Sunday, December 15, 2013

The great strava hunt

After a savage day riding with a couple friends and Florian Nicolai on Saturday (had to boast sorry), I decided I would do some strava hunting on the local tracks. For the uninitiated, strava is a GPS tracking app, which "gamifies" biking and basically turns all decent uphills and downhills into segments which you race on virtually. The idea is that you push a little harder even when you are alone, and if you get a couple of friends using it, it can be a lot of fun trying to beat them on well known loops. It looks something like this:

So around 11am I leave to go a descent which had been shown to me just last week, about 10km from my house. I took a different route up which turns out was steep... very steep. I set off riding pretty well, the track was a lot of fun and the conditions were stupidly good for mid-december. I got to the bottom of the track and thought "OK, that was pretty good, but now that I know the gist of it I can probably go faster and get KOM". KOM or King Of Mountain is the title of the fastest person down a particular segment on Strava, I had sized up my opposition, and knew that with a good run I could come out on top.

So back up I went, up the insane hill, going even further up to get a good run into the segment start. At the very top I opened up my bag, ate a cereal bar and then got ready. I had a pretty good run down again, maybe not much faster than the first one, but the 2 climbs and the previous day were starting to weigh on my legs. So I took a route I know well from the last 2 years living here, which zig-zags through the woods before getting to a nice little jump trail built by the local kids and finishes a few kilometers from my house.

Got back to the house around 2pm, off came the big bag from my back and straight away I realised something was off: why was the top pocket of the bag open? I checked it to find my car keys, big relief, but no sign of my phone!!! My Irish mobile has apparently been cutoff so I couldn't use that to call my phone. Without really thinking straight, I half filled a bottle of water and jumped onto my old bike which has a bottle cage. The idea being that I didnt want to carry around the heavy bag with all the repair gear, I was just going to head back out and look for the phone near the jump trail a few kilometers from the house.

A few minutes of swearing out loud to myself later, I got worried that I was more annoyed at not getting my strava results than about losing my phone and contacts! I also started to realise that the last time I opened the bag was at the very top of the climb to eat the cereal bar, which was literally the furthest place from my house. So I checked the jump trail first: nothing. At this stage I knew I would have to go all the way to the top of the first trail as there were a few jumps where the phone could have fallen out.

The problem was this: it was now after 3pm, I was starving and had already drank the water from my bottle. Worst of all, when I switched bikes at home, I grabbed the one with dodgy gearing, which has a larger cog up front than at the back even in the easiest gear. About half way up the climb (which according to the GPS has a 20% gradient in many places) the cramps started to hit. I pushed the bike up the last quarter... But no phone in sight.

Rode down the track like a granny, looking for my phone despite low light and poor eyesight only made worse from exhaustion. At the bottom I took the road back home, close to 8km with some climbs. I had to stop at one point and lie down on the footpath as my legs were aching too much... Finally made it home, took all the food out of my fridge, but before devouring it all, jumped on my scales: 5kg lighter than when I left my house nearly 6 hours before!!!

End of the story is that I tracked the phone via an app, but eventually I got in contact with a guy who picked it up from the bottom of the jump trail, where I suspected it had fallen out! Met up with him just a few hours later and gave him a giant box of chocolates as a thank you. But most importantly, strava had saved the ride, and I got my KOM, which is all that really matters :P.