Chris Spear's 2003 Pan Mass Challenge

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Friday Night

This year's Pan Mass Challenge was my best ever. The real story starts with the 2002 ride where about 3500 riders raised $15 million for the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. As a result, the DFCI funded ideas that were outside the normal boundaries. For example, there is an 80% survival rate for leukemia. A researcher thought that was not good enough, and used genetic sequencing to discover that the remaining 20% actually had a variant of the cancer. He was able to isolate the differences and created a new treatment specifically for this form. As a result of the donations you made in 2002, research is saving lives today. This is what the Pan Mass Challenge is all about! This year's ride is being sponsored by the Boston Red Sox, who are covering much of the overhead for the ride. This means that even more of your donation (over 92%) will go to research!

Training around the world

Riding on the Big Island of Hawaii The ride itself started last October when I did an 80 mile loop in New Hampshire's White Mountains, going over Bear Mountain, the Kangamangus Highway, Franconia Notch, and Crawford Notch. In December I started spinning classes then took a 96-mile ride on the big island of Hawaii after my company's sales meeting with a few co-workers. All that and we were only way up the volcano! More spinning classes, then off to Bali in the spring where I rode with a few tri-athletes to a temple on the side of a volcano, and avoided SARS. Spring ended in New England with lots of rain, but I pushed even harder. In July Laura and I went to the Alps to see the Tour de France and ride for 5 days over some legendary mountains such as Alpe d'Huez and the Col de Galibier. Mt. Wachusetts (here in Massachusetts) will never scare me again! Thanks to this Christmas gift from my wife, I was in the best shape in 15 years of doing the PMC.

Sturbridge to Bourne

Andy and JohnK in Sturbridge However, the weather was not cooperating. While we gathered Friday night in Sturbridge, MA to listen to speeches about the Dana Farber and the Jimmy Fund, it was raining cats and dogs. The thunder that night was a good alternative to my roommate's snoring. The boomers were still sounding Saturday morning at 4:30am when we woke up. Breakfast was a bowl of Cheerios, raisin bran, a banana, plum, and a bagel or two. By the 6am start in Sturbridge there was only a light sprinkle, but the puddles still soaked us for most of the morning. I always ride in pace-lines, occasionally pulling at the front, but usually spending more time at the back of the line, taking advantage of the reduced wind resistance. This year I hammered! I kept in the front few riders of our group of a dozen, always happy to take more than my share of time in the lead. After 60 miles we were down about 8 guys. The tandem that had been with us had dropped off the back. At 85 miles one guy got a flat so his friends helped him out (he got 2 more in a mile) so I rode on with the remaining cyclist. He stopped at the 100-mile water stop, so I raced on without him. I was the 7th person to finish on Saturday, 110 miles at over 20mph. (Last year's times were as fast, but I drafted behind a tandem most of the way.)

Chris, Andy, and Nancy at the MMA finsh line Here I am with Andy welcoming Nancy who pedalled 50 miles on Saturday. She normally rides the entire PMC, but she broke her pelvis just 12 weeks earlier. Quite the amazing ride!

Time to eat!

Food tents at the MMA Now is was noon, grab a shower, a massage and a little food. A cup of Legal Seafood's excellent clam chowda. A banana, the staple of a biker's diet. A quick massage then back to the food tent. A veggie burger, hot dog, and chicken sandwich for protein. Salad and corn on the cob for the vegetables. Pizza plus a potato with chili - just because. Oreos and ice cream for my sweet tooth. Granola too. More chowda. Lots of water, Gatorade, and veggie juices to stay hydrated. Finally at 5pm I was full, and then some! Saturday at the Mass Maritime Academy in Bourne is always sunny, a great time to relax and recharge.

Sounds of the sea

The Enterprise at the MMA As the afternoon wore on, the campus started looking hazy. Was it the grills cooking all those burgers? When Moe talked, there was steam coming from his mouth, even though it was in the 70's. A fog bank was rolling in, so that by bed time (8pm) we were wrapped in cotton. That night I slept on the Enterprise, a ship at the Mass Maratime Academy, in one of many bunk-rooms. 39 of us shared the evening, triple stacked in coffin-sized bunks. They were so tight that most guys slept on their back, resulting in a Snore-a-palooza.


Sunday! Sunday! Sunday!

At the finish line On Sunday we would be riding on some very busy roads on Cape Cod in the height of tourist season, so reveille is at 4:15am. Not for my roommates! At 3:30am, alarm clocks started going off. Ugh! They had put off packing until the morning, and were making a racket. So I got up, ate some breakfast and hit the road at 4:45am, earlier than usual. I passed a few riders at the beginning, but by the first water-stop at 20 miles I was all alone. One guy passed me just before the 40-mile stop in Brewster but he stopped to wait for friends while I pressed on. At the 60 mile stop in Wellfleet everyone cheered as I was the first rider. A quick stop then back on the bike, on to the finish line in Provincetown. I kept looking behind me but no one ever caught up.

Welcome to P-town

Greeted by P-Town cheerleaders At 9:10 I pulled into the Provincetown Inn parking lot, so early that many volunteers didn't bother to cheer as they thought I was just another tourist! I've ridden faster on Sunday in pacelines, but never solo for over 80 miles. I was greeted by a bevy of beautiful cheerleaders. New England Cable News interviewed me but most ended up on the virtual cutting room floor. Ah, my 5 seconds of fame. Next year I'll have to come up with a more interesting dedication, or sleep later.
See the NECN broadcast. (This is a 3mb Quicktime file.)

Family Finish

Actually I was in the wrong place. The main finish line at the Provincetown Inn was for riders who were going to take the ferry back to Boston. I went there for the big cheering section but now I headed to go to the "Family Finish" where Erika, our Au Pair, was waiting to drive several of us back home. Moe and Jon finished not long afterwards. Moe at the Family Finish Jon at the Family Finish Three fishermen in P-Town
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Additional photos by John Kowaleski. Video by Paul Garmon. Thanks guys!