Last January my Dad was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer at the age of 61. I packed up my bike and a backpack full of clothes and left London for Canada where my family lived.
Cycling has for me always been one of the ways I deal with stress. So finding myself in Canada during the heart of winter where the temperatures reach -30c, and unable to get much time on my bike was difficult.
Exactly a year ago, I received a message out of the blue from Zwift. Somehow they had found out about my Dad’s cancer and reached out to ask if there was anything they could do to help me. They were so genuine in the way the reached out and made it clear from the onset they weren’t asking anything of me in return.
They just wanted to see if they could help a member of the cycling community. No commitment to write blog posts, no tweets, no Instagram pictures, absolutely no strings attached. This act meant the world to me. At a time when I desperately needed kindness and support in my life, the team at Zwift gave me back cycling.
A week later a Wahoo Kickr showed up at my front door for me to borrow the duration of the time I would be in Canada. Over the next six months, I was on Zwift almost every day. I would find an hour to myself and put everything I had into Zwift. I would push myself to the point of physical pain, often collapsing on the floor after getting off the bike. Lying there listening to my heart rate slowly dropping back down to normal.
When I started using Zwift, one of my main goals was just to help maintain my fitness. What I had never expected was to see my fitness increase. Interval training was adding a structure that my training had always lacked. I started working with my coach Dean Downing to develop plans that would allow me to maximise the limited time I had to train, and in turn, it helped me find an outlet for everything that was going on at home.
It also helped me to stay connected to friends back home. We would get on Zwift and enter races together, sending each other silly photos of how much we were suffering through the race, drenched in sweat. There was something special about still being able to ride with friends despite the distance, as it almost brought a sense of normality back to my life, even if it was only for an hour.
When you lose someone to cancer, the grief process begins long before they pass away. I had no idea how to react or even understand what I was feeling during this time, but cycling and training became a practical outlet for processing my grief.
I am so grateful to Zwift for reaching out to me and for genuinely helping me to get through one of the hardest times of my life.
A year on Zwift has become a crucial part of my training… so even after a 2-hour session the other night, it’s fair for me to say I love Zwift.