How to get through the Tour of Sufferlandria

For the past two years, Sufferlandrian triathletes Elle and Webb have organised Sufferfestakuh. This cherished event sees them ride a 'fest video every day for 10 days. It's a bit like the Tour of Sufferlandria, so we asked them for some tips on how to prepare for, and get through, The tour. You can read more about their adventures as their blog, Triathletes Journey.  

Elle: Elle is fairly new to cycling. Although she has competed in triathlons since 2009, she just did her first road race last year. Even though she proven herself in endurance events (the Boston Marathon, a Half Ironman and a notable 9-hour charity ride in non-stop scattered wind and rain from an off-coast hurricane), she prefers her workouts and races short and fast. Her motto: What is a "recovery ride?"

Webb: Webb tends to prefer longer events because a long event means more time doing it. He also has a propensity for agreeing to do races before he actually knows what training or other requirements it may entail. More than once he has shown up for races and after surveying the other competitors said aloud, "Um, I think these guys trained for this."

The 'fest: How fit do you need to be to do the Tour?

Elle: You need to have a good, solid base of aerobic fitness. And give it everything you've got. Then give it about 25% more...

Webb: I have to agree with this. You don't need to be a superstar athlete to survive this. You just need to know where you are currently with your own fitness and try not to be a hero, unless of course you are doing "Local Hero." If you have experience with cycling, you should treat it like a stage race. Oh you have never done a stage race before? Do you think you would try to kill every stage? Right, don't do that here either. It is hard but you put out the maximum effort you can so that you can complete each stage to move onto the next one while still being able to complete the entire Tour. If you don't know how to do that or what it feels like, well then, there is no better place to try it than in the comfort of your own Torture Chamber.

What kind of training do you need to do in advance of the Tour?

Elle: If you are able to do some/all of the videos beforehand, that's great, but not necessary. Also, be sure you can workout for an hour, 9 days in a row. Training could consist of 5-4 videos a week to prepare. ...Getting the Tour into your schedule is essential. You don't want to miss a stage just because you weren't properly organized.

Webb: Being able to ride for an hour a more a day for more than a week is a good measure. I think knowing the videos is ideal, but not required. If you have not done a video then you should strongly consider scaling back the effort. It is not unlike "looking before you leap." Doing videos back-to-back, if you leap you may not survive the next day or the day after. Just be smart. I don't think you need to do 4-5 videos/week. If you have done 2 videos with other riding 2 days a week you should be solid. If you have done less, you can still do it so long as you have some base fitness or past cycling experience. It really comes down to "Know thyself." Although, your sit bones would appreciate it if you gave them an opportunity to reacquaint themselves with your saddle before they go on the Tour.

What was the hardest part of getting through it?

Elle: The mental aspect can be tough, you have to make the decision to do, and just DO IT.  Also, be sure to use LOTS of chamois butter, as it can be very tough on the sensitive, saddle areas!

Webb: Not falling into the over-confidence trap. I make a point to talk about knowing your own fitness and scaling efforts because this past Sufferfestukah I did not. Through the first few days I was kicking ass and really surprising myself. Ahhh, there is the word, "surprising." If you are surprised at what a bad-ass you became in the off-season, you are not a bad-ass. You are about to become the Mayor of Overtrainerville. As for the mental aspect, that will likely be most people's issue because most people hate the turbo. I actually love the turbo trainer. That said, even for someone like me there will likely be at least one or two days where it will be hard to get on the bike because of other events in your life. Definitely try to plan ahead and foresee obstacles and challenges. If you know on Day 3 you'll be riding at night and Day 4 requires a morning session, make sure one of those days is even easier than you would normally go. (Also, it can help to have only 12 hour recovery between sessions, because that could mean a 36 hour recovery to the next session. Plan wisely.) There will come a time when fatigue will hit you out of nowhere. One day you are patting yourself on your back for not being so wretched and the next day you are double-checking your psi, flywheel resistance or lubing your chain because damnit, why is it so hard all-of-a-sudden. You gotta fight through it like a sprinter in the Alps. You don't have to try to win, you just need to make the time cut-off. Besides, "Everybody Hurts."

Looking at the Tour of Sufferlandria schedule, what days do you think will be the hardest?

Elle: There is No Try + Revolver!!!

Webb: No doubt. That one scares me.

What sort of nutrition should folks follow before, during and after each stage?

Elle: I personally can't eat too much beforehand, otherwise I'll see it again all over the floor next to my bike. So I eat lightly and hardly at all an hour before. Then ~15 minutes before I'll have a Roctane Gu Gel. I do make an effort to keep hydrated (water and sports drink), and usually go through 2 bottles per video. Afterwards I try to have some lean protein within 15 minutes and continue to hydrate.

Webb: The week before: Start hydrating on or before 19 Jan. Don't try to cram it in on 25 Jan. You need deep muscle hydration. Do what you normally do for a prep. I'm partial to Nuun tablets, EFS, coconut water or some combination of the three in the week prior to a big event. If you are in America, your daily diet probably has enough salt already, so just being sure you are drinking plenty of water is probably sufficient. (I'm not being critical of American cuisine and don't know enough about non-American cuisine to offer an opinion.) Before: If a session is going to be more than hour, I would suggest a small portion of solid food 30-60 minutes prior - whatever has worked for you - taken with water. During: I sweat a lot. On average I drink about 25oz per hour of suffering. For sessions under one hour, I drink only water. For longer sessions, I have one bottle of water and one bottle of a clean, light sport drink (for me, Nuun or Skratch). After: Within 15 minutes I drink 8-16 oz of chocolate almond milk and then try to have a normal size meal within an hour. My personal experience has been that a carb rich drink is critical to my performance the next day.

How can you keep yourself motivated during the Tour?

Elle: Knowing that there are others suffering along with you makes it more fun, and creates a sense of community. Also, knowing how much I'm going to kick ass once the race season arrives is motivation - knowing I'm suffering NOW to kick my competitor's collective ass tomorrow!

Webb: Accountability is key. We are lucky that we are accountable to each other. Having others this past year for Sufferfestukah was fantastic since both of us had to take a separate day off. If it had not been for the others joining us, it may have proven too easy to join the other in sitting one out. Having so many minions taking part in the Tour of Sufferlandria will be keep you accountable. We also feel strongly that our 2012 improvement in cycling owes much to ending 2011 with the original Sufferfestukah. With great suffering come great results. You remind yourself of that and you'll get on the bike.

How did you feel when it was all over? Stronger? A total wreck? Both?

Elle: A huge sense of accomplishment with a huge dose of relief. Both exhausted, and oddly energized.

Webb: Totally agree. I was ready for a day off and at the same time my confidence was way, way up.

Any other tips or tricks for getting through the Tour?

Elle: Make the mental choice to do it, knowing that you're not suffering alone. Think of the daily workouts as something you must do, it's not an option. Like going to work, or eating. You just DO IT. Oh, and LOTS of chamois butter!

Webb: My Top 3 Tips in descending order:  #3- Pay attention to the video ratings. Revolver is the highest rated for intensity because it is the hardest! Those aren't arbitrary ratings. They have meaning. #2- Interact with your fellow minions! I'm pretty sure it was a minion who coined "Misery loves company." Everyday will be hard and everyday will end with a sense of accomplishment. Share that with your fellow Sufferlandrians. Cry to one another about Thor, Martin, Lemond, Cipollini, etc. Add your voice to the chorus of curses to bergs and cobbles. And never forget, when the thaw comes, you will kick everyone's ass who did not do the Tour of Sufferlandria. #1 - Suffer and Obey.

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