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Thursday, 3 September 2020

12 Hours on Zwift: Appalling Maths and hating on Central Park

How did you cope with the lockdown? Did you prefer working from home or were you out and about, working as usual?

Pre-Lockdown
Pre-Lockdown ... during it was almost all indoors!

I was lucky enough to be out and about for work. I love my family, but I’m well aware how annoying I can be and with my husband working from home and child off school, I didn’t want to end up falling out with everyone or locking myself in the loo to drink gin in the bath. That’s for weekends.

However, I’m one of the lucky ones. My family unit is fairly stable. But what if it wasn’t?

During lockdown, domestic abuse killings doubled and calls to helplines went up by 49%. That’s a huge increase. With people all stuck inside together and no respite, it was estimated that at least 16 domestic abuse killings of women and children had taken place in the first three weeks of the lockdown. (1)

I work in a role where domestic abuse is often seen and when I found out the stats, my friend Rachel, in a similar role, and I decided to try and help by raising some money for the Crisis Centre in Birmingham.

Now Rachel, as previously mentioned, is my ‘Yes Friend’. An important friend to have, particularly when planning bonkers adventures and madcap ideas and need someone with enthusiasm and a shared delight of cafe stops. But this time, it was my turn to be the yes friend. And there were to be no cafe stops.

Rachel’s crazy idea was to ride for 12 hours … on Zwift. If you’re not familiar with Zwift, it’s basically a computer game which doubles as a training aid. You hook your bike up to it, pedal like mad and Zwift tells you you’re going up mountains. It’s a bit more complex than that, but that’s the gist. 

And she wanted me to spend 12 hours doing that. On my own. In the house. Like a lunatic.

So of course I said yes. 

We planned to start at 0600hrs in the morning and Rachel would plan a ‘meet up’ on Zwift which meant that the program would link our bikes to ride together. The lovely Charley would be joining us for a few hours and we’d all be chatting way on the Discord app to make the time pass faster. 

Ready to Go!

So with my usual perfect timekeeping, I was 7 minutes late in joining. I could blame, Zwift, my bike shoes for hiding or the cats for being irritating little gits … but actually it was my usual appalling sense of time.

As a result, the software wouldn’t let me join the meetup. This is standard, but being new to Zwift I didn’t realise I had to be riding before the start of the meet up to join in. Again … I’d blame the software being awkward … but it was me being incompetent. 

Standard.

Finally after a couple of false starts, we all got our little avatars cycling together in the pixel-perfect world of Watopia at 0625hrs. Perfect. Our little people all cycling around a made-up world while we cycled hundreds of miles apart in our own houses. 

My new favourite thing in the world

We were chatting via Discord which is a free chat app on our phones and it actually made it feel like a proper group ride. But without having to avoid snot rockets, potholes or delivery vans but while still being able to shout at each to take the front so the rest could draft. Perfect. 

My working strategy was to have a break every few hours for snacks when I would stop my clock to ensure I got the full 12 hours in and restart it when I started cycling again. After my snacks had been gobbled. 

We were having a grand old catch up and chatting about various important topics (Does chamois cream go on your arse or the pad of your shorts? Does cider count as fuelling? How many pairs of bib shorts is too many? Should bike shops offer husband receipts?) and collectively decided that a quick snack and drinks bottle refill every couple of hours would be about right and save us getting too exhausted later on in the ride. The first few hours had flown by with the chat and excitement of starting our enthusiastic but static adventure as we got off our collective bikes to scoff our first snacks.

Snack duly gobbled, I climbed back onto my bike to find that my little Zwift cyclist was refusing to move an inch. I was pedalling, the turbo was on, everything was connected but my avatar had clearly gone on strike. What the watt? Power was showing in the menu screen meaning everything was connected and it was recognising I was pedalling but it wasn’t moving my cyclist in Watopia. I could spin my legs as fast as Roadrunner when Wile E Coyote arrived with the Acme Dynamite but without Zwift recognising I was doing it, cartoon Sarah wasn’t going anywhere.

Stupid cartoon Sarah. She’s clearly as stubborn and as much of a pain-in-the-arse as real life Sarah.

I paired, unpaired and repaired. I switched things on and off but no luck. Last option. I stopped the Garmin with a beep and restarted Zwift. Sigh. I’d lost the first part of the data in Zwift so was going to have to remember what time I’d done and add that onto the next section.

Well THAT’S going to end well, isn’t it?

Surprising how much this helps!

I started up Zwift but as I’d exited the program, it wouldn’t let me rejoin my cycling buddies. So Rach and Charley were cycling in Watopia and I was cycling in circles in Central Park in the virtual New York. Being new to Zwift, I had no clue how to choose which route I went on so I popped up on the route the program chose for me. 

Gosh. Lucky Central Park is an interesting route, isn’t it? … isn’t it?

It was fantastic for the first 2 hours … but with no clue how to change the route I was on, the short loop of Central Park got boring very quickly. AND I STILL HAD 10 HOURS OF IT TO GO.

I started getting very very sympathetic to the plight of the lonely goldfish circling the bowl.

The girls were chatting away which was lovely and made me feel a bit less as though I was pedalling away for an entire day in my house like a lunatic. Which I was. Charley dropped off the ride at lunchtime as she’d hit her target of longest ride of 5 hours which was absolutely brilliant. It was fantastic to have her along for the ride and her chat and quick wit kept the hours ticking past. We also got some lovely support from JJ who dropped in to say hello.

I can't do THIS on the bike normally!

As the miles ticked onwards, the chat lessened and as we got towards 100 miles, Discord tailed off into silence.

I don’t think my ranting about endless loops of Central Park helped. 

I decided that now was the time to fall back on Plan B and stuck Indiana Jones and The Last Crusade followed by Indiana Jones and The Holy Grail on the TV. Singing the theme tune like a lunatic cheered me up and took my mind off the fact I still had to sit on my now very sore fanny for another couple of hours. I decided monsters would take my mind off it and put on the classic film, Tremors. Who doesn’t like a classic monster film? 

Me. I’ve gone off films and cycling altogether at this point. Lying down I could get on board with. So long as it wasn’t in bloody Central Park.

Central Park could do one. 


I was on the last section now. 2 hours to go and I was joined by the lovely Laura Donald for a section. I spotted her avatar’s name pop up on the board on Zwift and it was lovely having a bit of company. It’s surprising how much quicker the miles go with support. If only it was possible for one of my buddies to actually go into Central park and push that bloody avatar round to save me pedalling, I’d be hugely appreciative. 

My lovely Rugby Tri girls dropped me a message and gave me a boost with some chat on Discord and Dan from Rugby Tri rode with me for the last section giving me the benefit of a bit of a draft – much appreciated! 

I was counting down the minutes now. The girls kept me going with chat … and every now and then would ask how long I had to go. 23 minutes …. 12 minutes … 7 minutes … 3 minutes. 

Nearly there. Just keep talking, girls. So long as you keep talking, I can keep pedalling.

And it takes my mind off how much I bloody hate Central Park right now. 

And done.

I stopped the watch. Finally. It was showing 12 hours 4 seconds. I was done.

HANG ON.

Didn’t I stop the watch when I restarted Zwift when it crashed 2 hours in …? 

WHAT

THE 

ACTUAL


Due to the snack-breaks and toilet-breaks and general fannying-around-breaks, I had completely lost track of time. I’d stopped the watch when I’d got off the bike so wasn’t sure at what time approximately I was due to finish. 

I HAD thought it was taking rather a long time …

Because this absolute twerp had cycled for 2 extra hours as she had forgotten she’d restarted the watch when she restarted Zwift.

2 additional hours of cycling around Central Park. 2 additional hours of resting on my battered fanny. 2 additional hours of abusing my legs on the bike. 

This betwattled idiot could have climbed off her bike 2 hours ago.

BUT £845 raised for Birmingham Crisis Centre. Additional resources and funds to help people in crisis.

Worth it.

Thank you.


Should you feel sorry for my poor legs or just having a chuckle at my appalling maths skills, the Just Giving page is still open here: Just Giving


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