Tuesday, 5 February 2013

I miss the suffering

This is the time of year when I start getting serious about the swim/bike/run. With a race at the end of June, it is important that I build, not only my physical fitness, but my mental fitness and attitude about being ready. I won't be ready until I feel like I'm ready.

This year, however, I decided to try something different. For the past nine days, I participated in a virtual bike tour. The Tour of Sufferlandria. This event, involving more than 1000 cyclists from around the world was the brilliant brainchild of the folks at The Sufferfest and TrainerRoad. More on the event, below.

The Sufferfest makes amazing, impossibly challenging, irreverant, indoor training videos. These videos use a Point of View story telling approach where the rider is a citizen of Sufferlandria and is competing for actual professional road and tour races against the likes of Cancellara, Wiggins and the Schlecks. There is even some great footage of women's pro racing and they are by no means any easier! The music, which is an assortment of indie, techno and other not-played-on-the-radio tunes is a feast for my starved ears.

Part of the P.O.V. role playing of Sufferfest, includes a Director Sportive, Grunter Von Agony and his minions who are out to get the most out of you. That includes flogging and suffering and the use of the bucket. (If you have to ask about the bucket, you don't want to know). With video names such as Fight Club, Hell Hath No Fury, There Is No Try, and Downward Spiral, these videos are entertaining. When done correctly-and honestly, the workouts coming out of these videos are some of the best I've ever had. The narrator makes you feel guilty and threatens you with flogging. You want to work harder. You want to suffer you want to get stronger. The motto of Sufferfest is IWBMATTKYT. It is more of a mantra. I Will Beat My Ass Today To Kick Yours Tomorrow. I find this more motivational than HTFU.

TrainerRoad is software. It is pretty amazing actually, using your computer, you can ride along to a set program and it will calculate cadence and HR (through an ANT+ stick). If you have a power device, it will use that. If you don't, it will calculate virtual power, based on the known data about your indoor trainer. (I use the Kurt Kinetic Road Machine.

All workouts can be reviewed online.
This software is nothing short of amazing. I am not a numbers guy, but for the first time in my life I'm getting a sense of how hard I am working, how lazy I've been and what my true threshold and capacity to do work can be. The most amazing thing about TrainerRoad, is that you can drop in Sufferfest videos (or  select other training videos) and they will sync up. Where has this been all my life?

The guys at both of these outfits have impressed me tremendously with their level of service, their senses of humour and their eagerness to make the tedious indoor workout experience less tedious. They actually reply to your emails and will reply to your re-reply. I had some tech issues with both and they were resolved withing 30 minutes. Would have been resolved sooner, if I wasn't such a techno-dweeb.

So what is the Tour of Sufferlandria? It is billed as the world's toughtest indoor cycling tour. I have no reason to argue with that. Nine stages, twelve videos, in nine days. Using TrainerRoad's software, you are racing against your pre-measured Functional Transfer Power. In other words. You know how hard you  can work. Can you work that hard consistently over the nine days?

For this first year of the event 1024 brave souls signed up. 522 completed it. The completion number is actually higher, but stats were kept through the TrainerRoad site. Those who did the videos without the online tracking were not...well...tracked. There were prizes too. A schwack of them!

This was, by far, the best time I've ever had with my bike indoors. I did remarkably well and set a number of personal power records. You can track see my results here. Over the nine day, I rode over 300 kilometres, did 12 videos, washed and rewashed three different sets of bike kit, went through 26 towels and lost 5 pounds. Then there was the bucket...
I also went through my favourite trainer tire. It developed a serious gash halfway through the tour. I think it just had too much of me moaning and suffering.

So, after all this suffering, it is time for me to get back to the real training. Training for the long triathlon that is coming up. The Tour of Sufferlandria has been a treat. It has been an exceptional workout and has given me a strength foundation that I'll need. It has given me a personal confidence in my abilities that  makes me smile and helps me walk taller.  
With temperatures bouncing around from -48C to -1C, it is unlikely that I will be doing any outdoor riding on my tri bike locally before May. The Tour of Sufferlandria has kickstarted  indoor training to the extent that I'm ready for whatever I have to do to get ready for Ironman bike ride. Now, I have to remember how to run and swim!  
I am missing the camaraderie of all the Tour participants. Quite and active community sprung up on Facebook and I got to meet some interesting people and hear some very compelling stories. There is even a support group that has sprung up for those, like me, that are missing the suffering. The fact is, the suffering will always be there. in my basement and on my computer. It will also always be in my head as I struggle to compete and wonder if I can do it...I can do it, because I suffered, I prepared and IBMATTKYT!

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