Don't Be Stupid, Be A Smarty...
… come and join the Zwifting party!
So four months after buying a new indoor trainer, how did my winter training go?
It went well, according to my stats in Zwift. I rose from Level 0 to Level 20, completing the California and Everest Challenges, earning 32 out of 40 achievement badges. I finished the 9-stage Tour de Zwift, and 5 monthly fondo rides. I climbed the Alpe du Zwift (their facsimile of the real-world Alpe d’Huez) 5 times, and even earned an orange jersey for setting a fastest lap time on their Innsbruck course. I took 2 Step Tests and 2 20-minute FTP tests; in the former set, my Functional Threshold Power rose from 212 to 221; as measured by the latter it went from 198 to 210. And I finished with my first ever indoor/virtual century (more below).
Taking the start/finish banner
April Fools brought flaming roostertails!
Climbing the Alpe…
My first “Zentury”
Our Hero riding off into the sunset
I also made use of Zwift’s social element, joining a supportive team called “The Herd”. They have members all over the world, and I hope to join a gathering of them in September at the Leelanau Harvest Tour century in Traverse City MI. It’s cool having an open group audio channel with other riders who might not be in the same area (either on the virtual course or in the real world). I’ve befriended folks and have projected my usual offbeat presence. I created coroplast examples of Zwift’s thumbs-up “Ride On” symbol and posted a photo of me riding with them, which earned 115 Likes.
Let’s compare this winter (December, January, February, and March) to the previous two years. In the winter of 2016-2017 I rode 282 miles. In 2017-2018 I rode 535. Although Zwift miles aren’t quite the same as real-world distance, this past winter I logged over 1,900 miles (only 24 were outdoors)! That’s equivalent to my usual summertime riding volume. According to the Fitness (Chronic Training Load) charts I keep posting, I retained more Fitness this winter than ever, and by mid-January, I was back at a Fitness level I wouldn’t normally reach until the beginning of June!
This past Sunday was the final step of my winter training regimen: completing a “Zentury”. It was my first time ever doing a hundred miles on an indoor trainer. Obviously, it was my first century of 2019, and also the earliest in the year I’ve ever done a century (by 10 days).
In some ways, indoor miles are easier. There’s no traffic lights, no need to ever stop, and no wind to battle. For those reasons, indoor rides are generally faster; I completed 100 miles in 5h20m, when an outdoor one would usually exceed 7h. However, many people feel trainer miles are harder. After all, you can never rest or coast, which grows hard on the legs. In terms of TSS (Training Stress Score), my Zwift century ranked as my 14th most difficult ride, which puts it respectably among my harder centuries.
Thanks to Zwift, this winter has been an unqualified success. Back in December, when I set my annual goals for 2019, I came up with two: getting over the post-Dirty Dozen malaise that plagued me throughout 2018, and using Zwift to begin the 2019 season at a high level of fitness. As far as I’m concerned, we can check those two goals off already!
But all the positive numbers in the world don’t mean anything until I put them to the test outside, in the real world. Yesterday’s indoor century was part of an overall plan to be ready for 2019’s first outdoor event.
Next weekend is the longest ride of the year: the Pittsburgh Randonneurs’ annual spring 200k. Climbing 7,500 feet over 124 miles, it’s a massive challenge, and the perfect way to test whether all this Zwifting has improved my early-season form. I’m relying on it, because over the past 5 months, the only outdoor riding I’ve done was a casual 21 miles on New Years and one 31-mile ride last week.
I think Zwift has set me up for early-season success, but stay tuned for the pudding…