As you know, I’m racing to finish Zwift Academy before the November 25th cutoff. It’s still touch and go whether I’ll make it. I’m trying to fit it all in.
Thursday night was a tough team time trial effort with TFC Phantom with missing team members and technical difficulties. Friday night was the usual TFC race with the usual suspects. We race as a team Thursday night and then Friday we race against one another, with a nice mix of cooperation and competition.
Saturday, my 💓 heart was all about sleeping in but that wasn’t to be. I only had five days left to finish Zwift Academy. Workout #8 was scheduled for 9 am.
I did manage to sleep until 8, make instant coffee and toast, and hop into bike clothes and onto the bike.
NehRita gave a talk on Friday as part of the Improv Institute’s Thinking Spaces series. Her presentation was called “Love + Protest.”
Here’s a brief bio from her website: “Jamaican-Canadian artist Joni NehRita writes songs about unity, hope and social justice. Her jazz-tinged brand of soul is infused with rhythms & sounds from her Afro-Caribbean background. A multi-instrumentalist, songwriter and producer, she has a gift for writing infectious, well-crafted songs that are deeply personal.
This year NehRita releases her 4th full length album, “Love & Protest” which is a marked step further toward global roots/world music. She has played festivals & concerts (both as a solo artist & backing other artists) in North America, Australia, England, France, Germany & Oman. She has also sung with the KW Symphony & Hamilton Philharmonic.”
Love it when my work introduces me to new music and a new artist.
Digression over now back to Zwift Academy!
From Zwift here’s the description of workout 8: “This Zwift Academy workout helps build your attacking power level for a solid punch. Short efforts all under 1min will make you feel the burn.”
I loved seeing all the different country flags over the riders heads. And as usual I enjoyed the banter and chit chat during the warm up, cool down, and the chunks of recovery riding.
The first half was all out sprint efforts and then having exhausted our anaerobic abilities, we recovered and turned our attention to three one minute efforts will above FTP. Not fun. But I did it. We survived. Yay!
Just one more workout and two more group rides or races to go. Wish me luck!
Tonight’s Zwift race, a team time trial which was three laps of Watopia’s Hilly Route, was for me an exercise in technical difficulties. Also, hills. And a smaller roster than usual of teammates. But mostly technical difficulties.
I began with my phone at 5 percent battery and the threat of losing discord loomed large. I plugged the phone in but it doesn’t charge that quickly. Discord matters because it’s how we communicate who is next up in the sequence of riders, how we’re feeling, how long a pull we want to take at the front and so on. There might also be some crying, swearing, and whining. We agreed I’d use the app to signal with my avatar’s arm if I lost Discord and wanted to skip my turn at the front. We had a set order of rotation of riders and in theory it ought to be okay with one of us out of communication.
Here’s me at the start. On the left, my avatar is in yellow TFC kit, with a pink Zwift academy hat and socks. On the right, actual me looks nervous about the race. My team lost two riders at the last minute. One didn’t get in the start pen in time and the other got stuck at work. I had been telling myself that I only needed to do two laps and that we could send the four best climbers ahead on our third time up the KOM. This is now no longer true. Gulp.
In the end my phone stayed charged. But I had bigger problems. My internet was wonky and I kept losing everyone on the screen. For about half the race it looked like I was riding alone. I had to use the listing of riders on the right hand side of the screen to “see” where I was in the group. Pacing was a challenge. I kept going off the front because my big worry was being dropped. It wasn’t until the final lap that I could consistently see my teammates which is strange and challenging in a team time trial.
We also lost a teammate tonight who got dropped and isn’t coming back next week. I feel bad about that and wish I could have explained better what was going on. Teams are hard work that way.
All of this reminded me of my worst technical glitch ever, completely losing power in a race and getting dropped. I wasn’t sure what happened until Sarah and I looked at the trainer after. The extension cord plug which leads to the trainer had come unplugged.
Here’s our high tech fix!
Anyway, in the end we did okay technical glitches and all.
Tonight was the last race in a Zwift series in which I’d been participating. Race series like to mix it up so no one kind of cyclist is favoured. Some weeks are hilly, some weeks are flat, and some are mountainous. You probably guess where this is going.
I’ll ride flat. Whee! I’ll even ride hilly. But I tend to give a pass to routes described as mountainous. Tonight’s route was even called The Mountain Route. It’s 29.5 km but with 682 m of climbing. Ouch.
There was a lot of chatter in our team about who was and who wasn’t going to do the race. I tried the “I’m washing my hair that night” line but I was encouraged to give it a go. We’d cheer each other on on Discord. It would “fun” they said.
And I was heartened by encouraging words from teammates during the ride. Sarah also cheered me on and brought me cookies as I got to the last climb up to the radio tower.
I did it and I finished and I think I came third in D category. Well, I think I came third. I can’t say for sure because Zwiftpower is down. Zwiftpower is the race results site for Zwift races.
It was, for me, a long steady effort. It was also proof that I can climb even if it’s not my favorite thing. Sometime over the next few days I’m going to check out some of my in real life climbs and see how they compare.
Oh, I got some new Zwift badges. I got the 100 km an hour Daredevil badge for descending the Epic KOM. And in the warm up before I got the badge for exceeding 700 watts in the sprint which I couldn’t resist.
I will sleep well tonight even with all of my now usual pandemic fretting and worrying.
I’m glad I got way out of my comfort zone and did a challenging thing.
Some people routinely set their clocks ahead in an attempt to fool themselves about the time so they won’t be late. That doesn’t work for me. I just know to subtract the amount that the clock is fast. And also, being late isn’t a thing that I do. I am almost always either anxiously early or just on time. Late isn’t in my repetoire.
But that doesn’t mean I never set out to trick myself.
I’ve never slept in my cycling clothes but I have very carefully gotten my bike ready–air in tires, Garmin charged–and laid out my cycling clothes near the bed, and planned my breakfast the night before an early morning ride. That isn’t a trick but it is a nudge, a way of making the best choice, the choice I want to want to make, a little bit easier.
We all have those things we do to encourage our better selves. Sometimes it’s preparing meals in advance. Other times it’s scheduling in workout times. They’re all nudges.
Here’s another thing that I do that is somewhere between the lie and the nudge.
I tell myself to just start. I give myself permission not to do the whole thing. When I have a race I’ve committed to racing and I don’t feel up for it, I tell myself that either I can just do one lap (if it’s a multi-lap event) or I can just do the first 10 km and quit after that. I almost always start riding, get doing, feel better, and go through with the whole thing. But the permission to quit means I don’t have to make the hard choice before the event even begins.
It’s not that I never quit. I blogged about a Monday DNF here. But more often than not, I keep riding and finish.
The permission not to finish allows me to take on things that are harder than usual and not put a lot of up front energy into the decision to begin. Just start…decide whether I’ll finish later.
There’s a Precision Nutrition strategy I liked, with a similar flavour: Quit tomorrow.
I commit to riding the first lap or the first 10 km, knowing I can quit after that. And mostly, I don’t.
If I ever decide to ride up the Alpe du Zwift, I’ll do the same thing. I’ll start and give myself permission not to finish.
“Test your legs and your lungs as you discover the iconic ascent of Alpe Du Zwift. The latest Watopia expansion brings 3,399 ft (1,036 m) of climbing across 21 hairpin turns. The terrain changes dramatically as you zig-zag your way up the mountain ridge and enter unchartered territory.”
How about you? Any self-motivating tricks or nudges that routinely work well for you?Share them in the comments below.
So I’m not short on playlists, and yet, I’m wanting to branch out.
I’ve been amused by the range of things people listen to while riding bikes. When we’re using Discord on my bike team, occasionally sound breaks through. The Beach Boys? Really? Really. I get teased about disco. Other teammates get teased for Gilbert and Sullivan. It’s clear there’s a lot of variety in our tastes in workout music.
I recall years ago at the velodrome that we had some serious arguments about music. I was on record for not liking music with swearing and language that insulted women. I think I was parenting young children at the time! The young men, teenagers, who rode there used to swap to easy listening when I arrived and tease me about it.
Why do we listen to music at all when we’re exercising?
Obviously enjoyment is a motive. But so too is performance. Many people listen to music that they think will make them go faster, whether on foot or on the bike.
Exercise psychologists have been studying this for a while.
Here’s an excerpt from that piece: “Costas Karageorghis at Brunel University London has pioneered much of the research in this field. In his book Applying Music in Exercise and Sport, he identified many ways in which music can improve physical performance.
The most immediately obvious benefit is the intense emotional connection with certain songs. Listening to the Rocky movie soundtracks, for example, “can conjure positive imagery, a feeling that one can overcome adversity”. He compares it to Ivan Pavlov’s famous conditioning experiments – in which the mere sound of a bell, usually accompanying a meal, would have dogs salivating. Gonna fly now? The opening bars of Rocky’s theme song might just prime you to push yourself harder.
Then there’s “dissociation” – music helps to direct your attention outwards rather than inwards, and drowns out the feelings of fatigue in our bodies. This can have a particularly powerful effect with more moderate workouts. When listening to music, people tend to underestimate their exertion by about 10%, meaning the whole workout ends up feeling much less arduous than it would have without the music. This should increase your overall endurance, helping you to run faster for longer.
For the most intense workouts, music-induced dissociation may not be possible – the feelings of exertion are just too strong to ignore, no matter how great the music. But during those periods, the body may still benefit from “entrainment”, a process in which the body’s natural rhythms begin to mimic those of the music.”
The article goes on to discuss studies which take participants and have some workout with music, others in silence, and others listening to podcasts. No surprise those who listen to music do better.
So I’ll go faster, and I’ll be happier. I just need more tunes.
The Everest Challenge as a route to the Tron bike. Yes, I’m making good progress. I’m more than halfway there. But at the start I rode for a few months without signing up for the challenge. Today in my group ride we talked about someone who had completed the climbing mileage and wondered why he hadn’t gotten the Tron. Turned out he’d never signed up.
2. Other people seemed to be better about giving Ride-Ons than me. But it was only later I discovered you can give more than one ride-on at a time. “Use the Zwift Companion App to quickly give Ride-Ons to 5 random people within your near vicinity. Just tap your location arrow in the app! If you’re in a group ride, those Ride Ons will go to others participating in the same group. Ride on.” From Zwift Tips. I also learned that if you want to give everyone you rode with kudos on Strava, you just view the list of people and shake your phone. Who knew? I didn’t. I do now.
3. When I first started doing workouts, I did them in any old place. It was only later that I realized (thanks Sarah!) that by doing my workouts on serious climbs, I could accumulate climbing metres faster. See THE EASIEST (LEGAL) WAY TO GET THE TRON BIKE IN ZWIFT for route advice.
4. It also didn’t occur to me–you’ll get the sense that the ‘game’ aspect of Zwift was new to me–that if I was attempting a climb to accumulate metres climbed I could turn around at the top and come back down to accumulate kilometres ridden. You can also just coast down and answer your email! Shhh.
5. You can return to the pairing screen and do things–like swap virtual bikes–without exiting your ride. It also took me awhile to figure out when to use which bike.
6. In real life, I don’t super tuck. I’m not a particularly nervous descender but I don’t adopt the aggressive aero position of pro-cyclists. I saw some avatars doing it in Zwift and I didn’t get it. I should have googled. At a certain point in real world cycling you go faster by aero tucking than pedaling. That’s true in Zwift too. See “How to” here.
From Zwift News: “In cycling, “aero is everything.” So pros like Chris Froome get into an aero-tuck (aka “super-tuck”) when descending, reducing air resistance and allowing them to travel faster with less work.
Looking for some rest while descending one of Zwift’s many mountains? You can use the super-tuck. It is literally the easiest way to go faster on Zwift, since it requires you to stop pedaling!
Here’s how it works: if you are on a 3% or steeper downhill moving at least 35mph (57km/h), stop pedaling. Your avatar will enter the super-tuck as soon as your power drops to 10 watts or less.
Once in the super-tuck your rider will travel faster, mimicking the reduced air resistance you would encounter when aero-tucking outdoors.
There is one exception: riders on TT frames cannot super-tuck.”
How about you? If you Zwift is there anything you know now that you wished you knew at the get go?
While riding I listened to the happiest songs of all time according to neuroscience. I’ve been in a bit of a pandemic funk lately as covid-19 case numbers grow here in Ontario. I’m from the East coast of Canada where things are going great. I’ve lived in Australia and New Zealand, also where things are going great. Here? Not so much. I’ve been missing my kids and worrying about everyone. This hasn’t been an easy week.
It might also just be time change related sadness. It is that time of year.
I love the France routes, weirdly in part for the beautiful virtual countryside vistas. Check out the lavender fields below.
Here’s Zwift’s description of the route, “French cyclists use the term “casse-pattes” (literally “leg-breaking”) to refer to particularly difficult parts of a ride, or roads that awkwardly change gradient and break a cyclist’s rhythm.
Released with Zwift’s France map for the first-ever Virtual Tour de France, the Casse-Pattes route covers the large outer loop of the map in a clockwise direction. The first 12km is pan-flat with two timed sprint segments, but then that rhythm is broken up in the back half by two timed KOM climbs.’
As you might expect I loved the first flat 12 km and suffered a bit on the climbs. Still, the ride leader stuck to the advertised pace and it was fine really.
How was the ride? Pleasant. Nice pacing. People stayed together. There were lots of riders from the UK and Europe, because it’s later Saturday there. The chat was mostly about completing Zwift Academy, who was close and who was not. There was also a lengthy discussion of how to make brownies.
When I first started riding on Zwift, I rode alone or with the people I also ride with in real life. We rode at the Bike Shed, a bike studio that had about eight trainers set up for Zwift so you could bring your own bike in and ride. On Zwift, I collected badges, I rode new routes, and I started to accumulate ‘drops’ or Zwift experience points to buy cool virtual stuff. I joined some challenges, such as the Everest challenge, and I enjoyed it.
Later, once we bought our own trainer and started to ride at home, I started to branch out, I joined some group rides and some group workouts. Group workouts use erg mode on the trainer. “ERG mode, which is a checkbox option when you go to select a Zwift workout, makes you pedal precisely at the power levels laid out by the workout you choose.” See more here. They’re also “rubber banded” so you stay with the other people in your group even if you’re putting out a lot more or a lot less power.
Why ride in a group in Zwift? I think there are two different sorts of reasons.
One is motivation. You pick your group ride, you schedule it on the Companion app, and you’re more likely to ride. The company is nice. I love seeing riders from all over the world. I also like the chatter. There’s two ways to chat in a group ride. Some rides use discord and so you can talk to actual people on Discord. What’s Discord? See How an App for Gamers Went Mainstream. Or you can text in the Companion app. I do both. But I can’t type while riding easily and there are lots of amusing voice to text errors. Mostly with strangers I text chat and mostly with teammates I voice chat in Discord.
The second reason to prefer a group ride over riding solo is you’ll be encouraged to ride at the pace the group is going. Sometimes you might choose a speedy group to practice going faster and to improve your speed. I’ve ridden with my bike club’s fast group for that purpose. On our own we all have a speed we like to ride but often it’s better, for training purposes, to deliberately ride fast or ride slow.
Group rides are important for me as they are, among other things, a way to go slow. And going slow is super important. See why here. I am not very good at it. I see a sprint segment, I sprint. It’s not that I always go uncomfortably fast. Rather, it’s that on my own there’s a speed I like to ride at. I train and race to make myself go faster than that comfortable speed. I often do group rides to ride socially, chat, and go at a slower pace than I ride on my own by selecting rides that go at slower paces.
Back when I did most of my riding out in the world, I accomplished this by riding with friends of different speeds.
They describe their rides this way, “The focus for this group ride is to have fun and encourage all women to join, especially those new to Zwift, or wanting a more ‘relaxed’ way to start the week. The pace will be between 1.3wkg-1.8wkg throughout the 50min duration. So join in and let’s keep growing the women’s community on Zwift!
This ride is lead by Chicks Who Ride Bikes, and we are all for starting it slow and steady. From women who are just getting into cycling, to previous World Champions and Olympic cyclists, each ride is always full of banter and fun! Plus, if you love this group ride, we also have a group workout at the same time Friday mornings (AEST).
Chicks Who Ride Bikes is a community of women who share a passion and a zest for life. Whether your garage is chock full of bikes, or you’re on your first! They see the world as it could be – a place where women are respected, connected, empowered and exhilarated.”
DIRT (dads inside riding trainers)
You don’t need to be a Dad to do these rides. There are moms there too. Also some cat moms and dog dads. The parental role isn’t essential at all but what is essential is a sense of humour, helping others, and not taking the whole thing very seriously.
From Zwift News: “For an event that puts the “social” in “social ride,” check out the DIRT Family Values Ride on Zwift. You’ll find a slower pace, a helpful team of leaders and sweepers, and lots of corny humor. Take it from team member Dave Hardenburger: “We pride ourselves on an easy cruise at 1.5-2.0 (w/kg) and the best Dad/Mom jokes in Zwift!”
From Zwift News more recently: “If you’re looking for a social ride whose length and pace is manageable by just about anyone, The Herd’s “Tuesday Social Group Ride” is an excellent option. Add in solid leadership and some fun banter via Discord voice chat and you’ve got a weekly event that shows off what’s best about the Zwift Community. You’ll never ride alone with The Herd. It’s in their name! This ride typically hosts 350-700 riders, and a strong team of helpful sweepers makes sure anyone who falls behind the main pack gets helped back to the group.”
I’m racing with TFC these days and they also have a friendly, chatty social ride. If you’re going to join us, let me know, and I’ll happily ride with you.
Each Sunday join us for the Team TFC Social Sunday Evening ride at 8:15pm UK / 3:15pm EST. Completing the ride gives your avatar access to the team kit.
There are two groups and they do stick to the advertised pace and use The Fence if it’s needed. People do sprint the sprint segments and regroup and if the course is multi laps of a short distance on the last lap, we drop the fence and race.
Recommended soundtrack: You Spin Me Round by Dead or Alive
This post is co-written with my beloved. These facts may help you either: win the argument to invest in zwifting or defend your budget against lifestyle creep.
What is zwift?
It’s an online virtual cycling game with different worlds, group rides and races. Sam has written a lot about her adventures. If you click on Zwift at the top of the post you can see all the great posts.
Why would I want to do this?
Its a great way to train on your bicycle, regardless of weather, daylight, traffic or other safety concerns. With additional concerns around COVID 19 calling a friend to be your sag wagon or riding alone may not be appealing options.
So how much is this going to cost me?
Well. That depends. One fixed cost, regardless of setup, is the monthly subscription fee of $15 USD. You’ll need a smart phone, TV, tablet or laptop to run the software. You will need clip-less pedals & shoes and I highly recommend a fan. So let’s look at the options to make a set up.
The Ultimate Zwift Setup
If money is no object, a top of the range direct drive trainer or dedicated smart indoor training bike is the ultimate Zwift set up. Easy to set up, provides accurate power, speed and cadence metrics with simulated climbing, descent and terrain.
A fully kitted out smart indoor training bike blurs the line between indoor and outdoor experiences. You can even get variable fans that give you wind and the sights and sounds of an awesome trip.
These set ups cost anywhere from $3,000-5,000 USD. At first glance this is shockingly high. However, if you don’t have a road bike and you miss your regular spin classes, this may be a frugal option. All the other set-ups assume you have an existing ride. Both mine and my partner’s bikes were in the $2,000 USD range. So it’s more like spread out cost than truly being cheaper. One benefit is these high price point options are readily available since not many folks new to indoor cycling will go with this option first.
Instead of a direct drive trainer you are looking for a wheel on smart trainer for $500-750 USD. This uses your existing bike and a trainer tire. The tire can run you $60-120 USD. You will need a front wheel riser block for better stability. Those are fairly cheap, around $20 USD.
The challenge for this option is finding one. With COVID 19 supply chain interruptions it can be difficult to get your hands on this range of equipment.
The most basic setup can be cobbled together from kit many cyclists already own. A bike, a wheel on dumb trainer/rollers ($80-120 USD), trainer tire ($60-120), cadence/speed sensor $100 USD, and an ANT+ Bluetooth measurement tool $20 USD. These supplies are mostly available when you need them.
If you aren’t sure indoor spinning is for you skip the trainer tire. It’s optional if you, like me, spin for 20-30 minutes 2-3 times a week.
Depending on your existing resources it is not cheap to get into Zwift. It could offer variety, interest and social connection if you are missing those this year.
I decided I can happily spin without Zwift on my dumb trainer. I’m not performance driven for my spinning. It’s simply my high intensity cardio in my fitness plan . My beloved has a more structured approach and targets he wants to hit next spring. We were able to get him set up with sensors, trainer tire and our existing dumb trainer.
If you are using Zwift what set-up are you using? Was cost a consideration? Please share your gear in the comments below and any winning arguments to either invest or be frugal. Have I captured the range? Is there a must have folks should know about?
I raced my bike tonight. I wasn’t so sure I would. This week has been extra busy with work and extra stressful with the US election still in progress. Like many people, I haven’t had my best sleep this week.
But….this was on the UCI worlds course in virtual Richmond. Very hilly. Not one but two laps.
Zwift describes it this way, “The Richmond UCI Worlds route is a replica of the 2015 UCI Road World Championships course in Richmond, Virginia, USA. It was at this race where Peter Sagan famously attacked on 23rd Street to eventually win his first World Champs jersey. It’s a wonderful race course, with very flat first half and a nice mix of attackable climbs on the back half.” Read more here.
I did a ride-over of the course last night at a recovery ride pace to check it out. That was enough to make me reconsider my commitment to riding in the team time trial. The first 10 km of the loop are fine. Fast and flat. The final 6 km is a series of three hills. Once, okay. But twice? I wasn’t so sure.
My worry is always, in a team event, slowing the group down on hills and putting team members in the awkward spot of having to decide whether to wait for me. I know I contribute in some contexts. I can be powerful on the flats and I’m good at bringing other people back to the group. I’m helpful at closing gaps. I can also sprint. But hills? Hills are my nemesis and when I’m alone it’s my burden to bear but in a team context I worry about letting others down.
But there’s only so many times you can click refresh on your browser and hope for good election news. I decided I would definitely race with TFC Phantom. Phantom is a Mocha class team, within TFC, one of the older Zwift racing teams. We’re a team of 6-8 regulars. Tonight it was Jim, Jack, Keith, George, Tom and me. We all live in the US and Canada, across a few different time zones.
Surprisingly, given the course and general stress and lack of sleep, I had a great time. A few kilometres in, I stopped worrying about the election. We had worked out our pace line and we were taking 30 second turns on the front. You work at or above FTP on the front, and then drop to the back of the line and recover. What’s FTP? Stay tuned for next week’s post.
I felt I was able to contribute and was riding pretty strong. We were 6 riders but only four need to cross the finish line. On the issue of hills, we’ve gotten better as a team at making a plan and sticking to it. We decided to stay together until the start of the hills in lap two. At that point we’d see who still had the energy and send the four fastest riders ahead. Spoiler: I wasn’t one of the four. We stuck together until the final 5 km. I did finish two laps of the course and finished not too far behind my better hill climbing teammates.
It was a good race for us. There was lots of teamwork and supportive chat. We had a pretty organized pace line for most of it. Everyone took turns at the front and we didn’t have any technical problems.
Here we are!
I laughed out load when the ride uploaded to Strava. That was a harder effort than usual. Thanks Strava.
Tonight I also hit 4000 km in Zwift. I got to level 23. I unlocked some new socks. And I got to 29,000 m of climbing. I need 50,000 for my Tron bike. Also, I got a bunch of PRs on that course.
I was hoping for something more definitive in election news when I got off the bike. But no. Still I’m smiling. I did a hard thing that I thought was outside my doable range. I’m tired. And I’ll sleep tonight.