It starts with one.

One blog post. After 6 months of not posting.

One trail race. After running the race of my dreams.

One goat yoga class. After realizing my hip flexors were so tight I could play the opening chords of Stairway to Heaven on them. (And because baby goats. Let’s be honest.)

One amazing dirtbag adventure. After months of planning with The Gang.

One 200 mile bike ride across the great state of Massachusetts. After committing to kick cancer’s ass in my 13th Pan Mass Challenge.

One week spent in Wellfleet eating oysters and drinking delicious IPAs. After riding said cancer fighting bike like a Cancer Fighting Boss.

One time out.
To regroup.
Reset.
Reassess.
And say…
Now Fucking What?

mrs roperI think there comes a time after accomplishing a goal when you’re left a little dumbfounded.  Maybe dumbfounded isn’t quite right. Stunned? Stupefied? Dazed? All of the above?!  You may even find yourself a little lost. Funny. You think the momentum of achieving a goal would buoy you into setting another. But alas, Poodles. It did not. Not for me. The tide did not work that way for Colby. I stayed kinda still. Sure. I basked in the achievement. I even did stuff. Athletic stuff. And then I wandered around my own head a bit.

 

Boston was the cherry on the tippity top of my sundae. A big old exclamation point at the end of a long run on sentence. Even though I didn’t have the race I trained for, I had the race of my dreams. I felt so damn fulfilled afterwards. Like, if I never ran another step I would be OK with that. I felt like I had come so far. That my training was the best I had ever done. I felt like I was in The Fittest I had ever been. And it would have been ok if I never ran again. Hung up my Hokas and sat the eff down.  Because I felt like I was at the top of my game. And that wasn’t even with a PR. 

That was really how I felt. About running. About where I was at that point and time. I was all set. I know. Crazy talk. But true. And seeing as how I’m being honest and all, my body was honestly beaten down to a goddamn pulp after Boston. Totally broken. I was exhausted. I needed a time out. Big time. So I put my Hansons Marathon Method book back on the shelf- where I could still see her- and ran when I wanted to. Not because I had to. And I rode my bike. A lot. I hiked a ton and even managed to do some yoga. I even have been hitting the trails. But now, I’m getting a lil’ antsy.

It’s time.

I think I’ve asked myself – So now what, Colby? About a million times since running Boston. I’ve run, raced, yoga’d with baby goats (EPIC!), traveled, ridden, laughed with My Other Half and tooled around town with Drunk Otis Brown for months. But now. I think it’s time to jump back IN.  Into what,  I’m not sure. A kiddie pool of unicorns and BQs? A race in another part of the world? A half marathon PR?  Another stab at an ultra?  I’m not sure yet. But I’m ready. Stay tuned.

To being back! Cheers, Friends!

Have you ever found yourself semi-paralyzed after achieving a goal? Or, do you set another one right away, raising the bar higher? 

We could be heroes

David Bowie Helen Green

Credit: Helen Green

I heard the news of David Bowie’s death this morning. David Bowie was nothing if not an Original. A True Original. In today’s world of Imposters and Copy Cats, he was a Glam Unicorn. I’m not sure that we’ll ever see one quite like him again. I almost think that’s a good thing.  I am happy to have shared time on earth with him. To have existed in the same space. There was no one like David Bowie. He was an androgynous innovator. A figurehead in the pop cultural landscape for decades. It made me so sad this morning to read the news of his passing. I really liked him. And then I read he died of cancer. Not of AIDS. Not of an overdose. Of cancer. He died of cancer 2 days after his 69th birthday. Ziggy Stardust got cancer, just like many ordinary, everyday people do.

 

We could be heroes

Just for one day

-David Bowie

Several days ago, Tina and I registered for the Pan Mass Challenge. This will be Tina’s 4th, and my 12th PMC, a 2-day almost 200 mile cycling event clear across Massachusetts, benefitting cancer research at the Dana Farber Cancer Institute. Somehow hearing that David Bowie died of cancer this morning really got me thinking about why I have spent the past 12 years riding and raising money for cancer research. And it made me angry.

Cancer doesn’t discriminate. Cancer knows no bounds. Cancer is a thief. A vicious, ruthless thief. It steals our loved ones and people we quietly admire from afar. No one is immune to its reach. Not Steve Jobs. Not Gilda Radner. Not David Bowie. Neither the rich, nor famous are exempt. In that regard, David Bowie was like everybody else. That is so very upsetting to me. Not just because cancer claimed an Original, but because cancer steals so many extraordinary human beings. Every. Single. Day. Today was just another reminder. It’s maddening. And it’s unacceptable. Which is why for 2 days, we ride. For those we have loved and for those we have lost. We ride along with those who are survivors and with those who are fighting so hard to be.

I like to think for that one weekend, we are all heroes.  

Rest peacefully, Ziggy Stardust. You will be missed.

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

Salted Watermelon WHAT?

Me, rehearsing my order: “I’ll have one delicious, creamy, luscious, yummy ice cream cone, please.”

{Glances at the longest and slowest moving line in the history of lines.}

Me, suddenly hysterical: “I DON’T HAVE 3 HOURS! WHY!?! WHY HAVE YOU FORSAKEN ME!?!?!?”

{Throws tired sweaty self into a bale of hay and wails.}

And my efforts to obtain a delectable ice cream cone at the half way point of My Last Long Pan Massachusetts Challenge training ride the other day? THWARTED. Unless I wanted to pitch a tent, lean my bike against a cow, and hunker down for the ‘scream in 2 days time, I had to get my mid-ride fuel from another source. Like my sweaty jersey pocket. Instead of the beautiful, sunflower filled farm that makes their own ice cream. Gah. Such is life.

Enter this weird little beauty.

Salted Watermelon Gu

Meet Salted Watermelon Gu. Hello, Gorgeous!

Unbeknownst to me, a bunch of runners voted in a GUMOCRACY campaign to select a new GU flavor. I don’t even know what that means. But it sounds fantastic! Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon Series and GU Energy Labs paired up and announced the first “Official GU Flavor of the Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon” back in March. Uh. Where the hell was I?! I don’t know how I missed the memo because I woulda been ALL OVER THIS FLAVOR. Thank goodness I found it!

GU developed three new flavors for the campaign – Salted Watermelon, Apple Cinnamon and Caramel Macchiato.  THEY’RE HOLDING OUT ON US!  Salted Watermelon GU Energy Gel was crowned the winner. I discovered the Salted Watermelon GU last Friday at my local bike shop and snatched it up. I’ll be honest. They had me at “watermelon” and “salted.”  Just like they already have me at “caramel” and “salted.” They also would have me with “Caramel Macchiato.” Sensing a trend here? I’m planning on petitioning both GU Energy Labs and the Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon Series for a hit of the stuff. It’s gotta be somewhere, right?

And GU Salted Watermelon taste?

Think Watermelon Jolly Rancher with a Dash of Salt.  And seriously. What CAN’T a salty watermelon Jolly Rancher do?!? It was a party in my cracked, dry mouth. (And didn’t pull out my fillings! Watermelon GU, 1. Watermelon Jolly Rancher, -2.) Superb! It did the trick!

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Honestly? It could have tasted like one of those bullshit melted Fla-Vor-Ice Pops which I despised as a child, and I still would have been good with it.  I was fading. And in need of a quick fix. GU does the trick for me on long runs and long rides. There is a definite time and place for energy gels and chews. In the absence of my beloved, 72 mile awaited cone?  It was both the time and place.

And it didn’t disappoint.

Speaking of endurance events and fueling, check out this interesting infographic from the folks at the Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon Series. They reached out to us with it.  Neat, huh? They however did NOT reach out to us with the Watermelon Salted GU Energy Gels. Nor did GU Energy Labs. I wish they had. I would have been mainlining the stuff as soon as it fell into my greedy glycogen depleted paws.

What’s your go to endurance fuel? Have you ever run a Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon Series Event?  Flav-Or-Ice: Yeay or Nay?

How Long is a Marathon?

 

And That’s a Wrap!

Who just rode her last two long rides and wrapped up training for her 10th Pan Massachusetts Challenge?

{Cue Running Man}

THIS GIRL!!!

emmawatson

Welp. Nothin’ left to do but pack, obsess about my bike and GET EXCITED for the Pan Massachusetts Challenge!  I can’t believe this is my 10th year riding. I really can’t. I’m getting that PMC-All-Choked-Up feeling every time I think about it. Come this time next week, I’ll be planted firmly on Tina’s Cape Cod Rental House’s Couch, drinking copious amounts of beer and re-capping our 200 mile ride across the great state of Massachusetts all in the name of Kicking Cancer’s Ass! It’s an EPIC experience. One I can’t imagine living without.

I “Officially” wrapped up my training this weekend, a Tour de Sunflower, if you will, with my Zippy Other Half. I told him I wanted to do a long ride this weekend, my last before the PMC. And of course, off we went. He’s good like that. There is nothing better than doing something you love, with someone you love. A perfect, long ride with My Guy. A meandering 73 mile jaunt that took us to Buttonwood Farm which is currently teaming with sunflowers. Oh and I mean TEAMING. Happy, inviting, smiling sunflowers grown for the Make a Wish Foundation of Connecticut. It’s freaking beautiful.

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It was quite the hilly ride. And 73 miles ain’t short. But seeing as how I’m Little Miss Hill Climber lately, it wasn’t all that bad. Tough. But not impossible. Today’s ride was a Race Against the Storm which rounded off two fantastic rides. Just the two of us. Two Peas. My Other Half is so supportive. He’s so great riding with me. Always looking back. Always looking out. Always smiling. He’s been part of my PMC journey for years now. He knows exactly how important the PMC is to me. And I love that about him. It’s nice to ride along with someone by your side. I am lucky.

My Last Long ride is an emotional one for me. It always has been. It’s less about the training and more about why I’m training. I can’t help think about why I am riding. And for whom I am riding for. I can’t help but remember those who have lost their fight with cancer. Each year the list gets longer and longer. My heart just breaks. The ribbons I wear in honor of those who have been impacted by this insidious disease will gently flap behind me. Like wings. Generating lift. Propelling beyond cancer. Towards hope.

And that’s exactly how I see it.

To donate to Colby’s Ride: http://www2.pmc.org/profile/NB0049

To donate to Tina’s Ride:  http://www2.pmc.org/profile/TC0204

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Glass cases of emotion brimming with potato salad.

10101Friday. How in the name of Ron Burgundy did that happen?!? A lovely four day weekend segued into a yucky four day work week peppered with trail runs, road runs and {music swells} The Dreaded Hill Repeats. It was a whole bucket full of same old, same old with a dash of sadness and pinch of disgust thrown in for good measure. As a result, my blogging promptly fell straight into the shitter.

The Week in Numbers:
Miles run: 40
Miles biked: 45
Number of vegetables in this week’s CSA: Bushels upon bushels
Glasses of wine consumed:  Copious amounts
Amount of money raised by some dude on Kickstarter in Ohio to make potato salad: Upwards of $40,000
Amount of money raised by Colby to ride across Massachusetts in the Pan Massachusetts Challenge, a 2 day, 200 mile cancer fighting odyssey to benefit life-saving cancer research at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute: $2,842.25

See where the pinches of sadness and disgust came from? Has the whole world gone mad!?!?! Or is the Potato Salad Dude on to something? Are people funding potato salad because it’s quirky and silly and it’s just the lightness they need to balance the BATSHIT CRAIZINESS that has saturated the rest of the goddam place? Perhaps.

This guy wants to make potato salad.
I want to help fund a cure a for cancer by riding my bike 200 miles across the state of Massachusetts.

Who are you funding?

I know, right?!  Tough Call!

I’m being facetious. Perhaps the guy will do something noble and feed the homeless with 1,000,000 pounds of potato salad. Or donate it to potato farmers across the country who can certainly use the influx of cash. Or better yet, start an education campaign alerting parents to the dangers of leaving helpless children alone in sweltering locked cars while they run in and grocery shop for potato salad ingredients.

Just a thought.

Welp. Ohio Dude raised it. Fair and square. At the very least I hope he uses his potato salad for good, not evil.  He with the best shtick wins. Here’s a thought: What if I made potato salad WHILE riding my bike? Or better yet, juggle, peel, yodel and make potato salad while riding A UNICYCLE in support of cancer research!  I think I’m on to something.

Kickstart THIS, Baby!

Tina and Colby, Pan Massachusetts Challenge 2013!

Tina and Colby, Pan Massachusetts Challenge 2013!

Have a dollar to spare? Hate cancer more than potato salad? Then donate to our ride! Any amount will do! We’ll ride, you donate. Together we’ll kick cancer’s ass!  🙂  Many heartfelt thanks in advance!

To donate to Colby’s Ride: http://www2.pmc.org/profile/NB0049

To donate to Tina’s Ride:  http://www2.pmc.org/profile/TC0204

Don’t let me catch you.

I’m smack dab in the middle of Week 4 of training for Colby’s Ultra Big Adventure, also known as She’s Lost Her Mind and Signed Up for a 50K. And so far? All is good. I’m pushing myself harder than I have in a long, long while. And I’m digging it. I am also sticking to the Training Plan I cobbled together off of The Internets. It seems insane reasonable, so I’m going with it. In the midst of all of this running madness, I am also riding my Cancer Fighting Bike, Henrietta Pussycat.

Henrietta Pussycat.

Henrietta Pussycat.

She’s totally badass. My 10th Pan Massachusetts Challenge is in exactly one month. 200 miles in 2 days in support of cancer research. I can’t say it snuck up on me. I’ve been riding it for a goddamn decade. But somehow, it did. The two weekly “Rest” days in my 50K Plan have been spent on the bike. And I’ve gotta admit. I love that damn bike.

Sunday’s Hungover Central Park 6 Miler with Tina (we should make t-shirts and have pudding shot stations) was followed by Monday’s After Work 25 miler on Henrietta. It was just she and I, spinning wildly. I say this every damn time I finish a good ride. I love cycling. Love it. And I love riding with my Other Half. But Monday, I rode alone. Even without my Missing Piece, I kept the pace up. In the big ring. Like a big girl. Just me and Henrietta. That was until I came upon Some Guy on a mountain bike. Whom I passed. Politely. I’m going to say this. He was not THRILLED by my zippiness. Nope. Not one stinking bit. I think the pony tail got him. How do I know this? Because he pedaled his ass off to catch my wheel and bark at me.

Mountain Man {Yelling}: DON’T LET ME CATCH YOU!
Me: {Snippy} What?
Mountain Man: I SAID. DON’T LET ME CATCH YOU.
Me: {Calmly} I wasn’t planning on it.
Mountain Man: {Annoyed, panting, semi-crazed} You know, the ONLY reason you passed me is because you have thinner tires. You have THINNER TIRES.
Me: {Slows} The reason I passed you, is because I am faster than you.

And then I turned the screws.
Launched.
And didn’t look back.

Really? And what were you going to do if you caught me? Knock me off my bike? Shame me? Throw thumb tacks? Who yells that at someone? Was he really that put out by a girl passing him? Or was he himself having a bad day? I didn’t imagine it. It really happened. Quite frankly, I didn’t care for his shitty angry tone. After a fantastic weekend, a mid-grade hangover, a touch of lingering alcohol induced gastritis, a long ass day at work, and now a Hurry Up and Race the Sun bike ride, I was in zero mood to deal with The Defeated Mountain Man and His Bruised Ego. Back off Dude. I’m just going about a really good workout. I’m not a fan of anyone getting all up on me when I’m alone on a bike. Or when I’m alone anywhere; running or riding. So I got all sassy. Let’s be honest. I got obnoxious. What I said to him might not necessarily be true 100% of the time, but it was at that very moment. On the heels of the Like a Girl post earlier this week, I was feeling empowered. So I flexed my self-confidence a lil’ bit.

And dropped him, just Like A Girl can.

Riding STIRLING STRONG in honor of Stirling, my PMC Bunkmate, who lost her battle with cancer.

Riding STIRLING STRONG in honor of Stirling, my PMC Bunkmate, who lost her battle with cancer.

 

Running, Racing, Riding and Kohlrabi. Or, Where in the World is Colby?

Sweet Sweating Baby Jesus.

I’ve been on a Running-Working-Life-Crazy ROLLERCOASTER the past week.

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And here you thought I’d gone and flown the coop.  Nah. Just busy. And although I am waging a campaign to Stop the Glorification of Busy, I really was this time. For reals. I hate the “Busy” excuse. If you want to make the time, you’ll find the time to make. More often than not, it’s a sham. I usually can figure out how to squirrel something in. But this time, I couldn’t find shit. So. Let’s see. Here’s what’s been keeping me “Busy.”

Over the past 10 Days I…

Ran the Branford Road Race on Sunday, June 15th!  Fantastic, fantastic race if you’re ever visiting your Pops on the beautiful Connecticut Shoreline on Father’s Day, have your kicks with you and feel like running a pretty 5 mile road race with several thousand friends. Always a great time. JB Sports puts this race on and they’re truly a class act.  Ample water stops. Great post-race festival.  Pretty scenery. And I DIDN’T ALMOST UTA PIPPIG MY PANTS THIS YEAR!  (You can read last year’s Almost Debacle, here.) In fact, I had a pretty decent race considering all I’ve been doing is running on tired legs. I’ll take 9th in my age group! And no. There weren’t 10 broads either, Smarty Pants.
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(Photo credit: Melanie Stengel, New Haven Register.)

Rode Henrietta Pussycat, My Cancer Fighting Bike, in the Critérium du Dauphiné 2014 .  I’m kidding. I’m not a professional cyclist. I’ve just been riding with My Zippy Cycling Boyfriend which is exactly like riding in the goddamn peloton.  He’s fast.  Not just fast for Colby. I mean fast for anybody- Superheroes included. I ride with him on his “Rest” days. {Insert guffaws here.}

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I am training for my 10th Pan Massachusetts Challenge and I SERIOUSLY NEED TO GET ON MY FLIPPIN’ BIKE.  She’s not going to ride herself 200 miles in two days across the great state of Massachusetts now, is she?  So I’ve been squeezing in long rides on rest days. So far, so good.

Rest? What’s rest?

Spent 36hrs in Denver. Flew in. Worked. Sprinted thru the Denver Art Museum, combining both culture and a nice quick workout. Drank great craft beer. Slept. Ran intervals on the hotel treadmill. Huffed and puffed. Worked. Flew home. At 1:30am. The end. In short:  The 3 seconds of Denver I saw, I really liked. Until next time Denver! We shall run again! On real trails. Up mountains. Over Red Rocks. Instead of on a goddamn hotel treadmill. There’s got to be a law against that in Colorado. Fo shizzle.

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A Clean Sweep. Outside of the Denver Art Museum.

Ran hard, hilly trails. And loved every doggone minute of it! Getting a little more agile on the trails these days. While I’m not quite Mountain Goat, I’m improving. The day after I flew in from Denver I headed out for a 1.5h tough-hilly-dehydrated-exhausted trail run. The masochist in me loved it.  Despite the whirlwind week, I managed to get a bunch of quality runs (and rides!) in. Score 1 for Colby!

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Picked up my CSA Crop Share! And realized that kohlrabi is an actual vegetable, and not one of those screaming Mandrake Roots from Harry Potter. HELLO VEGGIES!!!  We are LOVING being a part of Bishop’s Orchard’s Community Supported Agriculture Crop Share!  Basil plants, spinach, romaine, bok choy, strawberries, Cato Corner Cheese, kohlrabi, sugar snap peas, asparagus….the list goes on.  And it’s fresh, local and fantastic. Support local agriculture. Or at the very least, hit up your local farmer’s market.  Bossy? Very. But completely true. I love that we’re a part of it. More to come on Adventures in Weird Vegetables! Promise. In other news, my own tomato plants ARE KICKING ASS! Let’s hope the trend continues.

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Ran the Stratton Faxon Fairfield Half Marathon with Tina, Diva Cindi and some of our fantastic friends on Sunday June 22nd.  AND GUESS WHAT HAPPENED???  We didn’t combust and burst into a flaming ball of running fury from the extreme heat!  It was—dare I say—GORGEOUS OUT! I have now run this race 6 times and this was the coolest one. In fact, they announced that since the race’s inception it was the coolest Fairfield Half to date. And they’ve been running this shit since 1981. Remind me to send Mother Nature an Edible Arrangement. Or something made with Kohlrabi once I figure out what the hell to do with it.

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In case you haven’t been following Tina and I for long, you can read last year’s Hellish Race Recap here and here. They are totally worth the read. We each swore this race off completely. This year was a WHOLE DIFFERENT HALF MARATHON. Minimal humidity. Temps in the 70s. Breezy. Challenging, rolling course. Extremely well supported. Another stellar JB Sports event. Lots of people along the course cheering, hosing you down and offering you orange slices. This race always gets high marks from The Running World.  That being said, it attracts some hard core runners. Ethiopians and Kenyans were tops. Seeing as how I didn’t feel as if I was running on the surface of this sun this year, I actually LOVED IT.  And that was reflected in my time. I was pretty pumped to have run it under 2hrs the day after a 33 mile hard bike ride which was the day after the 1.5h hard trail run after 36hrs in Denver. With my first 50K on the horizon, it was just what I needed- A Super Confidence Boost. I am really starting to believe I can do it.  Tired legs and all.  And that is what feels so fanfuckingtastic.

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Yeah. I just patted myself on the back. 🙂 Now onto that ugly kohlrabi…

How many times have you run a favorite race? Are you a fan of weird vegetables? If you could be a vegetable, what would you be?

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