12 MLR

Stand Down Margaret

Summer is behind us, and the 2020 cycling season (such as it was) is ending.

It’s still too early to close the books on 2020, but I can get you caught up on where things stand a couple weeks into Q4.

McCahill Park @ Squaw Run

My last post was my ride report from a September 2th indoor century: my eleventh Zwift “Zentury” of the year. At that point, I planned to simulate two more real-world centuries on the indoor trainer: the traditional autumn Pedal the Lakes ride up in Mercer County; and the Epic Tour, which was originally going to be an international gathering of Herd team members up in Toronto.

However, a week later, my eight year old MacBook Pro started acting up, necessitating its replacement, and postponing those two big indoor rides.

On the upside, my brand-new laptop bumped Zwift’s graphics quality up from “high” to “ultra”, and also increased its frame rate from 10-20 to 50-70 fps.

But the downside was that — due to Apple’s terrible hardware, software, and service — it took three weeks to get my new laptop up and running. That pause blew a hole in my Zwift-based event plan, while my training and fitness levels dropped.

Meanwhile, I reconsidered whether I wanted to do those rides this late in the season. After eleven century-plus rides in seven months, I’m happy taking a break and doing a few shorter rides outdoors, before dwindling sunlight and autumn temps take hold.

Stopping also makes sense for next year’s plan. You see, as far as I can tell from my records, I’ve completed 97 century-plus bike rides. By ending the season now, I can save two indoor Zenturies for next season's preparation, then do a celebratory outdoor 100th century in the spring. That sounds great to me!

So with no more big rides, I’ve been toodling around on short outdoor rides, enjoying the warm weather and my remaining cycling fitness. Like last year, October and November will comprise my “off-season”, before I go back to indoor trainer workouts in December and January.

Having completed only one outdoor ride longer than 40 miles, 2020 has been a very strange year, but not uneventful. Although many of my achievements have been virtual or simulated, I kept at it, and retained good fitness for my age, despite the ongoing Coronavirus lockdown.

Now it’s time to relax and reflect: putting words and images together for my end-of-year wrapup blogpo, and adding next year’s big rides onto my cycling calendar.

07 PMC Riding

Not Pedaling, Pittsburgh

This time last year, after riding Pittsburgh’s big populist city bike ride for the fourth time, I wrote: “With iffy support, poor route design, and a registration fee north of $75 that funds a cause I don’t agree with, I probably won’t do this ride again.”

My determination not to have anything to do with this ride was doubled when the organization behind it publicly declared their opposition to enforcing traffic laws that protect cyclists and pedestrians, which I ranted about in my preceding blogpo: “My Advocate: My Enemy”.

But none of my apprehension about the event would apply if I simply mimicked the route’s distance and climbing on my indoor trainer. So on Wednesday I saddled up to simulate another major event indoors.

Consulting my Zenturizer to find a course on Zwift that was comparable to Pittsburgh’s lumpy topography, I decided to ride ten laps of the 2015 Richmond UCI World Championship course. It would be a nice change of pace from my recent long rides in Watopia, and a chance to ride the renovated Richmond route in the reverse direction, which was introduced in a recent program update.

One benefit of events being cancelled is that I can ride on whatever day suits me, rather than being tethered to a specific date and time. I think it's more considerate to do my centuries on a weekday rather than a weekend, when other folks want to sleep in late. So rather than riding the event on the official weekend, I set out Wednesday morning at 10am.

Not many people ride the Richmond course in reverse, because it’s an event-only route unless you manually turn around, as I did. So I didn’t have anyone to draft off or compete with. Even though Richmond was one of Zwift's available options that day, by the end of my first 10-mile lap I was in possession of the combo jersey for logging the fastest sprint, the fastest hill climb, and the fastest overall lap!

For the next two laps, I jousted with a handful of other riders to try and keep all three jerseys, expending more energy than I should have in the first third of a century. But with two timed hillclimbs and two sprints in every lap, it did help pass the time.

But near the end of my third lap, Inna came in and interrupted me for about half an hour, which I took as an unplanned lunch break.

Climbing back on, I’d already lost two of my jerseys. The awards only last an hour before you have to re-capture them, which reminded me how stupid I was being by trying to retain them. For the rest of the day I didn’t attack the hills or sprint, only temporarily picking up a jersey when other riders’ times expired.

By the final third of the ride, I couldn’t contest for them anyway, as my reserves were depleted. It was all I could do to tack on a little extra climbing at the end to reach my simulation ride’s target.

I finished with 104.8 miles and 4,975 feet of climbing in 6h10m moving time—or 6h52m clock time including rest stops. Thus completeth my 11th Zentury of 2020.

11 PMC Riding

My Advocate: My Enemy

BikePGH — the local cycling advocacy group — does little that benefits me as a cyclist. But now they’ve done something so irresponsible and shortsighted that it has put all cyclists in much greater danger.

They’ve stopped asking police to enforce traffic laws that protect cyclists and pedestrians.

The Latest Cyclist Killed

You read that right. This organization that exists to represent and protect cyclists has publicly announced that they no longer care if the police enforce state and local laws that protect cyclists. In their own words: “Removing enforcement is our only conscionable path forward.”

Here’s their press release, entitled “ENFORCEMENT IS NO LONGER PART OF BIKEPGH’S STRATEGY FOR SAFER STREETS”. Go ahead and read it. I’ll wait...

I can’t even begin to describe how fucking stupid this is.

Pennsylvania already has a deadly enforcement problem. I’ve lived here for five years and I have never once seen a vehicle pulled over for a traffic violation. Police are even prohibited by law from using radar detectors!

If possible, it’s become even worse during the pandemic, because police would prefer to let all nonviolent crimes go, rather than stop someone and possibly breach social distancing guidelines.

And now one of the biggest cycling groups in the state is sending the message: “We’re politically anti-police, and want you to stop enforcing the law.” The average beat cop is gonna love hearing that!

After decades of minimal traffic enforcement, there’s already a longstanding culture here of aggressive driving, speeding, impaired driving, blatant disregard for traffic controls, and driving without a license. Those behaviors are even less restrained now, thanks to BikePGH’s dangerously irresponsible position.

I care about social inequality and Black lives, and I wholeheartedly support the demilitarization of the police. However, encouraging lawlessness on the roads does absolutely nothing to advance those causes. Asking the police to stop enforcing traffic law has only one consequence: harming cyclists and pedestrians.

There is no clearer way they could say it: BikePGH is willing and happy to see more cyclists killed and injured on Pennsylvania roads, if it might vaguely benefit a political cause that — no matter how laudable — has no relationship to cycling or BikePGH’s mandate.

Thank you BikePGH. You have made it very easy to resolve that you will never receive any time, money, or support from me. As an organization representing cyclists, you have violated our trust and abandoned all pretense of responsibility to your mission, to your dues-paying members, and to your community; and you have put every cyclist in this region in greater danger every day.

12 MLR

Wahoo, I’m Flatlined!

When a product sucks, I‘ll tell you; and the new revision of the Wahoo TICKR sucks.

For the past two years, I’ve used a first-generation TICKR heart rate monitor chest strap. And it worked flawlessly until the snaps corroded and fell apart at the end of June.

And before that, I used two Garmin HRM straps and then one branded by Bontrager (although I have no idea who actually manufactured it for them). So I’ve had HRMs for around 15 years and know how to care for them and what kind of data to expect.

Shortly before my old TICKR died, Wahoo Fitness had conveniently announced a second-gen version of the TICKR, which I promptly ordered.

That was back in June, and the subsequent two months have been a litany of disappointments. Despite my updating the firmware and other troubleshooting tasks, the data coming out of the new unit was unusably bad, when it produced any data at all.

In feeble hopes that they’d sent me a defective unit, Wahoo shipped me a second unit, which was just as worthless as the first… Then offered me a third.

After giving Wahoo two months and testing multiple devices, I gave up on them and bought an HRM from their competitor Garmin, which was nice, reliable, and accurate straight out of the box.

To give you an idea how bad the new TICKR was, look at the following chart. It shows measured heart rate over the same 5-mile route for those three brand-new HRM straps, alongside estimated power to give you a level of effort to compare against.

Heart Rate Chart

What should you see here? What the Garmin HRM shows: a smooth, undulating curve that responds to and follows the contours of the user's power output, ranging all the way up to the user’s max heart rate.

Instead, both TICKRs spend long periods completely flatlined, when the unit isn’t registering or updating the user’s heart rate, often not responding at all through entire high-intensity efforts. Obviously incorrect, the TICKRs would report a sudden increase in pulse in the middle of a resting period, or a sudden drop in heart rate smack in the middle of a high-intensity interval. And the TICKRs never measured more than 75-85% max heart rate, despite intervals where I put out one-and-a-half times the power of the Garmin run! Hence the unbelievably low average heart rates. Based on my observations, the TICKR has a promising future… not as a heart rate monitor, but as a random number generator!

I saw the same consistent behavior irrespective of which unit I used, and whether I used it outdoors connected to my bike computer or indoors connected through my laptop to Zwift. The only time I was able to get a momentarily reliable reading was if I was sitting up in the saddle, riding no-handed.

Releasing poorly-debugged products has become Wahoo’s claim to fame, due to well-publicized problems they’ve had with their indoor trainers and related accessories, and now something as simple as an HRM strap. The one exception is their well-received line of bike computers, which is in perfect opposition to Garmin, whose recent bike computers (looking at you, Edge 820!) have been terrible.

So while I got great value from my first-gen TICKR, I strongly recommend against the second-gen TICKR. If you want an HRM that works, my endorsement goes to the slightly more expensive (but functional!) Garmin HRM-Dual.

12 MLR

The Elusive One

The Mon Valley Century is the most cursed ride in southwestern Pennsylvania.

The first time I rode it (2016), the organizers abbreviated the route at 80 miles due to a landslide on Bunola Road. Despite everyone missing a waterstop that the organizers decided to move at the last minute, I went and actually rode the missing 20-mile segment of Bunola Road solo just fine to finish with 100 miles.


The ride wasn’t even held the next two years due to additional reconstruction of Bunola Road.

In 2019, the event returned, finally avoiding Bunola Road completely, and tacking the missing mileage onto the start of the ride, which cuts across quiet and scenic Pennsylvania farmland. However, in true cursed fashion, the organizers didn’t provide GPS directions, large sections of the route were on milled or loose gravel roads, and one rest stop consisted of two empty cooler jugs and a canister of Gatorade powder dumped on the side of the road, unattended and with no water source in sight. Truly PedalPGH levels of negligence!

So perhaps it’s good that the tiny ham radio club that organizes the event didn’t even bother to announce a ride this year (or its cancellation). Over my five summers in Pittsburgh, they've hosted just 1.8 rides, a sparse 36% success rate.

Presuming they had cancelled it due to the Covid-19 pandemic, I was left to simulate the mid-August event on my own on the indoor trainer, as I’ve done with all my other annual cycling events. On the plus side, at home I can count on getting something to eat and drink at the rest stops!

My process should now be as familiar to you as it is to me. I consulted the Zenturizer to find the Zwift routes that most closely matched the 2019 MVC ride’s 102 miles and 5,925 feet of climbing. Out of several options, I chose to undertake seven laps of the 15-mile “Greater London 8” course, which includes the short 450-foot climb of Box Hill.

Outdoor temps that ranged from 73-82º made riding much easier. After dancing away from a couple wheelsuckers, I spent the first half of the ride testing my defective Wahoo TICKR heart rate monitor, determining that it will only work if I’m sitting upright in the saddle in the “no-hands” riding position. If I was in any normal riding position — on the bar tops, brake hoods, drops, or even standing — it would give me obviously erroneous readings… if it gave any readings at all. Time to return that piece of slag and go back to Garmin.

The highlight of the second half of the ride was randomly coming across Herd team member Simon Keeling, who was doing the similar-but-not-identical century-plus PRL route. We exchanged encouraging messages then vectored off on our own again.

My legs started cramping on the last of my seven laps. This was made worse when I had to make an extra climb up the back side of Box Hill to make up some climbing I’d need to properly approximate last year’s MVC ride.

But I limped home to complete my tenth Zentury of 2020. I only realized after a friend’s comment that I’d logged no less than 96 Strava achievements on that ride, 16 of which were PRs!

In terms of lessons learned...

Doing long rides on a weekday is a big improvement, because you don’t have to worry about neighbors trying to sleep in. But if you don’t start until 10am, even a fast century is still gonna kill an entire day.

If you know you’re gonna have to do some extra climbing somewhere along the line, don’t leave it for the end of the ride, when you’re tired and cramping.

And if you want to keep some fruit on hand to munch on, either freeze it beforehand or keep it cool with some ice, because warm fruit just isn’t as palatable.

And finally… I’m getting tired of Zwift’s courses. That’s not surprising, considering I’ve ridden 4,860 miles on them over the past ten months. Zwift hasn’t implemented that many virtual roads to begin with, and it doesn’t help that only a few of them are adequate substitutes for real-world events.

And that’s not a good thing now that I’m at peak season, with three more events to mimic over the next 4-6 weeks. Plus another round of barf-o-tronic FTP tests.

But before that, a bit of rest, please?

11 PMC Riding

2020 Virtual Pan-Mass Challenge Ride Report

Unlike other rides which appear here, I post all my Pan-Mass Challenge ride reports as pages on the cycling section of my personal website.

So if you're interested in reading about my 15th PMC — my first as a virtual rider due to the Covid-19 pandemic causing the real-world ride's cancellation — you'll find my writeup, photos, videos, screenshots, charts, maps, and stats at the following link:

Ornoth's 2020 Virtual PMC Ride Report
01 PMC Standing

Centuries: 8, Tan: 0

The Akron Bicycle Club’s Absolutely Beautiful Country ride is the first major ride of 2020 that was neither cancelled, postponed, or virtualized. They asked people to register (for free) and supplied cue sheets, but provided no formal ride time, no route markings, no support vehicles, and no water stops. Basically, it was a completely unsupported ride along a published route, kind of like a brevet.

Moonlight on the Volcano

Although I’ve enjoyed riding it for the past three years, there was no way I was going to drive two hours to Akron and two hours back just to do an unsupported century, when 40 miles is the longest unsupported outdoor ride I’ve done at home (mostly due to concerns about stopping at convenience stores to refuel). In the middle of a global pandemic, it’s just not worth the added risk.

So despite there being a nominal ride, I was still going to mimic the route indoors on Zwift. As has become routine, I consulted my Zenturizer to find a course that matched last year’s ABC ride in distance and climbing.

Thankfully Pittsburgh’s longest heat wave in 25 years—eight days above 90°—broke on Saturday, when I warmed up with the 29-mile second stage of Zwift’s Etape du Tour, which was also my first look at the brand new France environment they just released.

Then Sunday morning I set out on 4.3 laps of Zwift’s Watopia Out & Back course. Each lap begins with a nice flat section in the desert, then up the reasonably challenging Volcano Climb, and back to the start via the Hill KoM Reverse.

Right from the start, I set myself an easy pace, about 150W normalized power. I spent the first three hours chatting on Discord with some fellow Herd members who were already halfway through their own century attempt.

Once they finished and signed off, the second half of my ride became more challenging. Ascending the Volcano four times was more climbing than I remember doing in the Akron ride, and my self-indulgent pace meant the ride dragged on long than necessary (though still much faster than the IRL ride due to traffic and rest stops).

Toward the end, I started incurring the usual fatigue, aches, and pains. Knowing I needed a little more climbing to reach my target, I made a short excursion into the rollers in Titans Grove, then finished off my eighth Zentury of 2020, with a spot-on 106 miles, and 33 feet more than the necessary 4,593 feet of climbing.

Right Turn, Not Left!

One of the strangest things is coming home from a century with no sensations of sun exposure. Stranger still is having eight centuries under my belt, but pretty much no tan whatsoever. As the subject line says: centuries 8, tan: 0! I need to continue—and perhaps increase—the few short outdoor rides I started doing in June, when 25% of my miles were done outside.

Beyond the pseudo ABC ride, there have been a few noteworthy developments in the past couple weeks.

I’ve already mentioned Zwift’s Etape event and new France map, which includes the iconic Mont Ventoux climb as well as nine new route badges to secure.

And our eight-day heat wave that really sapped my strength, and which will resume again on Wednesday.

Also my two year old Wahoo HRM strap broke, so I replaced it with a second-generation TICKR. Unfortunately, that hasn’t been working very well, and I’m considering swapping it out yet again.

Shimano released a 25th anniversary edition of their cycling sandals, my preferred footwear. I’ve put 60,000 miles on them, including 150-mile days, and couldn’t be happier with them, even despite the stupid tan lines they give you! I’ll try to add another pair to my collection.

And no report would be complete without mentioning my Pan-Mass Challenge fundraising. I’m currently at $1,725 for the year, which qualifies me for the official ride jersey, so you’ll see me sporting that very soon. I’m just $53 short of reaching $113,000 lifetime fundraising for the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute’s Jimmy Fund, a cause I believe in wholeheartedly. If you’d like to help out, please make a donation on my PMC profile page.

07 PMC Riding

State Change

This past weekend would have been the PMTCC’s 3-State century.

Due to the ongoing pandemic, they’ve postponed it to September 13th, which I still think is optimistic. And even if they will be able to hold it, that is also the date for the Epic Tour up in Toronto, which would have priority for me (again, in the unlikely event that any of this happens at all).

Happily finding diversity in the Zwift world

So between a needed workout and the high likelihood that I won’t ride the make-up date, I set out to replicate last year’s 3-State century on this year’s original date.

It’s really the only big ride I do with PMTCC: the Pittsburgh Major Taylor Cycling Club, named in honor of Major Taylor, a record-holding national- and world-champion professional cyclist who was only the second Black man to ever become a world champion in any sport. Missing the chance to share the 3-State event with PMTCC riders this year, I wanted to take the opportunity to do this ride to express my appreciation for all the accomplished Black, female, Asian, Jewish, and LGB cyclists I have shared the road with.

Three days before the ride, I discovered that one of the snaps on my heart rate monitor strap had fallen apart. The next day I epoxyed it together and ordered a replacement. Thankfully, it held together fine on the day, because HRMs—like nearly all indoor athletic equipment—have been backlogged due to their popularity during the Covid-19 lockdowns.

As usual, I consulted my Zenturizer to see what routes on the Zwift indoor cycling platform most closely matched the distance and climbing of last year’s 3-State route. The answer was: 14½ laps of the NYC Central Park route called “Astoria Line 8”.

So Sunday morning I gathered my snack foods around my indoor trainer and set out, starting out pretty easy in order to pace myself for the long day ahead of me.

As usual, riding an indoor trainer during the summer was hot, humid, very sweaty, and uncomfortable. And doing 14 laps of a single seven-mile course only exacerbated my boredom. There wasn’t any chatter on Discord, and no one else seemed to be going long, as I never saw anyone who had racked up more than 40 miles.

Hey! New Yorker! You lookin' at me?

But the hours—and more importantly, the laps—ticked along. As fatigue built up, I backed off the power and limped home over the final two laps, just missing breaking six hours moving time for the full ride.

The Zenturizer did its job particularly well this time. Last year’s IRL ride racked up 104.13 miles and 6,667 feet of climbing, and I finished the Zwift ride at 104.43 miles and 6,736 feet.

Despite how closely those numbers match, there was one huge difference between the courses… specifically their elevation profiles. Nearly all of the climbing in the 2019 IRL ride came courtesy of eight big climbs of around 400 feet each. In contrast, the Central Park course is a loop full of small but constant rolling ups and downs, none of them over 100 feet, but combining to accrue 465 feet of climbing every lap. That made the indoor ride more even, with fewer horrible climbs, but also fewer places where you could truly take it easy and recover your strength.

In other news, I’ve been out for a half dozen IRL rides this month, half of them over two hours’ duration. Zwift is about to host a virtual Tour de France with pro riders, as well as a virtual Etape du Tour and releasing new “worlds” of Paris and France, which will keep me riding the trainer at least until I’ve completed all nine new routes at least once. I’ll hopefully receive my replacement HRM in the near future.

And I continue to fundraise for my upcoming virtual Pan-Mass Challenge ride. I’ve surpassed my basic fundraising goal of $1,000, which means I should receive the official 2020 PMC cycling jersey sometime in July. If you can donate to this very worthy charity, I would love your support for my 15th year in this amazing event. Thanks!

07 PMC Riding

The Lake Escaped

For the past four years, I’ve ridden the two-day Escape to the Lake MS Ride, which goes from Lake Arthur in Moraine State Park, through rolling Pennsylvania farmland, finally dropping gently to the shore of Lake Erie in at Conneaut Township Park in Ohio. It’s been the first big ride of each summer century season since I moved to Pittsburgh back in 2015.

Pseudo MS Ride Day 1

Of course, it was cancelled this year thanks to the still-prevalent Covid-19 pandemic.

Per my M.O., I chose to do makeup rides on the indoor trainer using Zwift, donning my in-game BikeMS kit and adding the #VirtualBikeMS hashtag to my name. My intention was to cover the same distance and amount of climbing as the actual course.

For Day 1 I consulted my new Zenturizer page to figure out what Zwift route would most closely match last year's 102.8 mile route with 6,024 feet of climbing. It recommended 3.2 laps of Watopia’s Dust in the Wind route, which begins with Titans Grove, climbs up and does the jungle circuit in reverse direction, goes back to repeat Titans Grove, then finishes through the desert flats.

Upon completion, I’d ridden 104.14 miles and gained 6,020 feet: a very accurate prediction from the Zenturizer! Even more impressive: my elapsed time in Zwift (6h 57m 13s) was just four seconds longer than my time on the IRL route in 2018… although I did spend 16 more minutes off the bike at rest stops during the real ride.

The real and virtual routes also required the same extreme level of effort. I definitely do not recommend any route that requires you to do the heinous rolling hills of Titans Grove seven times!

With temperatures in the high 80s, my biggest lesson learned was to have more ice and drinks on hand than you think you’ll need. Having fresh strawberries and pineapple straight out of the fridge sure helped, too!

That’s the story of Day 1, which was my sixth Zentury of the year. (link)

Pseudo MS Ride Day 2

For Day 2, the Zenturizer suggested four laps of the more mellow Greatest London Flat route.

However, that route’s plan is an absolute mess, so the numbers didn’t work out as expected. After three laps, it was obvious I wasn’t going to have done enough climbing, so on my fourth lap I veered off course and ascended Leith Hill. I had been targeting 63.75 miles and 2,234 feet of climbing; at the end of four laps I finished with 64.03 miles and 2,431 feet of climbing. That’s not bad, but if the course had been properly laid out I wouldn’t have needed to take the detour up Leith Hill. The Zwift course overall took me 15-25 minutes longer, depending on whether you use moving time or total clock time.

Between the flatter and shorter course, slightly lower temperatures, and a more moderate pace, Day 2 felt much easier than Day 1.

And around Mile 50 I finally reached Level 40 in Zwift, which was my last lingering indoor goal for the spring training season. (link)

That’s a convenient segue to talking about what’s next, which is a transition from almost exclusively indoor training to mostly outdoor riding. Pittsburgh has moved to “green” pandemic status, so I feel a little safer, but I’ll still be riding alone and avoiding the bike paths. Having done a grand total of three outdoor rides in the past seven months, I’m really looking forward to getting back outside, even if group rides aren’t in the plan just yet.

And I’ve recently acquired this hydration pack, letting me handle longer expeditions without having to stop for fluids at convenience stores.

In another Coronavirus-induced blast from my Boston past, a couple weeks ago I saw a posting about Zwift meetups organized by the Pan-Mass Challenge, the cancer charity ride I devoted 14 years to. I’ve joined them for two informal meetups, and it was great talking to folks about shared memories. But even more noteworthy: this week they got Zwift to add a permanent PMC group ride to the calendar, every Thursday at 5:50pm Eastern. You can look for me there!

Like the Escape to the Lake, the PMC is another huge charity ride that will not go on this year. They’ve always offered a “virtual ride” for people who couldn’t make it, and I’ve been giving the virtual PMC serious consideration, both as a reason to spend time in the saddle, as impetus to reach out and get in contact with old friends, and as a way to help fundraise for an important cause. So don’t be surprised if you find a note from me in your inbox in the next month or so!

That’s where things stand now, as of early June. Nothing has been normal this year, and we’re all still making it up as we go along. Stay healthy, and stay in touch with one another!

07 PMC Riding

Zenturize Me!

In my previous post, I outlined my plan of using Zwift to mimic real-world rides I had planned but couldn’t ride due to the Coronavirus lockdown. My goal has been to ride the same distance and elevation gain as the actual route.

When my first event came in late April, I somehow had to identify a route on Zwift that would provide me with the same 7,687 feet of climbing over 123.19 miles as the IRL ride. I cobbled together a mash-up of three different routes, but it was a bit off: 8,402 feet of climbing over 125.56 miles! My mileage was good, but I’d done 10 percent more climbing than I needed to!

I knew there was a better way. Someone should write a program that would take stats for all Zwift’s routes and compare that to my target route, then tell me the Zwift route that would allow me to finish with just the right combination of distance and climbing.

Obv, that someone had to be me.

So I went to work and produced the Zenturizer. You give it the distance and climbing in the ride you want to simulate (metric or imperial), and it will list which routes on Zwift are the best match, and how many laps you need to do. Just like this:

Zenturizer main screen

Last weekend, I wanted to test the Zenturizer and get another “Zentury” under my belt. While I didn’t have any real-world events in May, I decided to replicate a ride I used to do over Memorial Day weekend back when I lived in Boston: the Tour d’Essex County, a 102-mile century in Boston’s north shore and Merrimack valley that included 3,000 feet of climbing.

Feeding that data into the Zenturizer produced the following options, in order of how closely they match my criteria:

  1. Ride about 15.9 laps of Flat Route (Watopia) 94% match
  2. Ride about 44.7 laps of Volcano Circuit (Watopia) 88% match
  3. Ride about 44.2 laps of Volcano Circuit CCW (Watopia) 88% match
  4. Ride about 34.8 laps of Classique (London) 83% match
  5. Ride about 16.4 laps of Greater London Flat (London) 83% match
  6. Ride about 6.6 laps of Greatest London Flat (London) 75% match

Although I wasn’t very excited at doing the bog-standard Watopia Flat route, it was the best match, and I wasn't about to ride any course 35-45 times, so Watopia Flat it was!

According to the Zenturizer’s calculations, it should have taken exactly 15 laps of Watopia Flat to accumulate 3,000 feet of climbing, and 15.9 laps to go 102 miles; on my Zwift ride, both those estimates were right on the money!

In an ideal world, I would complete both distance and climbing goals at the same time. But because the closest Zwift course wasn’t a perfect match, I finished my climbing goal a full lap before my mileage goal. In riding that extra lap to complete my mileage goal, I wound up doing an extra 213 feet (or 7 percent) of climbing. However, that actually matches the Zenturizer’s estimate that the Zwift route would only be a 94 percent match for the IRL route.

All told, I think the Zenturizer did a fantastic job finding the right Zwift route to simulate the real-world ride I chose. Feel free to try it out yourself!

Okay, that’s enough about the Zenturizer; how did the ride go?

It was hot. I was hoping to ride Friday or Saturday or Sunday, but I spent those days suffering with a migraine. So Monday it was, and temps inside my pain cave sat at 90º throughout. Being my first hot indoor century, I suffered a lot, but also earned a number of lessons:

  • Have tons of ice on hand. Two trays of cubes isn’t enough!
  • Start early in the day. I got a late start, and it was already hot when I saddled up.
  • In addition to a towel over the handlebars, have a second towel nearby to sop up excess sweat. I normally don’t sweat, but given the conditions...
  • Nothing feels better than a cold, wet facecloth. Lifesaver!
  • Watch out for cardiac drift. As the event wore on, I had to back off markedly because of elevated heart stress. Take it easy; there’s no point in trying to hammer for five hours straight in the heat.

But I knocked it out, thanks to the Zenturizer. And that’s the story of my 5th Zentury of the year!