Couch to Route Hero, Week 4 Done

Couch to Route Hero, Week 4 Done

Editor’s note: Monica is undertaking the “Couch to Route Hero” challenge of riding all 67 “free-ridable” Zwift routes (and getting all the badges) in 11 weeks. Each week she shares her story of the previous week’s struggles and accomplishments. Follow along on her journey, take the challenge yourself, and be sure to give her a Ride On if you see her on course!


This week was filled with so many lessons. You may think I’d never been on a bike by the time you’re done reading!

The best part of the week

I added 7 badges, for a total of 30 done! 37 to go!

This week I put in 111 miles and 5,708 feet of climb in 7.5 hours on the bike! And looking back on my January, well I’m just feeling really proud of myself and all that time on the bike. I also made it to level 33! 

Level 33!

Routes I completed in week 4: 

My first three lessons

Sunday was supposed to be a recovery ride day. After having done a 4-bidon route the day before I just didn’t feel like getting on the bike. I decided last minute to have a rest day. You’d think that would be fine, except that I’m running out of 1-bidon routes to ride. I shot myself in the foot by not riding New York while it was available on the calendar, which then meant on Saturday I didn’t have the right 1-bidon rides left and had to go with a 2-bidon. Not that big of a deal, but it led to Lesson One: When you make a plan stick to the plan!

See our Couch to Route Hero scheduling tools >

Lesson Two came along as my hormonal cycle changed for the month. I always thought the week of your period was a terrible time to ride. You feel like crap: bloating, cramping, hunger, fatigue. While all of those things did happen, riding actually helped take the cramps away. What a relief! Plus I felt pretty strong during the rides. Fatigued, but strong. I’m now reading more about this so I can work with what I’ve got, rather than against myself. 

Lesson Three was about bike selection. I’m very proud of getting the Tron bike so I ride it almost exclusively… until this week when Eric saw me about to climb with it. “Babe, there are better bikes for climbing!” I stopped immediately, purchased the Specialized Tarmac Pro and the Enve SES 3.4 wheels and proceeded to get a PR up Box Hill! 

Annoying Riders

Have you ever come across a rider who’s just plain annoying? It doesn’t happen often, but when it does it sure irks me. I caught a rider on Tempus Fugit toward the end of my ride. Somehow, even though I had been riding faster than he was I got stuck behind him. I didn’t want to slow down so had to put out some big watts to get my avatar around his. I did so and then settled back into my ride.

He then puts out big watts and passes me.

No big deal, except that he slows back down and I’m stuck behind him again. Lame! I just want to be done riding! So I put out enough watts to jump out front again. As soon as I do he does the same, gets in front of me and slows down again. Seriously? Leave me be!

After this happens a third time I decided I had two choices. Stop riding until he’s gone, or push ahead for a while and drop him. Not one to quit, I bust out the watts as long as I possibly can and notice suddenly he’s doing the same. I can’t shake him. For the love! So we just play this dumb game until we get through the sprint banner where he gets a PR. I’m tired of dealing with him so hit the big watts again and finally drop him for good. Annoying. Pulling for each other is great; riding past me only to slow down is just poor riding!

Here he goes, sprinting past me again…

The biggest lesson of all

The fourth lesson of the week was likely the dumbest thing you’ve ever heard! Somehow Eric and I got to talking about recovery rides. During the conversation, it came out that I assumed a recovery ride just meant it was a shorter ride. And how do you make a short ride even shorter? Give an all-out effort so you’re faster and finish more quickly! 

Who knew this is exactly the opposite of what a recovery ride is? The answer is: “Everyone. Everyone except Monica knew that isn’t a recovery ride!” Sigh. We looked back through some of my recovery rides and found that I’m in Zone 4 for many of them, Zone 3 for some. 

So the next question that was sheepishly asked was, “what is a Zone and how do you stay in it?” Apparently, when you’re doing a recovery ride you want your heart rate to stay in Zone 1 or 2 for the ride. This allows your body to actually recover from the hard effort, and that’s where your body gets stronger.  

Eric and I took a moment to make sure my max heart rate was accurately entered into Zwift and then talked about what zone 1 or 2 would look like for me. 

Checking my max heart rate setting

My next ride was a recovery ride and now that I knew I was actually supposed to stay in a certain zone I could try to keep my heart rate down. I have to admit, it made the ride a little more boring… but at the same time, I wasn’t on my death bed yet again when the ride was over. It was a relief too to know that my 2-bidon routes coming up will have to be recovery rides that won’t make me want to throw up! 

I kept it in Zone 2!

For more on the topic of recovery, read “5 Training Mistakes for Zwifters to Avoid“, “How Hard is Too Hard“, and “How to Recover Better, Faster“.

How about you?

Did you know about Recovery Rides? (it’s okay to say yes) And how is your Route Badge Quest coming along? 

About The Author

Monica Schlange

Monica wears many hats but the two most important to her are: Mom of two teens, and Wife to Zwift Insider editor Eric. A casual cyclist, her resolve is stronger than her legs, which still gets her pretty far! She enjoys trying new things on Zwift that others find intimidating so she can write about the experience and inspire others to push themselves as well.

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Ed Redfoot
Ed Redfoot (@rothfusz)
1 year ago

Life is all about learning. Great job on week 4.

Monica Schlange
Monica Schlange (@mmisc)
1 year ago
Reply to  Ed Redfoot

So true! Thanks Ed!

Tony P
Tony P
1 year ago

Great article. I need to do a better job at recovery rides too, I know the feeling of just trying to get it done and move on… One comment, on the annoying rider, if that picture is the guy that was giving you heartburn his status placard indicates that he is doing a structured workout (that’s the little bar-graph looking thing in the upper left corner of the placard). That might explain the annoying behavior. I’ve learned to not hold it against folks that are doing workouts. Their riding is a bit more erratic than the average person you can… Read more »

Kevin
Kevin
1 year ago
Reply to  Tony P

Hi Tony. The annoying rider is not doing a workout. The person 4s up the road is.

Tony P
Tony P
1 year ago
Reply to  Kevin

Thanks for correcting me, I missed that.

G J
G J
1 year ago
Reply to  Kevin

It seemed as if this rider was, indeed just being annoying. However, note that a rider can be doing a true workout with no obvious signs in Zwift. I use TrainerRoad workouts, running TR via Bluetooth on a tablet and simultaneously recording the ride in Zwift with power, cadence and HR gathered via Ant+. It works well, and I know many other riders use similar setups, but I have always suspected that my apparently erratic riding may annoy some other riders, so just be aware that this goes on in Zwift.

Brandon
Brandon
1 year ago

It sounds like you’re making good progress in your quest. I think your first rule is quite important but you do need to be flexible too. My brother and I do our own rides mid week but on a Saturday we like to ride together. We had been building up to do a 100 mile ride. The goal was to do it this past Saturday, riding 40 laps our the 4km Volcano Circuit. This is a good course for longer rides as its relatively flat and there is a lap counter to keep you motivates. Also, when riding as a… Read more »

Monica Schlange
Monica Schlange (@mmisc)
1 year ago
Reply to  Brandon

Yes! Excellent tips! Thank you, Brandon! How was the PRL Full for you two?

Brandon Amos
Brandon Amos
1 year ago

108 miles indoors is never going to be fun. We utilised one of the tips the chap who did the Everest did. You have to climb Box Hill 11 times. It takes about 2 minutes to get down so we rolled down without pedalling. This was good for recovery And reducing the total effort. We also changed clothes after 6 climbs so this gave us a bit more of a break and made the second half easier. The key to these longer rides is knowing your limits and not getting carried away and exceeding them. We therefore had a plan… Read more »

Monica Schlange
Top Member
Monica Schlange (@mmisc)
1 year ago
Reply to  Brandon Amos

Great tips! Thanks much!

Illya
Illya
1 year ago

I thought that zone 2 was the blue zone in Zwift not the green one….??? But great work on nailing out those routes…..

Monica Schlange
Top Member
Monica Schlange (@mmisc)
1 year ago
Reply to  Illya

Here they are, according to the Zwift Companion App: Zone 1- Blue, Zone 2- Green, Zone 3- Yellow, Zone 4- orange, Zone 5- red.

And thank you!

naan
naan
1 year ago

On the other hand, power zone 2 is indeed blue (zone 1 is grey), both in the workout settings and in the power+HR graph at the bottom of the screen, and they go on from there to red for zone 6+. A bit confusing, especially since both power and HR zones 1 through 4 are supposed to mean pretty much the same thing.

ChrisB200SX
ChrisB200SX
1 year ago

Recovery ride, I thought the clue was in the name? Nice work, good mileage and numerous badges, well done! London Pretzel is a bit of an effort, 20 miles before the climbs even start. With my still-slightly-swollen knee from falling off I’ve been resting some evenings and not running when I want to. Saturday’s Parkrun was way more uncomfortable than I was expecting. I too managed London Pretzel (93mins) on Friday night Tour of Fire and Ice (AdZ in ~53mins, twice in 6 days!) on Monday night Muir and the Mountain on Tuesday night (longer and climbier than expected! but… Read more »

Monica Schlange
Monica Schlange (@mmisc)
1 year ago
Reply to  ChrisB200SX

Thanks Chris! I can’t believe you were able to complete all those routes with a swollen knee!!! Impressive!!!

ChrisB200SX
ChrisB200SX
1 year ago

Thanks, I think I’ve been lucky, could easily have got worse with the swelling causing misalignment of patella movement… causing more patella tendon swelling. It’s not too bad now and was not a huge issue on a static bike, 5km run was a different story though!

I see you’ve completed Dust in the Wind before me! Obviously it’s a bit long, but how was it, hoping as it’s not too hilly it is just a long steady effort? Might be Friday night’s 90min ride for me.

Monica Schlange
Top Member
Monica Schlange (@mmisc)
1 year ago
Reply to  ChrisB200SX

I like to say that I don’t run because of my knees, but really it’s because I don’t like to run. Haha!

Dust in the Wind wasn’t too bad. You start with a climb that doesn’t count, but it’s not a bad one so not a huge deal, I suppose.

Be sure to switch to a Mountain Bike in the jungle. The speed difference is astonishing!

The end was fairly boring as I’m just not a huge fan of Fuego Flats, but at least it was flat!

Jonathan
Jonathan
1 year ago

This blog has been so inspiring to me as a beginner. I really need to invest in a good weights program and HR monitor sooner than later.

Ride on!

Oli Sloman
Oli Sloman
1 year ago
Reply to  Jonathan

i bought a coosport HR monitor from amazon – was about 15 quid and works brillaintly and pairs seamlessley with zwift.

Brandon
Brandon
1 year ago
Reply to  Jonathan

I agree a that a heart rate monitor is good. I don’t understand why you fell that you need a good weights program. Weight is the enemy of cyclists, muscle weighs a lot and doesn’t always help. The key is to have good Cycling weight in your body. By that I mean your legs need to be strong but you also need to reduce total weight. Big strong forearms for example are a waist of time as they will do little to improve speed or w/kg. When I ride out doors I’m known to be a spinner and often do… Read more »

Darren
Darren
1 year ago

Saw you in New York last night! Ride on!

Monica Schlange
Top Member
Monica Schlange (@mmisc)
1 year ago
Reply to  Darren

It’s been so fun to see other people out doing the rides at the same time! Very encouraging!

Jim P.
Jim P.
1 year ago

I have my route list on Google Drive (from

https://www.reddit.com/r/Zwift/comments/eqles5/i_made_a_complete_list_of_the_zwift_route_badges/ )

so I can access the list from my various devices to see what routes I have left. And I can triumphantly click the mouse button when I complete one 😀 .

I did the Full PRL solo on Saturday 1 February so I have some hard Watopia routes left – Four Horseman, Pretzel, Mega and Uber Pretzel plus a few short NY and Innsbruck. Not looking forward to those long hilly rides!

Dan Aponik
Dan Aponik
1 year ago
Reply to  Jim P.

Thank you for sharing, Jim. Did a quick convert to show miles and feet since that is what I’m comfortable with in the old world, but otherwise, I appreciate you doing the initial hard work. So after updating it this morning, I am 59% complete with the Badge achievement challenge.

Monica Schlange
Top Member
Monica Schlange (@mmisc)
1 year ago
Reply to  Jim P.

If you can do the PRL Full solo you’ll have NO problem doing any of those other routes…or anything else, for that matter!

Brandon
Brandon
1 year ago

The PRL is no joke but you never have to do a prolonged effort. Today I did the Uber Pretzal. This was shorter but you finish on the Alp. The Alp is no joke as you have no chase to catch your breath. This, Was therefore tougher than the PRL.

Cathy
Cathy
1 year ago
Reply to  Brandon

Brandon, I’m so relieved to hear that. I did the Uber Pretzel yesterday and it was tough. How did your times for the two rides compare? I’m hopeful the PRL is around the same time-wise given the lack of sustained effort needed for the Alpe at the end.

Brandon
Brandon
1 year ago
Reply to  Cathy

Sorry, only just seen the post. The PRL took me 40 minutes longer than the Uber Pretzel.

Dusten
Dusten
1 year ago

Great progress. Quick question, is there a way to select another route once you finish one or do you have to save and exit everytime?

Bracken
Bracken (@bracken)
1 year ago
Reply to  Dusten

Save and exit every time. It’s annoying and one of the most common complaints you’ll see (and rightly so IMO).

Oli Sloman
Oli Sloman
1 year ago
Reply to  Bracken

According to ZwiftCast with Eric Minn, this is being changed with the UI redevelopment “soon”

Gareth Smith
Gareth Smith
1 year ago

Well done on week 4, day 15 for me today so I’ll be at the “three week” mark and managed to get my Unemployed badge yesterday. Found there’s a bug (known to Zwift Devs) that some badges are not giving the achievement flash on screen as I’ve been chasing (pun not intended) “Master Draftsman” only to find I’d got it over the last few days without realising. I did know about recovery rides and a friend (who is a cycling coach) says they should be slow enough that “if an old lady on her shopping bike comes past you then… Read more »

Monica Schlange
Top Member
Monica Schlange (@mmisc)
1 year ago
Reply to  Gareth Smith

Congratulations on being unemployed! Haha! Thanks for sharing all of the above! It’s good to do this with this community! You guys make it more fun!

Tracey Richardson
Tracey Richardson
1 year ago

I love following a list and the route badges so thanks for that… please be forming another one to follow this or I will be lost!
On another note I am still searching for the profile view of my present FTP and Max heart rate and haven’t found it. Also I am not clear if my FTP is automatically changed when Zwift says I earned a higher one. Thanks!

Flex
Flex
1 year ago

Hi Tracey, the stuff you’re searching for can be found (among other places) as follows……when in game either stop your bike or click on the in game screen, select the menu option that pops up. Now up by your name click on the pencil and paper symbol and you’ll see the screen Monica has up in the article. Yes, your FTP will be auto adjusted when Zwift says you’ve had an increase, HTH.

Tracey Richardson
Tracey Richardson
1 year ago
Reply to  Flex

thank you Flex!! I found it now!

Oliver Radermacher
Oliver Radermacher
1 year ago

Really great and fantastic work!!!! And also a great read, I really enjoy it. Keep on riding and know your good fitness and form. And sometimes an easy day helps wonder I must admit, although me as a triathlete is always chasing the next training session 🙂 . Hope you can enjoy it further.

Monica Schlange
Top Member
Monica Schlange (@mmisc)
1 year ago

Thanks, Oliver! I so appreciate the encouragement!!!

Oli Sloman
Oli Sloman
1 year ago

I have been inspired by you and this programme – like you, I was a novice at “recovery” rides… This has enlightened me. I and my legs thank you 🙂

Monica Schlange
Top Member
Monica Schlange (@mmisc)
1 year ago
Reply to  Oli Sloman

So glad!!! We are stronger (and learn more) together!

47 Rusty
47 Rusty (@47rusty)
1 year ago

Perhaps Mr. Annoying Rider didn’t want to be chicked.

carlos poet
carlos poet
10 months ago

please, which are the routes for mountain bike?

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