City Strides Scotland

After an amazing week in Wigtown, walking and running all over the place, I was looking forward to analysing City Strides to see how many new streets I’d ticked off.

None. That’s how many new streets I ticked off. We had walked or ran in Newton Stewart, Whithorn, Portpatrick, Stranraer and of course most of Wigtown.

I zoomed in on the website and examined every town. Nothing. I followed the forum to a link which contained a spreadsheet for missing cities. There were dozens of missing towns in Scotland.

City Strides is a great Strava add on, and is the work of just one person. Hopefully, at some point in the future this beautiful area of Scotland will be recognised by City Strides.

10,000 Steps and Covid

A few months ago I wrote about walking 10,000 steps a day, and how I had never managed it for a full month. Generally this is because at least one or two days a month I might go for a swim or a long bike ride and don’t feel like a long walk as well. However, over a full month I have never managed less than 10,000 steps on average per day (read my post here).

At the moment, I still haven’t managed a full calendar month with 10,000 steps every day. However, I have managed a streak of 46 days from early December up to a few days ago. Thursday morning I went for a gentle five-mile run feeling really good. Thursday night I had the worst nights sleep ever as I succumbed to the dreaded Covid. According to my Garmin, I managed 90 minutes sleep with a sleep score of zero.

I don’t suppose I should have been surprised as my lovely wife had spent the previous four days either in bed or on the sofa. I was hoping that I would be immune. I’m not. I should have had a booster jab at some point, although it didn’t help Helen. Three years, that’s how long we both managed to avoid it. We have no idea where we caught it, but I was in the office on the Monday, mingling with plenty of people and traveling on a packed train.

I’m starting to feel a little more like myself, although I still have absolutely no energy. My total number of steps for each of the last four days has barely been above 1,000.

Covid also ended a streak of over 1,000 days where I had uploaded an activity to Strava. The activity might have only been a two mile walk with Nelly, or it might have been a 35 mile run, either way my Ron Hill type streak has come to an end.

Garmin Badges

My first Garmin was the Edge 500 cycling computer, which I bought back in 2012. I liked the idea of only having to have one computer which I could swap over onto other bikes without any hassle. With the instructions came details of Garmin Connect, which wasn’t called that back then, and had incredibly basic mapping software. I wasn’t impressed. I was impressed with the hardware, and as soon as I knew about Strava, that was what I used for all of my rides. Subsequently, I bought a running specific watch, and then later a swim watch. The swim watch could only be uploaded to Strava via the Garmin website, however, that was the only time I used it.

Fast forward a few years, and both myself and my lovely wife Helen have next generation smart watches. To be honest, I don’t know how I managed without one for so long. Anyway, to get the full benefit of the watches you really have to use the App, uploading every activity the moment I’ve finished, as well as looking at my sleep score, body battery, etc.

Deep within the App there are a whole load of badges to tick off. Some of them are monthly challenges only worth one or two points, others are worth eight points, for example running a marathon or cycling 100 miles. Tick off enough badges and you can reach the next level. Some badges can only be completed once, others, like the marathon or 100 miles, can be ticked off a maximum of 250 times. As you can see, there are a lot of points available.

I had been using the Garmin App for many months before I knew about these badges, and therefore was only at level 3. Fortunately, I had saved many of my Garmin files, which I have started to upload to Garmin Connect, including 36 one hundred mile bike rides, moving me up to level 5. Unfortunately, I didn’t start saving my Garmin files until 2015, missing out on over 50 one hundred mile rides.

Despite this, it shouldn’t be too long before I reach level 6.

Do you ‘collect’ the Garmin badges?

Where Did We Go?

Last year we went away for a week near the town of Bakewell. We stayed in a lovely little cottage and went for walks, runs and even hired a tandem for a couple of hours to ride along the Monsal Trail. We also walked around Carsington Water, a large local reservoir. We also visited Chatsworth House, although as we had Nelly, our silly Pointer with us, we only walked around the gardens, which were absolutely stunning.

Me and Helen, my amazing wife, had a much needed break and totally relaxed. Our weekly exploration is excellently illustrated using Veloviewer.

A couple of months ago we went away for a week near the town of Cockermouth. Once again we had a much needed break, as well as walking and running all over the place, as can be seen in the map below.

I never blogged about our holiday near Bakewell. I was only two months into a new job, which was already proving to be stressful and time consuming. However, I managed to blog most days while we were in the northern lakes. I had dropped down to a four day week, which I would recommend to everyone. Currently I am three weeks with a different company, which again is proving to be stressful, but for different reasons. I accepted the job offer and then before I started they were bought by another company. We don’t become integrated until October, and it will take many months for everything to settle down, but here’s hoping the company we’ve been bought by prove to be good to work for. Fortunately, there are plenty of jobs out there for experienced air quality specialists, although I don’t want to become known for not being able to stick with a firm.

Anyway, this blog was supposed to be highlighting the excellent Strava add-on – Veloviewer, instead of a work related post.

GPS Error

You might have noticed some GPS drift on your activities in the last few weeks, or even a run that was way off course. It happened to me a few times, as you can see below.

The walk above wasn’t too far off course, but a couple of other activities were far more wrong. This has occurred with fairly new watches from Garmin, Suunto and Polar, and is all to do with the GPS chip made by Sony.

Every few days a file is sent to the various Apps, which is then sent to your watch. This file contains details of where the satellites will be over the next few days, allowing your watch to find GPS reception much quicker. Quite clever when you think about it.

However, this file has been wrong a couple of times, hence why there has been GPS drift. Garmin have assured everyone that the problem is fixed, but you might want to sync your watch with Garmin Connect via your laptop if the issue persists. It also happened about 18 months ago, and Garmin said at the time that the problem was fixed and wouldn’t happen again.

Strava – Relative Effort

This makes a change. I’m not blogging about parkrun, a book I’ve read or a family adventure. Instead I’m writing about the fairly obscure ‘number’ you find for every Strava activity.

What is Relative Effort? Basically, it describes how hard or how much ‘effort’ you put into an activity. It takes into account the length of time and how high your heart rate was. It means you can compare different activities, and compare with other people. All things being equal, if we all ran a 5km as hard as we possibly could, we’d all have the same Relative Effort score, even if you ran five minutes quicker than me. It’s all quite clever.

When I first joined Strava I had an old Garmin with a heart rate strap, but after a couple of years the battery ran out on the strap, so I stopped measuring my heart rate. This time last year, my amazing wife bought me a flash smart watch, so once again I can look at my relative effort.

My highest score is a massive 760, at the Ullswater 20. There is a reason why it is so high. The day before I had my second Covid jab, and although the effects were no way near as bad as the first, within a couple of miles I knew it was going to be a long day. Added to this, it was incredibly hot and hilly, as well as being 22 miles not the advertised 20. In hindsight I should have done the 10 with my wife who had a great day out. Anyway, my Strava activity can be found here.

My second highest score was at last year’s Backyard Ultra, where I managed nine laps, or 61.6km. That was a much longer day than the Ullswater 20, but as my heart rate was lower, even over a much longer period, my Relative Effort was lower. Strava activity here. Backyard Ultra blogging can be found here.

Finally, my third highest Relative Effort was way back in 2013, and it was cycling. I completed the Bowland Badass, arguably the toughest sportive ever put on. 167 miles over every single climb around the Forest of Bowland, plus a few others for good measure. Also, as I didn’t have a car at the time, I cycled to and from the start, rounding my day up to 301.7 km. Oh, and there was over 5,000m of climbing. My Relative Effort score was a mighty 492. A measure of how Strava has changed in almost nine years, is that for this monster ride I only received 27 kudos. Anyway, Strava link here, Badass website here, and a photo of me just over half way at the top of Cross of Greet chatting to a random couple of cyclists who couldn’t believe what we doing.

Do you every look at your Relative Effort score?

Alexandra parkrun

Continuing our streak of tourist parkruns, we headed into Manchester for the very flat and fast Alexandra parkrun. Why would we drive all that way when there are still plenty of closer parkruns to Lancaster that we haven’t done yet? To celebrate our wedding anniversary I had purchased for my lovely Helen a two hour pottery session/lesson with one of the finalists of the Pottery Throwdown. Matt Cronshaw used to be a professional cyclist from Lancaster, before taking up pottery and then specialising in porcelain, which Helen had never worked with.

I’m getting ahead of myself. We arrived outside the pottery studio without too much trouble, only one wrong turn. We had 20 minutes to run the one mile to the start of the parkrun, which we made with time to spare, marvelling at how nice Alexandra park was. Not the greatest of areas, but definitely not as bad as it would have been 20 or 30 years ago. There was quite a large field (almost 300 people) and we lined up at the back with Nelly, although once again she was keen. The route involved two large laps with one smaller lap to finish. Wide paths and no mud made a welcome change from Rothay two weeks ago and Pendle last week. At the end of the first lap one of the marshalls told us that Nelly was first dog, not bad for an old girl. We pushed on and finished in 62nd place in a time of 22:48. Happy with that as I didn’t feel as if we’d pushed it too hard.

After barcode scanning we spotted Helen starting her small third lap. I tried to get a photo of Nell with Helen in the background, but she wasn’t paying attention.

Once Helen had finished we made our way back through the park to the pottery studio, just as Matt was arriving, he even recognised me from Lancaster. Ten years ago there wasn’t too many people from the area on Strava so we all kind of got to know each other, even though he was way too fast for me to ever ride with him.

Helen quickly pulled on her pottery overalls for her lesson while me and Nelly headed off for a gentle walk to find a cafe with coffee and cake. Not only did we find coffee and cake for me, but the cafe was in a park with pigeons and squirrels for Nelly to chase. Perfect for both of us. We then wandered back, meeting a mad (in a good way) old woman who just loved Nelly.

Back at the studio and Helen was busy finishing off a large bowl, which looked amazing, while I chatted to Matt about cycling and running (he’d recently done the Manchester marathon). In the back yard I spotted one of his creations from TV, his tea cup toilet with handle.

Matt was saying that he doesn’t really know what to do with it. However my sister suggested filling it with flowers, which is probably the best idea.

Anyway, Helen was as happy as can be and was absolutely buzzing all the way home, telling me how much she’d learned and that she can’t wait to try it all out at home. The three pieces she made will be fired and glazed by Matt, and then will be sent to us. Apparently porcelain is much harder to work with than regular clay, and Helen took to it like she’d been doing it for years. She is totally amazing, and I’ve not even mentioned Archie the pufferfish that she made earlier in the week. Pottery pictures will follow soon.

1500 Strava Challenges

I’m still at it, completing as many random Strava challenges as I can. This morning saw me finish another two, taking me to the incredible 1500! Not a lot else to say really. I haven’t been completing as many cycling challenges recently due to changing jobs, but I’m enjoying my running as much now as I ever have, especially when my lovely Helen comes with me. We’re currently training for a half marathon in March in Anglesey. It will also be Helen’s birthday so we’re making a weekend of it. Really looking forward to it.

Anyway, you can find my blog about 1000 challenges here, which also includes links to my other numerical challenge blogs.

336 Metric Centuries

A few days ago I wrote about how I had run a half marathon 71 times since I’d joined Strava (read about it here). This got me thinking about various other statistics. I have completed 100 miles on 113 occasions, although the most recent 100 miler was a couple of years ago, but I was completely gobsmacked when I saw how many 100 km days I’d had. The title of this blog post is correct, on 336 days I have completed 100 km. That is on average 38 times a year. Most of those have been cycling, although on a few times I might have been out and cycled slightly less and then added in a few extra km with a walk or a run. Sadly there isn’t a single day where the 100 km target has been passed with running only, maybe one day.

As for elevation, I have climbed at least 1000 m on 350 days, and on 272 days I have completed at least 5 hours of activities. I’ve also been given Kudos 100 times on 266 occasions, although that is slightly more arbitrary because if you want more Kudos just follow thousands of people and many of them will follow you back, giving you extra Kudos.

I have to be honest and say that I’m surprised by these figures and had probably forgotten just how much training I used to do. I think the mix is a little better now a days, as I enjoy going out with Helen and our silly pooch for long walk/runs, or cycle touring with just Helen. Cafe stops is something we are definitely looking forward to once lockdown 3.0 is over, as well as exploring new areas again.

What about swimming? Last year was a terrible year as I only went for a swim 30 times, and over half of those were before the first lockdown. Looking at my stats and I’ve swam 1 mile on 316 occasions, 2km 300 times and 1 hour 177 times.

71 Half Marathons

A bit of a random statistic for a sunny Tuesday afternoon. Since joining Strava I have run 71 half marathons, or to be more precise, according to Veloviewer, there have been 71 days where I have run at least 21km. I know that a half is 21.1km but knowing what I’m like if I made it to 21km I would definitely run that extra 100m. I’ve been a member of Strava for almost 9 years, so it works out at 8 half marathons a year, which isn’t too shabby.

Veloviewer also tells me that I’ve run 11 marathons and 456 10kms. That is one and a quarter marathons every year and a 10km every week. If I continue at my current rate then I will complete my 100th Strava half marathon approximately three years time.

I have also done a number of half marathons before I joined Strava, but my statistical record keeping does not allow me to know exactly how many I’ve completed, although I have done 8 half marathon races before Strava.

Anyway, I quite like 21.1km as a distance; long enough to be a challenge, but short enough that I am not in too much pain the next day.