Competition drives progress. Without it, I'm a cyclist with no direction, no goals, and no will to improve. This year, as races got canceled or postponed, my desire to train and stay fit evaporated.
Fortunately, I had a way to keep “racing” — Strava. It reintroduced me to my greatest rival: myself. Tracking and beating my personal records (PRs) on Strava segments became the best way to keep the competitive fire burning and my developing dad-bod at bay.
To stay committed to my Strava PR goals, I teamed up with my co-worker, Spencer Powlison, for a four-week Strava PR challenge. We each picked Strava segments to target as our “races” for the summer. We even treated it as seriously as a race and got expert coaching from Chris Case and Trevor Connor of Fast Labs. They helped us with strategy and provided a four-week training plan to top up our fitness.
Hopefully, you caught the last two installments of our four-week Strava PR challenge. If you haven’t, check them out here:
Seeing the training we were doing on Strava, our CEO and founder, Nick Martin, felt inspired to join us. He didn’t have as much time to train, but he's a former pro so he still has some power under the hood, and he knows how to properly suffer.
After our four weeks of preparation were up, it was “race” day. We set out with those old pre-race jitters. Would we succeed? Or would we crash and burn? Even though this wasn’t a true race, we all rode like it.
Bruce - Chapman
Original PR: 23:15
Goal PR: 20:00
New PR: 19:39
Spencer - Sunshine
Original PR: 29:29
Goal PR: 29:00
New PR: 27:25
Nick - Rowena
Original PR: 12:39
Goal PR: 11:39
New PR: 11:50
To my relief, we all succeeded in setting new PRs on our segments! Spencer and I surprised ourselves by setting new PRs that were faster than our goal times. We were ambitious and unsure if those times would actually be attainable. But it seems we underestimated how much time we could shave with a concentrated effort, a little bit of strategy, and some training. This just means we’ll have to set much tougher goals for next time!
Nick beat his PR too and came very close to his goal time. For doing minimal prep or training, it was an impressive effort. He is happy to set a new PR that’s faster than Spencer’s current Rowena PR. The gauntlet has been thrown down! Maybe Spencer’s next mission will be besting Nick’s new time. Since Rowena is near both of their homes, I expect the Strava battle between them to continue through the fall.
A common theme that emerged with all of our attempts was pacing. We all got too excited at the start of our attempts and went harder than we had planned. Both Spencer and Nick described moments of panic after pushing too hard and struggling to regain composure.
It was especially evident with my Chapman attempt. I had planned to go easier at the start — Chris and Trevor of Fast Labs recommended that strategy. But excitement and nerves got the better of me and the desire to succeed pushed me to deviate from the plan. Re-riding the segment later, I actually shaved another nine seconds of my PR (setting a new PR of 19:30) just by going easier in the first half to save more energy for the second half. I can definitely take even more time with better pacing discipline. Slow and steady wins the race.
Also, we all suffered from the heat. Unfortunately the week we chose to attempt our PRs featured consecutive days in the high-90s. If you aren’t bound by a filming schedule like us, choosing a day with cooler temperatures will work to your advantage.
With the racing calendar still in flux, we may turn to Strava again to satisfy our competitive urges. If we do, expect even harder challenges and maybe some new contenders.
If you have any questions about PRs or training let us know in the comments. Hopefully, this inspires you to go out and conquer some of your own Strava PRs!