Tag Archives: Watopia

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!

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.

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.

11720884_10155839553035650_755094892_o

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.

Friday Training Race on Zwift’s Watopia Island

Not much to the written blog today. All last night I was uploading a 10 GB file to YouTube. It is a video of the Friday Training Race on Zwift’s Watopia Island. This one is different from others because I did not do a voice over after the face. I did live in-race, real-time commentary. Not sure how well it worked, but you can be the judge.

The Friday races are going to be moving to Thursday which means I will not be able to participate in as many of them. However, I do hope to join the guys on occasion. Also, there are a growing number of other races springing up on Zwift’s virtual world. You can find a time to race — or create your own race. A good place to start is on the Zwift Riders Facebook group.

Ride On!

Past video and last video

Let’s start with the last video uploaded to YouTube. It is commentary on the June 23, 2015 Tuesday Night Worlds on Zwift’s Watopia Island. It gives you an opportunity to see yesterday’s blog post.

Continuing our “Throwback Thursday” theme, I decided to go back and resurrect a video from the past. This is one of the earliest videos I ever made riding a bicycle. The first was a video of the Sunshine Cycle Shop crew climbing Paris Mountain on April 27, 2008.

It is amazing to see how the action camera market has changed since that time! I was using on of the early Contour cameras. GoPro didn’t exist. The Internet has changed as well! The reason these videos are lower bandwidth is because back in that day the idea of HD quality video seemed out of reach.

Of course, this was less than 10 years ago. Much has changed in my life, on the bicycle, and with technology. Even the blog has changed. You’ll notice at the end of the older video that I point you’ll notice I point folks to StackOfStuff.net (that is a time capsule for you). I’m still at it though. On the bicycle, I’ve done more than I thought I could do.

I kind of like Throwback Thursday…

It’s Watopia, not Utopia

Last night was the Tuesday Night Worlds on Zwift. Sometimes we escape there to get away from heat, rain, or dangerous conditions. It certainly makes that possible, but Watopia isn’t Utopia. Our PM race proved it.

First, I’ll get my race report out of the way (see video from the race here).

I decided to pass on my Quarq power meter acheter cialis en andorre. The night before I rode on the trainer and my power meter kept dropping. I’m not sure if the battery is running down or something was interfering with the ANT+ connection.

My Giant TCR Advanced mounted to my Wahoo Kickr

My Giant TCR Advanced mounted to my Wahoo Kickr

The Wahoo Kickr was still kicking and sending a good signal to the computer. It would be my power meter for the evening. This did concern me because of my past issues trying to stay consistent with the group.

The bridge marking the start of the Tuesday Night Worlds.

The bridge marking the start of the Tuesday Night Worlds.

Thankfully, I was with the front of the group when we hit the bridge that marked the start. I figured with a climb coming up things should remain under control as the racers sorted out who was who. Or so I thought.

Frank Garcia goes on the attack at the base of the first climb.

Frank Garcia goes on the attack at the base of the first climb.

Almost immediately Frank “vEveresting” Garcia started to form a gap. M. Nahorniak (a rider with whom I had not yet ridden) followed. I contemplated what to do. It was definitely early for those guys to go off the front, but I wasn’t sure what type of concerted effort the group could put out because of the various categories represented.

I was comforted by the fact that Nathan Guerra was in the group. There was no doubt that he could nail them back. So, I began to mark him. As the riders ahead established a 6 second gap, Nathan and I moved to the front to pace the field.

I mark Nathan Gurrea in hopes he will help pull me back to the attacking riders

I mark Nathan Guerra in hopes he will help pull me back to the attacking riders

Nearing the top, the two riders ahead still had a 10 — 12 second gap on us. However, I was not pushing hard. I felt if I could just stay with Nathan and not go into the red, we could overtake them. It was important for me not to overdo it here early.

P. Merrick catches and comes over the top to form a 3 second gap at the KOM.

P. Merrick catches and comes over the top to form a 3 second gap at the KOM.

It was about that time that P. Merrick (another new rider to me) caught us and came around to chase after Garcia and Nahorniak. By the time we reached the KOM banner at the top of the climb, he had a 3 second gap on Guerra and me. He was about that far behind Garcia, but Nahorniak had stretched his lead.

Now is when I got concerned. There is just something about me and the Kickr when it comes to going downhill. It seems that other riders are able to leave me in the dust. I can be in 53×11 and over 100 rpm in cadence and I just can’t seem to get the wattage up.

Suffering on the descent!

Suffering on the descent!

Sure enough, not only did the riders ahead increase the gap on me, but several other riders that had been with me or behind me caught or moved around me. I was doing a standing sprint down the hill and still got left!

I had to hope that I could make it up on the upcoming flat section. By the time I reached the start/finish banner, I had won back the time lost to Nathan and the other riders. Still, Garcia, Merrick, and Nahorniak were hanging out there between 10 and 20 seconds. I tried to give Guerra an elbow flick to come around and chase, but my phone screen must have had sweat on it because it wouldn’t activate.

Closing in on the first pass through the start/finish banner.

Closing in on the first pass through the start/finish banner.

It was on the way to the first tunnel that I learned I had put my hope in the wrong scenario. I had noticed during the warmup and first portion of the race that Guerra did not have the TNW designation out to the right of his name. This isn’t that abnormal for someone to leave it off, but I should have questioned it.

Along this stretch I saw a message pop up on the screen from Nathan, “No recovery ride with this group!” Uh oh. The idea of riding his wheel into the front might be turning into fool’s gold. Another message popped up, “Sorry, not really racing. Shouldn’t mess with you.” Oh great!

Basically, this meant I needed to get up there with those three guys as soon as I could. If I was left here to ride alone, I wouldn’t be able to catch them. I could see from the messages they were sending that they were trying to work together at about a 4.0 wkg pace. If they did that, there was no way I would catch them without dying in the attempt!

Going alone to bridge the gap.

Going alone to bridge the gap.

So it was that I came around Nathan and set out to bring the group back. My strategy was to try to stay within reach until the start of the big climb. Once I reached that point, I would just have to hope that the guys would be resting on the gap they had established and I could close up to them with a burst.

They remained between 10  to 20 seconds ahead for most of the time I carried out my measured effort. At first I was a little discouraged, but then I started to notice that I was staying with them and even gaining a little. Perhaps I could make the junction!

My last ditch effort to catch the front group.

My last ditch effort to catch the front group.

Crossing the sprint zone bridge the gap had moved back up to over 20 seconds. Then between that and the bridge where we started the race the time fluctuated between 10 and 20 seconds. When I hit the start of the climb, the gap was over 20 seconds. This could be tough.

Then the gap dropped below 20 seconds and I could see the riders ahead were lowering their watts per kilogram. If I was going to try this, it would have to be now. I put my head down and brought my wattage up to around 400 watts and then over 500 watts. I wanted to catch them, but I also wanted to have something left when I did!

The catch!

The catch!

I caught them just before we reached the alien biker statues. For a moment I contemplated just keeping my wattage up and setting the pace. However, I thought better of it and hoped to back off and recover. My heart rate hit 185 bpm during the effort and that is near the very top of my red zone!

Nathan pointing out my mistake.

Nathan pointing out my mistake.

I made the break, but at what cost? As Nathan pointed out as we climbed the hill, I had burned a match. Actually, I felt like I had burned a torch! I also knew things were not going to get better because I was still having to work and my heart rate had only come down to around 180 bpm. To make matters worse, we were coming up to the downhill.

It was about this time I noticed a new rider ahead of us. It was E. Angeli. It showed that he was nearly a minute ahead of us and we were closing in fast. I wondered how he was able to get that large of a gap. I didn’t remember him coming around us.

The group grows to four.

The group grows to four.

Once he joined the dynamics began to change as he helped push the pace over the top of the KOM. Sure enough, by the time we reached the bottom of the hill and got within sight of the finishing banner, I was about 12 seconds arrears. At that point, I just didn’t see the point in continuing to chase.

I let the guys continue on unmolested by another attempt to bridge up to them. Using my keyboard, I switched over to view the race from the vantage point of those within the winning break. The thought was that I would create a TV-like recording of the remainder of the race.

The winner would come out of these three riders.

The winner would come out of these four riders.

It was then that I really noticed that Watopia was turning into Warptopia. Having time to sit back and watch instead of concentrating on my own effort, I was able to see how latency was causing all kinds of problems.  It made for some interesting views!

Garcia’s connection seemed pretty solid. However, Nahorniak, Angeli, and Merrick seemed to be having issues. As it turned out, the connection issues forced Nahorniak out of the race. It appeared to be weather related and he later reported that his home lost power about 30 minutes after he pulled out. It was a pity, because of the riders remaining, he seemed the strongest.

Merrick’s avatar was doing all kinds of stuff. At times he was doing circles. Other times he would disappear for a moment and then suddenly reappear ahead of the group. One time I watched Merrick ride into and disappear into the side of a mountain! Angeli took a major detour off of the road into a field of flowers.

As it turns out, I never was able to record the finish because all the riders dropped off the leaderboard and I was left with only my name listed there. Without access to the full leaderboard, I was unable to engage the “fan view” to see things from their perspectives.

According to Christian Wiedmann’s race report, P. Merrick ended up taking the win in the A group. Frank came in second. I had watched him get dropped and then fight valiantly to get back, but it was too big an order. I was happy to see that he persevered for the second spot. Turns out Angeli fell prey to the network issues that seemed to be plaguing the island.

Picking up the scraps after an otherwise disappointing ride.

Picking up the scraps after an otherwise disappointing ride.

It was kind of boring not being able to watch the guys as I rode along to finish out the required miles of the ride. To make matters worse, I misunderstood the distance.  I thought it was 31.5 miles which put me back at the bridge where I started. However, it was supposed to be 32.5 miles — the finish banner. Technically, I got a DNF.

I went for the KOM as a way to make myself feel better and was happy to snag it, but it definitely wasn’t the fastest KOM of the evening. Still, it always is fun to ride around a bit in the polka dots. My only regret really was that I was unable to capture the video I would have liked.

Not too shabby.

Not too shabby.

Then as I logged out, I saw the report that pops up at the end of each ride on Zwift. It was nothing to be ashamed of. I definitely got myself a workout!

Isn’t that really the ultimate advantage of these activities? It is helping me get stronger and keeping me healthy. I’m having fun to boot!

Even if Watopia isn’t Utopia, it is still a great place to spend a hot muggy evening.

Them there be fightin’ words

The video Zwift Friday Training Race May 8, 2015 on my YouTube channel seems to have been picked up somewhere because just over the weekend it was viewed over 1000 times. I still haven’t tracked down what has driven the interest, but I have noticed that it has also generated a couple of comments. I was surprised at how one of the comments got under my skin.

The first somewhat negative comment didn’t bother me so much. It made me chuckle. Even as I edited the video, I wondered how long it would be before someone made a jab at me.

Factory051 commented: “Britisher? Greece doesn’t have a flag? What on earth is wrong with you?”

Yes, I did say “Britisher” when I should have said “Brit.” However, in my defense I would ask you to do a voice over of a video without a script and see how many times you misspeak! When you are in the midst of a list of “ers” and suddenly have a pattern interrupt, it is hard to break the cycle. Anyway, I just claimed the ignorant American excuse on that one.

Now, as for Greece not having a flag. Of course, the country of Greece has a national flag. What it did not have at the time of the race was a flag for Zwift. As I was doing the voice over, it did cross my mind that someone might be confused. You will actually hear a pause after I said it as my mind was trying to decide whether to try to explain. Bottomline is that Zwifters understand that not every countries flag has always been represented on the software.

It wasn’t that comment that got to me. It was one by Thomas Nigl. He was calling me out and “questioning my manhood.” He commented: “The watts displayed are a joke! Way too high!”

I bristled and came back with an uncharacteristic (for me) challenge, “Come visit me in Greenville and let your legs decide if the wattage is wrong.” Of course, I added a ” ;-)” that I didn’t really mean. For some reason this comment ticked me off.

Why?

I think one reason is that in someways those of us on Zwift — and more so those of us who share these kinds of videos — are placing ourselves in a vulnerable situation. At any moment on Zwift, I can click over to another rider and see RPM, wattage, and heart rate. I can get an instant understanding of the rider’s ability by following his or her watts per kilogram.

Riding on the road allows you to hold your cards closer to your chest. You can telegraph weakness when you are strong and hide tired legs when you feel like you are about to get dropped. Your cycling computer is there for only you to see.

In Zwift, we lay ourselves bare. The numbers are there for everyone to see. Perhaps that is why when those numbers are questioned, it causes us to react more defensively. It is one thing for someone to take a swing at you when you have your gloves up. It is another thing for someone to give a punch when you have your arms open.

Of course, another reason is because of the prevalence of “flyers” who have in ignorance set their trainers up incorrectly or are intentionally gaming the system by false weight entries or manipulation of the trainer. The reaction against these riders by many Zwift is enough to cause anyone to bristle at someone intimating that you might be one of them.

It also annoyed me because I know what my abilities are. I have YEARS of data showing that these numbers are not abnormal for me. They are consistent with what I do on the road and here on Zwift. They can be attested to by my riding buddies and my one-time coach.

Finally, it annoyed me because even though this guy thought the wattage was too high. It still wasn’t high enough! I’ve never come close to winning one of these Zwift races. Just because you can put out average to above average wattage for a given period of time does not mean that you can do it long enough.

Weighing in on a skinny day at 170 and a normal day around 174, I HAVE to put out the wattages seen in the video in order to stay up with guys 20 and even 30 pounds lighter than I am. The good news is I can actually do it for about 20 minutes. The bad news is that I can’t pull it off for an entire race.

Here I was suffering to try for a good finish. I even manage to make the podium. Someone comes along and questions my result.

Okay. I know. The ultimate answer to my problem is pride. Does it really matter what Thomas thinks?

On the other hand, this shows another unique aspect of the Zwift community. We really are exposing ourselves when we honestly roll up to the line. We can have more insight into the abilities of the riders around us. There is something about that vulnerability that forms a bond.

And so, in Zwift, as in other aspects of life, honesty becomes a foundational component of good relationships. I’m proud to be a part of the community and the relationships I have formed there. It is important to me that my participation be honest.

So, the gloves are up to those who might question, but my arms are open to the great friends I’ve enjoyed riding with — both racing and recreationally — on Zwift.

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.