Yesterday, in Stephenville, Texas, I did my 11th bike rally of the year and my 407th overall. I expected the worst as far as weather was concerned. It’s been ridiculously rainy in North Texas for the past two months, and the forecast all week was for storms on Saturday. I awoke to the sound of thunder several times during the night. But when the alarm clock went off, at five o’clock, I saw that the rain had stopped. Stephenville is 79 miles from my house, so I had no idea what it was doing there. It could be raining; it could be sunny; it could be somewhere in between. All you can do is drive there and find out.
No rain fell during the drive to Stephenville, during which I listened to one of my favorite albums of all time: Eddie Jobson’s The Green Album (1983). It sounded terrific on my Accord’s CD player. As day began to break, I could see that there were clouds overhead. When I got to the rally site—the campus of Tarleton State University—I found my friends Phil and Randy in the parking lot. Phil said he was sick, and, as it turned out, it affected his performance. Randy and I talked him into doing the long course with us instead of turning off on the 43-mile course. I feel bad about this, because not only did Phil suffer mightily during the ride; he fell behind us in the final 10 miles and got caught in a vicious rainstorm. I waited for him in the comfort of my air-conditioned car. When he rode up, he was soaked to the skin and whining like a baby. It turns out that he had a flat tire. Talk about adding insult to injury!
Only a couple of drops of rain fell on me during the 3:27:37 of the ride. I rode 20 miles during the first hour. Randy had gone out early, after the racers left, while Phil and I, who are law-abiding, started with the rally riders at eight o’clock. We knew we’d hook up with Randy eventually, if only at a rest stop. Meanwhile, Phil and I fell in with a small pack of riders and kept up a good speed. At one point, Phil complained that we were going 30 miles per hour. (Phil complains a lot.) I loved it. It felt effortless. I also knew, as sure as I knew what day it was, that we would pay for this enjoyment. In cycling, as in economics, there ain’t no such thing as a free lunch. For every descent, there is an ascent. For every tailwind, there is a headwind.
As we expected, Randy was waiting for us at a rest stop about 20 miles in. He had been hammering. The three of us rode together after that—until Phil got dropped near the end. The humidity was very high, so much so that I felt like I was swimming rather than riding my bike. It was particularly bad when we stopped. When we were moving, the air made the perspiration evaporate, which had a (slight) cooling effect. Randy and I ate dill pickles at a couple of rest stops. Phil said we were crazy. I told Phil that dill pickles put hair on a man’s chest. Phil is a wimp.
The final 10 miles were great fun, despite the many rolling hills. A tailwind is a cyclist’s best friend. I finished with an average speed of 17.54 miles per hour for 60.7 miles. I reached a top speed of 37.4 miles per hour on one of the many hills. My maximum heart rate was 151 and my average 119. I burned 1,881 calories. I’m glad it didn’t rain on us, although, given the heat (the official high for the day was 89° Fahrenheit), it would have felt good. The drive home was perilous. It rained almost all the way, sometimes torrentially. Visibility was poor. The storm was at its worst when I reached my house, with trees bending and rain coming down in sheets. It felt good to get inside.
Get well, Phil. You done good for a sick man. As usual, Randy rode strongly. Not bad for a sack of potatoes. I need nicknames for these home boys. Phil has a reputation as a sandbagger, so I’m going to call him “Sandman” from now on. Randy is “Mr Potato Head.” Me? I’m “Philosopher-King.”
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