Your Game

I had to wear a jumper for an hour this morning. I’ve missed that.


I’m also still on the first cuppa of the day, thinking about what happened yesterday and trying to work out what should be written about. At 5pm I found myself in East London when the heavens opened, and it is easy to grasp why such biblical scenes become inspiration for poets and artists. It was glorious, watching the World (as I saw it) cleansing itself so suddenly and brutally. Then I got home and was reminded that my view of the World is not everybody’s and that sometimes, it matters to understand the bigger picture when you’re talking to an audience.

When it all gets a bit fraught, comprehension can be a problem.

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Occasionally I’m sitting watching my feed and am quick enough to see someone Tweet something, clearly think better of it and then delete it. When you see several people do this on the same subject (as was the case last night) it is a clear indicator that tempers are running high and the sane people understand they gotta be careful. This is why I don’t run an abbreviated feed either, because to really get how people think, sometimes, you appreciate it when they do make a mistake. It doesn’t make you bad or wrong, just human.

It’s also a worrying state of affairs when someone won’t feel comfortable enough to stand by the courage of conviction and would rather leave a conversation completely than be a part of it. It shouldn’t matter what you think, it really shouldn’t. People can and ought to respect that diversity. You don’t have to agree with each other to be friends. The irony in all this (from where I stand) is in this particular argument I’m quite happy not to agree with people. My enjoyment is not being impaired by doing so, as it transpires there’s a lot more satisfaction to be had just by being allowed to disagree.

Holiday is coming up, as of Monday it’ll be travelling and Italy, but rest assured I am thinking a lot about the Worlds not only inhabited but that will be left behind.

On my return, I already know that things are going to change.

Reality Bites

Yesterday was one of those moments on Social media where it became apparent that my version of Reality quite seriously deviates from a lot of others. It was also a salient reminder that what gets published is never the full picture.

You need to constantly be reminded of this, especially with those who quite obviously use the platform as an advertising tool, or as means to show their friends how invested they are in their joint interests. Part of the problem for me, over time, is that my depth of obsession with a number of subjects has either drifted or ceased to exist. However, for others those feelings still remain, and it would be both churlish and unfair to prevent the enjoyment that they bring.

It’s also quite difficult to discuss the consequences of a difference in outlook without someone taking this as criticism, and that’s the bigger issue. Depending on what your piece of art (whatever it maybe) set out to do, should largely dictate the response it receives. Critical thinking asks of a reader, or viewer, or anyone participating in a group event not to just get lost in what they are given, but appoint personal relevance to the experience. That does not have to mean enjoyment.

This is where the whole fabric of Social media begins to show some basic flaws.

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280 characters is a pretty tough platform to get right first try. I ended up yesterday telling a story, getting the threading wrong (each Tweet in the right order, attached to the same header) and ended up copy/pasting the whole thing off into a work processing document before getting it right second time around. If you’re reacting instantly and don’t think your process through, the consequences should by now be quite well understood.

However, that’s not all there is to worry about. If you’re the person who is happy their mates are having fun and isn’t fussed when they flood your timeline, there is nothing to worry about. However, when you’ve had a shit day, and it’s time to not just allow people to be happy because that point needs to be made… we all know where this is going. I unfollow those who complain about Eurovision, for instance, because a) it’s a part of my timeline and b) if you don’t get it, you won’t get me.

Occasionally, these differences allow you an important insight into people’s outlooks.

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For me, all of these moments where my feelings split are carefully recalled for future reference. Occasionally however something happens (as was the case yesterday) where it’s more than simply a difference of opinion, and I think I see something that might not be there. What needs to happen then is the independent verification from others that a) I’m not insane and b) this can be interpreted in several ways. I’d like to thank therefore everybody on my timeline who made me feel that I’m not alone, and that this Reality isn’t just mine.

That matters far more than I initially realised.

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Everybody needs to recognise the reality checks when they happen. Being alone, having a difference of opinion that sets you aside from others is not a bad thing. It’s not reason to panic. It shows that, crucially, your reality is not just yours alone. Understanding why these differences occur is nearly as important as being able to accept that they have, and the whole process has potential to radically transform the way you think.

Just be careful how you react when they happen.

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What a weekend.

I’m on five hours sleep right now, and maybe this isn’t the time to be starting something quite complex and potentially life-changing, but that’s how this works. Today begins a sixteen-week Cycling training course, which is how long before I go on holiday. An awful lot could and might happen between now and then, but this is how major change takes place.

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It’s meant for Ride London athletes, but the whole thing is organised around Zwift’s workout mode, and is linked to your FTP, so (ideally) it only pushes you as far as your body itself is capable. It is a change from just doing a weekly goal and has the potential to fundamentally alter me physically. I have no idea how long I can keep it going, and what the consequences of doing it might be, but this is my plan going forward. I have my starting weight as a guide, and I’ll be able to judge physical fitness by the end in terms not simply of my FTP, but endurance and stamina.

They say everything should have a goal, right?

If all else fails, that’s four month’s worth of content taken care of.

Amateur Hour

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Dear Zwift,

If you go and read yesterday’s blog post, you’ll see that I’ve finally accepted that your Virtual World is a great place to cycle. However, not everything is brilliant,  especially from my particular position in Watopia. The prospect of taking part in group rides is frankly too frightening to even consider. It will be some time before I feel comfortable considering a workout. For me, there is the spectre of intimidation to overcome, but that’s not the whole story. Let me start at the beginning.

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I’ve played in a number of MMO’s online over the last 20 years. Online ‘gaming’ has a bit of a reputation, with justification, for being elitist and not really grasping inclusivity. I’ve tried my best to not bring these hangovers to your virtual world, but some of the general chat I see whilst cycling is a reminder that everybody has a way to go before we get welcoming virtual environments. On that front, I keep hoping I’ll see a member of the crowd at the Ride London circuits in a wheelchair, or with some kind of physical disability. Maybe that is something you could consider adding moving forward.

For me, however, the biggest single problem coming into the World of Zwift is my perceived level of knowledge about cycling. I arrived frankly with not a clue, despite my husband having completed Ride London, more than once. FTP remains the equivalent of transforming base metals into gold, for all the real understanding I have of it. There’s a horrible fear of even starting a Group Ride because if I can’t keep up, it will feel like failure. Some of this is my own paranoia and uncertainty, that much is inescapable. However, being a woman and 51 years old, I don’t fit into the ‘average’ cycling demographic in the first place.

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I think there are ways you could improve the experience of welcoming new cyclists. On my 62k ride yesterday, there was plenty of time to think about what would make this whole experience less like an exercise in self-reliance… however, don’t get me wrong, I’m not asking for my hand to be held the entire time, or expecting a bunch of free rewards for just logging in. This isn’t an MMO after all, and I appreciate the amount of work involved. What I’m suggesting is a way to allow solo riders, with no group affiliations, the means to feel as if there could be a way to belong, that does not involve simply vanishing into the anonymity of a massive online cycling group.

Ask an Expert…?

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What would be really useful for someone like me is the means to talk to someone who understands all this stuff: you know, what FTP means, why I need to learn to pace myself, eating and drinking the right things. In my particular case, I’ve been using a Personal Trainer for a couple of years, who’s now a good friend and has helped fill in a lot of gaps in knowledge. She, however, is as lost as to how you can manage to keep cadence at certain levels without your heart rate imploding… so I’d love to be able to have someone in the game to whom I could ask questions, sort of like how GM’s work in MMO’s. Someone could use your stats stored online as the starting point to work out how you might be doing stuff wrong, perhaps in tandem with Strava. Maybe it could be a future part of a Premium Subscription package.

A Better Starting Experience…

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When I started ‘cold’ the entire interface and concept of Zwifting were, I’ll be honest, a bit bewildering. In my MMO there are ‘starting areas’, where characters spend their first couple of hours learning how stuff works, killing low-level mobs and generally interacting with the virtual world around them. I have to say, for those of us with zero cycling sense, this would be really rather useful, and educational. It could also open up the possibility for you to pair up with places like Gyms and Leisure Complexes where you could ‘learn’ to virtually cycle, thus allowing the strength and confidence to go and do the real thing. That’s what got me here, after all. If all else failed, more explanatory dialogues that could be toggled off and on to explain the basics ‘in-game’ would not go amiss.

Better Visual Customisation :D

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I’d love to be able to design my own kit. I’d love to be able to pick separate shirt and shorts. I know you’ve had issues with the avatar looks before, and frankly, I’m not that bothered about physical, but some variation in body types would be lovely, if only for realism. I don’t mind admitting I still have some pounds to shift, and I’m never going to look as good as Victoria Pendleton. Of course, all that matters is doing the miles, but maybe it would be an idea to allow me a bit more of a say in making the little person who is me a better actual representation of what I am.


These aren’t criticisms, simply suggestions. My body shape changes, improvement in strength and stamina plus a real enjoyment of being on a bike really have come as a result of using Zwift. This is the happiest I have ever been about my body, and without your training programme, it would not have happened. I just find myself wondering how many other people you might be able to attract, especially with the launch of your running programme, if you made the entry into it a bit easier and more palatable for those people who are not a) natural athletes and b) as tech savvy as others.

Thank you for changing my life, and I look forward to watching how Watopia changes and evolves in the years to come.

Yours gratefully,

Sarah xxx


 

You’re Not Alone

Once upon a time, I would have sat and felt sorry for myself today. There would have been moping about, and sad moments, with wistful stares and quite possibly tears. However, I’m not the person I used to be. Last night there was a forceful moment of revelation: other people do not dictate your happiness anymore. If I am to truly evolve out of my old state and into the person I truly wish to become, there is a part of my life holding things back, which has done for far too long.

This morning, therefore, I took a walk into the unknown.

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The initial signs are encouraging, but I am aware of not getting my hopes up too high. However, the fact remains that I’ll never affect long-term, significant change in any aspect of my life without some pain and effort. Therefore, if it matters enough, it is time to start altering those portions of existence I am not happy with. After a month of my own content being very well received, it is time to put my social needs back into some kind of order.

I’ll let you know how it goes.

Ain’t No Easy Way

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For the last week, I’ve been staring at this page of the British Heart Foundation’s website. Right now I can do approximately 20 miles in an hour, but that’s on a static bike with no distractions and nobody else to worry about falling into. If it is just me, everything is fine. If there is anybody else then a lot of other stuff comes into play, and I panic.

I think it is time to bite the bullet and just do what I know has to be done to save my own soul.

This morning came the scheduled realisation that I cannot fix everything. Yes, I absolutely should continue to try making a difference, however, and it is the opportunity with this sponsored ride to do just that. I effectively ‘buy’ a place on the ride by giving £50 and then promising I can raise £300 minus Gift Aid. This should not be a stretch all told, and it is a very worthy charity that grabs the money… except I realise now what the problem is. I’d want to ride for a mental health charity instead. I should go investigate if that is a possibility, and if it is then go apply to someone whom I feel happier getting my money.

Yet again, this whole thing boils down to principle, and not simply taking the easy road to a solution.

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I know why I woke up like this. Last night, someone whom I follow made a comment about feeling left out on Social media, which linked in with a discussion I had in the Real World with my husband. Life is not about you expecting people to include you, or assuming that because you’re feeling unwell others should treat you differently. Sure, there can be sympathy and accommodation, but at some point feeling sorry for yourself will become detrimental. The best thing I did for myself yesterday wasn’t sit on a sofa and work my way through TV shows, it was getting myself on a bike and challenging my own concepts of self worth and dependence. Your experiences (of course) will vary but for me? If I allow complacency to dictate my actions, good work simply evaporates.

It is high time I grasped that change is constant and often vital at even my lowest ebb.

In the end, I do what I feel is right to move forward. This is not a popularity contest, or a means to become a better person. If you judge people simply by the way they respond to you via Twitter or Facebook? You will eventually be on a hiding to nothing. I need to spend less time worrying about what people think, and more time getting on with making a career for myself, because nobody else is going to do that except me. If principles matter, then it is time to stick by them and move forward.

If I want this enough, I just have to get on with it.

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Not nearly enough of my life has been lived on principle. Expediency is no longer something I feel comfortable entertaining. Occasionally, reality holds up signs that you cannot easily choose to ignore and, in my case, the last 72 hours have been filled with offline portents. Forget the disaster that’s been my online life for the moment: waking up to snow this morning and the realisation that I’ve managed to complete some significant real-world milestones, but that others are a long way from even being doable. Life is about choices and making the best of what you have.

That means that certain things need to change.

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The more sharp-eyed amongst you will notice that there are now a number of donation buttons on this site. These are here as stop-gaps as I readdress what it is I want to do with writing, as I wait to see what Patreon has to say as a result of the last 72 hours. There is a desire to provide people who want to offer support all possible options, and that’s why (even as a committed tea drinker) you can now buy me a coffee via Ko-fe. However, at the back of my mind, I am now reasonably settled in principle as to what will happen going forward. If you want to understand those thought processes, you need the Writing Blog.

This place will remain as fitness, ranting, geeking and an increasing interest in getting back to reading and crafting. All this will be the balance of what remains very much a career in writing, however I choose to make that happen. There are other desires hidden too, things that will eventually get to see the light of day once there’s enough time and space to allow the ideas to grow. For now, I’ll be sticking to what I’m good at.

If I keep doing that, it will all work out in the end.