Friday, 25 October 2013

Suffer & Obey

I have to apologise for not recently adding to my word vomit of a blog, but I have a) Not been able to think of anything of any quantifiable interest to write about, and b) I have been lazy. But recently during one of my moments  physical exertion I had a slightly (very) wheezy and poorly formed thought.....

As the Summer draws to a close, the sun sets earlier, temperatures drop and the rain begins to fall there inherently becomes a change in many people’s training tactics. Gone are the long evening rides, runs along the sun soaked riverbanks and garden based boot camping activities. In its place, during the hard cold winter nights, for me is “Garage training”.

As I have said before, I love my bike (and can tolerate running - just), but I’m not prepared to risk life and limb in the pursuit of fitness on dark, wet icy roads, I'm just not! Therefore a change to lunch break runs and indoor cycling is required.

Indoor cycling comes generally in three forms:

Spinning: Performed on a specialised variable resistance exercise bike (see pic). A line of bikes are straddled by sweaty, panting people, whilst a class leader or “Trainer” barks out instructions such and changes in tempo, resistance or seating position, to give a varied, intense exercise routine. A favorite of middle aged mums and people that don't actually have a bike

Turbo Trainers: Turbo trainers are essentially a bolt on resistance stand for your real life bike. Attached to the rear wheel it will turn pretty much any road bike (or Mountain bike should you wish) into a static instrument of torture (without the need of balance). There are many configurations but essentially they all use the same premise.


Rollers: Unlike other types of bicycle trainers, rollers do not attach to the bicycle frame, and the rider must balance himself/herself on the rollers while training, this is easier said than done. Bicycle rollers normally consist of three cylinders, drums, or "rollers" (two for the rear wheel and one for the front), on top of which the bicycle sits. A belt connects one of the rear rollers to the front roller, causing the front wheel of the bicycle to spin when the bicycle is pedaled.

I don’t have the time or money to either go to a spinning class, or buy my own spinning bike, so that immediately rules out that option for my activity during the winter months. So, initially I purchased a set of Elite Parabolic rollers. I have already extensively blogged about my roller trials and tribulations (here). That was all well and good but it became a bit monotonous and to be honest, after an hour or so of sweat dripping onto the slick plastic rollers, a bit dangerous. I needed something else, easier, safer and with the ability to put in the hours without falling off........

So on my next monthly/weekly/daily trip to wiggle.co.uk I bought an end of line Elite turbo trainer. It wasn’t a top end big ticket item, just an entry level trainer with solid reviews. Not having received the call from Sir Dave to confirm my Team Sky ride in 2014 I didn't have to worry about the upcoming Tour De France, so that’s all I needed to keep me happy. Two days later the slightly dented package arrived (Including the critical complimentary mini packet of Haribo). So it was straight out to the garage that night to give it a whirl.

I took off my Shimano/Continental wheels and strapped my stock Bontranger wheels and Tyres onto the bike to use with the Turbo as I had read that they drastically reduce the life span of a tyre, and with the speed I intended to go, I wouldn't want to melt the good tyres! You can get special “Turbo Tyres” but to be honest I didn't see the need.

 Initially I thought the turbo was a lot easier than the rollers to put in the saddle time, however with the built in resistance, after an hour of whirring and wheezing like an asthmatic vacuum cleaner  I still found it hard to judge any comparative speed/distance to my ride. This was due to me having to gearing up more than normal.

For a better indication of what I was doing I took the Cateye Strada cadence monitor I had laying about in a box of generic cycling stuff (Everyone should have one of these boxes) and cannibalised it into a turbo mounted cadence and rear wheel speed sensor/monitor, I even wall mounted the readout. I felt like Rick Moranis in “Honey I Shrunk The Kids”, only taller, better looking and less clever. But I got my wish of a readout! I like to watch numbers and data as I ride, no matter how derisory it is...... After putting in a few weeks of Roller/Turbo training, I received a Facebook link from Oli (The Godfather of bad ideas).

New message from Oli -The sign of a bad idea

Having recently rejected the ideas of “Bodypump classes” and “TRX classes” (I think he may be growing ovaries) he would again prove to be the force that provoked me to take on something terrifying, tortuous and bewildering. “The Sufferfest”. I couldn't wait...........


The Sufferfest is a downloadable DVD training program that simulates different racing conditions and situations. Each of the programs  have their own structured high-intensity interval workouts with focus on varying elements of riding: Speed, recovery, endurance and, I suspect pain thresholds....



There are numerous videos to choose from, and sadly my Sufferfest library only extends to 3 routines: “Angels”, “Revolver” and “The Wretched”. All of which are equally brutal and puke inducing in their own way. “Angels” focuses on hill climbs, lactic acid educing high resistance and thigh burning. “Revolver”, Speed and recovery using repeat sprints (One to get your heart exploding). “The Wretched”, a compressed race simulation based on one a climbing section of the Tour de France.

I’m not going to go into explicit detail on each of the videos and bore you. I will instead guide you through my experience of just one. “The Wretched”.

The sign of the devil........
Last Monday I thought it would be a good time to do the “first-hand experience” for you all to share with me. So I finished work, trundled home, threw the kids into bed and sent the misses off to her almost daily Jazzercise class.
I fired down the pre-exercise drink, greased/crow-barred/squashed and levered myself into my Lycra and trotted out to the garage/gym with my laptop tucked under my arm. 

Once the video was ready and the fan set to MAXIMUM,  I strapped myself into my bike and I was off!

The first thing “The Wretched” informed me was of my “Inadequate training” and the fact that I was obviously “Not living up to my potential”, luckily it seemed, this was the perfect way to either a)confirm or b)disprove these atrocious claims from my now abusive laptop! I had 50 minutes to show to that Laptop and the world my hero status that I achieve on a daily basis in my garage........

As the video starts the warm up begins, 5 minutes of nice casual cycling. Nothing too untoward, not even slightly brutal. But don’t worry, that will be coming. Once the oil in my creaky quickly aging limbs is warm and the dodgy knee is operational the race really begins. A complete stage of the TdF compact into a 35 minute blender of pain, sweat, tears and occasionally vomit (Yes I train with a bucket next to me).

The first attack of the stage comes early on, with the demands already being made at me by the laptop, which seemed to be reveling in its newly acquired “Dictator” status”!
“ATTACK”
“STAND UP”
“SIT DOWN”
“DON’T LET THEM GET AWAY”
“ATTACK”



15 minutes in and I’m already feeling the pace of the TdF. Some brief respite of a descent was quickly ended by the demand that I “Earn your bus-fare home”.

“CLIMB”

Came the demand! So I did, hard and fast, the pre-workout drink now had started to reverse around my insides, I felt as though I was about to lose precious sustenance. “The Wretched” had me all over the place: Standing, sitting, Aero, on the drops. It was all I could do to stay on my bike, not to mention with the other bikes...... The brutal climb resulted in me being awarded the “King of the mountains” title. Not a very popular title within my garage, as there are not many mountains, but a title I will take none-the-less.

Another descent gave me a brief recovery and allowed all bodily fluids to reset themselves in the right and proper locations. I even had the luxury to take on extra fluids! Then, the final climb.......

Pitted against a couple of “also-rans” called Jens Voigt and Alberto Contador.... never heard of them. The pain and agony of the brutal climb was about to reach a climax (and not in a good way). The continuous change from standing to seated to standing to seated was burning up my legs but I wasn't going to allow these guys to beat me, who do they think they are! I managed to drop Contador, but this Voight chap seemed to be a quite determined character. With seconds left I was putting it all on the line, breathing, vision and general well being all seemed to be an afterthought, I could do no more. Then I saw it, the finish line. Ten more seconds of agony was all it required!!!!!!!!

Yes, I was victorious! The hero of the garage!

Who are ya, who are ya, who are ya!!!!
Just being able to complete the cool-down 4 minutes period, I un-elegantly dismounted my trusty steed and sat on the sweat spattered floor to take off my shoes. It had been a tough ride, but enjoyable. If there is one thing to make me smile it will be coming out the other end of an utter beast of a session. Although it only lasts 50 minutes, it will undoubtedly have you doubled over in exhaustion by the end of it.

So there it is, my part review, part blog, part diary of the Sufferfest videos coupled with the fact that I am too easily lead, whether it be good or bad for me. If you fancy a pop at the toughest training videos around they can be found here: Yeah, I wanna taste the pain alternatively: I can't I'm scared

A big shout out to this Sufferfest user (video courtesy of Karl Wooffindin), I found on a daily foray into the inerweb-world

He has it. Do you?

1 comment:

  1. I obviously need to push myself harder on these Sufferfests, no vomiting for me yet!

    ReplyDelete