Mining Courage

Week 6.

They say that Fear arises from uncertainty.
From the Unknown growing dark in your mind.
Akin to inexperience: undergoing a new adventure without preparation, doubt breathing heavily down your neck.

Courage, on the other hand, would then be risk-taking?
Courage is action in spite of Fear.
And Courage can be mined if your shovel can take the beating.

He meant Courage, and he was wrong about Fear. Read On.

As for Fear, though, I do have my objections.

It was back in July, before starting the structured Sufferfest training plan, that I rode The Shovel.
It was the first Sufferfest video I played in several years, back since when the SUF videos were in Strava (only 90's kids will remember).

Now before diving into the gory details, let's just say that The Shovel is simply two sets of 23 intervals (5sec to 1min) with inverse ratios.
In other words, the harder the interval, the longer the rest and vice-versa, taking a minute in total.
For example, 10sec all-out sprint, 50sec rest; 50sec FTP, 10sec rest, etc.

For those graphically inclined, here's what it looks like, with ALL intervals above FTP.

Sufferfest The Shovel Workout Graph On Xert
Xert Graphs are nice. The purple line is MAP (max avail power) indicating how much more you have in the tank.

As you can see, the wickedness takes its form in the middle parts of the sets, when you have to dig your way through the second half, already depleted.
Zombie Apocalypse? Digging your way out of the dirt with your fingernails? I'd imagine this is what it feels like.

So when The Shovel popped up on my calendar for this week, theories of Experience and Fear collided with a muted gulp.
I've ridden this before. The "experience" should make me better prepared and more knowledgable, hence less fearful of repeating it, right?


I was a nervous wreck: cold sweat and heavy breathing.
Pure Fear.

Yet Courage is to act when you are afraid.

And so once again, I rode The Shovel.
I found difficultly in the intervals around my AC+ (450W-600W) sometimes grinding to a halt in the last few seconds, and found relief when served with MAP/FTP (280W-350W) for longer durations.
(Imagine yearning for 45 seconds of 130% FTP @95rpm to "recover." That's how hard it gets.)
Sprints - always welcome as I simply go all out - whatever is there gets cranked out.
The quick pace of the session had me hesitating about that  GU Gel I keep next to the water bottles - "I know I need it, but by the time it kicks in, I'll be done", so I'll keep wondering what that "salted watermelon" tastes like.
("It Seemed Like Thin Air" is coming up in a couple of days, so not much longer before my curiosity gets quenched).

Gory details.
Let's discuss progress, as this Tale is about results.
The first Shovel session back in July was based on FTP alone (270W).
This time, 4DP.
So let's compare (I'm using the DC Rainmaker Analyzer here, Purple=4DP, Green=FTP).

FTP session was more demanding in the easier intervals around FTP-MAP. These are the lowest five intervals.
However, once we cross above MAP, then the difference becomes more pronounced.
For example, 400W vs. 450W for the same duration.
There's a more significant jump from the lower watts to the higher watts in the 4DP session.

Interestingly, I ran into trouble on the same interval on both these sessions (560W/20sec target):

Heart Rate:
It seems like overall that the 4DP session was more demanding of the cardiovascular system with higher heart-rate throughout.
The only exception towards the middle and onward of the second set, but that is possibly because of the lower wattage targets.

Cadence was nearly identical except for a couple of dead-halt grinds in the last few seconds of the AC intervals.

Looking at Mean Max Power ("mean" pure evil, muhaha) - then the 4DP session is higher:

Overall, there's certainly a difference.
Bear in mind that my FTP is only 3watts different from July to the 4DP test (270 vs. 267).
So it seems that the 4DP targets are pushing me harder where I need to improve, and that's the AC and MAP. By stressing those, a high tide of lactic acid will raise all boats.
And who doesn't love an acid bath??

Lastly, as a self-pat on the back, I managed to pull out a 1000W sprint on the last interval, 100W more than last time, and quite a surprise because I certainly felt toasted at that point.
(On the Full Frontal 4DP test I hit 987W for 5 sec.)

Here's the comparison link for future generations:
(BTW, these two sessions are 9,160,109 seconds apart. )

In conclusion, let's dwell on some widely misquoted famous words:
"Fear is the path to the dark side ("A Very Dark Place").
Fear leads to anger.
Anger leads to hate.
Hate leads to suffering.
Suffering, pain, misery, and agony lead to honor, glory, and VICTORY."

Courage is Action in spite of Fear.
Knowing what you're up against can undoubtedly feed your fear but also your drive, commitment, dedication, and intent for Action.
And that's how, my dear squire, Courage is mined.