Trying Out Zwift

Following the recommendation of… oh, just about everyone, I have finally checked out Zwift for cycling workouts.

What is Zwift?  I guess you could call it virtual reality cycling.  You connect to their platform and get to ride through a virtual landscape with other riders.  And of course, there are definitely game aspects to it – so you can challenge other riders,  try to set new personal bests, and of course, earn new jerseys and equipment for your avatar to wear.

Don’t worry, after this, I earned enough points for a helmet. Even virtual riders shouldn’t be without a helmet.

So the best way to use Zwift is probably through a smart trainer, which will automatically change your resistance as you ride through the hills and valleys of Zwift.

I don’t have a smart trainer.  But I do have a power meter, which works pretty well.  Zwift looks at the watts I’m putting out and the simulated course and uses that to determine how fast avatar me is going.  So I can be pedaling at the same rate and speed, and depending if I’m going uphill or downhill, I could be doing anywhere from 3mph-35mph (all speeds I have seen on Zwift).  So obviously, the goal is for me to change my gearing so that I’m picking up the pace and better simulating the road changes.

If you don’t have a smart trainer or a power meter, you can use a speed and cadence sensor, which Zwift will translate into zPower, their version of virtual power.  It’s not quite the same, but still can make for a good workout.

For me, Zwift just breaks up a bit of the monotony on long rides.  And you can input your pre-designed workouts as well.  My coach gives me workouts, which I can do while on Zwift.  When I’m just riding to ride, it’s fun to try to beat old sprint records or try to climb the hill faster.  (I think I need to ride at some crazy mid-week hour so I can have a chance at a QOM – queen of the mountain – and even then it’s unlikely.)

Plus, let’s be honest, I like stats.  I’ve been training with power, and I like being able to see the power on the screen.  I can still port the workout over to Strava and see how I’m doing on the various segments that have been created.  I’m hoping this helps me become an even stronger rider over the winter.

Anyone else use Zwift?

 

 

How to Fix a Flat Tire

Look, I look like I know what I’m doing.

This weekend, I did a small clinic at Princeton Sports on what to do when you are out riding and you get a flat tire.  Given the number of people who showed up at the ride who admitted to not being able to fix a flat, I had hoped more would stay for the clinic, but I think that those who did learned a lot and hopefully feel more comfortable about dealing with a flat tire.

First off, flat tires aren’t terribly common.  I’ve gotten exactly one flat tire since I started riding.  Of course, that one flat tire was during my first olympic distance triathlon.  Thankfully, I knew what to do.  I wasn’t particularly skilled at handling a flat tire, but I had practiced at home.  I wasn’t going to let one pesky issue destroy my entire race.

I have heard a number of cyclists say that if they get a flat tire, their race is over.  And if you’re racing to land on the podium, maybe that’s true.  But for the vast majority of us, there’s no need to stop if our tire goes flat.  And besides, what are you going to do if you get a flat during a training ride?

And what’s the best way to learn?  Practice.  Lots and lots of practice.  If you have a clinic or a class available to you, go.  If there is a hands-on option, participate.  Learn to take your wheel off, get the tire off and change the tube.

If you don’t have a class available, you can learn thanks to the internet.  The internet is an amazing place.  I actually learned to change a tire by watching a video on YouTube.  I no longer remember which video I used, but I’ve included a good one at the bottom of this post.

Don’t just practice once.  Repeat the process over and over again.  Remove the tire, pull out the tube, replace the tube, replace the tire, inflate your tire.  You don’t have to use a CO2 inflator every time, use your regular bike pump.  Sit in front of the tv and have something entertaining playing in the background as you repeat the process over and over.  It will get easier.  And if you’re struggling, walk away for a few minutes, calm yourself, and come back.  You can do this, and then if you do get a flat on a training ride or during a race, you’ll know what to do.

 

Ride Report: Civil War Century

img_2966Last weekend, I did the Civil War Century metric distance.  Yes, it took me a full week to get this report up.  It’s been a busy week.  Anne suggested it to me, so it seemed like a good idea.  I needed to get in at least 60, and 60 miles on your own is decidedly no fun.  Doing it on a supported training ride is much better, and while I didn’t need more than 60, being trained for a longer ride never hurt anyone.

Here’s the description of the ride:

On this ride you get to look at the mountains, not climb them, as you meander along pleasant country roads through the lush rolling farmland of the Monocacy and Carroll Valleys to Gettysburg and back. As a bonus, you’ll cross or pass 4 covered bridges on this route while doing 2,625 feet of climbing.

That was pretty much all I knew.  Except that I didn’t really read any of the description except for the feet of climbing.  And the covered bridges.  Covered bridges are pretty fancy after all. So as the ride went along, I was pretty surprised we went into Pennsylvania.

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Then I was surprised we were in Gettysburg.  I guess I was thinking Gettysburg the town, not that we would be riding through the actual park.  These advertisements are never right, after all.  I thought “We might go near Gettysburg (yes, I know this is in PA), but not actually into the park, right?”  Wrong.

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This was my last long ride before Augusta and I had goals that I didn’t quite hit.  I was slower than I wanted, but it was an exceptionally hot day, and I finished feeling pretty okay, which is the most important part.  Also, there was ice cream at the finish, which made me feel even better.

However, I did see something that nightmares are made of and you should stop reading right here if you don’t want to hear about it and skip this paragraph by scrolling down to the bolded text.

So as I was riding along, minding my own business, I smelled something familiar.  Road kill.  One of the joys of growing up in the country, I guess.  Anyway, I started looking down, not wanting to ride over it.  And as I looked to my right, there it was.  The Nightmare Deer.  Apparently, a deer either drowned or died and then got caught up in the massive flooding we had recently.  And somehow, it managed to get wedged between the edge of a bridge and the guardrail.  With its head up, staring at the road.  Except that its eyes were long gone thanks to scavengers and there was some sort of… something… hanging out of its mouth.  NIGHTMARES.  It was horrifying.  Do not recommend.

Nightmare is over.

This was an exceptionally well organized ride and one super awesome thing was the sag wagons that could be called.  And on a hot day, they were needed.  The team manning the station was incredible.  We watched them take calls, radio out to drivers, and move their little magnets representing the drivers all over the course map.  Very cool.

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I will definitely keep the Civil War Century on my list for future training.  Given the hills on the century, I think that’s out for good, but the metric was an absolutely fantastic ride.

And ice cream.

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Fellow Friendly Cyclists

yorgunum / Pixabay

This weekend was a step back weekend for me.  I don’t know when a 40 mile ride became an easy ride, but it was nice to only have 40 miles facing me.

For those of you who know the local area, I went out and did the Columbia tri course, looping the top of the lollipop three times to get my miles in (and plenty of hill work too).

It’s a pretty popular route to bike, and I saw plenty of people out riding.  One thing that I love about cycling is how friendly everyone is.  As I was getting my bike out of the car, there were other ladies getting ready for a ride, so we chatted for a bit and wished each other luck.  They passed me a bit later and wished me luck on my ride.

All along the route, I came upon friendly cyclists.  Lots of hellos and good mornings as we passed, often going in opposite directions.  Chatting at stop signs.  Conversations when stopped for water at a local gas station.  Just lots of nice people out there.

Of course, it’s not like it’s this 1950’s television show of friendliness.  Plenty of people pass without a word or a wave. And that’s fine too, no problems there (though everyone appreciates when cyclists call out when they pass from the rear).  But in general, it’s a very friendly community.

Obviously, not every cyclist is friendly.  But there is a somewhat popular blogger out there who talks about how every single cyclist she passes makes a negative comment or says something horrible to her.  Given my experience, I just don’t see that happening.  People are relatively friendly, and those who aren’t probably just ignore the other cyclists.  No one has time to be excessively rude.

I know some people get nervous about riding with others or riding outside because they’re worried about what other people will think.  That definitely isn’t something to worry about.  For the most part, cyclists are just happy to see other cyclists out riding.  You’ll see the hardcore riders out training intensely, you’ll see people out for a nice easy ride, and you’ll see everyone in between.

 

Ride Report – Farm to Fork Fondo

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This weekend, I did the Farm to Fork Fondo in Pennsylvania.  I did the medio distance, which is the green line on the map above.  66.66 miles in total, and four delicious farm stops, plus some amazing food at the end.  I’m so glad Lauren suggested we ride (though she followed that crazy yellow line because she is nuts.  And awesome.

This ride was absolutely amazing and also incredibly, incredibly hard.  This area of Pennsylvania isn’t known for being flat, so I knew it would be a challenge.

The event was incredibly well organized.  There were plenty of cue sheets available and I though the course was really well marked (of course, of the three of us who went to the event together, two got lost, so maybe I’m the only one who thought so).   There were riders of all levels at the start, and it was fun that so many of the distances started off together.

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The big thing about this ride is the food, and specifically, the local food.  We rode to different farms and had all sorts of local treats.  The first stop had the most amazing peaches.  They were delicious and perfect and clearly just off the trees.  There were also whoopie pies, ice creams, meats and cheeses, pretzels, chips, and so much more.  Plus standard race foods like Clif bars and gels.  And the people were all so incredibly friendly.

One thing I appreciated was that all riders got wristbands in the color arrows they were supposed to follow, and on the wristband was the number for support, so if you needed help or just stopped and needed to be picked up, you could easily call.

The course was definitely challenging, probably more than I realized it would be.  There were three pretty brutal hill climbs, all three of which I made it through part of, then stopped and walked the rest of the way because my heart was beating so fast.  But I refused to turn my watch off while walking up the hill, so that’s included in my final pace.  Forward motion gets timed.

There was one spot where we made a turn and had to go straight up a hill and it was such a mental challenge.  A lot of people just stopped at the bottom and stared at the hill.  It deserved respect, after all.

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The last aid station was at mile 52, and the last 14 miles were definitely brutal.  It was hot and hilly and I just wanted to be done.  Those last 14 were a mental game, pure and simple, especially the last 5 or so.

My goal was to do this ride at a 14 minute mile average pace or faster.  I made it through to mile 56 (70.3 distance) at that pace, but things dropped in the last 10 miles and I finished at a 13.8 pace.  It was definitely a slog getting through those last miles, and I was so glad to be done and off my bike.

That said, the event was great and I will probably do it again next year.  Yes, it was a huge physical challenge, but it was still a lot of fun and the food was delicious.  Any ride that ends with a giant post-race meal and fabulous live music is okay in my book.