The entire weekend was blur and one of the best I have had with the PMC. Its always hard to call something the best, so I might rephrase and just say it was one to remember. This being my 15th year I truly wanted it to be memorable and it was. I had the best training preparation than any other year. I was ready to ride hard and with passion. Passion is something I have lots of, each and every year.
Day Zero – Friday
Starting on Friday, Bob Fortin, fellow FOTCR (Fellowship of the Chain Ring) member, started from my house in Bedford and made our way to Sturbridge; depending on route would be about an 80-100 mile “warm up” to the PMC weekend. After 5 years of doing this ‘Day Zero‘ ride, you would think I know my way, but each year seems to have one or two slight “variations”. The bottom line, we made it and achieved our objective of riding safely, while preserving energy for the upcoming two days. We arrived at Sturbridge and everything becomes routine from that point. Get bike checked (for another time there is short story here about a “toasted rear cassette and chain”), register and get wrist band, go through the swag shop, shower, rest and then begin preparation for the next day by consuming large quantities of food and beverage (my favorite being one of our prime sponsors, Harpoon Brewery’s IPA). From here, I am to bed early because tomorrow’s 5:30am start comes quickly, and I make it quicker by the following.
Day One – Saturday
For the past handful of years I like to get myself positioned as close to the front of the ‘Fast’ corral (there are 3, fast, medium, slow to manage the thousands of riders). This year, I arose at 3:30am, walked outside, I retrieved my bike and proceeded to the corral. By the way, yes, people are up and getting everything prepared for the day. As I walk to the corral, it is empty, I pause, I wonder if I should put my bike there. I continue. There at the very front was another bike. I was the second bike there and would be in the front row! I wonder how early the other guy got there. I walked back to our room but stopped in the large expo hall where food would be. I picked up a coffee, a muffin, a banana and a yogurt and returned to the room. My friends were still in bed, so I quietly sat myself down in the darkened room and reflected on the upcoming day and the reasons I was there. This would be one of the first times that I silently said to myself, this ride is for Tom Chew and Hank (my friend with esophageal cancer), along with a couple of others from my list of 95 “reasons”. My slumbering friends stir and begin to rise and begin our prep routines and get ready to go. I am ready!
By now the fast corral is filled and the medium one is half filled. The activity is in full swing. The energy is amazing in this pre-sunrise gathering. I make it to my “front row” space. I meet “rider #1” along with the other crazy people who arose early to have some real estate at the front of the hoards. A few words from Billy Starr (PMC founder, organizer, leader), followed by a beautiful rendition of the national anthem and we are off. People settle in pretty quickly and I do mean quickly. Given I am not riding with any of my friends (including Bob, Dave, Bud, Jim, Meg) I am looking to the pace and rhythm of others to settle in and I do connect and the pace is strong right away (probably in the low 20mphs). We turn and encounter the first substantial climb, no problem for me. This thins out the groups a little. Then an amazing downhill. I shout out, “On your left, on your left!” as I go screaming by. I go into the first rest area, quickly connect with volunteer, top off water bottles (doing good hydration), and off again. I connect with a good size group and now we are cruising (high 20’s, low 30mphs). The remainder of the day and the total 109 miles were solid and strong. I was good on the hills, maintained well in the groups, rode strong when solo and cruised into our host overnight location, the Mass Maritime Academy (MMA) in Bourne, in about 5:47 averaging 18.7mph – good day!
The remainder of Saturday is also routine; park bike, sign up for 15 minute massage, make it to dorm room, shower, rest a little and then begin to consume large amounts of food and beverage (and yes Harpoon IPAs are one of the beverages). Nice being strong as the amount of riders coming into MMA is minimal initially, but changes quickly as the masses arrive. My friends all show up and they perform the similar routine. We have a usual spot near the very, very large food tent, next to an open area where several music bands will entertain us for the remainder of the day. A few more tasks, then back to the room early for Day Two, Sunday and the 80 miles to Provincetown.
Day Two – Sunday
We start at 5:30am again. This is not a mass start. Riders can leave when desired. Up and over the Bourne Bridge; quite a beautiful view as the sun is coming up over the canal and the horizon. We circle around then onto the Canal Trail and it is “pedal to the metal” time. The section of the trail we are on covers about 5 miles and we push – I love it! Myself and one of my friends, Jim, pull the entire way, usually in the 22-24mph range. After the trail, we are on a roller coaster road that if you are strong enough can speed down one-side and make it over the next rise. The first segment goes by quickly. The next segment goes fast as well. Jim and I are riding together swapping off a strong pace. At the next break, Jim indicates that he is not going to keep this pace all day and he will await our other friends. I push on; my goal is to cover the distance in under 4 hours, I’ve got work to do.
My pace continues to be solid, however, during this leg, I am primarily riding alone. This was one of the short-comings of starting up front. If you are not solidly connected with a group then you are riding alone and having to be the best engine you can be, or want to be. We arrive to the last stop. I top off my water bottles and grab a peanut butter and jelly sandwich (my typical nutrition along with peanut butter and bananas during this event). I know the upcoming stretch through the dunes is open and usually involves headwinds followed by a couple more dune climbs. I assess, I am on target, but feel marginally about it. As I prepare to depart I recognize a large team that appears to be leaving soon. I think, if I connect with them this will help. I overhear them talking about being ready to go. I wait a moment, then I realize that they are a large group so they will catch me in no time so I leave.
I am now on the openness of Route 6. I am doing fine, except I am alone. “where are they?” I ride on. A quick side road (which is a rough road), then back onto Route 6, “where are they?” Route 6 is more open. Water on the left and headwinds. I am getting tired. I am starting to do more and more self-talk. “Don’t leave anything Larry! This is for Hank and Tom. Stay steady. I ride for many”
“Will I make my goal?” I push on. I am low on energy, but still staying steady with mechanics. A pace line shows up (not that team). I hope that I can grab on. There pace is not over-the-top and I am able to easily get into the 3rd position, oh that helps. After about another 2 miles, we take a right off of Route 6 and the group breaks apart. This is a normal spot for many riders to regroup with their teams and friends to ride the remaining miles to the finish. The lead rider continues and I follow. He is a good 100 yards ahead and I tell myself to keep him within range. Energy is OK, but I am running low. The rider ahead looks over his shoulder; most likely to check the condition of the group. I push forward in a short time I join him. This final stretch has a couple of short hills. At this point in the day, these small mounds feel like big hills. I am able to rotate with this guy in a red jersey. I am confident I will make my timed goal, but I do not want to let up.
“What’s your name?”
“So, I can brag to my friends, how old are you?”
I feel real good to know I am riding with a young one, and holding my own.
“I’m 55. I am glad you came along. I was slowing down. The headwinds and solo riding were getting to me.”
“Yea, I could tell that the group had some older riders, so I figured if I help today, maybe some day in the future someone will help me.”
We ride on. Rounding the bend there is the finish. The family and friends gathered on the side of the road cheer and offer congratulations. I check my time. I am going to easily make it. I am feeling great. I cruise to the finish and as I have done for my previous PMC finishes, I do the sign of the cross and blow a kiss to the sky. This is for you dad and mom. This is for you Hank, Tom and all the others on my helmet.
A volunteer scans the bar code on my wristband. I am done. My time 3:47 – yea! Volunteers offer cold water. More congrats from volunteers and rider supporters. A volunteer asks if I want my picture taken, sure!
I feel like cancer got its ass kicked this weekend. My soul is cleansed.
I’ve made a personal commitment to ride in the Pan Mass Challenge and raise $5,000 in support of the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.
Please donate to my PMC ride at one of the following links:
Click here to make $25 donation
Click here to make a $50 donation
Click here to make a $100 donation
Click here to make a $250 donation
Click here to make a $500 donation
Click here to make a $1,000 donation
Click here to make a donation of any other amount