The crushing humiliation of having to abandon a Zwift race

OH DEAR. WOE IS KONM.

On Thursday morning, I entered a Zwift Race – the 09:20 3R Classique, which is four laps of the London Classique flat circuit, totalling a mere 26.9km. Easy peasy lemon squeezy. Or not.

KONM was registered for the B Category, a level that would be normally right in my wheelhouse. In the Wednesday edition of the 3R Classique, I’d “romped” to a middle-of-the-pack (overall) performance without ever really pushing things, having lazily avoided trying to keep hold of the faster racers and ended up in a group with mostly C category riders.

It wasn’t overly challenging stuff, as I’d elected to simply plod along with this crew and make a decent effort with 2km to go, rather than try – and surely fail – to gain ground on the faster-moving group ahead. Surprisingly, this 2km kick opened up about 15 seconds within a few hundred metres – quite possibly, no-one was interested in following – and the gap was such that I could ease up considerably before crossing the line, finishing in splendid isolation. Here’s how it panned out:

Zwift Racing

So, all things considered, another go at the B Category on Thursday would be no bother to me. Except, well, it was quite a lot of bother indeed.

Let the excuse-making begin

In truth, the problems started the night before, when I’d nobly agreed to be the 12th man in a game of 6-a-side football, thus saving the game from potential abandonment. It wasn’t long until I regretted this act of grand benevolence, as I rolled my ankle within the first five minutes before aggravating an old knee injury shortly after.

Unfortunately, my brainpower is so feeble that instead of doing the sensible thing and going home immediately, I tried to “run it off”, an approach to injury that’s so outdated it doesn’t even know the internet exists. I mean, it’s 2019 – by now we know that doubling-down and running even harder when you get hurt is not the way to go. What the f*ck was I thinking?

Consequently, I woke up on Thursday feeling as if I’d just collided head-on with El Tractor Declercq on a particularly rough secteur of Paris-Roubaix. My legs were as heavy as those cobbles look when held precariously aloft by the Roubaix winner, and the ankle in question boasted a lump as tender and squishy as a ball of crushed avocado paste.

Not to worry, though: cycling doesn’t require ankles and the legs would soon return to normal after a 10-minute warm-up. After all, a supreme athlete like KONM isn’t going to be held back by an hour of football…


By 09:30, I was already out of the race, a shell of a man despairingly watching C and D category riders cruise past me at 2.5 w/kg, unable to react. I could barely reach threshold power, and when I did I couldn’t maintain it for more than about 15 seconds. A grimace became perma-plastered across my face as I slipped rapidly into 60-somethingth place out of 85 entrants.

By the time I’d completed the lead-in, it was clear the gig was up. About a quarter of the way through the first proper lap, I quietly pulled over to the side of the virtual road, dismounted and, without a word, clicked the ‘X’ button to shut down Zwift. It felt dirty. Sneaky. But the prospect of slugging through another 15-16km at 2 w/kg was too much to bear – besides, at that pace I wouldn’t have made it before the time came to leave for work.

Ugh. The word “humiliation” springs to mind. As do the words “absolute”, “f*cking” and “gobshite”. To my best recollection, it was the first time I’d ever abandoned a ride – and I hope the last.

There’s something particularly humbling about failing to complete a virtual race, especially one as short as this – at least if you hop off the bike during the real thing, you can blame the wind, or bad legs, or maybe even a mysterious mechanical issue. These options are unavailable when you’re sitting on a trainer in a room in front of a screen. On Zwift, there’s no-one to hear you scream, or cry, or moan vaguely while you sit alone, head in hands, in your bathroom cursing your limbs for letting you down in front of the other avatars.

To make matters worse, it was to be my maiden ride on Zwift Power, a landmark now sadly – or perhaps gladly – consigned to the empty vastness of cyberspace.* But hey, these things happen. Now let’s never talk of this again.


Postscript/Humblebrag

The above was written in a state of exasperation on Thursday evening, but redemption was almost to be found on Friday morning in the 09:05 3R Hilly Race. Almost.

I entered with hesitation, a sense of unease that wasn’t helped by a warmup that left me feeling sluggish. Chances were not fancied chez KONM.

But the race panned out well. I clung to a leading group early on and gradually the legs started to wake up. FTP became manageable again and as the Box Hill climb approached I realised I was in reasonable shape.

As I’d done previously, I tried to kick early enough in the knowledge I don’t have a decent sprint in me. It didn’t work, but I still finished a respectable 5th in B:

Redemption? Not really. I was disqualified on Zwift Power for not having a HRM. Which is annoying as I would have bagged a B bronze there. But fair enough, those are the rules – annoyingly, my new HRM was delivered to my office later that morning according to my delivery tracker (I’m off to the airport today). I still await a recognised result on ZP, but here’s the unfiltered one in the meantime.

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