After my last ride I wrote that too short a ride is a waste of time. This was in reference to a challenge that has been placed in my path by another user of the app. Strava. It is not just a cycling app., mapping your rides through GPS and comparing your performance on segments of the ride to that of other users. It’s also a kind of social media where you can message other users, perhaps to throw down a challenge. I had noticed that one rider, who I follow on Strava, was desperately chasing a time around a local circuit to become the fastest ever and gain the title of King of the Mountains. He only needed to improve by 3 seconds so I had a go myself. I finished in 17 minutes 33 seconds, 17 seconds under the best time and knew I could go considerably faster. Soon afterwards my rival managed to improve my time by a full 2 minutes. I had one tentative go and got within 50 seconds of that time. My reason for not pursuing the King of the Mountains crown is that I’d exhaust myself in the early stages of a ride which would have little interest except for a period of 15 minutes and some seconds. Due to bad weather and time commitments in the run up to Christmas I hadn’t ridden for a few days and got up early today to ride first thing. I thought it was a good time to face the challenge and then ride a road based loop back home. If I failed to achieve the best ever time I had several excuses to salve the wound. Firstly, the weather has been bad and the ground conditions would be at their worst. On a still day with no rain there may be walkers who I’d need to slow for. I’m also older than my competitors so I can always use that as an excuse.
I set off today and took a purely road route to the circuit. 100 yards before the start I saw a rider on a road bike. Could that be him? I’m fairly sure from Strava that he starts his rides, presumably from his house, somewhere close to where we were. We exchanged a cheery “good morning” and I continued, clicking my stopwatch and getting the hammer down from the start and making sure I used all the tricks to maximise my performance. I kept it in a higher gear to feel resistance through the pedals, rather than spinning them around with less power. I maintained the pace where the surface and gradients changed rather than wasting time settling into a different type of terrain. I took a few risks on the corners and slippery surfaces. It went well and I was happy, after the long climb which constitutes almost half the time. I clicked the watch again as I crossed the finish only to find that it had never started. In my excitement I must have missed the button but Strava would have the information once I got back home. I dropped down to Birkacre again, still off road, before climbing steeply to Coppull for the road ride home. I wasn’t exhausted and soon found myself cruising along easily. Back at home I downloaded my ride to find how I’d done.
I needed to be 12 seconds quicker for the KOM title. Since my rival chooses to style himself as “The Otter” I’d titled my ride “Wetter than an otter’s pocket” in reference not only to the very wet ground but to attract attention. I also added a subtitle which reads “Spent 12 seconds stood still with wheel spin. In addition I wasted a whole breath saying good morning to a younger rider on a road bike at Eaves Green, which must have cost me.” Through the wonders of Strava I’ve had communication with O but it wasn’t him that I’d seen before the start. Another rider has confessed that it was probably him on his cyclocross bike.
My ride involving a short, high intensity circuit was far from a waste of time. I was smiling about it all through my dog walk, later. 12 seconds is all I need. I’m having it.