How NOT to join a Zwift group ride

Most every Wednesday night my family and I head over to meet with members of our church for a time praying for one another and Bible study. Typically we will finish around 8 PM and then drive home. Sometimes (often)(okay about every time) the Beautiful Redhead will stay around to talk. I’ll admit that this time I was starting to get a little antsy. There was a ride on Zwift with Ted King.

We ended up arriving home about 8:45 PM. I jumped out of the vehicle and got changed hoping I could make it down to the Low Cadence Lair to catch a few moments riding with the group. Scottie Weiss was leading it and — using the new Zwift mobile app — I noticed a good number of other folks with which I would have enjoyed riding. They were still out there, but passing the 20 mile mark as 9 PM approached.

I made it onto the bike before the top of the hour. I could see Ted’s name on the list of riders out on the course. That is when I made my first error trying to join the group ride on Zwift.

The bad thing is that I knew better, but for some reason thought it wouldn’t be too bad. What was my mistake? I joined the group by clicking to “Ride with Ted.” Well, why not? Isn’t that what I wanted?

There was a great turnout for Ted's most excellent adventure

There was a great turnout for Ted’s most excellent adventure

The deal is that Ted was riding at least at a 20 mph pace. He was also surrounded by a number of other riders. If I made the choice to join a point on the course where Ted was, he wouldn’t be there by the time my avatar got mounted.

Yep, by the time I was pedaling, I could see the group disappearing into the distance just before you enter the town containing the sprint zone. Looking at Strava I see I went from a standstill to 335+ watts for over 3 minutes and 30 seconds.

Enter error number two. The other thing about joining a group ride in the middle of it (or near the end in this case) is that you don’t know the flow of the group. Once I made it into the peloton, I was in a guessing game to determine what effort I needed to hold. It meant that a couple of times I got gapped.

Once again Strava shows that I had three spikes in wattage — all over 1200 watts and the final effort at 1300. That happened during the rolling section just before long run down to the finish. Thankfully, by that time I figured out the pace and was starting to catch my breath.

Unfortunately, the banner was the finish of the ride. I didn’t even get in one lap with the group. It then began to splinter as some kept riding and others signed off. I decided to stay around to get in a 30 minute exercise workout so I could get the satisfaction of seeing my Apple Watch activity tracker fill up all the rings.

The problem is that I was hurting. I say I got stitches, but it was more like my kidney was bothering me. It is that sore spot you feel in the lower left portion of your back that makes you have shortness of breath. I knew I had started out a little too freneticly.

As I was climbing the KOM thinking I would just recover for a bit, Scottie came up behind me. So, I hooked up with him and another rider as we crested the hill. Even getting in Scottie’s draft, I was moving into the 4.0 wkg range here and there. The soreness wasn’t leaving.

Finally, just about the place where I joined the group initially, I let Scottie and the other rider go. I needed to back off. Even so, I felt good about completing a sub-15 minute lap. I continued spinning along to complete a second full lap before calling it a night.

So, what did I learn? 1) If you are joining a group and you want to ride with a certain person, choose a rider well up ahead of the person with whom you wish to ride. 2) Once your avatar is active, keep an eye on the watts per kilogram being put out by the riders coming up behind you. 3) Realize that because it is a group, you cannot expect to join into the ride at that same wattage. 4) Ride at a pace that exceeds the numbers in the group because the group effect will chase you down. 5) You can then merge into the group with less pain and have less of a chance of getting dropped immediately.

Ride On!