Sunday, October 20, 2013

Sufferfestival and Knighthood

Dateline: Oct 13, 2013
Mission: Earn the title Knight of Sufferlandria

Sufferlandrians live here
Webb: To earn Knighthood, I would have a long day indoors on my bike. Rather than recount the rules and charitable purpose please see our earlier blog post, which includes live-blog updates.

Elle: Let it be known that I told Webb I thought he was totally out of his tree for doing this, but that I supported him 100%.

Webb: The day began with a 5:15AM wake up. I wandered into the kitchen and drank the first of three glasses of water. I started the coffee and prepared my breakfast, a bagel spread with peanut butter and maple syrup. Yes, maple syrup. It went in my coffee too. It is among the greatest things on the planet. Try it. You'll agree. Anyway...

Elle: Yeah, I chose NOT to get up at the pre-crack-of-dawn alarm, but instead stayed in cozy, warm sleepy-land until a more reasonable hour. 6am.

7am - There is No Try
Webb: After eating and just generally waking up, I started the get-ready. Turned on the computer to make sure there were no software or communication problems. Filled one bottle with water, the other with lemon-lime Skratch - thanks! Made sure the turbo/trainer was working. Next up, I turned on TrainerRoad and checked that it recognized my devices (speed/cadence sensor, heart rate belt). While I was doing this, Elle was preparing the feed zone - a spread of food to please our guests and be within my arm's reach. At 6:45 it was time to gear up. I am not the most punctual person. On this day, I wanted to start on-time and get the 12+ hour event underway.

Elle: I'll admit it, I had zero confidence that Webb would start on time. But lo and behold, a mere 2 minutes in the red, and it was on like Donkey Kong!

7:02 AM - There Is No Try (TINT)
Time: 54:59
Miles: 13.07

Webb: I was mindful in how I approached the schedule. It was important to get the first and last videos right. TINT was the perfect first workout. Is there a better first step for any quest than the mantra, There Is No Try? It was a good reminder that there would be no turning back. There would be only success. It is also the perfect first workout from a practical perspective. The whole workout is a series of build intervals. Performed correctly, it should be a good, long warm-up.

Angels with Natasja
8:02 - The Hunted Angels
Time: 1:04:43
Miles: 15.68

Webb: Elle had the brilliant idea to turn this whole quest into a Sufferfestival. We would invite people and their bikes over to hop on her trainer and do workouts with me. To do that, I would have the workout on our computer in front of me and mirror it to our TV - via AppleTV - in front of our guest Sufferlandrians. (hahahahahahah - guest Sufferlandrian - like you get to go home.) If you do this, it is best to optimize the file. I had done that for all of the workouts except The Hunted. I had to make a quick adjustment to cover this bonehead mistake. Angels was an easy choice for a substitution.

Elle: It was going to be a long day, no doubt. And a bunch of people had said that they would  stop by and do a video, but you know how things go. So I really had no idea who would be showing up, how many people we'd have over, or what we were in for. But my goal was to make sure that Webb had everything he needed, and to host whoever ended showing up for the 'fest.
The feed zone

Webb: Our friend Natasja was the first to arrive. She is new to competitive cycling and the first to sign on for the Sufferfestival. She picked a morning workout because she had a race the next day. That also meant that she would not be doing Angels at full effort. More importantly, she brought over these unbelievably tasty chocolate-peanut butter cookies. I ate one during the warm-up.

Hey, Elle, how did she do?

Elle:  She took home a check! Podium, baby!!!

Webb: Coincidence? I'll let you decide.

9:12 - Hell Hath No Fury (HHNF)
Time: 1:14:52
Miles: 18.34

Webb: Not only was Elle to be hostess and soigneur, she was also going to be a domestique for one of the workouts. We had a few people lined up for the middle part of the day so she decided to join me for HHNF. It was great timing having my suffer-buddy working out with me. I told myself early on only to look at the clock between sets to make sure I was on schedule (i.e., not taking more than 10 minutes). With Elle riding along side me, I ate a Clif Bar and fell into a somewhat comfortable pattern, successfully keeping my mind off the fact I had seven more workouts to do after HHNF.

Elle: I knew it might be the only time we'd have together for the long day ahead, so I changed into my cycling gear and hopped on my Cervelo to join Webb for a video. I followed his lead not to kill it, there was a lot ahead of us. But it was still fun in the only way that suffering through HHNF can be. And just after the workout ended, Lenny arrived for his very first trip to Sufferlandria.

10:36 - It Seemed Like A Good Idea At The Time (ISLAGIATT)
Time: 1:56:39
Miles: 27.99

ISLAGIATT - Webb looking
at Lenny's stem
Webb: I was thrilled when our friend Lenny (and probably the person I have logged the most cycling miles with) told me he wanted to do ISLAGIATT. We've been on him for years to try one of the workouts. Lenny knows how to suffer on a bike. We've tried to tell him, yes there is suffering and then there is suffering.

As I was making the video switch from HHNF to ISLAGIATT and visited the Little Minion's room, Lenny set up his bike. He soon realized that his Di2 was not working. Like a true Sufferlandrian, he clipped in and set himself to do the workout regardless. He attacked it head-on, including the ascent of Mt Sufferlandria, in single-speed mode and, unlike me, without a delicious waffle. Great job!

12:40 PM - Revolver
Time: 49:07
Miles: 12.02

Revolver with Dan while
Webb looks at his stem
Webb: In many ways building a Knighthood schedule is more about selecting which videos not to do rather than which to do.  We all agree Revolver is the nastiest, right? I mean, you know, if you do it correctly. It is for that reason I considered leaving it off the list. The idea of doing Revolver at anything less than 100% just seemed wrong. What seemed more wrong though was not doing Revolver. To me, it is the life-essence of every Sufferlandrian. And with that it was decided.

Elle: There's a special place in my heart for Revolver - it was one of the first videos we did, and we did it a lot. It was exciting for me to be able to watch someone's first experience with Revolver. So much sweat. So much suffering.

Webb: I was also excited because I convinced Dan to join me. Readers of the blog know that Dan is our run club leader and my SEAC>Elite run coach on Tuesday nights. I sold it to him as, hey, it is kinda like doing 15 x 400m repeats on the track. I'm not sure I actually sold him on the idea. He was game though.

Straightaway, as in the first interval, I had regrets. Why did I choose this? How does one manage effort with Revolver? Sure I was using TrainerRoad and had targets (or limits). But this is Revolver we're talking about! It was difficult not to lay it all out there on each interval. I hope Dan enjoyed it as much as I like the Tuesday night workouts he gives the SEAC>Elite crew.

1:35 - Fight Club
Time: 1:00:18
Miles: 15.46

WebbElliot and Peter joined me for Fight Club. During the warm-up I munched on peanut butter pretzels (aka Crack) and offered a preview of the workout. Four intervals of tempo followed by climbs with random attacks. Those attacks nearly ruined my quest. The plan was to stay within the safe margins below my FTP so that I could ride all day; however, just like Revolver, or worse, it is almost impossible to half-respond to an ATTACK. The best I could do was to hit the attack hard and then ease off while still putting out a harder effort. This was not an easy task with Elliot and Peter winding up the turbos next to me. The energy in the room was insane. If I find a pile of money I'm opening a Bike Torture Chamber, buying the group videos and making everyone fast.
Peter & Elliot join the
Fight Club - Peter
admires his stem

The best part? After the first interval I turned towards Elliot and asked him how he was doing?
"This definitely reminds me of racing."
Hard to beat that endorsement.

Elle: Definitely one of the highlights of the day. With Elliot in the center spot, riding like he was on a mission, Peter and Webb had no choice but to follow his lead, and the room reeked of competition. And lots of man sweat. I ended up lighting a candle, actually. But back to the action - there was lots of yelling and clapping, everyone in the room was getting into it (by this time we had several cycling and non-cycling people gathered at the apartment). It was a true Sufferfestival.

2:45 - Downward Spiral
Time: 1:01:56
Miles: 14.63

Emily is in for a
Downward Spiral
Webb: After spiking watts in Fight Club, and eating more Crack, it was time to go on a Downward Spiral. I've done this workout many, many times over the past couple of years. I find it to be the second most difficult workout. Still, when the workout description displayed on the computer I asked myself, Why did I pick this again? I don't remember. It must have been a Revolver-esque moment - How do I not do Downward Spiral?

In a surprise move, our friend Emily jumped on her bike and joined the fray. Emily did not come to ride. Earlier that morning she ran her way to 5th place in her age group at the Boston Half Marathon, setting a PR.

Elle: As you can imagine, Emily didn't have an excess of energy to spend, so she could only take so much of Downward Spiral. In an effort to keep this a true Sufferfestival, I put my cycling shorts on, and took Emily's place next to Webb and finished out the ride. We didn't have anyone on the schedule for the next workout, so I told Webb I'd ride that one too. If only I had known it was Blender. If only...

3:55 - Blender
Time: 1:44:24
Miles: 24.53

Webb: My nemesis. I have only completed Blender twice as prescribed. The pain shakes usually leave me trembling. Obviously I would not be going full out on this day. The question was, would it feel that way anyway after 7 to 8 hours of riding. The answer is, almost.

Thankfully, Elle decided to stay on the trainer after Downward Spiral. She does not know Blender how I know Blender.

      Elle: I'll just go ahead and do the next video with you.

      Webb: Cool! 

      ... 10 minutes later ...

      Elle: So, how long is this video anyway?

      Webb: Um, it is one hour and 45 minutes, give or take

      Elle:  What??? Oh crap ...

The quest for Knighthood is no joke. If you are smart you can achieve it. Smart - Check yourself on Revolver. Smart - Don't give in to the chase mentality in Fight Club - or at least not 100%. These are just two examples. One-third of the way into Blender, fatigue began rising up from my feet. I shook it off and told myself that this was just another session Elle and I are doing. Don't think about the final two workouts. It is just this one. Finish this task without thinking of the others. And eat some more. And drink some more Skratch. I started grabbing anything with sugar from the feed zone. I was popping peanut M&M's like someone addicted to painkillers.  Oh and Michelle's meringue cookies. Wow! That hit the spot.
Michelle is feeling

5:45 - The Wretched
Time: 49:01
Miles: 12.01

Webb: Michelle, of the aforementioned meringue-cookie fame, joined me for The Wretched. She had witnessed Blender. She was intrigued. She had never been on a turbo or used bike shoes. She was in for a trip to Sufferlandria.

Meanwhile, I was wondering whose bright idea it was to do a video with a 35-minute set in the 9th spot. Probably the same crazy person who thought he could do 10 back-to-back. I was seriously exhausted. The fatigue was on me like a nice warm blanket to snuggle up with and take a nap. Elle got me through the last 15 or so minutes of Blender. This one was tough. I mean, deep down I knew I had it. I could visualize being done and just wanted to be there right then. More Skratch, more Crack. I needed to keep delirium at bay.

6:40 - A Very Dark Place (AVDP)
Time: 53:23
Miles: 13.43

Webb: I saved the best for last; this is my favorite workout. I love power intervals. I believe in
We went to
A Very Dark Place
them. They will make me a faster cyclist and a better triathlete. Even though I had already put in 10 and half hours on the trainer, I planned to give the rest of myself to AVDP.

Guess who was there with me? That's right. Elle returned for the last video. The brutality of AVDP holds a special place for her. In my opinion, the hardest part of any Sufferfest workout is any of the bonus sprints at the end of Local Hero - anaerobic when you have nothing left. Where those bonus sprints take everything out of me, the fourth interval in AVDP gets the most out of me. I'm always tired going into it. Yet there is something about L'Enfer du Nord and Cancellara that makes me go deep and climb back out gasping for air. I love it.

I hit all five intervals hard. Preparing for the fifth interval, I let Nicole know I would be ready for a beer in about 4 minutes. She grabbed the bottle of Harpoon 100 Barrel Saison Various that Dan brought for me to celebrate. Dan not only knows my run splits, he knows my
Sir Webb Brightwell
drinking proclivities. I had visions of watching the interval clock drop to zero and the beer passing to my waiting hand. Instead, as the clock dropped, so did my head to my handlebars. I cracked in the final seconds of the last interval of the entire day. As it should be.

After a few moments, I lifted my head and then my hand for that beer. So crisp and refreshing, it was the best thing I have ever tasted in my life.

Total Time in saddle: 11:29:22
Total Miles: 167.18

A True Sufferfestival
Webb: What a great day. I did one video solo all day. Not only did I have friends suffering next to me, I was virtually joined by Sufferlandrians in Washington and Louisville. That is very cool. In addition to the current and new Sufferlandrians, several friends spent the last six or so hours hanging out, eating, drinking, mocking and/or cheering us. And I can't keep out all the Twitter love from Sufferlandrians and minions alike. Obviously I was not able to respond as quickly or thoroughly as I would have liked.

Elle: I honestly didn't know what the day would hold - who would be joining us? Would Webb make it? How many videos would I do? None? One? Two? But in the end, everything worked out. And I ended up doing 3+ videos with Webb, over 4 hours on the bike trainer. It was a small miracle, in my mind. Because anyone who takes on this herculean, monumental task is definitely insane, but someone to be admired. And I couldn't be more proud of Webb for completing this event with strength and poise.

Webb: Thanks to everyone for your support. Together we raised over $1,000 for As of the writing of this post, we changed the lives of 43 people. There were many times when it was hard to keep my watts up or when I was trying to find a comfortable way to position myself on my saddle that I reminded myself of our ultimate goal. The donation page will stay live until December 1st. If you have not, please consider contributing and sharing.

Thanks again and start training for Sufferfestukah...


  1. y'all are crazy. someone in my tri group is a fellow knight and ... just ... ugh.

    also: lemon-lime skratch is nectar of the gods. it tastes good normally and somehow tastes even better as you're sweating.

  2. Webb; you did awesome. Great write-up too. I am now seriously reconsidering my thoughts of doing Knighthood.

  3. Thanks Buzz! I hope by "reconsidering" you mean you are going to do it. As they days have passed, not only do I not have any regrets, I kinda want to do it again. The sense of accomplishment has an addictive quality. DO IT! - Webb

  4. Brilliant! Congratulations - loved the write up too :-)

  5. This is without a doubt one of the coolest things I"ve read on the internet..anywhere. What a great recap...Don't know you guys but I would've been honored to be a part of that!!

  6. So can you tell me did you do these at 100% on TrainerRoad or did you scale back to say 90% for all videos? I have done 200 mile gravel grinders in 12 hours but I am not sure I can turn my pedals at described FTP for the videos.

  7. Great write up. While using TrainerRoad did you set the % intensity down or did you just judge your efforts as you went along? Would be interested in trying this some day and would obviously be very wary of the amount of effort expended in the earlier sessions.

    1. Hi Stephen,
      Sorry for the late reply. We have been negligent with our blog upkeep. To answer your question though, I set a floor of 70%. Some of the videos, particularly "Fight Club" saw me kicking it pretty hard at times. In retrospect, I probably could have done 75% and absolutely no more than 80%. If you anyone does it at 100% for 10 videos, then their recorded FTP was too low.

      I strongly encourage you to attempt Knighthood. It was incredibly rewarding and my fellow Knights and Dames are some of the funniest and positive people to communicate with. Join the club!


  8. A wonderful write up! I'm currently a new Sufferlandia citizen waiting for all my equipment to coalesce. Thanks for your report!