Grunter von Agony is an absolute tool.

Sir David McQuillen, however, is the opposite; he is a saint.

For any in the know, the former requires no explanation, while the latter could stand for a bit of elaboration, especially now, so near the end of this year’s Tour of Sufferlandria. Permit me to explain.

Since 2010 or 11, I’ve been an ardent fan and supporter of the cycling training platform known as The Sufferfest. OK, for transparency’s sake, I did lapse for a couple of years and switched to a different platform, but I’ve been back on board again for about a year now, and things have really taken off. The offerings of workouts and features have exploded exponentially from the early days of workouts purchased and downloaded one at a time. Yet now, as then, the global network of those running the show prove themselves to be committed to more than just making one suffer (and eventually stronger) on a bike.

This afternoon’s stage of the Tour of Sufferlandria called for two tool-themed workouts: The Toolshed and 14 Vise Grips—though I’m certain I counted fifteen—both of which I’ve done prior to today. Unlike before today, though, I ran a video in the background, with just the app’s mini player overlayed in the foreground—again, The Sufferfest has grown phenomenally over the years. The video of choice was the HBO documentary, Marathon: The Patriot’s Day Bombing, providing the most emotional rollercoaster I could have chosen for more than just the obvious reasons.

Running the Boston Marathon is every runner’s dream—even the less-than-serious ones, such as myself; a common mantra of mine (after consistently finishing in the top ten of my age group or even overall) was, “gee, imagine if I would have trained.” Even when I did train, though, such as in 2008, when I ran my PR for a full marathon (3:22:42), I was still seven minutes and change short of having a the bare minimum qualifying time to run Boston. Still, running Boston remained a dream and one that I would toy with trying to qualify again and again. And then the bombing happened.

I was at work, eating lunch, when I saw the pop-up from some news app saying there had been two bombings at the finish line in Boston. I remember texting my wife—seven-ish weeks pregnant with what we thought would be our second child—to tell her, but she seemed uninterested; work for her was too stressful, and she was still angry with me for having agreed to coach the school swim team for one more year. So I read, and I wept. Later in the afternoon, I found myself on Facebook as many and many more of us were finding ourselves in 2013. Either by going directly to their page or having something from them pop up in my newsfeed, a communiqué from The Sufferfest stood out. I do not recall the exact wording, but, in the wake of the hours-old bombings in Boston, it struck a cacaphonous chord with me, so I made a comment or sent an email or somehow reached out to them that went something along the lines of this:

The ad and its wording of pain and suffering are ill-timed with what has recently happened in Boston. Runners, triathletes, and people worldwide are hurting right now; please take the ad (or wallpaper or whatever it was) down.

I didn’t expect much of anything to happen. After all, this was The Sufferfest, and pain, misery, and agony are literally part of their motto and marketing schtick. But within a matter of minutes, I had a reply from the owner of the entity, David McQuillen essentially apologizing and saying the offending offering had been removed. 

Amazed is about the only way I can describe how I felt, other than relieved, thinking that this one little bit from this one, somewhat obscure company would do something to relieve the pain being experienced by athletes and others who’d never laced up a pair of running shoes let alone traversed any distance farther than their car to their couch. But I was amazed, and I was impressed, and I remain impressed with how in-tune with the ebb and flow of the endurance world that Mr. McQuillen is, as well as how hard he and his team works to produce the best product for their clients. 

In the years that have lapsed since April 2013, my own health and fitness have lapsed, though they have naught to do with my own aging and more to do with the health of others for whom I love and care. These are circumstances beyond my control, so I have, to a certain degree and in the words of Thoreau and Disney songs alike, simply let go, let go. But what I haven’t let go is my drive to push and punish myself on a bike. Sure, it’s a lot more challenging to get out these days, what with two small children, my wife’s declining health due to complications from multiple sclerosis, and all, so I’ve embraced the suck that used to be riding an indoor trainer, for it’s now far-less sucky with the improvements made to both the trainers themselves and the technology that enhances the indoor riding experience. 

The Sufferfest has proven itself to be more than just a product to enhance the indoor cycling and training experience. They have fashioned themselves as a community—nay, a family—that brings those of us who wish to work ourselves into the best physical and mental versions of possible in spite (or in consideration) of all that life throws at us. I still have the half-dozen or so videos I purchased from them years back and will continue my annual subscription as long as I can manage to find some time to ride and rise above it all. 

Watching Marathon: The Patriots Day Bombing was something I’d wanted to do for a long while but something I’d put off, as I knew of the emotional toll it would take on me. While I was thousands of miles away from the explosions that shook Beantown, I felt and feel for any of those impacted by its shockwaves and shrapnel, even today, nearly seven years since. Watching the video as background during today’s Stage 8 of the Tour of Sufferlandria nearly made me fall off my bike, weeping for those in who were there. But it also reminded me of the understanding, of the generosity (for lack of a better term) of David McQuillen and the team of everyone at The Sufferfest.

Even that tool, Grunter von Agony.

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