Alternatives for Races
The obvious solution to the problem is to “simply” look for a replacement.
Of course, it’s not that easy, because there is a vast amount of options and you don’t really know which kind of challenge is the right one for you. Moreover, it can also be a mental challenge to focus on a completely new and so far unusual goal. For me it definitely was.
If you’re more the competition type who likes to compete with others or with yourself, who doesn’t hesitate to make direct comparisons and who is motivated by that in training, who loves the excitement beforehand, then we would definitely recommend trying a new form of competition like Virtual Racing or chasing KOM / QOM.
For those of you who are more focused on your own performance in competition, we would rather recommend challenging yourself. If you simply like to go fast and strive to set a new PB in competition, you can declare this your new personal race. If you prefer races that challenge you in a way other than speed, because they are particularly long or hard, then you can of course look for suitable challenges.
To race in a virtual world comes closest to the “real” race in my opinion. You stand (virtually) with others at a starting line, race through a (virtual) world, fight your way to the (virtual) finish line, but the effort is very real and not different at all.
Apart from the equipment and access to a platform, it doesn’t take much else. Log in, warm up, start. Almost like the local bike race. Most of the time you have a choice between different categories when you register, so you ride with competitors of a similar level, which is of course more fun.
Without question, riding a indoor trainer is different from riding on the road or off-road and I don’t want to say that you can completely replace one with the other.
The differences in handling, tactics or group dynamics are immediately obvious. At the beginning it felt very weird for me and I kept comparing it to “normal” races. But it doesn’t do any good, because it is and remains a different world, which you can still use for yourself and have fun in racing.
If you get involved, virtual races can be fun and a good motivation for training. The simulated race with start line, countdown, ranking lists etc. Also brings a bit of “real” feeling and excitement. For me at least, it helps me to really get my full potential. In a virtual race I achieve higher power outputs than if I do a test alone without simulation. So a little bit of competition atmosphere can also be created in your own four walls.
Segments - QOM / KOM
Both Strava and Garmin offer the opportunity to win small (virtual) trophies. On defined segments (which you can also set up yourself) you ride or run against everyone who has ridden / run there so far and published their data on the platform.
The fastest man and the fastest woman is crowned as King and Queen of the Mountain. Don’t worry, the segment doesn’t have to go uphill for this.
As a competition replacement, you can specifically tackle different segments. Depending on the length, you can either focus on a single segment or plan a loop beforehand on which several are placed.
Different categories (by gender, age, etc.) and data (power, heart rate, etc.) allow you to compare your performance with others. In the analysis you can also track your own performance development in detail and set personal goals.
To view the segments during your activity on your bike computer or sports watch, you need a premium account at least with Strava. However, compared to entry fees for events, this is cheaper. Then you will also be able to see how much faster (or slower) you are in comparison to your own best performance or the KOM, which is very motivating and can give you an additional energy boost. It’s almost as if competitors were riding right next to you.
While Virtual Racing brings our competitors into our living room (or wherever we are on our indoor trainer or treadmill) so to speak, or through segments where their best times are always available, you can also challenge yourself. Who would not like to have a new personal best time or power?
Over which distance / duration you want to challenge yourself, you can decide completely free.
From the execution this is certainly the easiest solution. You just become your own race organizer, plan a low-traffic route of the desired length or complete it at home on the indoor trainer / treadmill and prepare everything as you need it. For longer distances it is helpful to deposit a bottle or other nutrition somewhere hidden beforehand or you can decide to do several laps and provide the refreshments at home. With a little bit of luck you can motivate a family member to accompany you at least while you are running by bike and to take care of you or even to set the pace.
Apart from a watch for recording, you don’t need anything else. You can immediately start the competition against yourself.
Many sports watches allow you to set up a virtual partner based on a previous best performance. This can help to motivate yourself and maintain your performance / pace.
If neither competitors nor best times interest you, there are still challenges that can boost your motivation. Tackling them can well replace a event and gives you new goals for your training.
Rather uncreative, but still a great feeling, riding or running a distance that you have not yet covered. It does not matter how long it is, as long as it is a challenge for you. One person wants to ride 100km for the first time, another 200km. This challenge is not about the absolute number or comparing with others, but only about you and your own previous limits.
Instead of a long distance, a lot of vertical meters or difficult paths off-road can also be a challenge. It is worthwhile to have a look outside the classic triathlon disciplines as well. How about trail running, mountain biking or small challenges in the home gym?
But the most important thing must be said again: have fun! That’s why we present these alternatives to you and how to implement them. Not because for us only the accomplishment counts, far from it, but because we want you to have fun in this sport!
Personally, I have decided to do virtual races on Zwift. After overcoming my initial scepticism, it started to be fun until the pain you know from every race started to set in. That at least is no different. And neither is the pleasure of crossing the finish line.
Only the spectators, the one competitor with whom you battle in every local competition, the piece of cake at the finish line catering, the announcer who already knows you by name, the nervous look at the course map because you don’t know exactly what’s coming up, the hug with your favourite rivals at the finish line, the surprises and challenges that come along during a race in the real world that are missing. And I miss them a lot! But still it is a pretty good alternative for me.