For those of you just joining us, I rode in my eighth Pan-Mass Challenge last weekend. The PMC is a two-day, 200-mile bicycle fundraiser for the Dana Farber Cancer Institute. As if I needed another reason to ride, my mother-in-law was recently diagnosed with metastatic melanoma. This year, I rode in particular for her — to honor her, and to bring her infectious love of life into the PMC weekend and beyond.
Amazingly, the rain stayed away from us Sturbridge-to-Provincetown riders this past weekend. (Well, it stayed away while we were riding, at least; the rain came down after we got to P-town. The riders finishing in Wellesley weren't so lucky.)
Each year, one of the highlights of the ride is seeing Jack O'Riordan at the Nickerson State Park water stop (the second stop on Day 2). He's the kid who has been out there with a sign every year reading "I'm 9 because of you," "I'm 10 because of you," etc. It is always very moving to see him out there. Well, this year, there was a life-size photo of him at Nickerson captioned "I'm 15 and riding" – that's the minimum age for PMC riders. I happened to hit the water stop at the same time as Jack and had my picture taken with him in front of the poster. (You can see this photo along with the rest of my photos from the weekend in the slideshow above.) If you look closely you can see the top of a cast on one of Jack's legs. He shattered his ankle (I didn't get to hear how that happened) and had a bicycle pedal cleat set into his cast so he could ride the PMC.
We saw that kind of dedication among many other riders — including two cancer survivors who are now one-legged riders (one rides with a prosthetic leg, the other doesn't).
The riders include athletes riding at speeds I can only dream of reaching — Lance Armstrong rode this year, as did both of Massachusetts' U.S. Senators, Kerry and Brown, who are no slouches either — as well as folks dedicated to the cause, but not as dedicated to high-speed cycling. People ride everything from fat-tire mountain bikes and hybrids to top-of-the line superlight racing bikes. I even saw another recumbent rider who has the same model bike as I do. (He was very excited about that.)
The ride works on many levels:
It's a village on wheels where we all work together to meet a specific common goal.
It's also a 200-mile-long party, with 5300 riders, thousands more volunteer burger flippers and bike mechanics and massage therapists and deejays, spectators in costume, high school cheerleaders doing their thing at breakfast at 4:30 am on Day 1, the bubble machines on the front porch of a house on the first hill out of Sturbridge with a party in full swing at 6:00 am, the blowout block party every year on Cherry Street in Wrentham, balloon archways spanning the road, themed water stops (the last water stop, in Wellfleet, had a Jimmy Buffett/Margaritaville/Parrothead theme this year … see the slideshow), and people all along the way who come out in droves to say "Thanks for riding," to cheer us on, and to make a lot of noise.
It's also a chance to just focus on enjoying riding for two days, without having to worry about any logistics — or anything else.
Speaking of logistics, see the PMC blog for a sense of the huge numbers involved in mounting this operation – from 19,000 bananas to 160 kegs of beer.
Every year, I want to be able to share with everyone who is not a part of this village on wheels what it feels like to be on the ride. While this is really one of those "you had to be there" kind of experiences, I am hoping that I can offer you a window into the weekend through the photos above, a few details about the ride in this post, through my PMC tweets from the road (and all PMC tweets from the road), archived on my blog, and through a few clips from my helmetcam video. To see what the start and finish look like from the riders' perspective, check out a clip from my PMC helmetcam video:
For more video, check out Da Hedge – the delirium at the hedge bordering a summer camp alongside the route in Brewster, and the scene at the Massachusetts Maritime Academy after Day 1's 110-mile ride.
Thank you for joining me in support of this cause — the Jimmy Fund at the Dana Farber Cancer Institute — and please feel free to share this post with anyone who you feel may be interested in the cause and/or in supporting my ride (there's still time …).
Remember, thanks in large part to the generosity of PMC corporate sponsors, 100% of every dollar you donate goes straight to the Dana Farber.
Over the first 31 editions of the PMC, the PMC community has raised an incredible $303 million for the Dana Farber. The group goal for this year's ride, PMC #32, is $34 million.
Thank you for helping us reach this goal.
And we look forward to doing this all again next year.