I just don’t know how to capture the Pan Mass Challenge experience in words. (Perhaps that’s why I haven’t even attempted it during the almost month that has passed since that amazing weekend.)
There was just so much – the ride itself, the spectators, the volunteers, the cancer patients and survivors, the pre- and post-ride celebrations, the signs, the ribbons, the photos, the stories people shared. The friends I made. The moments Colby, I and the rest of our team shared – funny, poignant, scary, touching, thought-provoking, moving, downright hilarious – they were all there.
It was a lifetime of experiences crammed into one weekend.
I can say with conviction that the thing I worried about the most before the weekend– the ride itself –is the last thing I think of when I reflect back on the weekend. The ride went fine – absolutely fine. Cycling that distance was much more manageable than I expected. I’m sure it hurt at points, but who had time to notice? So easy to keep pedaling when there are so many more important things to focus on.
I have GOT to recap this because I will never ride in my first PMC again. I hope to ride in my 10th, 15th, 20th PMC – and beyond – but I’ll never again have the “First Time Rider” experience. I feel like have to write it down so I can remember, but it sure is going to take a bit. And certainly more than one post.
Here are some of the moments that loom large in my mind, even now:
• Starting the ride at dawn on a cloudy August morning with U2’s “Beautiful Day” blasting in the background; Colby to my left and a man with one leg to my right, tears falling down my cheeks.
• The complete and utter friendliness of every single person I met associated with the event – be they a rider, a volunteer or a sideline supporter.
• Beloved Cherry Street – a PMC institution. The whole freaking street turns out to cheer the riders on. Ribbons on Every. Single. Tree. Signs, bubbles, lollipops and refreshments. Bands. Crowds. Adrenaline Boost.
• Talking to a fellow rider – an older gentleman – who has ridden the PMC for 30 years. 30 years!! I hope I can do it 29 more times.
• Seeing someone holding a sign reading, “My daughter is not here to cheer you on this year because she is healthy and AT COLLEGE! A miracle! Thank you, Riders”
• Rolling into the Mass Maritime Academy at the end of Day 1 and experiencing an “emotional episode.” Overwhelming gratitude for your health, your life and your loved ones can be crushing sometimes.
• Seeing my sister, Mimi, our friend Patty & her daughter Quinn at the lunch stop, which was a major haul for all of them. We were so, so grateful that they came to support us!
• People sitting outside their homes, with coffee and cowbells, ready to cheer on the riders. At 6 AM.
• Seeing my mom and my husband, my two biggest inspirations, at the finish line.
There is no question in my mind that my biggest takeaway from the weekend is what a gift it was. For 2 ½ days I was surrounded by the best that humanity has to offer. Every person that I came into contact with was there because they wanted to give back. They wanted to help. They wanted to provide support. They wanted to step outside of themselves and touch someone else’s life. It was such a gift to be surrounded by so much positivity, love, generosity & hope for an entire weekend. Pure bliss.
I think I’m still walking on air a bit. I hope I never come down.