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.
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.