David Blaine Ain’t Got Nothing on the Magic of the PMC

Pan Mass Challenge. For Colby and me, it is The Best Weekend of the Year. And while I didn’t poll every person I met about where the weekend ranked for them, I definitely didn’t meet anyone who would choose to be anywhere else.

But when you write out what the PMC weekend entails, it’s pretty incredible that it is The Best Weekend of the Year for anyone. It involves little sleep, lots of exertion, soreness and discomfort. Sweat, dehydration, communal bathrooms and not much relief from the elements. And that’s where the PMC magic comes in. None of the discomforts can hold a candle to the greatness that is the PMC.

Here’s a glimpse of what The Best Weekend of the Year looks like:

Friday: Revisit 6th Grade math and solve the problem of how to get yourself and your bike (plus 3 friends and their bikes) to the starting line in Sturbridge, MA without leaving a car there. This is a pass/fail test and you have to pass. {Thankfully, Colby’s Other Half Saint Tim, drove us the 2+ hours from her house, dropped us off and turned around to get back to work. Thanks Tim!}

NOTE: If you are PMC Bestie Ivy, and live in NYC, this means you will get on a subway at 6 AM with your bike and weekend bag, take it to a jam-packed Grand Central Station, where you will navigate the crowds to get on a 7 AM commuter train (still with bike and bag) to my Connecticut town, where you will once again unload your bike and bag, load them again into my car, and take Leg 3 to Colby’s house, where you will once again unload your bike and bag and load them into another car, only to unload again in Sturbridge. Ivy, you are a champ. I’m exhausted just typing this out. It is probably a 7-hour trip just for Ms. Ivy to get to Sturbridge.

Once in Sturbridge, it is a breeze. You just hang out and soak up the good PMC juju. Rack your bikes, register, check into hotel, see PMC friends, cry a little, laugh a lot. They have opening ceremonies, plenty of food and a Harpoon tent. It’s all very upbeat and chill. Which is important, since the next day is Day 1 and you need to rest while you can.

Saturday: Depending on where you are staying (i.e., how close to the start line), you will get up somewhere between 3:15-4:15. We stayed across the street this year (Thank You Meghan, aka Miss PMC!) so got to sleep in until 4:15 AM. Since hotel rooms are at a premium, you will either have slept 2 to a bed or possibly on the floor. Maybe even in a tent outside. While getting ready, you will take a moment to appreciate using a semi-private bathroom and shower (only shared among 4 people!), because it will be the last time you do so until you get to your Cape Cod rental on Sunday. You floss carefully. You enjoy the mirror. You wash your hands twice with soap and dry them with a hand towel. ‘Cause you can.

4:45 AM: you drop your bag off at a massive truck with the PMC Angels who will drive it to the Mass Maritime Academy campus (finish line of Day 1 and your host for the evening – you will be sleeping in a 12-man cabin on the USS Kennedy). Find your bike and line it up for the start. Head inside for breakfast, coffee and entertainment provided by local cheerleaders. Fuel up and soak in the good vibes. Notice that everyone is acting like it is 10:45 AM, not 4:45 AM. Not a yawn or crabby morning face to be seen. It’s the magic of the PMC.

5:15 AM: Line up and prepare for the start. Take pics. Talk to the people around you and get their stories. It’s one of my favorite parts – everyone you meet on the ride has a story of why they are there. Some people wear their stories on their backs, like us. Others on their helmets or their bikes. Others just share verbally. But every last person has a story of why they are there. And I never tire of hearing them.

Not everyone wears their stories on their backs, like us. But everyone has them.

Not everyone wears their stories on their backs, like us. But everyone has them.

5:30: And we’re off. Only 110 somewhat-hilly miles to Bourne. Along the way, we will get hot, we will get tired, we will get sore, and we probably will suffer at least one bike malfunction (this time Colby snapped a spoke. Last year, I got a flat tire and lost a brake cable). But we also will meet countless people – fellow riders, volunteers, spectators – who will affect us in ways we never thought a stranger could. We will see the best- the absolute best – that humanity has to offer. And we will feel very, very hopeful. Not just about finding a cure for cancer, but also for the future of humanity as a whole.

Late Afternoon: You made it to Bourne. You’ve showered on the ship. Maybe “rinsed off” is a better description, but whatever. You no longer smell. You get to enjoy a party with 5000+ of your best PMC friends. Food, drink, bands and a grassy quad on the shore of Buzzards Bay. You enjoy every second – even the teary ones. You’ve earned it. This is also when the PMC takes its annual “Living proof” picture of survivor volunteers and riders. The reason we ride.

The Reason(s) We Ride.

The Reason(s) We Ride.

Sunday: After sleeping on a ship in a triple bunk (I’ll let everyone decide for themselves whether top, middle or bottom is best: Discuss.) in a 12-person cabin with one bathroom for very-few restless hours, you’re up. Somewhere between 3:30-4:30, but you know the later it is, the less likely you are to get one of the kick-ass egg sandwiches at breakfast, so it’s up and at ‘em as soon as your eyes open. You navigate a teeny space with 11 other people while you kit up, brush your teeth and pack up your bag, which seems much heavier than it did on Friday. And yet, everyone is smiling and happy. ‘Cause it’s the PMC.

Breakfast, Porta Potty and as soon as it is light enough (5:30?), you’re off. The sooner you make it over the Bourne Bridge, the better. It is one of the most nerve-wracking parts of the PMC – up a bridge, single file, slooooowly, with plenty of traffic to your left. Yes, even at 5:30 AM. You have to manage going slowly and occasionally stopping, without tipping over and taking the whole peleton with you. And thanks to the PMC magic, you make it over the bridge without incident.

You’re inevitably sore when you hop on your bike. Your butt hurts so much that you can’t imagine that you will be able to ride 82 more miles. But you will. ‘Cause it’s the PMC.

Somewhere in the last 10 miles of the ride, a car comes up slowly on your left. You turn and see a woman with a bald head leaning out the passenger window as her driver drives slowly enough for her to thank each rider as she passes. And for the 1000th time this weekend, you burst into tears. Tears for the challenges that this woman faces, tears for the fact that she and so many others are still fighting, tears for those who are gone and tears of gratitude for your health and your ability to participate in this ride.

82 miles and 3 water stops after the start of Day 2, you arrive at the finish. Provincetown Inn and the Atlantic Ocean are there to greet you at the end of the line, along with other happy riders and so many amazing volunteers. And as you do every year, you burst into tears. For so many reasons. You’re tired, hot, depleted, sore and oh, so very grateful that you can do this. You hop off. Take a few pictures, rack your bike and start counting the days until PMC 2016.

It’s Magic.

Running, Riding and Just Plain Tuckered. 

Another week of torture Hansons Marathon Method in the books. Which is another week of training I have survived. Yippee! THANK YOU, SWEET BABY JESUS! twerkkidWhy so dramatic? Because the Pan-Massachusetts Challenge is a mere 11 days away and my fundraising has hit an unfortunate lull. Which stresses me out. I’m also juggling marathon training with riding and am slightly frazzled. This PMC, a ~200 mile, two-day cycling extravaganza geared towards raising money for cancer research, will be my 11th consecutive one. And one I haven’t trained nearly enough for. Come on legs! It’s all good though. Riding 200 miles is nothing compared to what a cancer patient endures. And honestly? I dodged a very real cancer scare this year. I have my health, while many do not. This year I am riding for Hope. For Beyond Cancer. I’m officially excited. 🙂 

 Shifting gears (See what I just did right there?), here’s how Colby’s Week in Marathon Training went. 5 weeks of Official Training down! I may have just put down my iPad and did the running man with Drunk Otis in my living room, whist Phil Liggett yelled about a descent during Stage 16 of the Tour de France in the background.  I will say Evil Beagle was not impressed. Here’s what went down!

Monday: 6 miles. Easy. Ok. So I finally am getting it. Hansons Method is geared towards training you for the second half of the marathon. You know, where the magic happens. Or, where the wheels fly off of you goddamn bus.  The Method to the Hansons Marathon training madness has a lot to do with these “Easy” runs. You are fatigued. Chronically.  These runs, which seemed easy at first, are not. They’re run slower than your marathon pace and take a decent amount of time. At least for me. These runs make you stronger. They’re not “junk” miles at all. They’re important in developing slow-twich muscle fibers, which to a marathoner are incredibly important. The more you use them, the more they develop. I hate these runs. But I need them.

Tuesday: Intervals. 5 x 1000, 400 recovery. 7.5 miles with warm up and cool down. I’m starting to dig these damn intervals. See text below. 


Wednesday: Thou shalt keep the Rest Day holy. I did a big fat NOTHING. Drunk Otis and the crew were THRILLED

Drunk Otis, Evil Beagle & Leon James

 Thursday: Tempo run. 8.5 miles total. Before work on a new route and I NAILED IT. I really think it was because of my new Janji Kenya shorts. Seriously. How awesome are these? They’re cute, don’t ride up AND provide a Kenyan with a year of water. Saving the world, looking cute while nailing my pace all before 7:30am? PRICELESS. 


 Friday: Here’s where I pulled the old, “Bend and Ride.” I was supposed to run an easy 7 miles. Instead, I rode 30 miles. Because Pan Mass Challenge. 

One of the many reasons for riding.

 Saturday: I was supposed to run an easy 6, instead I ran an easy 7 miles. Definitely not easy. Quads may have quietly wept. I had every intention of running outside, but the moment I closed the door behind me the heaven’s opened up and a lightning bolt cracked across the sky. Shook fist skyward. Grabbed keys. Ran 7 miserable miles on the Dreadmill. Yuck.

Sunday: Long run. 12 miles. It is here, Poodles, that I was reminded how bad running in the high 90s with oppressive humidity is. Even though I had Endurolytes and drank enough Skratch Labs to choke a pig, I still refilled my bottle THREE TIMES and still completely came UNDONE. Awful. Just awful. I followed it up with an ice cold shower, an insane amount of liquids and a nap. I am not made for running in that shit. Camel, I am not.

Total number of miles run: 41.

Total number of miles ridden: 30.

Total number of dollars I need to raise in 11 days:  $1,930. (!!!)

Help a Cancer-Fighting-Blogger-Friend out! To donate to my ride, click HERE! I will give you a big ass shout out and a big old virtual hug! 🙂 


The Art of Racing in the Rain…

A rainy mile at the 2015 Boston Marathon

A rainy mile at the 2015 Boston Marathon

…is a really good book, but that isn’t what this post is about.

Nope. Today I’m talking about what to do when you train for a race – maybe even a really big race, say, maybe even The Boston Marathon, and wake up on race day to find that Mother Nature has decided to rain on your parade.

Kurt Cobain said it best – Nature is a whore.

I have run in the rain plenty of times, but it is totally different when you are racing in the rain –especially a distance race, like a half or a marathon. Or a 110 mile bike ride like Day 1 of the Pan Mass Challenge (that would be PMC 2014).

You can’t just change plans. Wait for it to stop. Immediately schedule a rest day.

Nope, you have to put on your big girl (waterproof) underwear and suck it up. For 2, 3, 4, 5, maybe more hours. Ugh. Fortunately, before the torrent that was the Boston Marathon 2015, I googled every tip I could on racing in the rain, tried most out during that wet and windy race, and now I’m gonna share them with you.

1. Don’t Panic. This should be Rule #1 for everything that doesn’t involve locusts or a mushroom cloud. Seriously, don’t panic. It’s rain. It probably will not improve your performance, but neither will freaking out. So take a deep breath, reassess and move forward.

2. Train in the rain. If you do a fair bit of racing, you will eventually have to run in the rain. And if you take your run indoors on a treadmill every time it rains, you will be even more freaked out if you have ugly conditions on raceday. Training in all kinds of weather will train you to race in all kinds of weather. It’s worth a little discomfort during the training cycle to be prepared. I can’t tell you how many of us in Boston’s Athlete’s Village consoled each other pre-race with “Don’t worry – you certainly trained in worse!” (for those outside of the northeast, it was a cold, snowy, icy, endless winter. And yes, we did indeed train in worse.)

3. Dress appropriately. Cannot be stressed enough. Cotton is not your friend. I repeat: Do Not Wear Cotton. Or anything that absorbs. Wear something with wicking properties. If it is cool and you need layers, make sure they are light and close-fitting – loose layers will only weigh you down once they get wet. Wear a hat or a visor with a brim to keep the rain off your face. If it is cold, wear tech gloves. If you have friends or family rooting you on somewhere on the course and it is cold, give them an extra hat, jacket and pair of gloves to switch into when you see them. If you have room in your pockets, at least put an extra pair of gloves in a ziploc and switch to the dry ones halfway through. Had I been able to swap out for dry gloves, jacket, etc. during Boston, I would have been a lot more comfortable and am pretty sure that I would have been able to finish with a faster time. Numb extremeties and a shivering body will not enhance your performance. Trust me.

4. Stay dry as long as you can. You really do not want to start the race wet. Wear something waterproof with a hood over your clothes to the start and ditch them at the last possible second. You can get a disposable rain poncho at most drug stores – pick one up at the first sign that race day could be rainy. Or pick up a garbage bag and shower cap – will work just as well. Bring an extra pair of shoes and socks to change into for the start, or if you can’t manage that, wear plastic bags over your sneakers until the start. You may also want to wear a garbage bag with armholes for the first part of the race. I did not do that for Boston because I thought I would feel claustrophobic. If I could do it over, I would start with a garbage bag over my clothes and just rip it off once I got hot. The longer you can stay dry, the better. Trust me.

5. Grease up like a pig at a county fair. You already know to use Glide for races to avoid chafing – goes double for rainy races. In addition to putting Glide on so-called “problem areas,” cover your feet with glide or aquaphor before putting on socks. I did this for Boston and despite running with soaking wet feet for almost the entire marathon, I emerged without one blister. Seriously – it was a Christmas miracle in April. If it is cold, cover all exposed skin (legs, arms) with aquaphor. It will repel the water and help keep you warm.

6. Adjust your expectations. Especially if it is windy. Rain won’t always slow you down, but a headwind will. You can try to draft with a group to help with the effects of the wind. Didn’t really work for me in Boston, because the wind was coming from multiple directions, but if it is just a headwind, drafting could help. Rain might slow you down and make things slippery. Be careful. A wipe out is never fun. You may be in PR shape but not have PR weather. It’s OK. Run the best you can run safely and keep a reasonable goal in mind.

7. But don’t give up. Many people had PR’s at Boston this year. Depending on the timing of their start, lots of people missed the worst of the wind, and the cool temps counteracted the slippery rain conditions, leading them to super fast PR times. I didn’t PR, but I also lost close to 10 minutes when my hands were so numb that I couldn’t get my gloves off to reach my Gu Chompers and a lovely volunteer had to help me deglove, rip open my Chompers, watch me eat them and then re-glove me. (God Bless Him – I’m not sure that was covered in the volunteer handbook.) Had I not lost the 10 minutes, I would have PR’d by around 5 minutes. No reason to give up on a PR just because it is raining. Go out and try your hardest despite what the meteorologists say. Just don’t beat yourself up if the conditions lead to a less than stellar race. You can’t control everything.

8. Hydrate. Just because you are wet on the outside doesn’t mean you are hydrated on the inside. Make sure to drink enough water regardless of how hard it is raining.

9. Pack dry clothes for the finish. Get out of your wet clothes and into dry ones as fast as you can. Including socks and sneakers. Even in relatively mild weather, you will feel very uncomfortable if you are still wet after cooling down after the race. And in cold weather, it can be downright dangerous. Once you stop, you need to get dry and warm as soon as possible. Once you are warm and dry, you can fully appreciate what a badass you are for running the distance in the rain.

10. Thank the volunteers. They likely were out there in the elements before you got there and stayed long after you passed them. Amazing. Make sure you let them know how much they are appreciated.

Any good racing in the rain stories? My toughest rainy day adventures were Pan Mass Challenge 2014 and Boston Marathon 2015. Here’s to hoping for better weather for PMC 2015 and Boston 2016…

Because I’m Happy! The Friday Five!

happyWhat makes me happy? My Other Half. Negative splits. That Perfect Run. An ice cold beer at the end of a long bike ride. And so much more. There are so very many things that make me happy, it’s hard to pin it down to just FIVE.  But alas, it’s the Friday Five. Not the Friday Five Thousand.  So for the sake of our fabulous hosts, Courtney @ Eat, Pray, Run DC, Mar @ Mar On the Run, and Cynthia @ You Signed Up for What?!? I’ll keep it on track.

  1. The 3 Amigos. Leon James. Evil Beagle. And Drunk Otis. I couldn’t possibly write a ‘What makes me Happy’ List and leave these silly fool off. No matter what the theme. Look up “Happy” in the dictionary and I bet you’ll find their slobbery mugs. They are so special. They bring My Other Half and I such joy.
    Leon James.

    Leon James.

    Evil Beagle.

    Evil Beagle.

    Drunk Otis.

    Drunk Otis.

  2. My Bike.  Henrietta Pussycat. Why? Because that’s who she is. And because all bikes should have names. I love my whip. She fits me to a T.  And fights cancer. Pretty badass for a bike right?
    Henrietta Pussycat.

    Henrietta Pussycat.

  3. The Pan Mass Challenge.  This will be my 11th year riding in the PMC– and Tina’s 3rd! There is nothing that makes me happier than riding with several thousand of my closest friends in our untied fight against cancer. I can’t put it into words. Other than to say that the riding in the PMC, a 2 day, ~200 mile cycling odyssey across the state of Massachusetts, in the name of fighting cancer, has become part of the fabric of my life. It will always be. Nothing makes me happier than doing something I am so passionate about. Nothin’.
    The Finish!

    The Finish!

    Why I ride...

    Why I ride…

  4. Beer. Especially the first beer after riding in the PMC. That’s the one beer I look forward to most. It’s after riding 110 miles. And it is shared with friends. There is nothing I look forward to more, than toasting with my friends, on that Saturday afternoon in Bourne, Massachusetts. To the PMC. To Life. To Health. To Friendship. To Those For Whom We Ride. Cheers.


  5. Wellfleet. Each year after finishing the PMC, My Other Half and I spend some time in Wellfleet. Reflecting on the weekend. Unwinding. Decompressing. Relaxing. Drinking. Eating. And simply enjoying one another. It is by far, our favorite time of the year. We have fallen in love with Wellfeet. It’s so special to us. It’s such a beautiful little, artsy town on the Cape. No summer is complete without a stay.


    Sunset in Wellfleet.

    Sunset in Wellfleet.

    Happiness in Wellfleet.

    Happiness in Wellfleet.

 What makes you happy? Do you have dogs as RIDICULOUS as ours?