Sunday, October 16, 2016

Oh fer cute, Strava

I started using Strava and Training Peaks, having found the charger for my gifted-to-me Garmin Forerunner 405. With one fell swoop I stopped logging my runs in (which requires a manual upload of gps-watch data) and just let Garmin's Connect app sync with Training Peaks, Strava, and my employer's get-fit incentive program handle my data/training logging and uploading.

I'm using both apps' free versions right now, but Training Peaks gives you an initial free trial of its premium edition ($119/year). There is tons to love about the premium version - making it easy to dive into maps, data, its proprietary fatigue/fitness/taper graphs and algorithms (which I loved to view). Planning workouts is wonderful - it's the first app I've ever seen that will allow you to see a) what you planned to do; and b) what you actually did - in a single spot. It's something that I never really figured out how to do well within a single Google doc, for example. And a web app like Logyourrun doesn't allow for such capabilities - it's data entry only, no analysis or planning. 

The basic/free edition of Training Peaks is very stripped down. Gone are the proprietary graphs and algorithms (except their TSS - training stress score) that showed your acute and chronic training load. Gone is the ability to plan workouts in the future (my favorite feature of the app); you can still enter them same-day, but that defeats the purpose of using it to plan out a week, month, training cycle, or an entire season. For some reason I really miss their proprietary graphs, etc. - it was a nice analysis of what I was doing for training. I had been given something which I never had (or really needed?) before, but now it was gone and I wanted it back ROAR!

Strava is an odder duck. It is like Twitter for athletes with its activity feed. It asks users to be and create content in the form of segments, like Facebook. And it contains some analysis tools (at least in its free version) that look similar to Garmin and Training Peaks - mostly maps/graphs of distance, pace, elevation, heart rate, etc. But most of its analysis tools and its propriety measure of run difficulty (Suffer Score - a ridiculous, clickbaitable term) appear in the premium version. 

My biggest gripe is with Strava's segments, however. When used properly, it allows athletes to compare themselves to others in a "who can run from X to Y faster" type of setup. It also allows a runner to compare progress overtime. 


And it's a big but.

The comparison tools are only useful if we're comparing apples to apples - take any athlete, and compare how they run a certain segment at a given intensity, to another athlete running that same segment at the same intensity. I may appear lower on a Strava segment leaderboard - not that I'll ever top one - because I run easy or endurance-pace runs on areas where someone else was doing an interval/tempo/threshold workout. My efforts on those segments will seem artificially low. 

And then there is the constant competition aspect of segments. My twitter exchange with runner Devon Yanko below illustrates this. 
Finally, you have the people who through ignorance or intent, screw with Strava leaderboards. There is a whole Twitter feed dedicated to these shenanigans: @StravaWankers.

StravaWankers is an attempt to point out, ahem, publicly shame, those who log workouts/runs/etc. while commuting to work via airplane, those who leave their workout on "run" when they hope on the bike. But one example: 

Oh, fer cute, Strava.