The 2001 PMC took place the weekend of August 4th and 5th.
This was my thirteenth year participating. I know that you're all busy so like I've done in years past, I put down the highlights of the ride as I saw them and for those with some extra time, I included the extended version.
Highlights and some stats (ie. The short version):
Hope you enjoyed the short version of the 2001 trip report.
I would just like to say thank you to all my sponsors. To those of you that have already given me your pledges, thank you. To those that have not, you can pay by check (payable to "PMC-Jimmy Fund"), cash, or online using a credit card (See link below). I can pick them up or you can mail them to me, interoffice or US, mail. Thank you again for letting me ride on your behalf.
- Bill -
(The long version of the report starts here)
The weekend started as it has in years past. I get a ride out to Sturbridge from my friends Tom and Fran. This is always appreciated. We loaded our gear into the truck and began our journey to Sturbridge early afternoon to avoid the usual Mass Pike traffic.
We arrive in Sturbridge around 3 PM, check into our hotels and pick up our rider registration information. The registration is already getting quite busy as this year the rider registration has gone up again. While standing in line you hear the sound of bells ringing almost constantly. This sound is the special greeting that the first year riders get welcoming them to the event.
Once settled in, I wander out to the parking lot to discover my team hanging out by our team car, Mr. Forbes, seen below (hover your mouse over this picture).
Yes, that's right. Our team car is a vintage hearse that's been painted bright yellow, has a custom 8 bike rack on the roof, and working beer taps on the side. It's always a hit with most of the PMC riders. The car is parked prominently in front of the Sturbridge Host Hotel.
I picked up my team t-shirts, got my stack of tattoos, and began settling into the weekend role as a "B-Czar B-Stee". It's difficult to explain all this but suffice it to say that this team I hooked up with years ago are by far the most colorful part of the PMC and one of the many driving forces that keep me returning each year.
The afternoon and early evening are spent catching up with old friends and feasting up mass quantities of carbos as usual. This is one of my favorite parts of the event. The PMC weekend is the only time I get to see a lot of the people associated with the event during the course of a year. It's like going to a big reunion but you're actually glad to see all the people there :-)
The evening concluded with speeches from the Pan Mass founder, speakers from the Dana Farber Cancer Institute, and an amazing young guy named Cam Smith. Cameron just completed ten thousand mile trek around the perimeter of the United States with the PMC ride to P-Town being the final leg in the journey. Why would he do something like this? Cam lost his 14 year old sister to cancer when he was ten years old. They were quite close. He had just graduated college last year and while contemplating what to do in the "real world" when he read about the Pan Mass Challenge. The cause moved him so much that he knew what he would do. However, rather than just riding across the state, he decided to take the challenge to a level that most of us can't imagine doing. He chose to ride around (literally) the country and raise money for this cause before entering the work force and the "real world" as he put it. It was quite amazing listening to Cameron speak about his journey. He was quite eloquent and profound. You forgot that he was just barely 23. It was truly inspirational.
The speeches concluded with Cindy Bullens, a well known singer / songwriter performing some songs from her last CD dedicated to the memory of her 11 year old daughter Jesse that passed away from cancer in 1996. There was barely a dry eye in the house filled with over 2000 people.
I was still hungry after the evening ceremonies, it was 9:00 and they had stopped serving food at the Sturbridge Host. What to do? Road Trip! I walked over to Burger King with my friend Dave. It really seemed like a good idea at the time. This would later come back to prove just how wrong I was. We feasted on the fine cuisine of Chez BK, headed back to the hotel by 10:00, prepared our equipment for the ride and went to sleep.
The wakeup call came at 4:15am. Yup, that's right. We head down to grab a quick breakfast, back to the room to grab the bikes and luggage, and it's off to the starting line. The PMC is extremely well organized as far as this process goes. We load our luggage onto 18 wheelers in Sturbridge and it will be in our rooms in Bourne when we arrive. You don't even have to tip the bell persons. A smile and a thank you is all it takes and everyone is quite accommodating.
(From left to right: Tom, Michael, Bill (me), Tony, and Dave)
Our group assembled at the front of the fast rider pack. You learn that when there are over 2000 cyclists of varying abilities out there that you want to be up front with the group that knows how to ride. Note that we head out with the lead pack but common sense and prior experience tell us NOT to hang with the lead pack for long as they will surely grind you up. I can live with this (though it's taken me 13 years to learn).
Day 1 started promptly at 6am with a countdown provided by one of the many pedal partners (a cancer patient linked to a riding team). Off we go. Now our group started off at the front of the pack. Let's say that there were about 100 riders on the road at the point we went out and about 2000 behind us. Well, true to form, our group managed to get separated immediately and would not reform until the 20 mile water stop.
(Left to right: Tom, Dave, Bill)
The first 40 miles of the Pan Mass Challenge are extremely challenging for riders of any ability. My hat goes off to the inexperienced rider taking this challenge on. I've done this 13 times now and it's just plain tough no matter how you look at it. The hills start within the first miles and continue right on through mile 40. The first of the real tough hills is in the town of Charlton. This one gets to each and every rider. You pedal and pedal and it feels like you're riding up a wall at some points. Just when your legs feel as if they have given all you have, off in the distance, on a grassy hill in the mist, you hear the sound of bagpipes. There, dressed in full Scottish attire, is a cancer survivor playing his heart out encouraging you to pedal up that hill. The scene is hard to describe really to do it justice. This sound seems to energize you to push over the top. It's amazing.
The climbing continues with the occasional fast descent. These are tricky to navigate as the roads were quite wet. Several riders went down but thankfully there were no serious injuries.
Our group reassembles at the 20 mile water stop and we get back on the road as quick as possible. We are all managing to stay together. That is until the dreaded Purgatory Chasm climb that comes up on you quicker than you would like. The group all makes it up the Chasm to tackle the fast descent which takes packs of riders down a winding road at speeds over 50 mph. All that is but me. As I approached the summit of the Chasm my stomach begins to speak to me. Let's just say that it's less than happy. I feel as if I'm going to get sick. I immediately feel as if I have a high fever, get a bit disoriented, and before I knew it, I was alone. All the riders ahead of me are nowhere in sight. I manage to navigate down the Chasm keeping my speed under 45 so I can have some control. Once through this I am alone. Not a bike in sight for over 5 miles. Here I am feeling like I want to lay down and give up. I'm trying to figure out why my stomach would be so upset. Then it hit me. Remember Chez BK that I mentioned above? That has to be what did it to me and I curse the people that invented this greasy crap. However, it's my fault for eating it in the first place. Lesson learned.
I was literally feeling like I was going to drop out of the ride I felt so bad. Then one of my teammates showed up, saw I was in a little trouble, and said "get on my wheel, I'll pull you in". To the non-rider, this means get as close as possible to his rear wheel and draft off his bike to minimize my riding effort required to go faster. Thanks to Mark and later Doug (a friend) I made it into the second water stop at mile 40. There I was able to "exorcise the demons" so to speak and within minutes I felt great. I hooked up with my group again and off we went. This time, we were all together riding strong. We started a paceline here and kept it going the rest of the day. A paceline lets you ride significantly faster than you could alone. You ride in a very tight line where each bike if about 6-12 inches behind the one in front of them. The person in the front of the line is doing all the work and when done properly, the people in the line actually can go as fast as the lead rider with about 25-30 percent less effort. The lead rider stayed up front for 30-60 seconds at a time, moves out to the side and to the back of the line. This rotation continues and the miles literally fly by. It's quite a rush actually when done correct. We managed to cover the next leg of the ride at an average speed of between 22-25 mph which for us is phenomenal.
(Taunton lunch stop pictures above)
We pull into the lunch stop around 9:30, grab some food and plan to head back out within 15-20 minutes. The rain was just beginning to sprinkle. Just as we were getting ready to pull out and continue our journey a tandem (bicycle built for two) rides by with one rider on it. There was a picture of a young boy attached to the rear seat. The rider was "Mel Stoller" (see the following link for a story done on Mel by NECN). We all heard about Mel at the opening ceremonies the night before. He had planned to ride the PMC with his 15 year old cousin Steven this year. Steven died in January from brain cancer. It's almost impossible to describe the emotions that come over you when you see something like this. The weekend is filled with moments like this. You remember why you're out here and at moments like that you realize that no matter what the discomfort, it's nothing compared to that of one of the cancer patients you're riding for.
(The skies have opened up... Does someone have a towel?)
OK, so we're off after lunch and the skies open up. Lucky for me I remembered to take my rain jacket with me. It helped but let's face it, you still get soaked. There's no avoiding it. However, you know what? It was fun. We managed to keep our paceline going even through 40 plus miles of torrential rain. It gets challenging to stay behind a bike with the water, sand, and other road debris kicking off the tires as you go but you keep going. Somewhere "over the rainbow" we manage to emerge from the rain. We think this was in Rochester or Middleboro but as we rounded the corner we realized it was "Oz". As there, on the side of the road, was the "tin man" and the "cowardly lion". Yup, those of you that have read my report in years past realize that this was Evelyn and Brenda (Click the following link to see a video on them). These ladies are amazing. They are out there every year at the end of both days in the toughest part of the ride. The first day they always manage to come up with a new theme. The following picture gives you an idea of what we saw at that point.
(That's me with Evelyn and Brenda above)
We Left Oz and continued our journey to the MMA in Bourne (gee, I wish it were as easy as clicking our heals together three times and saying "there's no place like the massage tent".)
Our crew kicked up the pace with a vengeance knowing we were that close to finishing. By this point in the ride I'm usually in serious pain due to the dreaded "leg cramps" that inevitably plague me when I ride to hard to long. Not this year. For the first time in 6 years I think I managed to actually train right and was feeling stronger than ever. We rounded the corner in Wareham for the final 6 miles and I was leading the paceline and kept pulling them until we climbed the final hill in Onset leading back to Rte 28 and the MMA. This is when the "wheel suckers" stood up and sprinted ahead. I was bummed but amazed and impressed at the same time. We were all strong at the finish of day one and managed to pull into the MMA (Mass Maritime Academy) at 1:15pm. Not bad as our friend Dave wanted to get in by 1:00. This is a great finish time as less than 10% of the riders are in at this time. We all felt great.
(Tom, Tony, Dave, Bill, and Eric after arriving at MMA. Notice all the empty bike racks. Here's what they looked like a few hours later.)
Now that the bikes were put away for the day, it was time to take care of important business, making our massage appointments. Once the appointments have been made, it's off to our luxury dorm room accommodations where our luggage has already been delivered. It's off to the showers, clean clothes, and down to the quad by the ocean to enjoy an afternoon of socializing, eating, drinking, and listening to the bands. The afternoon was fantastic. Couldn't have asked for better weather.
A yearly ritual of the B-Czar B-Stees is dinner at the Beachmoor restaurant next to the MMA. The PMC puts on quite a feast at the MMA but nothing compared to the cuisine at the Beachmoor. We are literally treated like royalty there. The restaurant owner reserves a table for us every year and looks forward to our arrival. The staff all receive their tattoos which they proudly display for the other patrons. Dinner as usual was top notch. The guys that drink wine are treated to a few bottles of top shelf wine. The chef prepares special hors douvres for us at our request. The meals are absolutely incredible. Quite a step up from Chez BK the evening before :-)
Dinner lasted a couple of hours and was quite enjoyable. Full and completely content we posed for some pictures with the staff, said our good-byes, and returned to the MMA for a good night's sleep. Getting to sleep was not a problem after the day's ride, dinner, and drinks. We turned in by 9 as we would be getting another 4:15 am wakeup call (this would be my last early wakeup call for the foreseeable future).
Morning came quicker than anyone would have liked. We got up, dropped our luggage off at the trucks, grabbed some breakfast and got together with our riding group around 5:30. The morning was damp and foggy. We headed out before 6am. We could barely see the Bourne bridge until we were on the ramp leading up to it. However, once upon the bridge, memories came flooding in. This is the point where a picture of a friend no longer with us was prominently displayed in year's past. Todd Miller was one of the great ones. They called him the "route-meister" as he was always finding better and safer routes for the PMC to ride. I miss him. Climbing the bridge we could hear the sound of bagpipes. Sure enough, there he was. Playing his heart out as he had the day before to help push us over the top.
We head over the bridge and follow along the Cape Cod Canal. This is a real nice flat ride and great for warming up to the 20 miles of rolling hills to follow. Exiting the 5 mile path we wind up a hill leading to the access road that parallels route 6. Flat! Here goes my season first. Most of my group pulled over to wait while I changed my flat. I was back on the road within minutes. Within about another half a mile, FLAT, there goes Eric's tire. We stopped again, changed the tire and were back on our way again shortly. Hundreds of cyclists passed us during out pit stops. We thought we'd never regain our position. We did. Once we entered the access road we just flew. I think we passed all the riders (or at least most of them) we were traveling so fast. It was a rush. At one point we were pacelining up a hill. I looked down at my speedometer and was stunned to see us climbing at a 30 mph clip. Scary but once you get into the rhythm on this road you just fly. We covered the 20+ miles in no time and caught up to the rest of our group that we lost during the first pit stop. Unfortunately, we were going so fast that we didn't notice that we also dropped two of the guys in our group never to see them till we were in P-Town.
We Left water stop 1 in a line and before we knew it we were leading a paceline over 30 bikes long. The next 20 miles were covered in under an hour. We were feeling good. We got in and out of the second stop quickly and were on our way again. The pace continued. We pulled into the final water stop of the day greeted by a beach party theme. It's quite a scene. People with big colorful wigs, reggae music playing, and Gatorade being served in martini glasses.
(Bill and Doug enjoying a faux Martini at the final water stop on day 2)
They even had the little umbrellas. You gotta love this. This was it. The final 20 miles lay ahead and we'd be done. This final leg of the trip is also one of the tougher. Contrary to popular belief, the cape is not flat. Leaving the water stop is great. It's downhill. That soon ends and it's climbing time again. We hit the dreaded hill climb and look up and there they are. The worlds oldest cheerleaders (See Brenda and Evelyn above). They do help make the climb more enjoyable.
It's over the hill and we are dumped out onto Route 6 in Truro. This is it. It's down on the bars and we pedal as fast as we can trying to cover the final miles. Within a few miles we see the "Entering Provincetown" sign. This is quite a welcome sight. Anyone that knows the cape knows that this road would lead straight to the finish line at the P-Town inn. However, we don't go straight in. No... The PMC turns off route 6 and goes through the dunes at Race Point. Let me tell you, these hills seem to get bigger each year. This 5 mile stretch can really take a toll on most riders. I know, I've been there. Not this year though. We all just seemed to go faster when we hit it. All of us were feeling good. The four of us, Tom, Michael, Doug, and Bill that rode all day Sunday together crossed the finish line at 10:45am. We were psyched. Our goal was 10:30 so missing it by 15 minutes considering the flat tires was really great.
(Tom and Bill at the P-Town Inn after completing day 2)
Another PMC completed. This was by far my best ride in years. Now it was time to clean up and start to enjoy the day in P-Town. But wait, as I was walking my bike towards the P-Town Inn to the truck returning it to Wellesley, I see Mona and Dave. Mona works with my wife Nancy. They were both working the security at the Inn. It's always great to see some familiar faces and these two seemed to really be enjoying themselves. I hope to see them out there again next year.
The afternoon is spent eating, drinking, and telling war stories. We say our good-byes to our friends leaving for home before we head into town to catch the ferry that will take us home. This is the only way to head home from the PMC. I stopped in at the Governor Bradford to have a drink with some friends before heading to the ferry. This has become a tradition. We arrive at the ferry, take our place on the top deck where the band is setup, and settle into the party. It's not hard to do.
(Clockwise, Left to right. Dave, Bill Joe, Bill Tony, Debra)
Most people would expect the PMC riders to be ready to sit down and sleep after two days of grueling work. Nope. Not this group. We're not done yet.
This is one hearty group. The party continues for over 3 hours till the boat docks in Boston at the Black Falcon Terminal. The band keeps on playing even after the boat docks as the riders would have it no other way. It's quite a sight to see.
We disembark, say our good-byes, and head home having completed another Pan Mass Challenge.
I've talked alot about all the fun we have riding and partying all weekend long. This would not be possible if it weren't for the fantastic volunteer staff working the event. They make riding easy and enjoyable. We don't have to worry about anything but pedaling. They make sure we're fed, give us massages, bandage us up when we crash, fix our bikes if there's a problem, get our luggage from place to place, transport our bikes, lug the trash, you name it. They are an amazing crew and I couldn't thank them enough.
Thank you again for letting me ride for you and for sponsoring and supporting me in this event. If you couldn't tell, once again I had an absolute blast. Until next year...
- Bill Snapper -