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People can do this in a day. I struggled in twenty.

You know what's ridiculous? Strava challenges are, that's what.

Someone in the Bay Area decides it'd be a good idea for you to try and do an Everest's worth of climbing in 20 days, and you hop to it, in the hope of receiving nothing more substantial than a pixellated badge that'll disappear after a bit because you're not premium and you don't have a virtual trophy cabinet. Oh, and the chance to buy some kit you don't want, for more than you'd be willing to pay.

So: ridiculous. And also tempting. You join and get a green progress bar inching its way to your goal. You get a friendly 'keep on going!' kind of half-badge every quarter of the way. Most of all though, you get a reason to go out and ride more hills. I like to think I don't need reasons to ride. But if the experience of getting a proper training plan and having to tick off the sessions has taught me anything, it's that being told what to do is a good catalyst for actually getting something done. For me, anyway. So off I went, and found some hills.

I say 'found'. I know where they are. In Bath, that's basically everywhere. It's possible to do 1,250m of climbing in less than 50km without leaving the city or riding the same bit of road twice, so the topography's not the issue round here. Getting it done in the time would be though. An Everest divided by 20 is about 450m a day to get done, over twice what I'd be totalling in a normal week. More hills then.

In the end I concentrated on a few hills on my side of town – Ralph Allen Drive, Bathwick, North Road, Summer Lane, Shaft Road (yes yes), Brassknocker (okay, stop it), Claverton and my normal weekday slog up Bloomfield Road. I'd try and do a couple on the way in, and maybe sneak an extra one into the commute home if I wasn't running too late, which I normally am. A couple of longer rides and the very able help of Iwein on some lunchtime slogs up as many hills as we could fit into an hour and a half (five the first time, six the second) helped push the bar towards 100%. But by the start of this week, with four days left to run, I wasn't really that close. I'd left myself needing the best part of 600m a day for the last four days to make it. I was behind schedule.

Monday, and three hills in the morning plus the climb home, knocked a chunk off the remainder but not a quarter, still leaving me with over 600m a day to do. Tuesday went better, with a loop out South of Bath followed by the realisation once I'd rolled into town that I'd left something vital at home. Grinding back up to the top of town to get it, then having to do it again come home time, gave me over 700m of ascent for the day.

Three more hill reps on Wednesday put me in reach, and even evening laps at the Odd Down Circuit helped: okay, 22 laps is only 71m of climbing, but it all counts. I left home on Thursday morning knowing three more hills would probably do it, but I struggled up a fourth just to make sure. And in the end I'd reached the target before I had to saddle up again for the slog home. And it really was a slog: I was ruined.

I ended up with 9,087m of climbing and a resounding 6,441st place. And PBs on most of the hills I rode thanks to the fact that I'm a lot lighter than the last time I rode many of them, and the fact that I was trying to keep up with Iwein a lot of the time, and that ain't easy.

The lesson from this? Tools are tools. Use them if you think they'll help. It wasn't one of my specific goals to do 9,000m of climbing in 20 days but in the long run it'll probably help with the goals I do have, and without the green bar on Strava I'd have probably lost interest.

Dave is a founding father of road.cc and responsible for kicking the server when it breaks. In a previous life he was a graphic designer but he's also a three-time Mountain Bike Bog Snorkelling world champion, and remains unbeaten through the bog. Dave rides all sorts of bikes but tends to prefer metal ones. He's getting old is why.

8 comments

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KiwiMike [1426 posts] 4 years ago
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Haterz gonna Hate.

Meanwhile, chapeau.  41

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Dave Smith [47 posts] 4 years ago
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Nice work chap(eau)

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Jimmy Ray Will [1029 posts] 4 years ago
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For me the real point of Strava is the utter pointlessness of it all... you do it because its there.

I was out with a cycling mate last night helping him get his remaining 900metres climbed. All comfortably done within 2 hours riding.

Not pleasant.

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hdb [20 posts] 4 years ago
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Hi, my name is David (really, the third on this thread) and I am a Stravaholic, now in recovery.

My cautionary tale:

When I was young(er) and carefree, I'd chase KOMs and challenges with only the slightest prompting. So what if the training schedule said "low intensity"? There were people to beat! I'd trundle around my town looking for segments, no matter how trivial or grotty, for a moment's pleasure. I had no shame.

Then I dragged my daughter into QOM hunting at the tender age of 13  31 and she beat me silly - all over the area her name began to appear on the top of Leaderboards. What had I done? Her coach shook his head reproachfully at me and muttered about goals... It took an intervention by my non-racing wife to rip us out of our addiction and back to nice healthy timed efforts and repeats  19

Strava is fun but it is too easy to let it become the ends instead of the means. I still use it regularly but know that my (and my daughter's) races are what are important, not the segment to the pub.

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Alan Tullett [1570 posts] 4 years ago
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Well done! I wish I lived near some hills. Climbing challenges are too much trouble around Cambridge.

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Anthony.C [278 posts] 4 years ago
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It's quite easy to do lots of climbing when it's undulating though, when I lived down south it was rarely flat so every ride was over a couple of thousand feet of climbing but I had hardly done any climbing at all. Where I am now it's either flat or you are climbing so 2000 ft of climbing is a lot harder than 2000 ft of undulations.

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jimbo2112 [94 posts] 4 years ago
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Good effort. My cousin lives in Bath and until recently, when he moved out of the centre, the only thing harder than the hills was finding a parking space!

I'm a Stravaholic. I sit sweaty/wet/muddy etc and go through the segments before a shower, with the wife bemused/scowling as to why it's so important. While I agree that it's not the be-all-and-end-all of cycling it is important as it's a subjective tool to measure performance.* It also suits the inquisitive nature of those that love stats and lets you check if that really was who you thought it was when you passed them in the car on that steep hill the other day!

*OK, it's not 100% as it does not take into account your condition on the day, wind speed, heat bike condition etc (yet!)

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Alan Tullett [1570 posts] 4 years ago
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Velobici have the same challenge for 7 days during next week. As the best hill climb near me has an elevation of 39m (the CCC Hill climb) I'd have to do it about 32/33 times a day for 7 days to achieve it. Too boring for words but maybe I'll see if I can do 1 day at least.