to make a contribution to the PMC.
This year's Pan Mass Challenge was my best ever. Yes, I say that
every year, and someday I'll crash or bonk, but even now, at 44, the
ride just keeps getting better. I still don't know my final
total, but the PMC gave the Jimmy Fund a check for $20,000,000 in
See the NECN broadcast. (This is a 10mb Quicktime file.)
The story starts with the 2003 ride where about 3500 riders raised $17
million for the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. Over the last 25 years,
the PMC has raised over $122 million, which allows DFCI researchers to
create new treatments, new cures for cancer. The DFCI techniques are
used at hospitals all over the country and the world. Because of your
generosity, this research is saving lives today. This is what the Pan
Mass Challenge is all about! The Boston Red Sox sponsor the ride,
thus covering much of the overhead. This means that even
more of your donation (over 97%) will go to directly to research!
First, I would like to say "thank you" to several people. My family
has given me time to train and fund raise. All you donors make it
possible by writing those checks or using e-Gifts on the web. The PMC
is supported by a large staff of volunteers, one for every two riders,
and they make the ride seem easy.
This year's ride is dedicated to my son Tyler who had a nasty bike
accident on the way back from an ice cream run in July. He fell over on his
brand new bike and the chain ring cut into his leg, resulting in a
trip to the emergency room (his third in a year and a half) and 36
stitches. In a few weeks he was all recovered, and enjoying camp,
with a gruesome scar. Sadly, he is following in his father's footsteps.
I decided to try a new training plan this year. Roger Ninane, a
coworker from our Paris office, wanted a new challenge. He has biked
up all the highest roads in Europe, which peak at 9000 feet. We
booked a trip to Colorado, where for a week we never went below 9000
feet. We climbed seven different passes in 6 days including
Independence and Loveland which are both over 12,000 feet. And, on the
seventh day, we headed for Mt. Evans. This is the highest paved road
in the USA, at 14,400 feet. It was 14 miles to the top, and took
about 2 hours. The view was phenomenal but the wind chill was close
to 25º F. Roger's altimeter watch said that air pressure was 60% of
sea level. On the descent, I shivered so much I could not steer
straight and had to stop several times. This was like my training
ride up Mt. Wachusetts in Mass, but 10,000 feet higher.
2004 Day 1
The forecast for the PMC weekend (August 7-8) was
very similar to Colorado - clear, cool, and dry. I decided to
try a technique from Roger: drink less and ride more. On
Saturday morning I filled my two largest cycling water bottles (about
28 oz. each), stuffed my pockets with energy bars, a banana, and
bagel. In Sturbridge, 2500 riders set off at 6am for Bourne, 110
miles away. It was only 53º, almost tropical compared to
Leadville, CO. I rode with Andy, my long-time cycling buddy, and
we drifted to the front of the pack, where he led the group on and off
for a dozen miles. I kept back a few riders, saving my legs for
the long morning ahead. Our group started around 25 riders, but
a few dropped off at each of the water stops, every 20 miles. I nibbled on
the bagel and sipped water as the temperature stayed low.
Around the 40-mile mark, we entered a construction zone, with gaps in
the pavement and ledges up to 2 inches high. While easily negotiated
in a car, a bicyle was no match. A rider to the right went down, and
behind me, I heard the impact of another bike on new asphalt. Our
group grew thinner.
A few miles later, a police officer on a motorcycle pulled out with
his blue lights flashing and led our group. He sped up to reach
every intersection, stopping traffic so we could coast through the
stop signs. Finally, we came to a major crossroads with lights
and turning lanes. He flipped on his siren, and was answered by
the wailing of cruisers on either side so we could zip through while
all side traffic came to a stop. This gave us a good rush of
adrenaline at 9am.
By 11am we were down to just 10 riders. A PMC support van
shadowed us, ready to come to our aid in case of flats or
accidents. I had kept to the back of the pace line, where
aerodynamics reduces drag about 30% - very important after 100
miles. But I was tired of being a parasite, and went to the
front to take my turn. I got a dose of reality when the group
left me behind after only a ¼ mile. My legs were too spent to
keep up. When the support van passed me I knew I was not going
to catch up. So I finished after the first 10 riders, having
averaged 21.5 mph for 115 miles (we got a little lost in Seekonk) and
no stops. This is my fastest PMC yet, not bad for 44 years old!
Disclaimer: I don't recommend anyone ride this distance without
stopping for water, food, etc. But it worked for me.
I spent the rest of Saturday at the Mass Maritime Academy in Bourne,
eating and getting a massage from the volunteer physical therapists.
You gotta love this ride! I hung out with friends, walked to help my
legs recover and listened to music. By 8pm most everyone went to bed
as reveille is 4:15am on Sunday. We were going to ride across Cape
Cod, and had to beat the summer traffic. As I fell asleep to the
sounds of snoring in a bunkroom with 30 guys, I recalled last year how
a few lunatics woke up at 3:30am.
Early Sunday morning
This year was different. The lunatics woke at 3am to shower, dress, and pack
for the big adventure. What fool showers at 3am, especially before
embarking on an 80-mile bike ride? Not wanting to know, I tried to
sleep in, but gave in by 4am. By 4:25, I had breakfast, thrown my
bags on the bus for Provincetown, and was on the road, 15 minutes
later than 2003.
There was a plan to this pre-dawn madness. Several co-workers
promised to double their pledge if I came in first again. I rode over
the Bourne Bridge in darkness thinking of the extra money for the
Jimmy Fund. Some intersections were pitch black, rendering the arrows
invisible. Luckily, after 16 years, instinct carries me along the
route. My internal homing pigeon lead me along the Cape Cod Canal,
under the Sagamore Bridge, along 6A and back roads until I finally saw
the sun after 30 miles. I passed only five PMC riders (when
did they start?) and refused help from several local riders who wanted
to form a pace line. This was going to be a solo effort, all the way.
I stopped briefly in Wellfleet where my cousins DJ and Jim came out to
greet me, the first family on the ride since Allie was born and Laura
had to stop volunteering. At the 60-mile water stop, I grabbed a PBJ
sandwich and was still eating it when I hit the road, racing to P-Town.
Now the Pan Mass Challenge is not a race. There is no prize for
coming in first, I kept reminding myself as headwinds slowed my
Privincetown approach to barely a dozen miles per hour. A support truck led me
across the rolling dunes of the Provincelands park. A half mile from
the end, an approaching rider yelled, "You're number 1!" With this
boost, I sprinted to the finish line, coming in 15 minutes earlier
than 2003. It felt great!
I called Laura to tell her to tape my interview on New England Cable
News. "Allie and her sleepover guests are watching a movie," she
informed me. "SO???" Laura missed the start of my interview, and
Allie kept switching to Cartoon Network, even as I explained to the
newscaster that my family could not be there as Allie was born during
the PMC, and her birthday party has priority. 15 minutes after I
finished, a group of 8 riders came in.
After training for 2900 miles, taking the non-stop on Saturday and
riding solo on Sunday, the 2004 PMC is over. We appreciate your
donations, especially the patients at the Dana-Farber looking for the