Review: Sufferfest’s “The Wretched”.
The twisted minds at The Sufferfest have just unleashed their latest diabolical creation, “The Wretched“. This morning’s blog was supposed to be a review of The Wretched, but it reads more like a warning.
Note: If you’re not familiar with The Sufferfest, my review is here.
“The Wretched” is a race simulation, and you begin your race with an interesting and compelling backstory. From the video description:
“Perhaps one of the most difficult Sufferfests ever made, The Wretched is the tale of a Sufferlandrian who has fallen from Local Hero to Zero.
Now, faced with the final stage of the Tour de France, you need to remember how to Suffer and race with more courage than you’ve ever done before.
This is a true road race: flats, attacks, climbs, descents, and sprints. And no rests. It will push you to the absolute limit – but then again, nobody ever said winning a Tour de France stage was easy.”
My original plan was to do The Wretched workout and review over this past weekend but–as many of you know–I am a huge fan of TrainerRoad (my review of TrainerRoad is here). TrainerRoad has workouts for all of the Sufferfest videos, and I contacted them to see if they were working on one for “The Wretched”. They were, and so I decided to wait a couple of days so I could do The Wretched with the TrainerRoad workout.
The reason I like doing Sufferfest videos along with the corresponding TrainerRoad workouts is because having wattage-based targets based on my actual FTP (Functional Threshold Power) instead of relying on perceived effort takes the suffering to another level. With wattage-based targets I can’t cheat. I can’t talk myself into thinking “I’m at 8.5 right now” when I’m really not. The wattage-based goals are always right in my face and–no matter how exhausted I am–they never lie.
So yesterday I saw that “The Wretched” TrainerRoad workout was live. I was out of excuses. I staged my Bike Torture Chamber, took a couple of deep breaths and set off…
Like all Sufferfest videos, during the warm-up you’re given all the information you need to perform the workout. The perceived effort scale of 1-10 (which, as mentioned above, is not required if you’re using TrainerRoad) is clearly explained, as are the meanings of the various sounds and on-screen prompts used throughout the workout.
As you can see in the above still from “The Wretched”, there’s a bit of whimsy peppered throughout the opening warm-up section of the video. My advice is to enjoy it while it lasts, because you won’t be smiling for long. In fact, I’m convinced the humor was only included to make the contrast of what’s to come even more pronounced.
The onscreen display used in the Sufferfest videos has evolved and improved with each video release. The OSD in The Wretched is the result of many refinements, and it reflects the designers’ careful attention to detail. As you can see from any of the video stills I’ve included in this review, the information you need to perform the workout is presented onscreen at all times. You’ll always know what exertion level you should be using, the suggested cadence and even if you’re supposed to be out of the saddle.
The music used in The Wretched is, in general, quite good. Even though most of the music isn’t something you’d find on my MP3 player, almost all the tunes are catchy and not at all objectionable. About the only song I really did not care for was the rather odd drum, bass and spoken dialog number that plays during the Box Hill climb warm-up.
Even if you don’t particularly care for some of the music, I assure you that as the workout progresses you’ll be be grateful for any external stimulus that helps distract you from the suffering.
The video footage in The Wretched is excellent. As you ride you’ll be treated to race footage from the 2011 and 2012 Tour de France. The video quality is not HD, but even on my 42″ set it still looked good.
The Wretched is a very, very difficult workout. As mentioned above, I did the workout using wattage-based targets instead of perceived exertion. My current FTP is 280, and the workout’s difficulty level was automatically scaled by TrainerRoad based on my FTP. TrainerRoad allows (and even encourages) the Sufferfest difficulty level to be dialed back, but I wanted the full Wretched experience: I did the workout at full strength and with no nerfing of the difficulty.
The first half of the workout was challenging and required a fair bit of focus, but around the 35 minute mark things became downright evil. Already very fatigued, you’re required to ride in the VO2 MAX power zone (see my Coggan’s Power-Based Training article for more information) for an extended period of time. Then, just as you feel like you’re about to pass out from the pain and exhaustion, there’s an out of the saddle tag well into Anaerobic Capacity (and that’s just 1 of 4 such tags).
The last couple of climbs were pure agony, and I wanted to quit. I don’t remember much of the video during those last two climbs–just little bits and pieces filtered through red mist, pain and blackness. I remember looking up at one point and seeing a hammer pounding raw meat. It took me a moment to realize that I was not hallucinating: I felt like I was the raw meat being pummeled in the video.
As I mentioned earlier in this review, The Wretched is a race simulation. So you can forget about any real rest: apart from a couple of very brief respites at about 70% FTP, you’re always attacking, climbing and/or defending. Just when you think you can’t take any more, you’ll hear that dreaded bell that signifies you need to get out of the saddle and climb. You won’t want to continue, but you must. You’re a Sufferlandrian, and Sufferlandrians Suffer and Obey.
Here’s the complete Wretched workout from yesterday on TrainerRoad.
The temperature in my gym is 74° (F), I consumed 50 ounces of water while I rode and I consumed electrolytes; despite all of that, when I completed the 49 minute workout I was down more than 2 pounds. Most of that water was sweat, but some of it may have been tears.
“The Wretched” is one of the more difficult Sufferfest videos I’ve done, and it’s also the most well-produced.
This video is a must-own for any proper Sufferlandrian. What are you waiting for? Are you scared? Well, you should be…. but don’t let that stop you. Go grab The Wretched from the Sufferfest web site, put on your big boy (or girl) bibshorts and prepare yourself for agony. You may scream… there is no shame.