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PanMass Challenge
August 8, 2006, 5:18 pm
Filed under: Charity/Noble Causes

OK. Suitably recovered now to recap the fantastic weekend of the 27th annual PanMass Challenge.

Saturday morning, started with a sea of people on the campus of Babson College, scene of the Start line for the Wellesley to Provincetown variation of the PanMass Challenge. Over 2000 riders started in Wellesley according to hearsay. The crowd contributes to the adrenaline, so you have to feel sorry for the poor rider who blew a tire a few hundred yards into the route and was left behind by all but a few relatives.  

Incredible community support throughout Eastern Massachusetts with local volunteers organizing water and rest stops, knots of cheerleaders cheering on riders for hours, and local police and town officials volunteering their time to help.

As a first time rider, the most amazing thing is seeing all the dedications. Many riders in the event are riding for a friend or relative fighting cancer, or in memory of a lost loved one. Some share their motivation with dedications printed on or hung from their jerseys. Whether passing riders or being passed by them, it doesn’t take long to be moved to the point of tears.  

First endurance event for me in 22 years, so I re-learned the hard way that you shouldn’t eat or drink anything that your system isn’t used to.  Guzzled a funky new energy drink (which will remain nameless) at the 40 mile rest stop and nearly blew up my gastrointestinal system. Recovered fully at the next rest stop…will spare you the details.

Miles 50 through 71 of the event were among the best riding that I had done all year. Unfortunately, my rear derailleur disassembled itself at mile 71. I jury rigged a one speed transmission (many thanks to the folks at International Bikes in Newton, MA who had taught me how to do that) and nursed the bike a few miles before one of the amazing volunteer road crews caught up with me and swapped in a brand new derailleur in record time.

Bourne, MA – The campus of the Massachusetts Maritime Academy was the site of the Day One finish, and the first time all the riders from the Wellesley to Bourne ride and the Sturbridge to Bourne leg were all in one place at the same time.  The Sturbridge riders get to do an extra 30 miles of very hilly roads. [The Wellesley start is affectionately referred to as the Ladies Tee by some riders].  MMA is a sea of humanity with close to 4000 riders, 4000 bikes, and hundreds of volunteers and family members all conveing to celebrate what is the finish for some one day riders and a half way point for the majority.

5:00am Sunday morning, riding out with the temperature a little too chilly at 60 degrees, one of the most beautiful sights in the 162 mile run was seeing the sun rise over the Cape Cod Canal as we rode along the canal bike paths. The Bourne to Sagamore run is flat and easy, but the climb up out of Sagamore onto the service road that parallels Route 6 was one of the toughest climbs of the weekend. Sagamore to Eastham is a series of small rolling hills, which was perfect for me…I had a lot of leg strength to get up small hills, but hadn’t trained enough to sustain pace on longer hills where cardiovascular conditioning really matters.

As I have told several people, the most inspirational moment of the weekend for me was arriving at Nickerson State Park, 40 miles into Day Two, and seeing a boy with a sign that read “I’m 10 years old thanks to you. -Jack” I learned later that Jack O’Riordan was born with cancer and beat it at age 4. Now 10, he cheers on the riders at Nickerson every year.

The side roads of Eastham, Wellfleet and Truro have some of the toughest hills on the entire route, but my personal favorite was the 1+ mile hill in Truro which started near the Whitman House restaurant and continues uphill for over a mile. A series of gentler hills follow, but once you’ve beaten that hill, you’re pretty much home free. Well, with the exception of the little detour at the end that takes you into the dunes of the Province lands. A series of wicked little hills 158 miles into the course make sure that you don’t arrive at the finish line too well rested.

After all that, I have to admit that other than being sore and tired, I had one overwhelming feeling after crossing the finish line, and that was disappointment that the Pan Mass Challenge was over.

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