"For my cousin who died. For my father who
survived. And for my 13 month old daughter so she never knows what Cancer is..."
That is how I responded to the
reporter from NESN (New England Sports Network) who asked why I was riding the Pan Mass Challenge. He was in a van following
the riders and interviewing people on their bikes. Afterwards, one of the guys in the group I was riding with said "That was
a pretty good answer Dave!" The funny thing is that I never put it all together like that until the reporter asked me, but
I have not been able to think of a better reason for my motivation.
I completed the 192 mile Pan Mass Challenge
and am very proud.
The weekend began Friday night with me frantically
packing and trying to remember everything I needed. The plan was to have the car completely loaded up so we could just hop
in Saturday morning and go –thereby maximizing my hours of sleep. Even though the car was completely ready to go, we
were not and ended up slightly behind schedule. I wanted to be in Sturbridge at the starting line by about 5:40. That way
I'd be there for the inspirational send off from event organizer Billy Star and Greg Lemond. We arrived in Sturbridge at 5:50
and almost all the riders had already gone! Official start time was meant to be 6:00am but I guess there inspirational words
were pretty brief…
I quickly registered, dropped off my luggage
(more on that later…), kissed my wife and daughter goodbye, and was on the road at 6:12AM. Everyone had left except
Greg Lemond –who was busy being interviewed- and his serious cyclist buddies.
Once on the road I pushed really hard to
try to make up some time and catch up to the main group. When I realized that Greg Lemond started after me, I decided there
was no way I was going to let him pass me (he never did…). That motivated me along with frantically trying to 'undo'
being late. I pushed really hard and by the first water break (~24miles I think..), I found a group of 8 good riders to stick
with. They all had top racing bikes and shaved legs –serious riders. We rode in a pace line with
each rider taking a 1 minute pull at the front followed by 7 minutes of relatively easy drafting.
We finished day 1 in Bourne, MA at the Massachusetts
Maritime Academy at 11:20AM. We had covered 111 miles and averaged 22.5 MPH.
The highlights of Day 1 were plenty.
There was a guy playing bagpipes at the top of some of the steeper climbs. He was in full formal dress kilt. I saw him 3 times
during the day.
At one point we were coming up on a big group
of riders and I saw a tall guy on a very expensive bike. He was not going very fast –we past them like they were stopped-
and I couldn't place why the guy looked so familiar. At the next water stop one of the guys in my group said "Did you see
John Kerry back there? I heard he raised over $50 G's!"
At another water stop, a big bald guy came
up to me and said "Didn't you go to BU?" I said "Yeah… Didn't you play for the Bruins?" It was Shawn McEachern who I
knew (barely) when I was an undergrad at BU. He introduced me to 2 more former Bruins players that were riding: Terry O'Reilly
(Happy Gilmore's inspiration because of how rough he played), and Gary Doak.
Other 'celebs' riding this year:
Johann Olav Koss: Olympic Speed Skater (4
golds, 1 silver) for Norway.
Utta Pippig: 3 time winner of the Boston
The 'lunch stop' (which we rolled into at
about 9:00) was very emotional. There is a pretty long driveway that has all along both sides big posters with the faces of
kids who beat cancer. There must have been several hundred of those posters. I saw several riders with tears in their eyes
as they slowly rode past looking at all the posters.
Because we arrived in Bourne as early as
we did, we were able to get 2 massages (30 minutest instead of just 15) since there were more massage therapists than riders
at that point. Later in the day the wait was over 2 hours for a 15 minute massage.
The scope of this event is staggering. All
along the entire route there are people cheering for the riders and thanking us for riding. At almost all the intersections,
there were police officers who would stop traffic so we could go right through. And they thanked us too.
The organizers really have everything covered.
When I checked into my room, my bag had not arrived yet. I went back to the information desk and asked about my bags. They
told me that it just hadn't arrived yet and why don't I take a massage. I said "Well I am pretty gross and want to shower
first so I'll wait". They asked me what size shirt and shorts I am and gave me stuff to wear, a towel, soap etc. The clothes
were from lost and found of years past. And they saved them for just such an occasion.
For the remainder of the day I just kind
of hung out with other riders, listened to the live music, and ate a lot. It was a perfect day to be outside. I
was staying on board the ship "Enterprise" (which is a teaching vessel for the Academy). I made sure I got a top bunk because
the lower 3 had only about 20 inches of space between –not nearly enough for me to sit up, much less stretch. The top
bunks had a lot more space.
At about 7:20 PM everyone lined the road
to cheer for the last rider. I couldn't imagine how that person must have felt having been in the saddle for almost 13 and
a half hours! But it was pretty cool to see everyone screaming their brains out cheering her on to the finish.
After that I just went to my bunk and read
until I fell asleep (probably about 8:30). Sunday morning I woke up (reveille at 4:15am!) had breakfast
and wanted to avoid riding with the group I rode with Saturday. I wanted to take it easy because I knew that Jeanne +
Gretchen would not be in Provincetown until early afternoon, so there was no reason to push myself.
I was looking around trying to find our group
so I could hide from them. Then I heard "Dave! Over here! We are waiting for you!". I went over to them and said "Guys I was
kind of planning on riding alone today. I was hoping to have an easy day." Mike, who I had shared a lot of miles and a lot
of beer with on Saturday said "Sure Dave. Those kids going through Chemo are hoping for an easy day today too…"
So I rode with the same group on Sunday. And since he put it like that I kept thinking about what a gift it is to be
able to do this. I figured that if I pushed my self really hard physically, then I was somehow doing more to help out…
Twisted logic, I know –but it was very early in the morning…
Since the Cape is flatter, and since the
total miles for the day (81) was less, we decided to push the pace up from 22-23 MPH to 24-25 MPH. By the
way, the Cape DOES have hills. I know because I rode over ALL of them.
The highlight of the day was the water break
at Nickerson State Park –about halfway up the Cape. There was a boy holding up a sign that said "I am 10 years old because
you are doing this. Thank-you!" His t-shirt said simply "survivor". The high point of the entire ride for me was when he high-fived
me, looked right into my eyes and said "Thank-you". I had that kid in my mind for the rest of the ride –and ever since.
He gave me tremendous inspiration. I only wish I asked his name.
At the last water stop (about 20 miles to
go), I asked my group how they were feeling and they all said "Great!". I said "Then let's make a real hard push for the finish.
Time to empty the tanks!" We pushed our speed up over 30mph for most of the remaining 20 miles. It was hard, but very fun!
It did cost us though -3 of our original 8 got dropped.
Once in Provincetown, there is a split to
go to either the original finish line, or the Family Finish. Only one other guy, Andrew, from our group was going to the family
finish. After we split off from the group, he said to me "Do you want to sprint for the line?" I said "No, but if you do,
I will". When we made the final turn –about 400m from the finish- I jumped and started sprinting.
I heard him say "Another ****-ing hill! Are you kidding me!!!" and he didn't sprint. I was the first rider to arrive at the
family Finish. It was 8:20 AM.
I had just covered 192 miles in two days.
My average speed for the entire ride was 23.9 MPH. I was totally spent. Jeanne and Gretty were scheduled to arrive some time
after noon so I had a lot of time to reflect.. I kept thinking about what Mike said about the kids going through Chemo hoping
for an easy day, and how even though I was feeling about as crappy as I ever have, it was still a far bit better than what
they were hoping for. I thought about how I was doing my small part to lessen human suffering –while ensuring my own!
I felt completely uplifted emotionally and spiritually by the whole event even though I was physically exhausted. One of our
greatest needs is to contribute to improving humanity. I kept thiking about how proud I am to be part of such
a worthy cause. When we beat Cancer, I will know that I did something to make it happen. I kept wishing there was more
I could do, raised more money, etc.
I thought a lot about that kid with the
sign at Nickerson and how I would have ridden 500 miles for what he gave me.
The goal for this year's Pan Mass was to
raise $24million. We have already passed that and are going for $25 million. My personal goal is to raise $6000 and I have
raised about 70% of that goal so far. Please, if you haven't yet given, do so now. Or you can give more! Every little bit
It will be worth it when we wipe out Cancer!
My eGift ID is:
Or if you prefer, you could
just send a check via regular mail. Make it out to "PMC / Jimmy Fund " and mail it to this address:
260 Brookline Street
Cambridge, MA 02139 USA
Thank you all so much for all the support and love! I couldn't have done this without you!