I stumbled across The Sufferfest just before the holidays last month. It was a Tuesday, and I had officially resigned myself from ever riding my tattered, old Schwinn Spinner while watching a tattered, old Carmichael Training Systems DVD.
Oh the sheer agony of it!
I literally would rather bleed from my eyes, watch golf all weekend or estimate how many Cheerios are in a family-size box, than watch another Carmichael Training DVD astride that damn Spinner. ….
Good old Google turned up a couple of saviors that fateful day and I now have a new lease on life. I now happily tear through indoor workouts multiple times a week. Why? Because I understand now that I must Beat My Ass Today to Kick Yours Tomorrow. …
Today, I’m a changed woman – I’m about to do my first indoor trainer race/tour: The Tour of Sufferlandria – Nine days of competing on my new trainer with 950+ of My Closest Friends.
Tomorrow, Saturday, Jan. 26, 2013, marks the start. I’ve never met a single person comprising the 950+ peloton, but I’ve read with interest that they hail from all over the world. We’re racing for a make-believe country (Sufferlandria) in this tour, which is run by a fastidious and fictitious race director, Gunter Von Agony.
My 950+ competitors and I will be competing with each other via an online digital training platform called Trainerroad.com.
Through Trainerroad and Sufferfest, I’m now versed in the digital and social di
mension of cycling training. I’m infatuated with the access to the “big” data, with the community and the sheer entertainment that training has become to me.
First, the data factor:
Trainerroad offers instant feedback on exertion in structured workouts, via VirtualPower, an option available to athletes who don’t have, or want to invest a lot of money in a traditional power meter. Trainerroad is clear in its delineation of the two systems: power meters are more accurate. But the VirtualPower option, if paired with the right trainer, is accurate within 3 average watts. You can read more about the benefits of training with VirtualPower here, in the Trainerroad forums.
VirtualPower measures power at the trainer. It’s a system powered by a Garmin Ant + USB Stick, a Garmin Speed and Cadence Sensor and in my case, a Garmin 800 road cycling computer with heart-rate monitor and a Kinetic by Kurt Rock & Roll Trainer.
This sounds complicated, doesn’t it. It was a little intimidating to me, the Queen of Not Reading Directions. So, I bribed The Husband to help me set up the ANT+ speed sensor and the Rock & Roll trainer and my road bike. He said it was easy enough.
From there, I went into Trainerroad and selected my trainer from the list of power sources. The system requires that a first ride be completed for automatic threshold test measurement, which is captured in the system. All workouts going forward are based on this assessment. Essentially, plugging in the Ant+ USB drive, putting on the heart rate monitor strap, turning on my Garmin 800 cycling computer and starting to pedal in front of my computer (which has the Trainerroad app open), enables me to do the workout and have my results / progress tracked in the workout and after in Trainerroad. Brilliant! While I ride, my speed is converted to power based on the known power curve for my trainer.
Every month or six weeks, depending on your goals, Trainerroad advises that you retake the threshold test to ensure that progression. The analytics provided during and post ride are, well, addicting.
But not as addicting as the community and entertainment factor provided by Sufferfest.
The Sufferfest movies were an immediate hit in my household. Essentially, they enable you to “Race Against the Pros in the Biggest Races in the World,” and throughout the workout, there’s this running coaching and commentary basically accusing you of being slower than your grandmother in interval training, calling you a “Pansie,” “Sissy” with regularity, and advising you to “lose the skirt” now and then(the Sufferfest series is skewed to men, but it’s still hilarious).
The workouts are named in an inviting manner: “Hell Hath No Fury,” “Downward Spiral,” “A Very Dark Place.” How could you NOT be intrigued?
The Sufferfest does an exceptional job incorporating men’s and women’s pro road racing footage into results-driven workouts that range from about 30 minutes to 1:20. Check out “The Wretched.” Better yet, here’s a short video about The Sufferfest.
I believe it was the Sufferfest blog that first told me about The Tour of Sufferlandria. … I will be uploading tour progress to my Trainerroad.com account, my Strava account, found on the “About” page of Mountiandiva.net, and to Garmin Connect.
Through this journey, I am absolutely SURE that I am going to kick the sh*t out of it in the Iron Horse Bicycle Classic this year. The poor ladies in Cat 4 35-44. …
I now know that heart rate monitoring is only a sliver of the equation when it comes to training and intensity during training. I now understand the importance of power and exertion. Perception is often much larger than reality in this regard. Here are some resources to provide more context:
Joe Friel’s blog – Is a Power Meter Necessary?
Another good resource is Joe Friel’s book: The Power Meter Handbook A User’s Guide for Cyclists and Triathletes, available here: