How we do what we do:
The first step in what we do is to have the Race Director map their course on MapMyRun.com. This way, we can see what the course is supposed to look like, and see if it may be the correct length. BUT, before we can decide if it is close to the correct length, we zoom-in on the course, and turn on the Satellite View. We can then see if it was mapped following the Shortest Possible Route (SPR). If not, we edit the path of the course, to follow the SPR. We also ask about lane restrictions, as we need to measure following the SPR that the runners will be allowed to run on race day.
Once the proper course has been established, we then see if we need a spur to adjust the length, or if the Start or Finish can float, to allow for proper course length. MapMyRun is not accurate to the precision of proper measurement, so we need about a 100 yard window for where the Start or Finish may land, if we don't have an adjustment spur.
Once established, we download a GPS track of the course onto our Garmin 450 GPS device. This way, we are not looking at maps while trying to ride the SPR. Much better way to make our way around the course! See my handlebar setup.
On the day of measurement, usually about an hour before sunrise, we go to the calibration course (a steel-tape measured course that has been set out according to RRTC specifications, and is handy to our house). We ride each direction on the course at least twice, so our Jones Counter clicks are within 1 of each other for the same direction (uphill or downhill grades yield different counts going opposite directions). We then enter those numbers into the worksheet (available on the Measurer's Page), and find our Constant for the Day. This is the number of counts per mile. The sheet also tells us what the click count will be at each split location, whether we ride from Start to Finish, or Finish to Start on our first ride.
We then head to the course to be measured. We turn on the Garmin, and locate our measurement starting point (either Start, or Finish, or at the start or end point of the adjustment spur). We mark the location with a piece of duct tape (sometimes we use sidewalk chalk). We then ride the route, marking our splits as we go (unless we started at the beginning/end of the spur). We ride until we get the total counts for the course, and see where that is. If it is in an acceptable location (close to where we wanted it), great!. We put another piece of duct tape down, and turn around. We then ride the opposite direction, noting our split counts as we go. When we get back to where we began (the piece of duct tape), we note our counts. If we have not ridden enough counts for the entire course, we note our click-count, then continue to ride until we reach the correct number of clicks. If we stop short of our mark, we note the clicks needed to reach our mark.
Now for some math! We divide the number of clicks from where we finished, to where we thought we would finish. This should give us a result of less than .0008. If it is greater than that, we have to ride the course again. We use the measurement that gives us the longest course, as we likely didn't ride the SPR on the ride that gave us the shorter course.
If our math worked, and we did our rides properly, we then put nails through washers at each split location. We also paint the split indicator by the washer (Start, 1 mile, etc.). We take a picture of each mark, showing enough background so someone can tell they are in the correct location, and they can look closely for the washer or paint. We also mark a GPS waypoint on our Garmin. Plus, we record (we use an app on our cell phone for making vioce memos) a precise description of where that mark is - 65' east of light pole 235/652, for instance. We do this for each location.
We then return to the calibration course, and ride our four rides. If the calibration gives us fewer clicks per mile, we are good, and can go home to make the map. If, on the other hand, the calibration indicates that there are more clicks per mile than our pre-measuremnt calibration, we need to go out and move the Start, Finish, or Turnaround point, depending on what can move. We hope this doesn't happen, but it sometimes will.
Now at home, we complete the paperwork. The entire application is completed, as there are some parts of the app that we will use on the map.
While we use Adobe Illustrator, Photoshop, and Adobe Acrobat Standard v9, we also advocate the use of OpenOffice. OpenOffice is FREE, and has layering, similar to Illustrator. We use Photoshop to do screen-capture cropping, but you can get ScreenHunter FREE, and it captures just as well.
In making maps, one of the most important factors is the order of layers. We capture the MapMyRun satellite image, keep it proportional while we scale it to fit properly on the sheet (3/8" open borders on all sides of the page). Then, we zoom-in on smaller areas of the image on MapMyRun, so we can see more detail. Capture those enhanced images, and place them on the main satellite image (on a separate layer). After that, we put black road lines on a layer, then copy the black lines, paste them onto a higher layer, turn them white, then reduce the stroke of the white lines, by one point. This creates nice roads.
Then we put on the course lines and arrows, showing the use of the roads (curb-to-curb, restricted to a lane, or so-forth). After course arrows, we put the descriptions of each split, and include GPS coordinates for each point. These coordinates are not for replacing lost marks, but to allow the user to get real close to our marks, so it is easier to find them. If you are standing at one of the coordinates, you should be able to see the light post, or address, or whatever we used to reference the location.
Finally, we put the name of the race, the city and state, and the certification information in the (normally) upper-right corner of the map. Oh, yes. For now, we have to create a black-and-white map for posting on the USATF site. We colorize many elements of our maps, though, to post on our Website, and to send to our clients. This makes it much easier to read the maps, and to see the different elements. Color enhances user experience!
That, in a nutshell, is our process. If you want us to do the maps for you (if you measured the course yourself, but don't want to mess with the map), we can do that. We normally charge 1/3 of the fee in our price list for creating a map. We don't include the up-charges in the mapping, as the up-charges are mostly due to measurement issues.
Let us know if you have questions.