Pele is a race analyzer and athlete tracker for iPhone/iPad. It not only provides invaluable tools to make spectating more enjoyable; it makes searching for race results a breeze and it keeps your results handy. Currently supported races are Ironman, Ironman 70.3, and the Boston Marathon.
Back in 2008 at Ironman Wisconsin, I supported 5 of my friends on their quest to become an Ironman. I wanted to snap as many pictures as possible for them. I created a big chart to keep track of who would be where based on their estimated times. Using the awkward web athlete tracker on my smartphone I updated the chart on the fly to run around like a maniac to find a good supporting spots. It was extremely stressful trying to keep track of everyone on my paper chart. I thought there must be a program to make supporting athletes easier for everybody but my search returned – nothing. The idea for Pele was born.
To address the two different kinds of target groups, Pele has to do the following:
· Easy access to current times for multiple athletes
· Estimate location and display everybody on a map
· Race/age group overview (for coaches)
· Context relevant web access
· Race information (race course)
· Easy access to race results
· Store old results for bragging rights
· Performance measuring tool (Ranking System)
To have a prototype running wasn’t such a big deal, but it took 2 years until Pele finally showed up on Apple’s App Store in September of 2010. After the initial release the biggest challenges began: inconsistent and unreliable data and data access. To get to the bottom of some of the complaints, I flew out to Ironman Arizona to see how Pele worked at race site. Everything worked flawless until race start, and then the cell network basically went down to its knees. Looking around made it obvious what happened.
Everybody was on their smartphone browsing the Internet desperately looking for updates. However, Pele was not taking a very slow network into account and practically stopped getting updates.
With constant improvements over the past year version 2 of Pele is now available with a major user interface update and more efficient data transfer. The Pele server provides content that is not available anywhere else (e.g. age-group position for every split for the Boston Marathon so you can see yourself moving through the field).
Turning on Pele’s estimation feature at a live event, you not only see at what mile they are – you can see a pin moving on a map in real-time. Using a combination of user entered values and available split information, Pele estimates everybody’s current position for you. Now the big question is: How accurate is it? A friend of mine wore a GPS unit at the recent Ironman Florida. Assuming that data is fairly accurate (depending on how often they upload the GPS data to the server), Pele’s estimation was surprisingly good. Of course, if the speed/pace chances dramatically all bets are off.
Future versions of Pele will include a ‘Result Vault’ to store and group your results, cloud storage, and most importantly social aspects where Pele users can share and rate their race experiences. Imagine you just signed up for a race and have access to hotel/restaurant and venue reviews from other athletes. No more running around before the race to search for a pasta place.
Pele is available on Apple’s App Store.