I don’t think I’ve mentioned it before on this blog, but I’m addicted to Strava. For those of you unfamiliar with Strava, it’s a cycling/running program that you track ride/run statistics with, and you can use it to compare stats and compete with friends. You may have seen the television commercials on during the Tour de France coverage, featuring Tim Johnson (Cyclocross stud, multi-time National Champ, and one of my former riders on the Jittery Joe’s Team when I wrenched for them), Jesse Anthony (Optum p/b KBS rider), and others.
The cool thing about Strava is that you can set particular segments of road or trail, and the program keeps track of your times via your mobile phone or GPS-based computer. I find it extremely fun to challenge myself on particular segments (mostly uphill), and see how this 200+ pounder compares to his 170 pound counterparts. I’ve pushed myself harder to compete on climbs, even though I’m not a natural climber, and it’s been a good training tool for me, since I’ve started riding seriously again.
Last month, Rapha posted a challenge to Strava users that was to take place last week called the “Rapha Rising Challenge.” The challenge was to climb 6,881 meters (22,575 feet) over the course of last week, which was equivalent to the “queen stage” of the Tour de France, which took place last Wednesday. Basically, you had to climb, in one week, the same amount the pros did in one day…
I wasn’t planning on completing the challenge, but I got a good start, getting several thousand feet of climbing in on Monday of last week. On Tuesday, I pounded out a big ride with the Free-Flite Canton group ride, where I pulled a lot, we broke some records (collectively), and after splitting from the group, I tacked on a few more miles. Wednesday and Thursday, I figured I’d add a couple of extra rides and see how my climbing was adding up. We took off for the beach this weekend, so I got a long climbing ride in on Friday morning (3 hours, 3700 feet of climbing) before we took off for Myrtle Beach, SC.
Myrtle Beach is obviously flat, which was not conducive to setting any climbing records. I was going to do laps in the parking garage to get a little bit of climbing, but I didn’t have any expectations of getting the remainder of my climbing – around 4400 feet) finished by Sunday at Midnight, so I just canned that idea. We enjoyed our time at the beach and headed home on Sunday.
We rolled into my parents’ house for the night around 6:30pm on Sunday. I talked my wife into letting me ride some more and see how much climbing I could finish before it got too dark. I rode about 3/4 mile down the road to Old Six Mile Road, where I did repeats until 9pm. I rode to my parents’ house and had close to 1200 feet of climbing left to go… only 3 more repeats.
After much sweet-talking and a few bottles of Gatorade, I headed back down the road with Niki in the van behind me, shining headlights so I could see where I was going. Together, we knocked out three more hill repeats, and finished up with 56.3 miles and 4236 feet of climbing for the evening, all on Old Six Mile Road… and I was cooked. We got home and I uploaded the data to Strava, and… I was around 15o FEET SHORT! 99% complete with the challenge was not going to cut it…
Since it was only 10:45pm at that point, I jammed my bike back in the van and drove down to Clemson. It’s a pretty well-lit town, so I felt comfortable riding downtown and around the university for a few miles to tack on the extra few feet I needed to finish the challenge. I completed an extra 3.8 miles and 259 feet of climbing, and FINALLY finished the challenge with 6,917 meters of climbing for the week.
I had to take a day off after completing the challenge, especially after the strong finish on Sunday. Would I do the challenge again? Absolutely, except next time, I won’t plan a beach trip in the middle of it, so I can space out the climbing better. I think because of the climbing that I had to seek out to complete the challenge, I’m actually enjoying climbing a little more. I’ve kind of honed some of my techniques and I now look forward to the hills a little more.