Although Catherine only signed up to the CW5000 challenge after she'd seen others reach the 5,000 mile target, she was actually the first to complete it in 2021. Here's how she did it.
If you’ve ever spent any time on Zwift Power - the site that lists all event results from the virtual platform - you might have come across the distance table at the bottom of the main events page.
The table lists 50 riders and their kilometres ridden on Zwift. At the top is Australia’s Tim Searle who has now ridden an incredible 208,166km on the platform. Scroll down just few places and you’ll come across Cat Allen, the first Brit (one of only two in the top 50) with 120,926km against her name.
Allen rides for the Race3R team and signed up to the CW5000 after seeing her teammate Ross Duncan become the first rider to hit 5,000 miles on March 14. Allen however had already hit 5,000 miles, on March 9. Meaning of all the people signed up to the challenge she was the first to cover the distance.
Like Duncan, and the other two early finishers Baz Morris and Giles Cudmore, Allen largely relies on Zwift to get her riding in. No surprise considering her place in the mileage table. “Monday to Thursday I’m up at 4:15am and on Zwift around 4:30. Every day my alarm goes off and it doesn’t cross my mind not to get up. I try and do 100km a day. It’s pretty much all done indoors. The only time I get to go out is in my lunch break.”
Allen was a runner - she still runs occasionally - with a 3:26 hour marathon to her name, but a bout of severe tendonitis a fews years back meant she had to get her exercise fix elsewhere. “I want to exercise, I always have. 20 years ago it was all about aesthetics, over time it’s become a mental strategy to cope with a tough job.” She explained.
Her running started when she emigrated to Australia in 2000 and discovered an outdoor lifestyle. “I’d always disliked myself physically.” She admits. “Exercise has made me love myself way more than anything else could. When I discovered running I gave up smoking and lost a bit of weight.” But the weight loss continued and when she hit 46kg she realised she wasn’t very well. “I was on a path to an eating disorder.” She says.
Having spotted the danger she stopped dieting. “I’d tried every diet in the world, and the only thing that works is not dieting. I’d get to a stage where I’d be utterly starving and all it would take is one weak moment, or one glass of wine and that's it. It’s done. I’d eat everything in the house and put all the weight back on.” Now at a healthy weight she steps on the scales once every few weeks and finds her weight is fairly consistent.
Part of the beauty of indoor riding is that Allen finds she can do as much as she wants and doesn’t get broken. “I’ve not had any injuries” she says.
She’s part of the Race3R team, started by a group of friends in Yorkshire it’s now one of the biggest on Zwift with several hundred members from all over the world. “I can’t do evening racing. I finish work at six o’clock and at five past I’m a chef.”
“But the club is amazing actually. It’s got strict rules about being in it. You have to have a smart turbo and if you want to be in the eRacing team that does the premier races you have to have one of our listed turbos and dual record.”
“Even though I can’t do evening racing I’m part of the admin team and I’m a group ride leader." Each week Catherine leads a ride for her teammates, issuing instructions via a steam deck that, once programmed, allows you the user to hit a button and send messages to the group.
This makes it easier to talk to the group than trying to type messages out on a computer or phone. Especially when the paces goes up. It's all very organised, and is now filtering out to the real world with IRL meet-ups being arranged. Look out for their jerseys in local races this year.
So how many miles could she reach by the end of 2021? “I’ll try and beat last year's distance, 42,000 kilomtes and to keep my ftp where it is, around 4.2 - 4.3 w/kg which is about 220 watts.
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