Tuesday, 16 February 2016

The Tour of Sufferlandria 2016

This past weekend, I finished the Tour of Sufferlandria. It is the Greatest Grand Tour of a mythical nation. But it is only mythical in name. There are nine very real stages, participants, most of whom I only know virtually are also very real. There is a very real charity, The Davis Phinney Foundation, that benefits from the efforts of riders. This is my personal donation page. As of February 16, 2016, US$111,671 was raised for the charity that benefits those with Parkinson's.

Here is a link to the event. So much has been said by others and said so much better than I can, that I couldn't do it justice. Besides. I have talked about the Tour many times before.

What else made this a "real" tour? The suffering. Participants worked harder than they thought they could - some for the first time - to achieve the goals of the Tour. Sufferlandrians call this "suffering". There is as tradition of thought that crosses all cultural divides and ages that believes that true gains, true benefit and true enlightenment can only come through suffering.

  • Human progress is neither automatic nor inevitable... Every step toward the goal of justice requires sacrifice, suffering, and struggle; the tireless exertions and passionate concern of dedicated individuals. Martin Luther King, Jr.
  • Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, ambition inspired, and success achieved. Helen Keller 
  • To live is to suffer, to survive is to find some meaning in the suffering. Friedrich Nietzsche

So all the participants suffered. Not only physically through the intense efforts needed to do the rides, but also in terms of scheduling, in terms of personal and social sacrifice. Some had to give up activities and plans that they had to complete the rides. Some had to not spend as much time as they normally do with their families. Some actually hurt themselves, or pushed themselves to the limits of pain and endurance. Many went way beyond their comfort zones, physically, socially and in their fund raising efforts.

A big part of this year's Tour, as in previous years, was a Facebook Group. The Tour of Sufferlandria 2016.   This was possibly one of the most sociable, connected, friendly online groups I have ever encountered.  It was not unusual to look at my Facebook feed to find 30 or 40 new notifications every morning - and these were not just comments to the group, these were actual conversations, some frivolous, some completely earnest.

One of the non cycling activities that many engaged in was posting of pictures and video of personal suffering. This was not a display of  "I'm suffering more than you". Rather, it was a proud display, in a safe environment of a shared experience. Individuals posted pictures of total physical exhaustion, or comments from confused or disapproving co-workers or family.

The group understood. The group never judged. To be completely honest, some did judge, but were very quickly shut down by others. this was not a place for trolls or jerks.

It was a place of making friends, albeit sometimes temporary ones. I know that I have made many real friends on this page. Ones that I can trust as much as the flesh and blood ones that I grew up with.

But this wasn't all making friends and singing of kumbaya. This was hard work. This was descending into my, albeit comfortable, pain cave for nine days straight. Descending down there, even when my legs were tired, when my hips were sore, when I had strange and painful abrasions on my nether regions that I haven't had since I was in diapers. It can be noted that a wet chamois on bike shorts may be likened to wet diapers.

Doing this, like I've done it before, required significant mental toughness - as I have written about in earlier blogs.   (note there is a problem with some early blogs and the pictures are not loading). I needed to keep focused on the required task. Unlike in previous tours, in this one, there was no way of proving that you actually did the workouts. Previously, they were measured on Trainer Road.  This link is my rides from last year's Tour.

This year's Tour was based on the honour system - you only had yourself and the virtual group of Sufferlandrians to keep you honest and accountable.

That is only partially true, though. As a Knight of Sufferlandria,  I had the honour of competing in a challenge of power and strength against other knights. This was measured and calculated daily. I'm pleased to say that I cracked the top ten. First time I've ever done that in a sporting event in my life.

So, how did I do? What are my stats? I don't really care for evaluating numbers. Maybe that is why I don't really get that competitive. But it is interesting to see what I achieved.

  • 9 Stages
  • 12 Videos 
  • 12.5 Hours  
  • 324 Kilometres
  • 11 Changes of clothing
  • 20 Towels
  • $140 raised personally for Davis Phinney Foundation  
Along the way, I pushed my limits further than I ever have. Made some personal discoveries that I am only now starting to disentangle from my psyche and, as I said, also made many many friends.

I also took lots of selfies of me suffering and learned how to do selfie videos. I've added some of them below. Each is self explanatory. One of my goals was to try to make others smile during a time of very hard work. I posted much of this on the Tour page. I hope that they were liked. I did get some good feedback and considerable laughing - and thankfully not the pointing at me and laughing variety.

In this one, a video, I didn't have time to change, and I had a meeting right afterwards, so I did just what any Sufferlandrian would do; not bother changing.

In this one, I think I really really wanted to call my Mommy. But sadly, she was out of country and not near a phone.
In this one, just after I finally finished, I was attached by Wilbur, the dreaded basement-dwelling bear. It was okay though, because Wilbur is very plush.  

This video was in honour of Spoke 'n Hot Women's Cycling.

 This one was in honour of World Bicycle Relief, for whom I had the privilege of raising money during my knighthood attempt. Here is the blog of my attempt that they posted. 


And finally. finally! My final video. It includes some fancy, low tech camera techniques.

Thank you all for participating in the Tour and for making this, yet again, another great experience and a key part of my training, not just for sport, but for living!

Thursday, 4 February 2016

My musings just before the Tour of Sufferlandria 2016

In less than 24 hours, the Tour of Sufferlandria begins. I've written about the Tour before. You can read some of it here.

Up until now I've been soft peddling, more or less. Even riding outside in this strangely warm weather. 

But now it is time to do some serious basement cycling!

This year, the Tour is a different animal. There is a lot of reasons for that. The first one may be personal. Just over a month ago, I became a Knight of Sufferlandria. I feel different. My perspective is not what it was last year, it is perhaps broader, but also, maybe, a little less idealistic.

One of the other reasons is the new Sufferfest App.  For a variety of reasons, most very valid and reasonable,  the ownership of the Sufferfest decided to launch the new app just before the Tour and to encourage participants to use it for the Tour. In previous years, The Trainer Road App was used.

There was considerable outrage -- yes outrage -- over what some perceived as an abandonment of Trainer Road. So much so that the owner of Sufferfest had to make several public announcements to the online community about the rationale and the realities of moving to the app.

I am not going to argue or choose sides either way. I still use Trainer Road. In fact I'm looking forward to try the Beta version of it for the Tour.

I now also have and use the Sufferfest App too, although I've had issues with it initially because of my low tech (old tech) equipment. It now works better than expected.

Many Sufferlandrian's may forget that in its infancy, Trainer Road also had issues. In any case I'm sticking with both. Both have elements that I need in my training now and in the future.

I think it is going to be an incredible training and gamification exercise tool. And I look forward to its portability. For instance, training in hotel rooms, while on vacation.

I'm not the best training app reviewer, and, well, I can't do math all that well.
So numbers are not my forte. Others can give far better analysis of the strengths and weaknesses of both. I like them both for different reasons.  I will probably use them both in tandem.

I'm supposing this is what knighthood does; new perspective.

Another issue relating to the Tour has come up, that isn't really being talked about but I have noticed.

With Trainer Road in previous years. one could not start the Tour early and still get (graphical) credit for it - or Trainer Road prizes. There were prizes for donating money to the Davis Phinney Foundation for Parkinson's and for participating on Trainer Road.

This time around one only needs to donate to be eligible for prizes. 
This is my current donation page. I donated earlier, and it isn't showing up here. Feel free to donate it is a great cause. Read more details here. 

But seriously? The prizes are amazing, as they have been in previous years, but true Sufferlandrians don't do this for the prizes. They do it for the challenge, the training and the camaraderie. Prizes are nice, but so is the lottery. Many dream, few win. 

Now, there continues to be a huge incentive to donate to the Davis Phinney Foundation - and some incredible prizes for donating. But there is no disincentive or technical way to stop people from starting the Tour early. Of course it is understandable. People are busy. To schedule nine days in a row of at least 50 minutes of intense exercise is challenging.

But that was the beauty of the Tour in previous years. Everyone started at the same time. While all are encouraged to start within the 50-hour start period, a surprisingly large number of people have already started days before the group start.  This isn't really a big deal. But it will be a little disconcerting and annoying when people start finishing two or three days before the peloton. Also, as any event planner knows, once the hard boundaries of the event start sliding, other things may fall away too. But maybe I'm just old fashioned. I started my triathlon racing career believing a start time is unchangeable.

Again. This isn't a terrible thing. But it has changed the essence of this wonderful Tour that has, for me, created some great experiences and made several exceptional friendships.

Still, they say nostalgia isn't what is used to be. Things change.

This is still going to be a wonderful tour. Once the legs start turning and the holy water starts saturating the floor and the bike and the air, all will be as it was, a hot, sweaty mess!

Bring on the Tour! Allez Allez!