Pan Mass Challenge 2017

The Pan Mass Challenge is a physical and emotional roller coaster.  2017 was no different.

The first downward plunge happened a few weeks before the PMC. The group that traditionally put together the Day Zero ride from the New York border to Sturbridge dropped out. That group had arranged for police details, lunch, rest stops and SaG vehicles. We were going to struggle in putting together a new route and convincing someone to spend their day sitting in a car as the SaG, keeping an eye on the cyclists and shuttling our bags.

While investigating different routes I reached out to a friend who offered me some great connections to others who have done some of the routes. He also offered to let me ride as part of his Day Zero ride from Newton to Sturbridge. As much as I wanted to start from the New York border, starting from Newton would offer some great advantages.

Day Zero

A Newton start for Day Zero meant I would be able to sleep in my own bed for an extra night and see my kids in the morning. Then it was off to Oak Hill to meet Team Kermit for the ride to Sturbridge.

If you look closely in the group’s starting photo, you will notice a police car in the background. Steven had quietly arranged for a police escort, through Newton, Needham and maybe part of Dover. The Dover escort was not there at the town line. Cycling through Dover, we came across the police officers responding to an emergency instead of escorting our Lycra clad group.

The police detail was a great touch, but not needed as much as the Day Zero ride through Springfield. Steven had mapped a bike-friendly route with roads that mostly had wide shoulders or were not heavily trafficked. Last year’s Springfield route went through dense urban streets.

Steven had mapped out a roller coaster of a route, hunting for hills and cycling-friendly roads in the general direction of Sturbridge, instead of the shortest route to Sturbridge. We pedaled along the well known roads of Causeway, Claybrook, Glen Road, and Ash Street in Hopkinton. The 11% grade of the Farmenberg in Sutton was a surprise.

It’s always great to ride into the Sturbridge Host Hotel on Friday afternoon. The other cyclists are just getting ready to ride. We already have a day in the saddle, covering 75 miles and rolling over 4000 feet of hill climbing.

Day Zero Ride 2017 with Team Kermit” on Relive!

It was time to register and grab the official PMC jersey for Saturday’s ride. I definitely needed a shower and a beer, not necessarily in that order.

In Sturbridge we were now part of the official Pan Mass Challenge activities: 5937 riders strong (of the 6212 who had registered).

The hotel had trouble with my reservation so they put me in a suite. That meant I had an extra bed. Since no other riders on the team needed the extra bed, I gave it to my bike.

After some dinner and refreshments we watched the Opening Ceremonies. Then it was off to bed to prepare for a long day on the bike and an early morning start.

Day One

My alarm went off at four am. The texts from Team Kinetic Karma started pinging my phone. It was time to get dressed and get ready to ride. I packed my jersey with my donor list and loaded the bike for the day. The rest of my gear went into the bag to be shipped to Bourne.

We strapped unicorn horns on our helmets in honor of our pedal partner, Maya. When the team first met Maya at the Pedal Partner Party, she was wearing a unicorn hoodie and told us of her love of unicorns. We had found our theme for weekend.

The signal flared and we were off.

The Sturbridge Fire Department had hung an enormous American flag from two ladder trucks near the start line.

At the first corner, I spotted people wearing the pink Kinetic Karma shirts cheering on the riders. I signaled a stop to the riders with me and we grabbed some hugs from the unsuspecting spectators. We were anonymous in our official PMC jersey and we didn’t know the identity of these spectators. We told them our team nicknames and pedaled off. (We later learned they were Crystal’s parents.)

One of the challenges of Day One is that all of the riders are supposed to wear the official PMC jersey and almost everyone does.  That means there are thousands of riders on the road all dressed the same. That makes it hard for supporters to identify the riders they are looking for.

It also makes it hard to keep the team together. You see a rider behind you, assuming it’s a teammate and it’s not. TKK typically uses highlighters on our saddlebag nametags to help spot a rider ahead. The unicorn horns made it easier to spot teammates.

Team Kinetic Karma has riders of varying abilities, so there is no expectation that we will be able to stay together. You try to find a teammate or two who is riding at the same speed and stick together until the next water stop. Then we try to pull together a larger group, only to have it fall apart again. It gets a bit easier to keep a larger group together as the day progresses and flow of riders gets less dense.

My kids were at the second rest stop looking for the unicorn horns that marked the Team Kinetic Karma riders.

To age myself, here is a comparison of me and Dave from my first PMC in 2005 to the 2017 edition, with my kids placed for size comparison.

We had been running from the rain all day. It was drizzling in Sturbridge at the start. After getting out of the hills, things dried up. Sitting at lunch in Dighton, the sky was threatening rain. We had planned to take a long lunch break. This was the point we could unite with our Wellesley start teammates. The merger of the two routes was just before Dighton. The drizzle started, then the heavy rain.

No more time to wait. We were off to Lakeville to find our Pedal Partner.

Riding the emotional roller-coaster of the PMC, we had heard the great news that Maya had her final chemotherapy treatment two days earlier. This wonderful little girl was happy to pose with a bunch of sweaty cyclists with horns sticking out of their bike helmets.

You know you are getting close to the end of Day One when you can smell the ocean. Unlike a roller coaster when you can relax your body preparing to come to a stop, we had to keep our legs cranking to get those last few miles into the Mass Maritime Academy. Only then do we get to shower, eat and re-hydrate.

Then it’s time for the official team photo.

Check out “Day One PMC 2017 ” on Relive!

Day Two

Sunday was a beautiful day. Or at least it looked like it would be. We had to get up before dawn to catch a ride to the MMA for the start of the ride. We pulled on the blue and yellow team kits, making it easier to stay together on the road.  Of course, we had stop for our traditional Sunday morning photo on the grassy knoll.

We never gather fast enough to get in the front group of riders leaving MMA. So we had a slow climb up and over the Bourne Bridge. The plus is that we get to soak in the sunrise from the top of the bridge.

It was a quick zip along the canal and the Service Road heading to the Barnstable water stop.

Then it was another 20 miles of pedaling to Nickerson State Park and a snack of Popsicles.

Some of the hardest riding was at the end. As we were heading north along Route 6 in Truro, we came into a very strong headwind. It only got worse as we came down into East Harbor where there was no protection from the wind slamming into us. We were furiously pedaling with what little strength we had left and barely staying above 15 mph.

The dunes of Provincetown offered some breaks from the wind, but it came at the price of rolling hills that drained what remained of my strength. But I had no need for any more.

We paused at Herring Cove Beach, waiting for other Kinetic Karma riders to join together. At 11:30 we took the team picture just as Bev and Cori rolled in.

Then it was champagne flutes out for a toast (of gatorade) as we rolled across the finish line at the Provincetown Inn.

Check out “PMC Day Two ” on Relive!

With the riding done, it was time for some refreshments on the ferry ride back to Boston. Play “Where’s Doug in this picture?” You get bonus points for finding other members of Team Kinetic Karma in the picture below. (You click the picture to make it bigger, and a second time to make it even bigger.)

Thanks to all who donated to support the ride. It’s never too late. You can make a donation at any time to help fight cancer. 100% of your donation goes to the Dana Farber Cancer Institute.

To donate:

 Site Day & Time Elapsed Time
Entered  Whitinsville Saturday 6:45AM
Left  Whitinsville Saturday 7:04AM 00:19
Entered  Franklin Saturday 8:01AM 00:57
Left  Franklin Saturday 8:28AM 00:27
Entered  Dighton-Rehoboth Saturday 9:56AM 01:28
Left  Dighton-Rehoboth Saturday 10:43AM 00:47
Entered  Lakeville Saturday 11:33AM 00:50
Left  Lakeville Saturday 11:56AM 00:23
Entered  Wareham Saturday 12:47PM 00:51
Left  Wareham Saturday 1:01PM 00:14
Entered  MMA (Finish) Saturday 1:32PM 00:31
Left  Bourne Start Sunday 5:28AM 15:56
Entered  Barnstable Sunday 6:53AM 01:25
Left  Barnstable Sunday 7:06AM 00:13
Entered  Brewster Sunday 7:55AM 00:49
Left  Brewster Sunday 8:31AM 00:36
Entered  Wellfleet Sunday 9:41AM 01:10
Left  Wellfleet Sunday 9:59AM 00:18
Entered  Provincetown PTI (Finish) Sunday 11:41AM 01:42