2012 Pan-Mass Challenge Ride Report

My buddy Jay's late arrival in Sturbridge after destroying his wheel riding in from the New York border!

This page links to videos of Friday's opening ceremonies, including WCBV's Chronicle and General George Casey.

Ornoth lining up at the Sturbridge start before 5am on Saturday.

Ornoth rolls into the water stop at Brewster's Nickerson State Park on Sunday.

Jay & Ornoth celebrate their arrival in Provincetown on Sunday.

Jay & Ornoth savoring a beautiful day at the PMC's finish line.

We were visited by pinnace Kalmar Nyckel motoring down the Cape Cod Canal on our way home on Monday.

The Kalmar Nyckel beneath the Sagamore Bridge. The ship is actually fifty years newer than the bridge!

Ornoth's lifetime PMC fundraising.

The 2012 Pan-Mass Challenge Yearbook

For a shorter summary of this year’s ride report, skip down to the Epilogue, below.


When I kicked off my 2011 Pan-Mass Challenge—last year’s ride—I had thought it would be hard for my eleventh year to top my tenth anniversary ride, since I’d taken a third day and ridden an extra 95 miles to cross the entire Commonwealth of Massachusetts, and also more than doubled my previous record of how many people sponsored me (2010 ride report).

But the 2011 edition had produced several amazing moments. Those included attending the dedication of the PMC Plaza that fronts the Dana-Farber’s brand-new Yawkey Center for Cancer Care; having my photo appear on the PMC’s home page for three months; and having that same photo appear in a hundred newspapers in a thank-you ad from Dana-Farber (2011 ride report).

So when 2012 came around, I didn’t imagine it would be another very memorable year. But again: in the end, it was.

At the end of 2011, I had gotten burned out on old, familiar routes, so for this spring’s training rides I mixed it up a little. In May I did my first Tour d’Essex, a fun early-season century ride on Boston’s north shore put on by Essex County Velo (writeup, GPS log). In June I did my third 130-mile Outriders ride from Boston to Provincetown, which follows the PMC route for much of the second half of the ride (writeup, GPS log). And in July three buddies and I—including my friend Jay, whom you’ll hear much more about—rode our first Mt. Washington Century, which traversed three major passes in New Hampshire’s White Mountains (writeup, GPS log). It was an awesome ride, and compared to that, the PMC looked like it would be a breeze!

That pretty much took care of my training, but I also had some fundraising goals in mind. Naturally, I wanted to make the ride minimum ($4,300) and the Heavy Hitter ($6,500) level. But my secret goal was to exceed $9,029. That’s the average amount I would have to raise for three years in a row in order to break the $100,000 lifetime fundraising barrier in 2014, which has become my true long-term goal.

On one hand, I had raised more than $9,029 in four of the previous five years, so I knew it was doable; but on the other hand, that’s a lot of money, and it’s difficult to predict how much will come in from year to year. So I looked at it as a stretch goal for this year. And if I didn’t quite make it, I might be able to make it up in 2013 or 2014 and still reach my real goal of raising $100,000.

One thing I didn’t leave til the last minute this year was my pre-ride tune-up. Last year I’d discovered cracks in my rear wheel rim and left it until Friday morning to get a replacement. This year I did a full tuneup about a month before the PMC (just before the Mt. Washington Century).

Good thing I did, too! When I got the bike back from the shop, I noticed while commuting to work that my shifting was badly out of adjustment, so I took it right back to them. When the mechanic put the bike up on the work stand, as soon as he touched my shifter cable, it snapped! Had that happened on that weekend’s Mt. Washington century ride, I would have been left climbing three huge mountain passes with only my most difficult gear!

But we installed a new shifter cable and the bike worked like a charm after that. But even after riding it over the White Mountains of New Hampshire, I still gave it a thorough inspection about a week before the PMC.

And, surprise! I found another issue: my rear tire, which was pretty new, had a decent-sized cut in it. I probably could have ridden it, but knowing how the PMC seems to jinx things (more on that later, too), I decided to replace it. Fortunately, I keep a couple new tires in stock for times like this, so it didn’t even require a trip to the bike shop.

Another slight issue had appeared on my hands. Also about a month before the PMC, I’d gotten a flat while riding along the Minuteman Bikeway in Lexington. Unfortunately, I’d stopped right next to a patch of poison ivy at the edge of the path. I’d picked up a tiny bit which had since healed, but in the week before the PMC I’d managed to re-infect myself by using the same cycling gloves I’d worn that day. Fortunately I only developed a couple spots, but it was one of those things that only seems to happen right before the PMC.

In the days leading up to the event, the only things left to do were hydrating and watching the weather forecast. Having purchased a scale that tries to measure hydration status, I was happy to note that on Thursday I recorded my highest hydration level ever, since the forecast promised a pretty warm weekend with absolutely oppressive humidity. This was going to be a sweat-soaked Pan-Mass Challenge.

Friday, 3 August 2012

In the past, I’ve usually done a 10- or 20-mile easy ride Friday morning, just to check the bike out. This year I didn’t bother, because I knew the bike was in good shape, and my support person Sheeri and I wanted to get out of Boston early in order to beat the weekend traffic we usually encounter on the way out to Sturbridge.

So I spent the morning sending out three mass mailings: one to the people who had already sponsored me; another to people who told me they would or might sponsor me; and a last one to people who had sponsored me in 2011 but who hadn’t responded to my initial email.

When I sent those out, my fundraising stood around $8,920; I was just a couple hundred dollars shy of my goal. Normally I’d expect a few donations after the pre-ride email, but that morning they came in one after another.

I quickly broke $9,000 and my secret goal of $9,029, then my published goal of $9,400. By 11am, when Sheeri picked me up, I had beaten last year’s fundraising total of $9,705 and it looked like I was set up to pass the major milestone of $10,000 on PMC weekend itself, which would be a hugely inspiring event.

On the other side of the equation… Just before Sheeri and I left Boston, I received a text from my buddy Jay. He’d laid down a challenge for his sponsors: if he broke the ride minimum, he’d ride the extra 95-mile day from the New York border to the Sturbridge start, just as I’d done in 2010. Well, they had come through, so he was riding on Friday.

But his 7:59am text read: “Rear wheel just disintegrated.” Hoo boy! The PMC curse strikes again! And, since that Friday ride isn’t an official part of the PMC (and thus not supported in any way), where was he going to find a replacement at 8am in the middle of the woods? Moral support was about all we could provide as we drove out toward Sturbridge ourselves. Jay managed to luck out and found a way to complete the ride, but that’s his story to tell (Jay’s ride report).

Meanwhile, Sheeri and I arrived at the Sturbridge Host Hotel at 12:15… But registration didn’t open until 3pm! So we kicked around the hotel, wandering through the exhibit area before anyone was set up, and then strolling along the edge of the little lake behind the hotel, accosting the ducks. It was a strikingly relaxed start to the weekend, in contrast to the previous year, when my last-second attempts to get a loaner wheel put us hours behind schedule.

Finally we watched as a couple dozen volunteers tromped into the auditorium and started registering riders. We got through that process and then drove toward our hotel in Southbridge.

Along the way, we made our usual stop at a CVS to pick up milk, OJ, and water. Sheeri asked if we could go through the “seasonal” aisle, as she was looking for a beach mat. She found one, and a collapseable water bottle, and I picked up a biplane-styled miniature kite to give to Jay. When we got to the register, we learned that they’d just marked “seasonal” stuff 90 percent off, so the kite cost me all of 14 cents. Same deal with everything else. Wow!

We checked into the hotel, where I showered while Sheeri marveled at the anatomical-structural drawings inside my bike shorts, complete with indicators for “EXPLODED FOAM”. All this time I’ve been cycling, and I never realized I had been sitting on EXPLODED FOAM.

Soon it was dinnertime, so we drove back to Sturbridge. Generally the area is pretty good about welcoming riders, but then there are the glaring exceptions, like the seafood restaurant that loudly proclaimed, “WELCOME PAN AM”. Perhaps there was a convention of stewardesses from that airline that disbanded twenty years ago, but I didn’t see any…

While we were on the road, Jay (surprisingly) texted that he was just a couple miles from Sturbridge, waiting for the newbie who had ridden with him. Since he was nearby, Sheeri and I decided to drive a bit past Sturbridge to see if we could welcome them in. We passed them going the opposite way, then we turned and drove past them again. Then we pulled to the side of the road and waited as they rode by. I was glad that we could be there to welcome them in, after what must have been a very trying day for Jay. They got in just before 6pm, having started riding at 7am.

From there, Sheeri and I had dinner at our usual spot: Thai Place. Then we went straight to the opening ceremonies, which featured former US Army Chief of Staff George Casey. Afterward, we caught up with Jay on the street, then made our way back to the hotel. With all the preliminaries over, all that remained was to get some rest…

Saturday, 4 August 2012

They bill the ride as the reward for all the hard work that riders put into the fundraising effort. Still, I’m not sure how anyone could possibly consider a 3:45am wakeup call on a Saturday morning to be a “reward”.

Sheeri and I left the hotel at 4:15 and I was ready to line up before 5am. We took a few moments to get a picture of me in front of the big starting archway, but that was made difficult by the gang of guys who were busy moving the arch around so that they could optimally frame a photograph of a sponsor’s automobile. Very tacky.

Unlike previous years, it wasn’t cold. The temperature had only dropped to around 70 degrees, but the humidity made it clammy and a bit foggy. Still, it looked like it was going to be a good day once the sun came up.

I tried to synch up with Jay, but he was still wandering around when they played the national anthem and turned us loose at 5:26. It’s on!

The first segment is always the fastest, with lots of swooping downhills and a few places where the road turns significantly upward. I was especially amused as I exited one zoomy downhill at 45 miles per hour and was serenaded by a trumpeter playing the Star Wars Imperial March. Excellent timing!

That first segment is also one of the most scenic, as it passes along the banks of several small lakes. On this morning, a blue heron was standing out on one of the rocks jutting out of a glassy pond’s surface. It was a nice morning to be out on the bike.

Even though it wasn’t hot and I wasn’t working all that hard, the sweat was already pouring off my body. I made sure I finished my water bottle before I got to each water stop.

By quarter of seven, I was at the Whitinsville rest stop. I had already traveled 25 miles at an average speed of 20 mph. I tried to make a quick voice post to my LiveJournal, but had difficulty with the touchscreen on my phone: either the humidity of the morning had gotten to it, or the sweat pouring off my hands made it mis-register my taps. Using my phone was a challenge all day, but fortunately it resolved itself overnight.

I hadn’t seen Jay yet, but we spotted each other at the water stop and planned to ride on together. As I led him out of the stop, I was flagged down by our mutual friend Dave Katz. I spoke to him briefly, and when I turned around, Jay was nowhere to be found. Having no idea whether he was ahead of me or behind me, I rode slowly out of the rest area and then continued on. He couldn’t be very far away, anyways…

Although the road was still pretty clogged with riders, I managed to hook up with a couple nice pacelines, and that helped me keep my speed up. I also ran into a guy named Joe who had read my blog, which was pretty cool.

Not so cool was the weather… It was hard to believe it was still only 72 degrees, with the sweat streaming down my face and arms. When I caught up with Jay at the Franklin rest stop at ten of eight, he was stuffing ice cubes into the bandana covering his head.

Actually, the best way to stay cool was to generate a breeze by riding, so Jay and I continued on—this time, together. We took it easy on the next segment, chatting as we passed through the neighborhoods in Franklin. My right knee was bothering me a little bit from the climbs, and Jay was feeling the 150 miles already in his legs, having ridden on Friday.

Twenty-eight miles later, we pulled into the Dighton “lunch” stop at 9:38am. There Jay and I parted ways: he wanted some solid food, while I wanted to push on, in order to get ahead of the crowd, which had just merged with another 1,500 riders who had started their shorter route in Wellesley.

It had warmed up by about ten degrees, into the 80s, and we were leaving the woods behind and getting into the more exposed, coastal part of the ride.

I continued on, but was taking it easy on my legs, just letting them eat up the miles. By this point I was well ahead of the crowd, and felt that I could take a little more time at the last two rest stops of the day.

When I hit Lakeville at 10:40, I was suffering all the familiar symptoms of an 85-mile ride: fatigue and overheating. I grabbed a lemon Italian ice and sat in the shade by the medical tent for a few minutes, then stuck my head in a water spray to cool off.

And as usual, the leg from Lakeville to Wareham was a slog. The temperature had finally climbed above 90 degrees, and my power was pretty much gone. In addition, the heat had finally kicked me into cardiac drift territory; it was difficult to keep my heart rate below 85 or 90 percent, even on easy, presumably aerobic efforts.

I pulled into Wareham, having covered a hundred miles in a little bit less than six and a half hours. I was spent, but I was still enjoying myself, and there were only eight miles left to the finish line. After another few minutes’ rest, I stuck my head in another water spray and climbed back in the saddle for the final leg.

That last stretch to Bourne was hard and a bit ugly. It includes some very narrow, touristy roads in Onset, then some nasty commercial highway on Route 6. That was exacerbated by construction that had narrowed a bridge on Route 6 to one lane, with a corresponding traffic backup. But by then I was less than a mile from the finish, so I took the lane and “sprinted” across before coasting down toward that wonderful final right turn onto Academy Drive.

And, like usual, that’s when the headwind off Buzzards Bay really kicked in, but no one’s setting any speed records on Mile 108.

What was cool and different this year was that I was completely alone as I came down Academy Drive to the finish line. I had a couple hundred people all cheering just for me. I sat up and coasted in no-handed, clapping and pointing at the spectators in thanks. It was really nice, and I felt pretty “pro”.

After passing under the finishing arch and being checked in, I rolled over toward the offsite baggage area and leaned my bike against the cyclone fence and took stock: 109.7 miles in 7 hours and 15 minutes, at an average speed of 17.8 mph. Very respectable. All day long I’d felt like my training had peaked at just the right time, and that I’d made the right choice by doing the Mt. Washington Century, rather than the tired old Climb to the Clouds. And although I was fatigued, my neck didn’t ache as much as in previous years, which I think is largely due to the fact that I spent a fair amount of time sitting up and riding no-hands while stretching or massaging my neck.

The first order of business after grabbing my bag was a shower. But there was an unexpected obstacle between me and the gymnasium where offsite riders shower: an ice cream truck! There usually isn’t any ice cream to be found anywhere on the PMC, so I stepped right up and grabbed some sort of block of ice cream thing and a Pepsi, then dragged myself over to a grassy spot in the shade of the gym where I proceeded to snarf them down.

Then it was back to the usual: enjoying a long, cold shower in a communal room that had a couple dozen showerheads, but which I had all to myself, since I’d arrived so early. Then a quick change into street clothes (yay!) and the long trudge the length of the campus to get my massage ticket. After a brief rest, my group’s turn came and I found myself at a table with a young massage student.

Unfortunately, she wasn’t great. She was too tentative, and she really didn’t do much for the areas I’d mentioned to her: traps, quads, and feet. Still, it was a massage, and I left feeling better than I had when I arrived.

Just as my massage ended, I received a text message from Jay that said he had arrived and was waiting in the food tent. We each grabbed a big plateful of food and made our way to my favorite spot… Only to discover that the tugboat dock area that I loved had been blocked off and was now off-limits! I was pretty pissed off—it was the biggest disappointment of the whole weekend—but we found a spot nearby and munched away.

After a couple trips back to the food tent, we started wandering around a bit. First we went to a beachy area behind the dorms and waded out in the bay far enough to get our shins wet. Because it was right on the ocean, the temperature at Mass Maritime was a good five to ten degrees cooler than it had been in Wareham, and a fog bank rolled in and blocked the sun for about an hour, which was a blessing. The wind was also surprisingly strong, so all in all it was a pretty pleasant and relaxing afternoon.

After about five hours at MMA, it was nearly time for me to leave, and Jay wanted to meet up with his fiancée, who was arriving on campus after having volunteered as a medic. Jay and I walked up to the far end of campus, where he grabbed his bike and got a quick derailleur adjustment, having biked over 200 miles on a wheel that his gears weren’t set up for, which had made shifting a challenge.

I grabbed my bag, said goodbye to Jay, and went back to the gym to change into a clean set of cycling kit for the ride to my hotel. Then I had to trudge all the way across campus to drop my bag off—and say hello to Jay and Kelly, who wandered across my path—and then trudge all the way back to my bike.

I hopped back on the bike and rode out through the finish line and back down Academy Drive toward the Bourne Bridge. Along the way I passed several dozen cars stopped in weekend traffic. Then it was up onto the high bridge over the Cape Cod Canal and onto Cape Cod, then swinging down and around and picking up the canal bike path directly underneath the bridge.

The ride up the bike path is always quiet and peaceful and a great way to end the day. My legs felt a bit spent, but there was no reason to push it, and I expected them to recover overnight anyways. I sat up and rode the entire 5 mile length of the path no-handed, except for three brief dabs out of courtesy when I was passing someone. It was kinda fun!

Arriving at the hotel, I showered again, put on blessed street clothes again, and discovered that my fundraising now stood at $9,925… A mere $75 short of $10,000. I posted about it and went to dinner with Sheeri, then returned to the room to learn that another friend and longtime supporter had put me over the top. For the first time ever, I’d be able to ride PMC Day 2 and cross the finish line having already raised $10,000: that was awesome!

This year we were in a different room at the hotel—room 115—which didn’t have a door directly to the outside, but I don’t think we missed it. We were a little concerned about the noisy neighbors, but they quieted down when it was time to sleep, so it worked out.

When Jay and I had been talking at MMA, he’d been debating between staying in the dorms or a tent on campus (he eventually settled on a tent). To me, those options made very little sense when compared to all the benefits of staying offsite. Those benefits include free Internet, air conditioning, a big soft bed, a nice cold fridge, room to spread out, a hot tub, and being able to sleep an hour longer than everyone else. I really do question the wisdom of anyone who choses to stay on campus!

Sunday, 5 August 2012

Of course, having that extra hour to sleep is only good if your friend doesn’t call you at 5:04am to let you know that he’s leaving Mass Maritime and will be able to meet you at the end of the bike path in 45 minutes. Sigh…

Well, I was only going to sleep twenty more minutes anyways, and that gave me a little extra time to get ready. Once I stepped outside, I took stock of the weather. It hadn’t changed much from the previous night: partly cloudy, foggy, and disgustingly humid and moist. It had dropped back to about 70 degrees, but it was still going to be another extremely sweaty day. There was also a bit more of a breeze coming out of the south-southwest, which meant it would be behind us most of the way… until we turned west and then south on the spur out to Race Point on the final run into Provincetown.

Physically, I was pretty stiff, but I figured I’d loosen up as I rode. I was about to roll out when Jay called to tell me that he’d ridden right past our meeting point, but that he’d soft-pedal until I caught up. Ugh. So we start the day chasing to catch up; thanks, Jay!

With that, I set off, making my way along the unforgettable miles of up-and-down and up-and-down and UP-and-down rolling dunes of the Route 6 Access Road. Shortly before we left those rollers, I spied Jay at the side of the road, asking someone from a medical support truck for some cloth tape. Having completed his Frankenstein patch-up job, he and I railed the hills and then tooled along Route 6A to the Barnstable water stop.

Like the day before, it wasn’t hot, but it was ridiculously humid. Sweat was pouring off us, and it was hard to breathe. The good news was that the sun was buried behind the fog bank we were in, so sun exposure wasn’t a concern, although I expected the fog to burn off over the course of the day.

We rode on, Jay and I settling into a comfortable rhythm and making good time. We pulled into the Brewster stop—30 miles in—at ten of eight. I made use of some Vaseline for some minor saddle irritation, then grabbed two orange ice pops: the best feature of the Brewster stop!

The 18-mile leg between Brewster and Wellfleet is always one of my favorites, because it has a lot of fun riding. We do a portion of the Cape Cod Rail Trail; then we go out over Ocean View Drive, where we get our first expansive view of the Atlantic from high above; past White Crest Beach, where the road traverses a high bluff above the surf; and then we zoom around the up-and-down windy twists of Long Pond Road, before arriving at the Wellfleet water stop.

Jay got a bit ahead of me on this segment, which was fine with me. As I neared the end of the bike path, the sun finally started burning through the fog, and the sky turned a clear blue. But at the same time, I started feeling a few little sprinkles, and then a few more. That continued for about five minutes; apparently we were having a sun shower! At first it was nice and cooling, but just as I got to the end of the path, it started raining in earnest, so I stopped briefly to put my phone inside a Baggie. But no sooner had it started than it was over again, and I rode on while the water slowly evaporated from my kit.

Arriving at the final water stop of the day, I felt pretty strong. I was still averaging about 18 miles per hour, and my legs generally felt pretty good. The fog had burned off, but it was still only 73 degrees, so it looked like we were going have a great morning, and a great conclusion to this year’s PMC.

I found Jay, and we rode on. Once again, we set a nice, steady pace, and we hung together on this last leg of the ride. As predicted, the wind kicked up once we got out on the long, open stretches of Route 6 near Pilgrim Lake, but we tucked in with a paceline and just kept ticking off the miles.

After swinging out to Race Point, we climbed the last big hills into Provincetown, then Jay and I rode side-by-side for the last couple miles, along the finishing straight, and into the cheering crowd at the finish line.

It was the perfect way to end the ride. I, of course, was celebrating having raised $10,000 this year: a major milestone that, although I’d reached it before, I’d never achieved by the time of the ride. It was a very special feeling, and I drew a lot of emotion from the support that I’ve been shown by so many friends.

And Jay was celebrating the completion of his first end-to-end crossing of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Having done it myself two years earlier, I knew that his three-day, 290-mile trek was a huge achievement, and I was glad to have been there when he crossed the finish line.

And then there was the third thing. This was our last ride together before Jay moved to Florida. We’ve shared thousands of memorable miles together on hundreds of rides. We’ve been good friends and cycling buddies for many years, and share the respect that comes with all that. My PMC was made more special by being able to share it with him.

So in the end, it was an emotional finish. We each had our individual achievements to celebrate, but we also had years of shared memories to treasure, and the acknowledgement that a new chapter of life was about to begin. Knowing it was a special opportunity, I asked a couple volunteers take our picture at the finish line.

Statistically speaking, we arrived at the Provincetown Inn at 10:30am. I’d spent another four hours and 45 minutes in the saddle. It was brilliantly sunny, and the air was finally heating up, having reached the mid-80s.

The usual post-ride routine was observed: park the bikes, fetch your bags, shower, change back into wonderfully comfortable street clothes, and get a chair massage. Then off to the food tent for (of all things) salad. I dunno, it always seems to be what hits the spot after 190 miles on the bike. Although this year’s postride fuel-up also featured a glazed donut and an Italian sausage wrap, too.

After two servings, it was time for me to go meet up with Sheeri, and for Jay to track down Kelly. I said goodbye to Jay, excavated my bike from the bike parking area, and met Sheeri at her car. We didn’t feel particularly motivated, so we sat for a while in a park, then went off to find another lemony-delicious Italian ice, which we enjoyed while people-watching in Provincetown’s main square.

As we relaxed in the shade, I got an unexpected call from Jay. It was 2:30, and he and Kelly had an hour to catch his ferry back to Boston. And he had more junk than he could carry, and a mile and a half’s walk to the ferry terminal. Not great planning, that.

While he suggested that Sheeri get her car, between the PMC crowds and normal Provincetown weekend foot traffic, it would have taken an hour just to get the car to the other end of Commercial Street. So Sheeri and I set out to walk the mile and a half from our location (near the ferry terminal) to their location (near the Provincetown Inn). After a long, brisk walk, we met up with the unfortunate couple, who had made it about a quarter mile. Sheeri and I grabbed whatever we could and headed back toward town. Another mile and a half’s march later, we got Jay and a very peeved Kelly to the terminal just in time.

Whereupon they discovered that they were booked on separate ferries. Kelly was on the fast ferry and would reach Boston in 90 minutes, where she would have to wait another hour and a half for Jay’s slow boat to arrive. Fortunately, that wasn’t our problem, and we headed back to our usual Sunday haunt—the Squealing Pig pub—for a well-earned rest.

After a well air-conditioned meal, we decided to hit the beach. We showed up at Race Point at 4pm, only to discover that they charge $15 admission until 5pm, when it becomes free. We then swung by Herring Pond Beach and learned that they have the same fees. Finally, we opted to try a new place: Head of the Meadow Beach in Truro.

That wound up being a nice beach with a big sand bar just offshore, which gradually came on-shore as the tide went out. We waded in the water, but it was a little seaweedy and extremely cold. Still, we enjoyed the sun and the beach, and relaxed for a couple solid hours before turning the car back toward our hotel in Sandwich. But not without enjoying a late-night ice cream at the shop next to the hotel: Ice Cream Sandwich.

Monday, 6 August 2012

Did I mention that one of the benefits of staying at an offsite hotel was a hot tub? Monday morning I was relaxing in their hot tub as soon as it opened. Very nice!

After checking out of the hotel, we decided to just take it easy, rather than anything ambitious. We went back to Eastham to hit up a bank, a yarn store, and a chocolatier. Then we returned to Sandwich to have lunch at a Friendly’s, followed by a little walk along the Cape Cod Canal bike path before returning to Boston.

Just as we arrived at the canal, we were surprised to see an old-style galleon making its way down the canal. I later learned that it was the Kalmar Nyckel, a very recent recreation of an early 17th century colonial passenger ship, heading southwest from Massachusetts Bay toward Buzzards Bay and its home port in Delaware. We watched it pass quietly beneath the Sagamore Bridge; it provided a pretty magical end to a very memorable and enjoyable PMC weekend.

Lessons Learned

While it’s not necessarily useful to you, I like to reiterate the things I’ve learned each year, so that I can review them again next time. Here’s this year’s lessons.

Varying one’s training rides is an important part of maintaining enthusiasm. This year’s TDE was a great early-season century, and the Mt. Washington Century was a hundred times better than the Climb to the Clouds.

Having a bathroom scale that measures hydration can be handy.

Leaving Boston earlier on Friday is more relaxing, but remember that ride registration doesn’t open until 3pm. Next year, inquire about hotel check-in time.

Sponsors will respond if you tell them you’re just shy of a milestone or goal.

During the ride, spend a little more time looking around. This year I picked up an Italian ice at Lakeville and ice cream at MMA!

Spending time sitting up and riding no-hands really helps reduce my usual neck pain immensely.

Which room we get in the Sandwich hotel doesn’t matter; just make sure it’s on the ground floor!

If I’m meeting someone on the road Sunday morning, tell them not to call before 5:20am!

While there’s no cell phone signal out near the Provincetown Inn, there’s ample signal closer to the middle of town.


Although I didn’t expect the 2012 Pan-Mass Challenge to be a memorable one—especially after the big events of 2010 and 2011I was again surprised. There are many reasons for that.

One thing that seems odd to me now is that I’ve ridden in more than a third of all PMCs. Given that the PMC has a 33-year history, that is pretty surprising even to me!

It’s also entirely possible that this was the final PMC for the Plastic Bullet: the Specialized Roubaix bike I purchased back in 2005. Since then it’s logged 21,000 miles and is the veteran of seven of my twelve PMC rides. It’ll be a challenge finding another bike that can replace it, but it’s about time to start that search. Stay tuned!

But in the end, when I look back on this year’s ride, there are two major highlights that will always stand out in my memory.

The first is my friend Jay and I crossing the finish line together on Sunday. This wasn’t just his second PMC, but he also chose to take an extra day to ride 95 miles from the New York border to the Sturbridge start: the same three-day 290-mile ride I did in 2010. It was special being there to celebrate his first trek across the entire Commonwealth.

But it was also poignant because it was our last ride together before he moved to Florida the following month. He and I have ridden thousands of miles through many events, and it was a fitting and memorable way to send him off. Chapeau, Jay!

The other thing I had to celebrate when crossing the finish line was how my friends came through for me this year.

Before the ride, I’d easily covered the fundraising minimum and qualified as a “Heavy Hitter” for the seventh year in a row. My published goal was $9,400, but I was more than $500 shy of that, and I had 20 fewer sponsors than I did in 2011.

So I sent out my usual pre-ride messages, and I got a flood of well-wishes from my sponsors. And from the folks who hadn’t sponsored me yet, new donations started pouring in. We broke the $9,000 barrier. Then my $9,400 goal. Then we blew right by last year’s total of $9,705.

That was significant because this year our PMC nametags included a special badge for the top ten percent of fundraisers for 2011, and having raised $9,700, I had just made the cut. It was something I was proud to carry this year, and now it looks like I’ll be able to display it again in 2013.

Then, on Saturday night, having completed Day 1 and facing Day 2, the big $10,000 barrier fell.

It’s always great to see donations come in during PMC weekend, but during this year’s ride 16 people made donations totaling $1,400! It was quite a moving show of support.

Although I had surpassed $10,000 on three previous years, it was the first time I’d done so before PMC weekend was complete. So as Jay and I crossed the finish line in Provincetown, I was able to celebrate that achievement and the awesome show of support I’d received from my friends.

So crossing the finish line this year held twin messages about friendship: being there to celebrate Jay’s accomplishment on the eve of his departure, and being overwhelmed by my friends’ support and generosity in donating over $10,000 to the fight against cancer.

Although I hadn’t expected a lot from the 2012 PMC, it surprised me. In the end, it was a wonderful weekend on the bike, made so by the friends I have shared this journey with, whether they were riding like Jay, or with me in spirit as supporters and sponsors. It’s that kind of support and encouragement that keeps me coming back to this event year after year.

Check Presentation 

I am delighted to share the news that this year’s Pan-Mass Challenge bike ride—which many of you contributed to—raised a record $37 million for cancer research, treatment, and prevention at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. According to Billy Starr, the event’s founder, “It is the largest sum ever contributed to a charity by an athletic fundraising event anywhere in the world.”

And the following statement is from Dr. Edward Benz, Dana-Farber’s president:

PMC money is seed money that enables our scientists to conduct the earliest forms of research, often before it is eligible for government funds. The money they raise is critical to our work.
“I’m fond of saying that when they write the history of how cancer got conquered, the PMC riders are going to be on page one. They are having a real impact because they are supporting a concentration of talented investigators who are making real progress knocking these diseases down. It’s absolutely essential.”

You can view the official PMC press release here.

All PMC Ride Reports:
   2001   2002   2003   2004
   2005   2006   2007   2008
   2009   2010   2011   2012
   2013   2014   2020   2021

As for me, I had a wonderful PMC weekend which included crossing the finish line in Provincetown with my good friend Jay: our last ride together before he moved to Florida.

The other highlight was that I had my second-best fundraising year ever. Thanks to my sponsors’ contributions, I raised $11,000 and brought my lifetime fundraising to $84,000.

That number increases in significance as I approach the milestone $100,000 amount. So right now I am officially committing to raising at least $8,000 in each of the next two years, so that in 2014 I will surpass $100,000 raised. I would really love to have your support to help me reach that goal.

At the same time, I want to let you know that 2014 will also be my last Pan-Mass Challenge. Fourteen years is a long time to devote to one event, and it’s finally time to hang up the helmet and reclaim some of the time and energy I put into fundraising each year.

A lot of people will have questions about my planned retirement from the PMC, so I’ve published a web page with the top ten questions you might have. You can find it here: http://ornoth.com/bicycling/retirement.php

Thank you again for your unwavering support, and for making 2012’s ride both successful and memorable. I hope you’ll be there to support me on my final two PMC rides: next year and the summer of 2014!

datetowntime intime outhourstempmilesavgmaxnotesaudio reports
FriSturbridge       Restful prep day while Jay rode in from New Yorkaudio
SatSturbridge  5:26 am 64   How can it be this humid at 4am???audio
SatWhitinsville 6:44 am  1:156824.719.844.9Very fast segment, tried and failed to ride with Jayaudio
SatFranklin 7:47 am  2:127242.719.444.9Ridiculously fast, ridiculously humidaudio
SatDighton 9:38 am  3:488270.118.544.9Finally rode with Jay, backed off the tempo a bitaudio
SatLakeville10:39 am  4:388684.018.144.9Left Jay behind in order to beat the crowds, quads achingaudio
SatWareham11:54 am  5:3690100.717.944.990°+, some cardiac drift, taking it sloweraudio
SatBourne12:41 pm 5:32 pm 6:1084109.717.844.9Awesome solo arrival at MMA, plus ice cream!audio
SatSandwich 6:09 pm  6:4577118.917.644.9Hung with Jay, then rode the whole bike path no-hands! 
SunSandwich  5:51 am 6:4569118.917.644.9I broke $10,000! Still ridiculously humid.audio
SunBarnstable 6:47 am  7:3571133.617.644.9Found Jay on the rollers; riding thru a misty fog bankaudio
SunBrewster 7:49 am  8:2973149.717.644.9Starting to see blue sky; some minor saddle irritationaudio
SunWellfleet 9:06 am  9:2773167.417.744.9Surprise sun shower on the rail trail! Now sunny and breezyaudio
SunProvincetown10:30 am 10:3483187.617.744.9Windy! Emotional side-by-side finish with Jayaudio
SunSandwich       Wrap-up after afternoon mostly relaxing at P-town & beach!audio