Mental Conditioning and Visualisation

By Idai Makaya (14 Nov 2014):

The article below is part of the training and preparation blog for the ElliptiGO Ultra Endurance Team 1,230-km (765-mile) Challenge at PBP 2015, which each rider was training to complete within the 90-hour time-limit…

I’d like to take this opportunity to share my views on mental training and visualization when preparing for a massive challenge like taking on the 1,200km PBP 2015 ride in under 90 hours, riding an ElliptiGO bike. I hope you find some of my perspectives useful.

Here GOes:

I believe quitting is a habit – as is success.

Long ultra rides are purely a mind game. The physical side is small. So look at the mental aspect at all times when preparing.

Dealing with adverse conditions in training really builds the mind. You won’t enjoy the session – but you will accomplish something much more than you would on a nice, enjoyable long ride.

My advice is take no serious or dangerous risks – EVER – but the biggest thing we all need to learn is that fine line between QUITTING and FAILING. In endurance sports, unless you lose a leg or get hit by a car, it is so hard to say if you have genuinely failed – or if you just quit.

For me that is the be all and end all. I am terrified of learning to quit. It is a terrible habit. We will all fail sometimes – otherwise the events we are doing are too easy! But the biggest battles are often in training, not in the event itself.

As an example, I have occasionally done 4 hour indoor sessions on the turbo trainer – outside in the snow – or even in my garage with the lights off. Sometimes I do them in the gym on cross trainers, when the weather is not permissive of road training (snow, storms, etc).

That type of training is ‘hell on earth’, but the sense of achievement and triumph is exactly what you need to be teaching yourself. In PBP 2015 – and also in the 400km or 600km qualifiers for the event – there will be times when you wonder if you can go on. Not because something is wrong, your mind and body just get exhausted. At those points you can only continue IF YOU REALLY WANT TO.

That discipline to put one foot in front of the other until the end is actually what we are training for. ANYONE CAN RIDE AT 8.3 MPH – IF THEY WANT TO. So you should embrace challenging training rides in bad conditions and learn to triumph during such sessions. It is hard to get a session you truly dread. When these OPPORTUNITIES present – grasp them and beat them.

Training for LEL in 2013 there was some terrible weather. I sometimes did 2 hour sessions on the indoor turbo trainer in our warehouse – in the dark. No music, no interaction, just meditation – and reminding myself why I was doing it. I used that time to visualise adversity and triumph. Every time I do a crappy session I immerse myself in what I imagine the event to be and brainwash myself into thinking I am in the event. Then it counts.

In 2013, training for LEL, the weather was so bad that sometimes I would get ice forming in my beard when out on early morning training rides and sometimes the bike stopped shifting (Shimano gears only work at 0 degrees and higher). I once had to ride my 70-mile session stuck in one gear – hills or no hills. That is the commitment I believe is required to crack PBP 2015 on an ElliptiGO.

When we got in trouble during LEL 2013 – and Steve (Cook) was ill – I returned back to those horrible sessions in my mind. I had told myself that I did not do all that for nothing. When I rode for 43 hours without stopping – to get to the end of LEL just 15 mins before the time limit had expired – I had reminded myself of those sessions and told myself the sacrifice was for a reason. All the time I had lost from my family through training was a sacrifice. I would never throw that away by not doing my best.

Just beyond Llanllwni Mountain… 202-miles covered in the Mille Cymru Audax – Day 2.

We have to make ourselves mentally tough. The ‘physical’ on an ElliptiGO is relatively easy. An ElliptiGO is more comfortable for an Audax ride than a road bike. It is not painful, just long and tiring. It may require more physical effort to move the ElliptiGO, but if you are trained for it, the actual comfort while on the bike is much better than on a road bike. The ride will take longer than on a road bike and that’s part of what will make it tougher – as well as the higher effort level. The mental part is sometimes the toughest in ultra rides.

Sometimes ultra rides GO really well, but you must still prepare for the worst. We are not taking on a test of simple athletic prowess when we tackle PBP 2015 by ElliptiGO – we are taking on a test of character. I hope this perspective comes across well. I know it can sound extreme – but what we are trying to do is extreme – to the greatest degree. We are doing the toughest endurance event in the world – because we are planning on riding PBP on ElliptiGOs.

We are planning on doing more work than the other guys at the event, who’ll be riding on the fast bikes. We must acknowledge that we require a strong character to do it. The training is more for the mind than for the body. 3 hours on an indoor turbo trainer is NOT quality training time – it’s almost a wasted session (from a physical standpoint). But what it does for the mind is priceless…”

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