Sunday, 3 January 2016

Not that Knight's Tale

You know when you go to the movies, you sit down with your popcorn and candy that you would normally never spend that much for. And then you eat most of the damned popcorn during the commercials that you actually paid to watch and you look into the popcorn bag and try to desperately start to ration, but it is useless; you've set a cadence and there is no stopping of that backhoe of an arm and insatiable gob of a mouth.

Then the previews start and some are, like, "okay, that could be worth seeing on Netflix," or "what the hell were they thinking? That's a remake of a remake...they've just changed the gender of the characters and made them chipmunks..."

Finally the movie starts and it starts with the ending. And you see what has happened and who is dead and you are already out of popcorn and have some solid gold-valued candy stuck to your dental work and you are wondering if you should just leave before it is too late when some title comes up: "Two weeks earlier".

This blog is a bit like that.

Two weeks ago, after very much preparation and lots of mishaps that would have normally caused me to throw up my hands, gnash my teeth and sound a lot like Job, I attempted The Sufferfest Knighthood starting at 6 am, Sunday, December 20th. You can read all about the work that went into it here. 

You can also read how my chosen charity, World Bicycle Relief was so generously supported by Mike, James, Rodney, Brandy, Leslie, Ivan, Buzz, John, Pat, Rick, Anne, Kevin, Cheryl, Kelly, and a generous anonymous friend. Together, we surpassed my goal of US$500 and you contributed $1,294. That's enough for eight bikes for those that really need them. This work even caught the attention of World Bicycle Relief and they sent me a personalized note of thanks. Thanks to all you contributed and to those who supported in spirit. I felt your energy!

UPDATE: World Bicycle Relief posted this blog about my efforts.
Apparently, this link has gone offline. I will see if I can find it elsewhere. 

So, two weeks ago, how did it go after I walked into the pain cave at 6 a.m. with almost 11 hours of riding ahead of me?

Well, I started with a lot of preparation. If you read the earlier blog (same link as above) , you will know that I had not only broken a molar, but also had a bacterial infection in my lungs that forced me to seriously think whether or not I could do this. I never really talked about it, but I also broke another molar the night before I did the attempt. They were both old filings and a coincidence, but I did feel my body was letting me down. But I didn't let that stop me, I'd be biking, not chewing. I did decide to make the attempt one day after schedule. My lungs were working again and for that I was glad.

I'm not one for lists, but I made one. I had set up the entire duration of the ride on Trainer Road so I could track all my virtual power and make sure that I did not cook myself too early in the process. I watched the videos on a separate laptop.

I also made a set list that I could cross off as I went along and photos of the videos that I could use as "inspiration". You'll note, if you can see in the picture, that the pictures of the videos also included the "elevation" or interval power requirements on the bottom.
New Star Wars movie was about to be released, thus the references.
Before I made the attempt I did several trial rides of two, three, four and five hours. During those tests, I realized that my two biggest problems would be ass pain and boredom. More about the ass pain in a moment.

With respect to the boredom (ass pain deserves respect too, by the way), I realized that after a few hours, no matter how hard one is spinning, it gets dull, it gets boring. The Sufferfest videos are entertaining and compelling and all that, but I know them like the back Kevin's ass, that I once drafted behind from Lake Huron all the way to Kitchener, Ontario - thanks Kev!

No, I needed something to distract me. These lists, the crossing them out, the taking pictures, the looking at Facebook and Twitter during the breaks all helped to keep my mind from snapping. It should be noted that, as I had contact lenses in, lenses that don't let me read my mobile phone all that well, I could not really decipher what people were posting on my Facebook wall, or what I was typing. That too was distracting.

Clothes make the man.

I had planned out seven changes of kit. Two pairs of socks, five different sweat absorbers for my head, 15 towels and various other sundry bits of textile.
I ended up only using six changes of kit. I stopped sweating in the back half of the ride and I just didn't need to change. I did, however, apply and reapply chamois cream liberally after every 10 minute break.
And yes, some did notice that I did indeed do my two first videos in my underwear. Why? Well, my commuting underwear has a chamois in it and it is super cozy and I was in my basement and, that's just how I roll!

This was one of my strategies of dealing with the ass pain. The chamois on these shorts is very simple and not too spongy. It allowed me to gradually get used to the thicker chamois of the bike and bib shorts that I eventually moved my junk into. It worked well. I really did not feel significant discomfort until maybe six or seven hours.

Another thing that really helped was the stretching. I stretched, not only legs but hips, groin and back after every video. I am sure that that helped take a lot of the tightness away. And as many indoor trainer warriors probably know, standing often is a good strategy. I did just that. In fact, I used standing as one strategy. I would stand for one or two or even three minutes. I also went into an aero tuck (without bars) to rest some of my leg muscles and challenge me - and to beat the boredom.

Nutrition and hydration

I've competed in many triathlons, including six Ironmans. I know that nutrition and hydration is the fourth discipline. I also know that, after a while, no matter how well you have planned and how much you like your food and drink choices, you will begin to hate them. After that point, nothing with slake your thirst or sate your hunger.

With that in mind, I started with a good breakfast of hard boiled eggs, whole wheat toast, coffee, avocado and cheese and a banana. 

The night before I had prepped seven bottles with Hammer Heed. I  put these in the bar fridge in the pain cave annex. Sadly I do not have a bar in the pain cave. I also prepped tiny cans of coke, a large can of coconut water and had First Wife on Standby with pickle juice, which I needed twice in the tail end of the ride, where first my calf and then my quad started to cramp. It worked!  Here's the transcript of the request of the STAT request.

A word about Hammer. I trust Hammer products, I have used them for many of my races. I like Skratch, but I have never used it for such a long ride. Some of you asked why did I not use Perpetuem. I love the product, have used it in Ironman very successfully and it is great. But I was also in my basement. I had access to real food. Why would I use liquid food, when I could more easily have the real thing? I also had two cups of mocha coffee - lots of sugar, caffeine, protein and fats. Yum.

As for nutrition I had a combination of stuff I have used successfully indoors and out. Last year I won a contest that included my getting a six month supply of Clif bars. I love Clif Bars, so that was an obvious choice. I had about Six of them lined up, but only had three. I also had two sesame snaps, a croissant - with mocha coffee - duh, no one said suffering couldn't be dignified!

I had also prepped one peanut butter and jelly sandwich from the night before and First Wife made me one during the ride.

By far, however,  the best thing I had to eat, and that was completely unplanned was chicken noodle soup. I had a craving for salts. We had some packaged stuff, but First Wife made some from scratch and brought it down to the pain cave. Remember, that soup broth is a staple at Ironman.
This, however, was the best cup of soup I've had. It was like magic and got me going again during a dark time. You can see the joy in my face.

For the most part, as per my "To Do 10 minutes" list pictured above, I ate after I got everything else done and got back on the bike and started next video.

You may not realize this, but 10 minutes is an incredibly long time if you are organized. But I had lots to do, including change, prep next video, take pictures, post on Facebook, pace like a crazy man, go to the bathroom - twice, stretch, feel sorry for myself, etc.

Eating on the bike was advice a trusted Knight, Sir Buzz, once shared with me, that served me well. Chicken soup, however could not be enjoyed while pedaling. I took some valuable minutes of my 10 minute break to enjoy it.

Documenting the journey.

One of the requirements of knighthood is documenting the attempt and then sharing it with the Sufferlandrian authorities to validate the attempt. This is like calling the folks at Guinness to come see you juggling the flaming hula hoops and chainsaws.

Documenting could be a Garmin or other electronic file of the ride, or pictures posted on social media or other proof. Me being the paranoid sort, I decided to build in a number of redundancies to ensure I didn't mess this up. Once I did it, I really had no desire to do it again, unless, one day, I decide to go for a double knighhood...

For those interested in data. I have a Garmin File. I recorded it on my Garmin 910 XT. That generated a Strava File. I also, as I noted, had set up a Trainer Road ride, so there is a file for that.
You can check them all out by clicking on the links. If you are into numbers and that sort of thing.

I also created a paper trail both with crossing out on the set list, but also on the pictures of the video graphics and then sharing on social media, both Twitter and Facebook. How's that for redundancy?
I am including some of my favourite pictures from those postings. They show some of what I went through, as I'm sure other knights have. Oh, and I took all of these.

 Starting with The Wretched
                                                                                                               A Revolver to the head for #8

Starting #10, I was hoping for Angels, but I got devils!
I got through the Devils, AKA "Angels".
This ride was not hard. Not in the sense that I was constantly on the edge of bonking or hurting. I did come close to bonking once, that is when I pulled out the coke and guzzled that. I did cramp, I did get sore, but not in the same way as I would in a race. This knighthood was more about enduring, putting up and knowing that there was more than 10.5 hours of it.

This ride was about reaching in to the depths of my resolve, my mental toughness and all the training I have done for Sufferfest, for Ironman, and for everything before that.

My Garmin data automatically saves to the fitness app, My Fitness Pal. According to that app, I "burned 4,129 calories doing 625 minutes of bicycling - light cycling".

This was not "light" bicycling. But it cannot be compared to an Ironman, where, if I remember correctly, I burned over 7,500 calories. This was a pain and suffering exercise of a whole other breed.

Many times I thought about quitting. Many times I thought about how much of a loser I am spending my first day of health after a long illness in the pain cave.
This is mental toughness; getting through the demons and the roadblocks that your psyche sets up to try to make your road easier and more "Couchlandrian".

At the start of Angels, the last video. I knew I would finish. I was sore, I knew I had an hour of riding ahead of me. But I proudly put on the Sufferfest kit. I was doing this for something bigger than me. I thought about when I was the fat little kid in elementary school who was picked on for having a funny last name and for being different and for being hefty, stout, husky and fat.

I pedaled through that. I thought about my family, friends and acquaintances questioning all the time I spend exercising. I thought about my mother dissuading me and stressing that I would hurt myself.

I thought about the other Sufferlandrians, Knights, Dames and others who have gone before me who have inspired me.

I thought about my children and First Wife, who never faltered in their support.

I thought about the bikes going to World Bicycle Relief and those that donated.

I did a lot of thinking. And when I was done thinking, the ride was over. I was all done. I finished before Six p.m.

First Wife stopped screaming "go go go" and smiled that smile that lets me know I'm home.

I had some pizza. I had some chocolate milk, I had some Guinness.

And like the movie I referenced at the beginning of this blog, the credits started to roll on this knighthood attempt. It was never a surprise to me that I would finish it, just like it probably wasn't a surprise to any of my friends.

Two weeks earlier, you knew that I would do it. All the sickness and the broken teeth and the issues that I ran into were the dramatic tension that is written into any story.

And this was my story.

Now I have to write the sequel.
 Here is the last video from the knighthood. It is a Facebook video link.  Thanks for reading and thanks to all who helped me get here.


  1. Wow! A super post. The first part made me totally laugh. The rest shows the man you are.

  2. Thanks John. Such kind words. I appreciate all the training and racing we've done together. It helped me get here.


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