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Monday, October 3, 2022

Race Report: Storm the Trent 2022 (Trek)

Let's jump to the finish.........

2nd in our division! Team of 2 Male, Masters.


In any year, this would be super exciting for us, but this year has been hell.

More on that... now.  Feel free to skip to the Race Stuff.

My 2022

I haven't been right, at all, all year.  I had COVID twice (yes I was vaccinated, don't judge me!) and a serious blood clot in my leg likely from the first COVID infection.

Despite that, I've pushed and pushed and trained and trained - but at just a lower level of intensity than ever.  Any bump in intensity, especially on the run, and I'm left gasping.

Biking has got better and better to the point that I'm closer to normal

Running still not.

So I was not looking forward to this race until about a week ago. In fact I was dreading being the "slow guy" holding us back all day, it's a terrible feeling.

Last weekend we had a great ride, though. My riding hasn't been terrible and this one just felt great start to finish... back in the forest, lots of energy, so I started thinking maaaaybe it'll be OK???

The Race - Storm the Trent

I have to also say a bit about this race, and the series - it has been a big part of our lives and goals since we first tried the Hike Course in 2015.  Every year we'd line up with maps and a desire to improve on what we did the year before.  Get better at orienteering, faster transitions, etc.

This is the "Final Edition"... for now! But it was announced at the race that "Storm Racing" will have a new owner, so hopefully something emerges from the ashes that's equally awesome!

Thank-you to Sean for all the years of really fun and challenging courses and races!

Our Race - Storm The Trent - Trek

The Prep

Unlike pre-pandemic, the course maps and instructions were published ahead of time. This takes some of the fun out of the race to be perfectly honest... I used to love getting those maps on race day and having an hour to strategize and mark things before hitting the course!

We met a few days earlier and went through all the instructions, meticulously marking distances and directions and points of interest / possible confusion / etc.  

In the years of doing this race, we knew mistakes kill, and even obvious checkpoints can be overlooked if you're not careful!  Knowing "it's at the end of this lake" or "at the top of the hill" based on the elevation lines is really key, no chances taken.

There's also just general strategy on the free runs - what order you hit the checkpoints in, for example. Generally better to hit a checkpoint within a short distance of some obvious landmark (ie. a trail junction) than go the other way and have to figure out which boulder they mean 2.5km later - it can be pretty ambiguous and confusing.

Race Day

Did the normal check-in, dropped off the boat and bikes, everything ready to go... now it was time to carry the canoe down to the start.

And... disaster strikes. Where are my run maps???  I had my meticulously planned run maps in a separate bag to easily hold them during the runs.  Couldn't find them anywhere.

Panic. Freak-out. Thankfully we had maps the organizers had given us the day of and very good memories......... but with no time left to get ourselves down to the water, we had to make the painful decision to somewhat wing it. 

I was gutted - I figured I would let down my partner due to my conditioning, but here I was screwing up something I had control over!!!  

The Start - Canoe

The paddle was pretty simple, but I hadn't paddled a single stroke all year so I wasn't sure how that would go.  Fortunately it went great, we hit the two checkpoints and passed a few teams (and were passed by a few others).

We were using our cedar strip canoe, it's pretty heavy but with the new coat of epoxy it glided through the water really nicely!

The worst part was the portage... carrying that heavy thing up a steep hill, I was gassed within a few hundred meters. My partner took his turn and I managed to recover, then take another short stint at the end of the portage to the transition zone.

Bike 1

We dumped the canoe and hit the bikes - fast transition, no fuss no muss. Easy bike on roads to the first run.

Run 1

This was the longest run, and used a lot of the trails we had seen the previous year.

We used the not-zoomed-in-map for this and our memories - fortunately obsessing about the course for a week before paid off. All the checkpoints were pretty easy to find (although somehow we saw teams doubling back who had missed them?? - I don't get it).

We alternated running and hiking/walking across some of the hills and tough terrain, but overall it wasn't as muddy as last year and just went fine!

Bike 2

This was another easy on-road bike to the next run. Other than hill after hill. After hill.

Run 2


There were two checkpoints to get to (CP40 and CP41), each on what looked like significant trails on the map, with a not significant trail connecting them. We weren't sure how obvious that less significant trail would be... but it ended up being very obvious.

We took a less popular clockwise route to CP41, taking on the worst climbs at the start of the run.  This was probably the right call, as the decent down the other trail was more runnable this way?  Hard to know for certain, but it worked out alright, felt really good and strong at the end of it!

The climbs made these "runs" much more like "hikes", though... so steep, very hard to actually "run" up them.

Bike 3

Finally, a lot of biking! This was the meat of the bike route, a bunch of checkpoints across a long distance with climbs and trails before the next run.

We're cyclists, not runners, and once we hit this bike section it really paid off. We were picking off earlier starting teams one by one, up hills, down hills, on more technical trails - it was awesome.

The first segment was mostly road with some big sweeping kind of sketchy at times descents - it was so much fun. Easily found the next checkpoint at a bridge, then it was onto the trail.

This was the section that had kept me up at night before the race... last year, we had trudged up "Outlook Trail" on a run section, and it was horrible. Steep, rocky, muddy, hellish.

So when I saw "Lookout Trail" was on the bike route, I was thinking this was going to be several kilometers of "pushing a bike".

Fortunately... most of it was rideable!  There was one long climb section that I just couldn't do (nobody around us could either). And we missed the little lollipop section that went to the top, so all in all it was alright. We flew pretty quickly down the "Rugged Descent", again being capable mountain bike guys paid off.

I forgot to mention - due to all the road, I chose my hardtail 29'er instead of my full suspension Enduro bike. That was the right call, I think I paid a big price last year with the heavier bike, for not much technical stuff.

From there we made our way to "Greg Trail", which was pretty mixed - some sections were a hoot, some had water literally flowing across the trail making a muddy/soupy mess. We passed a co-ed team in there who had passed us previously on the first run, which was great! (But temporary)

Run 3

This one had reasonably simple navigation of road-then-trail, but we managed to first go down the wrong road (fortunately for only about 100m).  The co-ed team that we passed passed us during that oopsie, then we passed them on foot (I think the guy had an injury - guy if you're reading this, you can confirm!)

We went up the road... up... UP... then hit the trail and it was just a wall ahead of us. Rocky, steep, no way to run most of it, straight up to a lookout.

Ran most of the way back down and to the checkpoint - and the co-ed team passed us again! For those keeping score that's the 3rd time. 

Bike To Finish!

We passed the co-ed team in transition, because we do that really fast and most teams... don't! We don't fiddle with anything, just punch out and go... lessons learned over the years.

I had a huge second wind here and felt really strong on the last bike, first from being chased but even as we distanced the other teams I just felt really good! At 5h in that's a big win, right??

Then... we missed a turn. Somehow. It was a really strange trail junction, unmarked, but going straight looked right - until it petered out to nothing. It was only a 50-100m mistake, but in the process another team caught right up to us.

Fortunately we had enough to fend them off and get to the finish!

Whew. 

Done!

In the end, the missing maps maybe cost us that one miscue on the run, but not much else. We still had maps, just not annotated, so it wasn't the end of the world.

Then we get back to the van, and what is sitting on the ground?  The run maps.

How. HOW!? We looked everywhere and they were definitely NOT on the ground next to the van!!!

The only thing I can think of is maybe I set them on the roof, and they blew off???  Or someone else found them? But how would they know they were ours?

Mysteries of life.

I'm incredibly happy with finishing 2nd in the division - it was a brutal year, and just overcoming it all to have any kind of athletic achievement blows me away.  I'm 100% reenergized for next year - ready to start training now and kick ass!!!

Thursday, January 20, 2022

Zwift: Completing All the Routes - COMPLETE! - Part 2 - Route Ranking

Part 2!

Before I started trying to do all of the routes, I didn't really use... routes. Which is kind of a shame, given the really do give you a great overview of all that the worlds have to offer!

So without further ado, here are the Best and Worst Routes of each world, according to... me! 

Watopia

Best: The Mega Pretzel 



I am going to confess right now - I love the Jungle, and the Mega Pretzel hits it twice. Switch to the mountain bike, pass everyone, weeeeeee!

This route also avoids the dreadfully boring Tempus Fugit, has plenty of climbing (but nothing silly like the Alpe!), and is constantly throwing different things at you.  A great tour of the world.


This one is so popular I'm surely the odd one out, but gawd how do people stand doing mind-numbing flat laps on repeat.  Zzzzz.  

If you love riding in a pack through deathly boring terrain and never having to get out of the saddle, this is the route I guess. Good for tallying up a lot of miles, not much else.

Makuri Islands


A new addition and longer route (22.4km) that spans Neokyo and Yumezi (the countryside) - with a decent climb and lots of riders around to mingle and draft off.  Showcases the world well, without the gravely bits that can be a bit annoying (not long enough to switch bikes, long enough to slow you down). 


A 3.2km route to nowhere, not even a loop, why does this exist?

London


Lovely tour of the flat parts of London and, of course, Box Hill!


No, it's not the PRL Full - that at least has a purpose (to be really long) and a vibe (loops!).

The London Pretzel meanders without purpose, duplicating flat sections for no apparent reason other than to maybe beef up the mileage?

New York


Stays on the ground, where New York looks like New York! Always lots of traffic, enough hills and terrain changes to keep a person interested.  Timed loop if you want to challenge yourself.

Worst: Most Of Them

Most of the NYC routes are indifferentiable from each other - just some silly doodle with the KOM in one direction or the other, or both.  I intensely dislike the skyway thing, and they almost all use it.

Stick with Park Perimeter Loop or Astoria 8 Line IMO.

Paris

Not really worth ranking - there are 2 routes, both flat and not terribly interesting.

France

Best: R.G.V.

This is one of my favourite routes in the entire game - flat and fast, but still fun! When you ride it in an Event it's a challenge to stay with the pack, with the little tough climb mid-lap and some quick accelerations when you may not expect it as you blast through little ups and downs and S-bends near the end of the lap.


It's not terrible, but the 3km uphill lead-in is annoying. 

Richmond

Best: 2015 UCI Worlds Course

Lots of fun on this one!  A great little varied course, some stiff climbs, quick descents and fast flats.

Innsbruck


It's short, it's fast, and it has a wicked "Leg Snapper" climb to separate the men from the boys! A lot of fun in a race (except for fatties like me!) as the group gets blown apart and re-assembles in time for the next loop of getting blown apart again!


Whose brilliant idea was it to have a huge climb and over 10km Lead In???

Dumb. If you do it as a meet-up you can skip that, but for some reason the regular route includes this silliness. 

Yorkshire


You're here, might as well do all the roads in both directions, right?  Nice climbs and little town roads.


3km? 1.7km Lead-in?? Why bother?


Zwift: Completing All the Routes - COMPLETE!

 

Who-hoo! All 105 Zwift Routes complete!

2,670km!

132,409 feet of climbing!

52,257 XP!

I started targeting this after most of last year, when I realized I had already done a bunch and it would be an interesting challenge.

It was.  Here's what I learned along the way.

Best Way To Do A Route

Events

There are good events, great events, and terrible events... and which you choose makes a huge difference!

Most events don't have alllll that many people, so they're only useful if the pace of the main group is something you can maintain comfortably. If you can, they can be a huge boost to your speed and motivation.

Great events include the Tour de Zwift, or some of the Fondo series - where you have hundreds and hundreds of riders around of all different abilities.  It's almost impossible to find yourself alone on these, groups will develop at every level of fitness.  Find your match and thrive!

If you find yourself in a terrible event ... where you fly off the back and end up solo?  Sometimes it's best to simply leave it.  If the world is on the calendar, you might find more draft partners than tooling around miles behind the pack.

Solo

Check the World Calendar, select the route and ride!

Simple - except you still want company and most importantly draft partners. Weekends around noon Eastern Time seem to be the best - lots of evening Europe riders plus all the U.S./Canada timezones all at once!  I recently did the PRL Full in London and there were between 4000-7000 riders in the "world" the entire ride - so many people to chase, draft, chat with (if that's your thing).  It's often better than an Event, this is how I did most of my routes.

    A Few Route Awards

    There's a bunch of things that can make a route tough - here's some of my thoughts. YMMV!

    Toughest Climbing Route

    Four Horsemen is my choice here. There are a bunch of routes that go up the Alpe du Zwift, but this one puts the Epic climb (PLUS the bonus climb!) right before it.  No breaks, just Epic+ then Alpe.

    Toughest Long Route

    Uber Pretzel or PRL Full?  Tough call.  I had a tougher time with the PRL Full but it was probably the time of year and my fitness more than the route - the loops are actually quite digestible, and the climb not so tough.   

    The Alpe at the end of the Uber Pretzel, when you've already got 115km in your legs is hard... but you've also been tooling around on the Fuego Flats at 40-50km/h with an awesome draft (if you're free-riding it!) so you have a lot of time to recover and chill between climbs.

    I'm giving the edge to PRL Full, it's just so long.

    Worst World for Routes

    New York, and it's not even close.

    Other worlds this size have 5 or 6 routes, for some reason they decided to have 11 routes that are pretty much carbon copies of each other in New York.  Blurgh.

    Don't get me wrong - I love the Park Loop. But that elevated glass section is so repetitive, and it's in almost every route.  How many times do I need to do the same bloody climb... I dreaded it every time.

    Best and Worst Routes By World

    I will do a follow-up post with this ... stay tuned!

    What's Next?

    I still have to earn my TRON bike so there's the climbing challenge - then I'm not sure!


    Sunday, January 16, 2022

    Ride Report: Zwift "The PRL Full"

    PRL Full

    The distance (173km) is daunting, the total climbing (8,198 feet) is bananas.

    And the route... I mean there's nothing wrong with the "London Loop" or Box Hill, but... 11 times??

    Up Box Hill the first time, 10 more to go!

    Mentally challenging!

    There are two options for this one - try find an organized ride or free ride it on a London day.  I had previously done the Half PRL in an organized ride, got dropped a couple loops in and had a rough day - so figured I would have better luck free riding it.

    So when I saw London on the schedule for a Saturday?  I circled it.

    My Ride

    One hot tip - if you set your last name in Zwift to include (PRL Full) - people cheer you on, give you Ride Ons, etc. Also saw a few others doing the same ride which was neat!

    At one point there were over 7,000 riders in London!!!  Lots of folks to interact with, draft off (especially on the flat parts!), be inspired by.  

    First Few Laps

    It hard to not get excited starting out something like this... so I probably went out a little hot.  Fastest climb up Box Hill was Lap 1!

    A little over an hour in - disaster! Complete power drop-out. What a time for a battery to die!

    I stopped, messed with it for a bunch, found a spare battery... about 5 minutes to get going again, and another 15 or 20 to get back into a groove.

    After that every lap was kind of the same
    • Easy on the London flats
    • 2.5-2.9w/kg on Box Hill (~11 minutes)
    • Easy (or off entirely!) down Fox Hill - snack, lube, stretch
    • Up that damn subway escalator thing
    • Easy back to the London Loop Start/Finish
    Laps 9, 10 and 11 

    ... were pretty death-marchy, as you can see from my Box Hill lap times. I'm not in summer shape here so almost 6 hours on the bike was hard.  Had a tough time holding 2.5w/kg even on Box Hill climb, just kept giving what I could. Stuffed myself as full as my stomach would allow for!

    The Last 8km

    One of the goofy things about this ride is that after you've done 11 London Loop laps, there's still 8km to go... for some reason you cross over the Thames again to do a loop near the Box Hill start then return to London and finish at The Mall.  I'm assuming this is to match the distance of the "IRL" PRL ride??

    It's a bit diabolical, but I mostly used it as a cool down.  Spin spin spin, survive, finish.

    Never again.
     
    Final Thoughts

    Honestly, doing laps wasn't that bad - it was nice to know the course and use some of that knowledge to have a strategy the next lap. Knowing where the Power Ups were and when to use them (save the feather for the escalator!!!) was nice.  

    First couple laps I tried to get into a pack on the way down Fox Hill, but realized there were always other riders joining in at the bottom from other routes - so didn't need to worry to set up a draft up to the escalator.

    People said this was easier than the Uber Pretzel - I'm not sure. Maybe!?  For me that extra hour really hurt, even though the Uber Pretzel ends up the Alpe... Uber also has the long Fuego Flats sections in the middle, so lots of easy recovery riding. YMMV!

    I'm pretty sure I'll never do this again, though... I might Uber it up someday though.

    Friday, January 14, 2022

    Zwift: Completing All the Routes - Update #6 and the FULL PRL STILL looms

     

    More Routes!

    Since my last update, the number of Badge-Earning Routes has grown from 101 to 106!

    I managed to get in the ones they added last update (even the Event-Only one) and then ... they added 2 more!

    So I thought this weekend would bring my quest to an end, but alas, I will still have a couple to go.

    (I'm not really complaining - I love having more routes to tackle, keep it going Zwift!)

    Full PRL

    173km. 6+ hours. Shudder.

    I tried the Full PRL before Christmas, but just didn't have it that day and cut it short very early.

    Bright side - I learned that doing it as part of an event wasn't great.  Too much pressure to keep with a group, and it wasn't a large enough event to be super choosey on one's pace.  Worse, it wasn't on a day where London was one of the worlds, so even if you left the event you were all alone!

    So this time I'm doing it on just a regular Saturday "London" Day.  There should be plenty of people to draft off when I need it, and I can do it at my own pace.

    Tomorrow's the Big Day!  Wish me luck. I will need it. 

    Wednesday, December 8, 2021

    Zwift: Completing All the Routes - Update #5 and the FULL PRL looms

     

    91 done, 10 to go! 


    I hit Ven-Top this weekend, the longest climb in the game - that was pretty cool.  It wasn't as steep as Alpe de Zwift, and it was busy that day in France so lots of company.

    Three big rides still loom - and this Saturday it's time for The PRL Full.


    PRL Full

    173km on the trainer sounds horrible... but so did the Uber Pretzel, and that ended up being kind of fun.

    Box Hill 11 times, though??  The same London Loop, 11 times? 

    I was originally planning to do it on a weekend when London was on the Guest World calendar, but then it popped up in this Badge Hunters Series for Saturday.  Misery loves company!

    Bike choice - I'm going to go with a mixed set-up here, I think drafting will be important but so will climbing.  Aeroroad with Zipp 454s. 

    Lots of water, calories, coasting, try find a few friends to draft when I can... and keep them pedals turning!


    Sunday, November 28, 2021

    Ride Report: Zwift Uber Pretzel

     I have been working on completing all the routes on Zwift, which is all fun and games...

    ... except for a few torture rides.

    The Uber Pretzel is one of those.


    128km and it includes the Epic KOM (with the bonus radar tour!) and finishes with the grueling Alpe du Zwift!

    Or, put another way, about 5 hours on the indoor trainer for me turning around 2.5w/kg.

    There's a really great route description at Zwift Insider if you want to get a broad idea of what this ride is, but I'll give you some of the nitty-gritty.

    When To Do It

    The two choices you really have are an Event or Freeride and choose the route.

    I decided to Freeride it, for the simple reason that the events were reasonably under-subscribed.  If there are only a handful of riders doing it together, you don't get the benefit of the draft - and there are a lot of opportunities on this one to draft!

    I chose a Saturday morning as it seemed like when Zwift has the most active riders.

    This worked out great - I had company most of the ride!

    What Bike To Use

    This was a bit trickier because this route visits almost every corner of Watopia.

    Some people are allergic to bike switching, but I always hate having the wrong bike for the job... a bad climber or bad aero for hours sucks.  And there's nothing worse than a road bike in the Jungle!  Other than maybe a TT bike haha.

    Here is what I ultimately decided... 


    I had planned to do the Optional bike switches as well, but when it came down to it... I didn't bother.  Went Climber-MTB-Aero-Climber, so only 3 switches.

    My lightest climbing bike was the Cannondale Evo with the Lightweight Meilensteins.

    My best mountain bike is the Trek Super Caliber.

    My best aero setup is the Cervelo S5 2020 with the Zipp 808's.

    Is switching the fastest way to cover the course?  I mean, who cares... it's 5 hours!!!  Taking 20 seconds to switch bikes won't ruin your day, it just made it a lot more enjoyable for me.  I suspect it's well worth it given the long stretches you spend on each, and the Jungle for sure favours a MTB by almost a minute over the full loop.

    Keys To Success

    Like any long ride on the road - hydrate, eat, take a pee break... have lube handy... 

    Careful with pushing too hard at any point just to keep up - although I found it worth burning a few matches here and there to grab a good Fuego Flats wheel!

    Rest when you are by yourself but take advantage of a good wheel when you can.

    And most of all... save something - a LOT of something - for the Alpe du Zwift.  At my power output (2.5-3w/kg) it took about 1h10 and at the end of a 5h ride it was tough... mentally and physically.

    Good luck!