This is a lightbulb. I saw it in a bulk mail advertisement and thought I would give them a try. So we got a few for stocking stuffers this year. They are called fireworks lights. They don’t move or make big sounds or change shape or color or anything. They do throw a nice, colorful, half light around the small space of a half bath. So I got a few more and put them in the stairwell. You can still see the stairs, it’s better than a standard yellow light. Now it feels like you are in a movie theater, and so far this week I haven’t stumped a toe. Yet.

Lightbulbs are symbols of brilliant ideas. And so today, having photographed a lightbulb, it seemed important to have an idea.

This evening I did the first stage of something called the Tour de Zwift. I think it’s simply a come-see-the-place kind of gimmick. Ride in many of our venues! Try different styles and distances! That sort of thing. Mostly it’s just a good way to see how slow I am compared to everyone else.

Anyway, the first round of stages are the shorter parts of the Zwift environment. Makes sense. But that’s not long enough for a day’s ride. So after seven quick miles, I figured that was a warmup, and why not do something else.

So I went up.

Which, if you’ll see on the road markings, is the only way. I’ve only had a smart trainer and a Zwift setup for a couple of weeks. And this weekend I went a third of the way up the biggest climb on Zwift, a faithful recreation of Mont Ventoux’s Bedoin ascent, which is universally regarded as one of the more challenging mountain climbs in road cycling.

Which is where I should say a few things. I’m no climber. Also, as noted, I’m slow. And especially so when going uphill. Furthermore, Zwift is fun and probably helpful to the overall cause, but in a few important ways it’s not exactly the same as riding on a road. For the purposes of this discussion, I never feel like I’m about to fall over when slowly trying to go uphill.

So riding up Mount Ventoux wasn’t easy, but most assuredly easier than most assuredly easier than doing it in real life.

Finally, after a long time, because I’m slow, I saw the weather station at the famed summit up close.

It’s just 13 miles up, a little over 22 kilometers, but it’s a long and steady up, up and farther up. These are the average inclines.

KM     Avg gradient        KM     Avg gradient
1     1.9%        12     10.1%
2     2.8%        13     9.2%
3     3.8%        14     9.4%
4     5.8%        15     8.8%
5     5.6%        16     6.9%
6     3.1%        17     6.6%
7     8.6%        18     6.8%
8     9.4%        19     7.4%
9     10.5%        20     8.3%
10     10.1%        21     9.1%
11     9.3%        22     10.0%

It’s not a leg breaking kind of climb, hills shaped like that aren’t especially hard to find. The difference is the distance. And this is definitely cumulative. The distance, the unrelenting nature of the thing, that’s what taxes your muscles. There aren’t many places on the way up where you aren’t asking your legs to pull you up something that isn’t a strain. I spent most of the time in my lowest gears.

Two other things about a trainer ride aren’t quite right. I, of course, stayed at 760 feet above sea level the whole time I was climbing. If I’d gone all the way up to a real-life altitude of 6,263 feet, I would have felt it. Though, to be honest, late in the ride it seemed like the room was thinning out.

What you also don’t experience on Zwift is the wind. Ventoux is a variant of venteux, which means windy in French. They’ve recorded wind speeds as high as 200 miles per hour near the summit. It blows in the upper 50s for two-thirds of the year. And if you get a headwind, good luck. Me, I was dealing with an underpowered ceiling fan.

But I did this. I climbed a digital representation of a legitimate mountain.

On the descent I came back down the giant fast, again feeling nothing like the real world. I’m old enough now to feather the brakes. At about 60 miles per hour Zwift was having trouble rendering some of the graphics during the descent. I just couldn’t wait for those trees to appear, I was ready to be off the bike, cleaned up, have dinner, do the dishes and enjoy some time quality time with the compression boots.

So I can go do it again.

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