DIRTy 22 Zwift TTT Record-Breaking Recap

DIRTs Stephen Katuska, Christopher “Serkit” Taylor-Kerr, and David Squirrell take down the Zwift single-day TTT record previously co-held by DIRT Tiago Barreira and Christopher "Serkit" Taylor-Kerr.

Editor's Note:

Steve rode 497 km (309 miles), with a total time in the saddle (including warm-up and cool-down) of 14 hours and 55 minutes. He burned over 12,000 calories, for about 650 TSS (Training Stress Score), with an average power of just over 230 watts (just under 250 watts normalized). 

 

He spent about 3 hours climbing the virtual version of Box Hill alone—approximately a 9-minute average for 20 reps—with the fastest time of 7:19 and the last lap a grueling 11:51.

 

His average speed was 23.1 mph for 13h:12m of racing time. It was way into the night when Steven’s turbo coasted to a stop with no energy left to give or reflect on the accomplishment of the three men. The day that began at 12:18 am came to a satisfying end for Steve at 10:45 pm est.

Read the whole story featured by Cycling Weekly.

In the words of DIRT Stephen Katuska:

I’ve spent too much time in the last few days thinking about how to write the recap of what was truly an incredible day. Thursday, January 12th, when Christopher “Serkit” Taylor-Kerr, David Squirrell, and I set out to smash the record for most TTTs rode in a single day by attempting to complete 22 separate events across the course of the day.

You can find the pre-event announcement here.

There’s a ton to recap regarding preparation for our efforts in the ride, how our strategy played out and evolved over the day, and the grueling physical effort we all undertook. And while I will certainly go through that in glorious detail (I’m not known for my brevity), the place I keep coming back to is the profound thanks I have for my family, the DIRT team, and the Zwift community. There’s no way I could write a recap without starting there.

 

It all starts with my family and, most specifically, my wife. The idea of me spending the vast majority of a day on the bike (plus the relative uselessness I was around the house for the next day or two afterward) was something that she wholeheartedly supported and enabled. Every single piece of the day, from helping me manage sleep, nutrition, and sanity, to taking care of the kids every moment, was so vital in allowing me to stay focused on this absurd event and eventually complete the vast majority of it. 

 

There’s no way to articulate how meaningful her support was, so I’ll stop rambling around it and say that she was the foundation that allowed me to execute this ridiculous event.

Christopher "Serkit" Taylor-Kerr echoed Steve's sentiments, sharing:

“None of this could have been possible without the support of my beautiful wife, Bobbi. It’s no trivial thing to request permission to disappear into a torture chamber for an entire day, but she didn’t hesitate before granting her approval. I’m forever grateful for her in more ways than I could start to list here. 

 

Thanks to the mad professor Toran “Statistics” MacLeod for turning me on to Hammer Nutrition and advising me on my fueling and hydration plans. I could fuel all day using only Hammer products and a few bananas. 

 

To Steve and Squirrell: I love you guys! You inspired me with your enthusiasm and kept me going throughout the day with your banter. You’re tenacious and tough, true men of quality.

 

A special shout-out is due to Ally Loney for helping organize teams and distribute racepasses when we needed to shift to our contingencies. Thanks, dude!

 

And last but not least, massive thanks to club DIRT and all the various TTT teams of the DIRTiverse. While Stephen, Squirrell, and I may have earned acclaim for our individual performances, the kudos belong to the 53 teammates that helped pull the three of us through London over and over and over again. It was truly a team performance, above all else!”

Stephen continues with thanks:

The other massive thanks go out to the litany of DIRT riders who supported us in so many ways through this effort. My memory of the day’s specifics are so shot that I know I will forget some key people, and I’m genuinely sorry. I would be remiss, not to mention a few specific folks who went out of their way to ensure we had a successful day.

 

Kyle Benson: You rode with us for 9 TTTs, roughly 200 km, from a hotel bathroom with no fan or ventilation. While Squirrell, Serkit, and I sucked wheels, you took pulls on the front to keep the pace high and our legs “fresh.” 

 

Jeff Hinds: You also rode a ton of events, I think 6, and while the effort was so appreciated, even more so were your words of wisdom about pacing and fueling for long events and your support in helping us execute the eventually necessary backup plans.

 

Ally Loney: You took some massive pulls for us in crucial zones. Still, more importantly, you took a huge leadership role in organizing riders, helping us with the contingency plans, and ensuring that our support was constantly full and excited to pull us around London. 

 

Thanks to everyone who joined us for the rides. I met so many interesting folks, and the number of jokes, stories, and general camaraderie throughout the day was crucial in keeping my sanity and enthusiasm high. 

 

Just as important is thanks to anyone who gave supporting messages on Strava (especially Ann Schlenker and James Bowtell for commenting on about half of the rides!), Discord, or in-game. That support was the energy that kept my legs moving when the zones got fast and the day got long.

 

Alright, I’ve rambled enough, so time to get into that recap that I know you’re all here for! I’ll take the writer’s liberty of putting all times in EST, as that’s the only way I can keep it straight. 

 

Extra kudos go to Serkit and Squirrell, who rode this effort in MUCH tougher time zones, having to keep doing hard efforts on either side of midnight.

Preparation

The Course: One thing I wanted to hit up front was the course choice. With Box Hill on each lap, there were better courses for a challenge like this. It wasn’t just a day where we could sit in the draft and get towed around. 

 

Sure, that was the case for much of the lap, but I knew that each and every time around the course, the three of us would have no help and just need to muscle up and over that devilish climb. It was hard, certainly a suboptimal course, but it did make the whole thing SO much more rewarding for me to know a huge piece of this relied on my effort and my effort alone.

 

The Fueling: I knew from previous long races that nutrition was key, yet I still got it pretty wrong. A few days before the event, I went to the supermarket to stock up and came home with various sweet treats I usually don’t eat. 

 

However, when it came to actual fuel during the event, I had no desire to ingest these sugary foods, leaning much more toward salty snacks. Lesson learned for next time, even with a wide variety of sweet flavors to combat palate fatigue, I still missed the mark on the right types of food.

 

The Clothing: The day essentially broke into three sections, as you will see below, and I planned a shower and full kit change between each one. That worked out primarily OK, and I didn’t have time for another kit change in there, given the back-to-back nature of the stages, but it was pretty ripe near the end of each section.

Section One, planned TTTs 1-8

The first eight rides were all relatively straightforward and uneventful. The shortest time gap between them was 45 minutes, and knowing we could knock out 40-minute laps all day long meant that this section was pretty stress-free and light-hearted. 

 

We had fresh legs, dry kits, and a bevy of enthusiastic riders to tow us around the flats, and we knocked out the first eight with relative ease. The first four went straight from 12:18 AM through 4 AM, then I took a quick nap, and knocked out the following four from 5:18 AM through 10 AM, with a quick break to have breakfast and send my kids off to school. 

 

The legs felt super strong the whole morning and never really taxed, but I knew the more challenging zones were yet to come and felt happy to knock these first set out but certainly apprehensive about what was yet to come.

Section Two, planned TTTs 9 - 15

The middle seven TTTs were the ones that caused me the most concern. Due to how the WTRL race zones line up, to hit the magic 22 for the day, we needed to have a section of six TTTs back to back (to back, to back) with either 34 or 35-minute finishing times for each one. 

 

It equated to roughly 48 kph target on the flats and a ~4.2 wkg effort up Box Hill. For reference, we breezed through the first eight zones with about a 9-minute Box Hill effort, but we would have to get to 7-minute efforts for these six zones. 

 

While we had a ton of support here, this effort ended up being a bit too stout for all three of us, and after nailing three 34s in a row, we were just too crushed. We had to check down and cut one TTT, going from a max target of 22 to a new target of 21. 

 

Certainly a disappointment, but we knew this was going to be tough sledding, and we were still on track for a great day despite cutting one zone. This section was straight through from 12 noon to 4:30 PM, and I got off the bike totally crushed and crawled up the stairs to get cleaned up and have dinner with my family.

Section Three, planned TTTs 16 - 22

The final set of seven TTTs was almost as ambitious as the middle zone. We would need to make five back-to-back efforts with a finishing time of either 35 or 36 minutes. At this point, Squirrell, Serkit, and I were just totally swamped with fatigue, and while we gave it our best effort, it was clear that we needed to cut another zone and lower our target to 20 on the day. 

 

We proceeded to execute against the new plan well, with a handful more 40 – 41 minute efforts, but these took a totally different toll than the early rides. Each effort up Box Hill was excruciating, and during each descent, off the back side, I ended up closing my eyes on the downhill and just slumped on the handlebars. 

 

I still remember one 2-minute gap between zones. I sat on the couch and could barely move. Getting back on the bike took every ounce of motivation I had. During another 5-minute gap, I fell asleep sitting up, and again returning to the bike took every last bit of strength I could muster.

 

All day I had looked forward to the final effort, in zone 26, as the “party lap.” We had no time constraints, and while we did need to finish, we could ramble around the course at our leisure. However, at the start of this lap, I had my most serious technical issue of the day. 

 

My bike simply would not transmit power. I sat on the start line spinning my legs with every ounce of strength I had, yet Zwift still showed 0 watts. Thankfully the team waited for me to get it all sorted out, and after a few minutes of tinkering, I could connect again and continue on my way. 

 

It would have been an awful way to end the day, and I’m glad I could finish out with my friends and complete the final lap. I fell off the bike, spent and sore in so many unmentionable places, and slowly picked up the bottles, wrappers, and towels strewn all over my basement.

Final Stats

I have no idea how to wrap this up, but I wanted to write an additional thanks to Squirrell and Serkit.

 

Serkit: You’re a madman for coming up with this idea, tough as nails for taking it on with so little volume in the weeks prior, and full of heart for how you rode the whole day. I know you had some tough zones, but seeing you attack the escalator each and every time with such vigor and excitement brought a smile to my face. The contingency plans you came up with were so smartly designed and then so crucial at the moment, enabling us to move clearly from plan to plan as the day evolved.

 

Squirrell: Your preparation, organization, and rallying of support across the whole community were vital to getting this done. Going into the day, we had a clear and complete plan (full of strong riders across all zones) mainly due to your efforts. Then when things started to go sideways, you both stepped it up in-race by taking pulls when no one else could, and then out of race by helping to reorganize the zones, pull in the suitable riders, and get everything sorted when it was chaos. When your knee started to go, you could have easily dropped out, but instead, you kept your head down and just got the work done, finishing the last however many laps on one leg. 

Incredible!

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Jeff Hinds
Jeff Hinds
12 days ago

An extra word of thanks to The Squirrel for setting up the YouTube stream. It was fun to watch while sitting through a work day and keeping tabs on things when I was not riding. The stream worked well and even had a nice intermission in-between races. A great advertisement for DIRT!

Serkit
Serkit
5 days ago

thanks to Stephen for the write-up, and thanks Christopher for publishing! also wanted to mention: the previous record of 11 was co-held by Tiago Barreira and Christopher “Serkit” Taylor-Kerr. 🙂

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