Zwift, costs, and Sam’s home set up

Nat’s Saturday post from a few weeks ago outlines low, medium, and all out costs for Zwifting and explains why she and her sweetie/life partner Michel made the choices they made. In light of Nat’s post and in the interests of full disclosure, I thought I’d share the details of my home set up and why we made the choices we made.

We’re in the middle of the road group here with a wheel on wahoo kickr snap. We bought it from the Bike Shed where we used to go and ride on Zwift. I had a monthly membership, $100 a month for unlimited riding. A perk of the monthly membership was that I could leave my trainer bike there. But when COVID-19 hit, they had to close. I asked about borrowing a trainer and eventually bought it when the likely length of the pandemic started to dawn on me.

We run Zwift on an iPad which we hook up to a giant TV. Other expenses? A giant honking fan!

The downside of our set up is we can’t ride and race at the same time. I’d love a direct drive set up–wheel off rather than wheel on– except it’s a lot more work swapping bikes. Right now this is a pretty good set up for us and the trainer is used most days for a couple of hours a day between Sarah and me. We leave everything set up and ready to go.

We’re both racing so we need a smart trainer that measures power. What I love about the smart trainer is that it mimics the feel of hills and you need to shift. It gets easier, by feel, when you’re drafting.

Also, another expense, if you don’t already have this from outdoor cycling is a heart rate monitor and way of connecting that to the app. Some of this isn’t necessary for riding on Zwift but it is for racing. See my tips here including joining ZwiftPower which is the official results site for Zwift races.

We both have second best road bikes that we use on the trainer. When not in use they hang on the wall.

My dream set up would be the kickr bike but at $3500 US, I’m not there yet. Frankly we might never get there but I can dream.


The cool thing about it would be that it’s easy to adjust between two riders.


Bodies can surprise you (Guest post by Rebecca Kukla) #halfmarathon

a selfie of Joseph Rees and Rebecca Kukla
Joseph Rees (left) and Rebecca Kukla (right)

By Rebecca Kukla

On Saturday, I ran my third half-marathon, the Potomac River Run. Both of the other times I trained for a half-marathon, I was incredibly disciplined about training, driven largely by a fear of collapsing half-way through the course. I had all sorts of rituals: not only an elaborate weekly schedule of four to five runs, but much fussing over the details of my playlist, purchasing new shoes, collecting up the perfect set of snacks, planning out my water breaks, and so forth.

This time was different. Partly it was because for the first time I was not going to be running with my wonderful friends, FFI bloggers Tracy and Anita, so I didn’t have our shared enthusiasm and peer pressure keeping me on track. Two of the four in the group of us who planned to run this race together dropped out. My remaining racing buddy, Joseph, while a dear friend, was a man in his 20s who can run twice as fast as me while drunk and with a giant sea turtle strapped to his back. Partly it was because this year I am commuting between New York and Washington, DC every single week and taking a full graduate course load on top of my full-time academic job, and still training in two other sports, which in New York involves commuting to my boxing gym an hour and fifteen minutes in each direction almost every day. Something had to give. I was overwhelmed.

I ended up doing something like two thirds of my planned runs, and many of those I cut short or did at a slower pace than I planned because I was just exhausted or out of time or both. A couple of weeks I skipped altogether, because of travel, family illnesses and who knows what.

Long story short, by the time race day came, I had given up on any hope of a PR. I felt totally unprepared, and my trial 21K two weeks earlier had been my worst time ever. All was chaos. I forgot my running belt in New York. I woke up the morning of the race and realized I had no snacks to bring, and had done nothing to update my tired playlist since my last race. I had no idea where the course was. Indeed, we got lost three separate times on our way to the race. I wrongly thought that the race ended in the middle of DC, so I left all my things in my boyfriend’s car and planned to take the metro home at the end, but once we arrived we found out the course was actually an out-and-back. We were stranded in the chilly forest with no coats, and we had no way of getting home from the wilds of Maryland where we had been dropped off.

When I looked at the course, my heart sunk further. The promotional materials had promised a totally flat, fast course. I had assumed it would be a smooth running path along the river. One glance showed me that the course was actually a rough, uneven trail, and that the organizers’ conception of ‘completely flat’ was significantly different from mine. Mentally, I adjusted my finishing time up yet farther. We found out there were no bathrooms and no mile markers on the course. We had no water and no snacks. We started to joke about leaving and getting brunch instead. The colder we got, the less joke-y our jokes became.

Finally the race began, and I took off at what I thought was a light slow jog, trying to warm up slowly, as is my practice. After half a mile, my app informed me that I was pacing slightly faster than what was supposed to be my target pace – the pace I had long since given up hope of achieving anyhow. I was surprised and assumed GPS error. But no, after a mile I was still at that same pace. I considered slowing down on purpose so as not to burn out, but really it felt like I was just jogging comfortably. I couldn’t see any benefit to slowing down. I decided that I’d just keep up that pace as long as it was comfortable. I wouldn’t speed up, and I’d slow down or take a walk break if I needed to. I assumed I would need to, since I was pacing just around 9 minutes a mile, which is quite fast, for me. (I have very very little legs!)

I kept running, and I never felt the need to slow down. Water stations came and went, and I felt no need for them. There were some small hills, but they didn’t make me want to break stride. I made it to the halfway mark in just moments under an hour, and decided it was time to re-up my expectations. I had long wanted to finish a half-marathon in under two hours, and I was on track to do it! So I decided to just stay on pace and not slow down or walk unless I really needed to. And I didn’t. My pace was weirdly consistent, mile after mile. I made it through the whole race without a water or a walk break of any kind, and cruised through the finish line just seconds under 2:00, giving me a PR and meeting a goal that had felt totally unreachable a week before.

As I sat with my friend at the finish line, the overly enthusiastic guy with the microphone whose job it is to keep everyone ‘amped’ called out, “And Rebecca Kukla wins a prize!” I was baffled. I went up and asked, “Why, what did I win?” “YOU WIN A HAT!” he bellowed into the mic. “Um, that’s great, but why did I win a hat? What for?” “BECAUSE YOU’RE AWESOME,” he roared back. “Thanks!” I said. “But seriously, I don’t understand what I did that’s awesome. What did I win?” “YOU WIN A HAT!” he yelled back happily. I gave up and took the hat, which I dearly needed, since as I noted we were cold. The next day I found out that I had won second in my age group! I still don’t quite understand how that’s possible, but I did! It was a good day to be a woman in my 40s! I never expected to win any kind of prize for running, especially not yesterday.

What’s the moral of the story? I think just that bodies can surprise you. Who knows why they do what they do. All our neurotic efforts to discipline them and make them predictable are built on an underlying morass of chaos and contingency. I woke up the next morning, post-race, and felt great. I was in the gym boxing by 10 am. I have no idea why that all went so well. But goodness, there’s no better feeling than your body suddenly becoming dramatically more powerful and able than you had any right to expect!

Rebecca Kukla is Professor of Philosophy at Georgetown University, and also a graduate student in urban geography at CUNY-Hunter College. She is a competitive boxer and powerlifter, a dedicated bike commuter, and a runner of wildly varying enthusiasm. She lives in Washington, DC with a passel of excellent human and non-human animals.

Guest Post

Into the Trails for the Run for the Toad (Guest Post)

“Sometimes you have to stop to see. Then, follow the trail to see some more…”

In 2004 after 15 years of running, and mainly road running, I was getting bored.  I tried to interchange running with biking and going to the gym but the problem was I always felt like I was cheating on running with other activities.  Only the distorted mind of a runner can relate to this way of thinking.  If I wasn’t running, I wasn’t really getting all that my body was craving, but the road running was really getting monotonous.  So what do you do when you get bored of running?  You sign up for a race in hopes that it will motivate you to run!

As I looked for a race I hadn’t done before and one that was over 10 km, but not a marathon, I found a 25km trail race that was nearby in Paris, Ontario.  The Run for the Toad was in its infancy at the time and it was only the third year this 25km or 50km trail race had been held.  With summer approaching, the training would be great for this early fall race, so I signed up.  The first year I ran this race, I fell in love with it. The organization of this race is superb, even with the growth in popularity from only 272 participants in the 25km race the first year I ran it to 1250 runners and 100 kids running in this year’s race. They added a 1 km run for the kids for free, with the added bonus of a medal this year for all 100 kids that participated making the event is truly a family friendly atmosphere.   It sounds cliché but if you do it once, you’ll be hooked and I guarantee you’ll be back.

Driving into the park, you are greeted by an exceedingly friendly volunteer at the gate house, which sets the tone for the rest of the day, no matter what Mother Nature has in store for you.  Volunteers direct you where to park and there are many that show you the way to ‘tent city’.  Event tents house the expo, registration, and a smaller one as a venue for the kids to watch some cartoons on the big screen they have set up.  The larger event tent is where you will get your catered lunch after the race…which I will highlight later as it deserves its own paragraph…that’s how good it is.

The setting at Pinehurst Conservation Area could not get any better.  The park is impeccably kept and the trails are pristine.  The race is run as a 12.5km loop, so for the 25 km, you do this loop twice.  Normally I am not a fan of the double loop, but because of the stunning scenery and the diverse terrain you cover over the 12.5 km, the loops don’t really feel like you are repeating it…well until you get to the gargantuan grassy hill at about the 11.5 km mark. Ok, maybe not gargantuan, but when you are on the second loop and it is placed at the 23 km mark, it is gargantuan.  My mind cannot even get around doing this course 4 times for the 50km.  Every year I am amazed to see the 50km runners amongst the pack, chugging along and unfazed by the fact that they have to do this challenging course 4 times. Respect.  The course changes beautifully from wooded single file trail to wide, cedar lined and pine needle carpeted trail.  The plains consist of wide open grassy knolls rolling you up and down like a roller coaster.  When the weather is good, it is a lovely part of the course; however, when the weather is bad, this is the part of the course that makes you start to question your sanity.  The term ‘rolling hills’ is an understatement for this race; which makes it interesting if the day is rainy and the course gets muddy.  All along the trail, there are plenty of marshals and volunteers always happy to cheer you on and give out high fives.  As it is in a conservation area, part of the course is a run through the camp grounds where weekend and seasonal campers line up their camp chairs and cheer you on as they have their morning coffees.

My running buddy and good friend, Rayanne, are on our fourth Toad (as you end up calling it over the years) together.  We train in the Dundas Conservation area trails where the trails very closely mimic those of the Toad.  This year the training was superb and the weather this summer could not have been more cooperative.  We were hopeful that this year’s race day would be sunny and warm.  We were hopeful that we each wear our favourite shorts and t shirts. We were hopeful that we would be able to eat our gourmet lunch outside in the sunshine, like we had a couple of times before.  Mother Nature didn’t get the memo.  This past Saturday, October 3rd, marked my sixth running of the 25km Run for the Toad.  I have run this race in beautiful sunshine, teaming rain, and this year, in extremely high wind gusts and not so seasonal temperatures.  Despite the blowing winds and colder temperatures, we were able to beat our time from the last year we had run the Toad.

Feeling good about our finish, we made our way to the event tent holding rows of tables and chairs to accommodate the runners for their lunch.  The lunch is served up to you by the Stone Crock restaurant in St. Jacob’s, Ontario.  When asked why we keep coming back to do this race, we often say it is because of the lunch.  Vegetables, noodles, pasta salads, couscous salad, chicken and pie are some of the offerings to feed your hunger after running 25 km.  All of the dishes are delicious and definitely worth running 25 km for.

As I looked around at the Run for the Toad, there is a certain atmosphere here that is not duplicated in any other race I have done.  The elite runners are plentiful here and you can’t help but marvel over their accomplishments, but there is a certain mellowness that radiates from the founders Peggy and George that spills over to everyone. They began hosting this race back in 2001 and even though it has grown substantially, the family vibe is still in tact.  The Run for the Toad is a total package run.  The scenery of the park is stellar.  The post-race meal is excellent.  The swag bag consists of a back pack (not another race shirt that is 2 sizes too big) and some goodies to bring home.

Of all of the great things I can say about this race, the best thing to come out of running the Run for the Toad all these years is being able to explore trail running.  The Toad got me off the road and into the technical world of trail running.  The Toad got me off the pavement and onto the dirt.  The Toad took me away from running among the cars and trucks and brought me to trees, brooks and nature; and for that, I say thanks Peggy and George.  I’ll see you next October.


Nicole Jessome lives in Hamilton, Ontario where she can be found running in the trails or down at the waterfront. Nicole has completed many 5km and 10 km races along with 9 Around the Bay 30km road races. When she isn’t at work, she is teaching Hatha and Vinyasa Yoga, baking and writing for



cycling · triathalon

Dreaming of summer, scheduling rides and races

It’s what cyclists (runners and triathletes too) do as we’re about to turn the corner, past midwinter, into days of more light (if not necessarily, for awhile at least, more warmth)…

We start planning and scheduling summer rides and races.

Sadly I’ll miss Paris-Ancaster (next year I’ll definitely hold the date) and the Ontario Randonneurs’ Devils Week as I’ll be speaking at philosophy conferences. Pesky day job!

In addition to regularly doing some of the London Centennial Wheelers and London Cycling Club weekly rides, here’s what I’m thinking of so far:

July 13 Kincardine Women’s Triathlon

The photo above is me on the bike course of that race a few summers ago…I can date the picture by looking at the bike. I have a better, faster bike now.

July 20 Warrior Dash

July 27-28 MS Bike Tour, Grand Bend to London

August 16-18 Centurion Niagara

Sept 14 Grandfono, Niagara Falls

Details on all of these just rolling in…

I’d also like to throw in a duathlon or two. And depending on how the transition from indoor to outdoor rowing goes, I might be doing some of those events as well.

And of course there’ll be a cycling holiday thrown in for fun, not speed.

What are your favourite spring/summer events?