2008 Pan-Mass Challenge Ride Report

Ornoth before the 6am start in Sturbridge
Ornoth before the 6am start in Sturbridge
Ornoth and the sunrise in Sturbridge
Ornoth and the sunrise in Sturbridge
The bikes need to rest up for the 2-day ride, too!
The bikes need to rest up for the 2-day ride, too!
Two friends pose for a photo in their PMC jerseys
Two friends pose for a photo in their PMC jerseys
My childhood friend Scott as he makes his way thru Onset after 105 miles in the saddle
My childhood friend Scott as he makes his way thru Onset after 105 miles in the saddle
Riding buddy Jeff from Quad Cycles wears the colors of Team Kermit
Riding buddy Jeff from Quad Cycles wears the colors of Team Kermit
Orny arrived soaked at Sandwich in his wet weather gear
Orny arrived soaked at Sandwich in his wet weather gear
Ornoth in the middle of a pack in Orleans marsh
Ornoth in the middle of a pack in Orleans marsh
Ornoth drafting other riders thru Orleans marsh
Ornoth drafting other riders thru Orleans marsh
Helen from NECN, whom I trained with at Quad
Helen from NECN, whom I trained with at Quad
Action Tony sporting the Quad Cycles colors
Action Tony sporting the Quad Cycles colors
After 185 miles, Ornoth climbs the last sand dune before P-town
After 185 miles, Ornoth climbs the last sand dune before P-town
Ornoth cresting the final hill
Ornoth cresting the final hill
Ornoth's Lifetime PMC Fundraising
Ornoth's Lifetime PMC Fundraising
The 2008 Pan-Mass Challenge Yearbook
The 2008 Pan-Mass Challenge Yearbook

Preparation

Back in 2007, I rode in honor of my friends Ken and Christine. Ken was diagnosed with Stage IV Hodgkin’s Lymphoma in early 2005, and spent that summer enduring an intense chemotherapy regimen. In 2006, shortly after his first anniversary post-treatment, Ken’s cancer had fully returned, and he spent the winter of 2006-2007 in another six months of chemo.

At the time of last year’s ride, Ken had made it through that second treatment regimen, and he and Christine were looking forward to a planned wedding in May of 2008.

But Ken’s cancer returned just before Christmas, and he went through his third series of chemotherapy this past January. Afterward, Ken’s doctors told him that there was little they could do to achieve a permanent cure short of a bone marrow stem cell transplant.

Just before the promised stem cell transplant, and just days before the original date of Ken and Christine’s wedding, a PET scan showed that Ken had new tumors in his spine, spleen, and armpit. Both the wedding and the stem cell transplant would have to wait. Ken immediately began his first radiation treatment, which will be followed by the removal of his spleen and a fourth round of chemo.

Because they’ve had such a difficult time of it, this year I once again rode in Ken’s honor.


The 2008 cycling season started five months late, as my work kept me out of the country and away from my bike until the end of May. On June first, I only had 200 miles under my belt, when usually I have well over 1,000.

Fortunately, most of my training occurs in the last two months leading up to my annual Pan-Mass Challenge ride, and I came home just in time for that. In June and July I hunkered down and put in 1,000 miles, which is about normal for my lead-up to the event. The only thing that frustrated me was that I was unable to do more than a couple back-to-back rides because nearly every weekend had one rainy day in it.

Even though I was getting noticeably stronger every week, the July heat twice beat back my attempts to ride a century—a hundred-mile ride—before the PMC. However, I finally managed a solo century one week before the event. That bolstered my confidence a lot, because the rule of thumb is that a rider in an event can count on being able to bike twice the distance they do in training.

At the same time, I was getting used to the awesome new wheels I bought this spring: a set of Mavic Ksyrium Elites, which seem to be everyone’s preferred performance wheel. I’m very pleased with them so far, unlike the old Shimano Ultegra wheels, which I managed to destroy two sets of.


While I was spending all that time training, I somehow also had to fit in my fundraising work, which also lagged a bit at first. But in late July two things happened that gave my fundraising effort a big boost.

The first was that the summer issue of my condo’s newsletter came out, which featured a photo and article I’d written (link) about my ride on the front page. Coincidentally, the day the newsletter went out, there was a going-away party for one of our longtime concierges, which gave me the opportunity to talk to several of the residents. I was delighted to find that many people had already read the article with interest and offered to make donations.

The other event that boosted my fundraising was the announcement I posted at my company. We haven’t had a corporate matching gift program, and in order to raise awareness and interest, I was going to match—out of my own pocket—every dollar donated by an Optaros employee.

I’d put that annoucement off because I wanted to have a couple coworkers critique my writeup, and then I ran it past our HR person to finalize the wording. All that took time, but I finally posted the announcement, which garnered a fair bit of attention.

Between the money I’d raised and the funds I’d committed to donate by matching my coworkers, by the time of the ride I’d already surpassed the $6,700 Heavy Hitter level, which meant anything else I raised was gravy. Though I still had my eye on that $10,000 mark I set last year…

Friday

As has become my modus operandi, I took Friday off to prepare. I cleaned the bike, but delayed my usual shakedown cruise until 10am, when I could stop by my LBS and get my front derailleur adjusted. That done, I headed out to Waltham and back for a final test of both the bike and my legs; both checked out fine, which is actually a bit unusual.

Back home, I showered and cooked a big lunch before realizing that it was already 1pm, my target departure time. I finished eating, packed, and called Sheeri, my support person. She arrived to pick me up around 3pm, which I believe is the latest we’ve ever left Boston. This year she had her new SUV, a Toyota RAV4, which could carry my bike inside, rather than on an external rack, which was a big win, considering there’s almost always some rain at some point during the weekend.

We drove out to the start in Sturbridge and despite the later hour had no difficulty checking into the ride. I notified the registrars that I was willing to commit to the Heavy Hitter level, and thus I received a pair of the special Heavy Hitter bike shorts to wear on the ride along with the jersey that every rider is issued. I also picked up a tee shirt at the merch booth.

Each year there’s a new ride jersey and shorts, and this year’s design is just horribly garish. It just hurts to look at, and I wasn’t looking forward to putting that monstrosity on at 4:45am and riding in a pack of 3,000 people wearing the same thing. Especially since the bicycle wheel motif on the back looks just like a bulls-eye target…

With my checkin complete, we drove over to Southbridge to check into our hotel, then back to Sturbridge for dinner at Thai Place, where, despite the big lunch I’d had, I managed to shovel down a delicious Massaman curry with loads of rice, which totally hit the spot.

On the way back to the hotel we stopped at a CVS to pick up water, milk, and OJ, getting back to the hotel just in time to watch the PMC opening ceremonies on NECN at 8pm. Now that I’ve done the ride eight times, we’ve got our routine down to a science.

As usual, the opening show was very inspirational, featuring some of the most moving stories from people associated with the Jimmy Fund and the PMC.

I made one final check of the forecast, which called for scattered showers and thunderstorms. This being New England, I figured the rain would probably hold off until late afternoon, but I might get wet at Mass Maritime in Bourne, or on the bike ride from there to the hotel.

With the preliminary activities over, at 10pm I set my clock for 4:40am and hit the sack.

Saturday

Fortunately, my cat has a habit of getting me up at 5am, so it wasn’t that much more difficult to get up at 4:40 for the ride. We hopped into the car and drove over to the Sturbridge Host Hotel, where I dropped off my Bourne luggage, tested the bike out, posed for a picture, and went to line up for the start.

The weather was perfect. It seemed both warmer and a little bit lighter than usual, with a spectacular sunrise that, of course, photos could not capture. As per the U2 song that’s often played at the start, “It’s a beautiful day”.

As I lined up, I tried to keep an eye out for a friend I was hoping to meet. In grammar school, Scott Joy and I were pretty good friends. In high school we went in separate directions, and after high school lost touch.

Fast forward a quarter century. About this time last year, I came across his name associated with one of the Lance Armstrong Livestrong rides, which benefit cancer survivors. Apparently he’d been through testicular cancer, and become quite a vocal anti-cancer advocate.

Last year, we sponsored each other’s rides, but this year Scott decided to try the PMC, and I’d hoped to run into him and ride with him for a bit. A week before the ride, I sent him my plan for the weekend and my cell phone number, and asked for his contact info and what his plans were. He was too busy with another event at the time to reciprocate, and said he’d get back to me.

He never did, and he didn’t bring my contact info with him. Thus we had no way to find each other except through Brownian motion, which doesn’t work so well when you’re in a mob of 3,000 riders, all dressed identically, spread out over a 110-mile course.

Long story short, we never found one another, which was a big disappointment for me, as it was one of the main things I was looking forward to in this year’s ride.

Shortly before 6am, a young woman came up to sing the national anthem. All went well until the final phrase, at which point her microphone cut out completely. After a moment of indecision, she gestured to the crowd, who, without skipping a beat, provided “and the home of the brave” to conclude the song. It was very funny, and actually kind of moving, in its spontaneity.

With that, the ride was off. I was lined up at the head of the second rank of riders, the “moderate pace” group. However, as the fast group left, hundreds of slower riders who were hanging around the back of the staging area went through the fast group’s exit before the ride organizers let our group go.

That meant that I actually started out well back in the pack, which doesn’t suit me at all. Although I tried—and believe I succeeded—to conserve energy, in the first segment I passed many hundreds of riders, getting in to the Whitinsville water stop more than ten minutes ahead of my target time.

I passed hundreds more by spending only eight minutes at the rest stop. I had started the day with orange juice cut 2:1 with water in my bottles, and that worked out really well, but I needed to get ice and switch over to Gatorade. I’d already decided that the nuts I’d packed really weren’t palatable on the bike.

My new GPS, a Garmin eTrex Vista HCx, was working wonderfully. It was the first time I’d done the PMC with a GPS that had onboard maps, and that was interesting, if not all that useful. However, the new GPS is much better at handling bike vibration than my old eTrex, which would continually shut itself off; no such problems this time. And the lithium ion batteries worked a charm. The route maps located below this writeup are directly lifted from the track data recorded on the GPS.

The second segment of the ride was more of the same, although having pushed myself a little bit and made up more ground on the crowd, the riders finally started thinning out. The weather was great, but a little humid.

I arrived at the Franklin water stop two and a half hours into the ride, three minutes ahead of schedule. My speed and power output would slowly decline throughout the day as the mileage added up, but my average speed was still over 17.5 mph, which is a great pace.

I’d planned to rest a little bit at the Franklin stop, because the 27-mile leg to Dighton is one of the longest in the ride, but it just didn’t happen. I was in and out in eight minutes again.

It was a long haul, but I was still making good time. I reached the halfway point (55 miles) before 9:30am. I tried to start concentrating on my riding form, but it was about then that my body started to complain, particularly my right knee and neck. I was noticeably a lot slower on uphills, but fortunately the terrain was finally starting to flatten out.

I arrived at the Dighton lunch stop at 10:18, after exactly four hours of riding time. The weather was still clear, but it was getting hot, approaching 90 degrees. I downed a salad and—since I was half an hour ahead of my self-imposed schedule—spent nearly half an hour at the lunch stop before heading out at the same time as Billy Starr, the event’s founder.

After the lunch stop came social hour, as two different women I didn’t know struck up conversations with me. I rode with Stephanie from Connecticut for some time, and a woman named Marcia who started talking to me when she saw me sitting up in the saddle and doing self-massage on my trapezius. Hanging with the ladies kept my average speed down, which probably kept me from pushing myself, thus providing a much-needed rest. I pulled into the Lakeville stop still seven minutes ahead of schedule.

The next leg, from Lakeville to Wareham, is often the hardest. It’s the last full-length segment of the ride, since the final one is only eight miles. However, by the time you reach Wareham everything is aching and you’re barely functioning.

You’ve also exceeded 100 miles, which is the traditional measure of long-distance cycling, so your time at Wareham is of interest. I hit Wareham (101.5 miles) at 12:52, which is under six hours of ride time and under seven hours of clock time. That’s an average speed of 16.7 mph, which is indeed a respectable achievement.

On one hand, you want to rest at Wareham, because you are in a lot of pain and need to muster your remaining strength for that final 8-mile run. On the other hand, you’re only eight miles from the finish, and you need to finish as early as possible, not merely for bragging rights, but also to ensure that you get an early massage appointment.

I tried to get in and out quickly, as I’d been doing all day, but as I left, my chain fell off and got wedged between the chainrings and the frame. It was so securely stuck that no amount of yanking could get it free, so I had to go back to the bike repair tent and have someone look at it.

Fortunately or unfortunately, the guy took a good long look at the bike, giving it a quick tune-up in addition to re-seating the chain. He had plenty of negative things to say about both my equipment and my maintenance of it. Thankfully, at least he was quick about it, as I was back on the road 15 minutes after I’d pedaled in. The additional rest probably didn’t hurt, either.

That last section isn’t bad, because it’s short, but there are a couple small but painfully steep hills, and the wind often kicks up as you approach Buzzards Bay. But I was determined to leave everything out on the road, and finished pretty strong, despite the slight dip I’d had in the middle part of the ride.

Before leaving Boston, I’d estimated that I’d arrive at Mass Maritime Academy in Bourne at 1:45pm. Beating that time was my goal. So imagine my surprise when, after going through the finish line, I looked down at my cyclo-computer and read the time: 13:44. I had beat my estimate by one minute! Do I know this ride well, or what?

So the stat line goes like this: 110.65 miles in 6 hours 35 minutes (ride time), and a clock time of 7 hours 40 minutes. That’s an average speed of 16.5 mph, and I recorded a max speed of 39.7, although I know I saw 40 on the readout on one descent early in the ride. All in all a great ride!


After eight years, I now have the whole PMC weekend down to a rigorously-scheduled science. When you get to Bourne, everything is geared toward getting to that all-important massage appointment. First, go find the luggage, which contains towel, toiletries, and a change of clothes. Second, hit the shower to get off all the road grime, and change into casual clothes. Drop the bag at the bike and head to the signup table to reserve a massage appointment.

This is the critical juncture. After all that hard riding to get in early, now is when you find out when the earliest appointment is. Last year the first appointment wasn’t until 6:30pm, and I usually leave Mass Maritime before that, so I never got a massage last year. It was only later that I learned from my buddy Charlie that there’s a standby line, in case there are no-shows for their appointments.

Well, the first appointment this year was still 5:15pm, which is unequivocal bullshit. There simply couldn’t be that many riders ahead of me, period. So I immediately found and parked myself in the standby line. As I walked up, about eight guys got called in from that line, leaving just four of us to wait. Fifteen minutes later, another eight people were called in, including me. Score!

The massage wasn’t bad. It seems like it’s pretty standard these days to have two therapists at each table, and that worked well for me, because I could have one working on my legs, and the other on my traps, which are always my biggest pain point on long rides. While I was lying there, Wally, the Red Sox “green monster” mascot walked into the room and started pantomiming massaging the person at the table next to me. Very odd.

Once the massage is over, the tyranny of the clock is over… mostly. The rest of the afternoon is spent gorging on as much replenishment fuel as you can put down, recuperating, and seeking out and swapping ride stories with old friends.

I ran into old friend Stephanie (not from CT) and co-worker Dave Katz, but not too many other familiar faces this year. I put down six ears of corn on the cob, some pizza, water, and a cola, which would tide me over until dinner.

Although I had gotten over all my muscle pains, I definitely felt more generally used up than I have in years past, and I kind of passed out for a while lying in the sun next to MMA’s tugboats, which are tied up next to the fast-flowing Cape Cod canal. When I woke up, I had some trouble getting up due to cramps in my thighs, which isn’t uncommon after such a prolonged workout.

I usually hang out at MMA until 6pm, when I head for my hotel, but I was keeping an eye on the weather. The day had been beautiful, which meant that the promised rain was sure to come as the afternoon wore on.

As I’d predicted, around 4:30 it started looking more and more like we’d get the rain that had been promised in the forecast. I called Sheeri for a weather report as I walked back to the bike, and by the time I got there, it was starting to sprinkle. Within minutes, it began raining in earnest, and I had to retreat to the fieldhouse, where Sheeri told me she didn’t think it was going to let up for a long time.

I resigned myself to a wet ride home. Fortunately, I’d packed wet weather gear in my baggage, and whipped out my rain jacket, a shower cap, a strap-on plastic fender for the bike, and Ziploc bags for my cyclo-computer, GPS, wallet, and cell phone. Then it was time to brave the elements.

The hard part about riding in the rain is getting wet. Once you *are* wet, you’re not going to get any *more* wet, so the discomfort passes relatively quickly, as long as it’s not too cold out.

The first and main obstacle between MMA and my hotel in Sandwich is the Cape Cod canal and the immense Bourne Bridge that goes over it. Historically, I’ve rode through heavy traffic around a rotary, up an on-ramp, and onto the highway that goes over the bridge, finally retreating to the sidewalk once it appears, a third of the way up the approach.

Last year I’d heard rumors of a pedestrian path that goes directly to that bit of sidewalk, avoiding the on-ramp and highway itself, and I was bound to find it this year, even in the pouring rain. As I left MMA, I stopped and asked a cop who was directing traffic for directions, but he didn’t give me anything more useful than “it’s off the traffic circle”. Thanks.

So I did a bit of exploring and found nothing. I finally resigned myself to the usual crawl through traffic and started making my way through the rotary. That was when I saw the sign. There is indeed a pedestrian access route, and it is literally one of the exits off the traffic circle. I took it and had to do some searching, but finally found an overgrown, broken path that, in time, spit me out on the bridge’s sidewalk.

By then it wasn’t just pouring, but thunder and lightning, too. But I made it over the very high bridge, around another rotary, and then down to the water’s edge to make my way up the Cape Cod canal bike path. It’s normally one of the most scenic parts of the trip, but there wasn’t much to see in the pouring rain except a lot of puddles and one shirtless jogger. I plodded on, taking 50 minutes to get from MMA to the hotel and finishing the day with the usual tally of 120 miles in the saddle.

Arriving at the hotel completely soaked, I immediately stripped and showered. Fortunately, the hotel had a laundry set up right outside our room, so I threw everything into the dryer so that it would be ready for the next morning.

Then came supper. There’s a great pub called the British Beer Company right next to the hotel, but when Sheeri and I went over there we were told it would be a 45 minute wait. I didn’t mind hanging out by the hostess’ station at all, since the hostess—and several of the guests, too—had some remarkable cleavage on display, which was about the most elevated level of mental activity I could muster. Sadly, it was only about 15 minutes before we were seated. I ordered a curry pie/puff/pasty/pastry that was pretty good.

Back at the apartment, I set things out for the morning and spent some time cleaning and re-lubing the bike, which needed it after the thorough soaking earlier. At 10pm, when I hit the sack, the rain had ended, although it looked like there might be more overnight, likely making the morning another dirty, wet affair.

Sunday

Having slept in until 6am, the very first thing I did upon getting up was a hesitant look outside to guage the weather. The sky was bright and nearly cloudless, and although the ground was a little damp, the roads were mostly dry, and the temperature was about 71. So it looked like a good day.

After getting ready, I left the hotel at 6:18, rejoining the ride a block from the hotel, where the ride comes off the canal bike path. Starting so late, I was back in the middle of the pack again, but I made some progress on the crazy rolling hills of the Route 6 access road.

Because I join the other riders after they’ve already ridden ten miles, the first water stop comes early for me, after only 15 miles. I spent 12 minutes in Barnstable, delayed by waiting in line for Gatorade to replace the dilute orange juice I’d again started the day with.

Leaving Barnstable, I felt pretty strong, so I started picking up my pace again. Due to the rainy, wandering ride to Sandwich the previous evening, my overall average speed had dropped down to 16.1 mph, but I consistently brought that number up on every segment of Sunday’s ride. I ran into Stephanie from CT again on the road and said hi. Although it wasn’t warm, it was extremely humid, and I was working pretty hard, so I was sweating quite a lot.

Arriving in Brewster right on my schedule, I made a quick phone post to my journal and went to set the bike down. When I did so, the chainrings poked into my foot. Now, I wear clipless sandals when I ride, so one of the chainring teeth bit into my big toe, which started bleeding a fair amount. So I killed some additional time getting it bandaged at the medical tent.

Then I still had to fill my water bottles. And of course I had to go and get an ice pop, since Brewster is the only stop that has them. Then I ran into Paul and Helen, who are riders from Team NECN that I rode with on my training rides out of Quad Cycles in Arlington. So by the time I finally got out and onto the short segment of the bike path that leads out of Nickerson State Park, I’d killed 18 minutes. Not egregious, but more time than I prefer to spend standing still.

Despite a good portion of it being on the bike path, I continued increasing my average speed on the 18-mile leg between Brewster and Wellfleet, arriving just about on schedule. There I decided to take a few extra minutes to rest, before the always-challenging final 21-mile leg into Provincetown. I also downed some fruit, since I really hadn’t eaten much on the bike while riding.

When we leave Wellfleet, we jump on the busy highway of Route 6 for the long haul up to Provincetown. The route is very exposed, and usually there’s quite a headwind, and Sunday was no exception. In fact, the sky had darkened ominously, and we rode through a deep overcast and very heavy, clammy fog with a stiff breeze.

I found myself at the tail end of a paceline made up of perhaps a hundred riders from team Lick Cancer. Unfortunately, they were averaging only 10-13 mph, which just wasn’t going to work for me at all. In one massive sprint, I passed the entire pack and broke away from the group, dragging two of their stronger riders with me.

Those two each took a turn pulling before they intentionally slowed down to allow the rest of their group to catch them. By then I was pretty blown, so I let about ten of them pass me before falling into line and keeping the rest of the pack behind me.

Contrary to their earlier slack pace, they kept a near-ideal pace on the way into Provincetown, which allowed me to stay somewhat sheltered from the wind on the completely exposed stretch of road that passes Pilgrim Lake. It also ensured that I continued to improve my average speed. As we left Route 6 to head out to Race Point, they pulled off to regroup, but a couple of us who had camped out in their peloton rode on, picking up another team just as they were pulling back onto the road. Nice timing!

One of those guys who rode with me was a guy whose knee had given out, and I led him over the final hills: the short but steep sand dunes around Race Point. Cresting one, one of the event photographers got a couple pretty good pictures of us, which you can see at right. It’s only the second photos I’ve been featured in during my whole eight years as a rider, and there’s typically several thousand photos of the event posted in the PMC’s photo gallery each year.

As always, the approach to Provincetown brings up mixed feelings. I actually enjoy the riding, the sunshine, and seeing the countryside, especially on the cape. I really enjoy the ride for itself, so the end of the ride is always somewhat anticlimactic for me. If the ride continued, I think I’d be happier just going on!

But it doesn’t, and I hit the finish line in Provincetown at 10:59am. Final stats: 189.5 miles at an average speed of 16.9 mph and a riding time of 11 hours 12 minutes. I was 14 minutes behind my planned finish time, almost all of that lost between Wellfleet and Provincetown.


The Provincetown arrival is almost as carefully choreographed as that in Bourne. Park the bike along the breakwater, get luggage, have a quick shower and change into street clothes, get a ticket for a massage and wait around for that.

Massages in Provincetown are only five minutes, and upper body only, because they seat you in lawn chairs. I don’t mind that, because my neck is usually what hurts the most. This year’s massage was especially good, as my masseur really dug deep and worked on my traps.

After that, I made a quick visit to the medical tent to change the dressing on my toe, and then a phone call to synch up with Sheeri, who had driven up to P-town that morning. I’m always eager to meet up with her, because I don’t want to leave her sitting around alone while I’m showering, massaging, and eating. We agreed to meet up near the car in about 45 minutes, which gave me just enough time for a quick bite in the food tent.

I downed a salad and a cola, then went back to the bike. Carrying my bag on my head, I hopped onto the bike and picked my way into town, meeting Sheeri near the Pilgrim Monument, where she’d parked. I broke down the bike and put it in the car, then we walked back into town in search of food.

Sheeri mentioned a place called “the Pig”, which sounded tasty to me, so we wound up at the Squealing Pig, another British style pub in the middle of town. I had a burger and curry fries, completing the three-different-curries-in-three-days trifecta. We stopped for the traditional ice cream shake at Lewis Brothers, but I was disappointed in mine and wound up abandoning it as we walked back to the car.

After a quick stop at Cumberland Farms for drinks and snacks, we drove out to Race Point Beach, my traditional post-PMC relaxation. The fog had burned off, but there were still big ominous clouds on the horizon. The sand was achingly hot, but the water was crampingly frigid. Very reminiscent of the beaches in the Gulf of Maine that receive the counterflow straight from the polar ice cap, the water couldn’t have been more than 60 degrees. I managed to get wet, but couldn’t stand it for more than a few minutes before climbing out.

True to form, those storm clouds managed to drop a few sprinkles late in the afternoon, driving us back to the car. After half an hour, we opted to head for home—the hotel room in Sandwich—even though the weather was sunny everywhere but Provincetown. It still being early, I directed Sheeri back by way of the Route 6 Service Road, in order to show her that interestingly lumpy part of the ride route.

At home, Sheeri went off to check out the hotel’s hot tub, while I caught the 7pm PMC wrap-up show, which included on-camera interviews with my friends Paul and Helen from NECN. When Sheeri returned, we ordered a pepperoni and garlic pizza from the pub next door, which went down a treat. Then I spent some time in the hot tub myself before we called it a day.

Monday

Since the hotel in Sandwich has a two-night minimum, we stay on the cape Sunday night, which allows us to avoid the mass of weekend traffic heading back to Boston. And if we take Monday off, as we both did, it means we can enjoy another day on the cape. Last year we spent the day in Provincetown, which was a lot of fun.

This year, Sheeri had rented a bike and wanted to go on a little ride on the Cape Cod Rail Trail, so we checked out of the hotel and headed back to Brewster, where we parked near the trail, a few miles south of Nickerson State Park, where the PMC water stop had been.

We took the rail trail north for about ten miles, through Brewster, Orleans, and Eastham, then turned around and headed back. In Orleans we got off the trail for a couple errands. I stopped in a bank to exchange some bills and—since I was in PMC gear—got into a conversation with the young woman teller who was thinking about doing the ride. We then stopped at the Cape Cup cafe, where I picked up an absolutely delicious monte cristo panini and lemonade, turning down the opportunity to extend my three-day curry streak with a curried chicken salad.

While eating outdoors with Sheeri, a woman who had done one of the Pallotta AIDS Rides stopped by. Then another woman who had ridden the PMC stopped to chat and told us about her daughter, who was undergoing treatment for a brain tumor, and showed us the great writeup she’d gotten in the Cape Cod paper.

She also told me something that floored me. Apparently soon after 5pm, when I left Bourne on my soggy ride to the hotel, a microburst had hit the Mass Maritime campus, lifting the canvas top of the immense food tent and causing several support poles to come loose and fall to the ground.

Now, we’re not talking a small tent here. It probably covers half the size of a football field, and the supports are the size of telephone poles. It’s a miracle that no one seems to have been seriously hurt. She told me they had to evacuate the tent and shut down all food prep for quite a while. Wow! I’d heard absolutely nothing about it during the ride on Sunday.

After eating our sandwiches, Sheeri and I poked along back to the car, logging a total of 20 miles on the bikes. Then we turned toward home. PMC weekend was over for another year.

Lessons Learned

Let’s start the lessons with something fun. Throughout the weekend, I used my cell phone to log audio posts to my weblog, so that people could follow along with my ride, if they wanted. The system automatically tries to transcribe voice posts, so that people can read the text instead of listening to the audio. The software that does the transcription works pretty well, but sometimes it just fails, and does so in spectactular fashion. Here’s a handful of examples:

What I said:What it transcribed:
the 2008 Pan-Mass Challengethe 2008 Pear Mass Challenge
Mass Maritime AcademyMass Atomic Academy
New England Cable News NetworkWin One Cable News Network
the Jerry Lewis Telethonthe Jerry Lewis telephony
we’re now at Brewsterwe’re now at boost three
back in Brewsterback in Rooster
fill the water bottlessteal the water bottles
I am here in P-townI am here in Peetown
raising money for cancerracing money for cancer

Aside from that, many of my lessons learned deal with food. I hydrated pretty well, and cutting orange juice 2:1 with water was an ideal way to start both days. Ironically, I didn’t eat enough on the bike, I carried way too much food on the bike. Mixed nuts weren’t palatable, but Sour Patch gummis were, although they were a lot of work to chew and digest. And it probably makes sense to call ahead and make a reservation at the brewpub on Saturday night.

In terms of preparation, I’ve got to get my hotels even earlier. I called in January and still wound up on the waiting list in Southbridge, so call early and often. Having mileage and time estimates on a notecard really helped keep me on track during the ride. And in terms of training, if you’re a seasoned rider, you can train up to it in two months, but probably not much less.

As for the ride logistics, start the ride lining up in the fast area, or directly behind it, because even the back of the fast group gets to go before the front of the moderate group. Absolutely hit the standby line for massages in Bourne, and on the way out of Bourne, find and use the pedestrian access ramp to the bridge. And always throw your bike over the fence in the “bike line” parking area at Provincetown.

See, even after eight years of careful observation, you can still learn new ways of making the ride better and more efficient!

Conclusion

Last year, Hank, the founder of the Where’s George currency tracking website, very generously donated the proceeds from a raffle he held at an annual gathering here in Boston, because Ken and Christine, whom I rode for, have both been active members of that community.

Hank and I are splitting the proceeds from this year’s gathering, with half going to my PMC ride, and the other half to Hank’s walk for juvenile diabetes.

The good news is that between the Where’s George raffle, the substantial matching gift I’ll make for Optaros employees, and the handful of people who have promised donations but not made them yet, I am almost certain to raise over $10,000 for cancer research again this year. That’s just as amazing to me now as it was last year, and I’m deeply honored that I have so many friends who are both able and willing to give so much to help others.

The bad news is that Ken’s outlook hasn’t improved over the summer. He made it through his radiation treatments, but his fourth round of chemo has been delayed, and the doctors have scheduled his surgery to have his spleen removed.

Ken’s story, though it hits home for me, is one out of millions. It struck me as I recorded one of my audio updates at one of the water stops on the ride, as I looked around at the immense crowd. When you think about the thousands of PMC riders and volunteers, the many supporters lining the road from Sturbridge and Wellesley all the way to Provincetown, and the quarter million people who sponsor riders each year: nearly all of those people have stories about cancer—some of them miraculous and some of them tragic. That’s got to be enough to move one to act.

I’m glad to have done what I could, raising over $42,000 over these past eight years. And I’m thankful for the incredible support I’ve received from the nearly 200 people who have sponsored me.

All PMC Ride Reports:
   2001   2002   2003   2004
   2005   2006   2007   2008
   2009   2010   2011   2012
   2013   2014

However, if you’ve sponsored a rider, you have far more than my thanks. All weekend long, I ride past thousands of supporters who line the streets and cheer us on. Old and young, male and female, rich and poor, black and white: the one thing they always yell is “Thank you for doing this”. Those thanks are yours as much as they are mine, for having given something of yours—purely out of compassion—so that others might live longer or undergo less difficult treatment.

On PMC weekend, I saw many thousands of people who will agree with me: that’s something you have every right to feel good about. So thank *you* for doing this, and making it possible for me to be a part of it.

 
 
datetowntime intime outhourstempmilesavgmaxnotesaudio reports
friSouthbridge        audio
satSturbridge 6:04 am0:05:47640.43.714.8 audio
satWhitinsville7:26 am7:34 am1:25:156725.517.639.7 audio
satFranklin8:34 am8:42 am2:25:037643.117.539.7 audio
satDighton10:18 am10:45 am4:00:508770.717.339.7 audio
satLakeville11:38 am11:50 am4:56:419484.716.839.7 audio
satWareham12:52 pm1:07 pm5:58:2089101.516.739.7 audio
satBourne1:44 pm4:53 pm6:35:3194110.716.539.7 audio
satSandwich5:44 pm 7:20:1067120.516.139.7 audio
sunSandwich 6:18 am7:20:1071120.516.139.7 audio
sunBarnstable7:08 am7:20 am8:07:5769135.216.339.7 audio
sunBrewster8:14 am8:32 am9:02:3473151.516.439.7 audio
sunWellfleet9:33 am 10:02:0076169.216.639.7 audio
sunProvincetown10:59 am 11:12:0075189.516.939.7 audio
  Day One Route Map Day Two Route Map