Today I participated in two Zwift events, a social ride and a race. The social ride was one hour of pedalling at a comfortable pace trying to keep to the same speed as the group. Rather than trying to be as fast as the group I was trying to pace myself to be within the peloton rather than riding off.
Social rides are amusing because you start on the peer and wait for the counter to get down to zero and when it does you go from being on a home trainer in the real world cycling on a home trainer in the virtual world to cycling on the roads of Watopia. Social rides are interesting because you have people from Australia, England, Denmark and many other countries, so long as they are in a timezone where it would be reasonable to cycle at such a time of day.
It’s the first time that I get out of bed, look at the schedule for Zwift events and feel excited about doing something virtual like riding a bike. Keep in mind that today I could have burned diesel by heading to St Triphon to climb with people I know. I felt no motivation to drive that far so I was happy to stay home.
Don’t be fooled into thinking that riding a bike on Zwift is riding an apartment bike because it isn’t. It’s similar to riding a bike in the real world, with real hills, virtual drafting, virtual fellow drivers, no cars and more. What is real is the conviviality, the desire to share a few phrases, the cheering and the desire to ride as a group.
During the ride we did sprint twice and on the first sprint I beat my personal record and on the second go I had less energy remaining. During the first sprint I put out up to 934 watts in theory. That’s enough energy for me to rest on the handle bars for a little bit before catching my breath and continuing.
When I ride in the real world it’s usually alone and I race against myself but when it’s on Zwift I have a choice between virtual social rides, virtual races, training, or just a “as the wind takes me” option. Of course there is no wind, I mean that you ride for the pleasure of riding.
A Race up a Volcano
The second ride of the morning, about 15 minutes after the first ride finished was a 15km race up the side of the volcano on the Watopia map. I thought that with my abilities I should select group D. I pedalled during the countdown to keep warm and a few seconds before the race started I pedalled at a higher cadence to compensate for the lag that I experience with my current setup. I started well but I tired more quickly than most. While I was trying to maintain 200 or more watts they were racing off into the distance. I found myself in 110th or lower positions but I continued pedalling. I tried to maintain between 180 watts and 220 watts. I kept looking at the riders beside me and most were category C riders.
I worked hard to keep the power up and at moments when I felt that I needed to rest I changed gear, changed my cadence, but tried to keep the cadence up. my cadence is about 85 when I’m riding alone but in this race, as I tried to keep up it reached an average of 105 strokes per minute. Over the duration of the I was generating about 2.61 watts per kilo.
I didn’t know what to expect from the other racers so my goal was simply not to be dropped into position. After that and as I got closer to the end my goal was to be within the top one hundred so although my body wanted me to slow down I kept working at it. I was pushing at over 200 watts for 14:45 in this race.
I spent hours and days training on Zwift before I felt ready to try a race. I trained for multiple sessions and those sessions got me used to pushing beyond my comfort levels for minutes at a time and it paid off in this race. If I continue training I can aim for better positioning. Today I was in 6th place in D category out of over 40 riders and 99th out of 180+ riders. So half of the racers have trained more than me. I can continue training and see where I come up next time.
What I like about the race, that I don’t have except for sprints is information on how far it is to the end of the race. If I know for how many more kilometres I have to make an effort then psychologically I can push harder. This was just a short race at 15km and I would struggle on a longer race and I would struggle on the flat.
I want to participate in more races and I need to choose which training course to attempt next. It’s nice to race virtual cyclists rather than real cars, e-bikes or people on lighter bikes than the one I ride in the physical world. In the virtual world today I was riding a trek emonda. This might be geeky but it’s pushing me to be fitter so fewer people can object.