I was enjoying my semi-retired life as a Knight of Sufferlandria. Don't get me wrong; I wasn't on the couch. I spent most of my time enjoying my newfound appreciation for riding in muddy and snowy and otherwise unfashionable weather.
And there were other sirens calling me, luring me to straddle the saddle for non-Sufferlandrian deeds. Zwift was one of them. A 10-day free trial period and lots of friends posting their "pictures" on Strava had me Zwift-curious.
So I tried it, once or ten times. But I swear, I didn't inhale. Yeah, it was fun, but it didn't feel like home. Not like Sufferlandria felt like home.
This was also the time that I had gone silent on Facebook, and had cut myself off from my usual stream of bike-related frivolity and support. Still, the call of Suffering is not one that can be ignored.
It wasn't long before I found myself, when not riding outdoors in the slush and snow, firing up the SufApp and revisiting some of my favourite rides. From there, I was soon caught up in the excitement of the impending Tour of Sufferlandria 2017.
Bad memories of Facebook
It is no secret, that the ToS had some exceptional years. The years 2013 and 2014 stand out in my mind. Made many friends there. Many of them, like me, were or became Knights of Sufferlandria. Many of them became my virtual friends, and still are to this day. That being said, 2015 and 2016 were also memorable and filled with individuals who I still cherish and consider friends, albeit virtual ones.
This was also a time when social media went from fun to angry to ugly. Echoes of this I felt on several of the Sufferfest Facebook pages run by Sufferlandrians. What happened on Facebook, in my opinion, was a strange confluence of exuberance, ignorance of tradition and the new online ethos. Whatever it was, it left me with hesitation to seriously re-engage with the ToS online community.
At the same time, the The Sufferfest began movement from a video-based to an App-centred paradigm. This business model - because The Sufferfest is, at its roots, a business - something that many ignored or forgot, created some significant enmity for the Sufferfest community. Some went their own way, some dove in head first and others, like myself, just took the long term approach.
Thing is, stuff changes, technology marches on. I'm still annoyed that I have some music CDs that I have only listened to once or twice and that I no longer have a CD player. The SufApp had it's blemishes, (and it's constant, but reasonable cost), but no different than other premium apps, it also offered freedom of use over many platforms that was heretofore unprecedented. That was my way of thinking. And I just sat on the saddle and rode.
In 2015 and 2016, I had great Tour of Sufferlandria. Met some more exceptional people. And had such heartwarming support in my own personal endeavors, including my knighthood, that I still get goosebumps. The spectre of the increasingly solipsistic, alt-fact social media world had me reluctant to re-engage with ToS2017 online.
But I did. And it was the best online experience I have ever had with the tour. I'm not comparing it to my previous four Tour years. I'm comparing it to all other online experiences I have had. What a fine group of supportive, welcoming, earnest and genuine athletes.
There are just too many people to name, too many characters -- dames, knights, veterans, and newbies, young and old. They are Americans, Austrians, Dutch and Quebecois, Canadians & expats, South Africans, Germans & Australians, Malaysians & Mexicans...Sufferlandrians from all over the world speaking the language of suffering that transcended all of our differences.
They all contributed to a community that created a bubble of support at a time where it seems that the world has lost its bearing. Some of the racers brought smiles to my face every time I heard of their exploits. I can't not mention the pancake-making roller Dame; the one armed bandito and the mustachioed enigma. You know who you are. There were so many more larger than life personalities that made the the race of a lifetime.
This was an experience that I will not soon forget. To be honest, the Tour course itself did not enthuse me. Some stages I found dull, others were repetitive. Previous years made my blood rush more.
The energy, the community, the personal involvement and holy water equity contributed by all of The Sufferfest personnel: Sirs David, Aaron, Jared, Coder-extraordinaire Reid and that tattooed, dulcet-voiced dude, Dylan. Set a compelling tone for the Tour.
The reciprocation and participation of lay Sufferlandrians and Dames and Knights made this truly a rare and engaging event...an event like no other.
In a future blog, I may share some of the many videos I made along the way. I didn't believe that I would be as active as I was online.
It is never too late to contribute to the Davis Phinney Foundation for Parkinson's. As of five days after the tour, Sufferlandrians, family and friends had contributed more than US$141,000. That is incredible and it demonstrates, again. The power of the pedal bike.
I now hang this certificate proudly in my office.