I don’t get angry easily, and I never remain angry long. I assume good motives on everyone’s part, occasionally past the point that I should. When someone argues with me, I’d much rather try to understand their point of view than persuade them of mine. I go out of my way to turn confrontation into consensus.
I am, in short, an easygoing person with a personable demeanor and — let’s face it — a heart of gold.
But don’t you dare try to take my Wildcat KOM on Strava, or I will show you the meaning of wrath.
It’s entirely possible that you don’t know what I’m talking about in that last paragraph. In which case I recommend you read a post I wrote some time ago, called “I Have Created a Monster.” Just in case you can’t be bothered with that, though, here’s a quick description of Strava, which I have carefully and lovingly copied and pasted from my “Monster” post:
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.
One of the features of Strava is that anyone can define what is called a “segment,” which is an arbitrary stretch of road or trail somewhere. Basically, you’re setting a start line, a finish line, and a route, and then giving it a name. Then, whenever someone rides that segment and uploads their ride to Strava, they can see how they’ve done against their previous efforts, as well as see where they stand on the all-time leaderboard.
In my history of using Strava, I have created only one segment — a little stretch of singletrack in Lambert Park, about a mile from where I live: the Wildcat Climb.
It’s not a long climb: just 0.4 miles. The climbing profile looks like this:
That’s deceptively mild-looking, though, because the Wildcat Climb averages a 10.5% grade, and it never eases off.
In short, it’s 0.4 miles of challenging non-technical singletrack climbing, right at one of the entrances to Lambert Park.
Back in July of 2012, noticing that nobody else had defined a Strava segment for this trail, I went ahead and did it myself, simultaneously making myself king of my brand-new mountain, with a time of 2:43.
For many months, this KOM stood. And I was content.
The Wildcat Drama Begins
As you may have heard, I have been working just a little bit (ha) on losing weight and improving my speed this year. By the time the end of March rolled around I was down to 158 pounds, at least five pounds lighter than I was at the end of the racing season in 2012.
I thought it was time to see if I could improve on my Wildcat time.
Taking out my Specialized Stumpjumper Single Speed (the S4, as I like to call it), I knocked out a fantastic, focused climbing effort. I didn’t know by how many seconds, but I was confident I had set a new personal record.
When I uploaded my GPS record to Strava, I found out I was right. 2:34. I had bested myself by nine seconds.
I had also — without knowing it — triggered a drama that I suspect has yet to entirely unfold.
Ryan Gets an Email
When you supplant a current KOM (or QOM) on a Strava segment leaderboard, the former king of that mountain gets notified that he has been deposed. That usually takes the form of an email starting with the subject line “Uh-oh!”
Strava has a little bug, however. If the current KOM sets a new, faster time, the second-place person on the leaderboard gets one of those emails, telling them they have lost the KOM of a segment they never actually had.
Depending on your personality, it can be a relief to discover you haven’t actually lost anything at all, or it can be a gentle reminder that your second-place is now even more second-ier.
As it happens, Ryan B was the person who had been second on the Wildcat Climb leaderboard. And as it further happens, Ryan B works with The Hammer.
“So I was sitting in church yesterday and got an “Uh-oh” email on my phone,” he said, then went on to explain that he had seen my new-and-improved Wildcat Climb record.
The Hammer was not sympathetic.
“Sounds to me like the thing you should do is go and see if you can take it back for real,” she taunted poor Ryan. Which is one of the top reasons why I love that woman so much.
Fatty Gets an Email, Then Ryan Gets an Email
If there has ever been a motivation for someone to go try to capture a KOM, Ryan had it. On April 3, I received an “Uh-oh” email of my own. I was no longer the King of the Wildcat Climb. Ryan had bested me by two seconds (if I recall correctly — I can’t look that far back in other people’s records).
“This aggression will not stand, man,” I said, and — even though I had already been on a ride that day — I suited up and headed out, with one goal and one goal only:
To take back that which was mine.
As I rode toward the I was a little worried about whether I would be able to beat Ryan’s time, I relied on one important fact: the last time I had gotten this segment, I had done it at the end of a long ride. This time, I’d be attacking it from the get-go.
Adrenaline surging exactly as much as if I were in an actual race — as opposed to being all by myself, trying to beat a guy who had no idea what I was up to — I attacked the Wildcat Climb, going so hard that by the time I reached the top, my chest was constricting painfully.
I looked down at my bike computer. Had I beat Ryan’s time? I had no idea, because I had forgotten to look down at the computer at the beginning of the climb.
I did a quick downhill loop and uploaded my effort to Strava, naming the ride “Hi, Ryan!” — a juvenile taunt befitting the juvenile thing I had just done.
The Wildcat Climb was mine again. The crown was home, back where it belonged.
Fatty Gets Another Email, This One at an Unfortunate Moment
For a time, there was peace in the Kingdom of the Wildcat Climb.
That peace was (alas!) destroyed on the afternoon of April 12 this year — The Hammer’s birthday — as The Hammer and I were driving to St. George for a training weekend.
I got an email with a subject line of “Uh-Oh!” Someone with a ridiculous name — Stewdizzle Goodwizzle — had taken the KOM of my beloved Wildcat Climb.
No, wait. On further inspection, Goodwizzle had tied my best on the Wildcat Climb.
Share my kingdom? Share my kingdom?! Never.
I had a new nemesis.
Unfortunately, there was nothing I could do about his treachery. Not while I was hundreds of miles away for the weekend.
But Goodwizzle’s time would come. Oh yes, as soon as I was back and had rested from the weekend, I’d be reclaiming my throne.
The Final Attack
On April 17, I made my assault. As I rode toward Lambert Park, my stomach turned somersaults. 2:25 was a good time. A fast time. I was not sure I had a better time in me.
But I did have one hope. One reason I thought I might be able to improve on my previous best.
As I mentioned earlier, the last time I had attacked the Wildcat Climb, I had done it after having previously done a ride that day. My legs were already spent.
This time, however, I’d be doing it fresh — the first climb of the ride. After a rest day. After weighing in at a new record low.
By the time I hit the base of the climb, I was already at top speed. There would be no ramp-up this time.
By the time I got to the halfway point, my legs hurt. As did my lungs.
As did my soul.
And then my phone rang. It was The Hammer’s ringtone. She has an uncanny ability to sense when I am engaged in an all-out effort on my bike and call then.
This time, she would have to wait. I would call back.
I weakened toward the top, with the final fifty feet a struggle to even turn over the cranks.
I looked down at my computer. Had I done it? I thought so, but was not sure Strava is an enigmatic judge, sometimes giving gifts, and other times withholding them.
I forced myself to continue riding, as opposed to going straight home and seeing how I did.
And also, I returned The Hammer’s call. “Call me back when you’re not breathing so hard,” she said. So I went home and uploaded my GPS to Strava.
I had done the Wildcat Climb in 2:17, besting Stewdizzle’s — and my — best by eight seconds.
The Unbearable Temporariness of Kingliness
And so, again, I am King of the Wildcat Climb. I have been for nearly a month. Which I think may in fact be my crowning lifetime achievement.
Which is why I am terrified of posting this story.
I know — yes, know! — that because I have written this story that Stewdizzle will amass his considerable strength and make an all-out attempt to make Wildcat Climb his own.
Or, worse: one of the locals who is genuinely fast — like, pro-fast — will see or hear about this and go stomp out a sub-two-minute time on this climb, moving it out of my reach forever and ever, reducing me to the status of former-king-in-exile, telling stories of my glory days.
Until, of course, I find a new, even more obscure, climbing section to obsess over on Strava.