Many of our athletes are tackling the TransBaviaans 230km ultra marathon in the coming weeks, some for the first time. Here are our top tips for the ideal mental preparation and how to keep your head about you in the race: taper your brain and prepare for a 50% physical/90% mental game.
T-minus two weeks and counting. If you’ve done our 8-week Foundations course, you’ll be fine. If not, sorry for you. Kidding! It’s not too late to get your head straight. You’re on the verge of heading into your taper. Your training volume will decrease, but the intensity will remain. The same should apply to tapering your mental game: reduce the volume of stuff going through your cranium and increase the intensity of your focus and motivation.
You’ve trained your body hard. Research is now beginning to show hard our brains also work when we are pushing those pedals. A good taper will get you fresh and ready to push out killer watts, but your brain also needs to be fresh. We know life is hectic, but it’s really time to try and reduce the life stressors that cause mental fatigue. Work, family, sleep, anxiety – these are the key components. Don’t tell your boss I said so, but now is the time to slack off and do the bare minimum. Push out new projects until after the race and keep your mental load minimal. Conscript your partner to handle more of the load when it comes to household and kid duties (yes, this may cost you in gifts and favours). Get a solid 8hrs of sleep in at night. The key to improved sleep? Switch off the screens 2 hrs before doo-doo time. Yes, research has shown that screen time before bed hurts our sleep. Now sure, the race is a biggie and you’re bound to be anxious about it, but you’ve got to keep your levels of anxiety in check. In short, being too anxious will elevate all the nasty chemicals in your brain and reduce your performance on the day. Do relaxing stuff, focus on the adventure it will be. Control what you can control and let the rest be.
The best anxiety killer is to foster a deep desire for a successful event. Make sure you’ve got a specific goal for the event, even if it’s just to enjoy the ride and just finish. You’ve trained the legs, but have you trained your desire to be red hot? When the chips are down in an ultra and your body is spent, it will be your motivation (and the work you put into it now) that will carry you through. The key to motivation is to have a clear answer to why you are doing this event. A good why is better than good legs.
Now onto the race itself …
The race is 50% physical and 90% mental.
It’s 230kms long but don’t start by focusing on the 230kms. Rather chunk the distance into smaller, manageable segments that you can achieve and focus on. Then only focus on getting from one segment to the next. It’s a race of two halves. The first half is not downhill like the route profile suggests. It’s a long slog on undulating, corrugated, sandy roads. But the scenery is amazing, so be sure to take that in and let it amaze you. The second half is even prettier atop the mountains, but it also gets dark now (so leave your blankie and teddy at home). There are many, many river crossings. You will blow, you will hit the wall. It’s not a question of will you, but in an event this long it’s a question of how many times. Be prepared for the toughest event of your life. Seriously. But also be prepared for the best sense of accomplishment and reward at the finish line you’ve ever experienced. Seriously.
Finally, as Laird Hamilton says, don’t let your worst enemy be between our ears. This race will mess with your head. Your body will try and tell you that you can’t go any further or any faster. You will have brain fog. Your eyes will be popping atop Bergplaas. Your negative self-talk will grow fiery red horns. Keep your internal monologue positive. Always remind yourself that you have more in you than you think. You can do it. Provided you are eating and drinking enough, you can push on. You can’t win the race in the first hour, but you can sure lose it. So pace yourself nicely and remember to keep pedaling.
Remember: reduce your mental load over the next two weeks, but work at increasing your desire and motivation.
Bergplaas is calling!
See you there
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