As a result of having entered the 2016 Absa Cape Epic I am forced to spend numerous hours on my KTM mountain bike and as I mostly ride alone one has plenty of hours for your mind to go to wonderful and weird places. Don’t worry, I think I am still sane and of the right state of mind.
Taking on an endurance event does take a lot of mental aptitude from the discipline in the months of training to the determination to finish during the event. Thus focus is required with clear set goals or you could just numb everything out in your head through songs in your head – there you go, one song already that is on the head playlist: Comfortably Numb by Pink Floyd –“I have become, comfortably numb…”
During the months of training one follows a rigid training program (The Practice), and if you are like me you want to follow that to the T (possibly to the frustration of coach Alasdair J ) to make sure everything is done as it should be. Having set goals really helps to stay focus and working towards your end goal. Back to all the time spent training – one will experience variable weather conditions (Especially in Cape Town) from gale force winds, to extreme heat to rain and even cold with some stunning days in between. Now when I first got onto a mountain bike I made it quite clear to all that I am a Fair Weather Cyclist and will not go cycling in even a mildly strong breeze. Things have changed since those days in 2011 as the philosophy now is (especially when training for an event such as the Absa Cape Epic) that you can’t control the weather at the race, go out and do what you need to do, you will reap the benefits should you experience similar circumstances in your endurance race. You can’t choose the weather at the Cape Epic, you have to ride each day and thus this mind set saw me train through 3 weeks of a howling gale force South Easter, not only cycling in the morning but going for a short run in the afternoon, it saw me got soaking wet doing hill repeats up Constantia Neck, it saw me sweat out litres of sweat when riding in 40+ degree Celsius heat and I am still here able to blog about it. This brings me to another song in my head: No Pain No Gain by Scorpions.
I recently did the Ashburton Ultra-Marathon at Meerendal Wine Estate (I won’t say too much about this event as I don’t want to bitch and moan to much here and rather remain positive) where my substitute Cape Epic rider for the day, Willie du Plooy, fought off his Racing Snake instincts to ride with me as we took on the 101km challenge. We didn’t quite make the cut off at the 65km mark with an insane average speed required of close to 15km/h (Too fast for this F(Ph)at Boy). That did not stop us as we decided in no uncertain terms after some rude and explicit language (Directed at no one but venting our disappointment) to continue our ride on our own as the coach had 100km on the schedule and that is what we will do. Kudos Willie for continuing with me on the extended ride in the heat and wind, hopefully this pain will be our gain when we in the next race situation.
With only about 6 weeks left before the start of myself and Thinus’ epic adventure the time is now to keep focus and not let up on the discipline in the training regime. I would be lying if I say that I’m not slightly nervous. I’ve managed to get my weight down from 118kg at the end of October to 108kg currently and hopefully I can shed a few more kilograms in the next month to be as light as possible at the starting line. The pressure is there to not disappoint your friend who has been training for months and has the Absa Cape Epic as a bucket list event to finish, to not disappoint yourself and everyone that has vested in you and your journey to finish. There you go again – Queen: Under Pressure…
For some reason I always seem to have the song: The Downeaster Alexa by Billy Joel in my head…”But there ain’t no island left for islanders like me…Yea yea yea oh”
And this is to keep my Absa Cape Epic partner Thinus Crafford motivated for the last stretch: Bryan Adams: We’re Gonna Win (meaning finish)
Mental toughness is…
…when you, your body, the competition, nature, or the environment has the best of you so that you’re physically tapped out and need to figure out how to pull something out of yourself… not in a robotic way—in a way that’s mentally aware and engaged. It’s not just the ability to keep moving but to keep doing it in a way that’s engaged and competitive in the environment you’re in, whether that’s competing against the clock or other human beings. It’s easy when you feel good physically. It’s when that physicality leaves you.
Here are some interesting reads on the mental aspect of endurance events and training for it:
- How To Endure Your Endurance Sport
- It’s All in Their Heads: The Mental Edge of Athletes Who Win
- 5 Tips to Train the Brain: Mental Training for Endurance Athletes
You all probably know that we will be riding with Mitas tyres in the Absa Cape Epic – herewith some more info: