Wednesday, 18 December 2013

24 hours of turbo torment. 21 months on.

A lot of talk about knighthoods and Sufferfests recently has got me reminiscing (not sure it is the right word but hey) about turbo torment. With the website down and the report not here before, I thought I'd stick it up for a bit of fun as I reread it. So here is that terribly painful weekend in February 2012...

The Big Day

On Saturday 18th February at 12:01 (pm) I sat on my bike and started something crazy. Over the past few months I have been called many things when I described what I was attempting, the kindest of which was usually “nutter”. Turned out over the course of the weekend many people had underestimated what I was trying to do. I was one of those many people.

To say the build up was a little stressful is understating things. As well as fundraising, publicising, and sorting out things for the event I actually had to try and train a bit too! Lots of late nights were had, but the result was worth it as I’m sure you’ll see.

So as my wheel spun up on Saturday I was feeling excited. My first mistake had been in not putting a speed magnet on the turbo wheel donated by Bridgtown Cycles. Using TrainerRoad to estimate virtual power wasn’t working, I stuck one on after an hour and realised I was holding 170W. Now that might not sound like much, but I’d been reading that the average “trained” cyclist can maintain 130W for 24 hours. If I carried on at this rate things would hurt later. With my Dad, brother and Andrew joining in I was in good company, right up until I got a puncture. New wheel, new tube,
riding indoors. Seemed to puzzle everyone else, quick wheel change and I was back off while the puncture was repaired, turns out it was a pinch flat.

At the end of the 3 hours I made a quick wardrobe change before the Sufferfest marathon began. I love these workout videos, they are great for winter training and some interval work the rest of the year and David had been kind enough to give me some as well as the complete collection for the raffle. Last year Darren Roberts did 6 and became the first knight of Sufferlandria. I was going to attempt to do the 8 there now were, along with the recently released top up videos (called “Extra Shots”). I’d made a bet regarding the donations with Chris Weeks, that if £1000 was donated by the end of January I’d do one of these after each of the 8 videos. That was quite foolish as my so called friends ensured that this target was met, then Sufferfest went and released a second, longer, extra shot. The next 12+ hours of riding would be training videos.

So there I was, back on the bike, and about to become a ‘Local Hero’. My memory goes a little blank when it comes to the Sufferfests. I remember they hurt. I remember hating the extra shots towards the end. I remember smiling for photos, and be lambasted for it, “you should be hurting not smiling”, well at that point I was still enjoying myself. I have to say thanks to David Galea and family, and John & Elizabeth for popping in during the afternoon to keep me company. Doing the fests on my own would have been soul destroying. It was also great to see my brother and a girl
from St John’s using the spin bike we’d been lent. I changed and started the next block of Sufferfests, and realised that I’d forgotten to use the loo again. This isn’t a good sign, and I was told off for it,
I’d been riding for 6 hours, drank litres of fluids and it was obviously coming out of pores faster than I could replenish it.

In the evening I had a turkey sandwich made for me before mum left for the night. I managed half of it, then the other half an hour or so later. Fred turning up was a nice surprise. It was really heartening to see friends that had travelled for hours to be there. By the time midnight arrived I was really
suffering, I remember thinking, 11 hours gone, that’s just my Ironman left to do! Dad was being a real trooper and was trying to do all the Sufferfests, then using the Extra shots to refill my bottles for me. A feat that has earned him the (still unofficial) title of Squire of Sufferlandria. By this point every restart was hurting. The pain in my wrists was horrible, the joint was starting to hurt and my palms were getting raw. My legs were seriously sore and I wasn’t halfway there yet. The For Quads and Calf Guards that Compressport had donated to me were performing admirably, and I hate to think what my legs would have been like if I hadn’t been wearing them. The only glimmer of hope was that I wasn’t saddle sore yet. I had coffee, that perked me up, and Tweeted that I had my 3rd wind. 2 hours later I had come down off my high and with 2 extras and Downward spiral left my mood
had changed “Just 3 @thesufferfest left. Sore and tired now. This was a stupid idea. At least the charities are worth it.”

Finally, at just before 0300 on Sunday morning I arrived at Downward Spiral, the last of the full Sufferfests. Why I chose to make this the last I do not know. Two sets of descending intervals. To say they hurt was an understatement. Eventually it was done though, Dad had done all 8 and Andrew arrived to keep me company on the bike again. I just had the final Extra shot to do. I was destroyed though and the power profile is a complete mess, nothing like the smooth 34 minute steady effort it was meant to be. But I had nothing left in the tank by that point. Then it was all over and I celebrated with a (brief) sit down and tweet – “8 @thesufferfest, 4 extra shots, 4 long screams. Seriously hurting now, just 8.5 hours soft pedalling left.”

That tweet said it all eight and a half hours “soft-pedalling” left. Thankfully Andrew was there to keep my mood up, and then Iain arrived around 0600 to ride for a couple of hours, as the sun came up, this is where I was at my low spot. My wrists hurt, my legs were sore, and my knees were starting to hurt. I was mentally switching off. Iain was riding with his tri spoke rear though, and the whomp-whomp-whomp sound was rather hypnotic as we chatted about all things triathlon the time slid by. Then more people flooded in, the tweets picked up and the messages kept me going. Iain returned home and started tweeting like mad, getting me retweets from some of the great and good in triathlon, Phil Graves, Rachel Joyce (Andrew read a tweet out from her, which served as a refreshing pick me up), Will Clarke, Craig Alexander, Helen Jenkins followed. If anyone else is mad enough to do this then Twitter is the angel on your shoulder to counter your inner demon. The encouragement was superb.

I was getting the awful “Low Battery” message from the Garmin now, my sole timing device, and in a moment of stupidity I started a second watch but didn’t sync the times. I thought from memory I had done 19h32m. Turns out I had done 19h37m, which would later mean I suffered an extra 5 minutes of torture. As I entered the last few hours the pain was becoming intense. I was now surrounded by people on bikes or watching (Cath, Sarah, Andrew H, Andrew W, Dad) and others that had just come to watch. In the last 5 hours my knees had started to give out. I was running behind schedule as 8 minutes rest every 3 hours was waaay to optimistic. As 3 hours came I knew the end was in sight, I was now icing my knees every 15 minutes. I found another great use for Compressport too, holding ice packs in place on my quads. To be honest they weren’t too bad, the compression was doing its job. I was bruising though and it was a 3 horse game. If I pedalled in the saddle my sit bones hurt. If I got out the saddle my knees hurt. If I wasn’t in a finely balanced position in or out of the saddle my wrist complained most. I got halfway through that: “1:30 left. Knee about to explode. Hard time ahead. But at least it will have been worth it”. Now it was just the end game. Tom & Emma arriving from way up North was great to see. Then I had 10 minutes left, and I started a finger based countdown to the webcam. That last minute was great, and fuelled solely on adrenaline I dropped down and sprinted to the imaginary line.
It was all over 24 hours on a bike, £2000 donated at that point, 598km covered (Southampton to Edinburgh and a little more as the crow flies). At an average cadence of 78.7 I turned the pedal 113722 times. My heart beat 173400 times at an average of 68% of my HR max, nearly 113k times more than if I’d spent the day on the sofa. I drank, I think, 20 litres of fluids. Ate a few Yum Yums, a doughnut, a sandwich, a bacon roll and some ice cream. And burnt somewhere between 15 and 19000 calories. A few technical issues mean I don’t have a definitive average power, but from back-calculation it appears to be around 122W (only 1/6 of a horsepower). So it took me 24 hours to generate 2.95kWh, just enough energy to boil the water for 148 cups of tea!

The Aftermath

What does 24 hours on a bike do to you? Well I made the mistake of stepping of my bike at the end and standing over the top tube. I couldn’t then get my leg over the saddle, Tom had to remove my seat post for me. To say I hurt was an understatement. My knees were destroyed. My calves and quads weren’t too bad. I may overdo plugs for the people that sponsored me, but the For Quads and Calf Guards from Compressport UK were amazing, and looking back I’m not sure I could have lasted without them. They withstood 24 hours of use and still look like new. It really is the best compression wear out there, and the F-Likes I already had were priceless for recovery. I was a little saddle sore, but everyone expected that. The only problem I still have is my right hand, seem to have a nerve problem, and it has not shown that much improvement.

By the end of the day over £2000 had been raised, and then when you take into account Gift Aid the total has now passed the £2800 mark, utterly amazing. (Edit: Over £3500 was raised in the end)


Firstly I have to thank everyone that has donated money, it is your donations that have made this madcap challenge. Next I must thank Mum & Dad for helping with the organisation, funding bits and pieces required to make it happen (it is surprisingly costly doing something for charity I’ve
learnt), and being there on the days supporting me on and off the bike. Andrew Howden also needs a mention here, for spending the whole event at or near my side. The people that came and rode alongside me, and travelled for hours to support my mad efforts, I’ve tried to name most of you, but if I haven’t you are not forgotten. The companies that sponsored me and the raffle: Bridgtown Cycles, The Sufferfest, Compressport UK, Galeforce Events, Nuun, and Biddenham Parish Council. Thank you to all of you.

A Gallery of pictures can be found on Flickr just visit

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