Tag Archives: Trainer

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!

First workout on Zwift

A quick review of my first workout session on Zwift. Yeah, it has taken me a bit to get around to it. Frankly, if it wasn’t for the fact that I wanted the achievement that came with completing my first workout, I probably wouldn’t have done it. Now I know for sure I’m waiting until after Thanksgiving to start in earnest!

Recently I went through a pretty low point. I was getting absolutely thrashed in any Zwift race in which I tried to participate. I couldn’t get power for any of the jerseys. I was feeling really old and was ready to throw in the towel.

My Team Xperimental teammates encouraged me to take a break. They warned that I was just burned out from trying to go too hard for too long. So, I took their advice and either didn’t ride at all… I even RAN once!… or I just took some easy spins.

Now I’m starting to feel a little better. I’ve even landed some PRs on both he Richmond and the Watopia climbs. However, I still don’t feel excited about any long efforts. So, I’ve given myself until after Thanksgiving before I will begin training again in earnest.

That brings us to yesterday. I climbed on the trainer after work and before going to a symphonic wind band concert with my family. I only had a few minutes to ride. I also wanted to get that “sweat badge” for the Zwift achievement board. So, I went looking for the shortest workout I could do.

Jon's Short Mix

Jon’s Short Mix

I landed on the Jon’s Short Mix. Having not run the Zwift test, I was basing the workout on an FTP of 300 watts. Frankly, I think that was a little ambitious!

  • Warmup at 180 watts
  • 2x 1 minute at 450 watts
  • 2 minutes at 225 watts
  • 10 seconds at 900 watts
  • 1 minute at 225 watts
  • 10 seconds at 900 watts
  • 1 minute at 225 watts
  • 10 seconds at 900 watts
  • 4 minutes at 180 watts
  • 10 minutes at 260 watts
  • 3 minute cool down (around 120 watts)

Right out of the shoot I was shocked! The workout mode had taken control of my trainer and in order to reach 180 watts I was spinning along at 130 to 140 rpm. Hey, this blog isn’t called Low Cadence for nothing! 115 to 125 rpm is what I use for leg speed drills!

During that five minute warmup I was yearning for more resistance so I could lower the rpm. However, no matter what I did… even going to my 53×11… the Kickr forced me into that higher rpm. Thankfully, as I moved into the first 450 watts effort I was getting used to it and the Kickr was now allowing me a more manageable 120 rpm in the 53×11.

OUCH!

I went under the banner to start the 900 watt 10 second section. My crank came to a standstill! I was still in the 53×11 and the resistance immediately kicked in. I couldn’t adjust and suddenly I was at zero watts trying to get my gears changed to something more manageable. I finally got underway and even hit 800 watts, but it was a little too little too late. Zwift stuck a big old FAILED up beside that section.

Now I had a minute to get it right. I tried to find the right cadence and counted down to the next 900 watt effort. I was going to try to time it so that I would be in a better gear. This time I hit it and didn’t come to a standstill. I did better, but still didn’t hit 900 watts with only a peak of 875 watts and averaging only 750 watts for the 10 seconds.

Okay, one more time. After a minute of 225 watts with a very comfortable average of 85 rpm, I hit the last 900 watt section. I transitioned well this time, but the problem was my legs were dead. I peaked at about 835 watts and averaged just under 700 watts. I didn’t get “FAILED” out to the side of these last two 900 watt efforts, but I didn’t get the nice “PERFECT” one either.

By this point the 10 minutes at 260 watts was looking pretty daunting! Thankfully, the 4 minutes I had at 180 watts allowed me to get back on the wagon. My legs — and the rest of me — were feeling a lot better.

I nailed it. I held almost a constant 266 watts for the 10 minutes at an average cadence of 105 rpm. My heart rate did climb into the 170s, but leveled off at around 172 bpm. Some of that heart rate could have been partly due to the fact that I had forgotten to turn on my fan and by this point I was pretty toasty!

After cooling down, I had only spent 31:45 minutes on Zwift. I definitely felt like I had a workout! At the same time, I felt pretty… what could I say… supple? I actually think the higher cadence that I was forced to use was good for my muscles. I do tend to push too hard of a gear and it tends to leave me feeling sore after a hard ride.

On the other hand, when I look through the list of other possible workouts, I see nothing but pain! It really is enough to make me ask myself, “Now, tell me again why you do this? You’re telling me this is fun?” Well, the training isn’t really fun, but the payoff you get for the investment sure is!

I’m looking forward to investing in my fitness bank with the Zwift workout mode.

But after Thanksgiving!

No limits

After much discussion and looking at how things are playing out practically, I’ve reached the conclusion to remove the limits on the number of people who can be members of a team on the Unofficial Zwift Team and Club Listing. A number of teams have reached the limit. You will now see those teams listing more that 15 riders.

Why the change?

  1. The problem we were trying to avoid has not happened.

A concern with larger teams is that they could take over a race with sheer numbers. However, there are a couple of reasons why that has not been an issue. 1) Numbers are not necessarily a help on Zwift. It is harder to control a race in this virtual world, and the draft created by a large group is easily taken advantage of by all riders. 2) The international flavor of teams on Zwift mean not all team members can easily participate in races. You will find out of 15 teammates, 10 might gravitate to one particular timezone and 5 to another.

2.  “The List” is not the place to manage team size.

Primarily based on the second reason above, I don’t think that “The List” is the best place to manage participants in a race. I think that is best handled by the organizers of the race. IF there are going to be limits, the organizers can communicate that to the teams. The team managers could then draw from their rosters to formulate the representative team for that event. This takes us back to the second point above, too limited of a roster and it would be hard for a manager to get riders in the ever growing number of races in multiple time zones.

3. “The List” is just that… a list.

Tam Burns has a pretty cool set up for controlling the World Championships. The teams created in his system are limited for that particular race. He is able to enforce that because he controls it. With this list, there is no way to control who shows up and races. There are not ramifications for any team that shows up with riders who are not on the official unofficial roster! If there is one thing people can’t stand, it is setting up rules that you can’t or don’t plan to enforce.

So, there you have it. The teams will continue to grow. Should a problem arise we’ll all deal with it then. Until then… Ride On! and Race On!

Enjoy the Halloween weight loss!

Enjoy the Halloween weight loss!

Time or Scenery

Yesterday there was a Zwift race at 1:30 EDT. My Team Experimental One was going to be racing. I hated to miss it, but because it is in the middle of the day it cuts right into my afternoon work schedule. It means that most weeks I can’t do it. However, we were going to take a “team photo”, so I took a late lunch and hopped on the trainer for a couple of minutes.

After watching the guys roll off from the start, I headed back to the office. As I drove through the beautiful fall weather (mid-70s and sunny), I had a battle start waging in my mind. There would be another race that evening. Still pumped from seeing the huge roll-off from the line on the afternoon race, I was feeling the pull to jump back on the trainer for a six o’clock event.

The thing was, I had made my plans to ride on the road that evening. The weather is absolutely stunning and the days will soon be gone where there is enough light after work for riding. Make miles while the sun shines!

By the time I left work, my mind was made up. I was going to go climb Paris Mountain. If I left at 6 p.m., I would be able to get in an hour before the sun started to fade. It would also be interesting to see how 20 miles on the road would compare to 20 miles on Zwift’s Richmond course.

The ride turned out to be great! Altamont Road, which runs along the upper ridge of Paris Mountain and was featured in the USA Cycling National Road Race Championships for seven years, is being newly paved. Most of the sections are done. So, the ride was smooth and fast. Well, the road was fast… I don’t know if I was!

I met a rider I had not known before and Brock and I enjoyed the descent from the top and then turned around to climb back up the famous 2.1 mile “Furman Side” of the mountain. We talked along the way and admired the scenery looking out toward the Appalachians. I was glad I had chosen the road!

So, how did the two rides compare? I looked at this on-the-road ride and compared it with a Zwift ride of similar length where I felt that I was giving the same level of effort. Here is a snapshot of the two rides linked to the Strava activities.

Paris Mountain over and back from home.

Paris Mountain over and back from home.

Two laps of Richmond on a TT bike with only one hard lap

Two laps of Richmond on a TT bike with only one hard lap

So, I immediately noticed the difference in the “suffer score.” Everything else seemed to be pretty close — other than the elevation climbed! Also, the feeling of effort at the conclusion of my road ride was one of much more fatigue.

I decided then to bring out a recent Zwift effort where I recalled having a feeling of the same level of fatigue. It was an effort where I first tried out the TT bike on Zwift. This time I was on Watopia. That one hurt! How would it compare?

TT ride on Watopia

TT ride on Watopia

Ah, this one came out closer. I rode for 13 more miles and about 15 minutes longer. However, the road ride had several stops where Brock and I talked. It also had more downhill than Zwift. What I mean is you have to work more on Zwift to get your speed on the downhill than you do on the road. Of course, looking at the Max Speeds, they are all pretty close to the same. Those stops would also have an effect on my power averages since I didn’t stop the Garmin — so I got a few 0’s added into the average!

parisclimb

What is my conclusion? I really think it comes down to Time and Scenery. If I have the time to get out on the road and ride, it is definitely the way to go. However, especially in the winter months when the days are so short, it is pretty clear that Zwift is — while maybe not as good as the road — a great option for keeping your fitness and also enjoying the social aspects of cycling.

Teams have landed on Watopia

All the news is about hurricane Joaquin landing (or maybe not landing) on the east of coast of the U.S. While most people’s attention was turned to that landing, there was another landing taking place in the Pacific. Team racing has landed on Zwift’s Watopia.

I was excited to have an opportunity to participate in the historic event. Looking back it was really cool… even if I did make a fool of myself in the process. It was fun enough that I’ll be looking to get back to it whenever I can.

It was Frank “vEveresting” Garcia that put the idea out there. He suggested that we turn the Thursday Zwift Training Race Early Bird into a race featuring teams. Team dZi was already making itself noticed. Frank put out a call for other racers to counter dZi’s growing number of riders.

I figured I would jump in and give it a go. So, Frank connected with the team to give us our race instructions before the start. Here is what I was handed, “How do you feel about going hard at the gun and having them have to chase you?” I figured I could do that since that would mean I could be helpful early in the race when I was fresher.

Pre-race went something like this…

“JP is going to try and establish a bit of break at the start and try to hold to make dZi chase. When they come back one of us (I am willing can put in an attack and make them chase again) then standard tactics from there.”

“JP – make them work – We will enjoy the draft. :)”

Photos by James Gill

Photos by James Gill

And so we began. Frank Garcia, Casey Schumn, Neil Law, and Jamie Jj Alldridge were guys I recognized. James Gill was supposed to be on our team as well, but he was not able to make it because of work (not to mention he is riding injured.)

We were mixing it up with the dZi guys as well as Francois Coppex as a pirate. There were several other racers with no team affiliation and various categories of racers within each team. You could tell the difference between the teams by the kits they wore as well as the letters signifying their teams out to right of their names. dZi had… well… dZi. Our team was X1.

I was determined to do my part. So, I tried to stay near the front of the group as we did the warmup. However, Christian Wiedmann had some issues with we lost him as our marshall. He said for us to wait. So, I slowed down and somehow got gapped off the back. I guess Chris logged back in because suddenly he was in front of me in the lead group.

Once again I found myself sprinting to get back to the front group before the start line. I made it, but was already a bit winded from trying to get back on. As we hit the bridge to mark the start, I attacked down the left side of the group. Right away I started building a several second gap.

However, that is where things started going downhill… or I should say… uphill! The start of this race took us immediately into the 3 to 4 minute climb. In order to create a gap, I was having to lay down around 500 watts. Then I had to hold over 325 watts to maintain the distance.

I’m afraid that the plan didn’t work. Yes, I got a gap and riders had to work a bit to come up to me. However, in no way was I hurting any of them. It really was an exercise in futility and I ended up knocking up against 180 bpm within the first 5 minutes of the race!

Suddenly, I wasn’t the one creating a gap. I was trying to hang on for dear life! I did get across the KOM line and descend with the lead of the pack. Then a group of about 15 riders rode on as a group with no real attacks. Each team was using tactics to keep the other under control.

I continued with the group to the next lap. It was about halfway up the climb that I realized that I was not going to be able to keep it up. So, I eased up and decided to finish my ride and then go set up some sandbags to help control some of the expected 12 to 25 inches of rain this weekend.

It gave me an opportunity to see how I compared with some of the other riders. The guys who always kick my butt on these rides are weighing in between 120 and 155 pounds. At 174 pounds, I have to work even harder on the climbs. So when I’m killing myself at 600 watts, they are heading up the incline without having to put out nearly the same effort.

Then when it comes to the end of the race and they are throwing down 500 watts, I’m having to put out that much more. I’m not complaining. On the flats I can use that weight and power to my advantage. It is just on this hilly course my weight does not work in my favor.

Still, it was great fun! I want to try it again, but next time I’ll be a little more judicious in my efforts! I think I would be of more use working to just stay in contact with the group on the climb and then use my power to create a draft for a teammate on the flats or the rolling section.

Of course, Richmond is a whole different ball game! It is a course that better suits me. The climbs there sting, but they are not as long. I can power over them and take advantage of the flats and downhill. It is more of a sprinter’s course than Watopia.

Did I mention that Team X1 won? Still waiting for the official finish report, but we had two guys in the finish sprint (which was pretty cool!) and the first finisher wasn’t really a valid racer — best I could tell. Neil Law took the win for us with Casey Schumn finishing close behind. UPDATE: Race report is not out. If you want to see a very good blow-by-blow account of the race, check out Nathan Guerra’s Twitch.

So, team racing has come to Zwift. It works. It is loads of fun! I can see a day when Zwift will incorporate this structure into the game.

Now that I’ve helped make history, I’m looking forward to that future!

The fun of the county line

I will admit that I am not much of a social rider. Most of my time on the bicycle is alone time. When I really enjoy riding in a group it is when there is a bit of a competitive vibe going on. It was this kind of ride that got me hooked on cycling over a decade ago.

That lead me into organized racing. However, to race — and race well — is all about commitment. There comes a moment when you realize the time it will take to make yourself competitive exceeds the time you can devote to it. It is a sad day.

There were those moments early in the season when I ventured out with a number on my back and found myself at the mercy of the riders around me. It was possible to hang for a portion of the race, but at those moments during the end of the race when training shows itself… I had nothing.

It was disheartening. I just couldn’t find pleasure in being field fodder. I’ve known what it is like to be at the front. I’ve known what it is like to win. Finishing 20th or so week after week just doesn’t cut it.

So I found myself lost. If I wasn’t training for something and what training I was doing would never be enough, what was I riding for? Yes, there is the sheer pleasure of being outdoors, but when you have a competitive urge… it is frustrating.

Last night I experienced the fun of those early days. It happened on Watopia. Once again… Zwift to the rescue!

I logged on feeling pretty tired. However, I wanted to get in an hour so I could meet my exercise goals for the day. By the top of the first hill I was pushing along at about 4.0 wkg. For me that would be in the upper 300 and low 400 watts. Once I got the motor running I could keep it up.

As I noticed the time for the upcoming sprint, I realized that it was within reach. So, I went for it and barely missed it by a fraction of a second. However, before I finished the lap, I inherited it as the faster rider logged off.

Turning around, I headed the other direction. I went for both the KOM and the sprint on this one and barely missed both. This was where my tired legs got me. I could hold wattage, but I had no snap to put down the 1000+ watts to assure a good finish.

orange

However, as I neared the finish, I realized that I was going to grab the orange jersey easily! It was a nice surprise after the earlier pain and failure. I was right proud of that orange jersey.

And then it was gone.

Hmmmm, who was this person who stole my jersey? Ah, it was the current holder of the green jersey. That would be my next marker along my circuit.

If he was going to take my orange jersey, then I’d just take his green one! I knew it wasn’t going to be easy because he had a pretty decent time. Still, tired legs or not, I wanted this one.

As I descended toward the wooden bridge that was the length of the sprint, I put my gearing in the 53×11. I knew I had to have the Kickr all wound up before I hit the start line or I’d have no chance. I stood and pushed forward not looking at the TV screen. I didn’t want to be tempted to let up as I neared the line.

Out of the periphery of my vision I saw the wooden slats of the road pass. Then I glimpsed the line. It was only then that I looked up at the time to find that just moments after loosing my orange jersey I had claimed the green.

green

That is the “fun of the county line.” Zwift gives you multiple opportunities for this impromptu competition. It is possible for me because it does not require long endurance. At my fastest these efforts last me anywhere from 11 seconds to just under 4 minutes. On a good day, I can keep the wheels turning to grab a 14 minute plus lap on Watopia.

Zwift helps scratch my competitive itch. When I feel up to it, I can do full length races. When I’m pressed for time and not on top of my game, I can still manage a little bicycle sparring on the shorter challenges.

Sprinting for that county line still brings the same feelings that it did years ago… even if now days the line is a virtual one.

Rediscovering Watopia and the fun of it all

It has been sometime since I’ve ridden on Zwift’s Watopia island. There was a period where I wasn’t on Zwift hardly at all. Then I got back into it when the new Richmond course opened up. Last night I signed on not knowing which course would be active. When I saw it was Watopia, I felt that odd feeling of something old being new again.

First thing I did was look through the list of riders to see if there was anyone that I would like to ride with. I noticed the entry, “C. Schumn 3.3 metric”. Casey I knew from him being a long time Zwift user. I was intrigued to see he was trying to do a metric century with an average of 3.3 watts.

I decided to log in near him to see if I could help him out a bit.

Immediately I was in trouble. Just because I entered the course near him didn’t mean that I would be able to ride with him! I came onto the course at 0.0 wkg while Casey was matching his average of over 3.0 wkg. So, he put seconds on me right away.

Not only that, I joined him on a climb. So, here I was trying to chase him down with cold legs. Now, for a 47-year old man, that can be a painful undertaking!

I did catch up with him and he waved. I rang my little cycling bell. We started to ride together. I let him pull me for a bit while I worked to loosen up my legs.

Before long I was feeling better and I came around him. He was already nearing halfway of his metric century mark. He was trying to average around a 15 minute to 15.5 minute lap. I tried to pick up the speed with him on my wheel. I could go harder because I wouldn’t be riding as long.

theeffort

This went on for two laps. However, on that second lap, I really uncorked it on the straight to the  finish. That meant I was riding for a sustained period at over 500 watts. I was pretty much blown after that one. It did mean that Casey was able to get two sub-15 minute laps, but I had to back off and recover.

I rode easily — very easily — and waited for Casey to come back around to me. This time I decided to ride with him at around 3.0 to 4.0 wkg. The only variation I did to this was I did go all out on the KOM climb to see if I could snag the polka-dot jersey.

I was pleased that I got it with a PR of 1:52 (I thought I had climbed that faster in the past… oh well.) Then I waited up for Casey who was now over a half minute behind me. By the time he caught up, I was recovered and we started to work together.

That was the most fun of the evening. We were able to pretty effectively stay together for the remainder of that lap. It was a challenge because I was having my Zwift session controlled by the Kickr while Casey’s session was being controlled by a power meter on this bicycle. This made his ride more smooth as we transitioned from flats to the climbs and while descending.

The Kickr tends to send you shooting up the first few meters of a climb and makes you work like a dog to get momentum going down a hill. That meant in those areas Casey and I would leap frog each other and it was harder to consistently stay together.

However, on the flats and once we got sorted out on the climbs and descents, we were riding well in each other’s drafts. Then we hit the final straight for my last time. I once again ramped it up to help him get speed with the least amount of effort. Casey held my wheel and we pulled off yet another sub-15 minute lap.

It made it even more rewarding when I found that Casey finished the metric century in the 15th fastest time — ever. He pulled it off in 2:45:03. That is impressive!

This is what 1.5 hours on an indoor trainer becomes not only doable, but actually fun! When was the last time you didn’t want to get off the trainer, but you had to because you had no more time? That is what Zwift does to you.

Well done, Casey. We’ll see you for your metric attempt on the Richmond course.

Richmond motivation

Looking back over the years of my blogging, I’ve noticed that around July I seem to disappear. I think it is because I start off the season all excited with lots to write about. Then I get into the the rhythm and things begin repeating. I start repeating myself and lose my imagination.

Enter Zwift and Richmond Worlds.

Zwift launched a new course. It was a major change because this virtual course was a drop dead ringer for the UCI World Championships course in Richmond, VA. As usual, Zwift threw out some “virtual swag” — and some real stuff as well. It was enough to get me back on a regular schedule.

A surprising 6th place finish in the riding with real power group.

A surprising 6th place finish in the riding with real power group.

It just so happened that one of my scheduled rides coincided with the Zwift Race with GCN. GCN stands for Global Cycling Network. It is kind of like Top Gear (BBC edition, of course) for bicycles. For this particular episode, Simon Richardson would be competing with racers on Zwift while Daniel Lloyd and Matt Stephens would call the live race being webcast on YouTube.

So, I decided to hang out with the group and give it a go. It would be only two laps. That would be twenty miles. That would be doable. I could give it all I had for the first lap and maybe get some camera time! Then I could just hang on for the finish.

We rolled off and I tried to stay up front. For the most part I was able to set in the top ten or so. I kept my eye on Nathan Guerra, Francois Coppex, Simon Richardson, and Scottie Weiss. My goal was to stay close to them for the first lap.

Nathan and Francois I have raced with multiple times on Zwift. I KNEW I could not beat them. Simon Richardson is a former pro and presenter on GCN. I obviously figured he would be hard to beat. Finally, Scottie is a recent podium finisher in masters world championships.

For the majority of the first lap I simply tried to stay in position up front while keeping my nose out of the wind as much as possible. What a difference the ability to stay in the draft made. It allowed me to ride at speeds that made the first lap a 21 minute effort.

As we neared Libby Hill, I moved closer to the front. I wanted to be one of the first into the climb so that I could fall back into the clutches of the lighter riders. I measured my effort and came through the climb in good shape.

It hurt though. I can’t imagine racing up that climb as many times as the women’s and men’s elite fields. For me it was clearly a “match” I burned. I was just wanting to find somewhere to hide to let the flames cool down.

Up the second cobble climb I was still feeling the earlier effort. It was at this point that I started paying more attention to keeping my effort up instead of the riders around me. I was able to catch glimpses of my marked riders. However, I knew that there were a number of riders in there I did not know.

I had spent the first lap at 3.5 to 4.5 wkg. That means I was at my functional threshold power for that 20 plus minutes. At the start of the second lap I just knew that wouldn’t continue. The other riders started putting out over 400 watts and I could not maintain that. So, I began to drop back.

I slipped into that “Well, I guess I’ll just turn this into a cookie ride” mode. I eased up and recovered a bit. That allowed me to take another look at the leader board. Yes, there was a sizable gap between the front riders and myself.

However, I noticed I had a real chance at getting a top ten finish. I also noticed that Scottie was surprisingly back with me. I hooked up with him and another rider and we worked together to bring down the gap between us and some of the riders dropping back from the leading group.

Then we hit the climbs at the end of the course. Unsurprisingly, Scottie dropped me. However, I was in a battle now for position with R. Sines. He was making it tough, but I determined I would get him over the last three climbs to the finish.

Scottie was leaving me in the dust with a lead over a couple dozen seconds. I was able to keep Sines at about a four seconds gap. While the gaps were growing between the riders, I was still right in line with the guys I had started out the race marking. Now I started to think if I could hold off Sines, I might even get a top five!

And so we finished our second and final lap.

It was somewhat confusing because we were not the only riders on the course. We were all supposed to have GCN out beside our names. Some of the racers didn’t. It was hard to know what your finish actually was.

Then there is the matter of “real power” versus “virtual power”. Some of us were being measured by power meters. Others were being measured by software generated power numbers. The virtual power numbers can often be a bit gracious.

So, I was excited to see the Official Leaderboard Top Ten. This was the real power list and I managed a top six. Granted, it was a big gap, but it was way better than I anticipated.

Most of all I was thankful for the motivation I received. As you can see, there is a post here on LowCadence.com. It also gave me some motivation not just to ride, but to start organizing my own race.

Stay tuned for an I Do It For Foundation race once “trainer season” starts in earnest here in the Northern Hemisphere. I’ll be sharing my ideas and asking for your feed back here on the blog. Zwift has let me know they aren’t excited about a payout race, but I’m sure I can think of something to hold onto for bragging rights!

vEveresting: Reaching the summit

Mount Everest has called to adventurers for over a century. Many of those who reached for the summit failed such as George Mallory and Andrew Irvine in 1924. Many have experienced success since that time, but only two men can claim the distinction of being the first to crest the highest peak in the world: Edmund Hillary of New Zealand and Tenzing Norgay of India.

Climbing Everest has become more than an act by a select number of mountaineers. It has come to represent any attempt to achieve something that stretches human endurance that only a few dare and fewer still obtain. It is the call to a summit top experience.

10556487_1381306305526641_2263816333020543617_nOn June 13, 2015 in his own way, Frank Garcia followed in the footsteps of Hillary and Norgay. His summit was to be the first to “summit” using a new category of Everesting. He planned to climb the height of Mount Everest on his bicycle without actually going anywhere.

This is possible because Frank had access to Zwift’s indoor cycling software. This allows a rider to combine a virtually created world for cyclists with real world cycling components to give the user a near on-road experience. With this software and a bicycle connected to a smart trainer, Frank was ready to begin his adventure.

So after a fitful night of sleep with anticipation keeping him awake, Frank mounted his saddle a little behind schedule. We’ve probably all had that feeling when we get a late start to a race or charity ride. Sometimes the most nerve racking part is just getting on the bicycle!

The fear that he would not be able to stay awake for the entire 20 to 23 hours he had allowed for the attempt weighed on his mind as he began those first turns of his pedals. Would he be able to continue that long, or would some technical glitch or a saddle sore undermine him? But encouraged by his wife and children there with him, Frank set off for the summit. Little did he know the family he would find along the journey.

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He made the first climb up the .2 mile stretch of virtual asphalt. He would most likely ride over the “Shut Up Legs” chalk graffiti scrawled across his path over 300 times as he repeatedly climbed 94 feet each effort up the 7% grade. This was more than a physical exercise. It would be a test of his mental strength.

I asked him if he ever felt like giving up.

“There wasn’t a time I felt like giving up, there were many.”

That is when Frank began to find a family he never realized was there for him.

“It just didn’t seem like an option to give up as a team had formed and now it was about them too, and I didn’t want to let them down. Hours 12-14 on the bike where the worst. I was going really slow, but the team pulled me through. Julynn Washington’s words of encouragement were most helpful and just the fact that she was there the whole time.”

However, it wasn’t all about fighting through adversity. Through the pain and suffering of the mental and physical effort, Frank was buoyed by the magical thing happening around him. What could have been a lonely and draining effort became an experience of community and support.

Jonathan Lemon and Ken Bitting supporting Frank. -- Photo by Julynn Washington

Jonathan Lemon and Ken Bitting supporting Frank. — Photo by Julynn Washington

“It is hard to point out a moment that meant the most to me. Really it was the whole ride because there were all these people there supporting me.  People I didn’t even know before. It was such an honor to be the focus of that support.”

That isn’t to say that it was easy, or that even having people attempting to offer support always had positive consequences. As is often the case in these types of endeavors, good intentions can sometimes get in the way. Frank experienced this during some of the many times he attempted to make a u-turn to start another repeat of the climb.

“I was getting frustrated with u-turns, because you can’t make them when someone is next to you. This usually happens with ‘sticky’ artificial intelligence guys generated by the software that won’t leave your side.  Anyway Jim Purtell was being a trooper and doing climbs with me after one of these frustrating periods (there were a ton of AI guys out during the attempt) and he was next to me and I got mad.  He went and told his wife I was losing my mind (which about that time I was).  Great thing was, next morning, you know who was out helping me again? Jim Purtell!”

Frank Garcia's setup for his Virtual Everesting attempt. -- Photo by Carolyn Sullivan

Frank Garcia’s setup for his Virtual Everesting attempt. — Photo by Carolyn Sullivan

Other riders came to cheer him along the way. Some logged in and watched from the side of the road. Many used the messaging function within Zwift to send “shouts” Frank’s way. For the man who was the focus of this support he was quick to give these angels on wheels their due.

“These folks made all the difference in the world. It gave me something to focus on other than the pain. I kept telling myself, just follow those wheels Frank, just follow those wheels. Ken Bitting did over 10,000 feet of climbing with me!”

And climb they did. According to Strava, Frank Garcia pedaled his bicycle 17 hours 18 minutes and 54 seconds. He covered 163.8 miles in distance and 29,697 feet in elevation (consider he also descended that much… where would that take him!?!) He started June 13, 2015, at 10:32 PM Watopia time. He stopped the clock on June 14, 2015, at 10:29 PM Watopia time. That means he was reaching for the summit just shy of 24 hours.

“Well I want to say there was elation when I finished, but really I wanted to puke.” Frank told me after a good night sleep. “So that dampened my enthusiasm right then. I was happy I reached ‘the summit’ for the impromptu team that formed and I was happy it was over. Today the satisfaction of having done it is starting to sink in.”

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Click the image to donate.

Why? Well, part of it is simply the spirit of Mallory and Hillary. Being the first to ever “vEverest” on Watopia — or anywhere for that matter — was appealing, but it was also an opportunity to join the large support network of cyclists and runners who “Climb For Nepal” during the month of June. Frank joined them in raising money for people affected by recent natural disasters in Nepal.

The Zwift community has rallied around Frank in this endeavor as well. As of the time this article was being written, the total amount raised by Frank’s efforts exceed $9,000 (including a matching gift). There is no doubt he will accomplish his second summit by raising over $10,000 by the end of June.

Frank has no doubt.

“I see in the news all the time where people of different backgrounds might not be getting along. I wish there were more reports of this kind of stuff where people of all different backgrounds from all over come together to help each other out. I know that humans can be bad but they can also be amazingly good.”

You can be a part of that goodness by supporting Frank’s ClimbForNepal efforts at his MoreThanSports.org fundraising page.

Fun times inside and out

It was a great day for riding right up until the time when I was free to ride. Rain started falling and I just don’t ride in the rain anymore if I can help it. It was time to visit Watopia.

Actually, I planned all along to ride on the island. The rain just sealed the deal. It had been sometime since I had visited my friends there. Rain or no rain, I wanted to see if any of my Zwifter pals were out.

I was also curious to see the impact open beta was having on Watopia. Would there be more or fewer people? Would there be more issues with “fliers” — people with misconfigured equipment?

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When I logged on there were around 50 people riding the course. I went through and looked at each one to get an idea of what types of people were utilizing the service. Most of the sampling were 40 – 50-year old males using power meters or smart trainers. Next largest group were 30 – 40-year old males. There was about the same number of female riders and male riders between 20 – 30-years old. Finally, I came upon a young rider aged 11.

There were only a few riders using ZPower. This is how Zwift calculates power for people who do not have a power meter or smart trainer. You input into the software the type of trainer you are using. Zwift then calculates your power based on how fast you are turning the trainer barrel against the known resistance of that device.

I guess I expected to see more of these riders on the island after open beta was announced. Of course, with only 50 people inhabiting the space it probably was not a good sampling of all the people who are now taking advantage of the program. You too can be one of them by going to Zwift.com and learning how to make your travel arrangements to Watopia.

Before my ride was over, the number of riders had dropped to around 30. Of course, with it being spring here in the northern hemisphere, I’m sure many of my Zwifter friends were out riding in the real world. I did see one Aussie, but for most of those guys the time zone would have put them at work.

As for the ride itself. It was a simple three lap affair. I took the first lap easy while sending “Ride On!” kudos to those riding with me. I checked out the various people and took stock of the times for the various jerseys.

Seeing those times, I decided to give it a go on the second lap. I eased into a 300 watt pace to start and then upped it to 500 watts on the climb. Boom! The KOM jersey was mine. It wasn’t even close to a PR, but I had the longer term goal in mind.

I settled the wattage back down to the upper 200 – lower 300 watts range and tried to recover for the sprint. Thankfully, I had noticed the time was 28s. I could do that easy. However, as I was headed toward the sprint zone, the jersey was stolen with a 25 second time. Still doable, but I was a little tired.

Going into the sprint, I couldn’t seem to get any power up. I don’t think I ever made it over 1000 watts. I watched the time tick down and knew it was going to be close! I instinctively did a bike throw (yes, I realize you can’t do that on a trainer) and thought I had missed it. However, the sprint jersey was mine by a fraction of a second.

Now I just had to suffer through the rollers and down to the finish. The time to beat was around 14:25. Again, that was a time I figured I could best if I could average in the lower 300 watts. Problem is, Zwift does not give you a way to see what you are averaging and when on Zwift, I don’t use a cycling computer. I was just riding in time trial mode — ride as fast as you can without blowing up.

Going all out on Watopia!

Going all out on Watopia!

I entered the final zone and was shocked to see that I was on pace for a sub-14 minute lap. Typically, a good lap for me is around 14:14. In races with people pushing me and being able to draft, I have made it down in the low 13 minute range (13:04 is my assisted PR). This news had me making a final push to see if I could nail down an unassisted sub-14 minute lap.

The clock stopped at 13:46 and the Orange jersey popped on my back. This meant I had a Triple Jersey lap. Granted, with fewer people it didn’t take as much for me to get it, but I was happy all the same — especially the Orange jersey.

I was feeling pretty smug about that time compared to all the others listed. I figured I would hold onto it until I finished my hour long ride. So, I easily pedaled along.

Take a drink. You deserve it. Triple Jersey. Woot!

Take a drink. You deserve it. Triple Jersey. Woot!

Finally, I saw the name of someone I “knew”. It was Nathan Guerra. Uh oh. My Orange jersey was now in danger! I could only hope Nathan would take some time to warm up before unleashing a hurting on all the rest of us.

What!?! Suddenly the smug feeling was wiped away. My Orange jersey was gone — and it wasn’t Mr. Guerra. The time was in the low 13 minute range. No. Not tonight. He could have it. I’d leave him for Nathan.

Once more Zwift made an hour on the trainer fly by. Once again I was sucked into the virtual world, not just because of the graphics and challenges, but because of the people there with me. I’m definitely going to make regular visits to Watopia no matter what the weather might be outside.

An invitation: If you live in the Greenville area, I’d like to invite you to ride with me on Saturday morning, May 30, 2015. I’ll be rolling out 8 AM sharp from Sunshine Cycle Shop. The ride will be a fun ride and any sprinting will always have a regroup. We’ll be out for about 2 hours and then anyone who wants to go longer can have at it!