PMC 2000

This was my 12th Pan Mass Challenge, raising funds for the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute through the Jimmy Fund.  Every year I make some mistake in training, and this year it was biking to the top of Wachusetts Mountain. At only 2000 feet, this is no Tour de France climb, but has always represented a tempting challenge, and only 30 miles away. So after the 4th of July I decided to give it a try. I pushed too hard, in too high of a gear, and had an ache in my knees for the next month. This was the month I was supposed to be training!

We have great legs, but only one of us shavesFrom the Top Ten list, "You know you're living with a cyclist when…" #9 - The favorite TV station in your house is the Weather Channel." Okay, I'll admit, every morning I watch the local forecast while doing my stretches. It comes from being an amateur enthusiast in a sport that is very dependant on the outdoor conditions. So the poor weather of the last week of July 2000, cool and rainy, caused a lot of concern among the 3300 riders and 1800 volunteers of the 2000 PMC.  But we finally had a break.  Here is a shot of me, Andy Seigel, JohnnyK Kowaleski, and Jon Gordon before the ride, about to drive to the starting line and opening ceremonies in Sturbridge, MA.  A big thanks goes out to Walter Nagorski who drove us in my ancient Plymouth Voyager and later picked us up in Provincetown.  My motto, a la Teddy Roosevelt, is speak softly and wear a loud shirt.

Barb and Andy about to fire watermelon seedsA big part of the PMC tradition is carbo loading.  Friday night before the ride we chow down on plates and plates of pasta, rolls, and my favorite, chocolate cake!  Here Barb Asketh and Andy enjoy fine dining on the lawn of the Sturbride Host.  Note Andy's t-shirt for the Davis Double - 200 miles in one day.  This guy can ride!
Two thirds of the riders start in Sturbridge, MA, with the rest leaving from Wellesley. The Friday evening ceremonies include a big pasta dinner, equipment for sale for those last minute changes, and several guest speakers. The highlight this year was Patrick Byrne, 3-time cancer survivor and Internet millionaire, who just finished riding his bike from San Francisco to New York to raise both money and awareness for the Jimmy Fund and the DFCI (Dana-Farber Cancer Institute). This was his fourth time by bike, now accompanied by a publicist who arraigned TV interviews in every city he went through. Patrick has pledged $100,000 for the DFCI, and will give an extra $1 million dollars if the PMC raises $11 million. This is the largest single-event fund raiser in the country, which is even more significant because 93% of the money raised goes to the charity, far higher than the 50-70% of many other events. 

Yell if your shorts are too tight!Who are these crazy men?  This is the starting line in Sturbridge at 5:45am on Saturday morning.  Note that JohnnkK and I did not order the correct size jerseys, and have to wear last year's.  How gauche! Saturday morning was great weather for riding. We started due east at 6am along Rt. 20, with clouds keeping us from being blinded by the rising sun. The cool temperatures made for a fast pace through the rolling hills central Massachusetts. At the first big hill, in Charlton, we were serenaded by a bag-piper at the crest.  He was successfully treated at the Dana Farber, and plays for the PMC every year as his way of showing his appreciation. 

A helpful mechanic on the roadToo bad my aero-bars were flopping up and down. These allow me to lean forward and be more aerodynamic, but the bolts that attach it to my regular handlebars were coming undone. A quick tightening at the 20-mile water stop didn't work, and at 30 miles I had this support mechanic remove them all together. It seems that you are never more than a mile from another support truck, bike mechanic, or water stop on this well organized event. A few miles later a giant Harley Davidson pulled up next to the rider in front of me and gave him a full water bottle! The guy in leathers was taking a year off from doing the ride, but still wanted to help. The motorcycle support made us feel like professionals!

Funny thing about starting so early - the "lunch" stop came at 9:30am. My appetite is always ready, so a ham sandwich and a few pieces of fruit, and time to go. Now, if I could only catch up with that small group just a 1/10 of a mile ahead. After struggling for two miles with another rider, we caught the pack, by which point I was too burned out to stick with them. The only thing worse than not getting what you want is getting it!

Nancy tickles the guys, gets thrown into CC CanalWith tail winds, the rest of the morning past quickly. I didn't get in to the Saturday finish line in Bourne as early as I wanted, but as long as the lines for the massage tables are short, life is good. 110 miles before noon - time for a nap!  Then time to head to the finish line to cheer for the riders coming in.  (One reason I ride fast is so I wpn't have to sit on a bike seat for more than six hours.)  Here Andy and I greet Nancy Shepard who just arrived at the Mass. Maritime Academy from Wellesley, about 90 miles.  It was her first PMC and she did great.  All those spin classes combined with lots of time on the road got her into great shape. She rode in memory of Todd Miller. 

Always polka dot, never pokey Sunday starts early on the PMC, 4:10am if you want to avoid the breakfast lines. Riding over the Bourne Bridge with the pre-dawn pink sky is always a great sight. On the flats I rode in a pace line with 7 women and 2 men, but the same two people stayed at the front and after 5 miles we all slowed down as they had burned out. I jumped ahead with 5 more guys trailing, looking forward to the "Roller Caster", the access road next to Rt. 6 on Cape Cod. Never very good at conserving my strength, I pushed as fast as I could, enjoying the speed in the early morning air. 

At the "lunch" stop (40 miles, 7:30am) was the same kid as last year, now holding a sign saying, "I'm 6 because of you." There were over 100 cancer survivors doing the ride, but seeing this little boy who was successfully treated at the DFCI brought home the true meaning of the ride. The remaining 40 miles to Provincetown were hard, especially after Saturday's effort, but nothing compared to what that kid must have gone through. 

Chris steals Nancy's bike, gets run over by semi

Here I greet Nancy in Provincetown in the traditional custom of throwing the bike in the air just before getting run over by a truck.

Thanks again to all my sponsors who have given so much.  With your help I raise over $10,000 for the year, breaking my goal.

Chris Spear

P.S. The number one sign that you are living with a cyclist? He wants to wear his heart rate monitor to bed!

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