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: https://egifts.pmc.org/DC0176

 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

Pan Mass Challenge 2016

It started with pain. I expected to have pain in my legs. Ahead lay almost 300 miles to pedal over three days, to get from the New York border to Provincetown.

But I didn’t expect this kind of pain.

I had barely turned my pedals once when a bee (or maybe it was a wasp) flew right into my face. Wedged itself under my sunglasses. And punched a big stinger right into my eyebrow.

Fortunately, I’m not allergic to bee stings. At least I didn’t think I was allergic. It had been decades since I’ve been the victim of a bee sting. I was stopped by this point, sunglasses thrown on the ground and yelling at the tiny insect that had moved on.

Teammate C1, came along side and checked to make sure my face was not swelling into the shape of watermelon. Okay. Not allergic.


Day Zero – Friday
Hillsdale NY to Sturbridge MA

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That was the start of Day Zero, our Friday ride from the New York border to Sturbridge on the day before the Pan-Mass Challenge begins.

Day Zero was largely a tribute to Danno. The Team Kinetic Karma riders were wearing Danno’s Sheldonville Bike Repair jerseys. We were joined by a few dozen other riders for the 90+ miles.

The morning is a grinding climb up and over the Berkshires. There are no spectators. No road signs. Just a ride that stretches the Pan-Mass Challenge all the way across the Commonwealth.

After the climb, we were rewarded with a long descent. For me, that was a screaming downhill losing 1000 feet of elevation to the Westfield River. At one point I almost got up to a speed of 50 mph.

After we were off the mountain we met up with a series of police escorts that would take us through Westfield, West Springfield and Springfield.

Thanks to TP Daley Insurance in West Springfield for hosting us for lunch.

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One of the challenges with cycling from the Berkshires is getting across the Connecticut River. There are only a few places to cross. In Springfield, you need to take a highway to get over the waterway. That’s no problem with a police escort.

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Yes. It is really strange to be riding a bike on a highway.  I’m sure the drivers in the left-hand lane thought it was even stranger.

The strangest part of the ride is the final rest stop of the day at the Magic Lantern.

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That air conditioning felt great on our over-heated bodies. The proprietors put on a great spread to refresh us for the last leg into Sturbridge. No dancers were on the scene. The Champagne Room was full of sweaty cyclists looking for the energy to get those last few dozen miles out of our legs.

We pulled into Sturbridge with a full day in our legs, while most of the other 6,000 riders of the PMC were just getting ready. Yeah, that feels good.


Day One – Saturday
Sturbridge MA to Bourne MA

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The Pan Mass Challenge starts at dawn, My muscles were aching from the previous day’s miles. My heart was aching from the loss of Jeff earlier this year.

I was on the road with 6,000 other rider; 22% of them were first time riders.

It’s hard to describe the emotional roller coaster of the Pan Mass Challenge. Physically, your body is pushing you up the road. Emotionally, the road is populated with supporters, cheering you on. Many are cancer survivors or family members of those who have battled this disease. Even a hard guy like me has trouble keeping back the tears when you see a kid holding a sign that reads Thanks to you I’m 15 .

One of the many highlights is the Pedal Partner rest stop. Team Kinetic Karma connects with a kid fighting cancer through the PMC’s Pedal Partner program. Anna has been the Team’s pedal partner for the last few years. Anna just completed her cancer treatment. <Fingers crossed that she has beaten back this disease.>

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Stopping for the day at the Mass. Maritime Academy means it’s time for some beverages and good meal to fuel up for another long day on the bike.


Day Two – Sunday
Bourne MA to Provincetown MA

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Day Two starts with the slow roll out of the Mass. Maritime Academy to the Bourne Bridge. The crowd of riders is dense and there are only two lines of cyclists. You can only ride as fast as the slowest climber at the top of the bridge. You get a beautiful sunrise as you touch wheels on Cape Cod, then there’s a series of hard fast turns onto the Cape Cod Canal Trail into the blinding sun just rising over the horizon.

One highlight of the last day is the cruise past the hedges at the Cape Cod Sea Camp. They bring a raucous crowd. All that energy went straight to my legs. We gave them a champagne toast, thanking them for coming out.

At the end it was the celebration of those fighting cancer that kept the power in my legs to keep me going over the Provincelands Dunes. My focus was on finishing and bringing as many of my teammates along with me as I could.


The End of the Ride

I print a list of my sponsors and any words of encouragement just before the PMC ride and tuck it into my jersey pocket to power me through the three days. Thank you to everyone who sponsored my ride.

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Timeline for Day One and Day Two

This is largely for my reference so I can remember next year when I ended up at the various rest stops. You will note the excessive amount of time spent in most of the rest stops. It’s not a race to get to the finish. We ride fast and rest luxuriously.

Entered Whitinsville Saturday 6:49AM
Left Whitinsville Saturday 7:18AM 00:29
Entered Franklin Saturday 8:27AM 01:09
Left Franklin Saturday 8:31AM 00:04
Entered Dighton-Rehoboth Saturday 10:48AM 02:17
Left Dighton-Rehoboth Saturday 11:32AM 00:44
Entered Lakeville Saturday 12:26PM 00:54
Left Lakeville Saturday 1:10PM 00:44
Entered Wareham Saturday 2:00PM 00:50
Entered MMA (Finish) Saturday 2:44PM 00:44
Entered Barnstable Sunday 7:02AM 16:18
Left Barnstable Sunday 7:14AM 00:12
Entered Brewster Sunday 8:11AM 00:57
Left Brewster Sunday 8:47AM 00:36
Entered Wellfleet Sunday 9:59AM 01:12
Left Wellfleet Sunday 10:30AM 00:31
Entered Provincetown PTI (Finish) Sunday 11:51AM 01:21