For the second year, I have signed up to ride the Pan-Mass Challenge, an annual 2-day bicycle ride across much of Massachusetts.
Why do I ride? Well, it’s easy to say it’s for a good cause, because it is. The PMC raises money for cancer research and treatment at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. It’s a well-run, heavily-sponsored, huge event that certainly doesn’t need me to be successful. But yes, it’s for a great cause, and I hope people who sponsor me feel they are doing something wonderful that might save a life.
Am I riding in honor of someone who has either died of or survived cancer? While I certainly know many people who have been affected by cancer at some point, some of whom are close to me, I have never thought of it that way. I suspect cancer survivors that I do know personally aren’t going to ask me to ride in their name. I could be wrong, but I am not presumptuous that way.
As I say in my profile on the PMC site, I’m just some guy on a bike. I like to ride, and always wanted to push myself to do something more grueling than my 20-30 mile touring rides. I don’t want to pretend I’m better than someone else because I am doing this ride for a good cause. I am merely one of thousands. If you want true inspiration, read about how Billy Starr began the PMC. Not many of the riders can match that story.
So what do I get out of doing this? i like to ride my bike, and it’s a personal challenge. I care very much about the cause, but I learned from the many notes I got last year that the people who sponsored me got even more out of it. Several mentioned stories of loved ones who had succumbed to cancer, others who had survived the disease themselves (or even both). Others still had done the ride in the past and still wanted to support it. One donation was even from a group, the Frozen Pea Fund, that itself exists to raise money to fight cancer in the name of an online friend, Susan Reynolds. In fact, I just went through the notes from last year’s sponsors, and there are several amazing stories.
A few memories that stand out for me:
– Training with my friends, and feeling a bit bad that I often left my partner behind in the crowd during the actual ride. We both made new friends constantly as a result.
– The people who come out to cheer the riders all along the route. Incredible support. Again, a number of them are attached to the cause through a loved one suffering from cancer.
– Camping out in left-center field at the Mass Maritime Academy in Bourne. This year, I will not turn back to Wellesley, but forge ahead to the traditional Provincetown finish.
-The volunteers. The riders are admonished to show appreciation, and everyone who touches the PMC should give out big thanks to the people who give their time in logistics, without whom the ride is not possible.
– Passing the 50 mile mark on the first day (which would total about 85 miles). My longest training ride was 50 miles, so I felt I was entering uncharted waters. I was fine.
– Wondering why the NESN (New England Sports Network) camera truck kept passing me, until I realized I was riding smack in the middle of a group of the Red Sox players’ wives. I had a nice conversation with Kathryn Nixon, wife of former Red Sox player Trot Nixon. it’s amazing that she still takes part, even though she no longer has a formal connection with the Red Sox.
– Flagging in spirit and energy in the second day, until I caught up to a group of “Team 9” riders (again, sponsored by the Red Sox). this group selflessly let me hang with them, a real morale boost that helped me finish that long second day. Only some time after I joined the group did I realize they were some real “heavy hitters” – Dana Farber cancer researchers and corporate sponsors.
Finishing was a great highlight also– but just as thrilling was making my fundraising goal the day before the ride began. This year, I am raising at leat $4,200. will you help? Just click this link to go to my fundraising page. No matter how you support me, thank you!