Sunday, May 19, 2013

"Damn you, Raoul!"

I love Strava. The site has many unique features for sharing workouts and FKTs. It's ability to find segments amongst all the GPS tracks uploaded and to compare them is ground breaking stuff. It was a a new paradigm for comparing workouts and a dream for someone like myself that loves to keep track of the fastest times on various courses, locally specifically, but regionally and globally as well.

But Strava has some crazy issues/bugs/problems with how it does this GPS track comparisons. It is so bad right now that it can't be used to keep track of the actual course records. For Green Mountain above Boulder, it routinely takes off around a minute from the actual time, even though the segment is defined accurately and displayed accurately on the Strava site. I believe these are tricky problems and I'd love to work on improving this software. Alas, Strava is in San Francisco...

Here's another issue that has been brought to my attention, repeatedly, by Strava.

Being an avid Strava user and possessing moderate talent, I wasn't surprised to get an email notifying me that someone, in this case Raoul, had stolen my KOM (King of the Mountains). What was interesting was that I'd lost this particular KOM countless times, at least according to the emails I receive. And what's even more bizarre, I still have the KOM…

KOM's on Strava are for particular segments of trail or road. Strava automatically creates some segments based on the GPS tracks that are uploaded to its site. For road runs and road rides it seems to do a semi-reasonable job. For trails runs it does a fabulously terrible job. It does this so poorly and so hilariously that I am dumbfounded why Strava has not disabled this non-feature. 

Now I don't know if the segment in question was automatically created by Strava or defined by a person (there doesn't seem to be any way to tell, unless you personally have defined the segment, as then you can edit the segment), but I'd bet it was automatically generated. First, the name of the segment is "st / 2nd Flatiron Trail Climb". That is not a typo, though it looks like it probably should start with "1st / 2nd". Second, start and finish of this segment are a bit unusual. It starts halfway up the "Amphitheater Trail" and then continues up the Saddle Rock Trail to where it ends at the junction with the Greenman Trail. Who would create such a strange segment?! As it turns out, it was me…sort of. 

On Strava you can see all the segments you have created, but it doesn't just list the manual ones you specifically created. Apparently, it also lists all the automatic segments that were created based on your GPS track upload. In fact, I've created two segments named exactly "st / 2nd Flatiron Trail Climb" - one for running and one for walking (a ridiculous distinction in my mind, but a topic for another day). One gains 524 feet at a 24.2% grade and is 0.4 miles long. This segment goes from the Gregory Canyon Trailhead to the top of the Amphitheater Trail. The other is some segment that starts off the Mesa Trail and after heading west, off trail a bit, then flies, straight-line, up and over the ridge as if I hopped into the Peter-copter. (looks more like it tunneled through) to a random point on the Saddle Rock Trail. Neither of these segments match the aforementioned segment of the same name that started this rant. By the way, two of these segments have nothing do with the First or Second Flatirons - popular climbing rocks nearby but not accessed by these trails. 

The segment with the straight line is obviously a track with almost no GPS points. It should have been rejected out-of-hand by Strava's automatic segment-finding software. The other two are also bizarre choices. The segment that started all this looks to be a biking segment since the segment page states that it has been "ridden 16 times by 10 people." So, maybe that explains why we have three (all bogus) segments with the exact same name - they are walk, run, and ride segments. I don't expect Strava to know that no biking is allowed on these trails and even if it did, someone could have poached the trails on a bike, as that is not unheard of around here…

Since the straight-line segment is an impossible route and clearly an erroneous GPS track, it is perhaps not surprising that I have the one and only entry and therefore the KOM. I'm also the KOM on the segment covering the Amphitheater Trail, which is the most common trail to hike up Green Mountain and has been covered twice as fast as my time. Why am I the KOM? Because I uploaded that activity as a walk instead of a run. I no longer upload any activities as walks to avoid this Strava craziness. I also have the KOM for original sement, even that that also lies on the most popular route up Green Mountain. Maybe this is because, mistakenly, I might have uploaded that activity as a ride instead of a run. Okay, that explains why I have all three KOMs. 

So, if I have all three KOMs, why do I keep losing it? Over and over and over again? So far I have received at least 12 emails telling me that I've lost my KOM and I suspect they will keep on coming, since I still have the KOM. I'd think it was because Strava is confused and sends me the email about losing my KOM when someone enters a run that is faster than my "bike" time, but then doesn't update the bike leader board since, well, the other person ran and didn't bike. But I don't think that is it, since then I'd be getting many more emails, especially from my buddy Homie who runs this route almost daily and has run faster over this section many times, though I have never got an email about him taking my KOM. It's a mystery. If you click on my effort at the top of the leader board, it is listed as a run. It must be some stale data on Strava and they apparently have no automatic process in place to fix
things like this. 

So, instead of saying "Damn you, Raoul!" for taking my KOM, I should be saying, "Nice try, Raoul, but, no you didn't take my KOM and no one can! Despite my best hopes of losing it someday…"

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