#FindYourOwnFinishLine — Collecting All the Zwift Route Badges

 

Route Complete! The Mega Pretzel was a beast. The Uber Pretzel is still on my “to-do” list.

With many (most) races off the table for 2020 lots of athletes, myself included, have found other goals, other carrots, other adventures that speak to us.  For me, my 2020 finish line revolves around Zwift.  For the uninitiated Zwift is a gaming platform that blends indoor training on the bicycle (or treadmill) with an elaborate virtual world.  Zwift is comprised of multiple worlds (Watopia, London, New York, Innsbruck, Richmond, Yorkshire and now France and Paris) that include specific routes ranging from 3 miles to over 100 miles.  Prior to the release of the new France and Paris worlds there were 67 routes that could be collected.  Each time you finished a route you received a route badge.

The Leith Hill QOM Jersey.

Way back in March I started to get serious about Zwift.  Like riding my bike every day on Zwift serious.  By early April I realized that I was riding quite a few miles and thought it would be interesting to see if I could ride every route in Zwift.  I didn’t think much of it other than to draw up a check list with color coded pens (of course) and to start riding.  As the routes vary in length at first it was really easy to pick up a new route.  I could complete at least one route per day and sometimes more.  As I started to tick off more and more routes, they got progressively harder.  Its easy to get on the bike and bang out short routes like the London Classique (3.2 miles and 62 feet of elevation gain) but its a whole lot harder to find the time and effort to ride something like Quatch Quest  (28.5 miles and 5522 feet of elevation) or the Mega Pretzel (66.5 miles and 5387 feet of elevation).  Figuring out when and how to get routes in started to become a hobby in and of itself.

Checking off the final routes.

The quest was going along really well until late May when I fell down a set of wooden stairs and sustained a nasty lisfranc injury to my left foot.  Prior to the injury I was on day 61 of a bike streak and was hoping to complete all my routes by the end of June.  In fact I was scheduled to ride the London PRL Full course (107.5 miles and 8189 feet of elevation) four days after my fall.  That didn’t happen.  What did happen is that I got back on my bike and started pedaling softly.  By mid-June I was back picking up routes, albeit at a slower pace.

The London Sprint Jersey. I love green.

Over the course of spending lots of time riding in virtual worlds I learned a few things.  First and foremost having a good group of people to ride with is key.  For many of badges I was accompanied by Shaun Gallagher, Chris Eckett and my #ZwiftHusband Rob Piperno.  Peer pressure is an amazing thing.  Knowing that others are suffering with you really helps especially on the long and hilly routes.  I also learned that I prefer a shorter steeper climb to a longer gentler climb — I’ll take the Epic KOM Reverse over the Forward Epic KOM any day– and that sometimes the longest, steepest, grindiest climbs can be the most gratifying (I’m looking at you Alpe du Zwift).  Finally I learned that long riding requires being prepared — good shorts (I’ve literally ridden through two pairs of shorts in the last four months), adequate nutrition, lots of chamois cream and a lovely husband nearby to help when things go awry.

A Wednesday night route.

Now as we sit in July I have three of the “original” routes to complete — London PRL Full, Four Horsemen and the Uber Pretzel —  along with seven new routes in France once they are released to the general public (these routes will be part of a special virtual Tour de France before being being made available to everyone on the Zwift platform).  The Four Horseman is scheduled for this Sunday (7/12), the Uber Pretzel for the Sunday after (7/19) and I’ll have to find a special date to complete the PRL Full.  Six to seven hours on the trainer, in summer, with no air conditioning is going to be special.

Zwifting involves lots of selfies.

In addition to picking up route badges, going after all the Zwift routes resulted in other achievements.  I got stronger on the bike.  A lot stronger.  And I logged some serious miles.  My total mileage for March was 289.39 miles.  April was 659.93 miles. May was 692.23 miles (even with the foot injury).  June topped out at 866.02 miles.  I’m aiming for 1,000 miles for July.  It just might happen.  I also became competitive for Zwift sprints and KOMs.  I’ve nabbed every sprint jersey in forward and reverse and am working on the KOMs, unfortunately I’m a lot better at putting out relatively big watts for a short duration than I am at climbing.

Achterbahn. So. Much. Climbing.

This challenge has also left me thinking about what’s next.  I think when you’re on a quest to #FindYourOwnFinishLine two things are important: (1) that the task be hard enough that it really forces you to stretch; and (2) that obtaining the goal be completely within your control.

Goals like winning a race (even a Zwift race) are amazing but they’re very dependent on who shows up on the start line on any given day — you can do your absolute best and fail.  When it comes to a #FindYourOwnFinishLine goal I prefer ones that you can control — riding all the routes in Zwift, climbing all the 4,000 footers in New Hampshire, swimming around a large lake, completing an ultra distance in swimming, biking or running, or climbing the 6 gaps in Vermont.  All of these goals are hard.  All of these goals require time, effort and preparation.  All of these goals are completely within the athlete’s control.  Come the end of this month I’m hoping that I’ll have checked every Zwift route box and that I’ll be off finding a new finish line.

A detour along the way.

Sonic 4 on the 4th – Winners

We are amazed by the turn out and enthusiasm for the #Sonic4onth4th.  It was great to see so many athletes out running 4 (or a distance that ended with .4 miles) despite the hot and sticky weather throughout most of the country.  There were quite a few runs of 7.4 miles to celebrate.  We picked 5 winners based on all of the social media submissions.  CONGRATULATIONS to:

Deanna Frazier
Jocelyn Bergeron
Marcy Ritsick 
Mike Higgins
Veronica Ramos 

If you’re a winner please email kelly@sonicedurance.com with your mailing address so we can send you your prize.  We hope to keep seeing everyone out on the roads, trails, paths, and waterways this summer as you #FindYourOwnFinishLine.

Swimming with COVID-19 Protocols

As things continue to open up (in some places), for many of us we have access to pools for the first time in months.  While it’s amazing to be able to swim laps, the process of getting into the pool and how long we have to swim once we are there has changed dramatically.  

Here in New Hampshire, our local YMCA opened for lap swimming on June 3, 2020.  Instead of being able to show up and drop in for lap swimming at any time, there’s now a procedure to follow.  First off, all lap swimming times must be reserved.  My local YMCA uses the Motion Vibe App for reserving pool times.  Pool sessions are one hour long with 15 minute breaks between sessions (e.g. 5 a.m. – 6 a.m., 6:15 a.m. – 7:15 a.m., 7:30 a.m. – 8:30 a.m.).  Sessions are available to reserve 24 hours before the start time and you may only reserve one session per day (more on this later).  If I want a 5 a.m. or 6:15 a.m. session on a Monday, I need to reserve that session early on Sunday morning.  The morning sessions fill up really quickly.  In some ways I’m lucky.  Down in Pennsylvania, Coach Stacey‘s sessions are limited to 45 minutes with 15 minute breaks between sessions.  I’ll take the extra 15 minutes here.

Physical distance markers used to wait to get into the pool.

Once you have your reservation you are expected to arrive 5 to 10 minutes prior to the start time and line up (with masks on) outside the pool door.  Each swimmer then has their temperature taken and is asked a series of health screening questions prior to being allowed into the pool.  Masks must continue to be worn on the pool deck walking to the locker rooms and in the locker rooms themselves.  The locker rooms themselves are fairly normal with the exception that two out of every three lockers are zip tied shut to encourage physical distancing and there’s no one in the locker room except swimmers.  Once your gear is put away, you must shower before returning to the pool deck (again wearing your mask) and claiming your lane (it is nice to have a lane all to yourself).  Once you’re at your lane you can remove your mask for the duration of the swim workout.

Pre-swim health questionnaire.

Here’s where things get tricky.  By the time I’ve gone through the screening and locker room processes, usually 5-10 minutes have passed, leaving 50 – 55 minutes to swim (and even less if someone arrives late and prevents the guard from getting to the lifeguard chair).  With that amount of time, I’ve needed to re-assess swim workouts.  I try to get 2500 or so yards in, but obviously things like drill work, kicking, and sets that involve a lot of rest can reduce the total amount of yardage.  I’ve also asked if I can combine two swim sessions, but for now the answer is no.  What I’ve generally done is a fairly short warm up, main sets of 100s or 200s (often with paddles) and a short cool down.  I find that anything shorter than 100 eats up a lot of time because of the rest interval.  While a longer interval, like a 400 or 500, could result in more total yards, right now I need to focus more on speed than endurance.

Welcome back (I love my local life guards).

While I was able to get back to “normal” swimming fairly quickly, I also have the advantage of a swim background and 30+ years of muscle memory.  For lots of people it’s going to take a little longer to feel comfortable in the water again.

For a first swim back I like this workout.  It’s about getting into the water and getting comfortable.

First Swim Back

Warm Up: 4 x 50 Freestyle. Very easy.

Main Set:

100 Freestyle
60″ Rest
50 Freestyle
60″ Rest
100 Freestyle
60″ Rest
50 Freestyle
60″ Rest
100 Freestyle
60″ Rest

4 x 50 Freestyle  with 30″ rest between 50s.

Cool Down: 200 Yards. Mix in odd stroke (butterfly, breaststroke, backstroke) and kicking if you’d like.

I missed my pool (Keene, NH YMCA).

Once you feel comfortable in the water, here are a couple of workouts that work well for most people in under and hour (or in 45 minutes if need be).  If you need more time shorten the warm up and cool down.

200 – 50 Splits  (1800 Yards Total)

Warm Up: 4 x 100 For each 100 alternate 50 drill of your choice / 50 swim

Main Set:

4 x (200 Hard, 50 Drill / Easy)  200s can be done with paddles of your choice.

Cool Down: 4 x 100 For each 100 alternate 50 drill / 50 swim

100-50-100 (2000 Yards Total)

Warm Up: 1 x 200 Easy Swim; 2 x 50 Kick

Main Set:

6 x 100 Free will Pull Buoy (30″ rest between intervals)

6 x 50 Free All Out (15″ rest between intervals)

6 x 100 Free with Pull Buoy (30″ rest between intervals)

Cool Down:  1 x 200 Mixed strokes

Hard Paddle 200s (2600 Yards Total) — If you are time crunched do three intervals instead of five in the main set.

Warm up: 1 x 200 Easy peasy;  2 x 100 Kick

Main set:

5 x (200 Paddles All Out, 200 Easy with optional Pull Buoy)

30″ Rest Between intervals.

Cool down: 1 x 200 Mix in easy odd strokes.

I feel like this applies to a lot more than swimming.

And for when I have a little more than an hour, I’m just waiting to do this workout.

All. The.  Paddles. (3400 Yards Total)

Warm Up: 1 x 200 Easy

Main Set:

30 x 100 PADDLES.  15″ rest between intervals. Try to keep the pace consistent throughout all 30 100s.

Cool Down: 1 x 200 Easy

If you have questions about getting back to swimming, let us know.  We’re here to help.

#FindYourOwnFinishLine – Guest Blog by Nicole Berglund

In a year marked by COVID related cancellations and generally uncertainty, we’re encouraging our athletes to #FindYourOwnFinishLine.  Texas athlete and ultra marathoner Nicole Berglund has approached that mantra with gusto attempting an 80 mile journey on foot from Katy, Texas to the Gulf Coast.  Here’s the story in her own words.  

2019 was my year. I spent 2 years training for The Last Annual Vol State 500K road race. A 314 mile solo and self supported race that touched 5 states, the majority of it across Tennessee. I finished in 8 days 5 hours 9 minutes and 15 seconds. The coach who trained me for this race was specific to this type of running, Journey Running, which is where the athlete runs and walks self supported with usually just a credit card and a phone and a bottle and enjoys this beautiful world by foot. Think: Transcontinental Runners. My last coach crossed the USA by foot in 2016. I fell in love with Journey Running even before I had even registered for Vol State. I had created my own 80 mile journey run from Katy Tx, leaving my apartment by foot and 2 days later arriving at the Gulf Of Mexico. Day 1 is always 50 miles. Then you sleep a few hours in a hotel and wake up and finish the last 32 miles and the whole way you walk and run and walk some more white stopping to eat and drink along the way as you find it. As a journey runner you have to be able to problem solve on the fly, remain calm in the face of uncertainty and never forget attitude is everything “If you can’t see the sunshine, be the sunshine” I didn’t realize how much the skills I had learned over the last two years would prepare me for what happened next.

I’m pretty sure none of us were ready for what 2020 had to offer. I know I didn’t have “World shut down by Virus and all your dream races are canceled” in my Training Peaks. I had decided that I wanted 2020 to be an epic year of PR’s so I parted ways with my coach. I had heard about this group of crazy people called Sonic Endurance. They were all fast and did really awesome stuff and hung out together here in TX. SIGN ME UP! The last 2 years I was mostly running and training solo which I don’t mind but I wanted a team to back me up and I wanted friends to cheer along the way. So Jen decided she would coach me (yay) and I loaded up my year with some dream races. First was Mt Hood 50K in July. I have always wanted to do this race. It’s got elevation which I never attempted and I said this is my year. I registered and got in. The race sells out in about 30 minutes. My TP was full of parking garage repeats and speed work. Things were going GREAT until they weren’t anymore. I got word that the race was canceled.

Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the mouth. Mike Tyson.

Just like traveling 314 mile by foot, everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth. You can plan all you want but it’s how you respond and react when things change, it’s how you problem solve on the fly and keep your emotions in check which determines the outcome. When you are running for 8 days you are allowed to have mental breakdowns and sit on a guard rail and cry as long as in a few minutes you get up, get to the next store, buy something to eat and drink and keep going. The first thing I did was I donated my race registration back to the RD. My registration money was already spent and I was fortunate to be able to donate it back without any loss to me.  Next up was to register for a few virtul races and change my goals. My hilly 50K now changed to a paper flat 50K PR attempt. And I did with the help of Coach Jen and teammate Johan and my best running partner and friend Kristen as well as the other people who were out on the path that day cheering and running on their own. That day wasn’t possible without all them.

I continued to fill my calendar with other virtual races and runs to keep myself busy and motivated. The Great Virtual Race Across Tennessee which is 1000 KM or longer if you choose ending on August 31st. I love this race! Every day there are thousands of runners logging miles and your current positing can swing up and down drastically. The desire to log miles and not take a zero day is very strong and can really make your coach’s head spin when you start logging your dedicated longer dog walks which really aren’t walks anymore but extra workouts in TP. (sorry) The current field is made up of 20 thousand other runners from all over the world. I am on a team called Team Nicole which is 10 Nicole’s all competing against other teams like Team Jennifer and Team Jenna. I have become friends with 3 other Nicole’s and we are all having a great time cheering each other one every day as we log our miles and deal with changes in our work and life schedules during Corona. I never would have met them if it weren’t for this virtual race.

The other thing I have done to keep myself motivated is to go on long journey runs or just long walks around the neighborhood. A few weekends ago I walked 20 miles over 2 days on a 1.25 mile sidewalk loop. 10 miles each day. Some might call that crazy but I am telling you where else are you going to test your mental resolve and hone your “why” which you need during hard races that push you to your limits. If you can walk 3 miles an hour for 3 hours over and over again while practicing your fueling and problem solving skills you will learn little things that will help you when you are out there in a tri or a marathon. This past weekend I had planned to complete that 2 day 80 mile journey run from Katy to Surfside. I sent the dog to daycare for the weekend and at 6 am Saturday my friend Scott and I left my apartment and headed down the road. Life sure if simple when you are out there and the only thing you need to worry about is drinking, eating and moving. You also learn other lessons about humanity and friendship when you are walking down the road. Later in the afternoon a truck approached us with its hazards on slowing down in the shoulder. A nice man offered each of us a bottle of water. He had seen us earlier in the day as we passed through a town and he wanted to make sure we were ok and had what we needed. We call these people Road Angels. Spontaneous acts of kindness. Later in the day as we approached another town we saw someone standing in the shoulder and all of a sudden he started playing the trumpet and behind him was the entire staff from an auto body shop cheering us on. The trumpet player had two ice cold bottles of Gatorade and the shop let us use the bathroom and gave us more water. Thank you so much Johan for surprising us with your visit. A little later on our day ended when we called an Uber to drive us home. We had lost some time while hiding on a front porch of a business during a heavy rain and when we got moving again our feet were becoming macerated which we could have fixed and we could have kept going to the hotel at mile 50 but one of the purposes to these runs is to do not harm. We weren’t out there to run on waterlogged feet in and out of more rain. The bigger picture is that Scott and I both have other races on our calendar and we have to stay healthy and well to keep training and racing.

Journey running, adventure running and virtual running isn’t for everyone but if you are having trouble finding a way to pivot during these uncertain times I highly recommend taking that long walk around your area. Travel by foot. There is nothing quite like it.

4 on the 4th!

While some areas of the country are starting to get back to in person racing, there are still many of us who can’t yet run our favorite races.  For me, the 4th just isn’t the same without a hot, hilly and humid road race (it goes all the way back to the Peachtree Road Race when I lived in Atlanta many years ago).

While we all may not be able to race to together in person, we can celebrate virtually.  On July 4, 2020, we’ll be hosting the virtual #Sonic4onthe4th.  It’s simple.  Fill out the registration form here.  Once you do we’ll e-mail you a custom bib with our trademark hedgehogs.  Then on July 4th you have two options: (1) run 4 miles; or (2) run a distance that ends with .4 such as 1.4 or 5.4 or 12.4.  The choice is up to you.  After you run, post a picture of you running on social media and both tag @sonicendurance and use the hashtag #Sonic4onth4th (you can find our Facebook Page here and our Instagram account here). Bonus points for wearing Sonic gear or red, white and blue. Be creative, have fun and get sweaty.

On July 5th we’ll pick 5 runners who completed the race to win a Sonic prize pack with fun gear and from our sponsors.  Easy peasy and fun!

Coast to Coast Challenge

Nothing like an early morning bike ride.

With racing just starting to creep back (where looking at you Lubbock 70.3), it’s been hard for a lot of athletes to stay focused and motivated.  What we’ve heard from some athletes is why keep training consistently when there are no opportunities to use your fitness on the horizon?  What has worked really well to help our athletes are challenges — both those just for our team members such as Run BINGO, the Elevation Challenge and virtual races and those for the endurance sports community at large such as The Great Virtual Race Across Tennessee , the Run Vermont Virtual Adventure, and the Smashfest Queen Virtual Races.

Coach Jen is definitely exceeding the speed limit.

While individual running events are great, one our absolute favorite virtual races has been the Coast to Coast Challenge.  It’s a virtual bike race from Memorial Day to Labor Day across the country following the route of Interstate 40.  The race starts in Wilmington, North Carolina gives athletes options to complete the full 2500 mile trek or to set their finish line at a set city along the way:

Wilmington, North Caroline to Nashville, Tennessee (625 miles)

Wilmington, North Caroline to Oklahoma City, Oklahoma (1250 miles)

Wilmington, North Caroline to Albuquerque, New Mexico (1750 miles)

Wilmington, North Caroline to Barstow, California (2500 miles)

Getting creative while putting in miles.

The best part of the Coast to Coast challenge is the team component.  Sonic Endurance has a team of 15 athletes and, as of the writing of this post, we’re sitting in 5th place in the overall standings.  Plus there’s a little friendly competition among our athletes as to who can arrive at their destination first and who can pick up the most elevation over the course of the challenge (even if a lot of that elevation is picked up virtually on Zwift).  If you like to join in the fun, its not too late to join our team (password is hedgehog2020).

Zwifting and the Coast to Coast Challenge go hand in hand.

So far here are the individual results for our team:

Team Place
Overall
Place
Name
Bib
Miles
Clock Time
1 60 Darla Bergey 127 751.39 51:00:47
2 71 Kelly Burns Gallagher 112 718.3 41:29:19
3 89 Rob Piperno 119 677.31 36:25:44
4 192 Jen Ingram 652 458.79 23:12:06
5 239 Christopher Eckett 123 376.35 21:46:11
6 277 Tanya MacGregor 144 325.16 N/A
7 337 Jamie Dawes 120 257.4 16:30:00
8 374 Amy Hooper 132 224.0 14:53:44
9 384 Christina Ryan 634 217.89 13:49:01
10 482 Crystal Zamfino 134 148.41 12:57:12
11 517 Amy Eby 584 126.5 10:08:58
12 528 Maribeth Baker 322 119.85 7:47:32
13 548 Kelly Smola 315 103.28 8:31:20
14 574 Rae Kerr 311 79.4 5:05:00
15 594 Shaun Gallagher 729 66.1 4:01:51

 

Global Running Day

What a day!

For 2020 Global Running Day, we had over 100 athletes from over a dozen states participate in our virtual 5K.  Even better we got to see our athletes, friends and supporters of all ages get outside and run (even if it was hot and humid in most places).  THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU to everyone who participated and especially to Coach Laura who designed and emailed all the bibs.

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As part of our virtual 5K we picked several runners to win Sonic prize packs (Booyah).  They are:

Christina Hupfe

Elizabeth Gurekovich

JB Wood

Maureen Hoffman

Nicholas Walters

Pam Bateman

Rosie Pinedo

For all the winners, please email kelly@sonicendurance.com with you address so we can get your packages in the mail.

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