Zwift Race Week, recovery, and a new Vegan café.
Updated: Apr 7, 2021
With the current goal of targeting better Zwift race results (probably the most reliable form of competition we have right now), the coach decided it would be a good idea to try a training week which was dominated by them. This gave me the opportunity to plan the training week around the race schedule (and around work commitments of course) to best suit my needs. I was keen to keep an endurance ride in the schedule too, and fortunately the weather forecast was promising for Wednesday my non working day), so that was pencilled in (more on that later). I was also keen to keep two recovery days in the schedule, as not only is this what I usually do, but I was fairly certain that my body would need it with more races than usual in the plan.
So, this left Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday as race days. The weekend would offer the widest range of races as well as the flexibility in my schedule to pick what I wanted, so I determined those first. I then set about picking sufficiently “different” styles of race for Tuesday and Thursday evening after work. I don’t typically undertake any kind of intense workouts after the working day, as I don’t like to spike the Cortisol levels too close to bed (more on this in another post), so this would be an interesting test of my recovery as the week progressed.
Being more of a climber than a sprinter, and predisposed to longer TT style efforts, my best results typically come from races where I can sit at high threshold for a while and “outlast” my opponents. Fortunately, the “Haute Route” event was scheduled on Zwift for this weekend with a couple of stages tackling Mont Ventoux. So, that was Sunday mornings threshold effort booked in. For Saturday I looked for something which would exercise different systems, but hopefully still give me a fighting chance. I found a race around the Petit Boucle course in France, 60km of mostly flat parkours, punctuated by two 5 minute climbs up the Petit KoM. This race would be ridden mostly at tempo and then two 5 minute VO2max efforts on the climbs (which would ultimately decide the race).
The options for the weekday races would be a bit more limited, as realistically the start times would have to be between 1730-1830. Thankfully, that’s a pretty popular time on Zwift. I picked a race around the rolling flats on New York for Tuesday evening (however, one that finished up the NYC KoM to the finish line to suit my abilities). Then for Thursday evening I picked a race which looked pretty nailed on for a sprint (so not my typical event), however one where there would be a few opportunities to have a few digs on the rollers to thin the field out a bit before said Sprint. 6 laps of the “Seaside Sprint” course of Watopia completed my planned week. The screenshot below is my TrainingPeaks (the software I use for planning and tracking workouts) calendar for race week (upon conclusion), which shows the different races and also the outdoor ride completed on Wednesday. I chose to have a complete recovery day on Monday, and then just completed an hour of spinning at top zone 1 on Friday to keep the blood flowing before the weekend races.
Having added a new “Race Results” category to the blog I won’t go into the full details of each race here (check for race reports on those in the coming days) as I want to focus on the training and recovery aspects of the week of races. However, by way of a summary here are the results from the week.
I learned a lot about my race-craft over the course of this week, and in particular how I do have not only the phenotype of a time trialist but also the mentality of one. If I know I have a long effort to come, I generally shy away from a big effort to stay with the group before it starts. This is often not the most efficient way to race on Zwift, and is something I'll be working to improve.
Recovery during race week
The results across the week were fairly consistent, which was pleasing, and in terms of the way my body felt and my enthusiasm to keep racing (something which can be related to fatigue) as strong. To add some metrics to this I wanted to share my Whoop data for the week to back these feelings up. I’ve been a Whoop user for over a year now and have enjoyed the data it provides, so look out for a “long term review” on that moving forward, for now though it’s enough to know that a traffic light system is provided as a recovery metric. Yellow is essentially ”Normal”, Green is “Go for it” and Red is “Exercise caution” (pun intended).
As we can see, not only did my recovery fail to dip significantly as the week went on, but it actually improved (despite the intensity of the workouts being high for 4 days of the week). This was encouraging, however, as the image above shows, the following week had more “yellow” recoveries (and one “red”) which may indicate that the body may be paying the price for an intense week. My training desire had been a little lower than normal after race week, but not particularly significantly. So all in all I would say that my body coped with “Race Week” fairly well. The week following the race week was fairly typical with intense intervals on Tuesday and Thursday, separated with an aerobic ride (sadly indoors this week due to weather), then racing again on the Saturday (see race reports category coming soon) and an epic tempo day on Sunday.
One thing that I attribute the “good” recovery scores during race week to, was my ability to get out for a long aerobic ride on Wednesday. Even though these sorts of rides (5.5 hours in this case) generate a lot of training stress score, they are executed at low intensity and I’ve found in the past (and this week seems to back that up) that my recovery can actually spike upwards after a long outdoor ride. I think the fresh air has a big part to play in that, but also keeping the training monotony low (Tough and intense sessions indoors, longer endurance rides outdoors).
Combining endurance rides with exploration
One of the main reasons many of us get on a bike when we’re kids is a sense of adventure and exploration. I don’t think that ever truly leaves us, and the fitter you get, the faster you go and the further afield you can explore. As a plant based athlete I like to try and combine my endurance days with seeking out a new vegan (or vegan catering) café. Having ridden as far south as Matlock previously I’d seen signs for Derby (a place I’d not visited yet), so did a bit of research on the web and found an ideal looking café. The aptly named “Plant” in the centre of Derby would form the mid point of my Wednesday endurance ride.
As usual, the ride was completed mostly at mid to high zone 2 on average, with a few tempo segments up some of the drags. I can also report that both the food and staff at Plant were excellent. I'll certainly be returning there another time (not least of all to try some of their delicious looking in house baked vegan cakes!).
So, that concludes my summary of "Zwift Race Week" and the aftermath and impact on my body. It has given me a lot of confidence that I am able to cope with more races per week, which may well be required as the Zwift racing season accelerates into the Winter season now. I've also taken a good few lessons away from this week, and certainly know the types of area I need to improve in to really see some top finishes over this indoor season.