Tour of Sufferlandria - One Rider's Experience

The Tour of Sufferlandria is Sufferfest’s annual virtual stage race where cyclists from all over the world retreat to their personal pain caves, congregate in group centers dubbed Sufferlandrian Embassies, sound proof the walls of their room, fortify the floors with extra towels, and partake in a week of suffering on two wheels.

To officially enter the Tour of Sufferlandria required a minimum $10 donation to their preferred charity partner, Davis Phinney Foundation (DPF), to assist those living with Parkinson's Disease. Over the past few years of Tour of Sufferlandria over $600,000 has been contributed to DPF.

Horrible planning left me 20 minutes short of completing the nine stage, 13 hour long, virtual tour of Sufferfest's mythical country Sufferlandria. After a week of chasing Vincenzo Nibali up mountain passes and gritting teeth to stay on Peter Sagan's wheel over cobblestones, it was a Daddy Daughter Dance that ultimately stuck a fork in me and my quest to complete the Tour of Sufferlandria.

Leaving the last 20 minutes of the final stage - the three hour long Kitchen Sink - on the table denied me receiving Sufferfest's digital badge showing completion of the tour, but the 779 minutes of riding, much of which hovered around functional threshold power (FTP, one of the many Training Peaks' terms used) level, was the real prize and the fitness gained could not be taken away. So last Sunday, the only thing that truly suffered were my dance skills to Katy Perry's greatest hits on tired, wobbly legs trying to match moves with my daughters.

Besides the good deed of contributing to this great cause, riders are automatically entered to win oodles of prizes the staff at Sufferfest lined up with their partners. This year, prizes ranged from Wahoo trainers and a Wattbike to coaching consultation with Neal Henderson from Apex Coaching.

This year’s Tour of Sufferlandria started Saturday, February 3rd and ended Sunday, February 11th. The race route was announced a few weeks beforehand with a catchy video and buzz of the routes difficulty started shortly afterwards on their dedicated Facebook page.

ToS 2018 Official Route Announcement from The Sufferfest on Vimeo.

Tour of Sufferlandria was conceptualized and first ran in 2013. Each stage includes one, or more, of Sufferfest’s produced videos. Videos include real race footage from pro tour cycling events, music matched up to the desired effort, and text overlays providing coached guidance with the occasional motivational (or smacktalkable) phrase urging riders to strive for greatness. A rider has a generous 50 hour window to complete each stage.

This was my third year to take part and I noticed a few new additions this year on Sufferfest’s app. Each stage had it’s own specific video in the app’s library. Sufferfest’s staff did the dirty work in editing together videos when a stage called for two videos to be completed back to back. This saved the rider the hassle of having to do this on the fly while cross-eyed and seeing double. This was the case for the weekend stages including Stage 1 (Who Dares + The Rookie), Stage 2 (The Shovel + Power Station), Stage 8 (Butter + Thin Air) and Stage 9 (Kitchen Sink).

Another helpful addition the Sufferfest team made to their app since the last time I participated in their tour was the option to ride videos at a percentage of FTP value. In the past, once a rider entered their FTP value, videos had to be completed at 100% of FTP. This made nearly every ride a go-to-the-well serious of efforts. Being able to ride at a less-than-100-percent makes their sessions no longer simply for the insane.

Sufferfest has partnered with world renowned endurance coach Neal Henderson who crafted out a thoughtful plan, dissecting four different ways to tackle Tour of Sufferlandria. The different ways to tackle the virtual tour range from those not wanting to compete but motivated to raise funds for the charity to completing the stages at less than full throttle all the way up to "The Nuclear Option" where riders attempt to complete all stages at 100% intensity.

One week prior to the start I needed to update my riding fitness profile parameters so completed Sufferfest's highly debated 4-Dimensional Power test. Their Full Frontal video includes an hour long workout with four key test efforts: 5 second sprint (Neuromuscular Power), 5 minute test (Maximal Aerobic Power), 20 minute test (Functional Threshold Power), and 1 minute test (Anaerobic Capacity). The purpose of this test is to establish a rider's profile, showing a rider which areas they excel at and which need work. Sufferfest provides the option of tailoring future workouts to help strengthen those areas of weakness in an effort to add as many arrows to a rider's quiver.

Two days after Tour of Sufferlandria I slipped back into the pain cave for another 4DP test up to see if I could track any improvements from the concentrated cycling block. Being the third time to take the test, I think I am smarter about pacing and allocating efforts, and generally, it felt better than it had ten days earlier, though values were in the same ballpark.

4DP pre Tour of Sufferlandria:
5 second: 612 watts
5 minute: 352 watts
20 minute: 326 watts
1 minute: 469 watts

4DP post Tour of Sufferlandria:
5 second: 580 watts (-32)
5 minute: 389 watts (+37)
20 minute: 323 watts (-3)
1 minute: 458 watts (-11)

Though test efforts show values remained more or less unchanged, putting seven consecutive days in the saddle was a challenge for me mentally, physically and logistically. Completing 97.5% of the Tour of Sufferlandria was a win in my book.

Slowtwitch had a solid contingent of readers who tackled the Tour of Sufferlandria challenge and when prompted to share their experiences from the virtual tour, 14 riders obliged. I put a series of questions out to them and will share their responses tomorrow. Stay tuned.