Sunday, Febraury 1, 2015, I completed the 2015 Tour of Sufferlandria. It was right up there with a marathon as one of the hardest physical endeavors I have ever attempted.
Nine days in a row, get on a bike trainer and bust out a hard workout. Day 8 had something like 125 high intensity intervals, including more than 80 sprint efforts. I cried, I yelled, I learned new things about what I prefer in the pad of my bike shorts.
Now social media is not perfect, there are very negative elements to the ubiquity of networks of people posting innocuous but vapid memes or vitriolic, bigotry without consequence.
The Tour of Sufferlandria is an example of the positive potential of the internet. The Sufferfest itself only exists by virtue of a highly available, high bandwidth, digital information delivery system. The Tour is organized over the internet, as a benefit to the Davis Phinney Foundation for Parkinson’s. The highlight of the Tour has been the Facebook group. For all that the Sufferfest spouts words like “pain, misery, agony” the group has been a constant flow of camaraderie and support.
On the eighth day, when I was very close to cracking, I thought of Dame Alissa Schubert and I fought on. On the last sprint of that day and the last sprint of the tour, I thought of her again. On the ninth day, when I did not want to get on my bike trainer for another two hours, I logged onto Facebook and there were dozens of posts from others exactly where I was. To find the energy and the motivation to complete the tour I just needed to know I wasn’t alone.
I bought my first Sufferfest video in 2010. It was so cool! They are very well put together and I find the music especially is programmed in such a way that if I am having trouble hitting my power target I can just close my eyes and tune in to that and I’ll be right on, it’s magic. But they were for tough people, for “real” cyclists. I really, really wanted a Sufferfest jersey to ride in but I told myself I had to earn it.
I told myself that I could have it if I was fast enough. I didn’t know how fast that was, but I knew I didn’t want to look like a poseur. If I was going to fly that flag I wanted to come correct.
That was bullshit. Seeing so many Sufferlandrians this last week I’ve seen that speed has nothing to do with. What size your body is, your FTP, your average speed, how much you sweat, none of that matters. Will matters.
Having the drive to get better, the will to work, that is what makes a Sufferlandrian. Getting up, wanting it enough to play less video games, get up early, make the childcare arrangements, deal with the soreness, that’s it. If you’re making space to give the energy, you’re here.
My husbeast did me the great compliment of telling people about the Tour. Proudly he told friends and family about his crazy, sporty wife. He gets it. When I told him about the stages and how hard they would be he would say “That sounds terrible! Have fun!” He knew that I had earned that Sufferfest jersey long before I did.
I finished the Tour and it was amazing. I was hard, it hurt, I cried, and today I feel that much more confident and sure of my own strength. Will I do it in 2016? I don’t know, but I’m very glad I did it this year.