Monday, December 31, 2012

Sufferfestukah 2012: Day 10!

Sufferfestukah Day 10 at last!

Webb: Day 10 promised to be a big one. One-hour and 45 minutes of "Hell Hath No Fury" and "The Long Scream." The titles alone should have told you to stay under the covers and keep the trainer hidden away. But wait, what's this, no "HHNF?" 

Technical what?
It wouldn't be Sufferfestukah in our household without some technical difficulties. For some reason, our "HHNF" file would not play on this occasion. I'm not getting into it now. I'm saving my energy for a long talk with Apple. (In other news, I recently have had music files stop playing partially through the song. My guess is this the same problem. So when you buy something on iTunes and it says you should back-up your purchase, well, yeah, back it up.) We've done HHNF several times and were more than just a little disappointed that it was not going to happen.

Being good minions that we are, the next step was choosing a replacement video. There could be only one other option: "Local Hero." The purpose of the workout after all was to be on the trainer a long time. "Local Hero" plus "The Long Scream" would give us nearly10 minutes more than the original plan. After a frustrating delay, we were back on task.

Pulling out the racing kit for
Day 10 of Sufferfestukah
Elle: Wouldn't you know the one video that would be a problem would be the last one, and of course, one of my favorites. Wait, I say that about all the videos... At least this year it wasn't due to Sufferlandrian error. Since we've already done Local Hero this Sufferfestukah, I won't re-hash, but you can read all about it here.

Webb: I felt good today. My fatigue and overtraining were behind me and I was ready to take this workout head-on. I did a good job of following the instructions, Suffer, Obey, all the way through the sprints at the end, momentarily forgetting what lay ahead. 

"The Long Scream" is brutal, especially after nearly an hour and twenty minutes of racing. Imagine being in a race and breaking away early on, then getting caught by a chase group and working together to keep the peloton off your backs. Then you start taking longer pulls up front only to be attacked again and again even though there is lots of road between your lead group and the finish line. Tired of these shenanigans, you attempt to breakaway and solo the final 30 minutes of the course. That is about as close as I can get to describing what it is like to do these two videos back-to-back. 

Celebratory ice cream with
hot fudge - yummmmm
I suffered a great deal during the first 20 minutes of "The Long Scream." I stayed with Phinney. I hung onto Sir Wiggo. But it was Cancellara who proved too much. It took a monumental effort to remain relaxed and stay in time trial mode. Sufferlandrians do not simply drop back, so I soldiered on. With no Day 11 tomorrow, I left it all on the bike. There could be no better way to end Sufferfestukah. 

All in all, in nine out of 10 days, I rode almost 185 miles over more than 10 hours and drank at least  274 oz. Not a bad way to end 2012. 

Elle: Holy saddle pain, Batman! I nearly emptied my Chamois Butt'r tube during this year's Sufferfestukah, but apparently it wasn't enough. My body is ready to take a break from the bike for awhile. I need to get back in the pool anyway. And I'm ready to embark on my 2013 back-to-running program. It's a pretty conservative plan, designed by SEAC running club leader, Dan. But I guess that's what it takes to come back after an injury. But I digress...

We survived Sufferfestukah 2012!

Thanks again to TheSufferfest, Marion, The Rat Snake and Scott for joining us. To all you lurking minions, the Festival of Suffering will return in 2013. We hope you join us next year. In the meantime, The Tour of Sufferlandria will begin in late January. Visit TheSufferfest's Facebook page for details.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Sufferfestukah Day 9: There is No Try

Day 9??? Didn't we only do eight days last year? What is wrong with us? It doesn't matter because "There Is No Try."

Inside the SMOD
Webb: Sufferlandrians do not tire as the race goes on, they get stronger and faster. That is the essence of "There Is No Try." Each interval is a four-step progression building from threshold to all-out effort. Not only does each interval progress in effort, each interval is longer than the previous up to  an 8:00 interval (4x 2:00). After that bit of hurt, then intervals descend. Oh no, they still progress in effort, they just reverse order in terms of length. By this point you are so burnt, while you are thankful for the shorter intervals, you can't really say they are easy.

Elle: This was my first time doing this workout and it was a special treat for me because this year (like last year), I watched the Tour de France live, every day. I'd get to work, put on my headphones, and watch the live, streaming feed on my huge, studio display monitor. And after every stage I posted a photo of the stage winner up on the wall in my office. So doing this workout was a crazy, cool experience, since I remember watching it all go down: Wiggo's inspired TT, Froome pulling Wiggo up the mountain, Sagan's victory celebrations, Jensy on the Champs Elysee, and who could forget...... TACK-GATE!!!!!!! The only thing missing was that big, black dog that tried to take out Philippe Gilbert (they had to hold him back when he started yelling at the dog owner, it was crazy). Oh, the drama of the 2012 Tour de France!

Webb: Even with yesterday's no-show behind me, I had no plans of jumping right back into the fray. I'm saving myself for the final day's 105 minutes, including what could end up being the most painful 30 minutes of all of Sufferfestukah. Day 9 was about getting the legs back. So I reduced my effort by at least a factor of one for each interval. That was a good idea. In fact, on one of the final intervals (i.e., 2:00, or 4x :30) I attempted it as prescribed and was pretty gassed after it. That told me I was not quite ready for another hard day.

Elle: This is a tough workout, lots of good, hard suffering. And I'm starting to wonder if 10 days of Sufferfestukah is too many...

Next up:  Hold tight to your self-esteem boys, you're about to get chicked in "Hell Hath No Fury" followed immediately by the torturous "The Long Scream."

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Sufferfestukah 2012: Day 8


Elle: Ok, so this one has my favorite warm-up - there are the cool bridges, the best warm up song ever (Italo Surfing), stopping to look at the cool graffiti, and of course, the bicycle with the basket on the front.
Elle time trialing
If you love relentless attacks that just keep coming and coming and coming, you'll love Fight Club. And oh, the time trial - you just have to go deep inside yourself for this one. And just when you want to quit, there's Sparatucs. Then Cadel Evans. And you just have to dig deep. But you are rewarded at the end with two women on bikes who defy gravity and physics. Gawd, this is a good workout.

Webb: <heavy sigh> I sat this one out. I had about four symptoms of being sick without actually feeling ill, other than the general sense of being rundown. All day long I rested and relaxed with hopes I'd have energy by the time Elle came home from work. Once home she looked at me and told me I need to lie down. When I woke from an hour nap I realized I was dangerously close to breaking The Rules.
New swim gear

In retrospect - as in, I literally reviewed my numbers - I increased my average speed over each of the days of Sufferfestukah. So I didn't follow my own recommendation to scale the workouts. This is the price I must pay for being an idiot.

Elle: Meanwhile, my order came in, woohoo! Can't wait to show up at the pool with this sweet ensemble....

Next up: "There Is No Try", there is only getting faster.

Sufferfestukah 2012: Day 7

"A Very Dark Place" (AVDP)

Webb: This is my favorite video. There is no question about it. It gets more out of me than any other. And there is no better ending. (Although, I think Elle may make an argument for "Angels" on that bit.) The main thrust of the workout is 5 x 4:00 above threshold intervals with 3:00 recovery. I'm tempted to describe them as fairly classic power intervals, except that is probably not entirely true. These are not lock-into-a-gear-and-cadence intervals. Each has a character that sees changes in resistance and RPMs. I prefer my power intervals this way, because it is rare to be in a race where you can truly settle in to a steady-state effort. There will be hills, wind or both.

Unfortunately, I just didn't have it for Day #7. I may have put in too many consecutive hard efforts over the preceding six days. I made a valiant attempt in the first interval but knew straightaway it wasn't there. For intervals two and three, I tried to give it a moderate-hard effort. Still, it was a struggle. Interval #4 is the one that usually gets me to dig deeper than I think I can. It is something about riding with Spartacus that motivates me. I had nothing left.

Elle: Ugh, it just doesn't get any easier! And at this point there is NO spot on the saddle that doesn't equal pain. We've already spoken much about this workout, so I'll keep it short and sweet. Just when I think I've pushed as much as I can, I look up to see Thor, or Spartacus, or Cadel, and I just can't hold back. And if the Schlecks only knew how much time I've spent on my bike trainer looking at their back-sides...

Webb: Later that night I had a planned track session with the SEAC run club. The weather was cold with a 25F wind chill and intermittent freezing rain. The workout was designed to keep us moving (i.e., staying warm). Instead of hard hard efforts with easy recoveries, we did a fast pacing workout. Into my first 200m, my legs felt heavy. It was then I accepted the fact that Sufferfestukah was winning. I pulled back the effort and went through the motions rather than running myself in to injury or illness. (Remember the Rules of Triathlon.)

Elle: Back to AVDP. One of the most emotional feelings you will have is the warm-down for this workout. You've been beaten down - all the way, to a really, very, dark, dark place. And then it's over. You're done. And the best possible song comes on - Romina Arena's Ricordi. A song that musically expresses all the feelings that you can't, because you're so freaking exhausted. It's just something you have to experience.

Webb: Funny story. This past summer I purchased Ricordi on iTunes and didn't mention it to Elle. Several weeks later I played the song for her while were hanging out in the apartment. Elle's superpower is that she can hear a song and tell you what movie it was in and sometimes even name the scene. So I asked her, "Do you recognize this song?" She definitely recognized it but was having a hard time nailing it down. She then asked, "It's after something violent right?" I laughed. Yeah, you could say that.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Sufferfestukah 2012: Day 6

Day 6: We all admire the soloist, the breakaway artist, the fearless cyclist who tries to escape the peloton because whoever they are, whenever they attempt it, they become "The Hunted." 

Webb: What a wonderful piece of work this is. The first 20:00 fly by with a warm-up and tempo ride where you free yourself from the pack to ride alone. What follows is 20:00 of big gear above-tempo riding. You are hunted, yet you are also chasing Robert Gesink. At the 15:00 mark, I swear I felt the need to pop my ears from the altitude gain. A fast descent greets you on the other side of the summit with RPMs over 110.  I made a point not to relax as this segment is not a recovery, it is merely a reduced effort.

As tired as I am, I have been happy with my numbers. I think all the pelvic and lumbar posturing exercises I have been doing have allowed me to be more efficient with my pedal stroke, putting out more power even though my overall fitness is not where it was in October.  Do the little things, they pay off.

Elle: So by this time in the Sufferfestukah celebrations I find myself running low on Chamois Butt'r. Because when you do 10 back-to-back days of trainer rides like this, you need lots of Chamois Butt'r, trust me. "The Hunted" is a good workout (aren't they all?), you get to ride with the ever-so-controversial Lance Armstrong - and be on the lookout for Hincapie's cool U.S. National Champion kit.

Webb: Once you recover from the descent, it is back to being prey. You must tempo ride for 10:00. Well, 5:00, then 5:00 of maybe what has to offer. I don't even know who to describe the madness the final 5:00 entails. I'll put it this way: Those 5:00 minutes are broken down into 5 x 1:00 segments (intervals would be too kind a word). I did four of them. I honestly had nothing left for the fifth. I nearly had enough lunch left over to leave it all over my front wheel though. No joke. No hyperbole. Just the hard, nauseous truth.

Elle: I always get a kick out of the cyclists getting stopped by the train. Even though I know it's going to happen...and be prepared for a Schleck to launch an attack up the climb. As usual....

Next up: Grab your teddy bears Sufferlandrians, we're going to "A Very Dark Place."

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Sufferfestukah 2012: Day 5


Elle: Today we did the most vomit-inducing of all the Sufferfest videos (in my opinion). Even though it's the shortest of the workouts, I think it's the most brutal. But it also has the best warm-up music ever.

Webb:  "Revolver" remains the standard-bearer for suffering. All of the videos are difficult and have a specific purpose. "Revolver" and "Downward Spiral" seem to have the sole purpose of hurting you. I mean really hurting you. And whereas DS is unbelievably painful, "Revolver" takes it to the next level ... delirium.
Dinner on day 5

This was to be one of my key sessions. Instead of hammering each of the <ahem> 15 intervals, I decided to put forth the maximum effort that I could sustain throughout, roughly an 8.5 RPE. I estimated - quite rightly it turns out - my speed and cadence thresholds. (We still do not have power meters.) When my eyes weren't squeezed shut, they were fixed on both fields making sure I did not drop. My secondary goal was to keep a 100 RPM cadence during the recovery minutes. My discipline during recovery intervals has failed in past "Revolver" efforts. It is too easy to soft pedal at 80 RPM and let the lactic acid settle. I must say I think this was my best overall effort at "Revolver." Although I dipped below the thresholds on several occasions, for the most part I exceeded them on each interval. I'll do it again and again until I can push that effort to a 9.

Elle: I was glad to have this one under our belt, as it's one of the hardest days of Sufferfestukah in my opinion. And also because it meant that it was time for dinner at our favorite Chinese restaurant, on the edge of the Theatre District and Chinatown in Boston. After a delish meal and some drinks, we went to the movies and saw "Argo." I predict an Oscar....
Dinner companion
Webb: We hope this is the most you have ever suffered on Christmas. Happy Sufferfestukah.

Next up: "The Hunted." We're past the half-way point, don't look back.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

SufferFestukah 2012: Day 4

O what a wretched, wretched idea SufferFestukah was ...

Day 4's assignment was to do "The Wretched,"'s newest installment in the Suffer Catalog. Neither of us had done this video before.

Webb: How bad can 49 minutes be after Day 3's grueling hour and 45 minutes? It'll be over before it starts. What is that? The actual work is only like 35:00? Piece. Of. Cake. Cue it up and let's start rolling.

For the love of everything that is good and clean in Sufferlandria and on this Earth! This workout is about perseverance. It is about climbing and descending with speed.  It is about fast flats. It is about keeping your pedals moving and responding to attacks. Think of a concentrated version of "Fight Club" and "Extra Shot:20."

The warm-up is just grand. It features a music video, "Box Hill" by the band (of apparent cyclist(s)) Redados. You remember Box Hill from the London Olympics, right? I loved the tempo and the video's story line of a cyclist, perhaps a weekend warrior or triathlete age-grouper, taking a shot at the Hill.

My workout was marred by some technical difficulties, both electronic and mechanical. For some reason, iTunes froze up a few times for a minute or more each time. I kept working at the same effort level because while the video was frozen, the audio kept moving along. All of a sudden the video would speed up until it caught up with the audio track. I could see that I missed a few cues here and there.

Then my chain dropped. I'm growing tired of this. In the year that I have owned this Cervelo S2 I have dropped my chain more than possibly all my cumulative years cycling. I am not exaggerating. It has been to my LBS too many times for adjustments. My initial reaction was that I should have paid extra for Shimano Ultegra rather than go with the stock SRAM Rival. I had one mechanic tell me that Cervelo's internal cable routing could be the problem. I'm not convinced. Elle has the same bike and gruppo. She too drops her chain a lot. I need to figure this out if we are going to do more cycling races in 2013.

And then my Garmin 500's speed and distance took a nap on me. It is probably time for a new battery.

I'm tired and we are not quite half-way through SufferFestukah.

Elle: I decided to sit this one out. After every workout I ice my knee because I was determined to make it to the end of SufferFestukah. After Sunday's long workout I decided the best way not to break Rules #2 and #3 was to skip "The Wretched." Besides, since we have not done this workout I really wanted to give it my all the first time. Even though I knew I was being smart, and not making my knee injury worse, I still felt guilty watching and listening to Webb. I could hear him laughing in the beginning while he was spinning along with his headphones on. Every now and then he would tell me to look at the screen. I didn't want to because I wanted to watch it fresh the first time. I can't wait for my knee to be fully recovered...

Next up:  "Revolver" The one that makes suffering suffer.

Monday, December 24, 2012

SufferFestukah 2012: Day 3

Ahhhh Sunday, a day for rest and relaxation. The morning crossword puzzle, perhaps brunch and maybe lounging around on the sofa watching a bad movie on cable TV...

This is the first Sunday of SufferFestukah. First up was the trip to the pool. Second was, of course, Day 3 of the Ten Days of Torment.

The Swim

Webb: What started out to be a maintenance swim, a simple workout to retain our feel for the water, became something else. Something a little more suffer-y. Readers of the blog know we particularly love what we call the 3x500 workout: 500 swim, 500 swim w/ buoy, 500 swim w/ buoy + paddles. (Later in the season we add a fourth 500m of swim at the end.) Just get in and go. No official warm-up or cool-down. Just go. Elle wanted to include some strength work, so we tacked on 400 at the end as 8x50 descending pull-outs. Basically, you swim one 25m length (to the deep end) and perform 8 pull-outs, turn around swim 50m returning back to the deep end to perform 7 pull-outs. Continue this pattern until you do one pull-out and swim the final 25m. It is great because it builds strength in your lats and rear deltoids and, more importantly, it definitely helps you think more clearly about how your muscles engage throughout the stroke. So the simple workout became a 45:00 muscle-endurance session.

Elle: I actually felt good in the water today. I guess joining CMSC (Cambridge Masters Swim Club) is really making a difference! I actually, do I dare say, feel that I'm staring to get better in the pool. The 500 meter set with paddles was tough, and I may have pulled something on the first or second set of pull-outs, but overall, I felt good. And with the sun streaming in from the high windows, glistening off the water, throwing highlights around the pool deck, there was a serene air to this workout. What a total contrast compared to the workout we were in for later that day...

Day #3 - "Local Hero" + "Extra Shot:20"

Webb: From the moment I sat on the saddle I knew it was going to be rough. Thing are a bit ... tender down in them there parts. I lathered on the Chamois Butt'r expecting as much. Still as our friend Ben says, "There is a difference between being told you are going to be slapped in the face and being slapped in the face." So true.

Once I started pedaling my quads resisted. I maintained a steady effort through the warm-up and reminded myself that we cannot, must not, do all of the workouts as prescribed. Right into the first set of TT pyramids my legs were reluctant but getting the job done. Hmmm, I thought, maybe I have this workout in me. And so it went for the next 50 minutes or so. By the time each interval was nearly finished, I was hurting, I'd then recover well enough to start the next interval. At least that was how it was until the sprints at the end. I'm satisfied with my strong, if not reasonable efforts.

The "Extra Shot:20" was a different story. If you are going to do it after a video, let's say, something like "Local Hero," then it should have a new name. I suggest "Quadpocalypse." The first half o is just merciless - ten minutes of  relentless lactic-acid building tempo. The second half brings the bergs. (Is berg Belgian for "dig deep or get dropped?") At first you welcome the change of cadence and bigger gears. It doesn't take long though for your quads to respond: You are an idiot; get off the bike. Once the workout was over it took some time to dismount. I just sat there on my saddle, blinking and breathing.

Elle: Holy frites and mayonaise, this was a tough day. I was nervous about the long bike workout, no lie. And that made me anxious to get going. I decided before I even got on the bike, that, if I could finish the workout, I'd celebrate with pizza and beer. Incentives! I didn't let Webb know about the plan, best to leave him in the dark until absolutely necesary...
Oh, climbing with Cadel & Gilbert, what a "treat". There was a nice shout-out to Jens Voigt in the road at one point - huge chalk letters, 'SHUT UP LEGS'. I didn't actually catch a glimpse of Jensie during the workout. We must have been going to fast....
As soon as I was off the bike I announced the pizza-beer plan. Webb was 100% on board....

Webb: Just seven days remaining. Seven. Days.

Next up: "The Wretched"  Oh dear.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

SufferFestukah 2012: Day 2

SufferFestukah: Day 2 - "Angels"

... and on the second day they climbed.

Max does not know why Ffiona loves SufferFestukah
Webb: "Angels" Three 8:00 climbs, after a warm-up and 10:00 of over-unders. I decided from the outset I would not respond to the attacks - which is pretty hard to do when you have developed a Pavlovian-response to the Sufferfest cues. 

Climb 1 was most notable for the <ahem> sit bones. Having not been on the bike in awhile, the sit bones were letting me know that they did not appreciate back-to-back days right out of the box. The next eight days could get ugly, especially with Day 3's double-session.

Climb 2 has a special place in heart. "A Very Dark Place" is probably my favorite video with "Hell Hath No Fury" not far behind. Climb 2 with its subsequent recovery segment might be my favorite 12:00 of all the videos. There is something about the camera shots, music and nature of the workout that puts me in the mindset that I'm actually racing with the guys. The recovery music and video is sooooo good and well earned. Just brilliant.

Climb 3 is just so hard with increasing effort over the final 8:00. Even though I was supposed to scale back, I found myself pushing and pushing and pushing. I even tried to respond to a few attacks. Yes tried; I failed. Instead, I dropped my head and dug deep. 

Elle:  Why Angels is my favorite Sufferfest workout (I hope I'm not giving anything away here):

1. Watching the peloton chew up and spit out Contador
2. Getting smashed by riding with Contador up the Alpe d'Huez (*shudder*)
3. Woman on the right side of the road wearing the fluorescent pink jumpsuit
4. Riding with Andy Schleck
5. Getting the thumbs up from Frank "the other Schleck"
6. Guest stars Sagan and Voeckler
7. Bonus animation at the end of the workout

Next up: "Local Hero" immediately followed by "Extra Shot." One-hour and forty-five minutes of racing. Your Sufferlandrian citizenship is at stake. Sleep tight minions.

The SufferFestukah set-up

Sufferfestukah 2012: Day 1

And it has begun....

Always a fan, Ffiona prepares to celebrate.

Day 1: Downward Spiral

Webb: Let it be written. Let it be done. SufferFestukah 2012 is here. First up was "Downward Spiral." Eight descending intervals, twice, separated by a mere 5:00 recovery. One hour of quads burning and lungs bursting.

This definitely broke off some of the rust. The last couple of months I've been focusing on my running and improving my core strength. It turns out I have had a herniated disc in my lower back for at least the last five years. That probably explains the difficulty with my hip and developing meaningful bike strength. So my bike work lately has been to work on my core, or more specifically the pelvic posture, which not surprisingly can affect the hip flexors, hamstrings, etc. I recently stumbled on which has some great exercises.

Elle: I'm loving the re-mastered 'Downward Spiral'. Great new footage, and of course some new snark. And I'm pretty sure there was some new music too. It was almost like we were doing a whole new workout. You can read our review of this workout when we did it on day 1 of Sufferfestukah last year.

Webb: Right. So one might take it easy his first time on the bike in more than a month. And that was my intent, except ... I love this workout. I went moderately hard on the first set of descending intervals to shake out the legs and see what I had. All indication was to go hard on the second set. Most of the time I could not look at the screen. My head hung over my handlebars while I muttered incoherent encouragement to myself. Wow I missed this workout.

Elle: 1,2,3,4 I can't take it anymore! (Anyone who has done this workout knows what I'm talking about...)

Webb: We are thrilled that @thesufferfest himself is joining us this SufferFestukah. I hope the Architect of our Agony enjoys this celebration as much as we do. We also want to issue a big welcome to Marion, Scott and @TheRatSnake, and anyone else who is joining us. Let us know if you are, we'd love to hear from you.  Next up: "Angels."

Saturday, December 15, 2012

An Evening with Crowie

Elle launches her competitive swimming career and then the team meets up with many more triathletes to hear Craig Alexander speak.

Saturday was going to be a big day for us. Elle was going to swim in her first swim meet ever and then we were going to see Craig Alexander speak about his new book.

The Swim Meet

Elle's 100m Freestyle Heat
Elle: After countless suggestions that I improve my swimming by joining a Masters Swim group, I finally gave in and joined the Cambridge Masters Swim Club. I was nervous to go, but luckily one of the swim coaches is a triathlete, and has been helping me along. But after only a week, he strongly encouraged me to compete in a swim meet that was only one week away! I've never even been to a swim meet as a spectator. I thought he was crazy, but since I'm prone to doing things that scare the crap out of me, I found myself signing up! I was terrified. It would be one of the scariest thing I did all year.

Webb: Jealous. Envious. I was 100% in support of Elle racing at the meet. Once there, I totally got into it. Even though I had no feelings of regret or desire to grab some jammers and jump in, I definitely want to take part in a meet. One of the swimmers was in total domination mode. She set the World Record for Masters Women 55-59 in the 200 IM and then set the National Record in the 100 BR. I was wowed by her butterfly efficiency during the IM and her age! She looked maybe 40, strong and lean without being wiry. I may need to swim more.

Elle looked great. Even though she has only been swimming with the masters for a short time, there is real improvement in her ability. She looks more relaxed, smoother and she is gliding farther with each pull. I was on the fence about joining the program. After seeing her improvement, I don't see how I cannot join.

Nerves? What nerves?
Elle: Since it was my first ever swim meet, I only signed up for one event - the 100 meter freestyle. I figured just showing up and doing anything would be a success. But apparently everyone on the team who comes to the meet also gets added to a relay team. Crap. There were a lot of rules and protocols that I wasn't familiar with, so the night before I was furiously Googling "swim meet for first timers." Long story short, I got to the meet, stood up on the starter block for my swim heat (shaking!), and raced. My goal was to not come in last. And out of 10 lanes, I came in 4th. It was one of the slower heats, but I didn't care. I did it.

When the time came for the relay I was equally nervous - there are more rules for that - if you jump off the block before your teammate touches the wall, all 4 people get disqualified for that heat. Since I was swimming Freestyle, I went last of the group. And because I was with an equally slow group, I saw that our third swimmer was finishing her 4 laps when all of the other teams were finishing up their entire set. That meant that when I jumped in, I'd be the only person swimming in the pool. All eyes would be on me. Arrgghh! Needless to say, my form went to crap in my efforts to just get it over with. But it was nice to hear everyone cheering for me.

Crowie Talks about his Book and Answers Questions

Crowie (Craig Alexander)
Webb: Later that day 3-Time Ironman World Champion and 2-Time 70.3 World Champion, Craig "Crowie" Alexander stopped in Boston to promote his new book "As the Crow Flies: My Journey to Ironman World Champion." We arrived at The W Hotel with more than 75 other triathletes to learn about the book and maybe ask him a question or two. I can't really say how many people where in attendance. More than 200? (I think there were more than 20 rows of 10 chairs with even more people standing in the back.) The publisher provided the organizers with 75 copies of the book, which sold out quickly. (We got one.)

Elle: It's always fun to be at an event surrounded by a bunch of people with the same interest as you. Some people were wearing Ironman shirts, or other garments that advertised a race they had done. But that's what triathletes do, and it's cool by me. It's a big deal deal to finish an Ironman, so go ahead, wear your stuff proudly. I was looking around for people I recognized, and there was Greg, of Zoom MultiSport. Nice. We went to the room where Crowie would be speaking and sat in the front row.

Webb: At the risk of sounding hyperbolic, it was the GREATEST EVENT EVER!!!!!!! Just kidding. A little. Seriously though, I was grateful how thoroughly Crowie answered the audience questions. His answers were complete, candid (without being inappropriate) and showed a lot of respect for the person asking the question. He epitomized professionalism. I think my favorite question-answer moment was when someone asked him how he balanced humility (he is clearly humble) and the competitiveness it takes to be a world champion. Crowie's response "Hey, you have to be an ass to win." He went onto to make it more clear that you can still be close friends with your competitors off the race course. 

The inevitable question about Lance Armstrong came up. I bet people were surprised by his answer, but accepted it as a well-considered, reasonable opinion refreshingly devoid of the drama found with most of Armstrong's champions and detractors. The other inevitable question asked him his thoughts on Chrissie's retirement. Again, his expressions were honest in his disappointment that she would no longer be racing and in his admiration and support for her making such a gutsy decision.

Elle: What Webb said. Crowie is a real professional.

Webb: While waiting in the autograph line, I began reading the book. It is different. In a good way. It is a cross between a coffee table book and training summary. First, the photographs are wonderful. (I had more than a bit of envy looking at photos of people lap swimming outdoors. I guess people really do that.) Second, and I've only glimpsed at the book, there are examples of his workouts and short descriptions of how his training and life balance. Based on the Q&A, it is sort of like him: professional, efficient and no B.S. It is a very clean book in both appearance and content. 

World Ironman champ,
Craig Alexander
The night rounded out with a raffle and autograph line. I won a RoadID, which is good because I have one of the original ankle bands that is now in near tatters. Buying a new one has been on my to-do list for too long. Every time we went open water swimming I would curse myself for not having one of the new silicone wrist bands.

As it happened, I was the last person in the autograph line. It took a long, long time to get our book autographed. When the line got down to about 10 of us, the PR team decided to give a signed promotional poster board to whoever could answer a trivia question: What was Crowie's time at IM Melbourne? Crowie said he didn't think he even knew. I immediately thought 7:58, but had no real desire to take home a poster board. After hearing a couple of wrong guesses, my trivia-competitiveness compelled me to speak up. As the words left my mouth Crowie looked at me with a look of half- "Wow, you know that?" and half- "What is wrong with you that you know that?"

When I finally reached him for the autograph he apologized to me for the wait. I of course didn't care, otherwise I would have bailed. More than anything I wanted to tell him that I have found one of his bits of training advice to be invaluable and people with whom I have shared it have also claimed it has helped them: Always start the workout. Once you are out there you will likely find that you are ready to do it, and if not, then you can change it.

Final thoughts: Elle pointed out a door to me that I had never noticed in function rooms: The "Talent Only" door. (Yes, I rolled my eyes.) Crowie entered the room from the same doors we did: The Plebeian Doors.

ElleCrowie entered through the back like everyone else. He then sat down in front of us in the row of chairs that had been put up last minute, that no one was sitting in. He casually said to no one, "Is anyone sitting here?", to which I replied, "Actually, that seat's taken...", and without skipping a beat, Crowie got up and moved the the next chair over. What a guy...

Saturday, December 8, 2012

SufferFestukah 2012: The Schedule of Suffering

SUFFERFESTUKAH - The Most Sufferful Time of the Year!

Home Sweet Home - Sufferlandria
Welcome to the 2d annual Festival of Suffering. Last year we hit upon the idea of doing all eight of's cycling workouts on consecutive days. Thanks to our dear Dictator of the Federation, Sufferlandrians have two new workouts for 2012. As such, SufferFestukah has been similarly extended. In addition to the new workouts, we'll be adding the two supplemental sessions (i.e., "Extra Shot" and "The Long Scream").

This year the suffering begins on 12/21/12 (or for our non-American readers: 21 December). Some of you may be thinking, Is this not the end of the world according to the Mayan Apocalypse? To that we say, It will only feel that way. And the Dictator laughs at you. muhahaHAHAHAha

As you look at the Schedule of Suffering, always keep the "three rules of triathlon"* ever present in your mind:

                  1. Do not get sick;
                  2. Do not get injured; and
                  3. Do not break rules #1 or #2.
*We cannot remember who the wise author of these rules is.

Be sure to scale the workouts accordingly so that you do not break any of the rules. What we learned last year is that day-in, day-out of Sufferfest workouts will accumulate enough fatigue to give you a mini-camp in your home, even if not done as prescribed. That said, you may want to identify some videos as key workouts that you will hit at 100%. Enough prattle!

The Schedule of Suffering

21st -   Downward Spiral (speed = 60:00)
22nd -  Angels (climbing = 62:00)
23rd -   Local Hero + Extra Shot:20 (TT & race + race = 1:45)
24th -   The Wretched (race = 48:00)
25th -   Revolver (speed = 45:00)
26th -   The Hunted (climbing = 60:00)
27th -   A Very Dark Place (speed = 55:00)
28th -   Fight Club (race & TT = 58:00)
29th -   There Is No Try (speed - 55:00)
30th -    Hell Hath No Fury + The Long Scream (race + TT = 1:45)

We hope all of you will join us for part or of all of this, the most suffering sufferdays of the year.