Zwift

It has been a while since my last blog but as I previously said, no point in blogging for blogging sake.  Well now I have something to write about…….Zwift.

I have been on Zwift for a couple of years now, I go through stages and during the 3 days that the UK has sunshine, I prefer to be out on the road.

As the summer draws to a close and having tidied up the garage, after a minor water intrusion incident, an area appeared that was ideal for Zwifting.  I have always used Zwift on a set of rollers, selling my original standard turbo just before I discovered the new training platform.  None the less the rollers have served me well and have certainly taught me better balance.  I am limited for power though, as the rollers offer little or no resistance so I top out at around 650w.  Not through lack of trying but the cadence is stupidly high, the bike is highly unstable and I prefer to stay upright and not kiss the floor at an increased velocity.

I have heard of the races that Zwift offer but never entered.  Friends have raved about them and ZwiftCast are a strong advocator and assisted with the first e-Race held on the platform.

Logging on yesterday with no set distance in mind, on the right hand side of the screen I saw a Espresso Lap Race.  I thought, lets give it a go, what’s the worst that could happen?  I was a little late to the party so the group had already covered 3 miles and with an issue clipping in, (felt so GCN) I was soon dropped by the main group.  Clipped in and with a determined twinkle in my eye, I chased down the group. The ride leader made sure everyone knew the w/kg for sections of the ride and threaten DQ anyone shooting off the front.  During lap 2 the realisation of why it was called Espresso became apparent.  For those that know the Richmond course there is a sprint half way through.  This would be the start of the race and it would be all out war to the finish line.  As the sprint line approached the speed began to ramp up, crossing the line and boom, we were off.  I managed to hold a group for the next 3 miles but maintaining 340w was taking its toll.  My legs were starting to burn, sweat pouring down my face and I still had 6 miles to go. 

I was done.

The group started to pull away and I could not hold the wheel anymore plus I wanted to ensure I crossed the finish line.  Dropping down to around 260w I started to focus on others that had fallen by the wayside, to be honest there were not that many but I was concentrating on staying upright and breathing out of my arse at the same time!!!  With the final climb I managed to overtake the ride leader and as the course levelled out I put the hammer down and crossed the line.  It killed me but I loved the race.  Uploading to Strava, I saw the full name of the ride, my first introduction to racing was a Cat A race.

I had the bug so looked for another.

Kiss Road Races had been setup in late 2015 by a group of dads with busy family schedules and wanted to ride or race in a group and KISS was born.  These races offer the full range of categories so I decided to sign up.  I did take some guidance from Ian, a hardened Zwifter on which category to start with.  I decided to select CAT C and see how I got on.

This morning, just before 0930 I was set and ready to go.  The counter down timer was inching towards zero and I started to spin my legs. 

IMG_7950Suddenly everyone disappeared and I thought, have I started pedalling too early, have I been disqualified already?  I set off down the ramp and there was no one, ‘no riders near’ listed and no one on the circuit.  I thought, this is going to be hard work, no one to draft.  As I began the first incline more and more riders started to appear.  I was scanning the list on the right for other CAT C riders and found a group just ahead.

For the next 4 laps we kept a nice steady pace and practiced drafting on Zwift.  I have found with rollers it is a little slower to react when trying to take the pace off.  When it came to a climb I would have to increase the wattage to keep up with those on smart turbos but as it levelled off I would then fly past.

The end of the forth lap was approaching and I was not sure of the etiquette, with a mile to go no one had gone for a breakaway.  We had been a considerate group.  It made me think that if I go, would I upset anyone, is that not the done thing?  We had exited from under the sea and still no one had gone.  As we levelled out, I thought, I’m going for it, if anyone follows then fine.  If I drop everyone then I will know for next time and take any punches that come my way.  3 others jumped on my wheel and I kept pushing.  Four became two and I was going hell for leather then the rider behind swooped around me and crossed the line.  598w it says I was doing as I crossed the line and managed a respectable 18th in my class.  The rider that beat me at the line was a CAT B rider.

For a first proper attempt and considering I am on rollers that was not a bad effort, so I am told.  It would be interesting to see how it will compare when fixed to a smart turbo and able to put more power down.

I am hooked and will be looking for my next race.

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Back On Track CC Social Ride

There does come an opportunity to get out on an evening ride.  Unfortunately it is not frequent, usually due to work commitments but Thursday I posted out a 30 mile ride, nothing fast, just a group of cyclist getting together and enjoying what we do.

The ride was set for 1830 and for once, I arrived early to our own organised ride.  (A poor show I know). Slowly other riders turned up and an impressive turnout we had, 11 cyclists in total.  So after a quick brief of the route and reminding everyone that this was a social ride at 17’s and would not be any faster.  We would include the occasional sprint,which would be pointed out and consist of a nice downhill section.  No point in trying to race up hill!!!!

I did take the GoPro so I have put together a short video

Early MTB video

Over the last few year I have been a roadie convert but my early cycling days were on a mountain bike.  I did go everywhere on it and even completed the London to Brighton, with the addition of slick tyres.  That made it a bit easier.  Looking through my YouTube channel, I came across a short video taken in 2012 of my deathdefy adrenaline fuel descent in Thetford Forest.

It did make me chuckle, thinking I was flying the particular section and the shaking camera work.

OK, now where did I put it?

So my aim this year is to ride 5000 miles, an increase of around 1500 miles on last year. To date I am about 200 miles behind my year to date target. 

You read correctly, I log my rides in miles. Getting ahead of the game come Brexit time and you ‘Km’ cyclists get deported.

I have recently lost my cycling mojo, fallen out with pedalling the miles on the new badly dressed roads of Essex. Imagine your very own personal Strade Bianche. The idea of cycling to a cafe stop for coffee and cake has lost its appeal. That’s right, I said it. No real reason for it and unable to pin point an event which has led to this. As a shrink would say ‘all decision can be attributed to a traumatic point in one’s life’ but there maybe one.
Usually kept for the winter or those summer months when it rains, I have been on Zwift. Using the platform to keep my fitness up and remain on the bike. Plus a post dripping work out coffee is on hand and I can have two!!!  
Last week I managed to ride around 85 miles, well I say 85. I run rollers for Zwift, which offer little resistance so climbing a hill, taking into account wattage, the algorithms of the program adjust my displayed speed accordingly. For me to climb and maintain a descent speed, I pedal harder. So after completing Rapha Rising 30 mile Challenge and climbing the 3 mountains of Watopia it felt more like 50 miles on the rollers. I actually hurt the following day.  
I think the ease of jumping onto Zwift and riding within a few minutes became very appealing recently and not having been online since the London extension, it has kept things fresh but I did not see my wife in the crowd cheering me on.

I did mention earlier there was no traumatic event that lead to my recent hermit approach to cycling, I had completely forgotten one moment. I did not have matching wheels on the summer bike, the embarrassment to be out would have been life changing. We cyclists have some real issues.
A few weeks ago I felt the back of the bike dragging when climbing, I went through the process of elimination.  Cleaned the BB30, chain cleaned, brake calliper alignment but no improvement. So I removed the back wheel and investigated further, after a discussion with Hunt Wheels, they arranged for the wheel to be returned for investigation. So I needed to replace it for my rear winter wheel, you now see why I stayed inside.
The service from Hunt was fantastic, they arranged collection on Tuesday, repaired on Wednesday, phoned to update me and my precious wheel arrived Friday morning. That is impressive. It would appear there was an issue with the freehub and pressure on the bearings from the axle, Hunt replaced it all.
So has my mojo returned with matching wheels? A little but feel Zwift still has a hold. Anyway I have ordered new tyres, new cassette and chain for the summer bike so it may have to wait a little while longer for a true test.
I understand that coffee growing countries are waiting on tenterhooks for my return but do not worry about the little dip in the market.

 

A Man with Warm Hands

We all know the knee is an important part of movement and needs respecting and looking after.  I have always been conscious of my knees, especially the right one.

When I was a little younger, I used to train for MMA, this I did for 3 years but after a series of training fight, my right knee kept giving way.  Every time, I acted out the final fight scene like Danny Larusso in Karate Kid, rolling around on the mat after having the knee swept by those nasty bigger boys!!!  It used to make me feel physically sick and finally I paid a visit to the doctor to be checked out.  This ended my fighting career, hyper-extension in the knee ligaments which resulted in 6 months of physio.  From what I remember my knee cap was floating a little too much and I was told I could carry on but I would eventually end up in wheel chair.

Fast forward a number of years, well to the 7th May 2017 and my final climb up Fangs Brow for the Fred Whitton Challenge.  The feeling started to return and steadily got worse as the ride went on.  It was a tough decision to make but I also know when to cut my losses.  The knock on affect for my main job would have been disastrous and my wife would not have been too happy if I took my usual pigheaded approach.  So I came to rest at the top of the climb and if you read my previous blog you will know how much this pained me.

After meeting up with my fellow rider Ian, back at the start, he explained my next plan of action and all hell would break loose if I ignored him.  He can be quite persuasive.

A doctors appointment was booked and to cover myself I booked a sports physio appointment with Jon at Shepherds Physiotherapy.  Due to the cyber attacks my appointment with the GP was cancelled and I knew the backlog of appointments would be huge, this is not a medical emergency so decided not to pursue it.

I arrived at Shepherds Physiotherapy and warmly welcomed by Jon.  Firstly we discussed the ride, my injury and what had happened since.  I had stayed off the bike for 10 days, only once having an easy spin on the rollers.  All seemed fine but you never know what is going on around the joint.  He checked my knee and there was still signs of swelling.  He explained that I had aggravated the suprapatellar bursa, one of the small sacks of fluid that aids in the smooth movement of the knee.  There could be an underlying issue somewhere else in my body and the ride had certainly added a lot of pressure to this bursa and caused the inflammation.  I was just happy there was no long lasting damage.

Screen Shot 2017-06-12 at 07.01.37

Next he asked me to complete some simple exercises to see my range of motion, it became evident there were limitations on my right side.  I was asked to lay on the table and Jon started to apply some pressure on the right side of my back.  A range of muscles called the Ilopsoas in my back had become tight, he was applying pressure to release the tension.  It could be an area that needs revisiting or it could all be fine after one session of poking.  This man has magic hands.

Once I got off the table and stopped feeling dizzy.  My fault, I got up too quick, I completed the same range exercises and was now even on both sides.  He provided a brief explanation of what was going on and what affect the tightness of these muscles can have on cycling and a cyclist’s power.  He had now released my POWER!!!!! that must have been what has been holding me back all this time.

His final words were “take it easy, it will take a few weeks for everything to settle down.”  I planned to meet the rest of the Back On Track CC for a spin and if 19.5mph average over 45 miles is taking it easy then I am sorted.

Basking in the evening sunshine

It is not often I get an opportunity to organise an evening ride but as it is currently half term in the south of the country, I decided to get out on the bike.  We had a few members of Back On Track Cycling, the rest were on shift, plus Dunmow Velo attended and some new faces from the local area.  In total 10 fellow cyclists started to pedal the back lanes of Dunmow.

The plan was for a social ride, curbing the speed that Back On Track have a habit of, you know the one, ‘let’s take it easy’, someone says then taking off like a wippet out of the gate.  It was a cracking ride and there were a few opportuities for hill sprints, well as much as Essex can do a hill.  It was great to see so many people out and something I will aim to do again