When I prepared for the Vuelta a Espana challenge in 2018, where I would ride every stage of the Vuelta a Espana just hours before the professionals, it was absolutely vital to get my mind ready for it. Especially, since 80% of the people I knew told me that this challenge was basically impossible. The challenge taught me much about getting mentally ready for the biggest challenges of my life, and I want to share this knowledge (which is also applicable to other areas in life).
Do it for the right reason
Why do you really want to do this challenge? The stronger your reason, especially when it is intrinsic, the higher the chances you will get through the tougher parts of the challenge. Write yourself a letter or a list with all the reasons why you want to succeed in the challenge and what impact it will have on you. How will you feel when you succeed? Imagine how you will feel when you cross that finish line.
Get ready to deal with your weaknesses
No one is perfect, and oftentimes there are parts of the challenge that you don’t like or even despise, but it is part of it and you can’t avoid it.
Say you don’t like climbing and after 6 hours of riding in your challenge, you face THAT big mountain everyone said was so tough. If you start the climb thinking how much you hate climbing, it will be a very long, long climb. It’s better to say: “Hey, I might be a little slower on climbs, but it will be awesome up there and I will ride up so I can enjoy the views.” You should focus on positive things. You could also say: “Ok, every 10 minutes of the climb, I am allowed to eat a bite of my favourite cake I brought especially for this climb.”
Prepare all the tools that will convince you to get up that climb, to do something you might otherwise not want to do in this very moment. (By the way, this also works for other things in your life that you don’t like to do.)
Leave your ego at home
Oftentimes, it is your own ego that will make you crack up. Let’s take the example from point 2. You passed hundreds of people in the last hours on the flat, sailing through the kilometres only to be passed by seemingly every single competitor on that notorious climb. You might even try to stick with a few passers-by only to realize that your legs don’t allow it. Your world is falling apart. Your inner demons are telling you that you should have lost more weight, trained more and that you might have bitten off more than you can chew. That is the perfect recipe to give up!
Oftentimes, it is not your abilities that let you down, but your own ego. That is why point 1 above is absolutely key. Being absolutely sure that you do it for your very own reason, for your own challenge and that this challenge is about you, not about others, is the key to reach that finish line! Yes, a healthy amount of competition is good, but when things don’t go your way, it shouldn’t be a reason to give up.
Our mind lets us do incredible things when we are in the right mindset. Our body might show fatigue, but if we really, really want something, giving up is no option.
To train these points above, I often go on solo rides and let myself dive into the “zone” where I think about the challenge, my motivations, my weaknesses and how I will feel on that important day and how I will react when things don’t go as planned.
When you get ready mentally, nothing can stop you from reaching your goal.