I started running seriously in 2010, when I was 40. I say seriously because I would occasionally go out for a run but not with any purpose. So, that’s 40 years of not being a runner. In 2012 I joined Worthing and District Harriers running club. I wanted to improve my running and I had a thought in the back of my head that I’d quite like to do a triathlon one day.
I Am A Runner
Fast forward to 2015 and I have run 22 marathon including 4 ultras and I now call myself a runner. But I haven’t forgotten my triathlon dream and this year I have finally done 2 sprint triathlons with an olympic distance one to come in a few weeks. So as well as being a runner, I do swimming and cycling. I am on the way to calling myself a triathlete but I still feel a world away from calling myself a swimmer or a cyclist.
Cycling is an odd one for me. There was a time when I would cycle too and from running training, but I really don’t like riding on roads outside. So I began cycling on my cheap turbo trainer in the kitchen at home. It served me well in my marathon training providing some good cross training sessions. Then came the Wahoo Kickr. The Wahoo Kickr is the very latest and by far the most accomplished of the Smart Trainers.
A Smart Trainer links to your computer and can be controlled by it. Resistance is controlled by whatever software is running on your computer. There are myriad software apps such as Trainer Road, Kinomap and Bkool which can take advantage of this. However, my favourite is Zwift. Zwift is a little different in that it is a game with social elements as well as being a useful training tool.
Zwift is a 3D generated island called Watopia. Once you log in you join other real riders across the world, sitting on their bikes in the kitchen, as an avatar riding round the island. You can meet friends and chat whilst riding. You can race for King of the Mountain, Fastest Lap or Sprint jerseys in both directions round the 9 km island route.
I’ve been riding Zwift for a few months now, ever since it began as a small 5km route round Zwift Island (actually Jarvis Island in the Pacific in the real world). It began as a closed beta app to which you had to be invited. It is now in open beta and anyone can open an account. It is currently free, but that will no doubt change in the not too distant future. I am by no means a fast rider, but I can occasionally win the fastest lap and KOM jerseys. It’s very rare that I get the sprint jersey!
Last week I decided I would attempt a Zwift Century Ride, that is, to ride 100 miles on Watopia. In other words I wanted to spend five and a half hours sitting in the kitchen staring at my laptop getting increasingly more fatigued. No different from many other days then. It was a Friday. Both my wife and the children were away for the weekend and I had the house to myself. I set up some video cameras to capture the day and set a variety of drinks and food on the work surface beside the bike.
Zwift Century Ride
At 9am I set off. I kept the pace very slow for the first lap and gradually sped up. I think most of my laps got faster all the way to 100km. I certainly did not attempt to win any of the jerseys. I did have to jump off the bike three times. Once to answer the front door to the postman, once to make more drinks and once to use the toilet. I cycled past waterfalls, over bridges and through tunnels. I climbed mountains and sped through a gigantic sculpture of two bikes which dominates one side of the island. It’s green and lush and sunny and I’m sure it would be warm if I was actually there.
I reached 100km in around 3 hours 15 minutes and felt quite good. My Zwift century ride was pretty much downhill from there in terms of performance. My lap times began to increase and I was feeling more and more fatigued. I dragged myself round the last few laps. Doing the filming took my mind of the job of cycling for a while. I was having difficulties with the screenshot movie. I had to keep stopping, saving and then starting recording again. I eventually ended up with 5 separate movie files of the screen as well as footage from 4 other cameras. One of the cameras was my GoPro Session which I hand held and moved around the bike to try and simulate real movement.
Reaching 100 Miles
My energy returned somewhat as I approached 161km. I was sweating buckets even though I had the front door and the rear patio doors open. It was actually a lovely day to be outside, but I rarely get a chance like this so I had to go for it. I made it too 100 miles in 5 hours 25 minutes and I was definitely ready to get off the bike! My stomach was beginning to feel a little upset, although nothing like when I run a marathon or ultra. My legs were tired, although not completely spent. But it was my brain which had really had enough.
I was so focussed on the Zwift century ride 100 miles and unlocking the Imperial Century Jersey that anything beyond that was unthinkable. I will need to refocus if I am to achieve any distance further in the future. I am sure I could get to 200km tomorrow if I tried but any further will take some planning and execution!