One of my favorite phrases is “never say never,” applied to everything from trying new foods, to new sports, or even dating partners. I’m pretty open to new experiences and I think everyone should be just because it helps you grow so much. You never know if you’ll like something or if something will work until you actually try it.
But sometimes I don’t live by my advice. Sometimes there are things I just don’t get – things that everyone won’t shut up about, things that I believe to be vastly overrated or dumb or trendy, things I professed for months or even years that couldn’t be that great. But then, sometimes I actually do try these things and they absolutely live up to the hype. In these instances, I love being wrong.
Like Experia Thorlos and anything overpriced by Nike, I thought, how could an athletic sock be any better than another? It’s a cotton tube for your foot and it just gets pressed up against your shoe anyway. I even bought a pair of Swiftwicks to try because I loved their packaging/design so much, but they sucked. They were Zeros, the no-show height, and they slid down inside my shoes. Fail.
But then … an eager sales rep literally chased me down between booths at The Running Event (a running industry trade show) and gave me a couple pairs of their compression socks. I was wearing a walking boot at the time thanks to a stress fracture, and he described what a difference socks could make with devices like that – he was right, the boot was pretty toasty.
I wore the socks for cycling a few weeks later, and with my boot, as recommended. And my mind was blown. These socks WERE different. They were smooth, had just the right level of compression (I had the Sevens, a mid-calf sock, and Twelves, a full knee sock), they managed temperature well, and they had these cool logos on the back of the calves that just felt, swag. There was something transcendent about that sock. Swiftwick, you rule.
Ah, bibs. When I started cycling in 2010, bibs freaked me out. Why? SO GEEKY. I figured they were a strange garment created only for ultra cycling dorks that served no utility because who would want shorts that go over your shoulders? I didn’t try to rectify this by asking questions, I just judged in silence.
I lived in the dark until Fall 2012, when the cycling club ordered our new kits (cycling speak for uniforms). I thought I ordered shorts, but when they came in they were bibs. I was disgusted, but with no other options I slipped into them one day for a ride. Guys, it was a epiphany. They were so … smooth. They basically go straight over your stomach so your jersey sits nicely on top. No more tugging at your shorts, no more waistbands digging into your stomach. Finally, the boys in my club laughed at me when I said this, but here’s an added bonus: bib shorts are the Spanx of cycling (except not uncomfortably tight). They tames that tummy roll right down and just hold everything in.
I’m certain you’re bored of hearing various incarnations of this story (or maybe / you’re / not) but basically I used to think mountain biking was only for adrenaline junkies, super dangerous, and certainly nothing I would ever try. But then I started mountain biking and it was fine! I mean, it is scary sometimes, but once you learn skills you can ride a lot of stuff and it is not nearly as dangerous as it seems on the outside. Trust me.
Strava is a social media website/app that uses GPS data to track your runs and bike rides. The social part is that it compares your efforts to other people who have ridden the same routes (or more commonly, “segments”) as you have.
I thought Strava was only for (1) overcompetitive dudes who enjoyed destroying nice, easy, conversational pace lines in group rides with quests for virtual glory. I can’t tell you how many times I’d be enjoying a recreational, friendly ride when the guys would announce, “This is a segment! I’m going for it!” and sprint off. I couldn’t keep up, and I’d sulkily pedal behind until catching up at the street’s end where they waited to regroup, panting and already measuring their efforts on their iPhones. Oh, I also thought Strava was only for (2) people who owned smartphones that could use the Strava app (no smartphone = bit of a sore spot, I like to save money OK!?!).
I was absolutely wrong about the second point; Strava is not just for smartphones. You can use most GPS watches with Strava! This is how I log my runs and rides.
And, well… I was partially right about the first point. Strava IS for overcompetitive dudes! It’s also for overcompetitive chicks like me! There are a lot of great things about Strava that don’t involve the social aspect / competition like its training log functions, its shoe mileage counter, and all the data it gives you, all for free! But my favorite part is the competition. The site shows you which people have ridden the same segments or routes that you’ve done, and ranks your performances on a leader board. You don’t get anything when you get to the top … other than knowing you’re the King/Queen of the Mountain. But excellence isn’t about rewards; it’s about knowing you’re the best!!! This site indulges my overshare/running and cycling nerd tendencies. In other words, it’s perfect.
Overcompetitiveness aside, I love how the site can inspire you to push harder on your everyday efforts. If I find out there’s a random segment halfway through my ride, I’m going to pick up the pace next time I ride it. Nothing changed about that road from the last time I rode, except knowing that there’s a goal and an achievement at stake. But Strava changed how I ride it – the site created something out of nothing. It can also give you a feeling of community with the other riders in your area, show you popular training routes, giving you some of the experience of riding with a group even if you head out solo. That’s the power of the internet and I love it.
Re: overcompetitiveness: it’s just a fun add-on to your sport and your training. Only you decide how important KOMs and leaderboards are. In the end it’s still all 1s and 0s.
Don’t knock it til ya try it. And when you do try it, and you are wrong, admit it, talk about and spread the love so we can all learn.