In the (Feed)Zone - REFLECTIONS ON A YEAR OF MIXED REVIEWS And STRAVA RACING

By: Mark Swartzendruber
Posted: Jan 3, 2013

In the Feed(Zone)

My own issues and problems of 2012 have been well documented here in the (Feed)Zone so I will not dwell upon them other than to say the effects of the herniated disc have passed and I’m back to full strength and training to make up for lost time in 2013.

On that note, I can’t help but reflect on how 2012 seemed to be an especially harsh year on an unusually high number of accomplished riders.  Just on my vaunted squad, Scarlet Fire Racing I was sidelined for the bulk of the season, Stone Pony went out in June with a broken wrist and Brother Biceps Harris was sidelined virtually all season with a heart condition that has permanently ended his stellar racing career.  Moso-Man spent a fair amount of time dealing with a painful back (despite this he crushed it all year) and The Women’s Team was still recovering from crash related effects from last season.  Just as she started racing again, an electrolyte imbalance started giving her fits.

All that, but we did have one team member have a stellar season as Thomas the Train Doughty won gold at the masters National Time Trial and Bronze in the road race.


National Time Trial Champion JJ Jingleheimerschmidt signing autographs instead of racing due to wrist fracture.

As banged up as we were we far from being exclusive.  JJ had a nasty wrist fracture that sidelined him from Memorial Day Weekend through the end, Enzo’s Speciale Young Man spent the season dealing with bulging disc issues that required surgical repair, Texas Roadhouse sprinter Puffer also had back issues, HeadsMACK went down in July with a severe leg fracture, Josh Carter fractured some vertebrae in Rock Island on Memorial Day and Jeff Ottomobile spent the season dealing with tachycardia while still lighting up the time trial world – for a lot of us, 2012 completely sucked.  I’m sure there are more – this is just a sample that I’m familiar with.

Anyway – let us hope that 2013 sees all of us back to full strength and racing without incident.

One benefit of my extended absence from real bike racing was becoming involved in the racing that doesn’t involve actually racing.  By this I mean Strava.  My brother introduced me to it this year.  He wasn’t racing actively either.  Strava is a wonderful social networking tool whereby an individual who is not a racer or maybe an injured or recovering racer or even potentially a real racer like Mike Sheerer or Chris Horner can compete against every other Strava connected cyclist who use the same route for the title of King of the Mountain or KOM on what are called “segments” even if those segments aren’t actual mountains.

Take for example here in the Chicago area.  After I’d signed up  for Strava, I discovered once upon uploading ride data from my Garmin unit that I had unwittingly – withered leg and all, nearly become the KOM on a 4/10 mile section of Lehigh Ave. in Morton Grove between Church and Churchill streets.  You have no idea how this motivated me.  I found myself planning my rehab rides so I could hit that 4/10 mile section of road with a strong tail wind and sprint with my one good leg for all I was worth.  If the wind was contrary, I would avoid that section of road all together, not wanting to post a dud number.  It was incredible that I found myself scheming and planning 3 and 4 hour rides, and working the route back depending on how functional my leg felt to hit that stupid flat section of wide open road to try and become the KOM.  Well, finally I did it.  I posted a time 1/10 mph faster than a Strava “competitor” call NorCadCal.

I was elated.  KOM with a gimpy leg!!  I began looking to become KOM on other sections of roads as I discovered them.  The Forest Preserve road section, bike trail sections, the little hill down at 47th Street on the Lake Front Bike Path all became targets for my single hard effort of the rides I did.  I found myself creating segments that matched when I did a hard sustained effort on my rides and if I wasn’t KOM of my newly created segment, then I’ll be damned if I didn’t head out the very next day (wind willing) and try again.

You can imagine how devastated I would become when I’d get a notice that my Strava KOM had been snatched away by another rider.  In fact, after I had gotten the hard earned KOM on Lehigh Ave between Church and Churchill streets, I received a notification not a week later that my KOM had been blown to smithereens by a Cat 4 racer on the XxX team.  What?  How can this be?  I did some digging. This can’t be right.  He averaged 58 mph!  The wind was blowing from the south on the day he allegedly did it.  I cried foul.  God DAMMIT!  I was outraged.  I posted on Facebook (another social networking tool) that I’d lost my hard fought for Strava KOM under suspicious circumstances.  This started a long discussion thread and speculations.  Detective Luke Seeman did some gum shoe work and reviewed the route map of the suspicious KOM and as it turns out, our new KOM was actually riding the Metra from Glenview to Chicago on the tracks that parallel Lehigh Ave between Church and Churchill and had the Strava App equipped mobile device turned on.  His route map took him from work in Glenview on the train, setting KOM’s along the way until he got off and rode to the XxX team meeting at the Goose Island Restaurant on Clybourn Ave in Chicago.  He corrected the error by contacting Strava after much chiding and my KOM was restored.  Until it got broken again this time legit.  One positive is that the Metra riding KOM and I became Facebook Friends.

So, I’ve been turning this whole Strava racing thing over in my head.  I’m pretty convinced that at some point, the Chicago area will see – just as I see on my brother’s Strava Activity updates from California – every inch of the most popular routes will become some person’s custom Strava segment. You know that section of Sheridan Rd in Winetka between the big brick house with black shutters and the slate roof and the really large stone house with the gated circular driveway and the fountain?  Yeah, that 150 meters…”I OWN THAT” some one will say…and it won’t be a “Public” segment, it will be called a “Hidden” segment – which is more likely to avoid scrutiny and attempts to unseat the KOM.

I know a guy we’ll call him “Frank” that used to race who now just spends his time creating Strava segments and getting KOMs.  When he travels, he checks out all the roads and memorizes the Strava segments so he can beat them.  He never rides from point A to point B and back anymore. He leaves his house, rides to a Strava segment and then does Strava repeats, then goes home to upload his data and see if he’s KOM.  I shit you not.

My brother who now lives around Scotts Valley, CA will do a 25 mile ride and I swear on the life of my new grand daughter Lucy Mae Swartzendruber that there are 70 Strava segments in that 25 miles.

Did I mention I have a grand daughter?  Here’s a photo.  I think she’s pretty cute.

She lives in Milwaukee with my son and his wife.

Back to Strava – I’ve developed some rules of engagement for Strava Racing that I’d like to submit for consideration to you Strava Racers.  Here goes:

  • When creating a segment – don’t be an idiot and create a segment that runs through several 4-way stop lights on heavily traveled roads.  For that matter – if you see a new segment on your ride that runs through several 4-way stop lights on heavily traveled roads, don’t be an idiot and run the lights just so you can be the KOM of some Chucklehead’s fantasy race.
  • Some times your GPS will malfunction and provide Stava with faulty data.  I once had my Garmin go crazy and I recorded a ride of over 6000 miles from somewhere in the Southern Hemisphere with an average speed over 300 mph.  So, if, upon uploading your ride to Strava you notice that you’ve won the KOM at some sprint point along the route and your speed is posted at 43 mph on the uphill sprint at the Bahai Temple and you know damn well you never went that fast– don’t leave it up there, report it to Strava as an error you vainglorious bastard!
  • The proper way to cheat or “dope” at Strava Racing is to take your GPS or Strava equipped mobile device in your car along a route, but avoid suspicion by not traveling on highways and don’t travel any faster than about 1 or 2 mph above bike speed.  Even if you have a long line of cars with blaring horns behind you while you’re driving 25 in a 45 mph zone, don’t blow your cover by going too fast.
  • If you’re going to drive your car on a bike path to set KOMs do it in the wee hours of the morning so as to avoid pedestrians and not get caught by the Forest Preserve Police.
  • If you’re going for a KOM on a bike path segment and you encounter in line skaters or families with young kids in strollers or small bikes with training wheels, be sure to shout “STRAVA!!” at the top of your lungs just before you narrowly avoid side swiping the 3 year old girl with the Hello Kitty helmet and training wheels on her bike.
  • When creating segments, don’t start and stop your segments right at the stop signs or lights.  Duh – wait until you’ve done a segment in which you were able to roll unimpeded through a light or stop sign at top speed and end your segment AFTER the sign or light when you create it.  This way, you’re much more likely to hold on to your KOM.
  • Only attempt KOM’s on sections where the wind is favorable.  You need at least a 15mph tail wind in order to set a KOM that will have some longevity.

If you find yourself in a KOM war like I once did with a Tri Geek who prides himself on being KOE (King of Everything) in a certain training region I frequent, handle it this way.  First, let me back track.  I’d go ride the rural rolling roads in North Central IL while recovering from my blown up back and upload my ride, see that I was KOM on some road without having tried, and I shit you not – the very next day I’d see the same dude taking back the KOM. I’d go ride out that way again a few weeks later and the same thing would happen. I’d upload a ride and in less than 24 hours, ol’ boy would take the KOM back.  Here’s how I put an end to the war.  I went down there with Moso-Man and Hard Cory we did a 3 man time trial on a couple of segments and smashed the KOM by over 6 mph.  Instead of receiving notification that the KOM had be “stolen”, I got “Kudos” from him.  Heh, Heh…

Well, indoor time trial season is starting in 3 weeks.  Given that it’s cold in Chicago again, climate change is clearly is a hoax like they tell me on Fox, so I’ve been spending a fair amount of time riding on my indoor bike simulator getting ready.  We shall see once I turn the simulated pedal in anger whether or not I’m truly progressing and completing my recovery or if I’m just fooling myself.

Next time – I hope to complete and provide to you an interview with a truly heroic rider, who won Gold, Silver and Bronze medals at the Summer Paralympic Games in London.

Oh – lest I forget.  Scarlet Fire Racing will be sporting a new look in 2013.  The outstanding designers at Pactimo came up with this for us.  Check it out.


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