Thursday, 18 July 2013

Queen of the Mountains

The time has come to talk of many things.  OK, well, to talk about my guilty secret.  Strava.

When the Strava app started building momentum amongst cycling people, I wasn't interested.  I paid attention to my first ever encounter when I was introduced to it by, oddly, the British Cycling Membership Manager.  He showed a couple of us the application, how it worked with GPS to time you on your bike rides, and on sections of roads and trails all over the country various happy or competitive souls on bikes had identified strips which they personally wanted to stand up and be counted on.  Who knows what the original motivation was, was it about a personal challenge, a measurable way of assessing your own progress.  Was it about conquering particular challenging stretches, or was it about pitting yourself against other cyclists?

It looked fun.  You could see other people who were doing the same ride as you, and you could see how  you measured up against them.  You could explore and pinpoint a stretch where you felt you'd have strengths, and target attempting to become the fastest rider, or King or Queen of Mountains on that stretch.  It could be a good challenge of gradual progression as you found something which you couldn't at that moment in time achieve.

You could see what other people were doing.  Click on them, look at their latest rides, consider whether they had a route which looked more interesting than the one you were doing.  Explore the area, get to know other cyclists in a weird cyber fashion.

People who knew me well said I should never ever sign up for it.  It's no hidden secret that I have a weirdly obsessive side.  I can be single minded in a way which I realise is possibly not altogether normal or healthy. If I was actually at a Worlds best level in any activity whatsoever I would probably be savage and particularly scary.  But seeing as I'm pretty average-normal at most things the compulsive tendency is relatively dormant.  Although don't look at my efforts at A level English or Open Uni because the grading I get in those is clear incontrovertible evidence that when I focus on something I don't veer to one side.  I can't settle for anything less than the best I can be.   This is worrying in some ways.

The second reason is that I feel that magnetic attraction towards arses in the distance, or arses that have pedaled past me.  I have changed from the person who, back in the early 90s came out of every personality test known as the least competitive person in the world.  I'll chase any piece of arse.  I hate the person ahead to not know that I'm as capable as them.  If indeed I am, and usually you can tell, and not waste time attempting to chase down the impossible.

But in spite of warnings, I was nosy, I wanted to know why so many people were raving about it, and I signed up.  I love it.  I love being able to use the software to see where the hilly bits close to home or current location are, being able to use it to plan a ride route.  I love knowing what my friends are up to.  I love being able to look at my club members and see what routes they are doing with a view to hijacking their plans.  These are the nice reasons I love it.

The guilty reasons are because actually, it's a big fish in a small pool situation.  The kind of  people who use it are, I suspect, not racing cyclists, they are club cyclists, fellow obsessives, people who just want to ride their bike, and ride it fast or faster.  The truly competitive, thankfully, steer mostly clear of it or where would the fun be for the ordinary and the average?  There aren't many women on it, and those who are on it aren't serious competitive beasts.  As a result of this, somehow I am Queen of the Mountain on over 40 segments, most of which are most definitively not mountains.  There's a pleasure to downloading and the tag coming up saying you have achievements in 14 segments because for that moment, even though you know you're not, somehow you feel just a little bit special. 

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