of their ink.  I will follow up on this blog with any response I might receive from them.

However, the point stands that I now have two white technical fabric shirts which are unattractively stained across the stomach.  Both have been pretreated and washed and the stain did not budge.  You might say that they are workout clothes and what should I care about a stain.  My response is that I should not have to be concerned about my bib number damaging my clothing.

shirts with stains from the timing chips

chips on the back of the bibs with visible fading

While looking through my bib numbers, I found a variety of other timing chips attached to the bibs.  None seemed to have any fading or bleeding from the printing.  I would suggest Innovative Timing Systems consider working to find out what materials, inks and/or sealants are working for these other companies.

I will now be somewhat reluctant to race in events timed by this company.  I had otherwise been impressed with their timing system, so this is disappointing.  Though I suppose I can just try to always race in my already-stained shirts, or just always wear black.

Have you ever had a bib number damage your clothing?

How about any other negative results from a bib number, timing chip or other race item?

What would you do?



Leave a Comment
  1. hinsone / Aug 20 2012 10:26 PM

    I have run 3 races with this company (at first I only saw two in my collection, but you mentioned St Leos, where the chip was on the bottom tear-off, which I tore off before hanging the bib on the wall). The Beat the Heat used this system, and I can honestly say I was SOAKED at the end of that race, and did not notice any staining of the shirt. I’ve worn it several times since then and didn’t notice anything (I wore the bright orange race shirt, so not white, but black on orange should be visible). The other race I had that used it was the NC Marathon 5K (November, cold, wearing many layers) so that doesn’t help the “sweat” theory. The vineyard stomp 5K may have used it (I would assume if the Beat the Heat did, the Vineyard did too since it’s another URM race) but it must have been on the bottom tear off, which they had us tear off at the finish, so I no longer have it.

    My only real complaint is the trend (which I believe you have mentioned) of a gun start and a chip timed finish. Even if it only costs you a few seconds, it still to me seems completely pointless. Why pay extra money for the chips?

    You can always fold the bib (which I have seen done) top to bottom – using only two pins, one on the right and one on the left – which won’t fold the chip itself, would just cradle it on the inside and then the chip is not against your shirt, but with only two pins on the top, it could flap up and down and be equally annoying.

    • Emily / Aug 22 2012 7:12 AM

      It seems like I might be the only one having this problem! I got a response from the company and they said they don’t get any complaints. (I will post more on that later.) A friend this morning said maybe I just have special sweat, haha.

      Agree on the strong preference for having the chip time the start as well as the finish. At the Mission 5k, it did register both, so the company does have the capability.

      Good thought on folding the bib. Might be worth a try – but yes if it flapped around that would be very annoying.

  2. D Wells / Aug 21 2012 10:23 AM

    Yeah, that looks bad… Dry cleaning MIGHT help.
    I never wear race numbers on my shirt. Try pinning your number to your shorts; or use a race number belt; or pin it to a water belt.

    • Emily / Aug 22 2012 7:16 AM

      I think these shirts all specifically say no dry cleaning, but if I’m already not going to wear them anymore due to this, I suppose it wouldn’t hurt to see if the stains could come out. If it damages the shirt more, no big loss.

      I’ve often pinned my bib to my tights in the winter, but sometimes I just don’t have enough fabric on my shorts for the bib to fit… and my shorts are not even that short! A belt might be worth trying. I read something about elites often crumbling up their numbers in order to make them a bit “softer” so to say, which might help with my concern about a big slightly-stiff number on my shorts affecting the mobility and the leg bend. Thanks for your suggestions!

      • D Wells / Aug 22 2012 9:35 AM

        More thoughts:
        – cover the back of the sensor strip with something, like clear packing tape.
        – When I pin race bibs to my shorts, I crumple (if possible), and only pin the two top corners and (sometimes) one of the bottom corners.
        – Fold the number along all four sides, leaving the number itself visible, to reduce the size.

        I can’t stand to have the bib on my shirt! Pins damage the fabric, and it blocks the airflow.

      • Emily / Aug 27 2012 10:22 PM

        I need to post my follow-up on this. The guys at the timing company also suggested clear tape. I’ll definitely do some experimenting with future bib numbers to make them less intrusive on the run.


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