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.