Sunday, January 03, 2016

2015 in numbers

On Dec. 27, while uploading yet another track to Strava, I glanced at the sidebar, which noted that I'd ridden 4,899 miles in 2015. "Only 101 more to 5,000!" I thought. And I had four days to do it! Four days where I had one full day of work (rest day), the first day of a three-day trip to the White Mountains, and two other days in Fairbanks, where all miles require a significantly higher investment of both time and energy than they do at home. But the number seemed doable. It's fun to have goals — I sometimes guiltily refer to them as excuses. Now I have to go outside and ride bikes! Oh, darn.

I announced this goal to Beat and Corrine, who is recovering from knee surgery and graciously leant me her 9:Zero:7 Whiteout while casually mentioning that between holiday visits this year and last, I've probably put more miles on her fat bike than she has (more guilt. Please come visit us after we move to Boulder, and we'll abuse my bikes on Colorado singletrack.) Once the goal was public, I had to go for it.

On Dec. 28, I set out to follow a friend's GPS track as it meandered through a maze of neighborhood connector trails, mushing routes, and power lines. A massive Chinook (wind storm) was already moving across Alaska, nudging Interior temperatures to a pleasant 10 degrees in the valleys and slightly uncomfortable 25 on the ridges (ah, it does not take long to acclimate to the cold, even for us Californians.) I'd stripped down to a base layer and was still sweating up my own personal sauna. The route I followed proved extra challenging — plenty of steep (pusher) hills, little-used soft trails, and more climbing. I was aiming for 30 miles that day and they were happening the hard way, slowly.

"Why didn't I just ride some loops down in the Goldstream Valley?" I thought. "Ten miles per hour without evening trying."

But as I gazed down the ridge, flanked by the eerie skeletons of burnt black spruce and illuminated by the 2 p.m. sunset, I knew the answer. The miles don't matter. They never did. I ride bikes so I can visit places such as this, and I "train" so I can seek them out at every possible opportunity, and have the fitness to derive more energy from my efforts rather than become depleted. These days, I see life as a series of experiences rather than a checklist of accomplishments. Yet, I do appreciate statistics, which, like words, give shape to the more abstract aspects of experience. I've been dutifully recording the numbers from nearly every activity to Strava since late 2013, and the stats begin to write their own narrative. These are my totals for 2015:


Distance: 5,015 miles
Time: 592 hours, 38 minutes
Elevation gain: 499,928 feet
Rides: 118
Highest mileage week: June 15-21 — 812 miles (Tour Divide)
Most time spent pedaling in a week: June 15-21 — 95 hours, 50 minutes (Tour Divide)
Most climby cycling week: June 15-21 — 51,066 feet (Tour Divide)
Best non-race week: April 27 to May 3 — 30 hours 28 minutes, 293 miles, 32,933 feet climbing


Distance: 1,701 miles
Time: 412 hours, 38 minutes
Elevation gain: 351,132 feet
Runs: 166
Highest mileage week: March 23-29 — 96 miles (White Mountains 100)
Most time spent running in a week: March 23-29 — 26 hours, 38 minutes (WM100)
Most climby running week: August 24-30 — 25,531 feet (UTMB)
Best non-race week: August 3 to 9 — 23 hours, 36 minutes, 70.5 miles, 17,625 feet climbing

Cumulative distance: 6,716 miles
Cumulative elevation gain: 851,060 feet
Total moving time: 41.8 days

My favorite number is the final one. I'm also pretty proud of the 850,000 feet of climbing. I'd love to log a million feet of climbing one of these years — presumably quite doable in Colorado. But the final stat — nearly 42 days on the move — is a hearty helping of experience. It's 11.5 percent of the year, entirely in motion — Strava records actual moving time, so it doesn't even count the seconds I stop to eat a snack, gaze across a horizon, or sleep under the stars. Pure outdoors time is a fair amount higher. I recognize that I am fortunate to have such an abundance of spare time to spend playing outside. Yet, I don't necessarily see this as spare time, or down time. This is my life. I would happily carve out all the sacrifices necessary to afford these moments under the low winter sun.

The final 39.5 miles of 2015 came in about the most difficult way possible (which I'll recount in a subsequent post.) But they made for a wonderful if arduous adventure that even I might have been more eager to back away from, had there not been an arbitrary milestone on the line. Numbers are fun. Records of numbers are motivating. I'd even encourage the freewheeling outdoor enthusiasts who claim they don't care to give it a try. A cheap GPS watch and free software can go a long way.

I don't have any goal numbers for 2016. I expect this to be a lower-mileage year with less focused training once I get through (if I get through) the ITI. But I'll continue to relish every moment I can spend in motion; in my book, those moments count the most. 


  1. most I've ever ridden in one year (in around 2008) was 25000km, even in the winter getting to from work (45km) then summer 110km-150km loops ever damn day... pro roadies will do 400km weekends (160-200km rides x 2). I've even met one triathlete who used to train 40km a week. It gets addictive, 25000km a year 20000 dollar spending habit a year... its a good-bad addiction, when one starts loosing a home, family etc... that's when its a bad addiction. Hence, I just ride for fun now...

  2. opps, meant to say the triathelte would train 40hrs a week plus her job 40hrs a week... she had time for nothing else. At 45 years of age she's finally saying - what happened, life is a blur. I met others who went full out for 4-5 years then blew up, had to take a year off in the hospital with IVs etc... gotta be careful when training, can end up like being a bad crack addict... just a different sort of addiction. good-bad addiction, need moderation and balance in life is key... too much of anything is a bad thing. Becomes self destructive...

  3. Just for the record, the reason that Jill has ridden my fat bike more than me is because a) I had knee surgery this fall and still can't ride outside and b) I still prefer to ski in the winter so only bike when conditions aren't good for skiing. Didn't want anybody to think I was a slacker although compared to Jill and Beat, most of us are slackers!

  4. Way to go, looking @ your bike stats, only 72 more feet and you'd have half a million feet of climbing! But no matter how you look at it all, your stats are still amazing!

    Definitely helps to be in a relationship w/ someone who not only understands but pursues their own outdoor dreams to log that kind of numbers. You and Beat are surely type "A" (for "Activity) people! I find that I'm slowly migrating over to type "B" (for "Boring") as I age.

    Though I did FINALLY get a new MTB over the holidays, and that will surely jazz-up my ride log for the foreseeable future. I'm suddenly PR'ing most everything on technology has come a LONG way since my ancient (and HEAVY) 12 year old Blur...and I'm NOT even close to "PR" form right now. Contrary to what Lance said, it IS all about the bike!


Feedback is always appreciated!