Strava, Race Shape and other Strava Tools
I can’t quite remember if I’ve blogged about Strava.com before, but if not, I should have. It’s yet another website that allows you to upload your GPS data from cycling and running sessions. You can record this data on a GPS device such as my Garmin Forerunner 910XT or a GPS enabled Mobile such as an iPhone. As with other such online offerings you upload your data and it present is to you in the form of a map, a topographic profile and displays your distance covered, average speed etc. etc.
All very clever in its own right really but we take such things for granted these days. It has to be siad that when it comes to analysing your data then Strava currently pales in comparison to other such apps. Training Peaks is probably one of the best when it comes to analysing the data and it can be used either online or as a standalone application. I tend to use Ascent on my Mac at the moment but it hasn’t been updated for ages and is looking a little dated these days. I’m therefore looking forward to the forthcoming version 3 of Rubitrack and may swap over to that once it is released. (I’ve written a review of the various training software options available on a mac here – Mac Fitness Training Software – I’ll need to update it soon.)
Online I tend to upload data to Garmin Connect which gives me a good overview of my training and is the only offering that currently fully supports the swim data from my 910XT I also use TriBlogs as I like the planning aspects of it and the homepage dashboard. (I’ve also written a short review of some of the online options here – Online Triathlon Training & Fitness Diary Review). I do also upload my data to Strava simply because it has something that none of the others have – COMPETITION!
Where Strava differs from the others is that it is all about comparing your performances – either with yourself or with others. Whenever you upload data from a cycle ride or a run it automatically creates various segments for you. The segments that Strava creates itself are sections of your ride / run that contain significant hills. I don’t know the exact algorithms used to determine what constitutes a significant hill but based on the distance and gradient of the climb it will create these segments for you, name them and display your performance over them. That’s quite nice in itself but what it does when you or someone else rides / runs that segment again is even better.
Basically it sets up a leaderboard of all the people who have ever ridden or run the segment. Not only can you compare your own performances over a given segment to see if your times are improving, but the competition aspect allows you to compare your times with everyone else as well. All of a sudden your solo training sessions become competitions – You want to be the KOM (King of the Mountain).
Here’s a run segment along the prom in Aberystwyth.
Admittedly this particular segment isn’t a hill climb, but that just highlights the fact that as well as the segments automatically generated by Strava for significant hills, you can also create your own. There are ‘Strava Segments’ all over the place and some of them are pretty hotly contested. When you create a new segment Strava will go back through the archives to match any other rides or runs that have covered that segment so a leader board is soon constructed. It may sound silly but you do end up learning where many of these segments are in your local area and can often end up putting in just a little bit more effort on them when out there training. This is great if you’re supposed to be going hard, but not always good on an easy recovery ride!
Strava also has a social aspect as you can follow (and be followed by) other members of the site allowing you to see what they’ve been up to. You can also comment on other peoples rides and give them ‘kudos’ if they do a particularly good effort.
Strava has it’s own API allowing other people to connect to its data and use it in application of their own. One use of this that I have come across recently is RaceShape.com.
Race Shape compares the rides / runs of two or more riders from Strava data and shows how a gap changes between two athletes. Sounds simple but it allows you to compare your performances and find out how someone beat you or how you beat them over a particular segment – when you lose by a few seconds, you want to know where it happened!
What’s really nice about it is the way all of this is displayed in a nice, easy to understand format that looks good – I’m a sucker for good design! Here’s a screenshot from the same Aberystwyth Prom run comparing me with a couple of other people. Not the most exciting of segments as we were all fairly consistent but it’s a good way to see where time is won or lost.
It’s all pretty clever what can be done with this data we are all collecting.
One More Thing
Well, lots actually, not one. There are plenty of other Strava API tools out there as well. Here are just a few to checkout. I’ll be investigating some of these further when I get the time.
Veloviewer.com – ‘Your Strava Dashboard’ – I like the look of this – more data than you can shake a stick at!
EREA – Calculates the ares inside your ride.
Segment Details – More data on segments and the changes in placings over time
KOM Notifier – Now out of date as Strava offers this natively.
Multiple Ride Mapper – Maps multiple strava rides.
Strava Integrator – Integrate Strava rides on your website.
SNAP – Allows you to clean up Strava GPS data if errors occur.
RaceShape Heat Map – Shows you where strava segments are.