So, in a couple of days, the first Sufferfest of 2009 comes out. The Downward Spiral, even though it’s only 60 minutes long, has been something I’ve been thinking about and working on for nearly a year. As I take the 3hr train ride from Zurich to Aigle, to visit the UCI and finalise details for the 2nd Sufferfest of the year, I’m wondering (in a very positive sort of way) why I do this. I have a ‘real’ job. This is my hobby – but it’s a hobby that I’ve put a tremendous amount of time, energy and love in…especially over the past few months. What makes me want to do this?
After all, this past spring, I almost stopped The Sufferfest. Recent high-profile lawsuits in the music industry against illegal distribution of copied music made me more than a little nervous that I was at risk. I pulled the few videos I had down, and started looking into securing the rights to the videos and to the music. The initial prices were far too much for me to keep putting out the videos for free. Furthermore, I wasn’t sure I wanted to deal with the whole project of getting rights, charging for the videos, dealing with distribution, and so on. And there’s more than just producing the video, of course. There’s the website, and the Twitter, the Facebook group, the file storage, the payment systems, the t-shirt shop, business issues, policies, contracts, rights and…more. In fact, it’s a lot more than I really expected. And a lot more hard work. All made especially daunting since we just welcomed a new baby into our little family, I was moving on to a new stage in my career, and we were planning a move to a new country.
So why take on this huge project?
I suppose the first thing is that I hate (hate, hate) training indoors. I have an incredibly low threshold for boredom. I’d rather poke my eyes out than be bored. I want to be a good cyclist, though, so I get on my spinbike like the devout go to church. But – I was bored with the old Sufferfests, as well as my other cycling DVDs and podcasts, and wanted some new stuff….I wanted some new Sufferfests!
Then there is this: I am obsessed with professional cycling. I read at least three cycling sites a day, often twice a day to stay up-to-date with the latest news and results. I watch every race I can on television. I’ve been to the Tour de France four times, Tour de Suisse twice, World Championships twice, Tour of Flanders, Ghent-Wevelgem, the Vuelta, and on and on. I think I still, somewhere deep inside, still think I should be a professional cyclist. The complete absence of any real talent for cycling doesn’t yet seem to convince this small core of misplaced ego that such a thing is not even remotely possible. Making these videos, and sharing them with other cyclists, somehow makes me feel a part of the sport and industry that I love so much.
Third, I love making things people love. Perhaps that’s why I work in customer experience. My real job is helping banks improve their service, channels and products. I get pretty upset about companies providing bad experiences, and I get a huge rush out of helping these banks improve. The feedback that I’ve received on my little videos has been so fulfilling and rewarding – to have other people contact me and say that The Sufferfest has helped them get through the winter, helped make them stronger, make them laugh, even improve their life (!)…well, it’s just wonderful. I’ve met a lot of really great people that I otherwise would not have connected with if it weren’t for The Sufferfest. It’s something I didn’t really expect, but probably the thing I get the most joy out of now.
Lastly, it’s a fantastic creative outlet for me. I love cycling, music, video, training and the possibilities of the internet. The Sufferfest brings this all together and lets me try out idea after idea. The process of designing a workout, then figuring out what video would really work for that workout, cutting it in, then laying down music that will really drive me, then putting in a few taunts and a few unexpected things, like a horse snort (yep, that’s right, a horse snort – you’ll hear it in the Downward Spiral), then obsessing over every last frame and transition…I get totally lost in the process. It’s certainly my ‘art’ – but the process is a bit like rock climbers who are completely in the moment of climbing that rock. When I’m putting that video together, I’m fully absorbed in what I’m trying to do.
Even before I’ve sold a single copy, it’s been immeasurably worthwhile. I’ve made a lot of mistakes along the way, and in so doing have learned a huge amount. Heck, I didn’t even know how to cut a video before this! I have to thank my wife, Claire, who has been really supportive of this ‘obsession,’ my friends (especially David Hancock, who has Suffered through lots of prototypes and given lots of feedback – that’s his bike on the ‘resources’ feature tab!) and family who have given me feedback and ideas, to all those who have contacted me through the website, FB, email or Twitter and shared your experiences, and everyone who has ever downloaded a Sufferfest – the thought of you kicking your ass to my video brings a smile to my face.
I’ve loved every minute of this. I hope you like The Downward Spiral and find that, even though it’s not free anymore, it’s more than worth it.
Do let me know what you think!