I think I’m a Strava A’hole.
I am not obsessed with Strava. To me, at this stage in my cycling journey, every ride should be laid bare for all to see, as, it is in fact a celebration that I got out at all. The “creeping” rides with appalling averages, or flat short rides where a low care factor kicks in, they are all on display. I have never really been obsessed with collecting cups, or segments, or even personal bests. So many of my rides are either in groups, or as purely a release from work. I certainly don’t train, there are no intervals or watt bombs to found on my rides. To be fair, any fast segments were generally when I was on the back!
What I do like though, is Strava prowling, stalking fellow riders. I am in constant awe of the crazy hour’s people head out for their ride, and the sacrifices they make to get out there. In their efforts, there is no shortage of motivation and inspiration for me to be taken from their suffering.
But, as soon as a good wind blows, that all changes. The Hulk goes green when he gets pissed off, I go Strava A’hole when the wind blows.
Last Wednesday was meant to be an easy ride. After a full day of sitting on planes, the legs where best described as “doughie”, the eye lids just staying open and I felt like I didn’t have enough strength to rip the top off a rice pudding. These rides I always allow myself a quiet roll, to get back into the swing of things, and maybe tomorrow will be better. But, as I rolled out the driveway, it hit me, one heck of a northerly blast.
Now it must be made clear, my KOM are very rare, very. I once owned the hill I live on, which again was a once in a hundred-year freak wind occurrence. As a hill heading out of town, and the main route west, I figured this was my finest trophy, regardless of the fact, it was my only one. Everything was going fine until I got the dreaded email, one of the local pro’s, Timmy Guy, had stolen my only trophy. Gutted I was, some would say broken. Thankfully, Timmy being the great lad he is, heard of my plight, took pity and removed his ride, his cabinet wouldn’t miss it. I was back! Then soon after I stepped back onto the podium, roll up Jess Featonby, KOM gone, and as yet, no signs of pity. I was back to clinging on to the weight and age group leadership board as my only hope.
Once the wind blows, within seconds the Strava A’hole in me rears its ugly head. The plotting, the scheming over takes common sense and reality. A northerly? Soon calculating a lusty gusty wind of this calibre, had to be worth 5kph on a climb. But what climb? There could be only one climb that should be reserved for such a magnificent northerly, Albury’s Monument Hill.
At just under a kilometre, and climbing nearly 70m, this hot mix delight, is the iconic for many reasons. From its shaded avenue feel, to Friday night park ups, sombre but poignant Anzac Day mornings, to its amazing link for our overall town planning, and its bang in the middle of town. From a Strava point of view, Jess Featonby owns this hill, he has Everested it for Movember and impressed everyone with endless hill repeats at the end of 160km rides. Getting the KOM was NEVER on my mind, but a bit of middle aged respect maybe up for grabs.
Relaxing on the ride was immediately replaced with planning and scheming, and the ultimate warm up. I would roll-out and do my usual flat ride, then just to surprise everyone (most likely no one, as who would care?), as I am not known for climbing, I would turn up Monument Hill, collect the tail wind and reap the glory.
The wind was a ripper, but the legs average, so the psyching up started early. To me the Monument Hill comes in 4 parts. The first is the easiest, 350m steady where you get most of the tailwind, the second is the crunch, 100m of bite, followed 300m of moderate, and lastly, the 150m brain busting straight that never seems to end.
My plan was simple. Smack a large gear through the first section, hope like heck I had enough wind up my rear end and momentum to get through the second, and if by a miracle, I wasn't calling for an ambulance at this stage, hold the gear for the third segment, then once into the fourth, kick on under all circumstances or loss of body function.
So, I rounded the corner, game face, shoes tight and a 52 x 15 gear ready for action. There is always the moment, where if the wind is not the rip snorter you thought it would be, you could abort, who would know? But to my delight, the northerly was delivering.
Before I knew it, I was through the first section, so dug a bit to get the gear going through the bite, then next thing I knew, I was through, just managing to stay on top of the gear. At this point, for better or worse, I was committed, ploughing up the next straight before facing everyone’s nemesis, the last straight. What happened next could only be described as an outer body experience. Done!
Now the realty. If that wasn’t the ugliest wind assisted ascent of Monument Hill I will eat my seat. Thankfully, there were no witnesses to my massively over geared heave, out of the seat the whole way, before deliriously weaving up the last straight. The great news is from the top of Monument Hill to my house, is all downhill. I didn’t turn the pedals for one more rotation, before pulling up and leaning against the garage door still clipped in.
Once I recovered enough to dismount, I hobbled through the front door, like a hunch back still locked in the riding position, I wouldn’t want to use words that best described my state, they would be… colourful. I thought about jumping in to the pool as everything was burning, but the risk of drowning was high, if I couldn’t pedal, then I guessed swimming was an issue too. I attempted to slug down water, trying to put the fire out in my chest and throat, but only achieved a big wet spot down my front. Then I did what every guilty Strava A’hole does, in my state of distress, I stumbled to my desk to plug my Garmin in!
Then the pain set in. It felt like I had ripped a new lung, needed a new set of legs and wouldn't be able to stomach food for a week. But that was OK, for I had achieved some middle-aged respect! So, sweating in my chair, hacking from my new lung, I reached around to my beer fridge in the office, and slugged my favourite Beechworth ale. It has never tasted better. Success.
So how did I end up? A hard-fought wind assisted top 10! A set of lungs that are learning to forgive and a sleepless night for all those within a mile due to relentless hacking and coughing. I earned a head shake and an “old fool” comment from my son, (that’s because I pointed out his time is behind mine) and a “can’t you just go out for a ride?” from my wife. In a world of Strava, no one knew, or cared, but to a Strava A’hole it’s a cup of distinction, flowing over.
And you know, it’s the fastest time in 2017... maybe all those riders ahead of me aren’t that fast anymore? That’s how us Strava A’holes think.