This year’s ride essentially started Thursday November 2nd 2006: two hours before I left for the check presentation for last year’s Pan-Mass Challenge. That was when I learned that my friend Ken’s stage IV Hodgkins Lymphoma had recurred, less than one year after he’d gone through six months of chemotherapy and the bonus heart attack it had brought on. It was then that I decided to ride in honor of Ken and his fiancée Christine.
Unfortunately, the community of friends we’re a part of has suffered a great deal this year due to cancer. Gary, one of our mutual friends, was diagnosed and underwent treatment for leukemia, and Randy, Holly’s husband, died after a long battle with lung cancer.
Then, two weeks after I learned of Ken’s relapse, I was cruising the Internet, when I stumbled across Scott, one of my chlidhood best friends, whom I hadn’t heard from since we graduated from high school 25 years ago. He’d survived testicular cancer, and become a rider and leading advocate for the Lance Armstrong Foundation, which raises money for cancer survivorship programs.
Coincidentally, I also learned that one of the salesmen at my new job is a cancer survivor who knows and has ridden with Scott during those Livestrong rides.
Another coworker confided in me that she has been in remission for seven years after her own treatment at Dana-Farber. It was inspiring to hear her enthusiasm when she spoke of the care she got at the very facility that the PMC supports.
These are the types of stories that one hears routinely as a PMC rider. Sometimes they’re stories of hope and strength and triumph, and sometimes they’re poignant stories of loss and sorrow. But whether they end happily or not, both stories yield the same lesson: how precious each and every moment of life is, and how important it is to help one another and focus on the things that truly matter.
That’s why after six years I continue to ride the PMC. The PMC not only funds lifesaving research and treatment protocols, but it also gives me an opportunity to do something I can feel good about, having been part of an organization that makes such a massive, demonstrable difference in the world and in the lives of countless individuals.
Last year I was astonished when my sponsors essentially doubled their donations, from around $3,600 to over $6,300. If that was astonishing, then I’m simply flabbergasted this year, because my sponsors’ contribution for the 2007 ride has increased to over $10,000. If last year I struggled to express my gratitude to those who sponsored my ride, this year I’m left utterly speechless. I am deeply touched and moved by the incredible amount of support that I’ve gotten from the huge number of people I am blessed to call my friends.
Contrary to the fundraising, my training for this year’s ride didn’t live up to my expectations. After riding a record 4,600 miles last year, I reasonably decided to take a good, long rest during the off-season. When I changed jobs in November, my commute dropped from 140 miles per week to just 20, and I put on an extra five or ten pounds. When spring came, I took my time getting back into riding.
By mid-June, I still hadn’t ridden much, so I decided to ramp it up, jumping from 18 miles one week to 95 the next and 140 the week after that. Not surprisingly, my body wasn’t ready for that kind of mileage, and both knees began to bother me. In fact, they bothered me enough that I was forced to set the bike down for four weeks in July, during what is usually my peak training period.
By the end of July, my knees were feeling better, and I managed a couple good weeks just before the PMC: 160 and 180 miles. Of course, by then it was too late for the training to do much good, but at least I knew I could survive the ride if I took it easy.
But for some reason, things went a little funny the week before the ride. I’m certainly not a klutz, but for some reason I seem prone to injury the week before the Pan-Mass. In the past, I’ve ripped up a toenail and put my back out… that kind of thing.
Well, this year was no exception. I managed to pull a muscle in my ankle while stretching one morning, which bothered me all week long. On top of that, I managed to steam-burn four fingers on my left hand while boiling some water just days before the ride. I don’t know why these things happen before the PMC, because they almost never happen at any other time of year. But whatever the case, I was feeling undertrained and kind of banged-up as this year’s ride approached. But at least my knees were showing signs of returning to normal.
For me, PMC weekend starts first thing Friday morning, when I thoroughly clean and tune my bike, then take it out for a 20-mile shakedown ride to make sure everything’s working optimally. As usual, this year’s shakedown cruise took me up the Charles River bike paths out to Waltham and back. The weather was pretty hot and brutally humid, but the forecast called for it to gradually cool over the course of the weekend. At one point, I passed a gaggle of Canada geese blocking the path, and I couldn’t resist squirting them with my water bottle as I passed, just for fun.
Returning home, I completed my packing, with everything placed in a dozen plastic grocery bags based on where and when I would need each item: Sturbridge hotel, on the bike, Bourne, Sandwich, Provincetown… I had a brief lunch and called Sheeri, who was going to be my support person for her third year. She swung by and we hit the road for Sturbridge about 1:30pm.
Departing a bit earlier in the day that usual allowed us to arrive at the Sturbridge Host Hotel a bit earlier, as well. Despite beating the crowds that would arrive later, check-in took longer this year due to poor layout, long lines, and insufficient volunteers.
It also took longer because I waited in line to avail myself of the opportunity to increase my fundraising minimum by committing to the Heavy Hitter level (i.e. from $3,600 to $6,300). If a rider did this, they were allowed to pick up a pair of Heavy Hitter bike shorts, which they could wear during the ride.
I had made the Heavy Hitter level the preceding year, and I was pretty confident that I’d make it again this year, so I signed up. After a pretty lengthy wait in line, I grabbed a pair of men’s large shorts and tried them on, but had to go back and trade up to XL, since PMC shorts, like PMC jerseys, run astoundingly small. Do I look XL to you? Not bluddy likely!
On the way out, Sheeri and I also each picked up a PMC beach towel that a group of riders were selling in the hotel lobby. After a quick scout around for potential dinner spots—having eaten at Picadilly Pub one too many years—we headed toward the hotel, stopping briefly for drinks at Dunkin Donuts and supplies at Brooks Drugs. We checked into the hotel and relaxed for a few minutes before heading out for dinner.
This year’s pre-ride dinner was at a fairly nondescript Thai place, with the self-evident moniker of “Thai Place”. However, our waiter added plenty of character to the joint, coming across like one of the smart-ass waiters you might get at Dick’s Last Resort or something. Crazy, but not so over the top to become annoying. Just crazy.
I ordered spicy chicken, which was exceptionally good, but a smidgen more than a hair too hot. I got through it all, but it was a bit of a struggle, and I probably will order milder stuff I we return there in the future, especially the night before a big ride!
After that, Sheeri and I returned to the hotel to catch Friday night’s 8pm opening ceremonies, which were cablecast by New England Cable News. Surprisingly, we both crashed pretty quickly thereafter.
Saturday started early… too early. I woke up around 3:45am and couldn’t get back to sleep. I hung out and rested, then eventually got up around 4:45am, ate something, and got myself ready for the ride. Sheeri drove me back to the Host Hotel, where over 2,750 riders were assembling for the 6am start.
I quickly got everything together that I needed on the bike, took a brief final turn around the parking lot, got a picture taken, and said goodbye to Sheeri, who was intent on getting out of town before the riders. I dropped my goodies bag off for the PMC to transport to Bourne, and tried to find my buddy Charlie. As I dialed his cell, the Star Spangled Banner started playing; that’s how close Sheeri and I had cut it this year. I clambered over and around hundreds of riders to line up within sight of Charlie and another friend, Steve, and just like that we were off at 6am sharp.
As we ambled down Route 20 in a big pack, I took my first video footage of the ride, using the new pocket digital camera I’d recently bought to carry on the bike. This first video came out a little shaky, but overall I’m pleased with the quality of the results.
For the first few miles, I rode with Steve and Charlie, and briefly saw Emily and Jennifer sail by, but I lost them all in the ups and downs just before we turned off the main road onto the backroads of Charlton. For a while, I thought I was ahead of them and slowed down, but I eventually concluded that they must have passed me, and rode on at a regular pace.
Toward the end of that leg, I recognized Susan, a Team Kermit rider whom I’d met and shepherded in to Provincetown at the end of last year’s ride. I slowed and rode with her for a while, and she confirmed my fear that Charlie was quite a ways ahead of me. Still, we had a good chat, and parted as we arrived at the first rest stop.
As I arrived, I used my cell phone to record a voice entry that would be posted as an audio file to my LiveJournal. At each stop that followed, I recorded a brief message detailing how the ride was going, which allowed people at home to follow my ride as it happened. I think they came off rather well, even if I wasn’t very good at coming up with unique content at each stop. But it hopefully brought the ride home to people in the same way that the new video footage will.
The first leg of the route was significantly different this year. We went south of Purgatory Chasm, avoiding some hills, but also avoiding the best, fastest descent of the whole ride. Although the new route passes by some scenic lakes, I really miss Purgatory Hill, and hope they bring it back next year.
The water stop was also moved much further down the road. It used to come less than 20 miles into the ride in Sutton, which made it very easy to skip, but the new stop was in Whitinsville, after 25 miles, and I wanted to stop and change out my bottle of orange juice for a bottle of Gatorade. I’d tried carrying orange juice for the first time this year, and it seemed to work fine. But at 8am it was already climbing quickly through the 80s, and I wanted to switch over to Gatorade, because hydration was going to be an important factor.
My experience at the Whitinsville stop was pretty underwhelming. There were no directions or volunteers telling arriving riders where to go: just a big, open parking lot jammed with people. There weren’t enough vats of Gatorade, nor enough volunteers to keep them stocked. After standing in two long lines that went nowhere, I finally got some Gatorade that was so dilute that it was worhtless. There was very little ice and no food I could find. The stop was completely disorganized.
While doing all that waiting, I received a call from Charlie and Steve, who were already done and ready to leave. I managed to convince them to wait for me, and I eventually caught up with them for the second leg.
I was pleased to rejoin Charlie and Steve, who set a nice, steady pace that wasn’t too fast. Steve eventually gapped us, and that was the last I saw of him until Bourne. Charlie and I made quick work of the Franklin stop at mile 43, and made great time getting into the Dighton lunch stop (mile 70) at 10:45, which is still a bit on the slow side. In Dighton we visited Jeff and Julie, who, with others of the Quad Cycles group, were manning the bike repair tent. Charlie snagged some zip-ties from them to move his Kermit from his back pocket to his helmet, which would provide a little extra aerodynamic drag for him throughout the rest of the ride. However, the Kermits are a huge hit with the fans lining the sides of the road.
After falling behind schedule waiting for me in Whitinsville, Charlie further delayed us getting out of Dighton by going back to find a lost glove. That gave me time to chat with Tony, another QC rider, who was leaving at about the same time.
Charlie also introduced me to his co-worker Matt, who was the team leader for their newly-created Bank of America team. We chatted while Charlie found his glove, then the three of us rolled out of the lunch stop at 11:20, already over an hour behind my 2006 pace.
There were a few noteworthy events along the road that I can’t place accurately in place and time, but I’ll relate them here. There were a couple places where the police had set up automated speed detectors: the kind that post your speed on a big readout as you approach them. Those are always fun to sprint for, although I didn’t see any of them early enough for it to do any good. Another typical behavior for group riders is to call out obstacles in the road: car up, hole, gravel, that sort of thing. At one point, a whole string of us called out “Donut!” as we came around a corner to find an abandoned pastry in the street. Another less savory moment occurred when we saw an older woman walking down the road fall flat on her face as we rode by. She appeared to be okay and received attention from other spectators, but that was pretty disconcerting. Fortunately, it was the only accident I witnessed throughout the weekend.
It was also about this time when my bike started noticeably making ticking and creaking noises. I knew it was coming from below and behind the saddle, but that’s about all I could determine. I rode on, and the bike continued working fine, but I thought to myself that I ought to be sure to check that out when I got a chance.
The Lakeville stop is 85 miles into the ride, and that’s where the ride usually starts to get rough. This year, Charlie’s fiancée Katia was there to meet us, and gave Charlie a massage while we chatted. I made do with a bit of self-massage on my neck, which was starting to make its expected complaints. We also met up with Jennifer, another BofA team member, and a very strong first time rider whom I’d met at the past couple Quad Cycles rides. Katia agreed to meet us at the next stop in Wareham, and the four of us—Charlie, Jennifer, Matt, and myself—finally rode out at 12:30pm.
The leg between Lakeville and Wareham is always a tough one. It’s the heat of the day, and your body has begun to complain about sitting on the saddle in a hunched-over position for the past six-plus hours. It’s also an 18-mile leg, which doesn’t seem like much when you’ve got fresh legs, but it sure is wearing when it’s miles 85 to 103.
And it didn’t help that Charlie was once again off the front and out of sight shortly thereafter. I figure he knew Katia would be waiting for him, and he wanted to get to the rest stop before the rest of us, so that he could spend some extra time with her. Toward the end, our group broke up a bit, and I found myself all alone as I rolled into Wareham. The bike’s creaking and ticking had continued, but I couldn’t detect anything more ominous or obviously wrong than that.
Wareham is memorable for a number of reasons. At 103 miles, it essentially marks when you’ve completed a “century”, the 100-mile achievement that most cyclists aspire to. Since it’s the last stop of the day before the finish, and comes after a long, hard slog from Lakeville, it’s usually the place you associate with the highest level of suffering and the greatest heat of the day. And if you’ve allowed yourself to get dehydrated, your stength will be lapsing and your core body temperature climbing.
It’s also only eight miles from Wareham to the finish in Bourne, but riders approach that fact in two distinct ways. Some riders see only a short push left, and minimize how much time they spend in Wareham, so that they can arrive in Bourne quickly. Others, who are suffering more, take more time at this stop, mustering their remaining strength while telling themselves that it’s okay to dally because the final leg is so short. For me, I’d lost contact with my riding buddies, and it was already 1:45pm, and in previous years I’d finished the entire ride by 1:10 before! I didn’t want to spend more time watching Charlie get another massage, so I just recharged my water bottles and set out again on my own.
For some reason, perhaps because I’d diligently hydrated all day, or perhaps because I hadn’t ridden as aggressively as previous years, that last leg to Bourne wasn’t as difficult as previous years. The evil little hills in Onset and even the sudden driving headwind that hit me on Academy Drive didn’t faze me, and I didn’t have the familiar feelings of desperately enduring discomfort or weakness in order to complete the ride. As I rode easily into Mass Maritime, I coasted along, taking a video of my arrival in a pack of riders at 2:22pm. I had travelled 104 miles at an average speed of 16.1 mph, and the temperature was 93 degrees. It had taken over 8 hours and 20 minutes clock time, but only 6 hours 50 minutes riding time, so we’d killed about an hour and a quarter in the water stops.
Despite arriving an hour later than usual, I grabbed my things and showered, rather than sign up for a massage first. This wound up being a huge mistake, because by the time I got to the massage tent, the earliest appointment was 7:15pm, and I had to leave Bourne by 6pm. So I never did get a massage on Saturday, which was very disappointing. Fortunately, I needed it less this year than in previous years. I later learned that there was another, undocumented line of people taking spots when people cancelled their appointments. Somehow Charlie had wound up with a 3:15 appointment, the bum…
After my shower, I noticed the blistering on my fingers from the steam burns I’d given myself before the ride. Fortunately, they had healed enough that they didn’t hurt anymore, but it made my hand look a bit odd. Bleargh!
What was left of the afternoon was spent eating, resting, and catching up with friends. I had a couple ears of corn and a couple burgers, but I found it very difficult to eat after ingesting so much water along the way. I sat for a long time in a post-ride stupor in the food tent with Tony, trying to put away what food I could. Unfortunately, this year’s ice cream truck had terrible flavors, although I wound up eating some coffee and nuts concoction just to see if it was edible or not.
After recording an end-of-day voice post for my journal, I went and sat on the rocks at the edge of Buzzards Bay, enjoying the stiff breeze off the ocean and the warmth of the day. I wandered around a bit more and ran into Steve as he was leaving to go overnight on his boat, which was anchored nearby. Unfortunately, the usual Quad group meetup at the beer tent at 5pm never happened, so I packed my things up and made ready to depart for my hotel. Along the way I passed Susan from Team Kermit, who after a bout of nausea at lunch had just rolled into Bourne with her teammate Ellen at 5:30pm. I thought about having my bike checked out, but it seemed fine to ride, and I didn’t want to kill a lot of time waiting for someone to check it out, so I decided to wait and look at it myself at the hotel.
From there, I got back on the bike and rode through Bourne and up the on-ramp for the Bourne Bridge. I passed several cyclists on the bridge, and circled down and onto the Cape Cod Canal bike path for the ride up to my hotel in Sandwich.
Although the ride to Sandwich adds ten miles to my day, bringing the total to 120 miles, it’s well worth it. While other riders get to see the sunrise crossing the bridge onto the cape, I get to see the sunset. While they’re all jammed in together, flying down the bike path, I have the path to myself, and can relax and enjoy the leisurely ride up one of the most scenic parts of the whole ride. And most importantly, while the other riders wake up at 4:45am and start leaving Mass Maritime at 5am, I can sleep until 6am, while the other riders are making their way up the bike path to Sandwich.
So I arrived at the hotel early at 6:10pm, where Sheeri had already checked in. It wasn’t difficult to find our room, because Sheeri had gone crazy with a dry-erase marker, decorating her car with all kinds of slogans for the PMC, including the following on the roof: “Fighting cancer is more important than my car’s paint job. What’s it worth to you?” A week later Sheeri was going to dispose of her car. Ironically, she was acquiring a small SUV from her father, which would have been useful to have while ferrying me around for the PMC. Maybe next year…
I looked the bike over for the source of my mystery creaking, and found nothing obvious, so I took a quick shower and relaxed a bit before the two of us headed over to the restaurant next door: the British Beer Company, where we had a good meal before turning in for the night.
So Sunday I left the hotel at 6:15am, after a better sleep than the previous night, and rode two blocks down to the place where the canal bike path ends and waited for Charlie and company. After about ten minutes, his whole group rode through: Charlie, Jennifer, Matt, and David, a friend of his fiancée, who rode across country once many years ago. We rode together for about an hour before reaching the Barnstable water stop, where we lost Jennifer, but were joined by Quad Cycles’ Emily.
Contrary to my hopes, my ticking and creaking problem hadn’t disappeared overnight. In fact, the noises stayed consistent all day long Sunday, perhaps even getting a bit worse. But despite that, the bike was rideable and had no other apparent problems, so I rode on.
I’m not a big fan of the long leg up narrow and somewhat busy Route 6A to Brewster, but it was pretty uneventful. I was able to get a decent video as we went by the Cape Cod Sea Camps, just before the water stop, where we all synched up again. This stop is memorable because it’s on the grounds of Nickerson State Park. Well, that, and they also had popsicles! But the stop is in a scenic piney woods with very typically sandy Cape Cod soil.
Amusingly, while Charlie and Emily were both taking a picture of me with a popsicle, someone else happened to be capturing the chaos of the waterstop and got a photo of them taking a photo of me! The photographer was one of the small handful of people who have joined my Pan-Mass group on Flickr, and he posted it to the group. I was pretty amused when I came across it at random, considering I’ve only been in one of the tens of thousands of pictures taken by PMC photographers in the past six years. If you want to compare them, check them out in the photos at right.
The exit from the water stop is directly onto the Cape Cod Rail Trail, which is a very narrow corridor that—fortunately—has recently been resurfaced. As I saddled up, two clearly recreational riders on their way to the beach came down the path and merged with us PMC riders. They’d had no idea they would be sharing the path with thousands of other riders, but they tagged along, and actually enjoyed drafting within the peloton.
However, I slowed to chat with them, and had soon lost all my riding friends again. When we jumped back onto the road, I managed to catch up to Emily and I rode with her for a while. She was taking it easy to conserve her knees, which were starting to ache a bit. After a while, we jumped back on the rail trail again for a long haul northward, during which time the group stayed at least within sight of one another. We brought it all back together once we exited the bike path in Wellfleet, and rode en masse out to Lecount Hollow and Ocean View Drive. There I eased off to take a lengthy video of one of my favorite spots—our first expansive view of the ocean—while everyone else zipped on ahead to the Wellfleet water stop, where I eventually caught them up.
Wellfleet is the last water stop before the end, but Sunday’s last leg isn’t the short sprint that Saturday’s always is. Instead, it’s a twenty-mile slog that includes the spiker of Corn Hill in Truro, where the Over the Hill Cheerleaders camp out; the long slog up Route 6, which is very scenic but also completely exposed to a stiff headwind; and the hilly detour out to Race Point and back before the finish.
We left Wellfleet together, but Charlie and Matt quickly rode ahead, while I hung back to shepherd David and Emily to the finish line. About the time we were heading out into the middle of the sand dunes, I suddenly decided I desperately wanted a sausage sub with fried onions and peppers, which seemed pretty random.
Charlie and Matt waited for us at the Race Point turn-off, and we agreed to synch up again where Matt and the Family Finish riders fork off from the rest of us Provincetown Inn finishers; however, when Emily, David, and I got there, Charlie and Matt were nowhere in sight, so the three of us rode on. I got some video as we came into town and finished at the Provincetown Inn, the exact point where the Pilgrims first landed in the New World, a month prior to departing for Plymouth. We came in at 12:03pm, with a total mileage of 191.05 and an average speed of 15.6 mph. The day had been much cooler, with temps just breaking 80. It was a perfect day, and had been a wonderful day in the saddle.
The order of operations upon arrival at Provincetown goes something like this: record my mileage, stow the bike, find my bag, and take a quick shower in a military-style temporary tent. Although there’s a full spread for the riders, I usually only grab a big salad, which somehow is the only thing that seems to appeal to me after the ride. After all that, I called Sheeri and made plans to meet up in town, then logged my last voice post for my journal. As I put my phone away, I remembered that I’d gotten a ticket for a massage before going to eat, and I went back just in time for my number to be called. And the next person in line was Emily, who was icing her knee, so we talked a little bit. It was good to finally get some attention on my neck muscles, which were still bothering me quite a bit. After that, I grabbed my bike, hung my bag from my head (as captured on film by Tony), and biked into town to meet Sheeri.
After a quick detour for my usual chocolate chip frappe at Lewis Bros. ice cream, and then a bit of an adventure finding which parking lot the car was in, and the requisite stop at Cumbie’s, we made our way out to Race Point Beach, which is by far my preferred way to spend the afternoon: lounging around in the sun, enjoying the breeze, and bobbing in the ocean. Even the PMC beach towels we’d bought back in Sturbridge were put to good use!
The only difficulty was getting wet. See, it was a very windy day, and it was high tide. The surf was kicking up six- to eight-foot waves, with a vicious undertow. So I waited for a wave to crash, then staggered out in its lee, trying to keep my footing despite the undertow eroding tons of sand around my feet. Then the next huge wave hit and literally lifted me off my feet and threw me back about twelve feet and onto my backside! There was no question of getting wet gradually in that surf! I staggered onto my feet as the sand flowed out from beneath me, then got slammed by another wave that rolled me around. I wasn’t about to drown, but I wasn’t able to stand up, either, and the tossing around had already bloodied my scraped hands and knees. Finally I gave up and just dove forward, out past the breaking surf.
Breaking waves have lots of horizontal energy, which is what I’d been fighting; but before they break, all the wave energy is up and down, and that made floating in the ocean a lot of fun, as I rode huge swells and troughs. Unfortunately, there was all kinds of brown algae out there, so it was kinda gross, but I wasn’t going to let that stop my enjoyment of the ocean. I swam for a while, then eventually came ashore again to dry off in the sun.
Since we’d skipped walking around Provincetown, Sheeri and I were able to spend hours just lounging at the beach before we turned homeward. Rather than eat in town, we opted to stop at a roadside pizza joint in Wellfleet, where I had onions and peppers on my pizza for the first time. It’s surprising how an 8,000-calorie deficit will suspend one’s rules about finicky eating.
We finally got back to the hotel in Sandwich late that evening, but made just it in time to enjoy about half an hour in the hotel’s hot tub before turning in.
This year differed from previous years in that Sheeri took Monday off work. I always take Monday off to unpack and recover, but in previous years we’ve hurried back to Boston so that she could be at work at a reasonable hour. But since we had stayed Sunday night at the hotel in Sandwich, we had the whole day to spend on the cape, only returning to Boston Monday evening. That’d also allow us to avoid both Sunday night and Monday morning traffic, as well.
Monday’s weather forecast was a bit undecided. We’d talked about possibly renting a bike and riding around, but Sheeri and I decided to head back up to Provincetown and spend the day wandering around town before heading home. So we drove back up the cape and parked at the base of one of the piers in the center of town.
After a pretty good brunch, we wandered around all the shops, where I wound up picking up a set of little bells that I plan to hang from my bike during next year’s ride. We got more ice cream and sat for a while in a little hidden corner park that Sheeri knew of. I also exchanged some cash and got a couple straps of small bills from the Seamen’s Bank on Commercial Street. When I asked for an envelope, the teller asked if I wanted “a blue bag”, and I said, “Sure, if you have ’em”. I really didn’t know what she was talking about, but she turned and gave me a zippered, vinyl bank bag: something I’ve actually wanted to obtain for a while. So now I’ve got a P-town Seamen’s Bank bank bag!
We also walked up to and climbed the 252-foot Pilgrim Monument, the most pominent feature of the town. Despite the mixed forecast, the weather was absolutely perfect, and included a strong sea breeze that was just delightful. In the inevitable gift shop, I picked up a couple wooden puddle jumper flying toys to bring in to work.
As the afternoon wore on, we grabbed a couple hot dogs and finally turned toward home. We did run into a few of the promised showers on the way, although they were too late to have blemished our day in Provincetown.
I tried a few new things in 2007. Here’s how they worked out, as well as a few ideas for 2008.
The new pocket digital camera worked out great. It was easy to carry and use, and produced some very good shots. I need to practice with it more, so that I’m more comfortable aiming it while riding. The only complaint is that I should have used it more frequently.
Its video feature was especially great. The video quality is pretty good, although I have to be more careful about camera shake. I muffled the built-in microphone with cotton and a Band-Aid, which seemed to reduce the wind noise acceptably. When using it, I should start each scene earlier and end later, because excess footage can always be trimmed out in post-production. I also should ride slower, to give the viewer more opportunity to see what’s going on. But overall, the videos give a pretty good sense of riding a bike in the event.
Also in photo-related news, I created a Pan-Mass photo group on the photo sharing site Flickr. I invited a number of people to join the group and add their photos, and so far it’s gotten a very positive response. I’m very pleased that it seems to have attracted a critical mass of users, and I hope it continues to grow each year. I think it could wind up being a useful and meaningful resource for PMC riders, volunteers, and supporters.
Along the same lines, I think the LiveJournal voice posts are a keeper, too. A few people kept tabs on me during the ride, and it seemed to spark some interest. The only cost is the few minutes’ time it takes to record them, so I think you’ll see them again next year, as well.
Just before the ride, I picked up two insulated water bottles. Although larger and arguably heavier, they did do a better job keeping things cold, especially when charged with ice. Those are a definite keeper.
And I’ve already mentioned carrying OJ instead of Gatorade for the first leg of the ride each day. I’m not sure that made any difference, but I felt better this year than previous years, so I’ll repeat that behavior, just in case that was a contributing factor.
A month or two before the ride I bought and installed a pair of Slipstreamz Spoilers, which are little plastic tabs that attach to your helmet straps, in front of your ears. The idea is to deflect the airflow around your ears, so you encounter a lot less wind noise. While they don’t eliminate all wind noise, they did reduce the high-frequencies that interfere most with hearing. Again, they’re cheap, and have no downside and some upside, so I think they were a good addition.
Another thing I tried this year was giving away a gift to anyone who made a $200 donation to my ride. In this case, it was a copy of Dr. David Nathan’s “The Cancer Treatment Revolution: How Smart Drugs and Other New Therapies are Renewing Our Hope and Changing the Face of Medicine”. Dr. Nathan is the former president of the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, the research hospital that is the beneficiary of the Pan-Mass Challenge. In his book, Dr. Nathan describes the amazing progress made against all forms of cancer during his fifty years in oncological research, and the equally amazing and heartening prospects for the future. I saw him at an author talk he gave in April, and got my copy of the book signed by both Dr. Nathan and Dr. Edward Benz, the current president of DFCI. Although I bought copies of the book for thirteen people who had made major donations, I’m not sure it was effective as an incentive to get people to give more this year, so I probably will not offer such a reward again in the future.
So all in all, the changes I made on this year’s ride were all successful improvements.
One thing I didn’t do, that I think I’d like to do in 2008 is find a pedestrian approach to the Bourne Bridge. I usually ride right up the vehicular onramp, and if there’s another way to get up onto the sidewalk, that would probaby be better. I’ll have to remember to check that out next year!
And, as I said earlier, I’m thinking about adding a couple bells to my bike for next year’s ride. We’ll test those out during the season and see whether they are a nice addition or something that’ll become a complete annoyance on long rides.
A week after the PMC ride, I rode out to Lexington to attend an annual gathering of Where’s George users. Normally this wouldn’t be any news, except that Ken and Christine, whom I rode for, are members of that community.
Each year, Hank, who founded Where’s George, runs a raffle at the event and donates the proceeds to charity. This year, since I was riding in honor of Ken and Christine, he agreed to put the funds toward my PMC ride. Between the raffle, a few items that were auctioned off, and a pay-per-throw dunking booth he’d set up, the group raised over $800, which further increased my already surprising fundraising for the year.
As I biked home from that event at 1am, I resolved to finally bring my bike in and have that continuing ticking and creaking checked out. The following Monday I brought it into the shop.
It took a while, but they finally found the problem. Looking at the rear wheel, there was a one inch logitudinal crack in the rim where one of the spokes met the wheel’s rim. But as we looked at it, we noticed that there were similar cracks at the base of every single spoke, all the way around the rim!
Needless to say, the wheel went back to the manufacturer for analysis and warranty replacement. But what amazes me is that I’d ridden about 125 miles, including half of the PMC and a 1am ride back from Lexington, on a wheel that was well on the way to self-destructing! Had I found those cracks during Saturday’s PMC, it’s unlikely I would have ridden the second day at all. But thank goodness it held together long enough to get me home. Whew!
This year’s ride was great. The weather was superb, and I didn’t have any physical or mechanical problems. I enjoyed a great ride with several old and new friends, and I simply had a remarkably enjoyable weekend. It was a great reward for the hard work I put into the fundraising.
For me, the fundraising is always the more difficult part of the ride. Yet I’ve gotten far more financial support this year than I ever imagined, and I can’t begin to thank people enough. Last year my donations essentially doubled, from around $3,600 to $6,300. This year, donations jumped by nearly $4,000, thanks to several factors and a number of very generous sponsors. Last year I was amazed to raise over $6,000; this year I’m absolutely flabbergasted to have raised over $10,000 for the Jimmy Fund. And that means I’ve raised over $32,600 in my seven years as a PMC rider.
In addition to smashing my previous fundraising record, this year’s contributions came from a record number of contributors (over 70), who also set a new record for average donation size (nearly $150).
I can’t begin to thank everyone, but I am compelled to acknowledge the help of certain people. Immense thanks go to Liam, my perennial largest donor. Similar thanks go to Hank and everyone associated with Where’s George, who this year contributed over $1,600. Thanks also to my new coworkers at Optaros, who raised nearly as much; hopefully next year that’ll double after we establish a corporate matching gift program.
Special thanks go to the dozen contributors who have sponsored me every year I’ve rode (they know who they are), and to the more than two dozen people who chose to sponsor me for the first time this year. I hope I’ll see you all again next year!
I again owe a debt of gratitude to Sheeri, who selflessly ferried me around again for her third year. Her selfless logistical help makes the weekend so much easier for me, but her company also makes it much more enjoyable, too.
Finally, I need to thank Ken and Christine, the couple for whom I rode this year. They have both struggled to live normal lives through the unbelievable trials they’ve been through as a result of Ken’s lymphoma. I’ve always said that although stamina, strength of will, and the ability to overcome pain are required to ride 200 miles, those attributes are demanded every day in much greater quantities from cancer victims and their families. By riding in the PMC, I and five thousand other riders, plus the quarter million people who sponsor those riders, are demonstrating our willingess to lend our strength to those who are in need of it. I hope that my riding in Ken and Christine’s honor, and the amazing financial support my ride has garnered this year, will show them and other cancer patients that they aren’t facing this disease alone.
And next May, when I’m out drumming up donations for the 2008 Pan-Mass Challenge, I look forward to reporting on their 100 percent cancer-free marriage.
Thank you for your role in making this wonderful achievement possible.
|Interactive Route Map — View Larger Map
|Lost Steve & Charlie, but rode with Susan.
|Underwhelming new stop, and no Purgatory Hill!
|Back together with Charlie.
|Met Jeff, Julie, & Tony; rode w/Charlie & Matt.
|Added Jennifer, but lost 'em before the next stop.
|Rode in and out alone, but not feeling bad at all!
|Pretty late arrival, but happy and feeling good.
|Quiet ride to the hotel, except for my bike's cracked rim!
|Met Charlie, Jen, Matt, & Dave at 6:15am.
|Lost Jennifer, but gained Emily.
|Relaxing trip up the Cape Cod Rail Trail w/Emily.
|Shepherded Emily & David home from Wellfleet.
|Another PMC completed; sad, as always, that the ride is over…