We are nearing the midpoint of our 100/100 Run Challenge. As our weather becomes less outdoorsy, more of my running is indoorsy. I’m spending a lot of time on Zwift nowadays, both on the run and on the ride.
What you’ll notice as a Zwifter is that the routes are chock full of cyclists. Runners? More than there used to be, but still not so much. Why? First, more of us ride on stationary trainers than run on treadmills. Second, the run experience on Zwift is not as full-featured, specifically the fact that Zwift does control your smart bike trainer, but does not control your treadmill.
However, I still run exclusively on Zwift when I’m on a treadmill because it’s way more interesting than whatever the alternative, and my new discoveries (listed here) have charged my enthusiasm for the run version of the platform. Certain there are many places on Zwift I haven’t been! Especially as a runner. Nevertheless, here is where I’m currently running.
For cyclists, there are restrictions on this feature-filled 2-mile stretch of dirt in Zwift. You have to have steering enabled. It’s one-way only. You can only enter the trail while riding southbound through Titan’s Grove (you can’t get to it if you’re riding Titan’s Grove in the other direction). And, there is no Zwift “route” that includes Repack Ridge, and there is no way to begin your run there.
But it’s the coolest place to run in Zwift, and because of the restrictions placed on cyclists runners have this stretch of singletrack almost to themselves.
While Repack Ridge is not on any route, you will want to choose a route that places you closest to it, so that you don’t have to run very far to get there. There are 3 routes you can choose that will place you closest: Dust In the Wind, Muir and the Mountain and Quatch Quest. In my experience, I tend to get there quicker, by 1 or 2 tenths of a mile, with Muir and the Mountain. You don’t need to make any turns if you choose this route until you get to the Repack Ridge turnoff, which you'll see about 2.3mi into the run.
Repack Ridge is an interesting, feature-filled 2-mile deviation and it enters right back onto the Titan’s Grove road, about four-tenths of a mile further on. Just below is a 52-second video I made that gives you a flavor of Repack Ridge from a runner’s perspective. What you'll see is the most pastoral part of Repack Ridge. I have to turn away from the screen during the 34 percent drop in pitch, so that I don’t lose my balance while on the treadmill (and I'm not kidding). Repack Ridge is a graphical feast.
If you do the math, you’re about 2.3mi or 2.4mi into Muir and the Mountain when you get to the Repack Ridge turnoff, and Repack Ridge itself is 2 miles long, so you’re about 4.2mi into your run at that point when you feed back into Titan’s Grove road. Zwift automatically turns you left as you re-enter the road, which takes you back to the start of Repack Ridge (just, now you’ll approach it from the other direction).
That stretch of road returning you to the entrance to Repack Ridge is about 4-tenths of a mile, but you can’t enter traveling northbound on Titan’s Grove road. If you run just a little past – just a few seconds – you can flip a U-turn and re-enter Repack Ridge if you want. If you don’t want a second crack at it, and you run back to where you’ve started, you’ll make a lollipop and that run will be pretty close to 7mi when you’re done.
As of a couple of weeks ago Pace Partners debuted on the run platform. They’ve been a staple of cycling for some time, and when you see a big colorful clarion of a chevron-shaped beacon over the head of a cyclist in a huge peloton, that’s a pace partner. There are A, B, C and D pace partners for various abilities. When you log into Zwift, there’s a place where you can choose to join in-progress those whom you follow who're Zwifting at the time you log in. As of now, always included in that list is a Pace Partner. If you choose the Pace Partner, then you're taken to a new screen where you choose which level Pace Partner.
Same now in running. But for the typical Slowtwitcher, the ability levels are not symmetric cycle-to-run. For example, on our Hilly Vanilli weekly ride, I’m riding comfortably hard with our leader-led D group. I find that the C-level Pace Partner is right about at that same level in cycling. But in running, it’s more like the B-level Pace Partner for me, if I want to run for, say, 40 minutes, and even then the B Pace Partner is a little easier than hanging with my D homies during our Hilly Vanilli ride. The B Pace Partner runs a steady 8:06 per mile. It’s a bit jump to the A-level Pace Partner, which is running 6:36 per mile. The C is closer to a 10-minute mile and the D is a slow trot.
It’s going to take a while for the Pace Partners in run to catch on. I’ve found that I’m typically either the only one following a Pace Partner, or there might be up to 4 of us. That’s the typical range, 1 to 4. Runners drop in and out, but the Pace Partner is always running.
I find I need a warm-up when I jump on the treadmill, so, I might start running with the B Pace Partner, she runs off ahead of me as I begin at 10-minute miles, then I eventually increase my speed as I get warm and then try to catch back up to her. You can run with, behind, or ahead of the Pace Partner, just as you can while cycling. The point of the Pace Partner, for me, is as a gauge, and also a way to aggregate runners together for a group experience. Also, it’s a handy way for a sort of ad hoc meet-up. If some of us agree on a group run, and we choose the Pace Partner’s route as the location, you just drop in with the Pace Partner. So, if somebody’s early or late it doesn’t matter, because you drop in whenever you log on. The only thing that changes, if you’re 5 minutes late, is that your buds might have already covered a half-mile by the time you begin your run.
This is a running track on Zwift, and it’s always got the highest density of runners. I believe I’ve seen as many as 50 runners on the track at one time (I say this because I’ve counted more than 15 runners on the straightaway in front of me when I come off a turn, and that’s a fourth of the circumference of the track, so, conservatively, I reckon 50.
You’ll see all speeds of runners here. A lot of runners perform interval or fartlek workouts here. As an old trackster myself, May Field brings back memories a half-century old. I used to run every run on May Field, but I run on it less frequently since I discovered Repack Ridge.
And now, with Pace Partners available for runners, I find myself opting for this. Which is to say, I used to get fixed on one Zwift Run experience and wear it out, and lately I find myself mixing up my Zwift Run options. There are more and more Zwift footraces popping up, like the 8k Resolution Run on the last day of 2020, in which I think I may take part. I note that on Christmas Eve Zwift’s CEO Eric Min partook in a Holiday Run along with Mo Farah and Jan Frodeno, and I believe close to 2000 runners took part.
Finally, if I might veer off the path for a moment, this came across my transom just this morning. I wrote a review yesterday about a new treadmill in the Pain Cave, the Horizon 7.8AT. The folks at Horizon, on their own volition, created a discount code for Slowtwitchers, which is SLOWTWITCH100, for $100 off on sales from now thru the end of January. Further, “We do have some in stock right now,” is what I was told this morning. This company is not a Slowtwitch Partner, and we are not participating financially in this. It’s just a nice treadmill at an affordable price, and when we polled this earlier in December about 15 percent of Slowtwitchers are in the treadmill market right now. So, announcing this seems appropriate.
There is a discussion right now on treadmills on our Reader Forum, both this treadmill and a few other brands.