Race Report: Tour of Sufferlandria

I’m putting this under race reports even though it’s not technically a race. But it felt like one. And it worked my body more than any other race.

After nine days of suffering, I’m left with just enough energy on my first day off to review the tour. My oxygen debt has cleared for the most part, and the screams from legs are at least somewhat muted.

For starters, a review of what the Tour of Sufferlandia was supposed to be, in the words of the tour organizer, the Honorable Mr Sufferfest Himself, Dave@thesufferfest.com.

“According to Grunter von Agony, race director, “The course is carefully balanced between agony, misery and despair. So, yes, the Tour of Sufferlandria is a worthwhile target for anybody looking for an early season goal. You really ought to have some solid training behind you before you start it, and you’ll surely go through a roasting in hell during the race. When you come out the other side? With a solid 9 days of effort behind you, you will be able to take an ox, tie him to your bike, drag him up and over Mt. Sufferlandria while he tries to run the other way, and drink a flagon of ale made from the bikes of all those you crushed on your way to a glorious victory. Or the Minions will eat you for lunch. But, whatever.”

To Participate:

To join the ToS, you must simply commit to following the schedule above and ride yourself into the ground each day. Join the community on our Facebook page for inspiration in those dark moments between stages to hear stories of HONOR GLORY AND VICTORY. Those who complete and register their 9 days with our partner, TrainerRoad.com, will be be eligible for daily prizes and thrown into a pool of prizes from the ‘fest, TrainerRoad and others at the end of the event.

Aahhh, yes. The expectations were SO HIGH.  I actually got really excited for this thing. My wife thought I was going crazy, probably from too much inside time with the kids and not enough outside time in the backcountry skiing. Anywho.. I NEEDED a good consistent stretch to get me to the next level on the bike, which currently sits at about 50% of the standard triathlon racers, amongst a 10% swim and a 30% run. So, you can see that my bike leg SUCKS. I need to learn how to suffer. I need to get faster, and….like immersion training for languages, the only way to get truly faster is to go to Sufferlandria and spend some time there…suffering.

The Tour beat all my expectations in much the same manner that it beat the heck out my legs over the  nine days. Truly, on the last day…a Sunday….I stood in my church during prayers, and I think everyone could hear my legs begging for mercy as they knew what was coming up on the last day of the tour…after the crushing effort put forth on the “Revolver.”   Yeah.

I had about 5-6 weeks of mostly consistent, relatively low volume and medium intensity bike riding in me, this after a two month break from the bike but with a 24-mile-per-week run average. When I started biking again in mid-December, I quite the running but added weight lifting. I hadn’t done any really hard efforts to prepare for the tour.

On the tech side, I signed up for TrainerRoad.com, which has turned out to be quite an impressive software; I will do a separate review on that later but for now JUST SIGN UP AND DO IT because it is pretty cool.

I also bought the ANT+ Garmin cadence/speed sensor and then near the end of the Tour got the heart rate monitor after I saw how cool the data presentation is inside TrainerRoad software.  And I just now, before sitting to write this review, bought Timex Global Trainer to read the ANT+ devices when off the trainer. The ANT+ stuff is pretty easy to work with, so any non-techie can certainly figure this stuff out.

The TrainerRoad.com software was easy to install and all that, but the numbers looked really weird on the first day. I thought it was a data smoothing problem. In reality, it was a USB wireless mouse causing the problem. I’m also learning now that the i7 quad-core laptop I bought in August to make the MountainCruises bike videos in Yellowstone National Park is good for this sort of thing; I’ve seen some references to an i5 processor having some issues.

So, let’s get to the Tour stuff!  Each day already has its own write-up on the AmphibOps.com blog.   I’m  just going to write out my basic thoughts in no particular order.

1.  The idea of this Tour of Sufferlandria is pretty darn cool.  I owned all but two videos before the tour and never thought of a daily workout for that many days in a row.  The timing was perfect; right in the middle of the winter for me in southeast Idaho without much snow on the ground right now to lure me away for skiing.

2. I applaud anyone who did all the videos at 100%. I did them at 90%, and it really took all I had to finish the Local Hero on the last day (but I did finish! And I WON! IN GLORIOUS FASHION!).

3. The Slowtwitch.com forum for the tour has 12,137 views and 322 comments on Monday afternoon. That’s A LOT! A few years ago I had to cut out my slowtwitch.com reading because it was a huge yet incredibly useful addiction that I needed to step away from (and that was just reading with very little posting). But I checked it out to see what the word on the street was.

4.  Plan out your schedule and nutrition and clothes BEFORE the tour starts. Nothing sucks more than letting bad organization ruin your chances of finishing the tour.  You WILL have to change your shirts because they will stink from all the sweat, tears, snot, and yes maybe some blood (if you had a slight sinus infection like I did, but that’s another story).  Don’t run out of nutrition, especially Recoverite because you will need it if you are doing the workouts correctly and you have a good FTP set.  I recommend you set a nighttime or solid afternoon time to do the workouts each day. If you plan morning workouts and oversleep just once, you’re probably screwed. However, if you do evening workouts after all the kids are in bed and such and you can force yourself to just get on the bike, you’ll do well with consistency….except now you have to deal with how to get to sleep quickly after the workouts and your body is flush with endorphins and such. Have all the videos inside one single folder on your computer before you start, or already loaded into the TrainerRoad software. They take a while to download, so it’s something you have to think about before-hand.

– Have that beer and chips or whatever already on-hand in your house BEFORE you start Local Hero. You won’t feel like going anywhere when it’s done.

5. Commit to this as if it was really a race that you paid big bucks to enter. You WILL come out of it a better bicyclist. I am fairly certain my FTP has gone for 230 to 240 at least.

6. Have fun with it. Laugh at the screen prompts. Dig into the story line. That’s the beauty of the Sufferfest videos; you can really put yourself into the race with just a little bit of imagination.

7. Think about ditching all your other workouts during this week. You’ll need the energy.

8. I wonder how this might have helped me in my running? I haven’t ran in two months, and I have 20 mile trail run race in early June. I guess it can’t have hurt it.

9. At some point in the future, I’m going to do this on my own again using the same schedule.

10. At some point in the future, I’m going to do a double-version that includes 2 – 2.5 hours of video time spread across probably 4-5 days (Thursday – Sunday) to prep for the 70.3 triathlon I want to do in September.  The easiest way to do this is to be ready whenever there is 4-5 days of rain in the forecast and then just hit that whenever the weather looks crappy.

11. I think I’m going to buy the poster that’s available. It’s just too cool. And…hey Dave!….where’s my finisher shirt?

12. 1024 registered riders. 519 finished. 505 dropped. That’s almost 50% attrition. WOW!

13. Given the above numbers, I honestly feel like I accomplished something with this. I don’t have a huge sense of pride about it, but I have the same sense of accomplishment as I did when I finished my first Olympic triathlon.

14. I didn’t win any of the daily prizes, but I’m in the running for some of the overall prizes, all of which are pretty cool. The ROCKR trainer looks pretty neat, and a year of TrainerRoad will be nice.  Of course, any of them would be really nice addition to my pain cave.

15. For anyone wondering what videos might be a good recovery, checkout MountainCruises.com to cruise through Yellowstone National Park for an hour and twenty minutes on your bike trainer.