For those who aren’t blessed with the dialect of the chosen, “stravaigin” is a good old Scottish term that means to wander about aimlessly – or as I see in the corridors of Reid Kerr on a daily basis, being a student. I am a great advocate of stravaigin and take every opportunity to do so. My spiritual home of Islay is a top-notch location for a good stravaig being as there are countless beaches and woodlands where to hurry would be an almost criminal act. To give you a flavour of life on Islay, I shall repeat the story of the Ileach who when asked by a Spanish visitor what the equivalent Gaelic term for “manyana” was, replied “Och we haven’t anything with that degree of urgency.” But I digress.

I was alerted early in the new year to a cycling challenge being run by Strava, an online system for recording your cycling and other activities. This event – the January Base Miles Challenge – asked people to try to ride as many miles as possibly in January and record them on the system. Now January is usually a dismal month weather-wise in the west of Scotland with it either being wet and windy or covered in snow and ice. Sometimes it diverges from this norm and is wet & windy AND covered in snow and ice. It is usually a month in which I seriously believe I was a creature that hibernated in a previous incarnation as it just seems like such a damn sensible thing to do. It is with considerable effort that I emerge each morning from under the duvet. A far better thing would be just to crawl in there after Hogmanay and re-emerge sometime around early March, although these days I’d probably have to factor in a pee break in mid-February. But I have digressed again. (Pauses to ponder if one can digress from a digression. Then realises I just did.)

So, after some initial grumbling I decided it might just be the butt-kick I needed to drag me out of my seasonal (mal)adjustment disorder tendencies and make me actually do some cycling wandering about. If I’m honest the initial grumbling phase lasted as long as it took for a clubmate to point out to everybody that of course I’d be doing it as statistics were involved. Not that I want to prove his point, but I signed up to the event in precisely 49.7 seconds at an average speed of 50 words per minute. Thereafter, essentially it was a matter of doing as many miles as possible in the 31 days of January.

Enter Scottish weather stage left.

I was going to say Scottish winter weather but that would imply it gets better in other seasons.

Two things were noticeable early on in the challenge: first, the top of the leaderboard was peppered with participants from sunny climes. Although we were not having a bad winter here in Elderslie, it was frequently wet and windy, and frustratingly it only ever seemed to be nice on work days. I managed to get out on to a real road on 11 occasions only, with the remainder of my 29 rides being done on the trainer. Now if you’ve read a few posts back you’ll know that I am the proud parent of a virtual reality trainer and boy did it justify its existence over the January weeks. I was able to transport myself to the Algarve sunshine and recreate several rides I did last May on holiday. I also borrowed some ride data from a friend’s Garmin and as a result I know have a degree of intimacy with the roads of SC that is unusual for one who has never been there. However, such legitimate cheating allowed me to ride a goodly number of miles (totally accurate as far as distance is concerned and reasonable accuracy on the recreation of slope etc) which I wouldn’t have been able to do otherwise.

The second thing I noticed was that some of the participants were posting rides of thousands of miles. In fairness, either the posters themselves or the system moderators got rid of the ludicrous claims. The eventual winner (from Adelaide) notched up 3,871.2 miles over 43 rides and looking at his stats, it is perfectly genuine. Even my rubbish ability at Maths can work out that the top three riders averaged 100miles per day, so quite clearly the event favoured those who had a lot of disposable time as well as decent weather. 😉 If only if only.

So how did I do? Well, between real life and vicarious real life, I notched up 753miles – some 200 more than I’ve ever done in a calendar month before. In terms of the rankings, I came 3112th out of 36327 participants, and 146th female out of 2241, so I was in the top tenth in both cases. My clubmate, Drew Thomson managed to top that though (no, not in the gals’ event) to come in in 1372nd place overall with 958 miles. Well done, Drew. Although it was really just a bit of fun, I am quite pleased with myself. I am not sure if it will have done anything fr fitness level or increased speed or power, but it didn’t do any harm either. I just wonder if the people doing 150 miles a day will keep that output level up. I wonder indeed if I can keep up my own output, but to be honest, I’d be happy with half of that total per month if it lets me get to my desired 5000 miles for the year. I’ll give it a damn fine try anyway. So even if it really is a Swedish word meaning “to strive”, I still intend to set the coordinates for a major amount of stravaigin.

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