500 Strava Challenges

18 months ago I blogged about completing 300 Strava challenges (read about it here). It wasn’t a particularly well written blog (I generally know if a blog I’ve written sucks), but it has become my most read blog, with well over 300 views. Not a huge amount I grant you, but large enough for my little blog.

Today, after a short run with our dog Nelly, I’ve checked off another two challenges bringing my total up to 500. You can see the screenshot from my phone below, with the badly drawn circle.

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Incidentally, I really like the new-ish feature on the Strava app that shows how many challenges have been completed.

Three years ago I celebrated completing 200 challenges by cycling 200km. I also contacted Strava who very kindly sent me a T-shirt, water bottle and a few other goodies. At 300 challenges I cycled 300km and once again contacted Strava with the aim of more freebies. Alas, none was to be had. At 400 challenges my legs were not up to a 400km ride, and I also failed to beg for more free stuff.

500 challenges then! I’m definitely not doing a 500km cycle ride in the middle of January, with heaps of snow forecast in the next few weeks. An alternate target to set myself might be to swim 500km over the whole year. I’m having a bit of a swimming month, Swimuary if you like, so I’m off to a good start with 42km done in the first 15 days.

I might also contact Strava once again, just on the off chance that 500 challenges brings out their inner Santa, and sacks full of goodies will be winging their way to my front door.

I would like to see a Swim Challenge, especially know that so many people have swim watches. Maybe a 1 mile or 1km challenge and a distance challenge for every month.

It would also be interesting to know if anyone else is sad enough to have completed that many challenges. I’m not as obsessed as I used to be as I often miss a few challenges every month, but I’m still not the sanest bearded triathlete out there.

Here’s to the next 500.

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Medals, Medals, Medals…

You love a medal, I love a medal, everyone loves a good medal.

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I don’t have the largest haul of medals by anyone’s standards, but I have been noticing a trend over the last few years, in that medals are getting more ‘bling’. Just look at the medal that I received from Howler events and the one from a winter open water swim. Both very nice.

The very first medal that I received was way back in the mid-eighties at the Yorkshire Individual schoolboy cycle speedway championships held in Heckmondwike. I didn’t do very well but I can remember being chuffed getting a medal, even if it was a bit small.

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Another trend that I’ve noticed is medals for virtual challenges, specifically for running, but I’ve also seen them for cycling. This involves signing up, paying your money, and then if you reach the required target they send you a medal. I’m not sure how I feel about ‘buying’ medals. For that reason I decided to sign up for a virtual swimming challenge in December from an organisation called Swim the Distance.

I ambitiously signed up for the 40k distance, paid my £12 and got swimming. With it being December I had forgotten that the pools would be closed for a few days and that I would also be busy with family. Obviously I wasn’t going to get anywhere near to 40k, but you’re allowed to email to request to change target, which I did. I dropped down to the 20k challenge, even though on New Year’s Eve I went swimming with my beautiful wife and clocked 30k for the month.

You have to send some kind of proof that you’ve completed the distance, so I used the ‘print screen’ function to copy proof from Strava, and then a couple of days ago I received my medal.

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Very nice piece of bling it is too. I might sign up for the January challenge, especially as I’m trying to have a ‘swim’ month.

 

 

The Rapha Festive 500 – 2018

At this time of year Rapha sponsor a Strava challenge, the Festive 500. The aim being to cycle 500km in the eight days between Christmas Eve and New Years Eve. Read about the 2017 edition here and the 2016 edition here.

I have completed this challenge every year since 2012, so I was looking forward to this again. Over the years I’ve encountered the usual and expected problems, including very bad weather and having to work. This year though, I was attempting to run every day in December (read about it here), which when time is limited meant that the Festive 500 was put on the back burner. I managed three rides and a total of 219km. I don’t mind because I got to spend time with my parents, who came up from Salisbury, and then quality time with my wife. I also ran the Lancaster parkrun on Christmas day and the following Saturday, which was a great deal more fun than a three hour slog on the bike in the cold and the rain.

I did also manage to run on 30 of the days in December, only missing the 16th due to running a very tough half marathon in the Forest of Bowland the previous day (read about it here).

Next year who knows? Currently I’m enjoying riding a bit less, but riding more with my wife, as well as running with our silly pointer.

Wishing you all a happy new year.

Strava Route Builder

I’ve generally always created my own routes using the website Bike and Hike. Unfortunately Google have recently changed their pricing structure for websites that use their maps, making the course creator function on the Bike and Hike website almost unusable.

Therefore I needed an alternative, especially when you have five days of cycle touring with over 90% of it on roads that I’ve never cycled before. Up stepped Strava Route Builder. In theory this should be brilliant. Local cyclists know the best roads and the ones to avoid, so any route using this data should be good.

Day 1 of our little touring holiday and I became a big fan of the route builder. The route from Kenilworth to Cheltenham was great, especially the first 30 miles. The next 20 miles were a little busier, although this was mainly due to diversions. The route builder has a flat option, which I hadn’t clicked, so we ended cycling up Cleve Hill, although the flat option would have added another 10 miles.

Back when I joined Strava it wasn’t uncommon for a segment to have less than 100 people on the leaderboard. Now it’s rare for a segment to have fewer than 1,000, and Box Hill in Surrey has over 100,000 different athletes. This is a lot of data and I’m pleased that Strava is using it and helping regular cyclists (and runners) find good routes in new areas.

Day 2 of our little cycling holiday and Strava route builder goes from 5/5 to 0/5. Fifteen bloody miles on the busy A46, a horrible road that no one would ever want to cycle on. This section of route almost ended our holiday.

We did see a few cyclists using the A46, which has obviously skewed the algorithms into thinking that it is an acceptable route. The moral, don’t take it as red that a route will be good, check it properly.

Day 3 and it was the best route yet, all on quiet roads except for the last couple of miles into Salisbury, but there isn’t always a lot you can do when entering a city. The other days were also very good routes, so I would definitely use Strava Route Builder again, although I will check that it hasn’t thrown me onto a main road for too long.

The route for our little cycling tour can be seen below, and day one can be read here.

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Edit: I wrote most of this back in September but didn’t manage to blog about it, but since then the website Bike and Hike has started to use a different mapping site. This is good because sometimes my routes go all over the place, mainly when I’m tile hunting (read about it here).

My advice is if you know where you’re going, create your own route with Bike and Hike, but if you’re going somewhere new, use Strava route builder.

Principia – Par Excellence

I’ve blogged about my Principia in the past, but I’ll say it again, simply the best bike I’ve ever ridden. Previous blog here My best bike…. ever

The pink respray just makes me stand out even more!

In the last couple of weeks my Principia has turned 18 years old, moved up to second place in my all time mileage for bikes, and has done 300 Strava rides, plus 150 rides before Strava (dark times).

Some stats: Total distance 17,860 miles.

Total climbing 275,000 m.

Total kudos 12,899.

Mileage is accurate as I’ve always kept records, but elevation required some ‘fudging’. I’ve calculated the amount climbed per km for the Strava rides, and then multiplied it by the non-Strava ride, with a factor of 0.85 as many of the pre Strava rides were done in Oxfordshire, which isn’t as lumpy as Lancashire.

Kudos is easier. I calculated the average kudos per ride, and then multiply it by by pre-Strava rides and add the two together.

Next milestones for my Principia; another 300 miles and he overtakes my old Cannondale to become my most ridden bike, and another 6,500 m of climbing and he will become the most uphill ridden bike I’ve had.

Also, here’s to the next 18 years.

Friday was a bit hit and miss

I’d created a route, and was all set for a tile hunting foray from Penrith to Carlisle, but there was no space on any train going north for my bike, so I cycled home, dejected.

All was not lost as it gave me opportunity to do our weekly food shop and go to the tip, clearing a bit more rubbish from the garden. I did then manage a short ride in the afternoon, in the rain, but my heart wasn’t really into it.

The local athletics club were putting an a fast and flat 5k that evening, and I wasn’t sure if I should go or not. £5 entry fee, plus £2 extra as I’m not a member of English Athletics is a lot to pay for a 20 minute race, especially as there were no medals or anything as a momento. To put it into perspective, there was a charity race on the Thursday, same entry fee, but including finishers medals and a hot pot supper. Unfortunately I wasn’t home from work in time.

Back to the flat and fast 5k, and I gently ran the 2.5k to the race HQ, paid my money and waited for the start. The organisers decided to split the race into two, with sub 20 min finishers first, and then everyone else half an hour later. I thought that this was a terrible idea, but it actually worked really well, with loads of people cheering us ‘faster’ runners on, and then most of the faster runners stayed behind to cheer on the slower ones. All very good. I was in a quandary as to which race I should go in, but as I wanted sub 20 mins I went with the faster race.

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Boy were they fast! I was left for standing, but gradually pulled a few places back and manged to finish in 24th place with a time of 18:59. The winner went sub 15 minutes!

My fastest ever 5k as a Vet 40, shocking, even if Strava thought it was only 4.9k.

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No where near my all time pb for a 5k, currently at 16:05 which I did almost 20 years ago. Never say never, but I very much doubt that I will better that, especially as I turn 50 in 14 months. If I can keep my current speed until then, I’m hoping that I might be able to pick up a few Vet 50 trophies.

I’m not sure if I’ll do the race again, as they are putting it on each month. I think I’ll stick with parkruns, same distance but free, and I can run with Nelly (our silly old dog).

A Mini Adventure Around Skipton

Today was an unexpected day off, combined with a weather forecast suggesting it would be relatively warm and free from rain. To make the most of it I caught the first train of the day from Lancaster to Skipton. Northern Trains, so I wasn’t able to book my bike, but it wasn’t a problem. I also bought a return ticket as it only cost £1 more than a single.

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The idea of going to Skipton was so that I could grab a few more Veloviewer squares, with the long term plan of linking my cluster with the riding I did in Hull a couple of years ago. If all this means nothing to you, I have blogged about Veloviewer a few times (here).

With a carefully set out route I set off from Skipton station just after 8am, and headed to the hills. As I mentioned, the weather forecast suggested that it would be 5-7 degrees and dry. The actual forecast around Skipton was 2-3 degrees and plenty of rain, combined with a smattering of hail and sleet. My route was also phenomenally hilly, with snow and ice on the tops. Another reason for taking my Trek 920.

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At the bottom of the first big descent I crossed over the Leeds to Liverpool Canal, although I had to wait as a boat passed.

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A few more hills and a winding route to maximise square grabbing, before heading back into Skipton. I was pleased that I had bought a return ticket as my feet were cold and wet, as was much of the rest of me, despite putting on an extra layer. My revised plan was to follow my route to Gargrave and then return to Skipton to catch the 10.55 train. A couple of hilly dead-end dirt tracks meant that I had to revise my plan once again, to catch the return train from Gargrave. I had intended to cross over the busy A65 and ride along the canal towpath, but with less than ten minutes I had to get my head down and push it into Gargrave, making the train with less than one minute to spare.

The next train wasn’t for another three hours, and if I’d missed it I would have just cycled home. The route from Gargrave is a bit boring and I had done the same only ten days earlier, and with no easy squares I wasn’t too worried about my ride only being 30 miles, albeit it with over 1,000 m of climbing.

Back home and once uploaded to Strava I updated Veloviewer. The end result was 23 new squares and an extra 33 squares added to my cluster. I’m into the top 50, although I still have a long way to go to catch up with my old friend The Prof.

The before and after can be seen below.

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The next challenge will be to link the cluster to Keighley and over to Otley. There are still a whole load of squares required to link up with Hull, but I’m sure I’ll manage it this year.