Top 10 Best Moments Riding in the Pan-Mass Challenge

Ready? Ok. Without further ado I present to you the Top 10 Best Moments riding in this year’s Pan Massachusetts Challenge! {Cue drumroll.}

10. Rise and Shine. Waking up in the ‘Bates Motel’ with your best friend, giddy with anticipation, kitting up, and dashing off to meet the shuttle bus to the start. There is nothing like the excitement that surrounds PMC Weekend, a 2-day, 193 mile cancer fighting odyssey across the great state of Massachusetts. Coffee. Bagel. Bike. LET’S DO THIS!

A Sea of Humanity.

A Sea of Humanity.

9. The Start. The Start is something. Truly. Thousands of bikes. Thousands of people. Thousands of reasons to feel like you’re a part of something epic. Such palpable energy. To my left, a rider with one leg mounts his bike, adjusts his helmet and pedals away, smiling. He is Living Proof of why I ride. The tears begin…

And they're off!  PMC2013 is rolling.  A beautiful sea of cyclists, united.

And they’re off! PMC2013 is rolling. A beautiful sea of cyclists, united.

8. Cherry Street. (Which should be named Cheery Street!, complete with the exclamation point.) The entire street is flooded with people. Some in costumes. Some with cowbells. All with huge, open warm hearts, waving signs and clapping. CHERRY STREET LOVES THE PMC! Ribbons on every tree. Bands around every bend. Cherry Street is like no other. And what do you hear? THANK YOU. Thank you for riding. Over and over and over….

Welcome to Cheery Street!  The happiest street on earth!

Welcome to Cheery Street! The happiest street on earth!



7. The Volunteers! The PMC would be nothing without the (seemingly) millions of happy, wonderful volunteers who feed you and help keep you safe. You can’t turn around at a rest stop without bumping into a smiling volunteer, purple Gatorade jug in one hand, peanut butter fluff sangy’s in the other asking you if you need anything. I have said it each of the 9 years I have ridden in the PMC, it is tougher to volunteer than it is to ride. There. I said it again. And I mean it. These people are happy little angels. With Sports Beans.

All lined up and ready to feed you!

All lined up and ready to feed you!

6. The Route. 2 days. 110 miles the first and roughly 83 the second. All well marked, well supported and littered with cheering supporters. Permanent PMC street signs along the whole, rolling, winding, beautiful ride. The towns you ride through along the way couldn’t be nicer or more supportive. They come together beautifully. Like we all should. And not just during PMC weekend.



5. The Stories. Every rider has a story. And every rider rides for a reason. Ride along and within about a mile, you’ll meet someone alongside you who asks you the most asked question of the weekend: Why are you riding? Your mother. Your daughter. Yourself. This year I heard all three. We wear our stories on our backs, on our bikes and in our hearts. Each story so very personal. Each rider so open to talk. It’s cathartic. To remember. To mourn. To celebrate. To put a face on this insidious disease. Cancer has faces. Lots of them, sadly. It’s not just about the disease itself. It’s about people. People connecting with other people. We become stronger, together with every pedal stroke. Our stories unite us.


Me. And why I am riding. I dedicated this year’s PMC to my friend and colleague Bret Perry, Superman.

Who I am riding for...

Who I am riding for…

4. The Lunch Stop. Lining the road en route to the lunch stop are photos. Many. Many photos. They’re all of children who are currently fighting cancer at the Dana Farber Cancer Institute. These little super heroes are Pedal Partners, many of whom will be at the Lunch Stop to meet up with their Teams who are riding in support of their fight. These little kids are amazing. And I completely fall apart every time I ride into lunch and see their strong, brave, smiling faces. I pedal harder. I become more committed to this cause. All because of them.

Pedal Partners. The strongest, bravest kids on earth.

Pedal Partners. The strongest, bravest kids on earth.

3. Mass Maritime Academy. 110 miles. Day 1 Complete! BRING ON THE BEER! Sit. Chill. Drink and Laugh with friends. Park that bike, grab a Harpoon IPA, and head off to the showers! Off to the Ship I go! And by ship I mean SHIP. Like 3 bunks on top of each other. Like “ALL ABOARD!” Like a huge ship with REAL sailors and shit. It’s something. It’s also where I met my friend Stirling. We were bunkmates. We met 3 years ago while she was battling osteosarcoma. And she rode. While undergoing chemo. Under ‘Fighter’ in the dictionary should be her photo. I’ve never met anyone like her. I liked her immediately. She had this light. This ability to just completely light up a room. That might sound trite, but it’s the truth. Although I didn’t know Stirling long, I didn’t have to. The impact she had on me will stay with me. Forever. Stirling lost her battle with osteosarcoma one week before last year’s PMC. As then, the tears roll down my face as I sit here blogging. I will always ride in her honor. This year I rode in her team kit. It was an honor and a pleasure. I forever will be STIRLINGSTRONG.


My bunkmate, Stirling.

2. Fundraising. Weird that raising the required fundraising minimum is a “best moment” huh? 100% of all donations go directly to the Jimmy Fund at the Dana Farber Cancer Institute. Since 2007, every dollar raised by PMC cyclists goes straight to the Jimmy Fund. In total? $375 million dollars has been raised by PMC cyclists since 1980. (Wowzah!) PMC seed money allows clinicians and scientists to pursue innovative cancer research and make a difference in the cancer treatment landscape. (Lemme tell ya, as a research scientist, finding funding ain’t easy. Period.) Fundraising itself is NOT easy either. But you wind up figuring it out. Believe me. Commit. And you’ll figure it out. And along the way you will encounter generous, kind, giving, selfless individuals to support you. Kindness. Generosity. Selflessness. Those three words are synonymous with the PMC. They make my whole heart smile.

Living Proof.

Living Proof.

And the BEST MOMENT of riding in this year’s PMC???? This.


Photo credits:

33 thoughts on “Top 10 Best Moments Riding in the Pan-Mass Challenge

  1. I was in tears until the end…I can’t believe you posted the video!!! Now I’m dying laughing!
    You captured THE BEST of the PMC. I can’t believe I have to wait 11 months to experience it again. xxoo

    • Thank you for the kind words. It’s just that kind of event—laughing your head off then crying your eyes out. It’s spectacular. I can’t imagine not being a part of the PMC. Thanks for stopping by! 🙂

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  3. You brought it all back. So glad you push yourself every year for others. I’m pretty sure Miss. Tina will be a second year rider in 2014. I’ll be there to cheer you both on!

      • It’s coming along just fine. A little setback with a rib injury but I am 99% healed and about to start adding Yoga again so all is well. two 20 milers in the next 3.5 weeks…then taper time!

      • Yowch. Ribs are rough healing. Glad you’re on the mend. My “set back” was going to Kenya for 12 days. (Oh there will be a blog post on that one!) Just back yesterday. Running. Sadly, Kenyan did not rub off on me. Two 20 milers in the next 3.5 for me too! If you want to grab a beer with Tim and I post marathon, lemme know! We need a celebration. 🙂

      • I may indeed. My friends will all be busy partying in Brooklyn so I might need some libations before to lube my joints before jumping on the subway! Good luck with your 20’s and can’t wait to read about Kenya!

  4. Hi there! I was checking a few of your posts and had a quick question about your blog. I was hoping you could email me back when you get the chance -emilywalsh688 (at) Thanks : )


  5. I also met Stirling at the Wellfleet waterstop in 2011. I saw the sign on the back of her jersey and introduced myself. She was totally awe-inspiring. We have a team, Equipe Henry, for my son Henry who was diagnosed with Neuroblastoma before he was born. He was treated at DFCI and now 8-years old, is cancer free. When I met Stirling, we were reeling from another cancer diagnosis… this time my brother-in-law with an aggressive brain tumor. He rode the PMC in 2010 but had to sit 2011 out. From Wellflleet, I sent him a picture of Stirling and her jersey. He was home recovering from chemo and radiation and his comment, “What the heck am I doing? If she’s out riding, I got to get off the couch.” He rode in 2012.

    I am so sorry to hear that Stirling passed away. I only spoke with her for a few brief moments but I will never forget her.


    • Catherine,
      Since this was my first year riding the PMC, I never got the chance to meet Stirling, but feel as though I know her from all of the wonderful stories people have shared about her. I know that Colby found her awe-inspiring as well.
      That’s the thing about the PMC, though – you experience moments that pass quickly and yet touch you forever.
      I wish you and your family continued good health. Thanks so much for stopping by.

    • Stirling was such an amazing spirit. I bunked with her for 2 years in the Ship and through the wonders of social media kept in touch throughout the years. She was to ride in the 2012 PMC but sadly lost her valiant fight the week before. I was simply torn apart by her loss. This year her friends- many of whom she met through the PMC- put together Team Stirling Strong. I was honored to wear her Team’s Kit on the second day. Everyone has 100s of reasons to ride, but somehow we are all connected, all part of the PMC Family.

      Thank you so very much for stopping by and sharing your story. I wish you and your family health. And, I hope to see you next year. 🙂


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