Thursday, 24 May 2012

Strava: The Cycling Nerd's Drug.

Lately I have succumb to a new addiction. Perhaps calling it an addiction is premature. It is a fixation. This fixation was unexpected, but because I am/have a short term obsessive personality, I really should have seen this coming. By short term obsessive, I mean that I fixate on certain things for a short period of time (usually 2 to 6 weeks) until I move and discover something else. By the time I have moved on, those short term obsessions have become a part of my personality, political outlook, belief system, and philosophy, or until I have killed it and no longer want anything to do with said obsession. Usually the obsessions are about, but are not limited to, athletic pursuits.

Past/current obsessions have included (in no particular order): compression wear, the stick, trail running podcasts, merino wool, Movescount, gore-tex lined running shoes, minimalist shoes, physiotherapy, Yasso's, short sleeve collared plaid button up shirts, Pearl Jam, cooking techniques, Sugoi brand apparel, twitter, oatmeal, free public access to the Delta Watershed Springs, cyclocross, chocolate milk, sportlegs, SNL, Kristin Wiig, epsom salts, Natalie Portman, sunglasses, bicycles,, Ebay, Craigslist, Tim's French Vanilla, and the list goes on and on. The list appears to be made up of comsumables, which makes me have a bit of self loathing for being so materialistic.

Currently, I have a couple of new short term obsession. One is how to deal with the squirrels living above my garage. This one is particularly disconcerting. I have some ideas that may not be humane, such as covering the entry hole with a mixture of vasaline and cayanne, so that when the animals go to clean the vasaline off of their fur, they get a wicked spicy burning taste run through their body, and hopefully never they will never returning again. Can squirrels really make that connection? I hope that will might work, but I do not know how they are entering in the first place. Perhaps I will wait for the exterminator to show up. I digress.

This month, the obsessions range from an intense focus on the Meet Your Maker 50 mile run (4 months away), Salomon Speedcross trail runners, and at the top of the list, Strava.

Oh Strava. How you have destroyed my outlook on riding a bike for fun and for training. Now, nearly everytime I head out on a ride, I tediously plan my route, plan my attacks on established segments, figure how to manage my energy well enough to be able to recover from hard efforts, guesstimate where a segment begins and ends, and blast through segments to post up the fastest times on the leaderboard.

My use of and focus on Strava could become unhealthy. I get disappointed after hammering segments, only to find that I have come 2nd, 8th, or did not record a PB. It makes me think about how to go harder the next time, and where I can pick up time rather than just bull-blast my way up the hill or through the segment. I watch the people I am following on Strava with longing, as they are getting out to longer, more challenging rides than I can due to family committments, and I become frustrated that I too, cannot partake in those jealousy-inducing rides. I become defensive--like an irrational mother squirrel frantically defending her young from exterminators, about my turf--MY KOMs that I have earned--sweated, gutted, redlined, and puked for when it is under attack from my fellow cyclists. Once an attack on my earned KOMs come in, it is interesting how deep I have been able to dig in the pain bag to get that virtual accolade back.

On other segments, when I come close but fall short of a KOM, I agonize over where the finish line is, where I lost time on the segment, and how to approach it differently for the next attempt. This is clearly an addiction, one that I should really just forget about and go out and ride. It is especially satisfying to earn a KOM scalp from some of my highly respected buddies, whom I know are fast. Sniping segments has a very good feel to it, post ride.

At the end of my ride, like that bastard squirrel in the attic stashing it's share of nuts it has gathered, the first thing I do is scurry upstairs and sync the Garmin to my computer to upload my ride. It feels like a real life video game, where the score means more than what shows up on one's X-Box. We ride these segments for real.

Strava has forced me to make my riding count. Every ride now has value, rather than just a spin out for some junk miles. And, funny enough, after having the Garmin for over a month, I have noticed improvement in my climbing, red-lining, and stamina. My bike endurance is steadily increasing after a long winter of running. All thanks to Strava? Not quite. But Strava is helping me figure out how to go deeper in the pain cave.

Strava is a great training tool allowing me to show my cycling warts and all to my cyclist friends. I really do not want them to see those warts, as they show up on most cyclist in the form of sores in the chamois area. But figurative language is fun to use.

There is no hiding with Strava. The biggest problem is that it is fun.

Maybe it is not that big of a problem.


That is really what it is.

The real problem is that nest of squirrels in my garage attic. Exterminators have arrived. Squirrels, you time is up, and your fate is sealed. So will be your nest, sealed off from the outside.

Watershed Athlete: 1
Squirrels:                0

Cycling Tips has a great analysis of what this Strava monster has become. They pretty much nail down many of my thoughts I have had while riding. Checkit.