Virtual cycling is an essential part of married life for the Petersons, and they can’t imagine living without Zwift.
Women are from Mars. Men are from Venus. The Petersons are from Watopia. Well, Brandon and Val are not REALLY FROM Watopia, but they spend a lot of time there.
It likely isn’t what Dr. John Gray had in mind when he wrote the 1992 self-help bestseller. However, Brandon and Val have found the formula for improving communication and getting what they want out of their relationship. It is virtual cycling, and without it, their married lives wouldn’t be the same.
The Petersons actually live in the outskirts of Denver, Colorado, with their two sons, ages six and four. Brandon manages a data and analytics team for a large financial services company.
“I’m a bit of a nerd at heart,” admits Brandon, “so I really enjoy my work, and the metrics, data, and programming is one thing that initially appealed to me about Zwift.” Val is a sales rep for a Dermatology medical company and sells a specialty biologic on the side.
The Petersons Cycling Story
Brandon and Val enjoyed riding before they met. Brandon has always been an avid cyclist, primarily mountain biking. “Before kids,” recalls Brandon, “it was common for me to disappear for the whole day riding the trails!”
Val started cycling after college while living in Northern California for work. “I had a few friends that owned road bikes, so I bought one, and we rode after work and on weekends through the wine country,” remembers Val.
The Courtship - Romantic?
Brandon and Val attended the University of Colorado and met during an alumni trip to Europe following graduation. “We met on the trip and fell in love while traveling around Europe for a month,” is how Val remembers their romantic courtship.
Brandon recalls his version of the romance like this. “ I remember recognizing Val from class, and I introduced myself in the smoothest, not-awkward, way possible. I proceeded to lay on the charm during the flight and through a pub crawl in London – after that, she was all mine.”
The Proposal That Almost Wasn’t
Once they met, the couple began riding together immediately. “After returning to the US and a few years dating, I knew it was time to lock up mega-babe Val and planned a fun little proposal,” Brandon quips. Brandon invited his mega-babe on a mountain bike ride around Lake Dillon and up to the ski resort of Keystone, Colorado.
Brandon’s plan almost went awry, as he recalls, “we weren’t in Zwift shape, and Val tried to turn around before reaching our destination!” The couple pushed on, and Brandon popped the question after a gondola ride to the top.
“On a deck overlooking the mountains, I asked Val to marry me,” Brandon fondly recalls with relief after receiving Val’s response. The couple toasted with a small bottle of champagne you can see sticking out of the pocket of Brandon’s cycling jersey in the photos. Brandon and Val lived happily as a newly married cycling couple, and they started a family.
The Petersons Virtual Cycling Story, Peloton, Really?
“After we had kids,” notes Val, “I stopped riding outdoors really only because of time. I loved spinning at the gym, so we bought a Peloton seven years ago (before it was popular), and I used it daily.”
Brandon’s day-long mountain biking adventures came to an end when the couple had their two boys. “At the time, my oldest son was 2.5, and we had a newborn at home. I was struggling to find some form of fitness activity that I enjoyed and wouldn’t take me away from the house for that long,” Brandon recalls his motivation for listening to his co-worker when he suggested giving Zwift a try.
“We had a Peloton at home,” admits Brandon, “but I was very intrigued by the social and competitive aspects of Zwift.” Val acknowledged that Brandon wasn’t into the Peloton, and when she heard about Zwift, “I told him to go for it!”
The Petersons Virtual Cycling Story, Zwift, Yes!
“In October of 2018, I bought my first trainer and downloaded Zwift,” says Brandon. While randomly exploring the “teams” section of ZwiftPower, Brandon came upon Team DIRT and joined. “The next day, I got a personal note from “Sterny” (Jason Stern is one of the co-founders of Team DIRT) welcoming me to the team,” Brandon recalls of the life-changing moment.
Shortly after that, Brandon began racing at 4:30 am most days of the week. Val saw how much fun Brandon was having and how intense riding on Zwift was for him. “I was intrigued as I watched him getting in amazing shape and loving it,” recalls Val, “and three months later, we bought a trainer for me, and the Peloton was out.”
Zwift Became Their Thing
Val, who Brandon describes as “outrageously competitive,” was hooked by Zwift racing. “It took a very short amount of time before Val and I were both up every day at 4 am riding Zwift together,” says Brandon.
Brandon and Val have become fully immersed in the virtual cycling culture, leading group rides, training, and competing in races. “If (he) is waking up to ride, I will too,” Val confirms the bond they share, admitting, “I never knew when I bought my first trainer how it would become an obsession for both of us.”
The Peterson Pain Cave and The Rules
According to Brandon, the Peterson Pain Cave also had modest beginnings but has evolved into an amazing space. Brandon and Val have Wahoo Kickr V5’s connected to Apple TVs that display Zwift on large flat screens in a dedicated basement room. “We have five fans, LED lights, and a map of Watopia on the wall,” boasts Brandon.
The couple also has rules for their amazing training and racing space. Brandon’s rules are:
- Keep smells to a minimum at all times (I will leave it at that).
- If (more like when) Val gets cold, close the window more. I could race with the window wide open in winter, but Val is a bit more “cold-sensitive.”
- Do not distract at the end of a race. Cheering/yelling is appropriate, and all other behavior is frowned upon.
- Lights off at all times- keep it dark!
- If (when) any equipment breaks during a race or ride, the rider can use any language to express frustration without judgment from the other. Just make sure there are no children around to hear.
Val’s rules are a bit more simple, stating without compromise, “Brandon has to wear deodorant.” Val also “lets” Brandon take care of all bike maintenance and tech stuff, admitting, “I am useless in the pain cave and really with anything bike maintenance-wise.”
Brandon sees it a bit differently. “To be fair, sometimes it feels like you need to be a mechanic and a computer wizard to get Zwift working correctly, and that typically falls to me,” affirms Brandon. “Come to think of it, all Val has to do is get on the bike and ride!”
For the Petersons Racing and Training Together is a Rule
And ride they do. Brandon races three to four times a week and cites it as the primary reason for his enjoyment of Zwift. Brandon races for team DIRT, is a member of a WTRL TTT squad, and organizes the DIRT Doozy Thursday race series. See Brandon’s ZwiftPower profile here.
Val began racing on team DIRT and transitioned to racing on the Draft women’s team at an A level. See Val’s ZwiftPower profile here. Unfortunately, Val is on the sideline due to health-related issues and took a step back from the intensity of racing at the A level.
Despite this, Brandon concedes to Val, “when the road turns upward, Val just rides away from me. Val is super competitive, so it can get pretty heated.”
Val returns the compliment by saying, “Brandon is super strategic in his racing and amazing at drafting and keeping his effort level down until the final sprint.”
The Peterson Team is Always There to Encourage?
The final sprint is where the couples team support comes into question (not really). “My style of racing is typically hanging on for dear life, maxing out my heart rate around 175-180 average for the whole race,” says Val, “so in the end, Brandon will encourage me to get after it in the sprint, but I am toast!”
Brandon gets a ton of encouragement from Val. “This comes in the form of nice comments like “keep it up!”, or it can be angry yelling like “keep going! Don’t give up! What are you doing??!” when I am getting dropped,” Brandon laments.
Brandon receives the most common criticism when he stops sprinting before the banner at the end of a race. “I’m COMPLETELY spent,” Brandon pleads, “but Val always gives me a disapproving look when I give up early. As always, she’s right, and this scenario will play into my head the next time I’m in a race!”
The Petersons Find Motivation in Other Places
Since Brandon and Val ride simultaneously every day, they find themselves riding in the same events. The couple shares many mutual virtual friends with who they chat or message during the rides.
“I always think it’s funny, though, when a ride discusses having both Petersons,” remarks Brandon. “If I ever miss a ride and Val doesn’t, I always get called out on Discord or Strava – it’s great motivation!”
It may be a trend for Brandon, as Val states, “ It’s great having him there and lots of fun to poke fun at him during the rides. Somedays, one of us will sleep in, which is odd when the other isn’t there. The DIRT crew keeps us accountable, and there are always discord tags and comments when one of us is missing.”
Sharing a Pain Cave with Val motivates Brandon in one other way, too, “Of course, gotta impress the ladies!”
The Petersons Begin and End Each Day With Virtual Cycling
Impressive is also the bond that Brandon and Val share through virtual cycling. The couple has an unspoken agreement to retire to bed at 9 pm each night, but not before taking care of a key element of their intimate relationship – pillow talk.
“We discuss what time the alarm is going off and what ride or race each other is doing the next morning and usually sync up,” notes Val.
Brandon adds reluctantly, “it may be sad to admit, but most nights end with us discussing what ride or race we’re doing the next day, who is signed up, and what course it’s on. It’s become somewhat of a bedtime routine!”
Beginning and ending your day sharing a passion for virtual cycling is not a bad routine. Brandon and Val hope they never have to, but if they do.
Conclusion - Life Without Zwift For the Petersons
Life without virtual cycling would create a void for Val and her relationship with Brandon. “We would exercise separately, and it wouldn’t be near as fun. We also wouldn’t get to start our days off together every day as we do now. Without Zwift, I would be sad.”
Brandon feels the same way when he describes life without virtual cycling. “I would not be anywhere close to the level of fitness that I have now, and Val and I would probably be working out separately. Likely, the time I spent cycling would directly take away from time with the family, so I’d probably be biking much less. We also wouldn’t have the great Zwift community to talk to, events and races to talk about, and the amazing treasure of dad jokes that I’ve generated over the past few years, so life would be a lot duller!”
The couple shares a final thought. “Whether it’s leading group rides, racing, or just shooting the breeze with other Zwifters, it has become a key part of our daily lives, and really, our relationship! I never imagined that we’d find such a fun and healthy activity that we could share every day. Thank you, Zwift!”
Thank you, Brandon and Val, for sharing yet another reason why virtual cycling is so great!
You are going to want to read this! In true Newlywed Game fashion I asked Brandon and Val a bunch of silly, awkward, and revealing questions about each other. Oh yeah, I asked them not to share their answers. You aren’t going to believe what they said. I don’t think they will, either.
Do you share the bond of virtual cycling with your Spouse? Comment below! Your fellow virtual cyclists want to share your experience.
For more great stories highlighting the ordinary, yet extraordinary members of the virtual cycling community check out the Community page of The ZOM!
Semi-retired as owner and director of his private Orthopedic Physical Therapy practice after over 20 years, Chris is blessed with the freedom to pursue his passion for virtual cycling and writing. On a continual quest to give back to his bike for all the rewarding experiences and relationships it has provided him, he created a non-profit. Chris is committed to helping others with his bike through its work and the pages of his site.
In the summer of 2022, he rode 3,900 miles from San Francisco to New York to support the charity he founded, TheDIRTDadFund. His “Gain Cave” resides on the North Fork of Long Island, where he lives with his beautiful wife and is proud of his two independent children.
You will read him promoting his passion on the pages of Cycling Weekly, Cycling News, road.cc, Zwift Insider, Endurance.biz, and Bicycling. Chris is co-host of The Virtual Velo Podcast, too!