So far it’s been a great year in terms of development and getting my racing mojo back, although it’s turned out to be a little different to what I imagined. The original plan was to continue strengthening up the ankle, biomechanics, and bringing back my old running form over short distance. I did do one Duathlon (Storm the Castle) in spring for fun, but had to DNS an Aquathlon (stomach bug) and Sprint Triathlon (on hols). Apart from that it was all about the running…with a little cycling, swimming and conditioning/gym work to balance it all up. I’ve done more Parkruns this year than all previous years combined and a good handful of 10k races.
I had the option to get a new TT bike in the summer. I’d been racing on a TT bike two sizes too small for me at Storm the Castle, and on a delicate, old drivetrain. Bike Science put together a spanking new Argon E117, and with an Edco Monoblock I was able to attach my old 10spd Zipp disk wheel to the 11spd bike. A comparable new disk would have set me back £1.3k+. Bike Science also carried out a professional bike-fit so I now have no excuses when it comes to racing in 2019. I’ve not taken the bike out for a proper ride yet. The roads around here are not great for cycling at speed on a TT bike. Far too many pot holes and muddy surfaces.
At around the same time I picked up the TT bike I also bought a Btwin road bike from Decathlon. I originally planned for it to be my training bike, but instead I decided to put it on the turbo and continue to use my old Planet X road bike for winter+ training. So I now have three bikes all set to take me into the 2019 racing season. So to justify all this I needed to find a way of training myself up to a decent standard on the bike again….and that’s when Zwift came along.
My Kickr Snap smart turbo-trainer links by Bluetooth to the Zwift apps on my ipad and iphone (I do have the option of linking to my laptop via ant+ stick, but I prefer to use my laptop for other live data while I’m racing) In the world of Zwift you have an avatar on a bike cycling over various courses. Not only does your effort (in watts) translate from ‘real-world’ bike to avatar but the profile of the landscape will also feed back to the smart trainer. A steep uphill gradient will require shifting down gears and/or getting out of the saddle as you would in real life. You can train by yourself, in groups, and compete in various events.
So far I’ve done around 20 events and in most cases I will compete as hard as I would if it was a real world/outdoor event. I probably enjoy it even more in some respects because I get all sorts of stats feed-back live and after the event. My FTP (Functional Threshold Power – what you can roughly average in watts for one hour of cycling) has risen to 316w (4.6w/kg). With my weight being 67kg it means I’m racing in the highest category (A) in Zwift events, albeit towards the lower end. I’m quite happy with this as it puts me against the best Zwift riders out there and even if I get royally smashed up on some occasions I have had a solid workout and have other cyclists to follow, and close in one in terms of ability. I’m already recognising the same names popping up at races, especially the tours (my favourite events). Obviously with my long –distance background and weight I tend to perform better at the longer hilly races where you have opportunities to try and drop the heavy hitters before the final sprint. I don’t have a great finishing sprint but I’m working on it. It can be quite tactical as there is a draft effect in Zwift just like real world racing, so lots of groups can form and break-aways. I’ve set myself some targets within Zwift over the coming months, not that I need the extra motivation. Trying to get my ranking up is interesting as it requires a good balance of skill points, from power and segment splits (in events) and race rewards. Moved up to just outside the Top 500 at the moment. Great fun, and I’m sure it will grow in popularity over the coming years.
I’ve probably done 95% of my cycling indoors on Zwift in the last 3 months so it’s safe to say I won’t be in any rush to head outdoors in the winter either! The original basic set-up was in the garage with the ipad in front of the bike. Connectivity wasn’t too bad but it could be at dark at times and I had yet to buy a decent fan. I could get through 3 small towels in one session! I then moved everything across to the Conservatory (or ‘Conzwiftory’ as I like to call it) which was light and had plenty of space for more equipment. I’m still finding ways of making the ‘Zwift experience’ more comfortable by buying items and shifting things around.
I will start to phase in more outdoor cycling again from beginning February after cold (E Germany – run) and warm (Lanzarote – swim/bike/run) weather training blocks. I’d like to build the ‘cycling muscles’ back up again while maintaining my running form. Storm the Castle Duathlon may be the first on the radar next year. I’m in no rush to enter any other events just yet apart from the local Aquathlons and Triathlons. Occasionally I will take a training bike out and time-trial the Storm the Castle and Ludlow Sprint Triathlon bike courses. I have a list of times for both, under various circumstances and with different equipment, so it’s a good way to monitor my improvements.