So, here I was (funny, a lot of my posts start like this, almost like a fairy tale – don’t be fooled)… so here I was at the frontier to Sufferlandria, a wry smile on my face, the tri shorts on, the drinks bottle ready, Mighty Whitey (my bike) strapped into the turbo, and most importantly, the “Rubber Glove” downloaded to my webbook.

The download process had been easy enough, put it in your basket, follow the instructions, presto! It’s probably just due to my rubbish little IT resource that I needed two attempts at unzipping the file. But I got there in the end.

So, I was ready to go. I’d never before been to Sufferlandria, but had heard only good things about it, along the lines of “it’s so bloody hard” or “at the end you’ll swear you’ll never do it again, and then you come back for more”. That sounded just about right for me, after all I’m German and there’s a certain stereotype about us… what did I expect then? Well, it said on the virtual box that it was a FTP test – now if you wonder what that is, there’s a wonderful little explanation at the beginning of the video, but in short it’s the hurt box that helps determine at what heart rate or power threshold you could ride for an hour and then fall off the bike spent. But the people from The Sufferfest are so much more eloquent at explaining that.

So while this little explanation went, I clambered on my bike and started pedalling. I don’t have a power meter and generally work on heart rate, particularly in my bike training. I was still excited, even at the prospect of doing essentially a 20 min Time Trial. The footage was courtesy of the Belgian Classics from this year – more excitement! You may know I’ve won this little VIP trip to watch the Ronde van Vlaanderen. Would I see myself on the video footage?

Rubber Glove screenshotMy excitement got taken down a notch when the surgeon put on his rubber gloves and I got told I was going to be subjected to a fitness examination Sufferlandrian style. I’ve got a vague feeling that maybe this was going to end in tears…

No time to linger, off I went, signing on with the pros… the warm-up was easy enough – which means I probably didn’t do it right. I was spying too much for myself in the crowd. The music went along at a nice beat (though I’m the first to admit, that it wasn’t quite my style, but then again, for a fitness test like this you’d better throw your taste buds overboard and get on with it, because let’s face it, during the test you’ll be so busy focusing on your pedal stroke and your cadence and if  you manage the pictures that the music just disappears to the background). Loosen off the legs to finish off the warm-up (she really made scrambled eggs on rollers?! Blooming heck! I manage to just about stay up-right.).

Test time! The onscreen instructions regarding cadence and effort are clear and easy to follow, and they have to be given what you are doing. It’s nice to have the feeling you’re riding with the lead group at one of those classics, and hey! then there’s a that Voeckler bloke in it. I keep working, following instructions – and by now I’ve forgotten to look out for myself in the crowd. I’m just about hanging on to that lead group and the only thing I hear is my weezy breath and I just about see the instructions on the screen, but I have quite a clear view of that rear wheel!

5 min to go. And the inevitable happens – Voeckler makes a break… ha! Tongue out, grimasses, the usual spiel. Not. In. My. Race. This is the part of a race I like best (at least I’m telling myself that). The last little bits – sprint – and boom! I win!

A word on Voeckler – personally, I think he’s one of those love-hate people. I admire his guts and courage when he does what he does. But I seriously dislike all the rest of it, I think it’s all a bit showy. But let me tell you, it felt bloody good to catch him on the finish line!

Effect of the visit to Sufferlandria - Exhastion

Anyhow, so… I didn’t cry (phew!), but I just about made it off my bike – spent. Overall, I really enjoyed my first trip to Sufferlandria, I spent an enjoyable (yeah!) hour that passed quickly on the turbo, got some valuable data out of it and a good training session in. I’ll come back, but maybe with something less painful – like hills.