I just finished Born to Run (By Christopher McDougall) - I know… “Welcome to 2009”.
I really enjoyed the book. It exposes the hypotesis that we (humans) have actually thrived, rule the earth, have science, and many other things… basically because our bodies - in specific our feet - have evolved to run, and allowed our ancestors to develop into what we are now because they could run long.
To make its case the author cites theories and scientific studies - or lack of, however, the main story revolves around an amazing foot race in the mountains of Mexico between a bunch of elite American ultrarunners and the mythical Tarahumara - a tribe that has been running from the rest of the world for ages… they can run long, and can do it fast.
Since I’m Peruvian, reading about the Tarahumara reminded me of other mythical runners I learned about in History class growing up… the Chasquis.
The Chasquis were a highly trained and selected group of runners solely dedicated to the service of the Inca, during the Inca empire (circa 1500). They would deliver military messages and goods to the Inca from remote places in the empire.
So I decided to research about the Chasquis. Were they as good as the Tarahumara portrayed by McDougall? Was I remembering my school days accurately?
And it turns out that Chasquis also ran long and fast with similar footwear - thin sandals made out of llama leather or plant fiber. It’s said that they would run from the peruvian coast to Cuzco (380mi, 11K ft) in a little over a day carrying still-fresh fish for the Inca - a delicacy at such altitude. Or they’d also deliver important messages from Quito, Ecuador to Cuzco (1250mi) in about only 5 days.
But there is a “small” catch… Yes, the did run this amazing distances at blazing paces, however, they did so in relays. Each chasqui would cover distances ranging from 2km to 10km depending on the terrain, and would deliver the goods and messages - mostly spoken and memorized only - to the next Chasqui awaiting in the next Tambo - a tower-looking stone structure used as a rest station.
So they did ran amazing distance and fast too, but not like the Tarahumara. Not in a single stretch… oh well.
I do have mixed feeling writing this. I joined Runkeeper back in 2009, and it did help me a LOT with motivation on my running and even finish some races - it also helped with cycling, and I even posted some swims. So it won’t be fair to say that I’m not glad I joined RK. I am.
RK’s app is solid, and has a some cool of features (like voice queues) that are very important for runners. But it lacks some other features that, as a cyclist, I’d like to have too: “stopped time” vs “moving time” to mention one. And the social features in Runkeeper website are not great (they have StreetTeams, but to me it seems just like just a regular group)
However, I recently discovered Strava, and I have to admit: I’m obsessed with it.
How can I describe Strava? It’s Facebook meets MapMyRide (or Runkeeper), then it meets Garmin Connect, then finally meets FourSquare.
In Strava, you don’t only upload your rides or runs from their app (or Garmin GPS watch), but you can also connect to other local athletes - automagically - covering the same segments within your ride or run.
Strava will find popular segments in your route from their database, and compare you (and ranked) with hundreds of other athletes. You can also explore new segments - It’s so addicting, that I have to confess: I recently took a detour in my Paradise loop with the solely purpose to just see how I ranked in a popular SF/Marin climb. (Hawk Hill)
Ok… so now you also ready to ditch Runkeeper (Sorry Jason!) and move to Strava. And you probably are wondering: What happens to my runs (or rides)?…
Well you can easily import them, however, due to a bug on Runkeeper’s side you will probably end up with the wrong time start as RK will build the GPX file with local times rather than UTC (ie: your runs will seem to start at 3am when imported, when you really ran them at 10am).
So here is how you can modify your GPX timestamps to UTC so they upload to Strava correctly: (Be warned… it’s geeky. I’m gonna try write an quick web ruby app and post it in Heroku leveraging this cool script by Aron Burell, but for now there is only that script AFAIK)
In your Mac, open the terminal (Spotlight > Terminal - Windows user, you will need to get Ruby separate, but the idea is the same… and if you’re on Ubuntu, I’m sure you don’t even need to read this).
- Your Mac OSX should come with Ruby, but you might need to install some gems for the script to run)
$ sudo gem install xml-simple
- Then you need a GPX to fix…. Download your GPX from RK.
- And remove the spaces on the filename
$ mv RK_gpx\ _2011-10-27_1248PM.gpx RK_gpx_2011-10-27_1248PM.gpx
- Then, get script from here. And modify the line with the TZ to yours. ie:
TZ = TZInfo::Timezone.get("America/Edmonton")
TZ = TZInfo::Timezone.get("America/Los_Angeles")
$ ruby gpxfixer.rb RK_gpx_2011-10-27_1248PM.gpx
- Your fixed file will be in the same location with a similar name:
$ ls *.gpx
- Finally, upload to Strava the “fixed” file…
happy and safe running/cycling!
(If you’re geekly impaired, please stay tuned for the website I’m working on to do all this for you).