2016 Tour of Sufferlandria Recap

A Tour of What?

So. Last year a friend of mine and I participated in the nine-day indoor cycling event known as the Tour of Sufferlandria. All jokes and silliness aside, this event primarily is designed to raise money for the Davis Phinney Foundation. See, Davis Phinney was a professional cyclist who was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease. Growing up, there were friends of mine who were certainly fans of this excellent cyclist. The Sufferfest, produces videos that focus on various aspects of your cycling. They make jokes in the videos about pain, misery, and floggings by minions as you ride through and are cheered as a Sufferlandrian. Yes, cyclists have a sense of humor.

While last year’s event was my first Tour, this year I have a power meter and am not using Virtual Power (power extrapolated based on wheel speed). This would ensure that sprints truly were sprints, and threshold efforts really were threshold. Despite coming into this multi-day cycling event with limited base fitness, I still was in better shape than last year. The goal, of course, was to complete each day at 100% of the prescribed intensity (as noted by TrainerRoad.com). TrainerRoad sets the intensity off your Functional Threshold Power (FTP). Before the Tour started, I made sure to test my FTP with the new power meter to make sure I was starting off with current fitness on current equipment.

I like to think of this nine day tour as my cycling training camp. I was about to slam a heavy training load on my legs and see how they reacted. For each stage, I’ll give an overview and include the duration as well as Training Stress Score (TSS). As defined on TrainingPeaks website, the following is what TSS metrics mean.

  • < 150 – low (recovery generally complete by following day)
  • 150-300 – medium (some residual fatigue may be present the next day, but gone by 2nd day)
  • 300-450 – high (some residual fatigue may be present even after 2 days)
  • > 450 – very high (residual fatigue lasting several days likely)

Read on for more.

The Stages

Stage 1 – ISLAGIATT

Duration: 1:56:39
TSS: 134

Stage 1 - ISLAGIATT
Stage 1 – ISLAGIATT

Also named “It Seemed Like A Good Idea At The Time”, this stage was nearly two hours and focused on endurance. There were several lengthy intervals mostly below FTP. Although, in a few cases, the interval crept upwards with a sprint or an over FTP segment. I certainly felt like my form on my bike needed some work. Things like getting more comfortable in the aero position, getting a more circular pedal stroke, and keeping the back flat and engaging my core were all newly assigned goals for the next nine days. During the workout I generally felt good, but waking up on Day 2 my legs were sore. My initial thoughts were this was going to be a LONG nine days.

Stage 2 – Revolver x 2

Duration: 1:31:17
TSS: 143

Stage 2a - Revolver
Stage 2a – Revolver
Stage 2b - Revolver
Stage 2b – Revolver

This stage started with my legs feeling a bit sore. The workout was a double feature of Revolver. The workout is pretty simple, after a warmup, you have 15 x 1:00 intervals with 1:00 rest. Of course the intervals are above FTP. I slogged through the first Revolver pretty well. I fell a little short on the second one holding my power numbers. By the end of this video my legs were most certainly not happy. I spent some time getting to know my old friend “The Stick.” I remember thinking, that perhaps I wasn’t in as good of shape as I thought I was on Day 1.

Stage 3 – TBTITW

Duration: 0:47:09
TSS: 64

Stage 3 - TBTITW
Stage 3 – TBTITW

Also named “The Best Thing In The World”, this video focuses on race-style simulation. Constant acceleration was a key theme here. While this was less than an hour, my legs felt cooked. The only help was despite a few over FTP intervals, a lot if not most of this stage was well below FTP. A few hours afterwards, the legs felt fatigued, but not terrible.

Stage 4 – TGTTOS

Duration: 1:31:33
TSS: 84

Stage 4 - TGTTOS
Stage 4 – TGTTOS

Also named “To Get To The Other Side”, this was a stunningly beautiful video. While an hour and a half long, it was nearly ALL well below FTP and served as an amazing recovery from the first three stages. This was co-produced by The Col Collective. The Col Collective goes out and rides up (and down) some of the world’s most epic mountain passes. You basically followed a guy riding up a variety of mountains all around the world. Shot in HD, this was just plain gorgeous. This hour and a half flew by and my legs were super recovered by the end of this. The video focused on form and taking you through beautiful climbs. Sufferfest has a short 45 minute form video called the Elements of Style, but I always found it wasn’t really long enough to get a workout in. This one was just right.

Awesome Scenery
Awesome Scenery
Riding Up Mountains
Riding Up Mountains

Stage 5 – The Wretched

Duration: 0:49:23
TSS: 68

Stage 5 - The Wretched
Stage 5 – The Wretched

This stage was under an hour, but make no mistake, it had a healthy amount of at or above threshold riding in it. In fact, the screenshots of the stages are from TrainerRoad. See that little red and yellow medal? This was the first of several stages that set a new power PR for me. In this case, it was a 30 minute PR. This stage was about simulated climbing. Even with the above threshold riding, a lot of it was low cadence and somehow didn’t nuke my legs. I felt strong and fresh when this stage was over. It was motivating that at the halfway point I was feeling a lot stronger than I did on the first few stages. The next few stages were about to get really, really fun, with a lot of personal bests.

Stage 6 – The Rookie

Duration: 0:54:42
TSS: 83

Stage 6 - The Rookie
Stage 6 – The Rookie

The Rookie is a fun video which focuses on you, the rider, trying out for the Giant-Shimano team. There are several over/under threshold efforts in this video including two sprints. This is a road race style race simulation with “attacks” and varying intensities up and down over a 3 x 10:00 set of intervals. While it is short, it’s a pretty funny video. I wound up setting several new-for-me PRs on the 5 second, 10 second, 1 minute, 2 minute, and 5 minute power outputs.

Stage 7 – Do As You’re Told

Duration: 0:44:27
TSS: 94

Stage 7 - Do as You're Told
Stage 7 – Do as You’re Told

This was a stage that was focused on speed. It had several above threshold efforts including a few sprints. I wound up setting several new-for-me PRs on the 5 second, 10 second, 20 second, 30 second, 1 minute, 2 minute, and 5 minute power outputs. I remember thinking that I felt really strong and that stages 8 and 9 were going to be great. I actually was looking forward to re-testing my FTP after the Tour since I felt like I had some solid improvement just since the last FTP test.

Stage 8 – A Very Dark Place & Nine Hammers

Duration: 1:53:19
TSS: 224

Stage 8a - A Very Dark Place
Stage 8a – A Very Dark Place
Stage 8b - Nine Hammers
Stage 8b – Nine Hammers

So it was funny. By Stage 7, I was feeling really good. I felt refreshed and was ready for these final two stages. Before the Tour, I watched this YouTube video and remember thinking at the end of Stage 7, that while the German was extremely funny in the video, perhaps there was some truth to it. See, the first two stages were tough, but then Stages 3-7 weren’t that bad.

Then we hit Stage 8. A Very Dark Place essentially had a few blow-out sprints in the beginning with 5 x 4:00 over threshold efforts. I wound up setting several new-for-me PRs on the 5 second, 10 second, 20 second, 30 second, 1 minute, 2 minute, and 5 minute, 10 minute, and 30 minute power outputs. Cool! The efforts were tough, but still, I felt really strong.

I’ve done Nine Hammers several times. This is a TOUGH video. It has nine intervals at threshold or at VO2 Max effort. I came off this stage feeling accomplished, but also thinking tomorrow’s last stage is going to be hard.

Stage 9 – Power Station & Violator

Duration: 1:58:41
TSS: 199

Stage 9a - Power Station
Stage 9a – Power Station
Stage 9b - Violator
Stage 9b – Violator

The last and final stage! We started out with Power Station, one of Sufferfest’s new videos. This video had 11 “walls” roughly each at threshold. The good news was, this was a low-cadence video. I honestly came out of this video feeling pretty solid…that is until I started Violator.

Violator, in my opinion is the hardest Sufferfest video I’ve done to date. It has 64, yes 64 sprint intervals ranging from 5, 10, and 15 seconds. These sprints come in three sets and looks like this

  • Set 1 (6x interval time recovery)
    • 12 x :05 secs w/ :30 secs recoveries
    • 8 x :10 secs w/ 1:00 recoveries
    • 6 x :15 secs w/ 1:30 recoveries
  • Set 2 (3x interval time recovery)
    • 10 x :05 secs w/ :15 secs recoveries
    • 8 x :10 secs w/ :30 recoveries
    • 4 x :15 secs w/ 1:30 recoveries
  • Set 3 (recovery = interval time)
    • 8 x :05 secs w/ :05 secs recoveries
    • 6 x :10 secs w/ :10 recoveries
    • 2 x :15 secs w/ :15 recoveries

Let’s just point out the obvious, that by the time you get to set 3, you are nuked. Totally nuked. This was a blow-0ut, leave everything on the road, nothing left stage. Amazingly, I was still able to hit a PR of 1,021 watts in Violator.

Before and After Violator
Before and After Violator

Once done, I was super happy with how this all went.

Tour Stats & Summary

So looking at all the data, here’s what I found.

Total Duration: 12:06:48
Total Distance: 181.43 Miles
Total Calories: 8,814
Total 9-Day TSS: 1,092.3

As I looked at the stats, the PRs, and the way I felt, I am pleased with how this went. As recommended, I took a few days off and made sure I was refreshed to take the first FTP test after the Tour. Did it work?

FTP Before & After
FTP Before & After

Yea…I’d say so. A 30 day FTP improvement of 30 watts and about 15.5%. I’ll take it! Sure, it wasn’t easy and yes, swimming and running took a bit of a back seat. But, I’m very pleased with the results. Now to continue training at the new FTP and continue the training and progress. Here we go!