Masterclass: Mental preparations and Henning’s best experiences
6. April 2023
By Thomas Svane Jacobsen
Spring is finally here with good opportunities for long bike rides! We hope that you are already well underway with your preparations for Styrkeprøven 2023. It’s both Henning and I with our training. The days leading up to Saturday 17 June goes by quickly, but there is still plenty of time to get in some really nice long trips.
Mental preparation can be essential in handling long endurance activities, but remember that mental preparation cannot replace physical training. Building physical endurance and strength is just as important as preparing mentally. We have the following tips for mental preparation for Styrkeprøven :
- Set yourself a clear goal with the implementation that is also realistic. If you think you can cycle Trondheim-Oslo in 20 hours, then that will be your goal. Then all your preparations must be adapted to the fact that you will spend 20 hours on the trip. This means that you need to break down the 20 hour goal into smaller sub-goals to make it more manageable. What we do is that we divide the distance into 5 distances: Trondheim-Oppdal, Oppdal-Dombås, Dombås-Kvam, Kvam-Hamar and Hamar-Oslo. What speed must we maintain for the various distances? Where do we stop for food and drink? What should I focus on during these 5 distances?
- Visualize success. Visualization can help you mentally prepare by creating a positive image of yourself completing the bike race. Picture yourself cycling from the start, over the mountain, down Gudbrandsdalen, along the beautiful Mjøsa and finally that you almost sprint from Kløfta into Valhall and the finish line.
- Build your confidence by believing in yourself! Practice thinking positively about your abilities and achievements and focus on your past successes. Have you cycled Trondheim-Oslo before? Yes, then you get that feeling when you roll into the finish line. If you are participating for the first time, think about other demanding activities that you have completed in the past.
- Plan correctly by having a plan for both the journey to Trondheim, the execution (make a plan for what you want to eat and drink along the way!) and what you are going to do after the finish line. Making a good plan for everything makes you more prepared and more confident about the execution, and also think about how you will handle any problems that may occur along the way.
Both when we have cycled for the Express team to Rye to win the race and on recent years’ more pleasant rides of just under 20 hours, mental preparation has been important. No matter how many times we have completed the race, good mental preparation has been an important contribution to controlling nerves and reducing nervousness. Yes, because even old ring foxes in Styrkeprøven get nervous ahead of the start in Trondheim. Visualizing the five different parts and the thought that we have done this before has always helped to reduce the tension level in the body.
And when we know that both the bike is in tip top, top technical condition and that we have eaten well on Friday and have control over the cycling clothes, then we can go to bed calmly to get the last few hours of sleep before the long bike ride takes to. Breath out! It always goes well.
I therefore ask Henning what is his best memory from all these trips on the way from Trondheim to Oslo by bicycle.
– I would say the best memories from Styrkeprøven are the times when a team or a group that I cycle with works well and you know that most people notice this clearly and that the individual feels that the contributions you make create a team effect on the progress as there and when everyone realizes that they could not have managed it alone. Those are good memories!
I am sure that many people can identify with that. Riding in a team, regardless of whether there are 3-4 or 30 riders and where everything works well, makes the trip just a joy. But surely there is something on all these 42 trips that you would have liked to have avoided?
– The times you experience an accident and overturn in the group you are cycling with, there is a bad feeling and a strong focus on what caused the situation and it is then natural to feel that you are a soft road user even if you feel that everything is going well completely “king” in the race. One second of inattention by one of many can turn the whole thing into a bad memory. However, there are fewer such experiences than there are fingers on a hand.
I must also be allowed to agree with Henning. Together, Henning and I experienced a nasty overturn with the Express team to Rye in 2008. There were many who had to break the ride after the overturn, but fortunately no serious injuries to any of the riders. We have put the accident behind us, but we use to talk about the incident with new people we will be cycling with in Styrkeprøven . In this way, we can make everyone think about safety and always keep their eyes ahead on the road.
What do you think about the length of Styrkeprøven and the mental part?
– In many ways, I think participating in a long cycle race such as Styrkeprøven is like a short mental parallel to what you experience throughout your own life over many years. All periods in life or the race are not so easy to complete. Are you able to focus on the situation around you at the moment and see what is going well right then and there and what kind of small adjustments to the various routines that you carry out, for example related to food intake, adjustments to sitting position and other things that will make it a little easier continuing contributes to the experience of mastery and good feedback on the changes. Before you have thought too much about the finish line, you are “suddenly” ahead and wondering why you shouldn’t continue a little longer.
What have all these hours on a bike in Styrkeprøven meant to you, Henning? From my overview of 41 out of 42 completed (the trip in 2021 was untimed) you have cycled for 710 hours and 1 minute. The distance you have thus logged has become 22,268 km.
– Each race must be completed separately and physical form is a fresh commodity. For me, focus is the one race that one plans to participate in or participates in. Cyclists all get a type of feeling of freedom that builds up under a sense of independence and mastery, and if you can get that feeling together with other cyclists who have the same goal of hitting the evening news in Oslo, that goes a long way. All the rides have probably given me a feeling of recognition for every bit of the route in DSSP. When the adrenaline is high, the memories become strong and then you can scroll back through the gallery like you do with pictures in the cloud on your phone.
How has it been to cycle the race as a trip after you were part of the Express team to Rye for many years and won and set records?
– Some of the trips from Trondheim in the last ten years I have started alone on Friday evening and mostly cycled alone and it will often be something completely different than riding together with one or more people in a group. You can take in more of the beautiful nature because you can look more to the sides and up into the mountains when there is no traffic on the road where you are at the moment. It can be mentally demanding to cycle alone in a different way than if you are cycling in a group. Another contrast between driving close to 40 km/h on average in a good working day and at a good 25 km/h is that the journey takes much longer. You experience fatigue and discomfort in a different way when the trip is around 6 hours longer. It’s hard to drive fast in Styrkeprøven , but it’s really hard to drive slowly too!
How many more years do you intend to participate? Why don’t you lose motivation?
– Long-term planning is not my strong point. It is the strong experiences in the present that draw and give motivation, regardless of whether it is the trip from Trondheim or elsewhere. In my opinion, the bicycle is the best tool that can connect what we were created for; physical work and movement with the modern requirement to move quickly between A and B.
In the next Masterclass we will tell you more about our plan to cycle for 18-20 hours. In addition, there will be another update on how the training is going.
Good luck with your preparations! Tread carefully and have fun!