My life is pretty data driven. If there’s a numerical way to evaluate something, I like to explore that. Sometimes this earns some well deserved eye rolls, when I do things like calculate how much it costs per hour to own a kayak. Of course, we all know that people can be all over the spectrum when it comes to this sort of analysis. I don’t think any of you readers are like this (I mean come on, this is Optimizing Adventure after all), but we all know someone on the opposite end that will go buy toilet paper in a 4-pack at the grocery store each time they need it without a second thought. Funnily enough though, I’ve found one specific area where everyone is data driven.
It doesn’t matter if they’re the type that would buy pre-sliced apples instead of buying regular ones and an apple slicer a few isles over, or the type that buys gas right at the entrance to a national park for 5 or 6 bucks a gallon instead of planning ahead. Everyone is a numbers person when it comes to hiking, biking, and running. Everyone wants to know exactly how far a hike is before they go on it. If someone went on a run, you’d ask them how many miles they did. Mountain bikers want to know how many vertical feet they’re signing up to climb if they commit to a certain trail.
Certainly, the motivations for this attention to the numbers differ, both by the person and by the day. I know I’ve asked “how much further?” on a long hike on a hot day. On my good days though, I’ll push myself a little bit further to grab that nice round 50 miles on a bike ride, or grab that extra viewpoint on a detour off of a trail.
I’ve been enjoying playing around with Strava recently, an Android/iPhone app that tracks and analyzes bike rides (road or mountain) and runs. Like a great handful of apps have been able to do for some time now, it will track your position and speed as you complete your run or ride, and let you know data like your max and average speed, distance traveled and elevation climbed. What Strava brings to the table is found in what it does with this data.
All of your rides and runs are stored in one data bank, so you can see how for you’ve run or rode in a given time frame. Better yet, you can see how you performed in certain “segments” of your route over all your different attempts. These segments are defined by you or anyone else that wants to define them on Strava’s website – so if you want to create a virtual race for the fastest person to ride up your driveway, you can go right ahead. Also, you can see where other users of the app have been riding, which has proved really helpful for finding the best bits of single track for mountain biking in areas where there isn’t one clear loop but rather a jumble of trails in all directions. It certainly delivers all the data a numbers junkie like me craves. It’s been a good training tool for me, just because it’s motivating to see and chase improvement on specific segments of rides, as well as see your total mileage keep increasing. If you’re really serious about your training, the amount of data available in the paid version is even more impressive.
If you run or bike, I would definitely encourage you to give the app a try. It’ll also track skiing, hiking, rollerblading, or whatever else you want to throw at it!