Zwift Academy is a community of fun-loving, competitive women from all corners of the globe. They are moms, daughters, doctors, lawyers, caretakers, entrepreneurs, bosses, and more, who remarkably balance training with all of life's responsibilities.
Each week, we'll tell one rider's story to uncover a little bit more of the motivations and personalities behind this inspiring group of women.
Through her participation in Zwift Academy, Ashley Bergstrom is coming out of her shell and turning herself into what she calls a ‘real cyclist.' Here's her story...
Why did you join Zwift Academy?
Two years ago, I got my first road bike and by the end of that summer, I took my first QOM. It was puny - about 2% grade and less than a mile - but it was MINE! Then I got pregnant.
I have this condition called Hyperemesis Gravidarum when I’m pregnant. It’s horrible. I get put on bedrest. I can’t eat or drink anything without getting sick (half of the pregnancy I was eating about 500 calories a day if I was lucky, the other half about 1000). I have to go on meds and get IV’s. My body literally starves itself. I was down to 86 lb (39 kg) the first time I was pregnant and 96 lb (43.5 kg) with this second one. Needless to say, I lose all my muscles.
I couldn't ride due to my condition and while I was down and out, some sneaky little speedster took my QOM! The horror! Fast forward about a year, I have a healthy child, and I'm recovered enough to finally start training again. It’s winter and I don't have a lot of time, so I began using Zwift. I start making friends, I hear about Zwift Academy and I think PERFECT!
My goals for the Academy are to reach CAT 3 power (for me, around 130 watts), keep up with the groups, and get into the top ten (cough, pick me, cough). But, my main goal? Take back my QOM! Preferably with a time that will stand for generations to come!
How has the training impacted your life so far?
Even before my last pregnancy, my training consisted of riding once a week at most. It was inconsistent. I was slow. I was very whiny and unsure of how to improve.
Zwift Academy has not only made me faster, it has made me more focused and more consistent. I am learning what my body can do and how to accomplish things that were previously impossible.
It has made me work for what I want. I have to make time for it. It has made me bolder and more social. It's flipped my life upside down in a very good way!
It has taken me from barely being able to ride for 10 minutes to riding over 2 hours, and from 1.5 miles to 23 miles, all in just a few months! It has given me new connections, knowledge, and a drive to see just how far I can go.
What do you do when you're not riding your bike?
I love to hike. We live in the Black Hills of South Dakota, where there are beautiful hiking trails everywhere! One of my favorites is Little Devils Tower. It’s a steep climb that takes a few hours and on the last bit of it, you are almost clinging to a rock face to stay up. There are cliffs 1,000 ft (305 m) down on either side, but it’s worth it. At the top, it looks and feels like an island in the sky. Sometimes there are even mountain goats up there.
I enjoy drawing, dabbling in photography, and I like to paint things in photoshop. I also play video games. I’ve played Star Wars: The Old Republic since it was in beta (I run a role-playing guild of bloodthirsty cultish space nuns if anyone wants to join) and I just got a copy of Skyrim for PC!
My love of video games is what got me into Zwift in the first place. Now, please, if you can just put a pack of ravenous dinosaurs chasing you in the workout mode, LOL!
Do you have kids or pets? How do they feel about your Zwift station?
I have a 4-year-old son, a 1-year-old daughter, 2 dogs, and one very grouchy Siamese cat. The 4-year-old loves it. He always wants to ride with me, but unless we put his Strider on the treadmill I don’t really see how he could! The 1 year old hates it. She wants mommy and she wants her now!
The dogs have learned that they can’t come say 'Hi' to me when riding or they will get viciously conked in the head by a very hard pedal by accident. And the cat is a cat. He likes to come sit on the keyboard and freak the whole system out. Curse you, feline overlord!
Cyclists have to replace a lot of calories. What's your favorite post-ride treat?
I love chocolate milk, dark if I can get it. It’s cheap and easy to make and tastes great when you are not feeling so hot.
What’s one of your most memorable moments on a bike?
Just recently, I was riding with my husband up one of his local haunts. I was in front, and not once did he offer to go ahead of me! When we were done, he said I was fairly close to his normal pace and he was impressed! Granted, I was really pushing hard, but still it felt good to know I was improving that much! I think that will stick in my mind for quite awhile. It was one of the first times I have actually felt like a 'real cyclist,' not just some boob with a bike.
Where has your bike taken you, physically and/or mentally?
My bike hasn't taken me very far physically, yet. I just started riding outside again, so I only have one route!
Mentally, it has taken me across entire wastelands! I’ve gone from being very insecure, shy, full of self doubt and fear to someone who is happier, more confident, more adventurous and a lot less shy (although, if you hug me I will still either cry or kick you).
I am discovering my true self.
Describe Zwift in 5 words
Powerful, Educational, Theraputic, Addictive, Challenging