cycling · fitness · Zwift

Sam’s fall Zwift plan: Start with Zwift Academy on a new Tacx Neo 2T trainer

It’s the beginning of September and back to school for students and academics of all ages. It’s also the season for Zwift Academy Road.

I struggled last year but I made it–see here and here. And I’ve signed up again to get in racing shape for Zwift. I started out with the Baseline Ride and I’ll start the workouts this week.

I didn’t Zwift much during the summer. The biggest issue was the hot steamy weather and our lack of air conditioning. But I also started to have issues with our Wahoo Kickr trainer and calibration. In the end, I just put Zwifting aside and enjoyed a lot of outdoor riding, mostly gravel trails but some road riding too.

Truth be told though I missed it. I’ve bought a new trainer to start the Zwifting season–a Tacx Neo 2T. I’m hoping the wheel off trainer is more accurate and less fussy. It’s also supposed to be quieter. I’ll report back on both the new trainer and on Zwift Academy.

Wish me luck!

Zwift Academy 2021
fitness · meditation · rest · sleep · yoga · Zwift

Sleep, stress, and exercise: Sam’s vicious cycle

I’m the Nap Queen. Sleep is my super power. I prioritize rest. These are some of the songs I sing on the blog.

La La La.

La la la la

But lately it feels more like…

Blah. Blah. Blah.

I have a very stressful job and lately I haven’t been sleeping that well. I’m worrying a lot.

So I have been tired and also some days, not feeling much like hard exercise. I mean, I’m still working out. I still bike commute. I still throw a little yoga in here and there. I walk Cheddar and I do some rowing on the erg. But my passion for big. heavy lifting or long efforts on the bike? Nope. Nada.

That’s very not me. So I’ve been listening to the voice that says ‘more rest.’ I’m going to bed early.

But it hasn’t really been helping. I’m sleeping but I am not sleeping that well. Stress and heat are both factors but also without the serious exercise, I’m just not that tired.

One thing that’s occurred to me that is that I use exercise to burn off stress and it makes me tired. The combo makes for an excellent night’s sleep. I slept my best during the pandemic when I was zwifting 5 or 6 nights a week. If I’m too tired to work out, I don’t exercise in the evening and then I have a crappy night’s sleep.

Listening to your body doesn’t always mean more rest. Sometimes the message is more complicated than that.

I’m going to try exercising even when I don’t feel like it, knowing I’ll feel better after. I’m usually the sort of person who uses exercises as a reward. It’s a fun thing that I do. I might have to change my thinking a bit.

I’m going to also look for some non exercise stress relief. I’ve got Adriene’s Find What Feels Good app on my phone and I might see what night time yoga and meditation do for my sleep.

What helps you get a good night’s sleep?

fitness · inclusiveness · Zwift

In favour of April Fools’ Day Trikes and Inclusive Representation

First, the joke.

On April Fools Day Zwift swapped out their regular virtual bikes for virtual trikes. I laughed and laughed. My twenty something son said that I had a low bar for amusement. That might be true. Maybe it’s even part of the joy of aging. But I did enjoy zooming around on big wheel bike, especially in the peleton (see below). They disappeared for our team time trial that day. When we entered the event we were on our regular bikes. Frankly I was just relieved that Zwift didn’t swap our planned route Watopia Waistband for the Alpe on the occasion of April 1.

Top: A group of riders on trikes. Bottom: Sam on her Zwift trike.

Second, the trikes got people thinking.

Rebecca Dobiesz posted this comment in a Zwift women’s group I’m in, “So yes, the April Fool’s joke is funny, entertaining, and a nice surprise. But I wish they spent that graphic design time (or any other time) developing more skin tones, more body types, non-binary avatars, more body feature colors and sizes, non-able bodied avatars, prosthetics, women with more muscle tone, etc. Has this crossed anyone else’s mind today? I hope with all the other initiatives they have started, these avatar designs are already in the works and have been for some time.
(I shouldn’t have to say this but please don’t bash this with negativity. If anything I hope this allows us all to reflect on diversity and the importance of representation.) Ride on!”

Other people suggested that if Zwift could manage virtual rain in London (why, Zwift, why?) that they could also give people the choice to have their avatar bike match the bike they were actually riding. For example, some Zwifters ride handcycles but in the virtual world they’re on road bikes/mtbs like everyone else. It would be great to have other more adaptive cycling options represented in the game. See here for a discussion of this point.

There are lots of discussions of avatar hair options too. Me, I just want an avatar closer to my actual size. In Zwift women only come in small and medium, while men come in small, medium, and large. It’s part of my push for better representation of large and strong women’s bodies.

So to be clear, I loved the joke. Like Rebecca, I just want more options–more inclusion of all types of riders–in my virtual world.

How about you? What would you add if you could to better represent the kind of riding you do and the kind of rider you are?

Left: Sam riding solo on her Zwift trike. Right: Sam riding in a Zwift peloton of trikes.
cycling · fitness · training · Zwift

Sam is recovery ridin’

Lately I’ve been trying to do some recovery rides on Zwift on the days after I race. The goal is to strike a balance between training, racing, and recovering.

What’s a recovery ride? “The purpose of a recovery ride is to flush out any toxins lingering in the muscles after a hard workout, and to keep the muscles supple prior to that all-important next training session.” From The Art of the Recovery Ride

The idea is to keep it short, no sprinting, no big climbs, and a nice relaxed pace (slower than feels comfortable even) and no big gears. Maximum 60 minutes, less than half of your FTP, 1-2 perceived exertion out of 10.

See 7 ways to nail your recovery rides: “If you’re training and/or racing, true recovery rides are an essential component of your plan. When you train hard you do damage—that’s part of the plan. Your workout breaks down your muscle, empties out your fuel stores, and generally taxes your metabolism above and beyond its status quo. When you recover, your body repairs the damage so you can come back stronger and ready for more. If you skip the recovery part, you’re cheating yourself out of the maximum return on your hard work.”

What about your ego geting in the way? If you’re worried about friends seeing the ride on Strava and thinking “wow, I had no idea she was that slow” then mark the ride as a recovery ride.

Don’t ride with friends with whom you’re competitive at all. Instead either ride or solo or ride with a much slower friend, possibly a small child.

A friend was talking the other day about how Zwift makes recovery rides hard. She wished there was a recovery ride option on Zwift that disabled all the sprint segments, QOMs, and leaderboards. Another friend says she rides on Zwift but watches something else while riding. It’s a good time for catching up on favourite shows and listening to audio books.

Coach Chris Carmichael writes, “If you think you’re going to have a hard time “keeping it in check” or your ego isn’t going to let that guy just ride by without giving chase, you can do the recovery spin on the trainer (where there will be no temptations). Or don’t suit up in your full cycling kit, or you could even ride a different bike. For some of our athletes who really struggle to keep their Recovery Rides as easy as they should be, we have them ride 20-30 minutes in street clothes on a beach cruiser. Anything to keep you in a more relaxed mindset. I know it may sound like a wasted ride, but your body needs these easy spin days to recover and get stronger, trust me, after incorporating a few recovery days a week into your schedule you’ll notice a big difference in your other rides!”

Maybe I’ll change out of my Zwift team kit and put away the Tron! I like my Women’s History month kit.

Women’s History Month rides and runs on Zwift. Here’s the kit.

fitness · triathalon · Zwift

Read, Race, Write: Sam’s weekend triathlon

Read

Eternity Martis is speaking at Guelph tonight, an event co-sponsored by the College of Arts and the Guelph Black Students Association. I read her book when it first came out but quickly. Over the weekend I read it again in preparation for the event. The book is an important reminder of how much racism shapes the experiences of our Black students and a wake-up call about how much post-secondary education needs to change.

Left: They said this owuld be fun, by Eternity Martis. Right: A poster announcing Martis’ talk at Guelph tonight.

Race

On Saturday afternoon I broke with my Saturday is a rest day thing and took part in a women’s race series. See A challenge every Saturday in March for the women of Zwift. That felt okay because my Thursday and Friday races were derailed by technical difficulties. An actual flat tire in a virtual race!

Here’s the race:

Challenge  1 (TT) Saturday 6th March  – iTT Tempus Fugit (1 lap) Length:17.3 km (10.7 miles)/ Lead-In: 2.4 km (1.5 miles)  

“We start the Iceni women’s race series with 20 km iTT, to test your power as we take you to the Watopia Desert, as you go full on speed enjoy the landmarks such as the Cliff dwellings, the oasis, Dinosaurs fossils, Waterfall and Saddle springs!”

I landed somewhere in the middle of my category but it was hard work and it felt good to be racing with other women. Usually I’m riding and racing with men, and that’s fun too.

Write

Finally, I’m also racing to finish a paper on women, ethics and aging.

Wish me luck!

cycling · fitness · Zwift

Sam is Sweeping Again!

Not this kind of sweeping.

A toddler with two brooms sweeping the kitchen

Group ride sweeping, on a bike.

On the bike rally, and on other large group social rides that I’ve done, sweeping means riding behind the last rider. You can mark the beginning of the ride with the ride leads and the end by the sweeps. On the bike rally you even get special decorations for your helmet so people know you’re the sweep.

When you arrive, people cheer. “The sweeps are in!”

Here’s an older post about my day Sweeping in the rain.

image
Sam’s black Giro helmet with a pink broom attached to the top

On Zwift social rides there’s both a leader marked by a yellow beacon over the rider’s avatar and a sweep, marked by a red beacon over the avatar. But on Zwift sweeping means something different than just riding at the end. On Zwift, ideally you drop back behind the main group, collecting slower riders who’ve been dropped, and let them draft you to get back on to the main bunch.

You need to be strong to do this. Once you’re more than a few seconds off the back of a big group on Zwift you need to work really hard to get back on. Often the people you’re trying to help aren’t strong enough and then your task is helping them clump together to organize a second group. This has been my experience more often than successfully getting people back to the main bunch.

When I first started doing group rides I’d hear ride leads say if you’re feeling strong and frisky, don’t go off the front. Instead drop back and help the sweeps. It’s true that it’s a really good workout and you can feel you’re contributing positively to the group ride ethos.

I’ve started volunteering to sweep on our team rides and sometimes when I’m riding with other groups like the Herd. Here’s me with Karl. He’s got the red beacon which identifies him as a sweep. I’m the secondary sweep that day. That day he ran people who could manage it back to the main group, and I gathered the others into a group at the back. We chatted by text in the Companion app and by voice in Discord.

May be an image of road and text

I like sweeping. It’s good to feel useful and play a role in welcoming visitors to our TFC community.

However, I also like sprinting through the sprint segments (our team social ride sprints and regroup) and you can’t both sprint and sweep. Likely, I’ll do a bit of both moving forward.

Wish me luck!

cycling · fitness · training · Zwift

It’s Tron Time for Sam and Sarah

Screenshots of Sam completing the Everest Challenge

I told you about it when I was halfway there. I made the home stretch my winter cycling challenge. And last night, I did it. I completed Zwift’s Everest Challenge. I climbed more than 50,000 m. I got my Tron.

I finished the Friday night Smash Fest race which had 400 m+ climbing and discovered I was really close. With Sarah’s encouragement I went down the hill and turned around at the bottom and started climbing again. It was late. I was tired. And it wasn’t easy. But I did it!

Even Strava called it a “massive effort.” Thanks Strava.

Let us celebrate that!

What’s in it for me, aside from looking cool and bragging rights? The Tron is the fastest all round bike on Zwift. I’m excited. I’m not sure what colour I’ll eventually land on (you can change it easily with a slider bar) but here’s me on the bright pink version.

Sarah got hers the week previous, with less fuss and fan fare. (She’s like that.) She was determined to have it for a race that was on this week and so spent last weekend climbing. We both want to thank Neil at the Bike Shed, where we Zwifted pre-pandemic, who suggested we make the Everest Challenge our first Zwift challenge. It was also Neil who first rented us and then sold us our trainer when the pandemic shut things down. Thanks Neil!

Here’s Sarah’s Tron story:

“The long process of getting the Tron was an interesting one for me. I am really not much of a climber and would never normally have chosen workouts or recovery rides on steep hills, but the advantage that the Tron provides, and the peer pressure from teammates to get one, was impossible to resist.

After spending a year warming up and doing group rides on 10%+ grades (flattened and lengthened by Zwift algorithms as needed), I can say that I’ve gotten better at climbing. Practice makes perfect? Familiarity breeds contempt? In any case, I can say that in my few outdoor rides last year I was less intimidated by the usual hills. And this year I might actually seek them out and practice.

So thanks to Zwift’s “Everest Challenge”. I’ll never be a mountain goat but I’m a better all-rounder thanks to Tron temptation. Like the glowing neon wheels the lessons learned will be with me for years to come.”

charity · cycling · fitness · Zwift

Make Your Own Route Badge!

Red Dress Day Route

I love it!

Someone designed a tool to make your own Zwift route badges.

I made one for the Bike Rally’s Red Dress Day. What’s the Bike Rally? It’s a charity ride, normally from Toornto to Montreal, to raise money for the Toronto People With AIDS Foundation.

We don’t ride the whole thing in red dresses but on one special day, the short ride into Kingston, we do.

And yes, I’m registered for this year though I am not sure what form the ride will take. You can sponsor me here.

charity · fitness · racing · Zwift

A challenge every Saturday in March for the women of Zwift

Celebrating women’s month with a challenge every Saturday in March

On the one hand, exciting.

But on the other hand, it might just be too much for me.

Here’s why:

First, there are five Saturdays in March so that’s more challenge than I might have bargained for.

Second, I had just settled on Saturday as rest day.

Third, there are hills in these races.

Fourth, I’m trying to make sure I don’t race all the time and that I get enough rest.

Fifth, my winter Zwift challenge which ends March 19 is getting my Tron bike.

Oh and sixth, we’ve already committed to Zwift charity gift in March. Find out more and join us here.

Still though it sounds very good. I love race series that have divided categories for women rather than divided categories for men and lumping all the women together. It’s no fun racing against super fast, younger women while your male cyclist friends in their 50s and 60s get to race against peers (in terms of watts, if not always age.)

I’m still thinking about juggling some things to make this fit.

“The Warrior Games, would like to celebrate Women’s month in March by presenting to you “The Iceni Women’s Series” fun challenging races, on every Saturday for all powerhouses from A+ to D. After the success in The Tour de Boudicca A+ women’s category, we will be adding PEN E for ladies with an average of 4.2 w/kg +.

Women’s Categories shown in Zwift companion :
(Pen E) A+: 4.2 w/kg +
(Pen A) A: 3.7 w/kg – 4.19 w/kg
(Pen B) B: 3.2 w/kg – 3.69 w/kg
(Pen C) C: 2.5 w/kg – 3.19 w/kg
(Pen D) D: <2.49 w/kg

The Iceni tribe was ‘peacefully annexed’ by the Roman Empire at some point before 47 AD, though it was allowed some autonomy. When the king died and Boudicca I became High Queen of Iceni, the Roman Empire saw her unfit to rule and invaded the region. Iceni led a revolt against the Roman Empire in c.60 AD and regained its independence, along with the independence of several other tribes. This led to the subsequent formation of the Comhairle, an alliance of the British tribes. Iceni had a major say in Comhairle affairs and became an important center of trade, military, and leadership.

Celebrate Women’s month in the best way possible! Drop mad watts and show them all what you are made of!”

#deanslife · cycling · fitness · rest · yoga · Zwift

Saturday is Sam’s rest day

For me, the grind ends Friday at the end of the workday. I eat dinner. I race my bike in the TFC Smashfest Friday night series. 🚴 Maybe I watch something. I definitely eat something. And then I collapse into bed. Zzzzz. 😀

Saturday is my rest day. It’s not that I don’t move at all. I often walk Cheddar. I sometimes do Yoga with Adriene. But there’s no fast riding or heavy lifting. This is a chance for my body to rest and recover.

I try to make sure I eat well too. And I aim to get enough sleep, sleeping late if necessary to log the needed hours. It’s a conscious effort. Sometimes naps are involved.

So when this image flashed across my social media newsfeed, I thought actually yes it does. On Saturday I rest.

The grind doesn’t stop just because it’s Saturday.

Tomorrow I’ll do something more active. I’ll also get back to some university work, the review essay I’m trying to write and the college budget for sure.

In my pre pandemic busy times I didn’t need to plan a rest day. Often they just happened when life got in the way off intentional movement. These days I’m finding it helps with the blurriness of time to have things I do on particular days.

On Sunday for me it’s a gradual return to work, a preparation for the week ahead, and my Zwift team social ride. I race in a series on Monday nights. On Tuesdays I watch an episode of Star Trek Discovery with my mother. Wednesdays are the one day, pre stay at home order, that I work on campus. I’ll start doing that again next week when the stay at home order is lifted. Thursday is team time trial night. Friday we order take out from a local restaurant.

None of these things is a big deal. But it helps me to place myself in time, and keep track of time in the pandemic blur. Also since working out is one of the fun things that I can do, I’m realizing it’s easy to do too much of it.

And so on Saturday, I rest.

A blond dog resting in a red hammock