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.

A Decade of Riding in the Pan-Mass Challenge. A Lifetime of Lessons Learned.

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A week ago I rode My Cancer Fighting Bike, in my 10th consecutive Pan-Massachusetts Challenge. Ten years. In a row. I am proud of that. Very proud.

Not proud that I have ridden thousands of miles.

Not proud of the training endured each and every year.

Not proud of hooking up My Bike to the trainer and spinning in the living room because it was too dark to get a decent ride in after a long day at work.

It’s not about the athletic achievement. Strange, but true.

The PMC is not about Me.
And that’s the beauty of it.

In the 10 years I have ridden, I have learned more about the human spirit than I ever thought possible. I have learned that people are at their very best when they’re doing something selfless.

And that is beautiful.

I have learned how riding in the PMC means more to the 100s upon 100s of people lining the streets along the route, than it ever will to me. And that’s saying a lot. Strangers. Clapping and cheering. And thanking me. Thanking ME. Over and over. In the pouring rain. In the extreme heat. Over and over. Thank you. Every year for 10 years. Some of the faces are the same. Some are new. All are grateful.

I am here, because of you.

To hear that. To see the look on their face, as they tell you that. Thanking you. With their whole heart. Sincere. Genuine. Pure. It means everything. Everything all at once. And it continues to overwhelm me. Year after year.

Here’s the thing: I believe them. We are making a difference. A real, life-saving, cancer fighting difference. They are living proof.

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I have learned that the most generous of people are the ones you barely know. But who know you. And believe in what you are doing. They move me to the core.

I have learned that people who volunteer their time at the PMC have a tougher job than any cyclist riding. They are kind, patient individuals who smile with their heart. Angels. All of them.

I have learned that the smallest of gestures, gestures requiring the most minimal of time, are the most profound. A kind word. A ribbon remembering a loved one, honoring their fight. A quick note saying, “I will be thinking of you this weekend” means the world to people. Find the time. You are not that busy. It’s worth it.

I am proud to be a part of the Pan-Mass Community. So proud. It has become a part of who I am. It has woven itself into the very fabric of my being. I feel like for one weekend a year, I am a part of something great. Really great. Impactful. To be surrounded by people doing the same is inspiring beyond words. I am finding, as the years go by, that the PMC feeling stays with me longer and longer each year. It changes your perspective. Your focus becomes on what is truly important in life. And isn’t that wonderful?

The PMC isn’t about me. But by accident, I have become a better human being because of it.

Here’s to the next 10 years.

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31 Reasons

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The race is not to the swift, but to those who keep on running…

In 2 days time, Tina and I will embark on a cancer fighting odyssey across the state of Massachusetts- The Pan-Massachusetts Challenge. I simply can’t wait. It’s my favorite weekend of the year. Always has been. A beautiful, selfless weekend. That’s the best kind of weekend if you ask me.

Tonight, as has become a 10 year tradition, I made ribbons, together with my Mom, honoring those who have lived strong and those who, in the face of cancer, continue to do so every day. They will ride with me this weekend. I will carry them on my back. Each mile, every pedal stroke we’ll ride as one.

Each year my list grows.
And grows.
As the ages get younger.
And younger.

My heart just breaks.
Into 31 pieces.

This is why I ride.

Xoxo,
Colby

Perspective.

I had planned to sit down today and write a post about how my running is meh. How I’m not getting to run often enough – certainly not as much as last year at this time – and how it is making me crabby and less than optimistic about any of my upcoming races. Blah, blah, blah.

And then I checked my e-mail.

A longtime friend died yesterday, of cancer. He was fifty years old. He leaves behind a beautiful wife, an 8 year old daughter and a 6 year old son. A loving extended family and a massive group of friends who cared for him dearly. He was diagnosed in the fall of 2012 and fought bravely ever since.

I wrote about Jodi once before, when he was first diagnosed with cancer: Cancer Sucks

And again last summer when I dedicated my final “long” Pan Mass Challenge training ride to him:  Pan Mass Challenge Training Ride # 5

I wore a ribbon for Jodi during the PMC, and was so honored to have him along for the ride. I had so hoped, and prayed, to ride again for him this year as a survivor, not a patient. I never would have permitted myself to consider that I would be riding in his memory in 2014.

There is Jodi  on the back of my PMC shirt. I couldn't have done the 200 miles without him and my other "ribbons."

There is Jodi on the back of my PMC shirt. I couldn’t have done the 200 miles without him and my other “ribbons.”

Everything that you need to know about him is in my two posts. He was kind, loyal, generous and loving. Hardworking and funny. Loved by everyone who met him. One of “the good ones.” No, scratch that – one of “the great ones.”

It breaks my heart that all of the excellent treatment, good karma, love, prayers and positive energy that were offered to him just weren’t enough to save him. I feel so devastated. And defeated.

We have so many people fighting against cancer- doctors (I’m thinking of your wife, Drunken Cyclist, and the other amazing doctors who have the courage to do what they do), researchers, fundraisers, entire foundations and medical centers…you name it, the collective “we” are doing it to fight the fight. But cancer is such a formidable opponent. So daunting. So overwhelming. And disheartening. Especially on a day like today.

After processing the news, I did what I always do when I’m down. I went for a run. And the sadness is still there – will be there for a long time to come – but I no longer feel so defeated. I saw signs for a Susan G Komen race along my route, and saw signs for other, lesser-known cancer fundraisers. I saw a cyclist in a PMC bike shirt and a car with a Connecticut Challenge sticker.

And I thought to myself – I am someone who rooted for Rocky every freaking time, even though his opponents were always “unbeatable.” I cheered on the ragtag 1980 US Olympic Men’s Hockey team and saw them beat the Russians. I’ve been a Goddamn Red Sox Fan since 1969 (and don’t be fooled by their recent performance – their seasons from 1969-2003 were pretty grim). I don’t give up when the odds look bad or defeat seems likely.

So, once again: Screw You, Cancer. You may have taken this round, but the fight isn’t even close to being over. I won’t give up doing whatever I can to get rid of you, and I don’t think anyone else will either.

And with that, I’m off to write my Pan Mass Challenge solicitation letter.

Dear Jodi, rest in peace. There is a hole in the world today that can never be filled.

Racing for a Cause

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Hellooooo 2014! New Year, new opportunities for racing. Yippee! And with opportunities for racing come lots of opportunities for fundraising for charities. There are plenty of races where you commit to raise a minimum amount of dollars in exchange for being able to participate in the race. Great chance to raise money for charity, but the pressure is on to fundraise as well as train for the race.

A lot of major races have charity teams. For some races, it is the best – or only- chance many runners have to run the race. The Boston Marathon comes to mind. With no lottery, a charity team is the only opportunity runners who don’t qualify have to run the race (and this year, it’s almost impossible to get a charity bib ).  New York is another popular marathon for charity runners. Sure, they have a lottery, but they also have a zillion people applying for a spot (such as me, ahem. Fingers crossed!). So, if you lose in the lottery, a charity team can be your ticket to the race.

Then there are events that are pure fundraisers, such as our beloved PMC. You’re not fundraising to “get in,” to the race, you’re doing the ride for the sole purpose of raising funds. Every rider is committed to the same amount of fundraising, whether you are a professional cyclist or a beginner.

Lots of races. Lots of charities. Lots of opportunity to do something good while you do something you love. But what do you do if you are someone like me, who LOVES to do good, but HATES to fundraise? I hate to ask people for anything, especially money. I wrote last year that I was probably the only person signed up for the PMC who was more afraid of the fundraising than the ride. That is no exaggeration.

Well, if you are someone like me, and you find a cause that means the world to you, you just suck it up and take on the challenge.

Thought I’d share some fundraising thoughts & tips for others who are considering the plunge into running or riding on a charity team. ‘Cause you know, with one event under my belt, I’m now an expert.

Be realistic. Are you in a position to raise the necessary funds? If not, are you in a position to contribute the funds yourself? Timing can be everything. When I was in my early 20’s, it would have been easy for me to train for the PMC –tons of time and a young body, but I didn’t know anyone who had more than beer money, so fundraising would have been difficult. When I was in my early 30’s, it would have been easy for me to raise the funds for the PMC – I worked at a big law firm and could have raised the minimum in an hour, but I worked so much that training would have been brutal. Now, in my 40’s,it’s the perfect time for me – I have enough contacts to make fundraising feasible, feel comfortable making up any shortfall and (kind of) have enough time to train.

Be impassioned. Embrace your cause. Maybe you came to the event because of the cause, like me with the PMC. In that case, it is easy to be passionate. But even if you sign on to fundraise for a cause that you have not previously been involved with, dive in headfirst. Learn about the charity and its mission. Familiarize yourself with the different ways in which your charity serves its cause. Write a personal and informative solicitation letter that lets your donors know how much their contribution will mean to your charity and how it will be used. It’s so important to understand how your charity will utilize the funds you raise –some charities are more efficient than others, and if you can let your donors know that their funds will be well used to serve the cause, it will help with fundraising. For example, the PMC donates 100% of every rider-raised dollar to the Dana Farber Cancer Center. There is no doubt in any of my donors’ minds that their funds will be used directly for a good cause. I like being able to tell them that, both in my request letters and my thank-you letters.

Be creative. The most obvious way to raise funds for your race is through solicitation letters, but that isn’t the only way. While on Cape Cod for the PMC, we passed a lemonade stand on our way to a popular beach. Some kids set it up to raise money for their dad’s PMC ride. I also heard riders at the PMC talk about hosting pancake breakfasts and donating services (yardwork, babysitting, etc.) in exchange for donations from neighbors. Locally, some fitness instructors have donated the fees from a group class to their cause. Think outside the box if you do not feel that you can meet your goal through straight donations. Where there is a will, there is a way! And every little bit helps. Lastly, don’t forget that some companies will match charitable donations made by their employees – be sure to suggest that donors ask about this possibility in your solicitation letter and follow up as needed.

Be patient. Some people will donate immediately upon receiving your donation letter, and that is great. Most, however, will not. Some people pay their bills at the end of the month, and will wrap it up with their regular bill paying. Some people like to do it closer to the event. Some people do not want to donate until after you have completed the event. Some people mean to donate and then forget until something jogs their memory. It’s tough, and it can be nervewracking. Keep the faith, though, and be prepared to send out periodic reminders (see below).

Be considerate. Not everyone can or will donate to ever cause that crosses their path. Yours may move them, or it may not. Or maybe it moves them, but they just can’t contribute. As much as you want to collect funds for your dear cause, make sure that you don’t isolate family, friends and colleagues who choose not to contribute. It doesn’t make you or your charity look good.

But be (politely) persistent. The truth is, though, you will probably have to send reminders about your fundraising in order to meet your goal. Everyone is busy. Everyone is inundated with e-mails, letters, facebook updates. Your solicitation might roll off the radar of people who do in fact want to donate. My advice is to send period reminders in as unobtrusive way as possible. Facebook updates are great for this. People are reminded that you are fundraising, but don’t feel that you have “targeted” them as someone who has yet to donate. Colby and I posted pics of us on Facebook during our PMC ride and a lot of people donated that very weekend. A mass e-mail to your original solicitation list works well, too – again, no one feels like you singled them out as a non-donor, but you still get your reminder out there.

Be helpful. Make donation as easy as possible for your donors. Send an e-mail with a link to your fundraising webpage, if you have one. If you post about your fundraising on Facebook, include a direct link to your fundraising page. For members of the older generation, who might not use the internet as readily, send a written letter with a stamped self-addressed envelope to make donation easy for them. People will definitely be more likely to contribute if they don’t have to deal with logistics beyond writing the check or punching in their credit card number. Make it as easy as possible.

Be grateful. Send a thank you note. A friend who donated to my PMC ride last year commented on the thank you note I sent her and mentioned that although she has sponsored many people in fundraising events, it was the first time a runner/rider had sent her a thank you note. I was appalled. Everyone should send a thank you note. It does not reflect well on you or your cause if people are not properly thanked for their donation. Be sure to let them know how much their contribution meant. And if you can include any personal anecdotes in the note, even better. Let your donors share in the experience that they helped you achieve.

If I can do it, anyone can do it. Hopefully these tips will help some other reluctant fundraiser decide to take on the challenge. Trust me, you won’t regret it.

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!

Amazing.

Amazing.

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.

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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.

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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.

Stirling.

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.

I proudly present to you THE NUMBER ONE BEST MOMENT RIDING IN THIS YEAR’S PAN MASSACHUSETTS CHALLENGE:

Photo credits: http://www.pmc.org

Pan Mass Challenge – The Recap (sort of?) (part 1?)

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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.

The ribbons I wore on the back of my shirt. It was an honor to have each of those people along for the ride.

The ribbons I wore on the back of my shirt. It was an honor to have each of those people along for the ride.

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.

Cherry Street - Home of the PMC's biggest fans

Cherry Street – Home of the PMC’s biggest fans

• 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.

Colby snapped this pic of me checking in at Mass Maritime. The tears had already started flowing and I had barely unclipped.

Colby snapped this pic of me checking in at Mass Maritime. The tears had already started flowing and I had barely unclipped.

• 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.

My favorite PMC'er with me at the finish. Yet another adventure we tackled - together.

My favorite PMC’er with me at the finish. Yet another adventure we tackled – together.

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.

Colby and I enjoying some recovery drinks after finishing Day 1.

Colby and I enjoying some recovery drinks after finishing Day 1.

My Bike Fights Cancer

This is my bike.

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Meet Henrietta Pussycat, my Jamis Xenith Elite. She fights cancer. Pretty badass right?

Sweet right?
She fights cancer.
Like a champ.

I’ve been riding in the Pan Massachusetts Challenge for 9 years. If you want to gain perspective, be humbled, and feel like you’re a part of something wonderful, ride in it.

I dare you.

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Why I ride.

You will be forever changed. I know I am. What you learn as you’re pedaling 193 miles in 2 days in support of cancer research, is that everyone rides for a reason. Some have more reasons than others. Some are Living Proof that cancer research is making strides. Serious strides. I like to think we’re helping, in some small way. My reason has not changed in 9 years, although the list of family and friends riding along with me, sadly, has. Friends and family I have lost, will ride along with me, as they have every year. Every pedal stroke, powered by their memory, their lives, their valiant fight. It makes my heart heavy just thinking about it.

I ride because I can.
I ride for those who can not.
It’s simple really…

This year Tina is riding in the PMC. I couldn’t be happier. I love that she’s been blogging about her “reasons”- her husband Chris, her mother Lily, and her cousin Rick. She’s fabulous that Tina. I can’t wait for her to experience the weekend.

The overall PMC Experience dwarfs the athletic accomplishment. Hard to believe, but true. Riding 193 miles is NOTHING compared to what a cancer patient endures. (Seriously? It’s nothing. Lets be honest.) PMC weekend? You see the best of people. You feel like you’re a part of something bigger and far greater than you. And I think we ALL need that from time to time. Especially today. We need to be humbled. We need to be self-less. We need to gain perspective. Not always, but sometimes. I am so looking forward to Tina’s First PMC Experience. Maybe even more so than she is.

So our ride…

Tina and I did a nice, long, hazyhothumid training ride yesterday. Together. (Finally!) She did great! Totally great. And I would expect nothing less from her, tough wispy thing that she is. We covered 51 miles spanning rolling farmlands to the sweet salty sea. It was terrific riding and chit chatting along the way. (If you follow our blog, You know Us- we love a good chit-chat. Although we would have preferred cocktails to Gatorade, we did manage an iced coffee at mile 30.) She even caught a glimpse of The Angry Walker who was, shock of all shocks, angry. He’s a legend. It was a great time and a great ride. The miles ticked away. Just two friends on bikes. Beautiful. This time next month we’ll be on a beach in Cape Cod, drinking ice cold beer, toasting to Tina’s First PMC and recalling those 193 miles ridden for something bigger than ourselves. I simply can’t wait.

I love cycling. I mean really love cycling. (Earmuffs Newton’s!! I swear my sneakers just gave my bike the finger. ) It’s funny because I haven’t really blogged about it much. That’s really odd now that I think about it. I think of myself as a cyclist more than a runner, but alas, I am Colby. I am both. There is just something about being on a bike. It’s powerful. So very powerful. Especially when your bike fights cancer.

If you would like to support us in our fundraising goals please, do so. Every dollar donated helps. Every single. 100% of donations go directly to the Dana Farber Cancer Institute. Awesome right? We hate cancer. And we have a long way to go. There’s a lot riding on this.

To donate to Tina: http://www2.pmc.org/profile/TC0204
To donate to Colby: http://www2.pmc.org/profile/NB0049

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Shades of Green.

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A Beautiful View.

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Go Tina! Go! Tina and Trixie enjoying the flats. And the extreme heat. No clouds for miles…

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Henrietta and Colby.

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Ride Colby! Ride!

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Your sweaty, happy, cycling Bloggers! That’s us!

Pan Mass Challenge Training Ride #1

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I made the mistake of looking at the PMC training schedule online yesterday morning before heading out for my first “long” ride. Big mistake. I am so far behind in training that it is not even funny. It will especially not be funny on August 3 & 4, when I will be riding from Sturbridge to Provincetown regardless of how poorly trained I am. Yikes. If anyone from the PMC happens to read this, I am sorry and I promise I’ll finish.

The ride itself was really nice. As nice as a ride can be when there is a tape in your head telling you that you are way behind in training. It was a beautiful morning and lots of cyclists were out. Because I left my house around 6:30 AM, cyclists and a handful of runners were the only people who were out, and it was such a peaceful start to the day. I rode around 35 miles and felt great afterward.

The bad news is that I still ride more slowly than I would like. My route is really hilly – at least I think it constitutes “really hilly.” Elevation starts and ends at around 110 ft, with the route having a low of 22 feet and a high of 390 feet. There isn’t just one big climb – the elevation chart shows a constant series of hills, and there are few, if any, flat straightaways. Anyway, it seems hilly to me, and probably good for training. I’m hoping that my lack of speed is due at least in part to the hilly nature of my route. And if someone reading this knows that my route does not, in fact constitute “hilly,” please don’t tell me. Ignorance is bliss here.

The good news is that I felt fine when I finished and could have kept going if I didn’t have morning commitments I needed to tend to. I am confident that I will finish this ride, even if it takes a while.

I decided when I signed up for the PMC that I would dedicate each of my long training rides to one of the many people I am riding for. This, my first official training ride, was dedicated to my husband, Chris, my inspiration for riding the PMC and for just about everything else I do.

Chris was in high school when he was diagnosed with Stage 3 Hodgkins Lymphoma. His prognosis was not good, but he beat the odds and is still here today, approaching the 25th anniversary of his final cancer treatment – on February 7, 2014. While I was busy trying to figure out which Swatch watch to purchase in high school, Chris was undergoing intensive rounds of chemotherapy and radiation. It worked. He survived the cancer, he survived the treatment, and he did it with the strength and dignity that I still see in him today.

For Chris, like many survivors, the cancer diagnosis is a lifelong sentence. Although he may have beaten the lymphoma back in high school, he still must deal with the long-term effects of the intense chemotherapy and radiation that were part of his protocol. He has a wonderful life, but he suffers a multitude of medical issues that result from his prior cancer treatment, not to mention the persistent fear that cancer will return. Nonetheless, he is so, so grateful to be alive.

Chris and I have been married for 17 years. When I met him, we were first year students at Boston College Law School and he was coming up on the 5th anniversary of his final cancer treatment. I remember taking him to TGI Fridays on Newbury Street in Boston to celebrate – February 7, 2004. We were just friends at that point (and if my ex-boyfriend is reading this –SERIOUSLY, WE WERE JUST FRIENDS AT THAT POINT), but good friends, and I am so glad that we celebrated that milestone together. Within a year of that anniversary, we were dating, and within 18 months, we were engaged. Married on August 10, 1996 and the rest is history, as they say.

Before I met Chris, I assumed that feeling insecure was a basic part of any romantic relationship. I think I was convinced that the insecurity was what kept things interesting. How exhausting. When I started dating Chris, I realized how nice it was to feel completely loved and accepted. He gave me the confidence both to try new things and also to simply be myself. One of the things I love most about Chris is that he never fails to support me. I always say that if I told him I wanted to be an astronaut, he’d go out and buy me the suit. He has never doubted that I could do anything I wanted to do, and that kind of unwavering support has shaped my life in the most positive ways.

Chris is one of the smartest people I know. He’s a problem solver, and loves helping people out in need, whether it is sorting out a thorny legal problem that a friend faces or finding the best online shopping deal for something they need. He’s a “go-to” guy for friends and family when they need help. He is loving, kind and funny. Many people who meet him comment to me that he is one of the nicest people they know. And he is.

I am so grateful for the advances that were made in cancer research that enabled Chris to win his battle. I am thrilled that advances made since his treatment have enabled other people to survive lymphoma without the residual effects that Chris has to deal with. Advances in treatment not only save lives, but they also improve the quality of life of the lives they save. And I’m honored to raise money for the PMC to help fund research that can keep these advancements coming.

Chris, this one was for you. I love you, I love you, I love you, and I’m so, so glad you are here.

Happy St. Baldrick’s Day

If you have not heard about the St. Baldrick’s Foundation, it is a great organization dedicated to raising money to fight childhood cancers. According to the organization’s website, only 4% of funding provided by the National Cancer Institute is devoted to prevention and treatment of childhood cancers. As you can imagine, childhood cancers, and their treatment, differ in many important respects from cancers affecting adults, and require their own specialized research. St. Baldrick’s was formed to help fill the funding gap, by providing funds directly for use in research focused on cancers affecting children. And fill the gap it does – the only US organization that funds more childhood cancer research grants than the St. Baldrick’s Foundation is the US government itself.

You won’t be riding your bike or running a race to raise funds for St. Baldrick’s. Nope, you’ll be shaving your head! Participants – “Shavees” – raise donations for shaving their heads at one of the many St. Baldrick’s events held around the country (each event is kind of like a shave-a-thon with a party atmosphere, and they look like an absolute blast). Shaving heads is a brilliant means of support, since it not only raises funds, but also shows solidarity with the many cancer patients who lose their hair during treatment.

I came to know about St. Baldrick’s through some friends of ours. Their two sons – B and T – shave their heads each year as part of a local team, TeamBrent. The TeamBrent organization was established in 2005 by friends of theirs whose 3 year old son was battling Stage IV neuroblastoma. He is doing well now, and Team Brent has raised an enormous amount of funds for cancer research through various events, including St. Baldrick’s and the Pan Mass Challenge, just to name a few. Talk about creating something amazing out of something horrible. I’m so impressed with the TeamBrent family and will definitely be on the lookout for them at the PMC this year so I can congratulate them personally on the health of their son and their amazing work for cancer research and support.

Our soon-to-be-shaved friend, B, was over for a playdate yesterday. He is in 5th grade and will be rendered bald on Sunday. I asked him about the event and the main thing he talked about was his friend – the one who had cancer, who now is healthy, and who is the reason for his participation. He commented that he has known this friend “forever,” and though he was really sick, he is doing great now. He also talked about how much he enjoyed participating in the St. Baldrick’s event each year. I was amazed by the maturity our young friend showed regarding the situation, but truthfully, was a bit saddened that he has had to face this kind of situation at such a young age. I don’t remember any children getting cancer when I was in elementary school. I don’t even remember any of my friends’ parents getting cancer when I was in elementary school. Sadly, my children do have friends whose parents have cancer; in some cases, very advanced. My kids know that their own father had cancer as a teen, and see the long-lasting effects that the disease and its treatment have had on his health. Some of their friends know other children who have or have had cancer. The kids I know seem to be exposed to cancer and its harsh realities at a much younger age than I was.

It is mind-boggling how pervasive cancer is and how many lives it touches – old and young. And yet, so inspiring that there are so many ways to help. Kids must feel quite empowered to know that they can do something to contribute to the cause. I don’t think it ever occurred to me that I was capable of doing anything to help with “adult” problems when I was a kid. I’m in awe at the creative ways that organizations like St. Baldrick’s have found to enable people of all ages to help fight cancer. And seeing how many people rise to the challenge to participate? It certainly helps to restore my faith in humanity.

Good luck on Sunday, B. We are honored to sponsor you!