Wednesday, 9 May 2012
You Can't Handle Strava!
In his ever interesting and inimitable way, Calvini has done a nice post about whether flogging the dolphin is an accurate stand-in for sinking the actual Bismark. It also had some stuff in there about bike racing and everyone's new obsession, Strava. Strava's blowing up all over the places - NBCUniversalSportsOutdoorLifeVersusPhilandPaul has fancy, expensive looking and well-produced commercials all over their cycling coverage, and Competitive Cyclist's blog is all on the topic this week. I briefly dipped my toe into the Strava thing and uploaded some rides, the first of which I was surprised to learn had me as the leader of a pretty rabidly popular section of Fountainhead. Sadly I just now learn that I have been surpassed but it was nice while it lasted. Then just as I, somewhat uncharacteristically, had decided that "Strava riding" was actually a huge danger to productively training for actual racing (I have a tendency to get obsessed with things), I lost my Garmin at a mountain bike race. Kismet. Here's a funny thing. I was bummed about losing my Garmin because they're not cheap and I hate doing stupid shit like losing expensive little toys. I was also very bummed about losing my Garmin because I'd very much wanted to have the heart rate file to show to someone who was interested in working with it on my behalf (I'm not far gone enough to have power on my mountain bike). I was decidedly not bummed about losing the chance to upload to Strava. Mountain biking and various climbing type things are probably the least suspect Strava segments around, for the simple fact that doing them on group rides isn't beneficial (and presumably it'd be stupid obvious if you did them in a car or something). I have no idea whether any of the people I'd bested at my good Fountainhead loop (after which, btw, the guy with whom I was riding with and I immediately turned to each other and said "holy shit that was fast" - sometimes you don't need to be told to know) stopped for a light snack or flat tire or were coming off an overnight drunk or anything else. I do know that it helped me to calibrate my expectations going into the year's first mountain bike race, one of which I hadn't done in about 10 months. I was going well, and capable of doing well. Sometimes it helps to be told what you know, just to be sure. "Real" racing has shown me that I kind of suck at road racing and I'm kind of good at mountain and cross. Until recently, I kind of sucked at mountain and had never done cross, but a fall of doing cross and a winter of I'll admit it working my ass off on the mountain bike has me on the cusp of being a Cat 1 in some segment of bike racing. As fucked up as that is, it is. Bike racing isn't like that scene in "Something About Mary," where Ben Stiller "rides a Strava segment" in the bathroom before his date with Cameron Diaz to relieve the pressure - you want to keep the edge for the races. Or at least I do. And here's the thing, just like I learned, getting in first gets you a good shot at "glory" with Strava. Then someone who's better comes along and displaces you. The competition that will take place at the top going forward will be between people who are better than the people who will get all warm and fuzzy about being a segment champ on Strava. And they will stop being obsessed with Strava. If I was Garmin, I'd buy Strava, or support the shit out of it. It sells GPSs. I think you can also play it on your phone. But if Strava were a stock, I'd buy it for the short term now and then soon enough be looking to short the hell out of it. Until they develop a way for strugglers like me to race in an "old guys who never got that good in the first place" category, Strava is too big a sandbox for the cyclist's fragile ego. I think blogger now ignores paragraph breaks.