This is Lisa Nelson, my wife:
Also, to her right, that’s my shoulder, but that’s not important right now.
What is important is that she’s beautiful. And really nice. And smart and fun and easygoing and patient and stuff.
She also likes riding bikes. Here she is, riding a bike:
See how happy she looks riding that bike?
But Lisa doesn’t just ride bikes, she also participates in races. Quite a few races, actually. And she does pretty darned well in them, too.
But Lisa says she’s not competitive. No.
Lisa says she just rides “for fun.” Or “to see how well I can do against the clock.” In no way whatsoever, she says, is she interested in racing to beat people.
With all due respect to my lovely, kind, patient and smart wife, I have always known that this is a complete load of horse crap.
And now I have proof. Oh mercy, do I have proof.
A few months ago, my friends started using Strava a lot for their rides. (Strava is an online social network of people who upload their bike ride information from their GPSs, giving them the ability to compare how they’re doing against themselves and each other, as well as to comment on their friends’ rides. For more info, click here.)
Why? To compete against their own previous best times, sure, but also to compete against each other.
And then we both told Lisa that she ought to sign up. Honestly, though, neither of us expected her to sign up. Lisa doesn’t have a Facebook account. She doesn’t have a Twitter account. Lisa prefers, it seems, to live in the real world.
But she did sign up.
Why Lisa Is Called “The Hammer”
After Lisa signed up for Strava, I took her Garmin Edge 500 and uploaded pretty much the entire contents of her GPS to Strava.
The results were a little bit shocking.
She currently is the Queen of the Mountain (QOM) or Course Record (CR) holder for nine pages of riding segments (sections of road or trail people have marked as being worthy of having an ongoing competition to see who can do that section the fastest) in Strava.
By contrast, I have a grand total of 5 KOM / CR listings, and I think most of those segments were created by accident; I don’t even know where most of them are. (The sole exception being that I am very proud to be the current course record holder for the Utah Tour de Donut course.)
So Lisa started browsing her list. And within minutes, I was hearing her yell (because she was upstairs and I was downstairs) like:
- “Did you know I’m the QOM on the Mont du Chat in France?”
- “Hey, I’m also the QOM of the Col du Glandon! By more than twenty minutes!”
- Oh, I’m the fastest woman on the Mud Springs climb! And I guess I’m the only woman who does that climb, too!”
It went on like that. For quite a while.
Outrage and Vengeance
And then, of course, the inevitable happened. The Hammer (because calling her “Lisa” seems so out-of-place in this context) got an email from Strava, telling her that someone had just posted a faster time than her’s on one of the iconic climbs in a neighboring town.
The Hammer was no longer the QOM of Squaw Peak.
Then, to add insult to injury, The Hammer got another email: she was no longer the QOM of the climb from Provo Canyon to the Sundance Ski Resort.
So we made a plan. The next day (which is now yesterday), we would head out to Provo Canyon, where she would make an attempt to reclaim her QOM status on Squaw Peak. Then we would ride back down, ride up the Canyon to the Alpine Loop turnoff, and then ride, full-tilt up to Sundance.
My job would be to ride alongside her (we agreed that I would never give her a pull, since that would put an asterisk on her presumed victory), telling her how she was doing, giving her encouragement, and providing chitchat to distract her from the fact that she was riding out of her skull.
In order to ensure I remembered the times we had to beat, I wrote them on my leg:
We needed to be faster than 34 minutes climbing up Squaw Peak. And faster than 16:30 going up to Sundance.
Squaw Peak has an elevation profile that looks like this:
4.3 miles, 6.9% average grade. It’s as consistent as it is difficult. Which, by the way, is “very.”
We rode alongside each other. She sweated and focused. I sweated and focused and talked, saying anything that came into my head.
“Hey, you’re riding strong,” I said.
She did not reply.
“Good day for an attempt at a PR. Nice and cool, and no wind,” I said.
She did not reply.
“Look at that house. It’s really big,” I said.
She did not reply.
“You’re halfway through the climb now and on track to beat the record,” I said.
And also I said many more things. Finally, she replied.
“Please stop talking.”
I stopped talking. Which I was happy to do, because it’s not like I was lollygagging and riding one handed while she rode at her limit.
As we got to the top, though, I did venture to say one more thing: “Don’t stop right when you get to the top. Keep going, because you can’t be sure where the Strava segment ends.”
So she blasted to the top of Squaw Peak, finishing in 32:46 and obliterating the previous QOM time of 34:27. (Sorry, Natalie!)
All hail The Hammer! The Queen of Squaw Peak!
We rode back down, where The Hammer — without really trying — set a women’s course record on the Squaw Peak Descent. (Sorry again, Natalie!)
Then we cruised, nice and mellow, ’til we hit the climb to the Sundance ski resort, which has an elevation profile like this:
“2.2 miles, 6.8% average grade” is accurate, but it’s the “average” part that makes this tricky, because the first mile is pretty easy. The second mile gets harder, with the second half of the second mile being absolutley ugly-brutal.
Once again, I talked (and talked), which goes to show that I am a slow learner.
And, with 0.4 miles to go — where we were well into the absolute hardest part of the climb, The Hammer said, “Shut up.”
I shutted up.
Except, as we got to the sign that says we were at Sundance, I said, “Keep rolling, you don’t know where the segment finishes.”
She passed the sign in fifteen minutes, beating the previous best by almost two minutes.
The Hammer kept pedaling, still rolling surprisingly fast. Demonstrating that after you’ve been going at your absolute limit, merely going hard feels easy.
So we kept climbing, going on up to the top of the Alpine Loop. She was no longer killing herself, but I could tell she was going fast, and had obviously given herself a good start by flying up that brutal first 2.2 miles.
And that’s how The Hammer became the QOM of the Alpine Loop (Sundance Side), beating the previous QOM time by twelve minutes. (Sorry, other Lisa!)
Oh, and on the way down, she set a CR for the descent, too (Sorry for the third time, Natalie!)
Disbelief and Confusion
So we got home and — even before taking showers or eating or anything — quickly uploaded her GPS data.
Here’s what Strava had to make of it:
Six QOM/CRs, along with some other awards. Not a bad day’s work.
But that’s not what The Hammer was focusing on.
“I didn’t get the QOM for Sundance!” she said. In fact, the Sundance climb — one of her two main objectives for the ride — didn’t even show up on yesterday’s ride at all. Even though she had slaughtered the previous women’s record.
Why not? Well, that’s the weird thing about Strava. The segment must have been defined so that in order for The Hammer to have completed that segment, she would have had to make a left turn into the resort parking lot, and maybe ridden ten or fifteen feet down it or something.
So Erin’s record lives to fight another day, although The Hammer has vowed to return next week.
So what’s next for The Hammer’s relentless quest to be the QOM of all the land? Well, believe it or not, she has made a list of target segments and times:
No, that’s not her handwriting. It’s mine. I’m The Queen’s official scribe now.
I am told that, today after work, one or more of these is going down.
Truly, The Hammer has become a Strava monster. And I have nobody but myself to blame.
PS: Full Disclosure: I have no relationship at all with Strava. In fact, about a month ago I contacted them by email and told them that I’m a bigshot blogger and that they should upgrade me to a Premium membership for free. They didn’t even reply.
However, when The Hammer made an attempt on Clark’s — possibly the most popular MTB TT around — she didn’t quite nab the QOM, missing it by 19 seconds. So pro MTB racer Erica T keeps her QOM on this segment . . . for now.
PPPS: A Morning Update: Live by Strava, die by Strava. Late last night, The Hammer got email saying that someone had taken her QOMs for both Squaw Peak and the Alpine Loop climb. My guess is the timing of the upload of these rides (both rides are from a while ago) is not coincidence. The Hammer will be back to reclaim her throne sometime soonish.
PPPPS: A commenter noted that Erica Tingey — the pro MTB-er who holds the QOM for Clark’s — has recently got out of the hospital following a really bad accident. Get better soon, Erica! (But The Hammer’s still going to have another try at that QOM!)