Jasmijn Muller, the new Zwift distance record holder, gives us the dirt on her success — saddle sores and all
Jasmijn Muller recently made indoor cycling history by becoming the record-holder for most consecutive miles pedaled while using the Zwift, a popular virtual-reality training app.
Her whopping 1,135.9-mile ride (1,828km) — done in 62 hours, 4 minutes, and 30 seconds — happened in the (relative) comfort of her own home on a Wahoo Kickr trainer, with a pit crew hanging out in the kitchen and living room. Thanks to Zwift, Muller racked up mileage in the pseudo-company of cyclists around the world (including past record-holder Chris Hopkinson) who joined to cheer her on.
Until 2010, Muller was a casual cyclist at best, but the endurance bug bit her after a 160km charity ride she was persuaded to do at work. She started riding more, and more, and more— and joined a cycling club to participate in lots of events. By 2013, she says: "I seemed to be a bit of a diesel.”
The now-time-trial expert and ultra-endurance cyclist filled us in on how she managed to make it through nearly three straight days of pedaling inside — and why she did it in the first place.
What were the most challenging aspects of the ride?
Jasmijn Muller: It definitely is a lot more challenging mentally. It is also harder to avoid saddle pain, as you move around a lot less than on the road and also spend a lot less time riding out of the saddle. To avoid getting everything too wet and sweaty, I had a fan blowing the whole time — but that is hard on your skin, your throat, and your eyes. And even though I had the curtains open the whole time, you still don’t get to experience the change of light from day into night and back again in the same way you do during, say, a 24-hour race on the road.
How did you stay focused?
The combination of Zwift and the Wahoo Kickr is just perfect and makes for a very enjoyable riding experience, but looking at a screen and staying focused on not letting gaps appear when people are letting you draft can be hard. Also, the sound of the Wahoo Kickr can become a little repetitive and soothing, almost like white noise sending you to sleep. So, instead of listening to podcasts as I often do in training (trying to train my brain and body at the same time), I listened to a lot of music, particularly cheesy 90s dance tunes with big uplifting beats.
"I went from being a complete Zwift novice who didn't even own a smart trainer, to becoming the new Zwift distance record holder, all in the space of less than two weeks."
You’ve done ultra-long-distance rides on the trainer and on the road. Was this ride more challenging than an outdoor ride, or did you find it easier on the whole?
The only thing that is definitely easier about an indoor ride is the logistics around it. It is very easy to jump off, go to the toilet, have a shower, and change your kit. It was also easier for the support crew in terms of feeding me. The kitchen was nearby; they could test various food on me. It was also very easy for them to communicate with me - I could press a wireless doorbell which would ring in the living room each time I needed something!
We have to ask: How did you avoid saddle sores?!
Unfortunately, I did not avoid saddle sores. I tried every trick I know: not shaving, using very good chamois cream (Elite Ozone endurance chamois cream), riding on my favorite saddle (Cobb V Flow Max), standing up and changing position regularly, wearing my favorite Alé bib shorts, washing myself and changing my kit every six hours... I even used the "second bib shorts inside-out" trick. But I still had saddle sores, which made it increasingly difficult to sit on the saddle — and that was what eventually made me quit. My legs were still fine, I still had the stamina, but my mental ability to push through the pain had reached its limits.
Days after the record attempt I am still walking (very slowly) like a cowboy and in search of antibiotics to treat my infected saddle sores, but at least I didn’t hospitalize myself this time.
What did you eat on the bike?
I ate a lot of different things. We mostly tried to stick to food that would also be easy to hand up from the side of the road when I do the Land’s End to John’o’Groats (LEJOG) and 1,000-mile record attempt on the road in England this coming September. I drank quite a few Fresubins (mixed 50-50 with water); a lot of Precision Hydration electrolytes, to avoid cramping; some bottles with Ambrosia Rice Pudding whizzed up and diluted with water; some bottles of just plain water; and pumpkin soup served in a water bottle. I had a few bottles with an energy drink early on but I stopped that after a while as it didn’t sit well with my stomach. I ate a lot of bananas, but also loved yellow bell peppers, cucumbers, and grapes. I had a spell where I devored lot of nuts. Sweet potatoes always went down well.
It is a learning process. Everyone has their own things which work well for them, and as you can see some things I loved at one part of the ride, I would refuse later on.
Having spent so much time riding with Zwift, which aspect of it do you like best?
The absolutely best part of Zwift is the way it connects you with other riders around the world. I hadn’t really anticipated that, but having all these people from all different corners of the world ride with me during the Zwift record attempt was really something very special. I would like to thank them all as it turned a solo record attempt into one big party. I won’t be on Zwift — or on the bike, full stop — for a little while now as I let my saddle sores heal, but I hope to ride with many of them again soon.
"It was a proud moment to be able to prove that when it comes to endurance sports, women can be just as good as men—and sometimes beat them."
What does it mean to you to be a record holder?
When I set out to break the Zwift distance record, it was never about chasing the record for the record's sake. It was always meant as a learning event, as a stepping stone, as a practice session for my main goal for the year: breaking the LEJOG record and then continuing on for the 1,000-mile record, both of which are Guinness World Records.
Although the Zwift distance record was never just about the record itself, and I did learn a lot to better prepare me for my other record attempts on the road later this year, I am actually pretty chuffed to be able to now call myself the Zwift distance record holder — especially now that I fully appreciate Zwift for the fantastic worldwide community it is.
This record wasn’t a women’s record: It was overall. Did that change how pursuing it felt for you?
Unlike the LEJOG and 1,000-mile record, which are women's-specific records, the thing that appealed to me about the Zwift record is the fact that there are no separate records for men and women. There is just the one record and anyone is welcome to have a go. This provided a great opportunity to test how close women can come to men in endurance challenges.
It was a proud moment to be able to prove that when it comes to endurance sports, women can be just as good as men, and sometimes beat them. It felt amazing. There really is no better hashtag to use for a challenge like this than #ThisGirlCan [which supports women of all abilities in sports]. It was all about confidence: the confidence to go after my dreams, to not be afraid of anything (be that male competition or saddle sores), and to test and redefine my own limits.
I hope I did women around the world proud and gave them confidence to go after their own goals.
Who inspired you for this challenge, and why?
This Zwift record was very much inspired by its previous record holder, Chris 'Hoppo' Hopkinson. I know him from the UK time-trialing scene and have always been slightly dumbfounded by all his ultra-endurance pursuits. Hearing about his distance record and seeing the interactivity of the Zwift program completely changed my perception, and the seed was planted in my mind to have a go at the record myself in preparation for my other challenges this year.
I went from being a complete Zwift novice who didn't even own a smart trainer, to becoming the new Zwift distance record holder, all in the space of less than two weeks in the end.
What are your best tips for other people looking at a major feat of endurance?
I could give all sorts of tips about saddles, creams, bibshorts, nutrition, favourite music to listen to, etc. But it is all so personal.
Instead, my number-one tip would be to train your mind. So many people spend so much time and money on bikes, clothes, shoes, coaches, diets, you name it... But the area most people ignore is mental training. As the distance increases, the mental aspects become increasingly important.