Everyone knows that feeling of trepidation when you are starting a new job, or going on a blind date, or waiting for the jury to decide your future. Ok, maybe not that last one, but you get the idea. Well that is how I felt about this trip to the land of Suffer.
It all started with an email from the Sufferlandrian Dear Leader.
As you know, we’ve got two new videos out on Sept 15th.
Violator, the video with 64 sprints, is one of them and I was wondering if you’d like an advance copy of it to write a ‘pre-release review.’
I really should have told David to jam it, but hey, a freebie! A well known tight arse like myself can’t pass up a freebie, so I shot back message saying “Challenge accepted”.
There were then a few more messages going back and forth with regards to when I could download the video and other such things. I did ask at one point about the intensity. This was the reply.
As Neal Henderson, the coach who designed it (the same guy who did Blender) says, “The first set seems almost too easy and you get a bit cocky, then halfway through the second set, you dig yourself into a hole that you will never come out of for the rest of the workout.”
Now if these guys are saying that you’ll “dig yourself into a hole that you will never come out of”, you’d think I would have just told David that my trainer had been stolen and I was out. Fear not dear reader, it didn’t happen and was going to get into that hole way sooner than any one realised.
So last Thursday, after work, I plonked the bike onto the trainer (again, thanks to Mark at CellBikes), squeezed into my knicks and got myself ready for action. This is what I was taking for my trip to Sufferlandria.
Now, a quick note. Usually, I do all my Sufferfest videos in conjunction with TrainerRoad. I find it is a fantastic way to keep myself in check. I can use the power numbers suggested by TrainerRoad to measure my efforts. Because Violator was pre release, there was no TrainerRoad profile as yet. This wasn’t going to make it easier.
Ok, with everything in place and a heart rate in the low 70’s, I jumped on the bike and fired the SufferCell up into life.
The usual warnings about not being a dirty pirate and stealing David’s work and then there is a hampster in a ball on the screen! Not what I was expecting. Then a frame letting you know who was responsible for the hell ride you were about to experience.
Then you get the back story. I wont ruin the whole thing, but here a just a couple of frames to whet the appetite.
Once the back story is complete, you get the good news. This, my good friend, is what you are in for.
Now I had read it at least a dozen times before I got on the bike and fired up the video, and despite that, I still managed a “WTF??” moment when I saw that screen. I think it was the realisation that I was actually about to do it. 64 sprints when I am hardly a cyclist, let alone a sprinter.
And then it is broken down into the stages of sprints and you really start to wonder why you are doing it. Check this out.
And that is at the end of the carnage! Messages were going to the legs, lungs and blood pump and the replies weren’t too favourable. Get ready body, this was going to sting.
The warm up shows the field from the 2013 Giro d’Italia rolling out for stage one. Butterflies have taken over my stomach.
One of the lesser talked about aspects of the Sufferfest videos is the music. It is usually music I wouldn’t listen to. The sort of music you’d hear in a gym spin class. But it works really well. The warm up and wind down and recovery music is also terrific. This is just one of a perfect selection for Violator as part of the warm up.
In fact the warm up music, mostly in Italian, had me feeling all, well, Italian. I wanted to slick my hair back, put on some gold jewellery and unbutton my dress shirt down to my navel. I felt like the Aussie Mario Cipollini. All that was missing was Monica Bellucci on my arm.
Ha, what has been seen can not be unseen! Now, where was I?
Ah yes, spinning along the Italian waterfront doing the warm up for a Sufferfest video. It isn’t long before the fun stops and you are doing some efforts, just to get the legs going. That out of the way, it is time to get serious. A new feature for this video is the sprint countdown.
My first thought was, “what a great idea”. It would be about 5 minutes later that I would be tapping the screen wondering if the counter was broken. I was in hell and only 57 sprints to go.
You also get a little “bing” sound to warn you to shift into the sprinting gear. Another nice touch.
And then, all hell breaks loose!
10/10 effort and 110+ RPM cadence. We were away! And as soon as it started it was finished. A 5 second effort. “That was a piece of piss” I was thinking. Maybe they are right, these first lot of efforts will be easy. Some more lovely Italian lounge music played and my heart rate dropped down to something near normal and bang, off we go again. 5 seconds of going berserk, showing those pedals who was the boss. Another relaxing 30 seconds rest. Oddly, the heart rate didn’t drop as far this time and we were off again. Another 5 seconds of madness as I dished the pain out to my cranks and drive train. More soothing tones as the heart rate started to drop. Bang, another 5 seconds.
This is what the first 12 efforts looked like.
At effort number 5 I was starting to wonder about the discussion earlier about “The first set seems almost too easy”. At effort 10 I was in the hole they talked about. Now, I hated the countdown timer. I finished the set of twelve 5 second efforts. 52 sprints to go. 30 seconds rest.
I am pretty sure it isn’t the bike that needs attention. I grabbed a gel and nearly ate the wrapper. Splashed some Gatorade down my neck and bang, the Techno music was throbbing out of the speakers and we were doing 10 second efforts.
The sweat started. Eight 10 second sprints. The hurt was now coming faster than I cared to admit. Even with the 1 minute recoveries, I was starting to struggle, and only 40 odd sprints to go. I was starting to FroomeDog it. The ten second sprints finished but I was already wheezing like an asthmatic in the Alps.
The 15 second sprints started and even though there were only 6 of them, they had me looking for an excuse to stop. The “problem” I had, was that I could really wind up in 15 seconds, and because I didn’t have any indication just how hard to go, I was going with every thing I had. I started seeing power numbers above 1000w for the first time. It may have taken me 10 seconds to get to that sort of number, but by god it was hurting. I managed to get through the six 15 second efforts and the sweats had gone from a gentle sprinkle to a completely new level.
You know in the movie Titanic when the boat starts taking on water. Well imagine the boat turned inside out, and that was me. The sweat was fairly spraying from my pores. There was sweat in the computer screen, the keyboard and some on the garage door, 3 metres away! Hello human sprinkler.
In between breaths, I managed to see the screen.
Wait, what? David had told me the whole workout was just on an hour. VLC was saying I had about 25 minutes left including a 5 minute warm down. 39 sprints in 20 minutes. I near fell off the bike.
That set of sprints behind me, there was a minute or so recovery and I was doing everything I could to get my breath back, get some energy in the shape of gels and rehydrate with a bottle of water and a swig of Gatorade.
This was the next set.
Not much recovery. This wasn’t going to be fun. To be honest, the fun had stopped long ago. Now I was being driven by sheer bloody mindedness.
Bang, the gun goes and it is a frenzied 5 seconds. A 15 second respite and bang, off again. I was starting to go into the SufferWarp. Bang. Go. Rest. Bang. Go. Rest. Bang. Go. The 5 second efforts were killing me. The 15 second recoveries weren’t 15 seconds. Bang, no time to think. I was like a male lion at mating time. (Google it!) Bang. Go. Recover. It felt like my lungs were shrinking. I wasn’t even watching the screen, so it wasn’t until I started to screen caps for this review that I saw this. Probably a good thing, I would have thought I was hallucinating.
And then, it was over. The 5 second efforts anyway. Only 28 sprints left. The love for David and Neal was leaving me faster than the sweat. Come on, give me a nice 20 minute break you bastards.
The ding then the bang to go again. Jesus. That was only 15 seconds. The 10 second efforts had started and I was still trying to negotiate with the blood pump to stay in my chest cavity.
Eyes popping I was out of the saddle going like a cut cat. The trainer started to inch forward. The first one of eight 10 second efforts over, I am back in negotiations with my heart and lungs. You can’t get much sorted in 30 seconds and it is bang, go time.
Screw you, I jump out of the saddle and give it everything. 1100 watts. I am a beast. Cav can kiss my… bang, go again. Wait, what… the expletives fly. Up again and I am lifting the front wheel out of its rest. Recover.
I reach for the water. It is on my desk, which is a lot closer now than when I started. Hmm, I wonder how… bang. Argghhh. Off I go again. Recover. The SufferWarp is starting to happen. I look up.
It is then I realise the bike brake levers are nearly touching the desk. All this mad effort is actually inching the bike and trainer forward. Better rectify this, now.
I am not sure how many people have attempted a bunny hop on a bike still connected to a quite heavy trainer. I recommend you dont.
Bang, we’re off again. 20 sprints to go I nearly hang my swingers on the stem as the front mech drops onto the little ring. Those of you with keen eyes will notice on the graph below my heart rate drops off. That was when I had to pause everything to fix the front mech and move the bike back about a foot. All that done, I looked at the bike and looked at the screen. I was so close to pulling the plug. Reluctantly I got back on and banged out the last 10 second effort.
A total 60 seconds of sprinting that damn near finished me. Even with the 45 seconds recovery, my heart rate was dropping below 160 at this point. One of the dogs stuck its head under the garage and must have wondered what the hell was happening, thought better of investigating and bolted. She could sense my inner rage. What she didn’t know was that I couldn’t have hurt her as much as a flea on her back at that point.
That pretty much sums it up. I don’t have the capacity to put into words those last few sprints. I just left the gears in the big ring and gave it everything I had when told too. It hurt. A lot. I have to admit, the very last effort I had to ease off with about 5 seconds to go. I was done. All my energy was on the floor and walls of the garage in the form of sweat. I had been Violated!
I wished it was true, but if this told me anything, it was that I wasn’t a sprinter. I was a fat MAMIL pretender. I was beaten.
I managed to roll my legs around for the length of the cool down in some sort of gasping trance. The music stopped and so did I.
I had to sit on the trainer for 5 minutes just to stop the light headed feeling. I was still seeing weird little spots in my vision.
Having already completed Revolver, the other SufferFest sprint workout, I was wondering why Violator wasn’t called Gattling Gun or something similar. Violator simply puts revolver in the shade, and this is what I had to say about revolver at the time!
As usual, I would like to thank David at The Sufferfest and Mark at Cell Bikes for the generosity they have shown. And also Neal at Apex Coaching for this work out. I hope to get some time to put some questions together for Neal in the next few days about Violator and they will be on the blog soon.
More details on the trainer session by clicking the graphs below.
Big thanks to my mate Carl (CLP) for the proofread. 🙂
Thanks for reading and if you have any comments, please post them below.