When you ride a bike that isn't really meant for speed and you are one of those that really enjoys speed, at some point you have to just accept the fact that 20 km/hr really is fast enough. The likelihood that you will be willing to accept this fact, increases exponentially on Day 3 of the Golden Triangle after 270 km of highway slogging with fat tires and panniers. You will be able to gain further degrees of acceptance when the opening 12.5 km of your ride topographically maps out like this:
You may recall that back in March, I climbed the 25 mile ascent up Mount Lemmon in Tucson. There isn't a hill that scares me anymore after that. But today's hill of all hills, for us, starts at the Melting Pot Restaurant which was about 2-300 m down the hill from the Misty River Lodge which is about a kilometer and half before the Kooteny National Park gates which is the 11km mark on the above map. It is shorter than Mt. Lemmon, it is steeper, and there are no moments of recovery the entire way to the peak. It is unrelenting. I'm glad I didn't see this map until I was finished the climb. The gradients are there for truckers and other large vehicle drivers to prepare for the descent.
Keep in mind that I NOW know how long the climb is but when I start pedalling from the restaurant, I have NO idea how far it is to the top. All I know about the climb is that Geoff of Misty River told us that the 11% grade just outside the Hot Springs is the most steep section but it is short and there is a lovely picnic area at the top of the climb but a mother and two cubs have been spotted up there so keep an eye out. Geoff, by the way, IS the bike shop in Radium. There is no other. He is an avid cyclist himself and when travellers stop at the information on the way into town with bike mechanicals, it is him they are sent to.
I begin the climb doing what I do best. Spin and try not to let the heart rate get too high. The map start (at the base, not the peak) is at the Kooteny National Park gates. We start about a kilometer or two below that. According to Garmin we started at 900m elevation and rode to about 1500m in this section. I get out of my saddle to climb the 11% section and my heart rate jumps to 160-ish. Most of the climb is in single digit speeds. It is amazing how fast 12 km/hr feels after you have been riding 8 km per hour for kilometer long stretches. At about the 12 km mark up the highway I am sitting more at 6 km/hr. It is hard to stay upright at 6 km per hour. I take a little break to reorient my system because I figured I could have another 5 km to go, but it turned out I only had about 300 m to the top. I turned a corner and saw this:
If I had known, I wouldn't have stopped. It was an 1:15 minute climb approximately for me. 12.5km. It was going to be a lonnng day.
I wait about 13 minutes for Guy and we wait another 5 or so for Wayne and then came the much overdue commemorative photo for surviving the climb. It is the only photo we have with the three of us all in one picture. And that was the worst climb of the whole day, although there were many many more to come and many many of those highway passing lanes that warned us they were coming, each of which made my stomach flip because, again, you know they will be long climbs but you don't really know how long. There was another one later that was about 5 km long but even that is decieving because we had been gently climbing for about 5 km before that too. And 5 km before that. ...... And 5 km before that.....
Then we contemplate the down map.
It is funny because this ride was kind of a "smell the roses" kind of day regardless of the raw spots on my butt. My legs felt better than they did the two days before. But it is sort of depressing knowing you have an approximately 160 km day and you are at 50 km and you've already been on the road for over 4 hours. There were many moments when we looked at each other and said, Gee, I hope we get back before dark. It took the majority of the ride to get my average speed for the day to read over 20 km per hour. Of the first 97 km, probably 80 of them were uphill. (As an aside, there is no such thing as a true flat in the mountains, it is always either up or down. sometimes gently so, but up or down, always.) And you know I'm not making this up. I've linked the Garmin data already.
So take a look at some of our sight seeing instead; all taken on the primarily uphill portion:
Guy at one of the view points on the downhill. They stopped and I didn't, I suppose. And in case you are wondering, yes, we are all wearing the same clothes for 3 days. We did wash though... I promise.
I'll take this over Muddy Waters any day. This picture doesn't even come close to capturing how blue/green the waters of the Kooteny are.
This was the first day I saw any real wildlife. There were two elk on the side of the road and then about 5km later we saw a bear too.
Did somebody paint this??!!
And then the next thing we knew it was all downhill. We saw Castle Mountain off in the distance. We stopped at one scenic point. I eyed the map and tried to name all the mountains surrounding us. I wasn't hungry but I was feeling pretty crappy at this stop. I'd been struggling for chunks of this ride with gas and stomach pains. I had bought Gatorade in Radium but made the mistake of buying the reduced sugar kind. I made a calculation that it had been 3 hours since I'd had anything to eat -- again, it was another day without a proper restaurant stop on the road. The Restaurant at the Kooteny Park Lodge where we had lunch was closed for lunch. So I downed another granola bar and that made all the difference.
Leaving the last rest stop, we could see yet another passing lane sign off in the distance. And it turned out to be the last. There was a steep stretch of downhill after that (oh the sweet sweet sight of the truck mandatory break check stops) that brought us down to the TC turnoff and we took the TC all the way back to Canmore.
And that is where Guy took off. And he flew. He went by me like I was standing still. I could see him off in the distance most of the way but he was a speck. We were all a little determined to be done at this point. It may have been mostly downhill but it wasn't downhill enough to allow Wayne to do his thing and tuck and stay with us. It was Guy's kinda downhill. And we had the wind with us too for probably the first time in 3 days. I was doing probably 35km per hour on average the whole way back to Canmore. Not too shabby for a mountain bike with slicks. As we approached Banff, I could see Guy deaking in and out of view points and I couldn't figure out what he was doing. Eventually I saw him take a turn off ramp to Banff and I wasn't as far behind at this point. I was close enough to call out to him. He was out of water and in search of an oasis. So I gave him the mouth piece to my Camelback and he drank.
Then back onto the TC, 22 km to go. And feeling pretty desperate to be done. Guy's back wheel was scenery enough.
There was nothing more beautiful than seeing the sign guiding us to the information center in Canmore. It was about 5:45 at night. We'd been on the road since 8:45 approximately. The first thing Guy and I did was pool our coins and guzzle a Pepsi each. A REAL Pepsi. None of this diet crap. We sat on the steps of the Rocky Mountain Ski Lodge and drank. Wayne was about 30 minutes behind.
My original plan was to get in my car and start driving back to Winnipeg after this. I am glad the guys talked me out of it before we even left. I couldn't even talk clearly. We hit the new Mexican Restaurant in town (FANTASTIC!). They were playing some cool music. I had to ask the waitress three times who the band was for it to stick in my memory (John Butler Trio...... they are in iTunes.)
We slept well. Even Guy "slept in." (Remember his 5:30 internal alarm meant 4:30 in Alberta). We drove the entire 14 hour drive the next day. I was tired. Four days later, I'm still tired. It was amazing.