It's training. It's meant to be hard.

I completed the Alpine Classic 140k a couple of weeks ago and with that my first goal for 2013 is done.

It was a long day, the hardest I've ever had on the bike.

There were many reasons for this I guess but its probably as simple as this - it was my hardest day on the bike because it was a bloody hard day. But more than that. I hadn't trained specifically for this event - this event was Ironman training. Training is meant to be hard.

It was an altered (read: harder) course due to a bushfire over the hill in Harrietville. We weren't able to ride the 6-ish k climb to Tawonga over to Mt Beauty and back again: so instead of this and one ascent of Mt Buffalo, the 140k ride consisted of two ascents of Mt Buffalo.

There was lots of talk amongst the entered riders of how boring this was going to be, and how dangerous it would be with all of the riders from all of the Alpine Classic races all being on Mt Buffalo at the same time, and that bypassing the organised ride and making up your own was a better option.

I decided to go with the organised ride, altered route or not, wristband and all.

I laughed at the idea that the two laps would be mentally hard. Give Ironman a go. Cycle courses are almost always lapped courses, and then you have to run a usually lapped marathon.

In some ways I took the easy option - I didn't have to think up another route and there would be stocked up aid stations waiting for me at predetermined locations. And there would be plenty of other people around to keep me company.

But I knew that physically, the course would be harder. Mt Buffalo is almost 20k long and although it isn't all that steep, it's steeper than the original promoted route.

On the start line I waited until most of the other riders had gone - I didn't want to get caught up in a big pack of unknown riders. The packs thinned out not long after we started the climb so it wasn't hard to settle into a rhythm. I chatted with some riders along the way but mostly I enjoyed the peacefulness of the Australian bush.

View from Mt Buffalo

So that was lap one and at the end of it I looked like this.

A bit pensive, yes. It was time to descend back to Bright, before conquering the mountain again.

The second lap seemed longer... so much longer...  I seemed to stop more often, and probably took longer to get back on the bike each time. At one of the water stops I ended up in a lengthy discussion about the run course at Ironman Melbourne after mentioning to a fellow cyclist that I was doing this ride as a training ride.

(In fact, I'd been constantly reminding myself of this. "It's meant to be hard", I kept telling myself. "It's an Ironman training ride", I kept reassuring myself.)

As I got closer to the top and it kept getting hotter I thought that the road was melting below me. I convinced myself I was delirious. (There was, after all, voices in my head.) That was lap two and at the end of it I looked like this.

Yes indeed. Not only did I score a couple of mini quiches at the aid station, there was only a descent and a bit of a roll back into town to go. Hello smiley face!

As I exited the pitstop and thanked the marshal, he warned me to take care of the soft, melted tar on the road.

So I wasn't delirious... OK then... maybe today wasn't so bad after all.

About halfway down the hill my new friend from the water station flew past me (I descend like a nana) and called out to me, "that triathlon is going to be easy after this!"

It was the hardest day I'd ever had on the bike mainly because it deserves to be. I've had other days that were probably equally as hard but this one deserves the title because I achieved what I set out to do. While others chose a different option, I fronted up on event day and went with whatever the day served up.

While I know I can't count on my new friend being 100% right - Ironman is never easy - I suspect that this ride may be one of the training days that helps me out most on race day.

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