I did a post 2+ years ago about the Sufferfest training videos. These are the ultimate videos for getting fit on your stationary trainer, built around the motto: ‘I Will Beat My Ass Today To Kick Yours Tomorrow’ (IWBMATTKYT). My wife Lis commented that the Sufferfest was a (unhealthy) ‘sub-culture’. She doesn’t know the half of it. Those are partake in the videos (who call themselves ‘Sufferlandrians’ after the mythical country of Sufferlandria), are pretty fanatical. For example, the photo below was taken at the 2012 Australian road championships where a spectator is waving the Sufferlandrian flag.
Some background. Sufferlandria is a country where the inhabitants like to suffer. The Sufferfest videos are peppered with comments about the need to suffer, or make others suffer, and many Sufferlandrians post photos of their ‘Bike Torture Chambers’ where they train. I like the one of the fellow on his trainer in front of the turret on an American warship. Here is my setup. A TV on the wall keeps me sane. The computer on the left runs my Computrainer. The one on the right my Sufferfest videos.
Grunter von Agony (aka David McQuillan – the developer of Sufferfest videos), the cycling representative of Sufferlandria, plays his role really well. For example, in 2012 he wrote to the International Olympic Committee asking that Sufferlandrians be permitted to race in London, arguing that the only reason they weren’t being allowed was because they could suffer more than other cyclists and the others were afraid. For some reason the IOC didn’t respond. I love the address he used: 1 rue de Misery.
People are really into this mythical country. There has even been a national anthem written Oh Sufferlandria – which obviously was by someone from the Commonwealth as it is to the tune ‘God Save the Queen’. A UK band also wrote a song about Sufferlandria. It’s getting serious … which is why Lis is so offended. She thinks it is very unhealthy to exercise so hard you want to throw up, and the way that people toss around comments on suffering border on a masochistic club. I of course don’t agree, seeing it as all just a bit of smack down fun.
The recent focus of Sufferlandrians is the ‘Tour of Sufferlandria’. It was inspired by some triathletes who did videos every day and was very well organized. Some 600+ people agreed to try it, mostly connecting via Facebook. The poster below shows the sequence of videos that need to be done.
The videos place different demands on you. The Venn diagram below shows how they run comparing Climbing, Time Trials (TT), Race Simulation, and Speed (or ‘Get a Bucket’). According to Grunter von Agony, the Tour of Sufferlandria race director, “The course is carefully balanced between agony, misery and despair.”
I got my race number (I chose my birthday), my bike setup in my torture chamber, and the tour started … here is how it went.
Day 1: Hell Hath No Fury. I haven’t been riding much since my accident before Christmas and my two week trip to North America early January. Did manage 90 km in the Auckland Ironman 70.3 five days ago with an acceptable time. However, my lack of training showed as I got totally pasted by these women in the video. As expected, felt like throwing up, but held on to the finish. Went for an easy recovery ride in the evening with my wife and had a picnic. Not looking forward to the next eight days.
Day 2: The Hunted. It is so hard to sit on the trainer when it is summer in New Zealand. A brilliant summer’s day, but I had another day of the Tour to ride. Legs where quite heavy today as I rode through the mountains. I was racing Lance Armstrong and thought how far the mighty have fallen. At least he wasn’t a Sufferlandrian where the penalty for doping is loss of citizenship.
Day 3: The Long Scream + Fight Club. What a way to start the day. Two videos. The ‘Long Scream’ is a 30 minute time trial that one does when one wants an extra workout after the main video. No warm up, no easy riding. Straight into a full on time trial. So do they schedule Fight Club with its warm up and warm down first? Of course not. That would be too easy. Need to make us go straight into suffering. Thanks guys.
Day 4: A Very Dark Place. This is what I entered today. Did it in the evening after coming home from our holiday home in Golden Bay. I spent the day hiking in Abel Tasman National Park with my wife, enjoying sunshine, golden beaches and an amazing blue ocean. It was our young friend Jess’ 21st birthday so we followed with a feast. Then to the bike torture chamber.
Day 5: Angels. Not quite sure why it is called angels because it is anything but heavenly. Doing 8 minute intervals simulating mountain racing is not fun. At least I beat Alberto Contador today. That’s two druggies down so far this week.
Day 6: The Wretched + The Long Scream. I take back my complaint on Day 3 that it was unkind having the Long Scream first. Today we had 45 minutes of attacks on mountains which was then followed by the Long Scream. Much worse trying to do a 30 minute time trial after the mountains. I like the new addition the Wretched of a countdown timer. You know how long these 10/10 efforts are going to last. Too long in my books… Went for a 1 h recovery ride on my mountain bike in the evening. It’s tough to be training in front of a video with the stunningly beautiful scenery of New Zealand and great weather just outside my door.
Day 7: The Downward Spiral. How hard can a 2 minute interval at 9.5/10 effort with a 2 minute rest afterwards be? Not too hard. But when followed by 1:45/1:45 and 1:30/1:30 then 1:15/1:15 it becomes tough. And to make things more fun, from 0:45 onwards you are at 10/10. That is a downward spiral. And we have to do it twice. With some additional 10/10 effort sprints added in for ‘fun’ at the end. Gunter von Agony is evil. Only two blasted days of the tour left, but tomorrow is extra horrible with two tough videos rather than just one.
Day 8: There is No Try + Revolver. Today was the hardest day of the tour, both physically and emotionally. Physically: two full videos. Emotionally: my 89 year old father died last night in his sleep. Had to organize an immediate trip to Canada from NZ and, once that was done, time to ride my bike. No, I’m not (totally) calloused and obsessed; I find riding my bike good for the soul, and attacking it in a Sufferfest video good for my anger.
We started with ‘There is No Try’ which has an unusual twist on intervals. The work got harder as the sets progressed. So you have a 1:00 interval. But it increases from 7.5/10 to 9 (or 10)/10 over the single interval. Why? Besides the fact they want you to suffer, it also reflects what happens in a road race. They have their own definitions of perceived effort, but unfortunately most of the is spent at 7 or above.
Having survived ‘There is No Try’ it was immediately into ‘Revolver’. The core of this video is to do 1:00 intervals at maximum power (i.e. 10/10 or ‘Stick a Form In, I’m Done’. A 1:00 interval even at maximum power is not that bad. Except when you have to 15 intervals in a row. With only 1:00 between them. Not fun. Oh, and just when it was over there were two more to do! Glad the Tour is almost over or I’d want to by physically violent to the organizer.
Day 9: Local Hero. The last day of the Tour. I finished in Toronto Canada where I fortunately have left a bicycle and stationary trainer in Toronto so after my 24 h of travelling got it out from storage in the middle of the night (thanks jetlag!) and did the final ride. What a fitting video to end the Tour with. It is described as for “… …sick individuals who want to time trial, road race and sprint all in the same workout.” Some 6:00 pyramids; 3:00 tempo sessions and a few sprints. And just when you think it is over … they toss in some extra sprints against historical cyclists. Ratbags. Glad when it was over and there was quite the puddle under my bike as I don’t have a fan here in Toronto.
I uploaded my Tour results into WKO+ which is my workout log. The TSS is an indication of how hard each day was. This confirmed that Friday’s double header was the worst (the last one was a conservative estimate since I didn’t have a power meter in Toronto). For some perspective, when one rides an Ironman triathlon 180km bike leg, you aim to have a TSS on the order of 300, that is if you don’t want to totally blow up on the run. So the Tour was pretty tough with these back to back sessions.
The total TSS for the Tour was over 1000, with 930 on the days I had a power meter. There are these people who have achieved the distinction of being called ‘Knights of Sufferlandria’ for having ridden all ten main videos (i.e. excluding ‘The Long Scream’) back-to-back, with only a ten minute rest between videos. This would see them doing something like 1o00 TSS. Absolutely incredible. Ten hours of high intensity training which is essentially three back-to-back Ironman bike rides in terms of the demands on your body. No wonder only twelve people have shown themselves to be able to do it. I can see why before anyone attempts this the advice is “Please see a doctor. You’re not right and in desperate need of help.”
Then again, it could be a good test before heading off to race the Tour Divide in June. Better see a doctor first … it is a bit mad – in a strangely enticing way.