family · kids and exercise

New to Zwift: Babies on Board!

In its latest update Zwift announced a new workout collection called, Baby on Board. It’s a workout collection consisting of shorter workouts for expectant moms, new parents, or any riders who are looking for “a less intense, yet still motivating, workout.” There are lots of choices, 24 new workouts to choose from. I’m often looking for something shorter to fit into the middle of my day, and/or good recovery day options. I think I might try one! You can read in Zwift Insider about the new release.

“Organized Chaos” sounds good!

Jennifer Szende, a sometimes guest blogger here, brought the new series to my attention. We both agreed that it could wrong in a variety of ways but mostly Zwift seems to be getting inclusion right.

She writes, “I would have killed for this much online, accessible content when I was on maternity leave. This many people checking in. This many ways to feel connected while stuck at home. So, I can see ways that it could be done badly, but am hopeful that it would help a lot of people to feel seen.”

I’ve been enjoying the recognition on Zwift that some people are choosing to ride inside because they’re parents. One of my favourite group rides is the DIRT ride. I thought mtb bikes but no, it’s Dads Inside Riding Trainers. I nearly left and excused myself the first time. I’m not a Dad. Oops! But there were lots of moms too and some cat and dog parents in for the mix. The only really Dad feature were the jokes. So many Dad jokes. But the pace was good, the ride was well organized, and I enjoyed the camaraderie of what for most people–judging by time zones–was a quick ride before dinner.

See also Zwift Mamas and on Facebook there’s Zwift Badass Mamas.

covid19 · family · fitness · holidays

Filling the nest with workout equipment

I never thought I’d be one of those parents lamenting their children leaving home. Mostly I’m really excited for them finding their own way in the world. I’ve always had my own life in addition to family life, and I assumed that children moving out would just change the mix. Without kids at home there’d be more friends and less time with family.

I imagined I’d still see lots of the adult children. We’ve always enjoyed meals together, playing games, watching movies, etc. I expected that to continue. In normal times it would.

But along came COVID-19. So much for all of our plans. I know I’m lucky. I live in Canada. No one in my family is sick. We’re financially okay. We’re also at a stage in the pandemic where we are able to enjoy lots of time outside together. Recently Mallory, Sarah, and I got to go camping in Algonquin.

Still, I’m not seeing friends as much as I’d like. I’m also not seeing the kids as much as I’d like.

I’m very nervous about winter, about Thanksgiving, and about Christmas. Those are times when we’d come together inside.

Frankly, I’m sad and I miss my children a lot and I didn’t expect it to be so bad.

You need to know that I am the kind of parent who happily sent kids off to Australia and New Zealand on their own. Bye! But this, this is worse. First, they’re all gone. Second. COVID-19, makes seeing them more complicated. Third, I worry about them a lot.

Okay, end of the sad part of the story. I want to share the only possible upside. There is more room in my house.

The backroom is now my home office and the official Zwift home headquarters and Yoga With Adriene studio. Check it out! Our home weights finally arrived too.

Also, while I miss my fitness oriented son for our noon hour workouts, I’ve now talked my mother into working out with me at lunch with a visiting backyard personal trainer. Living with my mother also helps to remind me too that although kids move out–as I did at 19 or so–families can stay together through a lifetime.

cycling · fitness

If only real world cycling had a fence….

The images above are of a virtual group ride in Zwift. It’s the Sunday afternoon TFC team social ride where we are divided into two groups by pace.

That’s similar to cycling in the real world where clubs often have an A group and B group. My old club in London, Ontario even had a C group. There’s an advertised pace for these groups and since C starts last it’s the no-drop ride. We often picked up people dropped by the faster groups.

In Zwift it’s done by watts per kilo. Here I’m riding with the sub 2.5 watts per kilo group. My ego feels the need to tell you that I can ride with the faster group and have done so in the past but it doesn’t feel like a social, recovery ride. I’m kind of working hard at the back of the pack. Often real world cycling groups specify an average pace. In Guelph Speed River Cycling describes their rides as “leisurely,” “moderate,” and “advanced” where advanced is averaging 29-31 km/hr and leisurely is 25-27 km/hr and moderate is in the middle.

So that’s the way things are supposed to work. But we all know that sometimes, in the cycling world, the advertised pace isn’t the actual pace. You show up for a group ride where you know you can keep up with pace they say they’ll ride but instead they are all speedy and zoomy and you’re either being left behind or exhausted struggling to keep up. Ugh. Often, though not always, this behavior is gendered. It’s not a race, guys.

There’s a fix for this problem in Zwift and it’s called The Fence.

The Fence sits out in front–see above–like a sheer, red band. Go faster than the group leader and eventually you’ll run into the fence.

There’s also the stern warning, “Return to group!”

I got close to it in this ride so I could share some pictures of it with you.

Here’s a video about how it works.

The etiquette of the group rides is that you don’t speed off the front and make others chase you. Inevitably it splits up the group as some struggle to keep up while others pursue the faster riders. In the real world there’s yelling, “ease up” for example.

In Zwift there’s the fence. I’m a fan

cycling

Woohoo! Sam is now level 20, or on gamification and riding bikes

Whee! I’ve leveled up in Zwift.

The virtual cycling platform keeps me motivated in lots of different ways: competition and community are the main two. So much so that sometimes I forget the game-y features of it all.

But tonight I raced and came away with no great victories but I did get four new game notifications. I leveled up to level 20. I unlocked the snazzy pink kit for my avatar. I rode a new route and got the badge for Royal Pump Room 8, in Yorkshire. And I won a sprint and got a jersey.

Mostly I confess I don’t pay much attention to route badges etc but it was all a nice perk and cheered me up on this not very remarkable night of racing.

Here’s how it all works. See point 5.

“Zwift uses levels to encourage you to keep cycling and unlock certain features — from access to locked routes or climbs, to choosing new bikes and equipment for your avatar.You collect experience points (XP) as you cycle around Watopia, and the further you cycle, the more points you collect. They can also be earned by doing events, workouts and other challenges.Starting at level one, there are 50 different levels in total. Going up levels unlocks new bikes, equipment and clothing for the virtual you. It also unlocks some routes: for example, you need to be level 10+ to ride the Mega Pretzel and level 12+ to ride the Climb Alpe Du Zwift, a virtual recreation of the famous Alpe d’Huez climb in the French Alps.”

And here’s my avatar sporting the new level 20 kit.

Yes, she’s thinner than real life me. It’s not vanity on my part. It’s Zwift’s problem, not mine.

competition · cycling · fitness · racing

From DNF to podium, oh, Zwift

I had a odd night on Zwift recently.

I was scheduled to do the Monday night race that my team organizes. Fine. I did a short 5 km warm up. All good but then the race began and the speed was not something I had any hope of maintaining. Wowsa.

Zwift starts are brutal at the best of times. Unlike real road races there’s no gentle rolling away from the start. You’re in danger of losing the group right off the bat. But usually things settle down.

Reader, this race did not settle down. I hung in there and stuck with the front group of women for first 10 km of the Monday night race and then decided it was too long, too fast for me. We were averaging 40 km/hr and I was dying with 30 km to go so for the first time in a Zwift race I pulled the plug without completing the distance.

DNF time.

DID NOT FINISH.

I was already warmed up though and I still wanted to ride so I browsed my activity options on the Companion app. I might have opted for a fast social ride if one was happening but there wasn’t one. Instead, I saw that a 7 km sprint race was about to begin. I love sprinting. It’s kind of my thing I quickly hopped over to the sprint race and sprinted away. In that race I stayed with the front group with energy to sprint all out at the end.

I came third! Woohoo! The joys of a really good warmup. And knowing your strengths. And knowing when to bail.

My total for the night was 22 km. One DNF, one trophy for my virtual trophy case.

(An aside: Part of the problem and the explanation for what happened in the first race is with the women’s category. I’ve worried about this before. For all riders there’s A, B, C, and D groups based on power and performance. The idea is that you race with people with whom you’re competitively matched. It makes amateur racing fair and fun. There’s also a women’s category and the women’s category contains all women regardless of their power. Lots of the women race in the B category. I’m currently a D but “almost C.” I should race with the D group. That’s the category I won in the Sprint race after bailing on the Monday Night Madness race. Why did I race with the women? That’s the topic for another post. But the short answer is I’m trying to support women’s racing and help out my team and we benefit from having riders in the all the categories.)

A gold trophy, from Unsplash
competition · cycling · fitness

Losing the last of my London QOMs!

A year ago I blogged about shifting my QOM focus to Guelph. See Making Strava Segment Goals for Guelph 

Sesame Street News Flash | Muppet Wiki | Fandom
Newsflash!

It hasn’t happened. The pandemic happened. I’m riding outside again but I’m been keeping speed for indoors and Zwift. I still think I don’t want to risk anything bad happening during a pandemic. I would feel like an idiot hurting myself on my bike in these circumstances. Okay, I always feel like an idiot hurting myself on my bike but the extra COVID-19 oomph puts it over the edge.

The latest “uh oh” email–Dethroned!–tells me I lost the a London segment I’ve held as the fastest woman since 2014. I love how Strava suggests you message the rider and congratulate them. Um, no?

QoM v KoM: Strava's Genders (Guest Post) – FIT IS A FEMINIST ISSUE
I don’t know who you are but I will find you and take back my QOM.

(Update: The person took it down. Her average speed on the segment according to Strava was 67 km/hr. LIkely she left her Garmin on in the car. It happens.)

There are now just 4 London QOMs in my Strava trophy case. Mostly they’re flat and of a certain distance. This one is 800 metres. I like that distance. It’s also flat. I like that too. Though I did have one uphill, see I got an uphill QOM! But it didn’t stick for too long. I think the blog’s Kim Solga has it now!

What’s Strava?

What’s Strava? Strava is a ride/run tracking app. You can either use it on its own or share your Garmin bike computer data with it.

What’s a Strava segment? Segments are one of Strava’s coolest features. Segments are user-created, user-edited, and designate a portion of route where users can compete for time.

skitch_iphoto.export.skitch.png

What’s a QOM?

“KOM or QOM Crown: If you achieve the fastest time on a segment, you’ll receive a special crown, meaning that you are the KOM or QOM of that segment (acronyms stand for King of the Mountain and Queen of the Mountain). This crown is awarded at the time of upload if you are at that time the leader on the segment. Since Achievement Awards do not refresh in real time, even if someone later beats your time, you will still be able to see the gold crown on that activity page.

Your KOM/QOM crowns are stored in a special list on Strava for your reference. “My KOMs” or “My QOMs” is a page stored under “KOMs/CRs” or “QOMs/CRs” accessed from your Profile page. It will keep a current list of all the KOMs or QOMs you currently hold.

Note: if you tie for a KOM/QOM, you will not be awarded the KOM/QOM crown, and the crown will not be recorded in the “My KOMs/QOMs” list”

Why do I care?

I’m not offering this discussion up as reasons for you to care. You can totally not care about speed or relative-to-others speed when you’re riding your bike. You can enjoy riding without a bike computer or with a bike computer and not uploading rides to Strava. Or you can have a bike computer, upload rides to Strava and still not care about QOMs. You might not have a competitive bone in your body or you might have one but think you’re happier not indulging it. There are lots of different ways to be in the world and I’m good with most of them.

But, true confession here, I do care. It’s fun and motivational for me to try to go faster than others have gone. I’m happy to restrict the others to “other women.” Kim has an interesting post about QOMs and KOMs here.

I like getting it out of my system on Zwift or chasings QOMs. Aside from sprinting with Coach Chris and friends and playfully racing friends up hills, I mostly don’t try to go faster than the people with whom I’m riding. I view riding with others as a cooperative thing.

It’s good for me to be reminded of my strengths–sprinting, for example–as I’m not the typical age or weight of a speedy road cyclist. I feel motivated by segments in a way that I don’t feel motivated by doing sprint intervals on my own. They make me work harder. I also like comparing my speeds on segments over time. See I’m getting faster: Using Strava segments to tack progress over time.

Here’s tips on how to take a Strava QOM.

You can follow me on Strava, here.

covid19 · fitness · self care · sleep

Queen of the pandemic naps

This is me, happy napping, at the end of a long work day.

I don’t know about you but COVID-19 and #wfhlife hasn’t been great for my sleep. I can always fall asleep…see the comic below, it’s me….but I’ve been having nightmares and sometimes waking up way too early. I fall asleep quickly but if I wake I struggle to get back to sleep.

Early morning doom scrolling doesn’t help.

Another sleep complication is that my Zwift races tend to be late, 830 and 900 pm often and they’re all an hour or an hour and a half long. After it’s hard to relax and go to sleep right away. I’m still all zoom zoom, go go, for at least another hour.

Enter the post work nap!

Work. Nap. Supper. Zwift. Sometimes I go back to work after. Shhh! But more often I watch an episode of something and go to sleep. I’m getting more than 8 hours sleep, averaging 8.5 according to my Garmin watch, even if it’s not all in one go.

This would be more challenging if we had children at home but these days we’re empty nesters. Napping in the nest, that’s me.

Has the pandemic changed your sleep patterns at all? Are you struggling a bit with disrupted sleep?

cycling · dogs · fitness · racing

Sam’s biggest fans

Sam’s biggest fans

I’ve shared lots of Cheddar participating in yoga photos. But the thing is, he’s my constant companion, especially when I’m the only one home. All of my work colleagues now know him from videoconference meetings.

When I’m riding my bike on the trainer, he’s my number one fan. He sits on the sofa behind me watching the screen, only occasionally nodding off.

I’ve been riding indoors, in a heat wave, in a house with imperfectly operational air conditioning.

Enter the new fan, fan number two.

So last night I was doing the La Bicicletta Toronto Supper Time Trial, a very hard 17.6 km solo effort. Both fans accounted for and I got my second best time on the route. Thanks Cheddar and thanks Heavyweight Honeywell.

cycling · fashion

Sam dresses up her avatar for casual rides

Most cyclists have different kinds of things they wear, depending. When I was riding with Coach Chris, I wore Coach Chris kit on group rides. But I didn’t ever wear it on casual rides with friends. I felt it was my speedy outfit! Club kit is for riding or racing with the club.

I also have other serious cycling clothes for long rides, like my very best (expensive) bib shorts. And then I have the old beat up, worn out bike shorts I wear under dresses when commuting to work or out and about running errands.

Then there is the fun casual cycling variety of clothes. Star Trek jerseys and Simon the cat jerseys (thanks Susan) fall into this category. Their message is that I’m out riding to have fun.

Zwift is sort of the same. You get awarded kit by doing events and by riding certain distances and leveling up. I now have a wide range of virtual jerseys, socks, helmets, gloves, and sunglasses. I’ve even been known to do some events (Hi Betty Designs!) just to get the kit.

I wear club kit when racing in Zwift so teammates can recognize me but if I’m noodling slowly around Watopia on a recovery day, I want to wear something fun and casual, that matches the speed I’m riding.

Last night I was doing the Monday night race series with my team and just off the start I caught sight of my socks. Eek! I was wearing purple Pride socks with my yellow team kit. They clashed horribly. Still, they made me smile. Stealth Pride rider in the race.

Pride On!
fitness

Big Week for Women’s Cycling!

File:NYCS-bull-trans-1.svg

Thing 1 is the virtual Tour de France on Zwift. See Women’s Tour de France on Zwift.

Watch here.

We watched Stage 2 this morning. If you’ve ever been curious about Zwift this is pretty realistic. Well, except for their watts per kilo. Wow!

STEEP CLIMBS AND FLAT SPRINTS

Stage 2, July 5

Racers start at sea level, breathing that salty oxygenated air before going under the sea via the Ocean Tunnel. After the competitors exit the ocean, keep an eye on the climbers. During the next 5.8 miles (9.4 km), they’ll ascend a 3.9% grade. And the final push, AKA the Radio Tower Climb, is brutal.

Here’s the stage winner, Lauren Stephens. And here’s commentary on the race.

And here she is, in world, crossing the line.

File:NYCS-bull-trans-2.svg

Thing 2 is Ontario Women’s Cycling Week.

I’m away next weekend but if I was at home with Zoom and Zwift nearby, here’s what I would do:

SATURDAY JULY 11TH AT 9:00AM ON ZWIFT

Zwift No-Drop Social Ride – Hosted by the Toronto Hustle Women

Join us for a social Zwift ride led by the Toronto Hustle Women from 9:00 – 9:45am.

To register CLICK HERE

SUNDAY JULY 12TH AT 3:00PM ON ZOOM

Social – Hosted by the Toronto Hustle Women

A chance to connect with your fellow female cyclists from the comfort of your patio.

To register CLICK HERE