Category Archives: Training

On the fence

It started with a car wreck in my driveway. It continued with the sun crashing into my temperature gauge. I’m hoping it ended on the trainer in my basement last night.

I wrote about the car crash back on June 30th. That was the day after my daughter backed our 2009 Honda Pilot into the front grill of our 1990 BMW 325i. After seeing the estimate from body shop, I decided to do as much as I could myself.

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So began a quest over the next two weeks to fix the car myself. On any night I could, I was searching for parts and deconstructing the damaged area. The result was that over the period I rode my bike two times.

Finally, Monday of this week, I delivered the car to the body shop. I was pretty amazed that I was able to do all the body work myself only needing the shop to do the paint work. For at least the week, I had no car on which to work. My attention turned back to the bicycle.

It wasn’t that I hadn’t thought of riding. I was actually feeling guilty about not riding. Had I been disciplined enough to get up early or stay up later, I could have ridden. The desire and motivation just wasn’t there.

As with most things in life, when you get into these doldrums you just have to start. It doesn’t really matter how much you do. You just need to start.

So, with the temperatures in the 90s outside, I logged into Zwift and climbed on the trainer. I put a movie up on the TV for good measure. I started to spin.

Nothing miraculous happened. To be honest, I was happy when the hour was done. I didn’t spin a moment longer than the time I set as my goal.

Tuesday night I climbed aboard once again. This time I was feeling a bit more interested and set as my goal to spin for an hour averaging more than my typical cadence. It gave me something on which to concentrate.

Then the “Zwift Effect” kicked in. This happens to many people who ride Zwift. Because you are riding with other people and there are challenges to complete it is easy to get sucked into riding above the effort you initially intended.

And so it was that while I didn’t set any PR’s by any means, I did get sucked into trying for a Polka-Dot jersey. Then I inherited a Orange jersey. Well, I might as well make it a triple jersey, so I put out an effort to gain the Green jersey.

Then things got interesting. First my Polka Dot jersey got taken and then the Green. It was time to defend. This required an even harder effort than my previous one.

The most recent update from Zwift helped. As usual as I hit the beginning of the climb the read out showed me my time as I progressed as well as the fastest time I was trying to beat. However, now the readout also gives me an Estimated Time of Arrival.

This operates much as your GPS in your car. It takes the speed/power you are putting out and projects how long it would take you to complete the segment averaging that speed. This allowed me to measure my effort and not put out anymore energy than I needed.

Before I knew it my hour was up. However, with two minutes to go, the guy who took my Green jersey rode past me. I also knew that the sprint zone would be coming up soon. Hmmmm, it would be fun to get in his draft and have a mano-e-mano sprint.

Unfortunately, I had let him get too large of a gap and was unable to close it down before we reached the bridge marking the start of the sprint. He was already in the zone as I approached it. He hadn’t even attempted it at speed and I passed him in the middle of the effort.

What a difference a day made. I went from obligation to engagement. I’m not ready to say that I am over the hump, but last night’s ride was a good step in the right direction.

Bridesmaid but never a bride

Yep, I went out yesterday and tried to take back the Woodland Way Sprint Climb segment. As has been the case often recently, I came up just a tad bit short. It was great to get a personal record, but I missed the KOM by 1 measly second.

I’ll come back to that effort in another post. Today I’m going back in time a bit to another time when I was a bridesmaid. Or, I guess I should say a groomsman…

Yes, this time I came up short behind Christopher Uberti. He has raced for several continental pro and elite cycling teams. You may have seen him a few years in the SmartStop colors. Most recently you may have seen him doing yeoman’s work in the Athens Twilight criterium race.

Chris is one of those guys on Strava with a little PRO badge by his name.  You’ll see a few of these on the Strava leaderboards around Greenville, SC. I think it might be time for Mr. Hematocrit to pay this place a visit!

There are a number of professional riders that live in the area. However, Greenville for many years was the location for the USA Cycling Professional Road Racing Championships. Some of the times up and over Paris Mountain still refer back to Strava data uploaded from those races.

This segment isn’t one of those. It is somewhat unique in that it is one of the few segments I created myself. It is long enough, safe enough, and challenging enough to be a segment. It doesn’t hurt that it is relatively close to my home.

I enjoyed the KOM for a bit back in 2013 before Mr. Uberti showed up one day and crushed my time by about 16 seconds. It was just about this time I started seeing his times popping up on other Strava segments I enjoyed. This wasn’t the last one I would see fall to him.

Screen Shot 2015-05-22 at 8.55.26 AMHere is the thing. I make getting this KOM a goal in my old man cycling world. Chris picks it up just out doing what he does. If you look at the ride where he claimed the top spot you will see he named it, “Tooling around.” On this ride he claimed three KOMs and a number of PRs.

I don’t be grudge these guys their KOMs. Frankly, I am glad there are some times posted by pros. It gives me a chance to see the speeds and efforts it takes to ride at that level.

However, I freely admit that when it comes to pro times on Strava, I feel no shame in cherry picking. I figure it is only fair to level the playing field and give us amateurs a chance on the leaderboard. Sometimes you do what you can to avoid having to catch another bouquet.

Are you willing to do what it takes?

The title of my Strava activity for Tuesday’s World Championships was, “I don’t want to talk about it.” I’m not getting ready to go back on that by discussing it here. However, its time to use the blog as a catharsis to get rid of some bad mojo. So, bear with me!

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Here is the deal. I’m riding pretty well for early in this year. I’m seeing my functional threshold power increase and I’m sure I’m ready to take it to some long charity rides. However, I have an Achilles heel.

When it comes to racing (whether on the real road TNWC or Zwift’s virtual one), my FTP isn’t helping me much. Why? Well, you see, in racing no one just gets in a rhythm and rides that way to the end. Racing really is all about surges.

So, here I am trying to stay protected from the wind, but still stay up front in a race. The field begins to thin into a long line as the pace picks up. A break of three goes off the front. I wait. One by one the riders ahead of me move off like we are on a rotating pace line. Now I am on the front.

Suddenly, there is an attack of one rider, then two, and a third joins in an attempt to bridge over to the three already up the road. I have a choice to make. Do I rotate off the front and let the field pull me up to the forming break, or do I take matters into my own hands and follow?

For the sake of illustration, lets say I decide to jump on the wheel of the third rider and allow those attackers to help bring me up to the riders ahead. Well, two things are going to happen… 1) we are going to make it up to the break and then another scenario presents itself, or 2) as I grab the wheel going past me the field recognizes the threat and accelerates to neutralize the attack.

Either way, none of this takes place at a constant power output. Now, suppose I make it up to the break, but it becomes disorganized. After being away for a few minutes, the field behind gets organized to bring us back, or a new batch of riders attacks from the field to bridge up to us.

I’ve put out an effort to get up in the break. Just as I’m starting to get my heart rate under control, I’m faced with a new threat and a new need to ratchet up the power. This happens multiple times within the race.

Even if you make the decision to sit in the field (which I find it very hard to do), you can’t totally escape these surges. Often the field is like a rubber band. A movement starts at the front and everyone surges to release the tension being created as the front stretches away from the back. Then the front slows as the threat is neutralized or allowed to break away. The rear then collapses into the center. Only to have this happen again and again until a result is determined.

So, how do you prepare for this? Unfortunately, it doesn’t happen by just going out and riding your bike for hours and hours on end. It doesn’t happen by going out and doing 20 minute time trials at your functional threshold power.

PowerInterval Chart

90 min. 2 x [3 x 3 min. @ PI (3 min. RBI)(5 min RBS)] with chain falling off

How do you prepare? Intervals. You go out and do short bursts of power for one to five minutes. You rest for a minute or two and then engage in the next burst of pain. You do this until you are sick of them.

That is my problem. I’m loving riding my bicycle right now. I’m feeling strong. I could go out and do a time trial and possibly get a personal best. However, put me in a criterium, or even a road race, and I am toast.

However, I have not done a single interval training session. The result is that early in a race I can ride like I’m going to rule the field, but when the surges begin and I have to react to one or two attacks… I get ruled by the field!

Yes, a little bit of patience and correct reading of the tactics around me would definitely allow me to last longer, but I would only end up being field fodder when it really mattered. Yes, I need those things, but ultimately I’m going to have to face the training demons — intervals.

But here is the question… Do I care? Do I care enough about finishing well in what amounts to be a glorified shop ride that I am willing to put myself through that discomfort? Why can’t I just gain that ability by participating? Why can’t I just ride laps on Watopia going for jersey’s every now and again?

Oh, you’re still reading? I told you that this was a catharsis for me. This blog is more me talking to myself than to you. However, if you are new to cycling — especially competitive amateur cycling — I hope you will understand the truth of my words.

Intervals aren’t sexy. They are only fun for the cross fit riders of bicycles. However, if you want to be competitive and not just be field fodder, you are going to have to do intervals.

The question remains, “Are you willing to do what it takes?”

The Zwift Effect

My iPhone beeped with a notification. I glanced at the screen to find that Strava was alerting me that one of my KOM’s had been taken by John James. Sure enough I found that John had taken Walker Wimps – one of the KOM’s along the Sunshine Cycle Shop Saturday morning shop ride.

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The image above is a screen shot of the Strava leaderboard as of May 3, 2015. As you can see, John took the segment by one second. Since he weighs a “few” pounds less than me, you can see he was able to accomplish this at 720 watts. It is going to be a challenge to take it back!

Being the gracious (but competitive) person that I am, I commented on John’s Strava entry for this activity. “Of course, this means war!” John and I share a number of close KOM times – even sharing the top spot on a couple of them. However, especially recently, he has been getting the upper hand.

Actually, this post isn’t about our Strava battles. It is about his reply to me, “That is what Strava is all about. Maybe this will get you off that island.” Yes, Zwift had made its way into the conversation without me bringing it up. Frankly it didn’t surprise me.

So, what is Zwift? Check out this video from the Low Cadence YouTube channel.

I typed my reply, “I knew as soon as the app notified me of your comment that it would be something like that! Hey, I rode out to your neighborhood yesterday. That has to count for something.” I was finding myself defending my relationship with my trainer — or more specifically a virtual online world.

I could probably go into some type of philosophical and psychological essay seeking to explain the effect that this interactive simulation has on the cyclist’s internal drive and interpersonal relationships, but that isn’t where my mind first went. My first thought was, “Well, have I really spent less time on the road than I have in the past?”

I defended my Zwift addiction making the claim to myself that it had not taken away from my time on the road, but had only added to it. There was only one way to find out. The activity records from Strava would not lie. So, I went back to see how 2015 compared to 2014.

First, let’s take a look at 2014. From January through April of that year, I rode on the trainer 38 times. I ventured out of the basement and onto the roads 20 times. In January, I didn’t ride outside. In April, I spent the vast majority of my rides outside (12 out of 15). March was evenly split and February had 10 trainer rides to 1 road ride.

So, how does that compare to this year? Over those same months, I rode the trainer 71 times. I put rubber to asphalt 11 times. January (pre-Zwift) I actually rode outside in 2015 more times than I did in 2014. However, April was basically turned around backward with 21 of 25 activities taking place on Jarvis Island and Watopia.

Now, I have to ask you… does that need defending? From January through April of 2014, I was on my bicycle a total of 58 times. In 2015 that grew to 82 times. In 2015, I spent 96 hours riding my bicycle. During that same period in 2014, I amassed 77 hours.

I find people’s reactions to these numbers to be interesting. If you were to say that you did this on a trainer, they would say, “Oh, you are a hard man. I couldn’t discipline myself to ride the trainer that much!” However, if you lead with the fact that you have discovered this new “computer game” that makes it fun to ride the trainer, suddenly the trainer becomes a gimmick.

Well, I’m getting older and I find I’m less and less concerned about what people think of my training methods or my sock height. Bottom line is this… using Zwift has pushed my motivation button. It has gotten me back on the bicycle in a way I have not been since I before I broke my neck in 2010.

As my schedule (centered around a university setting) moves into the summer break period, I’m certain the number of rides on the road will far outpace those on the trainer. However, I know that should the summer showers come or work hours steal away the daylight hours, I still have a place in the Solomon Islands waiting for me. All I need to do is go to my basement.

The end result is that those times when I am on the road I will be stronger than I have been in several years. I will be able to maintain that fitness in a way I have not before. Zwift does not take away from my time on the road. It will simply enhance it.

Hear that, John James? I’m coming for you! Walker Wimps will be mine!

Update: Want to know what happened? Read about the ongoing battle here.

Well, that might explain it

I was feeling pretty down after my training race on Friday. Tuesday evening’s training race didn’t end with me finishing, but I hadn’t planned on making it to the end. While I made it to the end of Friday’s race, it wasn’t the performance that I wanted. Perhaps I shouldn’t feel so bad about it when I look at the data.

It wasn’t until Saturday afternoon that I even felt getting on the bicycle. My legs had felt pretty heavy all morning, but by mid afternoon I was feeling the itch. So, I decided to brush off the SE Bikes Draft single speed and ride to Main Street, Greenville for a cup of coffee.

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As usual, I was glad I made my choice to ride as soon as I started up my street to merge onto the bike lane that would take me to Cleveland Park and then on to Greenville’s Falls Park and downtown. I’d sit out on Main Street with a coffee and people watch for a bit. Then I’d ride the 3 miles back to my home.

Screen Shot 2015-05-03 at 3.38.59 PMOh, boy! As I neared Falls Park along the Swamp Rabbit Trail, I started seeing crowds of people. Then when I reached Falls Park I discovered the above scene. You can see the stone bridge there to the left of the photograph. It is covered with people… and that was the path I wanted to follow to my coffee stop. I love the beautiful park, but today it was time for a change of plans!

Screen Shot 2015-05-03 at 3.42.42 PMSo, I headed rode around the Main Street area to pick up the Swamp Rabbit Trail on the other side of the downtown area. While there were still a number of cyclists, families out for walks, and dogs pulling their owners along; I found the ride along the shaded trail to be refreshing.

As I pulled into Travelers Rest, I stopped at a street to wait for traffic to clear. Someone pulled up beside me on a bicycle. I looked over and discovered my old teammate Randy McCreight. Even today, I remember the time so many years ago when I first began to ride on the road. I was doing laps in Cleveland Park and I saw this guy killing in on the route. While I figured he was way above my level, he stopped to take the time to talk with me and encourage me. That was Randy. Randy hasn’t changed.

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Turns out Randy was heading to Travelers Rest for the same reason I was. Coffee. So, we decided to ride on together to Tandem. We sat talking over our cups. The conversation turned to Zwift and then Randy’s non-profit Village Wrench. It was good to catch up, but the afternoon had passed and it was time to head home.

Randy headed back to Greenville on the SRT. I decided to head home on the roads. I needed to get home more quickly and I figured I would make better time riding with the cars than trying to dodge pedestrians on the trail!

It was at this time I felt the bite again. On the rolling terrain, I found myself getting a bit of a workout with the track gearing. Only once do I recall instinctively reaching for my SRAM shifters just to find there was no gear to shift! It did remind me of the fatigue I was feeling.

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This chart shows my workouts over the last 365 days. It is May 3 and I am already at the fitness level that I reached on July 4 in 2014. This is the fastest I’ve reached that level in the three years I’ve been tracking this data in Strava.

Bottom line is I just think I am getting tired. Just Friday, that Fatigue number was 88. While I think there were some technical issues why I had some struggles in the Friday Training Race, I realize that another contributor is my need for some rest.

Training is not just not fulfilling workouts. Training is also about resting. Sometimes the resting is the hardest part of the process! Well, I think next week’s work schedule just might help me with the rest objective. I think it is time for an easy week.

We’ll see what happens then!

 

 

I am not a flier and here is my passport

There is a brouhaha brewing over on Jarvis Island. Seems like in nearly every forum I go to catch up on the happenings with Zwift, I run into this discussion. It is something I’ve noticed, but just didn’t let it get in the way of my experience. The topic is the presence of “fliers”.

A flier is someone who flies around the virtual island at speeds at or above Tour de France winning levels. This can be frustrating for other users because 1) it is hard to ride along with someone that can go that fast, and 2) it takes a good deal of the fun going for the jersey competitions when someone is posting times well above what you can. So, people are looking for ways to minimize the impact of, or better yet eliminate, the fliers.

Check out this related post: EPO – Elevation Protected from Outdoors.

Fliers come in two varieties.

Ignorant. Now, I don’t mean that in a pejorative way. Point is they are just ignorant to the way the system works. Most of these folks are using non-power based trainer or rollers. They probably do not have the right pressure in their tires or have the resistance set improperly on their trainers. This causes an inaccurate reading by the Zwift engine that calculates their power. They are amped to see themselves beating everyone on the island ignorant to the fact that it is all a virtual lie.

Cheater. I’m not sure how many of these folks are out there. My guess is the vast majority of the fliers fall in the ignorant category. However, there could be those who enter incorrect data in order to gain an advantage. For instance, Zwift uses your weight to help determine your power to weight ratio. Basically, the heavier you are, the more power you must produce to go a particular speed. A lighter person is able to reach that same speed with less power.

Things get interesting because a heavier rider can typically produce more power (assuming the same fitness level between the heavier and lighter rider).  So, if the heavier rider lies and puts the weight of the lighter rider as his own, his power to weight ratio goes into pro levels. This becomes especially noticeable on climbs.

Well, it got me to thinking. What is my power to weight ratio? I also had to consider time. You see a rider can sometimes produce very high power to weight ratios, but there is a limit to amount of time he can hold it. So, producing 1000 watts of power is very doable for a number of seconds, but to hold it for several minutes is… well, I wish!

So, I am opening the files to go on record that if you see me on the island riding a bit faster than you, I’m not a cheater, and best I can tell I am not ignorant. Here is my “electronic passport”.

Power Curve

Power Curve

Above is my Power Curve for the last six months. This includes both riding on Zwift and in the real world. I do think that reading above 1600 is bogus and due to a misconfigured power meter. My best high end power numbers in a sprint tops off around 1500 watts. As I have ridden on Zwift — especially with the Kickr trainer — I have a hard time getting over 1200 watts.

As time goes by, the numbers get even more reliable. So, my five minute time is a reasonable 390 watts. You will see that start dropping dramatically to the 30 minute level and then the bottom drops out at a little over an hour when I’m spinning along at 200 watts.

Now, on a given day, my weight fluctuates between 172 and 174 lbs. Today I weighed in at 173 — or 78.5 kg. With these two numbers I am able to determine my power to weight ratio.  So, at five minutes my power to weight ratio would be 4.97. In a sprint — for about 10 seconds — you’ll see a number like 14.02 as my watts per kilogram. Here is how the above chart would convert:

Watts per Kilogram

Watts per Kilogram

This leads us to the factor of time. This is often shown as the number next to “Functional Threshold Power” (FTP). This is the power that you should be able to hold for an hour. However, because most people don’t just go out there and ride that hard for an hour, there are tests you can do that use shorter rides to give you your FTP. Really, this doesn’t necessarily measure your ability as a cyclist. It also doesn’t mean that your test numbers will translate into an hour effort. However, it is a good benchmark to use when setting up a training plan with power.

Strava's Estimated FTP

Strava’s Estimated FTP

Thing is, I haven’t taken one of these tests in over a year. Back when I was racing I got up to 315 watts for my FTP. Last year I barely tipped 300 watts. Since I don’t know what my test results would be now days (nor do I care that much), I just follow along with Strava’s estimated FTP. It tells me that I’m clocking in at 308 watts. Based on how I’m feeling, that seems about on target with past results. However, I doubt seriously I could hold that wattage for 60 minutes. I’m guessing it would be more around 265 to 275 watts.

What does all this mean? Well, I don’t know for sure. That gives me a watts per kilogram of 3.92.

When it comes to Zwift, it means that I can knock out an 8 second Green Jersey sprint consistently and sometimes squeak into the 7 second realm. I can climb the Col d’Zwift in 53 seconds almost every time and on a good day have broken the 50 second barrier. Recently I’ve been focusing on getting my lap times down and this week knocked out a PR of 7:10. Considering my real world abilities that seems to be pretty consistent with reality.

Here is the other thing to consider… after I get that 8 second sprint, you aren’t going to see me knock out the Col d’Zwift in 50 seconds. I can put out some good amounts of wattage for short periods of time, but then my match is burned. If I ever land the triple jersey (getting all three jersey’s on the island) it is because 1) I got each jersey on different laps, and 2) the stronger guys aren’t on the island.

Oh yeah, and because there were no fliers.

Back to the island

Bronchitis done it is time to get back on the bicycle. I’m not sure what my next goal will be, but I know I need to get moving again. My body is well rested, but now I’ve got to start ramping up my fitness again.

I’m not sure what my next goal will be. I had originally planned to do the River Falls race in the Greenville Spring Training Series. It was originally slated to be held February 28. However, it was postponed due to weather and is moved to March 14.

That was exciting to hear at first because I wasn’t ready physically to race on the 28th. I started thinking about getting myself ready for the 14th. Then I looked at the calendar and my plans came crashing down. I have to work that morning.

So, I’ll just turn my focus to improving my fitness and then see what comes along for competition. At least I might be ready for the Tuesday Night World Championship rides. Of course, holding serve on the Saturday morning Sunshine Cycle Shop group rides is another objective. You don’t always have to pin a number on to enjoy a little competition!

That is definitely true of Zwift and my new friends on Jarvis Island. When I first started riding there, I would see less than 20 people using the online game with me. Now, I regularly see 100 or more. Eric Min, the man behind the system, says that he has seen over 300 though currently the software only shows around 100 to the participants.

Check out the “computer game” in the video I created during a ride this past Tuesday. By the way, some of the riders have started a Tuesday Night World Championship ride on the island. They all log in at 6 PM EST and then do a warmup lap. After that, it is just racin’ for the next eleven laps.

I can thank Zwift for what fitness I have and I’m pretty sure that when I get a chance to move it to the road, I’ll be better for it! Let me tell you, I enjoy Zwift and will even ride it on occasion during the good weather season, but I CANNOT wait for the time change and spring to come so I can put real rubber down on real asphalt!

Sir Crampalot

A little help here, people. I’m having an issue for which I would like to find an answer before this weekend. Actually, not just an answer, but a mediating solution.

Last week I rushed home from work to join Nathan Guerra as he was completing a 5-hour epic trainer ride on Zwift. He was raising money for a program that uses bicycles and racing for youth. My plan was to help him along for his last hour.

Well, I did make it on the trainer in time to join him. He was coming around the island and I was spinning trying to get loose before he caught me. I knew once he did, I was going to have to ramp it up to stay with him, much less give him some pulls.

Unfortunately, he caught me a little too soon! I was not adequately warmed up. However, I did my best to not only stay with him, but give him some drafting help along the way.

I have to admit that I was very happy when he reached the end of his ride. I was feeling pretty rough. Soon after we said our goodbyes, I started to cramp in my calf muscles.

I limped around a bit the next day and then began to feel a bit better, but there was the underlying tightness that hung around. I tried to spin it out on the trainer by going easy. I felt some relief once my legs warmed up, but back in the office the next day the tightness had definitely returned.

Then in the race on Saturday, the cramp in my left calf hit me hard. It was in the exact spot — to the upper outside portion of my calf muscle — as the cramps from my ride with Nathan. On Sunday I could still feel the knot.

I have been rolling the affected spots. I have been trying to warm up more and stretch more after my rides. I have drank electrolytes and water. Still, as I sit here I can still feel that tightness.

I’d like to race again this Saturday morning. However, it is going to be a crit-like race and that means a lot of sprinting. If I can’t get this thing worked out, I’m not sure if I can make it through the 45 minutes or so of the event.

Suggestions? How can I keep this from happening? How can I get ready as much as possible for the Saturday? Help!

Strava Segment: Col d’ Zwift

Time for another Strava segment installment. This one is found on Jarvis Island and is brought to you by Zwift. Who would have thought this uninhabited island in the middle of the Pacific would have hundreds of visitors each day? Well, it is true!

Jarvis Island - photo taken from the International Space Station 2007

Jarvis Island – photo taken from the International Space Station 2007

Zwift chose Jarvis Island as the home for their first cycling course on their online software program for cyclists using stationary trainers. Due to schedule and weather, I have been one of them more times that I would even like! So, if we’re going to have a Strava segment installment, it is going to have to come from Jarvis. Enjoy!

Hope to be back on the real road soon for our next Strava segment installment. You can learn more about Col d’ Zwift. Now, go ride! Inside or outside, you can have a great time at both.

Zwift has me daydreaming

When I discovered Strava, I found a new motivation to ride. Going “Strava segment hunting” helped meet a competitive desire now that I was no longer racing. Then I found that I wasn’t strong enough to beat my own times on Strava, much less up and coming whippersnappers. I’ll admit that when winter 2014/2015 came along, I basically parked the bicycle.

In November I rode my bicycle for all of 7 hours. In December, I rode for three times for less than 5.5 hours. Finally, on January 5, I started finding the urge to climb back in the saddle. It was just soon after that I discovered the online program Zwift. Suddenly, January found me racking up 18 hours on the bike. 11 of those hours came in the last week… and I’ve got one week to go.

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Sure, improving weather was a help, but just as Strava gave a shot of motivation, Zwift did the same. It is kind of hard to explain, but I’ll give a short description here and then let a video I recently published give you more details.

Zwift is part video game and part training tool. You download a program just as you would the latest version of Call of Duty. Once it is installed, you use wireless technology to connect your bicycle’s data collecting devices to your computer. The computer program then uses the data input to control your avatar on the screen.

Instead of this being a first-person shooter game it is a first-person cyclist game. What makes it interesting is that it takes the simple data from your trainer ride and combines it with the virtual world. It adds a new dimension to an otherwise static experience on the trainer.

On the trainer when you increase your wattage you increase your speed. The harder you pedal, the faster you will spin the rear wheel. To mix things up, you typically will use a stop watch to add variety (or intervals) to your ride. This works, but is so often still boringly sterile.

Zwift changes that up. For instance, you approach a climb. Obviously, the virtual world creates a change visually. However, it does something more. As you begin to climb a grade, you notice your speed on the computer readout begins to slow. You also get the audible cue that your wheels are turning less (even though your actual wheels are turning at a consistent speed.) So, if you want to go up the hill faster, you are going to have to increase your wattage.

Boom! There you have an interval. However, it is more than just a stop watch. You now have visual, audible, and self-generated force feedback.

Screen Shot 2015-01-25 at 4.25.01 PMI’m just getting started. To add to the motivation you have dozens of other people doing just what you are. My sons enjoy playing multiplayer first-person shooters on their Xbox. Zwift brings the multiplayer aspect to trainer rides. I’ve already found a consistent group of riding buddies!

I can see where this can go… How about riding a Tour De France route? What about a special interval training course that gives you visual cues to guide you through multiple sets of repeats? Want to ride with your buddy in Italy and chat while you are at it? Just log in with your “race radio” and ride side-by-side.

I even have my own app idea that I would love my software firm, Worthwhile, to build. It would be a phone app that allows you to use the camera function of your phone to bring your body within an outline on the phone’s screen. When you snap a photo of you in your kit from four different angles, you will find your team’s kit rendered on your avatar. This would then be uploaded to Zwift allowing you to enter the virtual world looking a bit more like yourself!

Oh, sorry. So much for a short description! Without further ado, here is the video.

Thanks for watching and get ready for the Zwift experience. Word is that the software should be available this spring. I’m thankful I was able to get in for the beta testing. You can learn more here at Zwift.com.