Yesterday, in Muenster, Texas, I did my fourth bike rally of the year—and 400th overall. My goal, as I wrote some time back, is to do 1,000 rallies. Why not? I enjoy them as much as ever, and it’s a great way to stay in shape and get out into the countryside with friends. Yesterday I rode with several friends: Joe Culotta, Julius Bejsovec, Phil Kevil, and Randy Kirby. We had a ball. The weather was gorgeous (it reached 84° Fahrenheit, but was in the 70s during the ride). Even the wind cooperated. The Muenster rally starts later than any other—at 11:00—so the wind is usually stiff by then. Sometimes it’s out of the north; sometimes it’s out of the south. I prefer north, because that means we have a tailwind rather than a headwind for the final eight miles.

As expected, I’m getting stronger by the week. You may recall that I averaged only 13.67 miles per hour two weeks ago in Lancaster. Yesterday, by contrast, I averaged 16.87 miles per hour (for exactly 60 miles), and the course is much tougher. Muenster has more climbing than any other rally. One hill near the end is a backbreaker. It was all I could do to stay on the bike. Some people have to dismount and walk. My legs remained strong for over two and a half hours. I think the leg exercises I’ve been doing on my Soloflex machine are helping. To get up hills, you need strong quad muscles. My heart and lungs are in superb shape. My maximum heart rate yesterday was 152. My average heart rate—for more than three and a half hours of riding—was 125. I burned 2,115 calories during the ride, which is an average of 594.9 per hour and 35.2 per mile. For the sake of comparison, I burn 85 to 90 calories per mile while running. Running is hell. That I do it is a testament to my masochism.

There’s an ebb and flow to bicycling. There are points during a rally where you feel strong and points where you feel weak. Just past Saint Jo, Phil was struggling. I could hear him gasping for air as he rode behind me in a paceline. I was worried that he would get dropped, so I told him to rest for a couple of rotations. What does he do? He rides away from Randy and me at the end! The sandbagger. Julius, too, looked to be struggling early on, but he finished strong. Many of the bicyclists go to the Germanfest grounds after the rally, but it’s so late in the day, and the drive home is so long (85.5 miles), that I head for home immediately. I’m enjoying my new Honda Accord. It has a good air conditioner and the CD player is wonderful. I listened to Black Sabbath’s Vol 4 (1972) on the way to Muenster. It had me pumped up by the time I arrived.

There’s a steep descent north of Saint Jo. I’ve gone as fast as 48 miles per hour on it in years past, but yesterday I got up to only 41.8 miles per hour. The headwind slowed my pace. I shouldn’t do it, but I got into my Pantani tuck position to increase my speed. The Pantani tuck involves putting your stomach on the seat. Your rear end is just centimeters from the rear tire. The idea is to get as low a profile as possible. It’s exhilarating. You just hope you don’t blow a tire at that speed. It would be horrifying. We paid for this exhilaration later, while climbing the big hill I mentioned earlier. What goes down must come up.

All in all, it was a great day. Friends, beautiful weather, spectacular Texas countryside, bean burritos. With any luck, I’ll get to do it 600 more times.