ABSO-FREAKING-LUTELY! We did it! The 2022 PMC (my 24th) was held and completed the first weekend in August. Two days of unprecedented heat and humidity did not deter 6,400+ riders and 1,800+ volunteers from carrying out their mission (and passion) in their cancer-fighting activities.
My conditioning was acceptable but not at the previous year’s levels, so Mother Nature’s blanket of warmth took a significant toll. This year’s “Ride for the Hoses” 98 degrees on Saturday and 96 on Sunday made this my most challenging PMC experience. I don’t think I could have done anything more to prepare for this oven venture. Nevertheless, we had a job to do, and we collectively got it done!
This was the first “in-person” ride in 3 years and still, we had thousands of riders and volunteers all come together to pull the wagon in the same direction! The route was still lined with fans and survivors from start to finish, inspiring us all to keep going. In short, it still had its PMC MOJO!
Here is a “shortened” recap; I am actually writing up a longer version and want to include photos – stay tuned.
Returning to in-person riding after two pandemic years was the good news and I started with the passion that accompanies every year. I had a plan – be patient, and take all the time I needed to survive the heat and humidity.
Did I ever feel strong? No! Was I going to accept the offer at mile 69 (the lunch stop) to get a ride to MMA (Mass Maritime Academy) – ABSO-FREAKING-LUTELY NOT!
The bad news is that when everything went south, I still had many miles to go. As the thermometer rose, my speed and my reserves dropped – and dropped – and dropped. I feel that the saving grace on this day (aside from the absolute angels who lined the route armed with hoses/water/ice) is that leading to the finish at mile 110, there are additional PMC rest stops located shorter distances between each and there was the opportunity to regroup. At each stop, riders scrambled for any semblance of shade; under a tree, up against a building, or in the crowded volunteer tents. God bless all the volunteers who worked their shifts during the day!! My objective was to make it from one stop to the next. Finally pulling into the finish at Massachusetts Maritime Academy, I thought, “Oh, I am so glad that’s over (for today that is) and now I have to go into pain relief and recovery mode in order to get ready for tomorrow and do it again”. I ABSO-FREAKING-LUTELY was not going to quit on this day, and I will not quit tomorrow, … but I really could have used a whole lot less of the pain!
Truth be told, yesterday’s post-ride attempts to recover … food, drink, and a solid night’s sleep (7:45pm bedtime) allowed me a minimal recovery… and today was only 80 miles in the same heat and humidity! A 5:15am start and a “cooling” (80+ degrees and quickly climbing) Cape Cod breeze might serve to mitigate the weekend blast furnace-like conditions. Well … that was the case a little bit … I guess. The damage inflicted by Saturday’s efforts became evident shortly after our trek along the canal. The elevation gain up to the Service Road led to a sluggish and depleted feeling. It was going to be an ABSO-FREAKING-LUTELY long day. Stay focused, take my time, and DO NOT quit! Despite the well-positioned PMC stops, I needed to add a couple of extra ones over the last 20 miles in order to continue.
Crossing the finish line at the end of the PMC has always been an emotional moment for me. It is at that moment when I am overwhelmed by all my reasons for riding; my parents and all those on my helmet. This year those emotions were present but so too was the pain and my desire to get off my bike.
A medical person approached and asked if I was okay, my guy response, “Yeah, I’ll be okay.”
“Are you sure?” She responded.
My wife chimed in quickly, “You are as white as a ghost!”
Medical person, “Why don’t I bring you to the medical area?”
“I’ll be okay.”
Wife, “Larry, you need to rest.”
Larry’s brain, “I better accept this support.”
Onto a wheelchair and into an AC area. Well, I am here writing this, so I survived.
Alright! No more whining. I felt compelled to chronicle the misery and passion of my PMC 2022 weekend for you because it might constitute a good story … I hope that you enjoyed it … but that’s enough of that!
What I really need to write about is your ABSO-FREAKING-LUTELY extraordinary support of the PMC. Your commitment continues to forge scientific breakthroughs that translate into new, promising therapies for patients and families around the world. I need to remind you that your willingness to open your wallet – in many cases, year after year – truly represents the best of human nature. The simple act of combining amazingly generous people with a guy on a bike brings us closer by the mile towards a future that is cancer-free, or quite manageable.
I really hope that you experience that warm and tingly feeling in your chest that is earned every time we do something exceptionally meaningful – it is an ABSO-FREAKING-LUTELY amazing feeling!
Never too late, if you would like to help make a difference, go to my PMC Profile page.
On behalf of all the patients, families, survivors, and volunteers who shared their individual stories THANK YOU!
All the planning was done, the anxiousness had risen and settled in along my many training days in contemplating this year’s challenge and the psyching-up was happening…
This is my usual lead-up to my PMC weekend and this year was no different, but what was different was the challenge I was going to take on. For 2021, I would accept the “Reimagined” option provided by PMC and thus I created a “TransNH” ride; go from Brattleboro, VT to Hampton, NH (Approximately 120 miles and 6,000 feet of elevation riding!). From my keyboard to your eyes, here is my post-ride report.
On Thursday, August 5th, I traveled to Brattleboro, VT with David and Pat. Along with the conversation about tomorrow’s ride and driving over the Temple Mountain and the Pack Monadnock areas in a car my excitement (and anxious thoughts) of the challenge of climbing grew. Yes, I knew this was a ride and not a race, but I am who I am and the physical challenge both excited me and was a zen/karma thing about participating in my 23rd Pan Mass Challenge.
We checked into a “well-worn” franchise motel, where it was obvious they rented by the day, for a lifetime or by the hour. We were only going to be there for less than 10 hours so I went with the cheap option for this logistical detail.
After getting unpacked into our rooms, we went over tomorrow’s details again. I am such a planner, guess it goes with my project management experience.
There is always something; either you forget something or something changes, etc. For David it was that his Garmin unit was out of battery life. He thought he had charged it but turned out – no. These days we so strongly rely on the information coming from our cyclometers. So, on our way to the restaurant, we would stop for him to secure a charging cable.
Another planning detail, pre-ride sustenance. I wanted to eat local to fuel up on carbs and to enjoy a couple of local brewery beers. I found and selected Ramunto’s Brick Oven Pizza for the variety of their menu. Their offering was not to be compared to the amazing food and beverage provided by the PMC host hotel, the Sturbridge Inn, but looked promising and it was!
Our other riders for tomorrow’s ride, Mark and Mark (let me help with differentiating between the Marks by now referring to them as “TLA” and “Mad Dog”) would arrive later. They were transported by Bob (another PMC brotha, who unfortunately would not be riding) joined us later as the TLA needed to complete a full workday. Bob graciously supported this effort by transporting the two of them to Brattleboro. He returned to Manchester afterward.
After consuming a good amount of calories (food and a couple of beers) we were back at our temporary lodging and again reviewed logistics and details. The best-laid plans do lead to success.
Wheels rolls at 6am. Outside our rooms we took an obligatory “start” photo in the parking lot, however, the real start would be at the VT/NH state line; an easy 4-mile ride from where we were.
The climbing begins right away.
For me the day would be successful by the following 3 goals; #1. Be Safe, #2. Be Healthy and #3. Ride Solidly. Safe meant no mechanicals, or injuries, Healthy meant arriving in Hampton not feeling crushed and being able to socialize with friends (riders, supporters, and their significant others), and Ride Solidly meant staying within myself, no matter how slow I go, stay aerobic, control my ride and push if I can. Read on for the outcome.
The day started slightly overcast with temps in the low 60’s and projected to get into the mid-80s, another reason to be controlled and hydrate. It will be a long day. I repeated that to myself several times and to our team.
From the state line, right away, 0-10 miles goes from 259’ to 1,087’ with grades between 5-8% and most of the climbing for the day will be within the first 38-40 miles; three times we will approach 1,300-1,500 elevations coming from significant declines.
When you look at the elevation map, it is easy to see the first big climb within the first miles, what is not as evident are the 2nd and 3rd climbs, most noticeably up Temple Mountain coming out of Peterborough.
Success of any kind is not an individual activity; it takes a team. We had our team of riders TLA, Mad Dog, David and myself, and we were supported by “Coach” Pat. We could not have done what we accomplished without his support. He gave up his day to be our sag wagon and meet us at predetermined (and some not) stops to provide snacks and fluids. By the way, you might ask, is Pat a coach? That is another story for another time, for me, he exemplifies what a coach is and does, he brings out the best in the people he encounters.
Leading up to this TransNH challenge it was amazing for me to think that both Marks longest rides may have been a couple rides of 50-60 miles, while David and I trained throughout the summer with rides over 60 and several in the 70s range. Mad Dog was only planning to ride to Bedford and we were to pick up the “Commander” at David’s car dealership in Milford. The Commander is our riding group’s leader in a number of ways (another story). TLA convinced “Mad Dog” otherwise; amazing accomplishment given his training level to this date. Impressive that both TLA and Mad Dog would both go the distance given their similar training base.
Speaking of the Commander, he was terribly inconvenienced by “mechanicals” and did not make the ride (bike locked on top of car, changing of pedals, and a flat). He would later meet us out at the beach to enjoy the post-ride activities.
As stated, the first approximately 40 miles would have the challenging climbs. I was very focused and anxious about managing these. This first “climbing” section, I maintained my focus and my goal to be healthy. Keeping this focus and a few selected mantras/reminders, and having conducive weather enabled me to land at David’s dealership, Contemporary Chrysler, ready for lunch and the second half of the day.
A few of my mantras for the day included; “Stay Aerobic”, “Stay Within”, “It will be a long day” and “Tyler!”. Let me bring a tear to your eye and tell you about Tyler. For my many years participating in the PMC, I have been blessed to be a recipient of many life experiences expressed by friends and family who have dealt with the challenges of either going through cancer or caring for the loved ones. This year, I received a donation from Melissa. Almost always I know who they are, or how they came to be one of my PMC supporters. With Melissa, it was not immediately known to me, but I found out. Great, I think another supporter. Then, a couple of weeks later I sent another fundraising email to my list and now that Melissa was in my database, she too received this email. I get a response from Melissa in response to that email saying thank you very much for all I was doing and the difference being made. This is typical for some of the content I get in supporter’s emails, and I am extremely thankful for their words. However! Here is what fired up my passion for this year’s ride and brought tears to my eyes and got my heart thumping.
Have you ever had a house pass you? You have driven or ridden past houses, but I suspect not have a house pass you on the road. Happened to us. Coming out and down out of Wilton, the road narrows, less shoulder to work with, and became winding. Then, one of those lead cars with flashing lights and the sign saying “Oversized Load” passed us. I knew what was next and definitely had some concerns as I know it was either a trailer with a large earth-moving piece of construction equipment or a house. It’s a house! If I could have identified the car and truck driver afterwards I would have contacted them or their company and complimented them on the very noticeable adjustment they made to keep us safe. The car moved into the middle of the road, which meant blocking oncoming traffic and the tractor trailer pulling the house did the same. We had plenty of room as the swoosh of wind contributed to our downhill ride.
Lunchtime! A big welcome by the Contemporary Chrysler team of employees waving signs and shouts as we entered the road to the dealership. Additionally, members of the Milford Rotary came out to extend their support. This was uplifting and reminded me of riding into break spots along PMC routes.
David’s wife, Audrey, did an amazing job of providing us with a smorgasbord of sustenance; pasta salads, lunch meats, fruit, desserts and more – recharging was easy, and I think I might have needed it. At the dealership, Pat asked me for the second time in the day, “How are you feeling?” I felt okay, however, I asked him, “Why?” He said I looked pale. If so, definitely a result of the work done so far. The recharge will bring me back I thought.
The sun is out, we are recharged and back onto the road.
Shortly after leaving Milford, our first mechanical was experienced; the inner spring loaded ring on David’s Speedplay broke. He could clip towards the front of the pedal but not the entire pedal. We talked about options and there were none. He faced the challenge and we rode on. I knew that was going to be a challenge for him.
We easily followed the course I had set in Strava and made it to Merrimack, across the Merrimack River, circled the Manchester-Boston Regional Airport and then we were onto the Londonderry Rail Trail for some shade. The route would take us north of Derry, Londonderry and into Hampstead, Danville, Kingston, and into Exeter. Once into Kingston, I felt like I was in my backyard given that I ride a lot from the seacoast.
At lunch we recalibrated on the number of stops and where we would meet Pat. The next stop would be the Red Arrow Diner in Londonderry, it looked like that would be close to when we came off the Londonderry Rail Trail and would be convenient. But, when we came off the trail I realized it would be difficult to communicate to Pat to where we were. We connected with him via phone and said we would stop at a next store for fluids and he could meet us in downtown Exeter for last stop before the coast.
The course north of Derry and Londonderry was a first time for me in this area and I thought (despite narrow roads) it was very nice; some rollers, not excessive traffic, suburban with a few developments and farms.
We found a convenience store in the Derry/Hampstead area, loaded up on water and Gatorade. The heat was now at the height of the day, but again, I felt like I was going to be entering my backyard, so I had a confidence circling within me.
My energy level was solid, however even though I knew there were no major climbs I still wanted to control my output. No need to beat myself up now.
Superheroes. We were in Kingston or Kensington at the time when we came across a large van that was painted with DC Superheroes all over it. Being a comic book fan, I said, “Very cool! We need to stop for photos.” Phone batteries were very low or gone on most of our phones (my phone was with Pat charging in the vehicle) but we stopped to take pictures anyway. Then, we rode on.
My riding continued to get stronger as I could sense the final 30 or so miles. At this point, I could tell that David and Mad Dog’s strength might be starting to wain, or I was truly getting stronger. TLA continued to be the lead dog and I was sitting on his wheel instead of pulling up the rear.
Just outside of Exeter, the TLA had to stop for a nature break. I rode on knowing he would catch up, however, I also knew there were a couple of town lines that were coming, mine, mine, mine! That felt good and added to my confidence.
I set a steady pace as we headed into Exeter. For those who enjoy two-wheels (bicycles, that is), you know when you are in the groove, everything clicking, head is into the speed, legs pumping, breathing is controlled, etc. This was my 3rd goal coming true. We arrived in the downtown area and stopped at the gazebo wondering where Pat was. He said he was on 10 Water Street, but we did not see him. We opted to head west out a little way to try and find him. Not finding him we turned around only to find him right in front of Town Hall, we had missed him when we rode by. We were ready for the last section.
We headed out of Exeter and my solid riding continued. I was loving it! Taking a left on route 111, I knew there were town lines ahead, I wondered if TLA knew. He did, and nabbed both of them. That’s why he is the TLA (Town Line Assassin).
Crossing route 1, we were less than 5 miles away! This was going to be a great day, but believe it or not I did not want to let up until the very end.
Coming onto route 1A and heading south, I knew there was the final town line of the day shortly after the Beach Plum. I figured if the traffic in front of the Beach Plum would be in its typical state of craziness and there would be a need to slow down, then I could accelerate right after. I jumped and only peered over my shoulder as I neared the line. TLA was closing the gap but I had this one. “Yes!!” I shouted.
Less than a mile and time for well-deserved rest, relaxation and good food and beer.
Riding onto Beach Plum Way towards our destination was a relaxing and rewarding experience. We were greeted by our brides and our other supporters.
Thanks to my bride, Kathy, she coordinated and decorated the outdoor patio for this special moment of our day; almost like the P-Town Inn, except for not having thousands of riders and volunteers, or army shower tents, or loud music.
The day was a challenge. It was long. It got hot. But, it was successful on all levels (remember my 3 goals)!
There are many times in which one might pray for someone in pain. During one long and arduous training ride over several sections of road between New Hampshire and Massachusetts in preparation for the annual Pan Mass Challenge – my prayer was my pain.
“Pain is Prayer” has become one of my mantras while pushing hard.
I recognize that many people suffer from the ravages of cancer, or other life challenges, either directly or indirectly. In the case of cancer patients they endure and battle through multiple chemo therapy and radiation sessions and the consequences of these body altering activities. Then, there are the family members and/or supporters who live with the stress of watching their loved ones.
On this day, my internal voice screamed, “I care; I care a lot!” My spirit goes out to every person and their families. I was pushing myself very hard and I thought; this is for Jack, this is for Helen and Joe, this is for “Bumpa” and everyone else on my “helmet“. Then, on the PMC weekend and I would push harder. I hold this belief that my exertion has a, call it a “cosmic connection” to helping others. It is a spiritual connection. I feel that the energy I give is an energy that can be used to help others.
When I prepare for the PMC I have several “prayer” moments.