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Hot and brutal 20 mile mtb ride yesterday; Strava Suffer Score.

Thursday, June 14, 2012 by  
Filed under Daily Blog

There were quite a few ecological burn sites yesterday, many still smoldering.

There were quite a few ecological burn sites yesterday, many still smoldering.

It’s been a long time since I’ve done a mountain biking ride longer than 10-ish miles. Lately I’ve been in “pedal-to-the-metal ~10 mile sprint” mode, but yesterday I was in the mood for a longer ride. I knew it was going to be hot, so I filled up my CamelBak HAWG with a full 100 ounces of water. I also took three packets of Sport Beans, which are my preferred electrolyte source.

As it turns out, my idea to do a longer ride and not race against any of my timed records was a good one. Several sections of trail that comprise the segments on which I race were closed down due to ecological burns in progress. Those closures made record attempts on several segments physically impossible.

I still rode hard, but I held back enough to complete a 20 mile ride. My total ride was 02:34:10, and my average heart rate over the ~2.5 hours was 171 BPM (that includes my heart rate during rest).

When you're breathing hard, this is the last thing you want to see.

When you're breathing hard, this is the last thing you want to see.

Many of the sections of trail I rode had just been re-opened after the controlled burns, and there was smoke everywhere from the smoldering remains. Riding while maintaining a fairly high heart heart rate is difficult enough on its own, but the thick, humid, smokey air made it especially tough.

They never do any burning on the really remote hiking trails, so I was looking forward to riding that and giving my smoke-filled lungs and burning eyes a break. My only reservation was that I’d not ridden on that section of trail since the storms, and I didn’t know if they would even be passable…

Those hiking trails were a mess. There were so many downed trees and so much debris that I thought I was going to have to turn back. The thought of heading back into the smoke pushed me deeper into the forest, however.

I could tell no one had been on the hiking trail since the storms. There were a couple of trees across the trail that, as they sat, no one could have passed by. One of the trees was particularly massive, and still partially rooted. I couldn’t move it (10 men couldn’t move it), and since I usually don’t carry a chainsaw in my Camelbak I had to break off branches to create a hole big enough for me and my bike to squeeze through.

Golden Silk Orb Weaver. Welcome to my nightmare.

Golden Silk Orb Weaver. Welcome to my nightmare.

Then there were the spiders. I’m used to hitting orb weavers, as those spiders seem to delight in building their webs across the trail–more often than not precisely at face level. I’ve encountered so many giant orb weavers on the trails over the years that the site of one making her way up my arm no longer even phases me. Yesterday, however, there were so many spiders that it really tested my tolerance. I had orb weavers crawling on my legs, arms and face pretty much the entire time I was on that section of trail.

It’s not even the spiders that bother me so much as their webs on my face and body. They tickle and are annoying.

The heat wasn’t so bad during the first half of my ride, but the second half was pretty brutal. The Garmin Edge 500 records temperature data, and it’s pretty interesting to check that out after a ride.

I have the Edge mounted on my bike’s stem, and so it records what it actually feels like (minus humidity) because the sun is beating down directly on it. The last section of my ride yesterday was on a wide open section of trail (which I call “Sand Hell”), and the temperature climbed rapidly as I completed my ride, eventually hitting 107.6­° (F).

Hot enough for ya?

Hot enough for ya?


So when I got back home and uploaded the data from my Garmin Edge 500 to Strava, I saw something that caught my attention…

Strava has what they call a “Suffer Score” (this is a premium member feature), which is computed based on data from your ride. Here’s what Strava has to say about the Suffer Score:

“The Strava Suffer Score is an analysis of your heart rate data. By tracking your heart rate through the ride and its level relative to your maximum heart rate, we attach a value to show exactly how hard you worked. The more time you spend going full gas and the longer you ride, the higher the score. Compare your Suffer Score with friends and pros, see if you can do a truly epic ride and motivate yourself to push that extra bit harder! The Suffer Score was inspired by the concept of TRIMP (TRaining IMPulse) developed by Dr. Eric Bannister.”

Hrm, interesting. Too bad the Suffer Score doesn’t take into account temperature, humidity and smoke!

Frankly I’ve never paid much attention to the Suffer Score, but what caught my attention yesterday was that above my Suffer Score of “188” it said “Extreme”.

Leave it to Strava to turn suffering into a competition!

Leave it to Strava to turn suffering into a competition!


Intrigued, I started to do some research. I wanted to find out what the scale of the score was, and the different levels of suffering. Here’s what I found:

0 – 50: Leisurely
50 – 100: Moderate
100 – 150: Tough
150-250: Extreme
250+: Epic

Brilliant! Strava has turned suffering into a competition. I love this. Achieving “Extreme” is pretty cool, but now I (of course) will not be satisfied until I do an “Epic” ride. While doing my research yesterday I came across a few “Epic” suffer scores, mainly by roadies doing a Century (100 miles) or a Double Century. Maybe it’s time I start training for a Dirty Century (100 miles of mountain biking). I think it’s fair to say that a Dirty Century is considerably more difficult to pull off than a Century on the road.

Here’s yesterday’s ride on Strava and on Garmin Connect.

No riding today. My vacation starts tomorrow after work, and I’ve got a lot to accomplish before then.

John Stone Fitness Comments

4 Responses to “Hot and brutal 20 mile mtb ride yesterday; Strava Suffer Score.”

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