Monday, July 4, 2011

Day 15

Wow, seriously, wow.  This was billed as one of the most difficult days of the ride and it lived up to its billing.  The first 36 miles was a climb, the first part gradual with the last few miles being a higher grade.  But it was nothing compared to the climbs that were coming.  We had a slight tailwind the first 16 miles but that changed to a fairly strong headwind once the steeper climbing began.  The headwind was with us the rest of the day.  Climbing a mountain into a headwind is no fun.  All day the views were spectacular.  I am surprised at how much irrigation takes place in Idaho and as result, we rode through green pastures going right into the foothills.  The first picture is from the first rest stop looking back at the foothills we just came through.  The first climb was from about 4800 elevation to almost 6000 with a nice decline ultimately crossing the Snake River before ending at Swan Valley.  

The next two pictures are of a sign for a saloon in Swan Valley.  The are self descriptive.  Coming out of Swan Valley we started climbing again with a very steep grade of 10-12% the first three miles.  Grade is the percent of incline over the specified distance.  A 3% grade is hard work.  A 10% grade will often make a car downshift and truck grind. On a bike it is a combination of your heart racing, legs burning and in altitude lungs not getting enough oxygen.

The next two pictures are of the sign at the summit and looking backwards at the view behind us including the mountains.  We then had a nice decline into the town of Victor which had just finished its Independence Day parade.  We then started the major climb of the day.  We started at an elevation of 5820 and climbed to the Teton Pass Summit at 8431.  The first picture is of me under the enter Wyoming sign, our third state on the tour.  It was a beautiful climb, at least until the last three miles.  That may have been beautiful also, but I was working so hard, I could not look around.  The average grade was 10% with occasional grades of 12-14%.  I alternated between standing and sitting.  I would count pedal strokes or pick a spot and put my head down and bike to it.   After working very hard, I would look up and the sign had not moved.  I have done 11 mountain passes in Colorado plus Donner pass in CA, Mt Rose in NV and Chief Joseph pass in MT.  I could only think of one climb that was comparable - Independence Pass in CO.  

The last two pictures are of me under the sign at the top of the pass and the view of Jackson Hole from the summit.  I have done a lot of mountain descents, but I was nervous along with most riders about this one because Mike said it was very fast and very technical with lots of switchbacks.  Though a few riders let it rip, Lucy hit 48.5, I kept it between 30-40 mph.  Part of it was the wind coming up the mountain.  Gusts can be pretty strong and move a rider all over the road.  

I have often thought biking over a mountain pass is BF Skinner psychology which is the basis of behavior reinforcement.  If taken to the extreme, the theory is that it feels so good to have the pain go away, a person keeps hitting his thumb with a hammer.  Reaching the top of a difficult summit cannot be described, but only felt. It's a combination of relief and exultation.

Tomorrow we bike through Teton National Park.   

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