Sufferfest Knighthood attempt

27 03 2014

Out of Suffering have emerged the strongest souls; the most massive characters are seared with scars.


Saturday 22nd March 2014 seen seven brave men from Lisburn Triathlon club, mount their noble steeds and head for the hills of Sufferlandria.  The quest was very simple – to be come Knights of the Realm of Sufferlandria and raise some vital money for the Cystic Fibrosis trust in the process.

This is our story….

We arrived at the Pond Park Primary school at 0640 on the morning of March 22nd, we were due to begin at 0700 but we had so much gear in preparation for this challenge that starting on time was going to be unlikely.  Finally set up with our turbo trainers, bikes, feed stations and bike spares – we tuned the laptop into the School’s massive projector screen and sound system and got our quest underway.  Hell hath no fury was our starter for ten.

The Early stages:

The first video past in a flash, the room was filled with enthusiasm and positivity from the off with Ben, Mark, Michael and Steve all trading some friendly banter with a few jibes thrown my direction for good measure and to make sure I didn’t feel left out… Video number 1 appeared to be over in no time and as we finished the final sprint and warm down – we were still pretty fresh.  the temperature had definitely risen but that was only natural given that seven sweaty beasts were doing their thing in the hall, at one stage there was a conversation about how many of us it would take – standing on our shoulders to open the windows in the roof…  A quick stop for a bottle of water and a flapjack or six and we were back on the bikes for ISLAGIATT.  ISLAGIATT is a two hour video which is a really good workout, lots of long climbs and few flat runs thrown in for good measure – again, this video went pretty quickly as the craic was still flying.  We were all taking this thing seriously, it was good to see the intensity of the videos was being followed, despite everyone knowing that we were here for the day.  We climbed Mount Sufferlandria to finish (which is a volcano – of course) and entered the flat run in to the finish, video two and over three hours would be finished with the end of this one.  I told the boys that we were a quarter done – “Wee buns” I said…. 


Anyone who’s familiar with Revolver will know that its an arse kicker of a workout, if done right.  We did this one right, maybe we did this one too right!  We hammered ourselves during the sprints and recovered during the recoveries.  Everyone seemed to be doing well and feeling strong as they kept pushing for a minute, every other minute.  It was as if we were in the races which were being shown to us on the screen.  We had been joined at this stage by a few visitors, who had popped in to say hello – give us a pat on the back, have a coffee – donate a few quid and then head on.  A couple of boys from the Tri club had come down to join in for a couple of hours and it was good to have some extra company.  During this video – we noticed that Ben’s front tyre was slightly under inflated and every time a sprint happened, the front wheel went up and down, as if he was riding ‘Huggie Bear’s’ bike which had been fitted out with hydraulic front suspension.  This was hilarious at the time and led to Ben getting ripped for a good while (not that ‘ripping’ Ben is possible – but i’ll come on to that).  Enter Stanley.  Stanley had come down to give us some encouragement and had even brought sports drinks.  As he entered, Ben ceased the opportunity to make the teasing stop – “Stanley, you wouldn’t put some air in that front tyre for me – would you?” He asked.  Stanley, being the gentleman that he is, went looking and returned with a track pump.  Ben (Still peddling on his bike) “Good man, Stan”.  Stanley removes dust cap and unscrews the air nipple, places pump fitting over the valve and…..ppppppssssssssssssttttttttttttt.  Stanley tries to pump air back in to said tyre, but it’s pointless – the tyre is drained.  The rest of us are in stitches and Stanley is receiving widespread praise for his Bicycle maintenance skills!  Ben who had some comfort before, now has nothing…. “Stanley – if you ever get a puncture in a triathlon, you’re F@&*ed” – comes the comments from the bikes.  Stanley takes it well but decides that he’s had enough of an impact for the day and heads on, with our thanks for the entertainment.  Video 3 is complete, four hours down – “That was alright” one of the lads comments.  The sandwiches were here – so we were happy.  People still came, some jumped on a bike for a few minutes before giving up and heading for a cup of tea.  They gave us encouragement and looked at us like we were crazy in equal measure.  We continued working, sweating, laughing and joking and made an effort to keep things positive.


Bloomer’s – AKA – Boots Chemist

Steve was positioned next to me to my right, with Michael the other side of him and on the table next to me, he had a mass of small, white plastic tablet containers.  He had bloody every pill known to man and as he popped the lid on one, I asked him what he was taking.  “Salt tablets” he said, “Some Jab – got them in Lanzarote, great for cramps”.  In for a penny, in for a pound – I took him up on the offer and downed a couple along with a bit of sports drink.  Steve’s big contribution to the effort was that anytime someone had an ache or complaint, he was on hand to offer them a tablet which could potentially cure their ills – a real team player.  And to be fair, I didn’t struggle once during the day with cramps….

We were in the thick of it at this point, and after a quick change of clothing for most guys we hit vid four – Angels and vid five – A very Dark place with gusto.  During Angels, Ben’s wife had kindly brought him down a box of goodies, including a fan, some baby wipes and red bull… (that’s a dangerous combination when in the hands of Ben) – Laura even built the Fan and positioned it in front of us,  a couple of the boys had the cheek to ask for it to be positioned right in front of their bikes… Nice try.  After Vid four, Laura left and I heard the sound of a large looking can of red bull get popped – I also saw a bag of jelly beans getting lifted at the same time.  Sh*t…

Vid five kicked off and Ben had polished off the red bull and an empty bag of Jelly beans lay dormant on the table next to his bike which now had an inflated front tyre.  Ten minutes in and Ben is like a bloody gummy bear on the piss.  I couldn’t hear the music from the video, I couldn’t hear Steve or Mark next to me, all I heard was Ben shouting abuse at anyone who looked his way, complete with the biggest, most childish grin you could expect on a Man who had just done 5 hours on a turbo trainer.  The following fifteen minutes were the funniest to date as Ben explained in great detail the intimacy which he was currently experiencing with his Bike saddle…  It was hilarious, I couldn’t hear some of what was said because i was too far away but it looked funny and that was good enough for me, the fact that Jeff was wiping away tears made it even more funny.

Closing out A very dark place, we chased Spartacus along the cobbles of Paris – roubaix and chased Jens Voigt along the roads of France and we were still feeling pretty fresh.  At the end of the vid, I shouted that we were halfway done! Good job boys – I said, we’ll be finished in no time!  We continued to consume enough food to fuel a small army and drink enough fluids to run a village for a weekend.  The temperature in the room was rising and it was starting to ‘sting – the nostrils’…

Local Hero

During the quest, I had to keep the Sufferfest up to date with our progress, so at the intervals – I would take a photo and post it to the sufferfest Facebook page.  On each post, Ian Pollard came back saying that he was coming down – but not until Local Hero was over.  At the time, I couldn’t understand why but by the end of this – I got it.  this was the one, this was the Game changer.  It’s not a long one but it seemed like the longest of the videos we did on the day, I can’t explain why but it dragged! We were hurting by the end of it and even Michael made the comment that this was the worst one.  I injected a hint of negativity, the first of the day by exclaiming “This is shit!” then quickly realised that I wasn’t helping and shut my mouth.  Thankfully, Laura-Jayne came to see me with Jacob during this one.  Mark’s wife Gillian and son Jack came to see him too with Jack bringing along a friend who appeared to either find or bring a cricket bat.  The poor young lad was only 2-3 years old, but as he innocently played with his cricket bat in the hall, Ben made a suggestion “Hello son, see that cricket bat you have there, lets play a game – why don’t you see if you can get it into Mark’s back wheel there, there’s a good lad” the poor lad looked like he was considering it for a while before being convinced by one of the responsible adults in the room that it wasn’t a very good idea.  Not to be denied, Ben gave it another go “I’m telling you, it’ll be really good fun if you can do it – and funny”.  We all knew he was taking the piss and we all laughed….

Morale lifted by the sight of our loved ones, it was my turn to be the punchline.  I was using a half towel to mop up my sweat, you see – i’m an ex Soldier, always will be and in my world, you only carry what you really truly need.  A half towel for wiping sweat out of my eyes is all I need and so I don’t find it strange, for me taking a full towel for this task is simply the waste of a good towel and it would only be taking up space which i could use for…….Ermmmm….   Anyway, LJ told me off for the half towel, I told the boys and Mark gave me a touch.  “I were wondering… Why is he using a cut down towel, is everything alright at oooooooommmmee…” Mark is from Yorkshire (Or is it Lancashire….) “Would you like to borrow maaaaa towwwwelllll” As he wipes his brow with a full beach towel.  Ben chirped in too – but by this stage the red bull and jelly beans had worn off slightly… Jeff laughed.. Steve cursed under his breath – he didn’t enjoy Local hero.  

At the end of this one, we all agreed that we were well and truly done with Local hero…


Video 7 passed without incident – we fought through it, thanks to some more friendly faces who popped in to say well done.  Sam Rosbotham arrived with a full box of Lindt chocolates and offered them round, Mark was the only taker.  Mark offered me and Jeff one and gestured to each end of the room.  No one wanted any more chocolate.  I looked round two minutes later and all that remained of the box was a trail of red foil wrappers strewn over the table next to me.  “Did you eat ALL of those?” – “Yep” he replied, with a wry smile… Locust!

It has to be said at this point, that I wouldn’t have done this thing on my own – i’d have quit, not because it would have been too hard but because i would have been bored out of my skull.  I’d like to pay tribute to these men, who made this day bearable.

Ciaran – longest stint on the bike prior to today was 1hr… He multiplied this by eleven today!  Great effort and pure determination, it was good to have him involved today and his performance should give him encouragement for what is yet to come.  top job!

Ben – Ben is a real character.  I knew that Ben would finish this because he possesses determination and if he sets his mind to something, it’s getting done!  He also possesses the rare ability to make people forget about the pain and negativity by making anything funny.  If I was ever to do an expedition to the Arctic or something that involved suffering for long periods – i’d want Ben to do it too, because it would be a real adventure.  Good job my man, it was a pleasure to suffer with you on this day!

Jeff – Jeff doesn’t do sad.  Jeff doesn’t do miserable.  Jeff doesn’t do negative, he’s just chirpy – all the time.  Another Ironman, I knew Jeff would get this done from the beginning and he was so enthusiastic about it, that it wasn’t hard to motivate ourselves for this.  I think Jeff laughed all day – granted, he was positioned between the double act that was Ben and Mark but it wouldn’t have made a difference who he was next to – he would have loved it.  Jeff’s positivity is infectious and it’s important to have that in challenges of this nature.

Mark – If you asked me for a word to describe Mark, it would be Strong.  He’s just strong, he doesn’t get emotional, doesn’t have highs and lows, doesn’t fluctuate – he stays completely in the middle and stays strong.  Another Ironman, there was no doubt that he wasn’t going to finish this thing.  Another guy who you would take with you if you were going to do something crazy, because he wouldn’t shirk, he would do his bit and stay strong.  Great guy.

Steve – Steve was pretty steady all day, but from observing the room – it looked like he was dwarfing the rest of us in terms of cadence.  He was like a hamster on a wheel, his legs were FLYING around and the sweat was pouring out of him.  Steve loved the first five hours and then fought through – there was no way that he wasn’t going to do this either, he had a steely look of determination on his face from the off.  And he had the Chemist shop for the rest of us…

Michael – Michael is the fittest man that I know.  He’s a natural at exercise, it doesn’t matter what Michael turns his hand to – if it’s physical, he makes it look easy.  He’s the best Triathlete in our club and he’s our best hope of getting a win in the short term.  I have the pleasure to be able to coach him a little and its difficult to make the sessions difficult for him because he makes it look so easy.  Another Ironman, Michael is also ridiculously positive – he doesn’t have dark periods and if he does, he keeps them to himself and gets through it.  Yet another great guy, you can see by what i have written that we had NO CHANCE of failing last saturday.  Michael and Steve kept me entertained all day as they were convinced that they were going to put weight on after the challenge.  After video three, they were confident enough that they had made an impact into the excess calories which they had consumed.  By the end of the first video, the had eaten three flapjacks between them and a bag of jelly beans each…. Impressive.

The guys in the room shared many characteristics but the main one is Character.  We succeeded on Saturday because we have Character and this is not a quality which everyone possesses, it is earned over time by doing things that you probably necessarily shouldn’t do, either because you’re not ready to do it or, it should in theory be too difficult.  There was a group of us in there on Saturday who have barely completed two hours on a bike a couple of times this year – but we decided that we were getting it done and that was all there was to it – Character.  I’m proud of all of these guys.

Eight and Nine

People continued to come, it was great to see so many supporters and people making donations.  They came in, looked, talked, drank coffee, looked again, shook their heads at the madness playing out in front of them and the fact that we appeared to be enjoying this thing, then left with a wave.  Our mates continued with their support on Facebook – everything from comments telling us how they were drinking beer and what they were having for dinner – What are you guys having? We even had a text message from a Nameless buddy who sent us a selfie of him doing his ‘Blue Steel’ look – he thought this would ‘help’ us…..

Eight and Nine dragged slightly – I was having joint pain, especially my knees and the constant accelerations involved with Violator made this worse.  I retreated into ‘get it done’ mode at this point, and probably wasn’t much craic at times – thats what i do.  Ben would chirp up every now and again, to give us something to laugh about.  Michael and Steve decided that they’d eaten enough for one day and didn’t fancy anymore sweet stuff for a bit!  Nine ended, we knew we were 45 minutes away from the end and we were eager to get this done.  A couple of Jeff’s mates came and joined us for 8 and 9 and were impressed that we were still keeping the intensity high. Damn right…. Ian, true to his word – joined us after Local Hero and pushed out the final four videos, fair play to him!

Ten! Wretched!

The Wretched is short but high intensity.  We were business like for the final vid and there was lots of encouragement amongst the guys for the final push.  We went for it at the end and were joined again by our loved ones.  Steve’s left knee was giving him grief and with the determination there for all to see, he took on a couple of segments using only his right leg.  Commitment.  As the time ticked down and we completed the final ascent and run in to the finish, we bunch sprinted and took the win!  We cooled down, dismounted our bikes and had a bit of high five, fist bump, handshake time.  What an effort – thirteen hours and ten minutes in total had passed since we began.  We had completed the challenge and Dominos had kindly donated five large pizzas to our cause.  Despite us complaining earlier that we didn’t need food – the pizza’s lasted about five minutes, even the vegetable one was devoured.  To go with our pizza, LJ had brought down some beers for us to enjoy, these went down a treat.  we had our finish line picture and got it uploaded to the sufferfest Facebook page.  we were done.


The good cause:

CF Trust were our chosen charity.  I’ve done charity events in the past and if i’m being honest, my previous experience of charities hasn’t been great.  In the past, i’ve got the impression that I was just a little bit more money coming in and there was a lack of gratitude and a lack of effort on their part to acknowledge your efforts.  I fundraised for a major charity a couple of years ago and raised a significant amount – i didn’t receive a text, a phone call, an email or any kind of acknowledgement – they just took the money from the just giving page..

CF Trust are NOT like this, the Chief Executive of the CF Trust came down personally on Saturday to have pictures taken and to speak to us and thank us personally for our efforts – I found this refreshing.  The headmaster of the School was fantastic and did everything he could to support us completely, his daughter who suffers from Cystic Fibrosis came down and had photos taken and left inspired.  Talking about doing her own challenge in the future.  I think we had a huge impact on Saturday, people left the school hall feeling energised and inspired and as far as I’m concerned, that is every bit as important as the money which we raised – which stands at over £2100 so far.  All in all, Saturday was really positive day with good things happening all around us.  There should be more days like that.


The Dame of Lisburn Triathlon Club

Jeff’s wife Keara, came down to the School first thing and stayed ALL DAY! Not content with supporting us ALL DAY, she got us bits and pieces, offered us water, coffee, tea, more sandwiches, pretzel sticks.  She fixed bikes, turbo trainers, collected money, fixed the sound system, picked up our emptys and was a constant source of encouragement.  The day we had on Saturday wouldn’t have been the day it was without Keara, she is an absolute legend and we’re all very grateful for her efforts on the day.  I still maintain that Keara did more work on Saturday than we did!  Thank you Keara, from all the guys.

Rise a Knight!

On Sunday morning, it was made official.  “At the request of Grunter Von Agony, please rise for Arran McKee, Ciaran Stuart, Ben Dooley, Jeff Curry, Mark Vaudrey, Steven Bloomer and Michael Sinton – Knights of Sufferlandria!” We were inducted into a select group of people (Only 200 have completed this challenge) and we are the first representatives from Northern Ireland.  I was very proud of the guys, of the effort that we put in and of the money which we had raised for a great cause.  

Now we just have to convince the rest of the guys in the Club that they need to call us all ‘Sir’….

Knowledge will give you power, but character respect 


Sir Arran 😉





One response

29 03 2014
The Sufferfest (@TheSufferfest)


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