Way back in 2011, I stumbled upon this little website, The Sufferfest devoted to indoor training on your bicycle, a/k/a the Torture Chamber. At the time, there were only a few videos but what appealed to me was that the structured workouts were set against actual racing footage. I could imagine myself climbing next to Alberto Contador or Fabio Cancellara and I worked harder than ever, achieving a level of fitness on the bike that I never had and quickly became a devotee. There’s also a sense of community in the Facebook groups. We cheer for each other, we bemoan the efforts, and laugh over each other’s exploits. I’ve made many virtual friendships through this group, and hope to one day meet more of them in person.
After completing several centuries in one year, I set my sights on the ultimate test: becoming a Knight of Sufferlandria. This would entail completing 10 video workouts in a row, with 10 minute breaks between each video. There are quite a few that are less than 50 minutes, but many are right around the hour mark. That is 10 hours on the bike – in one day. I didn’t have any qualms about riding that long and in 2015, the day after my 45th birthday, I got on my bike rode through 7 hours of the hard, repeated efforts in each video – at 100%. Six hours at or above FTP. Big mistake. I cried during the break between 6 and 7. I could barely turn the pedals for 7 and ultimately, couldn’t complete 8.
In the following two years, I’ve dealt with injury and illness and the stress of writing my first and second novels, but the specter of the failed Knighthood was always in the back of my mind.
I had set out to do something but I gave up and I do not give up.
This summer, The Sufferfest asked for Sufferlandrians to test out their new Mental Training program. I jumped at it – mental focus off the bike is a huge issue for me. As I thought of what could be my Mt. Sufferlandria – my ultimate goal – Knighthood was the first thing on my mind. I would not give up this time.
For two months, I trained hard. Then the setbacks came. I couldn’t go to my primer – The Sea Gull Century in early October because of my son’s emergency brain surgery, his second in two months (this is a WHOLE other story that maybe I’ll go into at another time.) The weather didn’t play nice for my long weekend rides outside, so I focused on indoor ride time. Time seemed to speed up and suddenly, it was November 12th and my quest was looming large.
Last Saturday, November 18th, the day after my 47th birthday, my best friend, Bob at my side, I set out to complete my goal and raise some money for an organization started by one of my heroes: former pro cyclist, Kathryn Bertine’s Homestretch Foundation. For each $20 donation, the giver would receive a book and Homestretch would receive all of the proceeds – that’s $10-$11 – depending on where the paperback would be shipped. More, if the giver decided to forego the book or request the Kindle version, which most have done. That’s okay with me. It was more about the donation anyway.
My Twitter page has my power profiles, which are somewhat pathetic, since I started out at 70% of FTP (I listened to advice this time), but there are 10 of them.
The first image is when we started out. The second, is at 7 hours. The third was when we finished. According to Bob’s cycling computer, we rode 112 miles in 9:42 hours: almost double the time we have ridden this distance. The only thing that hurt that day was my ass.
Come Monday morning when I had to teach my indoor cycling class, 70% was about all I could manage. Wednesday morning was the same and now, a week later, I finally succumb to the virus my husband had been fighting for the past three weeks.
What makes me feel better is this, taped to the wall in front of my computer and the fact that I raised $120 for Homestretch.