Just like the past two years, I set sail for the PMC on a Friday.
Thursday night I stuffed my backpack with clothes, a towel, sleeping bag, camera, and small list of other items to get through a weekend with a singular purpose.
After checking and double checking that I wasn’t forgetting something essential, like my helmet, I strapped on my backpack and headed outside.
My bike was ready to go. Air in the tires and chain all cleaned up.
(The chain is the only thing that I clean, so try not to imagine it being too shiny.)
It’s hard to ride a bike with “clip less” pedals in regular shoes, so I had to wear my bike shoes. The shoes created an interesting contrast to my cargo shorts. I wasn’t going a long way, so I didn’t see any reason to wear the, ever so lovely, bike shorts.
(If you’d like to talk about why the pedals that you “clip in” to are called “clip less”, I have no idea and have somehow managed to avoid letting it bother me thus far.)
It sucks to ride a bike while wearing a backpack. Especially a heavy one.
Even if you can manage to get it sitting well on your hips and back, the weight just mashes your ass bones down into the seat harder than usual. The seats on road bikes can be pretty tiny.
But again, I wasn’t going too far.
Not too many miles later, I arrived at the home of one Mr. Dave Christmas, owner and proprietor of Christmas Motors in Maynard (along with his brother, Peter).
(Get your cars there. You can’t go wrong.)
I can’t say enough good things about this man, but I think I can give you a taste.
In his driveway are two mini-buses.
He purchased them with his own money and had them painted with our team’s logo and PMC identification.
He purchased them so that we could all ride down to the PMC together, as a team.
I am fairly certain we are the only team with a pair of custom buses.
Others folks began to arrive and we got busy organizing all of the gear and getting it packed up. I, and some other guys, loaded all of our bikes (about 68 of them) into the Circle Furniture truck (another resource loaned to us by a kind hearted gentleman). It was pretty damn hot in the truck. By some miracle, the bikes and bags fit right up to the closed door. Only a handful of bikes had to go on top of the other bikes.
1:00PM and we rolled out. Just like on a 4th grade field trip, everyone is excited and talking and looking forward to the destination, but also enjoying the ride.
The Sturbridge Host Hotel is the starting point of the PMC and the gathering point for all of the pre-ride festivities. Arriving on site was no less exciting than my first two years at the PMC. It’s like the train platform to Hogwarts, but for adults. Though, maybe the bus was the train and this IS Hogwarts. There is much commotion around “first year” riders, so I think that makes more sense.
This year was a bit different for me because the team pushes hard on the fundraising all the way through. There is no reason to make the actual ride and exception, so we hauled shirts and temporary tattoos down to the event and sold as many as we could. The shirts didn’t go so well this year, but I think I applied about 80 temporary tattoos to legs, arms, and even some heads. The veteran riders are quite familiar with our plagiarized Rolling Stone logo and look forward to getting their fair share before they ride.
The Team Lick buses were still there Friday night to haul us back to the hotels.
I didn’t complicate the evening too much. My dad and I got to the room and watched some crappy movie.
The buses were back at 4AM to get us back to the ride start.
The morning logistics are always interesting.
Essentially, the trick is to be wearing everything you need as soon as possible. Otherwise, you’ll end up putting your bag on the truck with your helmet still in it. That wouldn’t be such a great thing. This is why the big pockets on the back of bike shirts are so awesome. Stuff your gloves, phone, snacks, and any other crap you need in there. But not too much, because you’ll be hauling it all day.
We tried to start together. The team. But it’s hard in a crowd of thousands to line up 68 bikes. We had also agreed in advance that Day #1 would be “at your own pace”.
Billy gave the morning speech and we were off. Lance Armstrong was there this year. He left first. I didn’t keep up.
This is the part of the weekend that is difficult to convey.
What is it like to ride 192 miles? I don’t think that’s the right question.
The difficulty of pedaling that distance is up to the individual. You could train harder or ride slower if you wanted to avoid pain at the end of the day.
The way I ride, I’m going to be in pain at the end of the day no matter how much I had trained because I will always try to go faster.
But this is not a race and that does not make my contribution to the weekend any more significant.
In fact, if you want to measure contribution, there is one clear measure. And that is financial contribution.
I will take a moment to pause here and say thank you to all of my supporters. You’ve once again made it possible for me to participate in this event. And, more importantly, 100% of your money will go toward making someone’s life with Cancer better or longer.
So what is the ride like? The PMC is a singular event. If you want to get the PMC experience, you have to participate in it (Billy Starr’s words). My PMC experience really began Friday morning when I woke up and ended when I stepped off the Team Lick bus at Dave Christmas’ house. Though, I shouldn’t say it ended as it is constantly on my mind as a reminder to stay in shape for next year.
I set out pedaling Saturday morning and looked around at thousands of people who have two things in common.
They love biking and they hate Cancer (Lance Armstrong’s words).
So I pedaled alone in a sea of people. Watching my average speed, drinking water, and thinking. It’s hard to say what about, but I know others were doing the same. You see smiles and tears everywhere you look.
Cancer brings never ending uncertainty. There is plenty to contemplate.
At the second water stop I paused for a while and had a good rest. I knew I needed to stay on top of eating so I packed in some food and filled the bottles up. I also ran into some teammates and decided to head out with Katie and Lowell. We had a lot of fun cruising together until Lunch.
As the day went on we picked up more team members and became a much more cohesive group. We finished together in Bourne with a pretty large portion of the team riding together. That was great.
I did what everyone does after 111 miles. Showered, got a beer, and ate enough food to choke an elephant.
Something delightful happened in Bourne as well. I saw an old friend. We had been chatting online, as everyone does these days, and he had mentioned thinking about maybe possibly training this year for next year’s PMC. I said no way. Just sign up. You won’t regret it.
He did sign up. He didn’t regret it. That was great to hear and it was good to see him. I hope to see him again next year.
Saturday wound down and I managed to get a few hours of sleep. It’s ironic that when you need to get up at 3AM that you stay up late worrying about not being able to wake up on time. I’ve discovered that very few people get much sleep on PMC weekend.
We lucked out with the weather. It rained Saturday night, pretty hard, right up to 3AM. I think I forgot to mention that I slept in my tent by the ocean. So… I was getting a little worried that I’d have to take down my tent in the rain. Biking in the rain isn’t so bad. And we would have if the rain kept up because this is a rain or shine event. But we lucked out. The rain let up just in time and the day was hot, but overcast with only a few light showers scattered about.
There were quite a few crashes though. The roads were wet all day and not everyone had enough experience on wet roads. That was unfortunate and I hope everyone is OK.
Sunday was fun. Knowing that you “only” have to go 80 miles when the day before you did 110 is actually quite reassuring. 80 is much closer to the training distances that we did and it really wasn’t too bad. Our team split up into two large groups and we rode at two different speeds.
Our group finished up around 10:30, I think. I forget the time, honestly. But it was early. Our boat wasn’t leaving until 3PM, so I had some time to relax.
I spent some time wandering Provincetown alone, showered, changed, put my bike and bag on the truck and headed to the food and beer tent!
We polished off the afternoon with some talk and memories of the ride that we had just finished…
Then there was the boat.
Remember the rain I was talking about that missed us perfectly? Well, payback is a bitch.
The sky was holding in a piss the whole day, just for us. It had to let go some time.
Though every single person was soaked to the bone, when they boarded the boat, they quite literally would not let it dampen their spirits.
This is the “party” boat, after all. A slow moving ferry that takes 3 1/2 hours from P-Town to Boston with a live band on board the whole way. Rough seas be damned. There were moments that I thought people should be slightly more concerned about windows blowing in and the boat tipping 30 degrees to either side. They were not. They simply removed their belts and strapped them over the pipes to make some subway-esque handles, and danced on.
The rain let up as we closed in on Boston Harbor so we moved to the upper deck. One of the most hilarious parts of this whole weekend, I think, was when the boat crew roped off the starboard side of the boat as we arrived. I wasn’t sure why at first. Then everyone moved to that side to wave at all the folks waiting for them and the boat almost tipped completely over. OK Maybe not, but it was leaning far enough to make navigating the stairs tricky. And the boat crew was at least slightly worried about what might happen if they did not rope it off.
And then, we were there. It was over. Or more accurately, it was ending. But the arrival of the boat felt like the end of the weekend to me. We hugged strangers goodbye and said, “until next year”. Our team boarded the buses and headed back to Dave’s.
I was absolutely exhausted. My head hit the pillow hard. Our bed felt so perfect. The only thought in my head was this:
I get to rest and recover after only three days and two nights of struggle. I have no idea what it would be like to battle Cancer for months and years at a time.
That is why I ride.