Last year I heard a lot of talk about Strava, and had no idea what it was. I admit, I am a little slow on some of the technical gear associated with cycling, however, my interest in recording and tracking my ride results is definitely on a rise, with some help and thanks to the Renaissance Man. When he first taught me about Cyclemeter and how he tracks all his rides, I honestly thought to myself “what’s the big deal about that?” Well the more I learn about it, the more I embrace technology, and cycling is no exception.
So to answer the question at hand, Strava is an exercise tracking application that allows members to not only view their results on runs and rides, but also how they stack up against others. When you set up your membership, you can opt for the basic (which is free), or upgrade to premium. I’m a basic member, so I’m not sure what the fees are for premium, but I know the stats that can be tracked are significantly more. For now, I’m fine with basic. To see how you compare against others while not actually riding with them, you can view the segments section. I discovered this after my first ride. Of coarse, you can search and locate segments in your area, and go out and try for the podium or leaderboard, or you can just work on your own personal records, it’s totally up to you. That’s the beauty of Strava, it can be as competitive as you want it to be, without any road rage.
The Strava app and membership can be downloaded to smart phones (Androids and Iphones, I know for sure), and you can rocrd your rides using your phone as the GPS device, or you can use another GPS device to record your activity, then upload the information to you account on the internet at your log-in/ home page. I simply love the Strava membership, I feel that it has helped me to improve my fitness on the bike, by me challenging myself to perform on segments, plus the fact that I know others who are following me will also see my results. And they may not mention it, but if I slack, they will know it.
After completing a ride of around 60 miles, I realized that my phone would not have enough battery life to record a century ride, and still be charged for an emergency call if necessary. That’s when I started doing some research on alternative devices to record my rides. At first, I thought I should keep it simple, and get the cheapest unit I could that would carry out the mission. But as I mentioned earlier, I am beginning to embrace technology more and more, therefor I decided to upgrade a little and get a Garmin Edge 500. I thought it would have everything to satisfy my needs and/or wants for now and well into the future. Then I decided to make the purchase from my local bike shop, Pedal Power, in downtown Lexington and when I went in to make the buy, Josh talked me into the new version that was getting ready to be released. The Garmin Edge 510, he said would be available mid February, and as I do with any technical idea in question, I referred to the expert, Renaissance Man. He confirmed that the upgrades on the 510 model were probably worth the extra cash. So as soon as Pedal Power got the new devices in, I made my purchase.
I am still early in the learning process of what all I can do with my Garmin Edge 510 GPS device, but I have recorded all of my rides on it since I bought it. I have also successfully uploaded all of those activities to my Strava account, where I can view and track my training progress. The Edge 510 is very user friendly, comes with multiple charging connections, and thus far most importantly for me, has a very strong battery life. Now I can probably record multiple century (100 miles) rides and not run any programs on my phone that drain it’s battery life.
I am very excited with the bulk of the 2013 cycling season already arriving to view some of the very challenging segments and the tough grades on some of the upcoming hilly rides I have planned on my schedule. I can easily do this with the friendly help of Strava, Garmin Edge 510, and even my smart phone. And I would highly recommend both Strava and the Garmin Edge 510 to anyone who is considering using them.
One of my favorite sayings of all time is: “If you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it.”
I am a numbers guy. Why? I think it is encoded in my DNA. I am an engineer by education and an operations/financial guy in real life. Numbers drive me. So when I took up cycling three years ago, I started to track all of my stats. From the beginning, I have always used a great app on my iPhone called Cyclemeter. My initial review is here: http://ramcycling.com/?p=239. I am still using Cyclemeter and I love it.
This season I made a significant upgrade to my tracking and analysis. I added Wahoo Fitness Bluetooth Heart Rate Monitor and Bluetooth Speed and Cadence Sensor (http://www.wahoofitness.com/Products/Wahoo-Fitness-Wahoo-Blue-SC-Speed-and-Cadence-Sensor.asp). Both have allowed me to track more data and analyze my efforts. (I also recently added Wahoo’s RFLKT display device. More details here: http://www.wahoofitness.com/Products/Wahoo-Fitness-Wahoo-RFLKT-iPhone-Powered-Bike-Computer.asp. This allowed me to eliminate the old Sigma computer and keep my phone in my pocket.) With this change, Cyclemeter no longer uses GPS for speed and cadence. By using the SC Sensor, GPS does the pathing and elevation and the bike generates speed and cadence. Adding the Bluetooth HR monitor now gives me an idea of how hard I am working.
Then KP the Masher introduced me to Strava (www.strava.com) . Strava tracks all of our rides and segments. (See our Strava data on our homepage.) Segments are parts of rides like a tough hill or a fast downhill. Now I have a real life app that will do the analysis for me and compare to all other people who have ridden where I ride. It is a form of virtual racing, even against myself. I get instant feedback on numerous stats:
In July 2013, I rode 12 times for a total of 353.56 miles. One of my best months of cycling. I attribute this to many things including riding with some awesome people in the Bluegrass Cycling Club. But I also know that I feel and see a difference in my body that is also supported by a lot of data and statistics.
The bottom line: Numbers drive me. Let them drive you too.
“You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.” Or so they say. Before Renaissance Man convinced me to join the 20th century and open my personal Twitter account, I was very nervous and hesitant. Since, I have been very aggressive in finding, meeting, and enjoying cycling rides with locals, and sometimes complete strangers. In fact, I was actually the one that encouraged him to join me in a (new to us) cycling club, Strava, which he says is now the fastest growing social media network in the world. He would know … he’s kinda technical like that.
I had the pleasure of meeting a new cycling friend, that just happens to be a cousin to my wife, when I recently rode with Eric on Thanksgiving weekend in Bardstown, KY (a.k.a. bourbon/catholic country). We have been following each other on Strava since early this season, and when we headed to my wife’s hometown for the holiday, he answered the call to join me. Kudos to his wife for sharing him for a few hours to show a new friend some fun and challenging back roads on the bike!
We had been spinning for about an hour and had accumulated nearly fifteen miles as we trekked across the infamous Pottershop Rd leaving town headed toward the community of Holy Cross, when he ask what was the mixture in my water bottle. I told him it was Zija XM+ and it was my nutrition drink that has all natural ingredients and gives me the boost I need to perform strong in a workout and really picks my overall mood up (especially first thing in the morning). Then at a busy intersection, as we stopped briefly, I ate an energy gel, not knowing exactly how far we were riding, I didn’t want to lose energy in the cold, breezy temps.
I noticed he hadn’t eaten anything yet, so finally I ask him, “Are you going to eat?” He said he doesn’t eat when he runs or rides. “Huh? You must be joking, right?” I mean, he obviously takes care of himself. I knew that by tracking his cycling and running activities on Strava, and it was confirmed when I met him in person, he carries a very fit looking stature. So, now I’m a bit intrigued by what he’s telling me about his diet and training routines both in cycling and running. I’m self admittedly, not the most technical cyclist, I’m more of a work harder than smarter type of rider, which also contributes to the earning of my nickname, “the Masher,” but I always assumed that when you work out, you’re burning calories (which happen to be a unit of energy) that need to be replaced if you want to sustain energy throughout the workout and beyond. I do understand the concept of not overeating and wasting a workout, but this new info of not eating at all during even a long run or ride had me curious.
He is intelligent, I know this by our conversation on the ride that took nearly two hours. He was definitely speaking over my head some when he got into the heart rate management on training regimens, and the aerobic versus anaerobic workouts that he does,and how his diet ties into the big picture. While some of it that I could understand made perfect sense, other parts either didn’t or I wasn’t following closely enough. All the more reason to take my bike with me every time I go to visit the in-laws now. I’m always interested in hearing people’s stories, or learning about new training tips, or just going out in search of some Strava segments and blowing out our guts in hopes of winning a KOM!
Eric is fairly new to cycling, this he says is his first full season. He, similar to myself has experienced somewhat of a transformation since beginning his career on the bike. For him, the cycling and running have been the medicine his body needs to regulate things such as blood pressure, cholesterol, stress, and of coarse, energy to work and help raise an active family each day. I told him about my ride at Assault On Mt. Mitchell this year and how I plan to go back and hit it harder next year. He told me about his plan to run his first marathon next year, hopefully at Chicago. We may have somewhat different training and diet plans, but we both share the idea of setting goals and laying out a plan to reach them.
I certainly look forward to our next ride together, and hopefully his brothers can join us, as well. I enjoyed the different perspective on nutrition and training, and can’t wait to hear about it more. Most of it sounded like ideas I can benefit from. Thanks again, Eric, for leading me on a nice challenging bike ride in your neck of the woods. As I titled it on Strava, it was the perfect ending to a Thanksgiving weekend at the in-laws!
. . . the next hill is waiting to be climbed . . .
Have you ever cut yourself and seen it heal over the course of the next few days? Or how about when you get a cold or infection … go visit the doctor, receive some medicine and feel much better in a few days? One may argue that the first example is a natural healing while the latter is scientific or human aided. I would argue that in both instances, God heals! God has allowed the gifts of learning to enable humans to assist. I would also argue that attitude determines greatly how one feels. Like the old saying goes, “think you can, or think you can not, you’re probably right!” Think you can’t climb a mountain and you’ll find plenty of excuses why you won’t. However, think you can climb the same mountain, and you’ll keep going until you reach the top.
‘Tis the season. ‘Tis the time of year when it’s more difficult to stay in shape, stay focused on performing strong on the bike, because it’s simply not possible to ride safely in some of the weather that ole man winter brings us. Could it also be ’tis the season for healing? Rest and rejuvenate your body so you can continue to get stronger.
I’ve personally had a somewhat stressful couple weeks at work. In reality, keeping things in a positive manner which I am always striving to do, it hasn’t been terrible. I have just been on a challenging task that involved installing a somewhat complex hydronic piping system at a rather large apartment facility. It’s been complex for me and my staff because this was our first time installing this particular style of system and there were more than one kink to figure out and more than a few modifications made to tweak it to get maximum efficiency. On more than one occasion I have had an overwhelming brain fried feeling. Then, as the job finally began to wrap up (although we are still closely monitoring it to ensure it is the best set up), it dawned on me … my mind feels overloaded because I’ve not been taking my medicine. My medicine for healing. Riding my bike.
I couldn’t help but notice as last week came to an end, my Strava profile showed zero miles (on the road) for the first time in a long time, in fact, I couldn’t remember the last time I went a full week without getting out for at least one ride. As I checked back on my calendar, it was actually the first time I didn’t ride since the first week of March! I haven’t been a total slacker, I managed to get in one run of a few miles and a couple rides on my indoor stationary bike. Bottom line … it’s just not the same. Nothing gives me that decompression feeling and liberating mindset like a good spin out on my road bike on a paved road to nowhere and back. What’s really scary? I’m within 250 miles of taking my total road mileage for the year over 4000, and something inside me says I can still do it. After all, it’ s just a couple centuries and a couple club rides away.
Renaissance Man once said “cycling is the ultimate prayer … you take the gifts God has given you, and you push yourself to it’s limit.” So true, so true. Realistically, it will be nearly impossible to reach 4K total road miles this year in the wonderful winter weather we’ve been seeing. But, oh yeah, I already mentioned, I’m a positive attitude kind of guy. And I’ve got God on my side … and knowing I’m overdue on some road ride healing, I’d say ‘Tis the season to reach deep, and get back on my medicine! I don’t really ride to accumulate miles, but I cherish the healing I receive from the miles I do achieve. Stay tuned …But don’t stay tuned to see if a miracle is performed by me reaching four thousand miles on Roadie, because it’s already a miracle that I’ve been blessed to get this far, and continue to go. Moving forward daily is truly a miracle itself! Do, however, stay tuned to hear about the miracle of how I ever found myself riding a bicycle to begin with, which is clearly the work of God!
… you can find us on Strava, Twitter, Facebook, and especially on the road …
The Tour of Sufferlandia starts on Saturday, January 25, 2014. And I am planning on riding each and every day. Nine straight days of cycling spins/rides on the trainer in the basement, also known as the suffer chamber. Why would someone subject themselves to this exercise? I guess there are many reasons.
REASONS TO RIDE
So there you have it – my four reasons I am riding the ToS.
I have also been asked to give an overview of the devices and technology I am using. Here is my list:
The Macbook is running Trainer Road software. Using the bluetooth in the laptop, I am able to connect my heart rate monitor and the speed and cadence sensor to the trainer road software. Trainer Road also has the power curve to my trainer – the Cyclops Mag+ (as well as many other trainers). This enables the software to display my real time data stream onto the big screen TV via Apple TV Airplay Display. So I can watch the SUFFERFEST video with my Trainer Road data stream live and suffer at the appropriate pace. Sounds like fun doesn’t it?
Stay tuned for updates as the tour progresses. If you have questions or comments, please let me know. And if you have an extra $10, please consider donating to the Davis Phinney Foundation through my personal fund raising web page. Thanks in advance for your support!