Sunday, 14 February 2016

My first trip to hell aka Sufferlandria

A few weeks ago I saw a tweet from Wattbike asking for people to be members of #TeamWattbike for the upcoming Tour of Sufferlandria. I decided to apply to be a member. Thankfully I was accepted.

Now for a little information for those not aware of Sufferfest.

The Tour of Sufferlandria is the "Greatest Grand Tour of a Mythical Nation", which is run by Sufferfest to raise money for the Davis Phinney Foundation (if you feel like donating to this you can do at this link). Here is the Official Tour announcement. for this years tour.

Sufferlandria is the mythical nation which is featured in the Sufferfest videos.

I have contemplated training with Sufferfest videos for some time as the concept intrigued me. You can download from a selection of 25 cycling training videos by visiting, they also do running and triathlon videos but I haven't used these as I don't have access to a treadmill. Recently they have released an app which means you can have access to all video for a small monthly fee. With the current exchange rate it works out at £6.91 a month which is a bargain in my eyes.

Before being accepted onto #TeamWattbike I had completed exactly zero videos as they were never in my plan but after being accepted I thought it prudent to try one out. I picked Blender as this was one of the three videos I bought over the Christmas period.

I decided* to complete Blender with a hangover to increase the suffering.
*decided is a stretch, I overindulged on a night out and this was a stupid idea but you have to live life

After completing Blender I believe I got lulled into a false sense of security. I enjoyed the video and found it no harder than my current training. I genuinely couldn't see what all the fuss was about.

I then got ill so didn't get to practice any other videos.

I finally recovered from my cold with two days to go before the start of the tour. Hardly the ideal prep but it is what it is.

I analysed the tour and thought I knew what I would find hard.

My initial thoughts were that I would find stage 2 really hard and stage 9 would be my favourite stage. None of the other stages particularly worried me after completing Blender.

The tour started on the 6th February and there were highs and lows for me. This blog is a day by day breakdown of my first trip to hell (aka Sufferlandria).

Stage 1 - It Seemed Like A Good Idea At The Time (ISLAGIATT)

Unfortunately this was one of the lows of my Tour. I tried using the app on my 5 year old iPad but unfortunately it crashed. I then did not have enough time to replay the video due to plans with friends. I was confined to the Grupetto (the name given to the group of cyclists in a road cycling race who form a large group behind the leading peloton) overnight but knew if I didn't get too drunk with friends I would be fine after Stage 2

Stats - Distance 18.8 mi, time - 50 mins, speed - 22.6mph, power - 198W

Stage 2 - The end of ISLAGIATT and Double Revolver

It turns out I did overindulge on my night out and with the extra 70 minutes of ISLAGIATT, my date with Double Revolver filled me with more dread. 32 times 60 second all out efforts did not appeal. After about 20 I wanted to throw something at my telly but I got the job done and rejoined the main group. My legs were ruined when I removed myself from my Wattbike.

Stats - Distance 58.9 mi, time - 163 mins, speed - 21.6mph, power - 194W

Stage 3 - The Best Thing In The World

This was the absolute low point for me. I could not comprehend how hard this 48 minute session was. I mean seriously, its 48 minutes. My pre tour date with Blender had lulled me into a false sense of security. This video made me realise what true suffering is about. I hated all 2800 painful seconds of the atrocious video. I am sure this was in part due to having heavy legs from yesterdays near three hour session. This painful 48 minutes taught me to respect the videos. I even tried spinning my legs out for another 8 minutes to try and heal them.

Stats - Distance 20.4 mi, time - 54 mins, speed - 22.4mph, power - 209W

Stage 4 - To Get To The Other Side

Not my best moment. I got onto the Wattbike hungry after a tough day at work for this "recovery" ride and had to peel myself off it after a massive bonk. Combined with my Garmin dying after 72 mins meant I did not enjoy this "recovery" ride at all.

Stats - Distance 24.8 mi, time - 72 mins (Garmin died), speed - 20.5mph, power - 168W

Stage 5 - The Wretched

Given I had had two bad days in the tour I was dreading this stage all day at work. I was so relieved when I enjoyed it. It wasn't enjoyable but I felt strong, I'm guessing that was thanks to the "recovery" ride yesterday. It was such a relief to enjoy a session after 3 tough days. One of the few high points of the tour.

Stats - Distance 19.9 mi, time - 49 mins, speed - 24.2mph, power - 237W

Stage 6 - The Rookie

A chance to try out for Team Giant Shimano. 55 minutes including 3 10 minute race efforts. Time to get some hard work done. It was a tough session but by no means the toughest. I remember burying myself on the last sprint and my vision blurring but I felt strong. I am definitely getting used to this suffering.

Stats - Distance 20.9 mi, time - 54 mins, speed - 22.9mph, power - 215W

Stage 7 - Do As You're Told

Wow. What a toughie. It doesn't sound too hard but boy was it. You do 22 intervals all above 7.5/10 effort of different lengths with different rest intervals. At a mere 44 minutes, it was the shortest  stage of this years tour but boy does it pack in the suffering.

Stats - Distance 16.3 mi, time - 44 mins, speed - 22mph, power - 200W

Stage 8 - A Very Dark Place & 9 Hammers

I could not muster the mojo or motivation to get on the bike for this session. At just under 2 hours with 14 efforts, it had me a little worried after spending nearly 8 hours pedalling so far in the tour. I can't quite describe the horror of this session. The first 5 efforts in A Very Dark Place were fine but absolutely sapped the energy in my legs. The 9 efforts of 9 Hammers were disgusting, I wanted to quit in fact I nearly did. My legs had nothing for some of the efforts, I was suffering horribly. It was so hard. Whoever decided to pair these workouts is not on my Christams Card list. It wasn't pretty but I got the job done (just) thankfully.

Stats - Distance 37.1 mi, time - 107 mins, speed - 20.8mph, power - 201W

Stage 9 - Power Station & Violator

Before the tour began, this was the one session I was looking forward to. A double session combining low cadence/high power intervals with sprints. My two favourite things to do on my Wattbike. I loved Power Station. It was just enjoyable. Violator however hurt me. 64 sprints of either 5, 10 or 15 seconds with differing rests was beautifully horrible. I was so relieved after the last sprint.

Stats - Distance 39.9 mi, time - 120 mins, speed - 19.9mph, power - 201W

So there is is my first Tour of Sufferlandria completed. Like I said before it had some highs and some lows. I am pleased I decided to do it.

In total my stats for the 9 days are as follows

Distance - 257 miles
Time - 11:56
Speed (average) - 21.5mph
Power (average) - 202W

I fully intend on integrating these videos into my training going forward, I really can't believe it works out at £6.91/month for using the app. 

Will I be back next year? You bet I will. I think the last 9 days has made me stronger (both physically and mentally). I just need to test that out by doing an FTP test when I am fully recovered as my legs are trashed tonight.

I did the tour to boost my cycling ahead of going to Mallorca and the 12 hours in the saddle will have done me no harm whatsoever.

Thanks to Wattbike for the opportunity to take place.

Thanks to Sufferfest for the awesome videos and organisation involved in creating the Tour.

Thanks for reading,


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