Thursday, 29 January 2015

Six down, now the suffering starts.

It has been six straight days of racing the Tour of Sufferlandria. While the individual stages of the Tour have been tough, as are all Sufferfest videos, the day after day riding without a break has started to create fatigue. Much like a multi-day stage race, which is exactly what it is.

My race numbers have not been exceptional, but they have not been any worse than previous years. In other words, I'm more or less at, or just below the fitness level that I was at last year at this time. Here are some of the numbers on the Trainer Road page.

There is quite an active Facebook page for the Tour and I have spent a lot of time there this week, learning, commiserating and listening. I posted an observation about the perceived difference in my power levels after Stage 5, Angels.

I wrote: I'm not really a numbers guy (actually a word guy). But, as an occasional Ironman, I like to know how I deal with exercise/exertion stress. Today's stage gave me a great opportunity to compare. I did angels a few weeks ago and I thought I did it pretty strongly. Today I did it almost identically. So I'm either staying strong, or sandbagging.

What I find most interesting is looking at the differences. Today's ride I pushed 5 fewer watts compared to January 15th's. From the graph, I see that I'm a little sloppier (lazier) on the attacks - although I kept the power high -when I finally got there. Similarly, today, my average cadence was down - as I opted for a bigger gear to try to find power. 

My average heart rate too was down today, which I think is more of a sign of pushing the over-training envelope. Finally, I didn't have the burst of speed this morning at the end, that I did in the earlier attempt. 

Personally, After 5 stages, I still feel powerful...but my endurance is starting to wane. The next two days leading up to Stage 8 will truly be a journey; I have a different choice word for Stage 8. 

I also posted the picture below to illustrate.

As in previous years, I've also started to feel stronger as the days passed, but my "high end" power has been harder and harder to tap. Similarly the "easy coasting" at low power at the beginning over every stage has also been hard to initiate and sustain.

One thing this third attempt at the Tour has reminded me of is how I can adapt very quickly when I have to do something. When I commit to do an event (or a chore), there is no backing out. Was there ever any question of doing a stage? No. Just get on the bike and do it. The one advantage is that so far, I have been able to choose when I rode - either morning or night - and thus was able to maximize the rest in between stages.

Stage 6, Local Hero, however challenged me to my very core. I chose to do the 1:25 hour stage after work. Work turned out to be quite busy and I didn't get home until much later than I expected. I also chose to make supper and give something back to my very patient family. Then I got on the bike. Almost immediately, I had "power" issues. My Garmin Sensor - the device that tells both me and the Trainer Road app how hard and fast I'm going and what my heart rate is doing, was cutting out.

This has happened before. I tried to ride through it. But it got worse. I got off the bike and changed the battery on the sensor. That didn't help. I then changed bikes. That didn't help either. I changed bikes one more time to no avail. Now imagine that I was dripping with sweat, tired, hungry (I didn't eat yet) and on the verge of giving up.

The reason why I didn't give up was because I am still infused with the spirit of #DFQ (Don't Fucking Quit) that got me through Ironman Boulder  . Also, if I had quit, I would have to start over, and there was no guarantee that the bike electronics would work. I had to figure this out, finish it, and get ready for the next three stages.

It wasn't pretty. This is what the graph looked like after I had finished and was cooling down. Every vertical yellow line is a drop in power.
It took me 2.5 hours or so to do this 1:25 hr workout! My Garmin 910XT watch did even worse. It would lose signal and then take several minutes to regain it. So my Garmin workout is even shorter.
It is 23kms, when it should be 39(ish)kms as it was several weeks earlier when I did this same video without power issues.

The big deal with Trainer Road workouts is that they need to save. Occasionally, something goes wrong, and they don't save. Although the folks at Trainer Road are excellent at finding lost data, sometimes you are just screwed. So. I finished. And then I waited for it to save. This was my face; a mixture of relief, WTF and what next! I just could not believe that I manged to finish. But I was quite worried; how the hell will I do the next three stages, including the three video penultimate Stage 8 with sensor problems.

But, demonstrating both Ironman and Sufferlandrian calm that I have developed after dealing with race (and life) crisis in the past,  I got off the bike, had a shower and ate dinner.

My frustration with the ride, found a crescendo as I pedaled like a madman in the final sprint. After checking my data, I was pleased to find, that this effort had earned me a power award, or "bling". Basically I managed to hold 405 Watts for 1 minute, a new record for me. Look at the spike at the very end of this graph...that's it!
You can also see clearly on the third pyramid where everything started to go really wrong - look at the yellow line that is power. The "bling" that I referred to is just above the graph on the left hand side. It looks like a little red and yellow medal.
To get one or more of these during the ToS is great. Many who have honestly done the videos, however, will not, because they have earned them during individual video use, when they have been stronger. Still, to get one now, six stages in, demonstrates and proves my assertion that I am getting stronger as the Tour progresses. 

So what caused my tech issues? After finishing dinner, I got onto Facebook and started talking with some Knights of Sufferlandria. ; the inspirational Sir Donald Sorah, who was featured, with his equally amazing partner in Racing Weight,  and Bicycling magazine, amongst other places  and my goto resource, constant conscience and swimming kickset instigator, Sir Buzz Vickery, interviewed here on the Packfiller podcast; talking about Stage 5, Angels, the stage I referred to at the onset.  He's also seen here talking about his Knighthood attempt and raising money for GMNW - NICU.

After some discussion, it became apparent that this was a wifi issue. It wasn't batteries, it wasn't sensors, it was Netflix! There were two people watching Netflix on two different devices. That created so much interference that it stopped the signal on my bike.

What ironic about that is that Sufferlandrian's most reviled enemies are Couchlandrians! Everything a Sufferlandrian does is to avoid and repel the siren song of Couchlandrian sloth...such as donuts, Netflix, pumpkin spice lattes. Here's a video of some Couchlandrian training. Tour was almost thwarted by the forces of Couchlandria.

Within a few hours, I will attempt Stage 7, The Rookie. This is a new video that I have only attempted once. It should challenge me and hopefully get me ready for the three video, memorial Stage 8.

If you don't hear from me again, things either went horribly wrong, or really really well and I got called up to race for Team Giant-Shimano!

Suffer well, IWBMATTKYT!


  1. Awesome write-up, man. It really captures the essence of ToS. Looking forward to that Stage 8 write-up, but I'd understand if it doesn't happen because your getting fitted for your new team kits with Giant Shimano ;)

  2. Thanks for your kind words. Just finished Stage 8 for Dame Alissa. 10/10! Now I have to sit down for a while.


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