Tracking my adventure

February 13, 2013 § 3 Comments


I like graphs and charts. Ratios and analytics. Correlations and causations. Totals and rates.

When I first got onto OkCupid, I graphed all of my message and response rates based on gender, message length, race, and a bunch of other factors. As a one year anniversary gift once, I gave my girlfriend at the time a book of bar graphs, line graphs, and charts about our relationship (and cute photos too obviously). One year, I kept a GoogleDoc of all of the books I had read and wanted to read and categorized them based on rankings and genre – I then graphed these rankings against my personal reviews, time it took me to read the book, etc.

No matter what we’re talking about, I’m curious about the data and knowing the data motivates me to change or continue behavior. It’s the cure to Albert Einstein’s definition of insanity:  doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. You can’t possibly avoid insanity if you’re not sure whether or not you’re doing the same thing.

The same applies to outdoor adventures. What was the elevation gain there? How many MPH was I averaging? Was it better than last time? What should I do differently? Knowing all of this stuff can be an external motivator to do better and more without the natural motivation of pure survival that I’m sure was the primary thing that kept cavepeople going.

Countervailing Tendencies

On the other hand, I love sitting in the woods with no reception and staring at fires. I love running trails without any idea how fast I’m going or how far. I love going on bike tours when the only thing that matters is getting to the campsite before dark.

The problem is, that none of this helps you get ‘better,’ as much as it ensures that you have fun.

I think people fall all over the spectrum. For most of my adult life, I’ve been on the “track nothing, have fun” spectrum when it comes to the outdoors purely because I lived in the one of the most gorgeous places in the world. I didn’t need any other motivation to do hard things because all the hard things resulted in gorgeous vistas, giant trees, or impressive waterfalls. The Grand Canyon is fucking hard to climb. 100 mile bike rides down the coast of California are almost impossible for an amateur. Surfing on shorebreak is fucking painful (and probably stupid). But it was all worth it because it was just so garsh-darn fun.

tracking motivation

Sure, I’d look up the elevation gain at the end of a hike, or quickly calculate my MPH and note it as “interesting!” or think “huh, that’s a new high!” but I wouldn’t seek out longer hikes, higher climbs, or faster times because the journey and the destination inherently were satisfying enough. Other than one half assed attempt at a pull up competition, and a few months where I tracked my bike mileage for fun in college, I’ve never really motivated myself to work out or go outside more based just on the numbers.


As noted before, I’ve been missing the mountain and desert west for it’s relatively young terrain. Things just aren’t as shockingly pretty as I’m used to them being – they’re a sort of demure muted beauty that I have to pay attention to appreciate. It’s great in a lot of ways, but it certainly doesn’t naturally push me to climb higher or run faster. So, in the last few weeks I’ve been applying my love for data to the outdoors.

First, I got MapMyRun. I couldn’t figure out how to want to run around in circles, or to somewhere uninspiring without knowing my times and knowing my mileage. The app tells you your pace, encourages you to go faster, tracks your route, and even allows you to (creepily?) track your friends. It sparks my competitive nature with myself and is great for goal setting.

This weekend, I tried EveryTrail when our hike on was canceled (pshah, snow pansies) and was disappointed to find that it failed to track half the hike we did and just connected the dots.


It does have a pretty vast database of GPX files so, assuming those are accurate, you could use it stay on track when hiking a new trail (lots of really poorly marked trails out east). I think next time I’ll give MapMyHike a try and see if it’s as reliable as MapMyFitness’s other apps – it certainly doesn’t have as much data as EveryTrail, so we’ll see how functional it is as a navigation tool.

In the meantime, while my ankle slowly shrinks in size, I’m testing out the Hundred PushUps app (my boss made fun of me all summer for not being able to do one push-up, finally enough shame to start doing knee push-ups, haha – be proud LC!) I’m up to four push ups in a row… whoo!


What are you motivated by? Any app recommendations?


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§ 3 Responses to Tracking my adventure

  • Benjamin ODoherty Ramsden-Stein says:

    So far I’ve used RunKeeper and MyTracks as phone apps. I like both, although the desire for better data tracking never goes away as you’ve mentioned. I’ve also used this for triathlon training: and this for tracking my activities and raising money at the same time: There’s a good chance that the Plus 3 Network is still only giving to local SF Bay Area charities, but its still a way to raise money for stuff you’re already doing with you life. Just sayin’

    • facepalmword says:

      Ben – of course you’re ahead of the game on tracking all of your activities! Someone should really make a central database of all the GPX hiking trails out there by integrating all the data from these independent hiking apps. Dear Google, I have a project for you…

      • They actually used to have a Google Health, but shut it down, probably for budget reasons but not entirely sure. It does seem like an area ripe for total data integration. When I was researching my Heart Rate Monitor from Polar (another great way to track your workout data, but ASK ME if you’re going to buy one because they are not cross-platform compatible and I had to go through three or four to get the right one…), there are companies that are attempting this.
        Check out It’s incredible but focused on weight-loss and is subscription based. Also All of this stuff will come down in price-point in the next couple of years as the tech gets smaller and cheaper.

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