Measuring mediocrity

Strava is the measure of my mediocrity.

After every ride, I dutifully download the data from my Garmin GPS to the social site that connects riders from around the world who break down their routes into bite-sized segments. Comparing my performance with previous rides can give me an idea of improvements in my own fitness, as well as affirm the sensations in my legs; feeling strong during a climb up Burnaby Mountain isn’t just in my imagination when Strava awards me a Personal Best trophy icon.

Mario Bartel blogger cyclist storyteller photograoher communicater
Enjoying a baguette and brie on the annual FRF Bastille Day ride.

Earning those little trophies is addictive.

Strava has more than 1.5 million active users. They include cyclists and runners. Logging their activities into the site provides real-time tracking of their performance improvements over segments created by fellow users.

Those segments are also the measure upon which cyclists and runners can compare their performance with others, a sort of giant ongoing virtual race.

Sometimes those virtual competitions can get pretty intense. Setting a new KOM can be conversation fodder in the FRF peloton, a throw-down to other riders.

Mario Bartel storyteller cyclist blogger communicator
What’s a celebration of French cycling without baguette and brie?

Not that I ever have to worry about setting or regaining a coveted KOM.

In the Strava world I am famously mediocre. My modest achievements are neither great nor terrible. Inevitably a personal best that I worked hard to attain will end up ranked solidly somewhere in the middle of the pack of all riders who’ve ridden the same segment.

Except for descents. Apparently I can be pretty decent at those; I’ve even managed to crack the top 10 on some, even if briefly.

This Saturday I’ve signed on for the Triple Crown, a challenging ride up Vancouver’s three major mountains, Seymour, Grouse and Cypress. I’ve done all three separately, never on the same day. The route covers 75km with around 2000 metres of climbing.

I’m confident I’ll be able to do it. I’m certain I’ll be slow. I’m scared of the effort it’s going to take.

So instead, I’m going to think of it as three fast and fun descents. Because what goes up, has to come down. Before it can go up again…

I may even manage to set a downhill PB or two.

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