Google Fit vs Apple Health


Google Fit was only released today and so far there aren’t any additional services to connect for data, but it’s considerably easier to understand when you look at the initial dashboard.  I can see clearly what I’ve been up to and know where I stand in context of my goal (1hr default).  I’d love to get my data from Jawbone, Strava and others going in here as well …

In the next screenshot I’ve tapped for graph details and really like how my activities are aligned so I can get a sense of how the day has progressed.  I find the Apple Health graphics to be pretty weak and the data to be less than helpful without a lot of taps.


About Strava

Cycling Tips has a great interview with Michael Horvath, the CEO and Founder of Strava.  If you’ve been around me at all you know I love Strava and use it passionately to track and share my rides as well as my (less frequent) runs.

Strava very smartly filled the hole left by Nike+ for cycling though took it up a notch as well given the upper end athletic focus.  The somewhat recent addition of running makes it ideal for the multi-sport athlete and the social features and data viz make it habit forming.   Just about everyone I ride with uses it and speaks Strava as well.  I recommend the interview and of course the service as well.

Strava Pro Pages


Just reading Ben King’s latest at VeloNews and caught a link to his Strava Profile which regular users will quickly see is rather different from what we usually get.  And like the rest of Strav’s offerings, it’s very well considered.

While this is clearly positioned as a Pro (athlete) page, it’s really very similar to what you might expect to find as a brand page on twitter or facebook though clearly relevant to the service at hand.

You can follow / fan Pros though unlike a usual view of another rider, you don’t get to compare yourself directly through the side by side view typically found.  I’d actually really like to see this added as it’s a something you see frequently when interacting with others on the site.

There are quite a few new things clearly visible:

  • Rider Bio
  • Map of recent rides
  • Race Schedule
  • Sponsors and links out
  • Fans
  • Twitter content inclusion … interesting!

Strava has been adding features pretty rapidly for a while now and they’ve quickly become the defacto cycling tracking site.  I’d expect to see more around pro tracking and fan engagement as the season starts to pick up.  Adding in more linked riders for teams and pro comparisons on rides and segments would be particularly great to see.  Of course Pro Teams need to buy in with sharing their data, but many do already just not perhaps at the same degree of intensity as the more enthusiast cyclist.

Additional nice to haves … at least from my perspective would be the ability to track and be notified when riders you follow post rides based on their shared race schedule.  Fan discussion / debate could also become a lot of fun as well.  That said, while strava does offer comments and kudos I can’t see it easily evolving into a discussion board and think that would take away from the core function which really is ride data visualization.

Great stuff – hoping to see more soon!






Enhanced sports tracking with your phone.

Like quite a few people I’ve run and biked with my phone. I ride more than I run but with running I typically track with my phone. I’ve used Nike+, Runkeeper, and currently use Strava to consolidate my training.

My preference for tracking is via a Garmin computer as it tends to capture a much richer picture of what’s happened including heart rate and in biking cadence and for some power. These additional details are tricky to acquire on a phone as very few phones use ANT+ the typical wireless tech on these devices. It’s only a matter of tine however and phones are likely to be the main route for most people – assuming of course the connectivity and importantly battery issues are resolved.


Wahoo Fitness has been pushing an accessory dongle for ANT+ connectivity and is about to release a heart rate monitor as noted by Engadget. While you do need to pay extra to gain access to extra data it’s definitely less expensive than a standalone system. Until battery life is resolved its going to be hard to justify using my phone for biking but for running this seems like a great solution.

2011 Tour of the Catskills: Assault on Devil’s Kitchen


Yesterday I competed in my second road race, the Tour of Catskills and it was awesome! I chose a one day race option over the 3-day stage and of the two possible days picked the Assault on Devil’s Kitchen which turned out to be the hardest climb I’ve ever tried.


My race was a mixed class 4/5 65 mile road race and as you can see from the results, only 36 of the 47 registered riders competed.  I placed 7th which I’m quite pleased with knowing I trained well and raced hard.  We left from Tannersville, NY which is on Hunter Mountain and raced through some gorgeous roads in the Catskills.  There were a few climbs in the early stages of the race, but the Devil’s Kitchen climb at the end would clearly define how things resolved in the end.

From the prior race I had entered I knew I wanted to be up front early to avoid any chaos or potential crashing and while I did not start right in the front, I quickly found a hole on the side of the peloton and moved right up the line.  I guess everyone thought I was crazy, since no one followed and I was easily off the pack and riding alone which was quite exciting even if it was only the first few miles.  Unfortunately my chain dropped after a quick descent as we turned onto Scribner Hollow road and into the first small climb.  It took two tries to get the chain looped back and by that time the group had passed me again.  It took a bit more effort than I would have liked to catch back up, but I managed to reconnect with the bigger group and recovered from my adrenaline burst of nerves.  I fought back some cotton mouth as well and soon enough settled back into the general pace.

Throughout the race I found myself either with the lead group or in the chase group which was generally right behind a small gap.  I was taking note of the guys around as we rode and it seemed there was some aggressive posturing going on with a few guys mainly on the flatter portions but those guys quickly gave way as we hit each of the climbs along the way.  I knew I was in a good position within this group as I felt I was one of the stronger climbers – not really knowing what was in store towards the end of course.  There were a few really nice descents including one amazingly long smooth and ridiculously fast run down where I hit a new top speed (55mph!).  During the descents I was generally careful and more cautious than if I’d been by myself allowing guys to float by and to make sure that I had enough space around me.  I don’t generally ride with too many other people and felt it would be best to be safe here.  During that major descent, I think down County Rt 20, I was able to bridge a big gap which was a pretty exciting moment in the race for me both from the adrenaline pumping at that speed, but also as an achievement to ensure my position.

Over the next 20 or so miles the ride got a bit windy and the group really started to thin out.  We dropped a bunch of guys including 3 in a crash which I think happened when a rider lost his chain and was a standing target for guys coming around the corner.  There was a small break of 2 and then 4 guys and they stayed about 30-45 seconds ahead of us for a few miles, but leading up to Devil’s Kitchen we finally caught two of the guys.  We had a really pace line going and I did a pretty long pull to ensure I did some hard work.  The line up chase group leading to the climb was four guys including myself and then … well then Devil’s Kitchen arrived.  Platte Clove Road is a 5K Cat 2 climb that goes up about 1400ft and appears to be mainly straight up.  There are a few slight steps and a few mild curves … it’s absolutely brutal.  Of the four guys, in my group two escaped and I fought on with another rider until we frankly had to dismount.  I was pretty unhappy that it got to that point, but after about 2.5K of climbing I wasn’t sure I could turn the pedals around fast enough to stay on my bike.  I ended up walking much of the rest of the way to the top – though even when I eventually pedaled across the KOM line, the damn hill kept on going!  Amazingly the guys behind and those I passed on the way up from other groups never caught any time on me and for the next six miles I went into time trial mode, pedaling as hard as I could over the rolling terrain.  As the signs starting counting down the final 5K, I could feel the excitement of finishing my first road race and cornering into the crowded town of Tannersville I fired away my last bit of energy to sprint in.  I heard the announcer call me the Man in Black as I crossed the line and I felt great bringing it all to a close.  Full details on Strava

The event was awesome — well organized, guys were great – competitive, but friendly and I look forward to competing again soon.  I’m hoping to do the Tour of the Adirondacks in mid September which is also put on by the same organization.  I pre-rode the main loop a few weeks ago near Lake George and it’s a beautiful run as well.


Strava’s Social Fitness Works You Harder

I’ve become a huge fan of Strava for tracking my cycling workouts as well as sharing and tracking friends and pros.  The data viz portion of Strava is really solid, easy to understand and actually quite robust.  I’ve been a Garmin Connect user since I bought my bike (and GPS) three summers ago, but Garmin has always lacked social connections.  As a result of Garmin’s lacking social functions, I’ve also been using DailyMile and while I really like DailyMile as well, I can see how the updates and strides Strava continues to make will probably assist in my full migration soon …

The basics … Strava gets cycling.  More than any other service, they break down hill sections of your rides into competitive segments and allow you to automatically compete against yourself as well as all other riders who also sync their rides into Strava.  Initially I missed this piece when I first tried it months ago as I was early in and did not appreciate the difference with Garmin.

The ability to quickly see that I’ve climbed my best that day (regardless of how my legs felt) is immediately rewarding, but it’s also quite motivating to learn that even though I felt strong, my time was better on a prior ride.  This gets me thinking of the conditions of that prior ride and how I can do better the next time out.  Adding in the social layer makes it even more competitive and even passively (without actually knowing the other people) you can still compete and set goals to try and ladder up the King or Queen of the Mountain competition for a particular climb.

Another really excellent feature within Strava is that it automatically groups you with the people you’ve ridden with that day as everyone syncs their data.  Today as you can see from the screenshot below, I rode with 3 other people and Strava automatically grouped us so we can easily compare and discuss how things went afterwards.  This type of discussion is happening naturally even with people I’ve just met (like today) and it’s quite powerful stuff.


The updates that Strava added today have only enhanced both the views of your ride data as well as the ability to slice the competitive ladder more discretely (even fairly) so you can compete on age and weight which certainly play a factor in some rides.  I particularly like the Suffer Score and also how your power and heart rate are displayed to show the real level of effort for a particular ride.  Strava calculates power using some algorithmic special sauce.  I don’t have a power meter currently so there’s no way to know how accurate it really is, but for the moment it’s a great baseline to compare like my other stats on the regular rides I do.  I should note that while Strava does offer a free service, it’s $6/month to get the full range of utility and I believe it’s well worth it.

Strava isn’t the only game in town and while today’s update also includes mention of the Running beta and potential for Triathletes, Runkeeper is pushing out their own update to include more social inclusion.  Runkeeper already has Street Teammates which work like DailyMile’s and Nike+ friends.  You can track how each other do each week and cheer people on.  I consider that the basics … Today Runkeeper sent out an email pushing their new update which like Strava will let you digitally run with friends.

You’ll note as it mentions in the email above, you need to do this afterwards by selecting your Street Teammates or Facebook friends.  While this isn’t hard to do, it’s that extra step that Strava does automatically that ensures you are actually using it.  I’m really interested to see how Strava continues to evolve around new sports and particularly how deep they go with Cycling.  If you’d like you can follow me.  I’ve also recently added a widget that shows my recent rides on the ride sidebar if you still visit the site.

Ride safe!



Social fitness can really get you going

I enjoyed +Kevin Tofel‘s post on social fitness at GigaOm… I’m a big fan and love the data.

I don’t particularly care about the live streaming aspects though.  To me it’s more about comparative results, challenges and motivations of the community. I now have social sports friends met through DailyMile and even here on G+.

I recently started to really use Strava which is a cycling community site that greatly enhances the experience Garmin let lag on Garmin Connect through social features and specific breakdowns of events like climbs which even get classified. Whether the data is being used to motivate (like Kevin’s insane number of continuous running days) or note personal bests, firsts or other achievements it’s all easily possible thanks to the data.

As has also been discussed recently on Google+ getting access to and enabling the meshing of our data for maximum use is still really missing in the market.  Runkeeper seems to be leading the charge with their goal of becoming a fitness hub through the Health Graph API, but it’s still quite early.