Dark Days with The Sufferfest

Posted: October 1, 2011 by mickflanders in Cycling, Training

Where am I?

Its early evening, an unseasonable 28 degrees C and the London skyline is clinging on to the last few rays of sunlight.  Perfect BBQ weather with a couple of cold ones, or better yet a relaxing spin through the countryside.  What a pity I’m going somewhere else.  By the time I have the turbo trainer set up in the back yard its dark,  Very dark.

I am of course still in my yard about to test drive the new training video ‘A Very Dark Place’ from the evil pain merchants The Sufferfest and I must admit I am a bit nervous.  I regularly use the short ‘Revolver’ and longer ‘The Hunted’ videos and apart from racing, these provide the hardest possible workout – especially if you respond well to childish name calling and threats.  I’m nervous because I can remember the first time I rode Revolver and it left me unable to get off the bike.  I’m nervous because with each new video, The Sufferfest team have been getting more and more evil.  All in the name of getting you beating your ass.

So to the format:

  • Short warm up
  • Straight into 5 intervals of 4 minutes with 3 minutes rest in between
  • A cool down with some vintage footage

Sounds easy? Lets see…

After some explanatory graphics and some scene setting visuals, I embark on a nice warm up riding with a group before the hard work starts.  The soundtrack starts off with americana rock which isnt my favourite genre but things liven up a bit later on.
The reason Sufferfest works so well is that rather than just watching race footage while mindlessly chugging away, you have to stay focused and respond to commands.

Each of the five intervals is different and there are various events from spring classics cobbles through to climbs of Le Dauphine.  No punches pulled, these are all HARD.  Riding so close to your limit is very hard and while 4 minutes doesn’t seem long, it is when you are riding beyond your means.  The soundtrack takes a darker and more angsty turn once the efforts kick in which is most appropriate.

There is a short rest of three minutes between intervals to get your breath back, but its not long enough to rest the legs.  When the 3 minutes is up, its really hard to get back up to speed but there are plenty of encouraging words to make sure you get back up to pace.

After 4 of these it takes courage to keep going and hang in for the last one and keep the effort up, but at the end of the day you wouldn’t be here if you didnt want to so as long as you havent cooked yourself early, you need to hang in there.  Of course climbing off early is means instant deportation from Sufferlandia.  Finally, things wrap up with some vintage footage to help you return to civilisation.

My only gripe is the marginal variation in some of the efforts.  Once you are in the hurt locker, its hard to detect much difference between how much 8.75 and 8.5 on the Suffer scale.  Both hurt!!  But of course this is extremely easy to overlook as the end result is you are left with legs screaming and lungs burning.

‘A Very Dark Place’ complements the other videos well as it focuses on your 4 minute power threshold.  Perfect for crit racing trying to get in a break and where attacks come thick and fast.  Just be sure to keep your eyes peeled for the big name riders – Phillipe and Fab are out there and if you arent careful, they’ll have you in a very dark place before you know it.

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