Couch to Route Hero, Week 5 Done

Couch to Route Hero, Week 5 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!


Weeks ago I yelled at Eric for sneezing loudly while I was riding (his office and our Zwift set up share a space). He looked at me a little confused and I shared the sentiment as I wondered why I was so massively startled by a sneeze. I figured it was because of the mental push to get through that day’s route.

This week was more testament to the mental grind. 

The Rides Lined Up

6 new badges were added for a total of 36 done. I’m over halfway there! 

I rode 102.09 miles with 10,243 feet of climb for a total of 8.5 hours on my bike. Phew! That’s double the climbing that I did last week! 

Eric asked me if I thought maybe this was the week I rode more hours than he.  We compared my 8.5 to Mr. ZwiftInsider’s… 3.5. Haha! Yes! I won by a lot! His excuse? “I didn’t ride Sunday or Saturday.” “Neither did I, Babe!” That was fun for me! 

Routes completed:

Mental Fortitude

This week it became abundantly clear that the mental aspect plays a much larger role in completing these routes than I thought.

My first ride of the week was up the Alpe. A tough climb that never ends and I’ve only completed once before, in June 2018. The turns being numbered with a list of my average power and heart rate was the way I entertained myself mentally. “You just have to get to the next turn. There will be a slight break as you’re turning! Keep your power up as high as the last stretch!” Between my increase in strength over the last 15 months and the better climbing bike on Zwift I beat my last time by a whopping 43 minutes! 

And wouldn’t you know, they have painted on the road up the Alpe “90% MENTAL 10% LEGS”

Dropouts Lead To Flip Outs 

At the end of this week I rode Watopia’s Mountain Route. I’ve done this route before and always dread the “Bonus Climb” up to the Radio Tower. But hey, 90% mental, right? 

I always tell myself as I’m going up the Epic KOM to make it to the next landmark. “Just push yourself up to the bridge. Just push yourself up to the Village. Just push yourself up to the castle. Push yourself up to the covered area.” This was working until I started getting road feel (I use a Tacx Neo trainer). It was in a place that shouldn’t have it, and besides I had road feel turned off! But I pressed on (with a lot of mental grumbling). Eventually it stopped. All was well again… until I started losing signal further up the mountain. My legs were still pushing but my avatar was hopping off her bike. I yell at Zwift. Eric turns around and looks to see what the problem is. I’m mad because I’ve had to keep my brain positive and focused and now something is in the way. I can’t handle the surprise factor of something not going right.

We’ve had small dropouts before but this one seemed bigger as it continued on. My heart rate monitor wasn’t even sending a signal anymore. Eric switches everything from ANT+ to Bluetooth through Companion on my phone as I’m angrily asking if I’ll lose my ride (no, I won’t). I start spinning again and everything works back as it should. 

Struggling with ANT+ dropouts? Check out this post.

But now I’m all messed up in the head. I’m mad. I tell myself I don’t want to do this. I tell myself I hate this and am done. I remind myself of the harder rides that are coming in the next few weeks. The frustration of it all just makes me want to quit. 

So I put on some of my favorite calming music, put my head down and just spin and pray for a bit to refocus. And I breathe. I drop my shoulders, relax my jaw. Get back into the right headspace and carry on. And even with the dropout I get a PR up the Mountain Route. I climb up to the Radio Tower, crack a few jokes over messenger to distract myself and others about the 14+% climb, and finish the route. Breathe. Phew. Done for the week.

Honestly, if it wasn’t for the accountability of doing this with all of you I would have probably quit that ride altogether. But knowing I made this commitment with many of you made me realign my brain and press on. 

What About You?

You guys are the best! Tell me how you’re doing on the quest and what you do when your brain isn’t cooperating.

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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Edward Redfoot
Edward Redfoot (@rothfusz)
1 year ago

I am always anxiously awaiting the next installment of “COUCH TO ROUTE HERO”. Way to overcome adversity Monica! You are inspirational to all us mere mortals 😀

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

“Mere Mortals.” Ha! I’m guessing the coming weeks of write-ups are going to be a lot more grumpy. If I live through them at all.

Cathy Ellis
Cathy Ellis
1 year ago

Hubby keeps asking-“who is this Monica you are always talking about?!?” HaHa-Awesome job, and so motivating!!-Way to get through the tough stuff girl! I am down to the last 14, but just all 3, 4, and beyond routes- Yikes! I’m trying to get my brain to accept completing the route as the main goal, and not needing to PR every climb, otherwise me and my tired legs are bailing and going to ride Tick Tock again! Ride On, Monica- you’ve got this!

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

So funny! Am I turning into a household name? Haha! I’d encourage you to maybe set a hear rate goal and stick to it. It’s what has made some of my more difficult routes more do-able!

Alan Farnes
Super Member
Alan Farnes (@alan_taylor_farnes)
1 year ago

You’re crushing it! Keep it up! I’m route hunting too and loving it! Doing great!

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

How many have you done, Alan?

Alan Farnes
Super Member
Alan Farnes (@alan_taylor_farnes)
1 year ago

48. All of the 1 bidon, all but 3 in the 2 bidon, 5/11 of the 3 bidon, 3 of the 4 bidon, and none of the extremes (I have done some of those extreme routes but before they started giving badges for them so I’ll have to do them again).

Alan Farnes
Super Member
Alan Farnes (@alan_taylor_farnes)
1 year ago

The NYC High Line tricked me cause I didn’t realize I had to get up to the top of the KOM before the lap would start. I was not prepared to do that climb twice.

ChrisB200SX
ChrisB200SX
1 year ago
Reply to  Alan Farnes

Fail to prepare, prepare to fail 🙂

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

Yes! That one and Lutscher and Lutscher CCW. I’ve been paying much closer attention to the little moving arrow on the maps when I first select them to see how long the lead-in is!

Ray Morro
Ray Morro
1 year ago

Way to go Monica, keep it going! Your quest to ride them all is very inspiring, I’m trying to do the same but since I work full time during the week, I’ve had to resort to trying to get two badges per Zwift session. I’d like to complete the quest before winter ends and I spend more time cycling outdoors. We’ll see how it goes, but I’m tracking my progress closely using the Excel spreadsheet I created. It’s all fun, and I’m happy to be motivated to do it. Good luck finishing it up…

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

Nice! I definitely feel like this has turned into a part-time job…of which I had no time to add to my life! 😀

Illya
Illya
1 year ago

You did my most dreaded climbs… The Radio Tower and Alpe. The mountain route I did last week and that radio tower almost stopped me, and the Alpe I am abit afraid of it.. I rode it last year around this time during Tour de Zwift and I hurt my knee. It’s on the plan to do that Fire and Ice route and my next days off…. Your post is going to encourage me to go for it and ride on. Thanks for the weekly updates…..

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

YOU CAN DO IT!!! Just go at your own pace. And spin spin spin! I wrote an article on here called “slowest up the mountain is still up the mountain.” It still stands true! Doesn’t matter how fast you do it, you got this!

Kareltje
Kareltje (@karel-grootte)
1 year ago

Way to go Monica! I’m in week 3, (mentally) tough rides I have not yet touched. But In the past I’ve encountered numerous technical issues (drop outs, chain break, shifter break (right in the middel of Alp du Zwift), smarttrainer break (just before the sprint in Innsbruckring)) which really make you angry.
So good you pushed yourself up that mountain, that is really inspiring. And yes, you do now have an obligation to us to fulfill this task, otherwise we will drop out to… 😉

Karel

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

Haha! Well no pressure! Man, you’ve had a lot of issues. That’s NO fun!!! Way to keep at it though!

Walter
Walter
1 year ago

Well done Monica !! Keep going ! Quitting is not an option ! We are all following your story and you are an inspiration to many of us. My friend and I have also started the route hunting now and the winner gets a free dinner.

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

Thanks for writing, Walter! Let me know if you win the free dinner! That’s a great idea!

John Woodard
John Woodard
1 year ago

Is any of this on Strava?

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

Yes, you can see the screenshot from above! But every ride is on Strava. If it wasn’t it didn’t happen, right?

paul webster
paul webster
1 year ago

For Road to Sky do you need to just do the climb to get the badge or are you required to come all the way back to the start of the route? This is one I am considering at the weekend, but would like to know what to expect? Thanks

ChrisB200SX
ChrisB200SX
1 year ago
Reply to  paul webster

You only need to get to the top… but if you don’t take the free ride back down to the bottom are you even a cyclist?!

paul webster
paul webster
1 year ago
Reply to  ChrisB200SX

I always take the free ride down! I just didn’t want to have to ride the bit back to the start! Thanks for your replies both!

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

Yes, what Chris said! Just gotta make it to the top and your notification will come up that you did it!

ChrisB200SX
ChrisB200SX
1 year ago

My motto:
“Shut up Brain!”

I’ve not been on a bike since Tuesday… last week! My knee is now mostly recovered but I had a really nasty virus which wiped me out and I’ve still got a chest infection. This time I’ve been sensible and avoided making myself more ill by giving my lungs a workout they can’t take.

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

Brutal! Glad you listened to your body and took the time off!! I have to do the same as my colds try to turn into pneumonia. Get well soon!

Mike Kauspedas
Trusted Member
Mike Kauspedas (@mike)
1 year ago

Nice job, I hate that stupid bonus climb too and curse way too much over technical issues. Glad to hear I may not be alone. Praying helps too. I have 3’s and 4’s left, on triple loops right now …

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

It’s good to know I’m not the only crazy one! We got this!

Richard Vangasse
Richard Vangasse
1 year ago

Hi Monica, I noticed that you had done the London PRL half , guess what I felt I had to do the next day! Good motivation for me to hit some of these truly long routes.
Keep going it’s great 👍

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

That’s awesome!!! These next few weeks are going to be lots of long rides! Yikes! Let’s do this!

Brandon
Brandon
1 year ago

Good see you met your goals again this week.

Ticking off the routes which ride the Alpe is always good for the soul.

Every time I do a route which goes up the Epic Climb I dread getting to the top and the aviator turning left and doing the “Bonus Climb”. What an oxymoron that is.

One thing I’d like to see in your future posts is a short teaser stating what you main goal is for the following week i.e. the biggest route you intend to ride.

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

Thanks for the suggestion, Brandon! I’ll see if I can fit that in!

And yes, “Bonus climb” is such a terrible name!

Matt Wheeler
Matt Wheeler (@thisisthematt)
1 year ago

Great update again, always good to see your progress. Keep going strong! I have my own list and realized I was leaving a lot of rough rides to the end so I started picking a few of them off earlier. Really hoping there is a PRL Full event soon….

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

Good call! When Eric first made the list he had all the 5+ bidon rides toward the end. Realized he needed to schedule them much further apart…although I’m not sure they’re quite far enough apart still! 11 weeks to do all of these was a bit ambitious!

Hoping to schedule a PRL Full ride for one of the last Saturdays in March. I’m kind of waiting to make sure I’m not dead by then. 😀

Karl Slingo
Karl Slingo
1 year ago

This is a cracking idea Monica. You have persuaded me to do something similar to tick off all the routes.
11 done, 56 to go.

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

Awesome! Keep us updated on your progress!!

Brogan Flanagan
Brogan Flanagan
1 year ago

Your story, Monica, reminds me of all the swearing I did when I first started Zwift by mirroring the app on the TV.
So many drop outs due to improper setup, outdated firmware, etc but have since figured it out.
Now everything works flawlessly & whenever things don’t work out I just remember it’s just a game.
The best rides are really about how well one recovers from a setback.
Hang in there kitty!
-b

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

Good point! There are worse things in life than losing a hard-earned badge…but in the middle of the earning of it I’m not sure I can see that. Haha! Glad you figured out why you were having drop outs! Ride on, Brogan!

Dave
Dave
1 year ago

Great job. To do that in eleven weeks is huge. I’ve been zwifting for a year and a half so had all but 37 done. Then a few weeks ago decided to finish them. Eight left now. Mostly hard ones though. Good goal.

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