Pan Mass Challenge 2008 – The Full Report

The 2008 Pan Mass Challenge took place on August 2nd and 3rd. This year marked my 20th year participating in the fund raising ride. I’m pleased to say that this year was a great year all around. It was sure nice to ride without injury this year. It certainly made preparing for and participating in the ride much more enjoyable.

My training started in earnest in April. I set a personal goal of having 2000 miles saddle time before rolling out of Sturbridge and I ended up with 2200+ miles. Much nicer than my 2007 ride with barely 850 but that was another year with lots of issues that were thankfully behind me.

August came up fast. I honestly don’t know where the time went. It seems to go by quicker each year.

Friday, August 1 was the day the weekend began. The bike was prepped, the gear was packed, and it was time to load the truck to begin the weekend journey. I headed out to Sturbridge with friends Mark Robart, David Winthrop, and Marc Mann. Marc chose to ride to Sturbridge in the van this year as opposed to cycling from the NY border as he’d done in years past. We got to Sturbridge by 2:00, grabbed some lunch, and checked into the hotel. Our massage therapist Jackie came out once again. This is one of those luxuries that just helps to make the day as well as the beginning of the ride the following day just that much nicer.

The afternoon was spent catching up with old friends. Always a great time. As I’ve said in years past this is like a family reunion with some of the best people I know. It’s just one of those feel good weekends from start to finish. The Sturbridge Host has vendors setup for those last minute purchases. Harpoon sets up to provide some of the necessary carbs needed for the next day’s ride. The beer goes nicely with the carb themed buffet setup by the lake behind the Host.

It was a beautiful sunny day in Sturbridge. Not to hot and no torrential downpours as past years had served up. Kind of made us wonder if this would hold out for the weekend. The spring and summer had been extremely stormy. We wondered if / when it would show up. But this is the PMC and we ride rain or shine so those thoughts were quickly put out of our heads. Why worry about what you can’t do anything about?

The day passed by in a flash and it was off to bed. Bikes were setup in the hotel room draped with clothes for the following day, drink mixes needed to take us till we hit the water stops, computers charged and mounted and we were as ready as we could be. Sleep came easy and the 4:15am wake-up call came much to soon. Up, showered, and it was time to get the bikes outside to the starting line. I’ve learned over the years that while you may drop your bike out there with a small few that you would come back after having breakfast to a sea of about 2000 bikes and finding your bike can be a challenge. Flashing lights on the bike made it much nicer to find. Any of you that have been to a party where they hand out those little novelty flashing lights probably thought they were “cute” and discarded them after the batteries died. Not me, I save them away in a bag of “PMC stuff” for this special time. Those cheap little novelty lights make it so easy to spot your ride. I need to thank the host of that Bat Mitzvah 🙂

Breakfast in Sturbridge
(Breakfast in Sturbridge)

Lined up and ready to roll off the starting line we eagerly await the start. This is not a race but you learn that the safest place to be is up front with the elite fast riders. It makes getting out of the starting gate much safer. It’s also pretty cool when you get out and have a motorcycle police escort. The roads belong to us thanks to the support of the Massachusetts State Police and local town police support we receive. You can’t imagine how nice it is to have that kind of support. Every intersection from Sturbridge to Bourne seems to have coverage and people there looking out for us so we can “just ride”.

Rolling out...
(Rolling out of Sturbridge.)
Here we go..

Here we go..
The early miles are supposed to be meant as “warm-up” miles. Well, with the adrenaline pumping these miles are very fast. I rode out with Dave, Marc, and Kevin, one of our teammates from Phoenix. Marc was feeling very strong and he quickly cranked it up and was determined to stay with the lead pack at a pace of around 25-30 mph. I followed him into this pack and quickly realized that I needed to back it down to a sane pace. We pulled into the first water stop averaging just over 20 mph and rejoined Marc. He had realized too that it was time to back down if we were to make it all the way to Bourne strong and without cramping or bonking out. One of our teammates that no longer rides the Pan Mass was there to cheer us on. We miss you Eric. Come back soon!

Eric and Paul
(Eric and Paul at the first water stop.)

Out of the first water stop in less than 5 minutes and on to Franklin, my team PHAT Tuesday’s home turf. This is where we ride out of for our weekly training rides. The miles pass quickly. Anticipation builds as we know that there will be huge support from our extended family and friends. We hit the driveway of the Remmington Jefferson school at 8:15, 44 miles into the day and were completely blown away. There were PHAT Tuesday signs everywhere. Starting on the road leading to the entrance and inside the driveway our supporters were lined up with signs cheering us on like royalty. Our current pedal partner Jake and his family were there with homemade signs. Our past partner Kira and her family were there. My wife and daughter and friends of ours were there working as volunteers. Words can’t describe just what a great feeling it was to pull in to that sort of a welcome.

(Andrea greeting us in Franklin.)
Jake and Brenna
(Bob Reed, Dave Eberhart, Brenna, and Jake in Franklin.)
Jake and Brenna
(Mark, Brenna, Jake, and Kira)
Jake, Brenna, Kira, Katana
(More of our PHAT Supporters in PHranklin)
As I said before, I like to get in and out of the water stops quickly. Franklin was no exception even with family and all my PHAT supporters. I made a stop to see my wife and daughter, said hello to some friends, filled up my bottles and hit the road. There are some that like to hang out and socialize but my legs turn to stone if I stay to long and getting going again is not much fun so on my way I go.

The miles past quickly as the next portion is through what we call “The PHAT Lands”, our training territory. One of the highlights is Cherry Street which comes up soon after leaving the Franklin water stop. The people of Cherry Street go all out. We make it a point to stop for a second for some photos with some of our weekly cheerleaders. They have the fresh water for us 🙂 The water at the Franklin stop is really not drinkable so it’s very welcome to get some clear, cold, crisp bottled water.

Cherry Street
(Welcome to Cherry Street!)
Cherry Street
(The band has been waiting for you…)
Cherry Street
(Cherry Street supporters are the best!)
Cherry Street
(Our regular Cherry Street supporters there with fresh water for us.)
The next stop is lunch. We pull into the lunch stop around 9:45. OK, so that’s a little early for lunch for most people but remember we ate breakfast at 5 and had already ridden about 70 miles. We were making great time. Lunch is the long stop of the day. We spent about 20 minutes here fueling up. It’s very tempting to stay around longer. The routes from Wellesley and Bourne merge here. Needless to say it was very crowded. It was good though as we met up with a teammate of ours that rode out of Wellesley. All headed out together to make the final 40 mile trek of the day.

(Bike parking at lunch. What, no valet?)
(Lunch in the tent.)
Next up on the trip is Lakeville water stop. This comes up quick and is the stop where the pedal partners are waiting to meet up with their teams. Our past pedal partner, Ethan, was there with his parents. Ethan and his parents were paired with another team this year but they’re members of our extended PHAT Phamily and we were happy to see them out there.

Ethan Rossi
(Our little buddy Ethan Rossi.)
In and out of Lakeville and off toward Bourne. It’s getting pretty warm and humid by now and I’m on a mission to get off the bike. We cover the next miles fast. All is looking really great for our 1:00 Mass Maritime arrival time. We’re really amazed how well we’re all riding and how well we were tracking to our goal. We pass through Wareham, into Onset and make the final turn on route 6, about a half a mile from the day’s finish when we hear “I have a flat”. Marc, Kevin, and I look back and sure enough David’s got a flat tire. It’s 12:55. Marc yells out “come on, you don’t weigh much, lean over the front wheel and ride it in.” Back comes the reply “I can’t”. I yell out “can’t you pick it up and run it in.” Again comes the reply “I can’t”. We look at each other and say “OK, let’s go help him.” We go back and fix his tire and are back on the road in minutes. We cross the finish line at just before 1:10. We’re very pleased with this time and rib David about how we almost made it.

PHATs arriving at MMA

(Dave, Kevin, Bill, Marc, and Donna arrive at the MMA!)

The sun was shining and it was a gorgeous afternoon at the Mass Maritime Academy. We parked our bikes and headed immediately to the massage reservation table to make sure we got our appointment. It’s one of the privileges of getting in early, an early massage. Then we head to our dorm room where our luggage has already been delivered. The shower feels incredible after the 6 plus hours of riding. Changed into clean dry clothes it’s down to the quad to consume whatever food we want. There’s quite a feast put on. Chicken, hamburgs, legal seafood clam chowder, salads, baked stuffed potatoes, pizza and more. I head to the pizza table where the well intentioned server said “would you like some veggie pizza?” My reply, “I just rode 110 miles, what’s the least healthy pizza you have?” She laughed and handed me a sausage and pepperoni calzone. Yummy… Downed that, then a couple slices, then a hamburg, and a cup of clam chowder. All before my massage appointment. And, I was still hungry.

Mmmm beer...
(Mmmmmm beer…)

The massage was fantastic. It’s only 15 minutes but there are two massage therapists per table so you get the equivalent of a 30 minute massage. It’s very welcome and appreciated.

All massaged and fed it’s time for a beer. Harpoon is setup serving their best, freshest draught beer. It goes down really fast. Tempting as it is to grab more I make a conscious effort to grab some water and juice to make sure I’m well rehydrated. The Sunday ride would not be pleasant if you don’t hydrate well after the day’s ride.

Len works the grill...
(My cousin Len working the grill and having a ball!)
Luxury MMA accommodations...
(Luxury accommodations secured by Dave. Nice job Dave!)
I stopped by and visited with my cousins Lenny and Elaine. They work the food tables at MMA Saturday afternoon and always seem to enjoy themselves. I know we enjoy having them there. The afternoon seems to pass in a flash. I never managed to grab the nap I wanted but I actually felt very good. Around 5:00 we moved our dorm room to some special luxury accommodations secured by one of our teammates. This was pretty nice considering the alternative. We were hanging out when we heard some serious thunder. It’s a good thing we were inside as a brutal storm came through and forced everyone to take cover. We were all hungry and didn’t feel like going outside to walk to the food tent. So what did we do? We called a friend that was staying nearby and ordered take out. He delivered pizzas and drinks to us at MMA. Yummy. I usually go over to the Beachmoor for my yearly dinner with my old team but I skipped it this year to lay on some ice. My back was not feeling well due to a strain and ice is the only thing that helps it out. If I hit it quickly I can avoid lots of pain. It was tough missing that dinner but I’ll go back next year.

Day 2 began at 4:15 am. Time to get up, get dressed, get the luggage to the trucks, and off to grab a quick breakfast before heading out for the final 80 mile journey. Breakfast consisted of “biker buns”, yummy. English muffins with egg, cheese, and bacon. I’ll take 2, plus a banana, some juice and off to meet the group.

The second day of the Pan Mass my team, PHAT Tuesday, rides as a team. It’s quite a site to see and a lot of fun working together. There are times we will get split up but we regroup at the water stops and then head out together. We leave the Mass Maritime Academy at 5:30 and head over the Bourne bridge. It’s such a luxury to have one entire lane to ourselves going over the bridge. It’s crowded with what seems like an endless stream of bikes but sure beats trying to share the road with cars. However, at 5:30 there aren’t many cars going on the road. The PHAT support started for us at the top of the bridge. One of our teammate’s family and friends are up there cheering and holding up signs for us. This still amazes me that people that don’t have to be up will be out there at that time of day. It propels you over the hill and gets you on your way.

Bourne Bridge
(Here we go. Up and over the Bourne bridge)
Bourne Bridge
(Bill going over the Bourne bridge. “Can anyone see up there?”)
Over the bridge and on to the canal path for about 5 miles makes for a really pleasant warmup. I kind of feel bad for the fisherman out there that were unaware of the Pan Mass coming through. The Pan Mass riders take up the entire path and are moving at a good pace. By the time we exit the canal path we’re warmed up and ready to crank. The canal leads us to the service road that parallels route 6. This is one of my personal favorite parts of the ride. The service road starts with a climb and then turns into some of the best rolling hills we’ll ride all day. Once you hit your stride you can crank through this section around 25 mph with what seems like very little effort. It’s just one of those things that amazes me as I ride that section other times of the year and it never seems as fast or as easy. Maybe we’re numb or maybe it’s the “PMC magic” I’ve spoken about over the years that pushes us to limits we dream of all year long.


The group splinters on the service road due to varied speeds but we all get back together at the first water stop in Barnstable. Once we’re back together, have our bottles filled, some peanut butter sandwiches, bananas, oranges, and some ibuprofen we’re on our way. The second leg of day 2 takes us from Barnstable to Nickerson State Park in Brewster. This will be one of the fastest sections of the day as it is very flat, one of the only flat sections of the cape. The miles pass by in a flash as we’re riding in a paceline averaging 25+ mph. Before we know it we start to see the signs for “Da Hedge”. “Da Hedge” is a stretch of road located at the Cape Cod Sea Camp where over 500 campers, counselors, and supporters are out there cheering us on. It’s very loud and very inspiring. The screams and cheers just about lift us off our bike saddles. It gives us that “turbo boost” to make it the next mile or so into the water stop at Nickerson.

Da Hedge
(Da kids of “Da Hedge” are the best!)
Da Hedge
(Look, by the hedge… Is it a bird? A plane? No it’s Super Camper!)
Nickerson is a very festive stop. It’s about 8am when we arrive and we’ve covered 40+ miles already. One of the highlights there are popsicles! You have no idea how good a frozen popsicle tastes when you’re that heated up. They go extremely well with peanut butter and jelly sandwiches too. From our diet you’d think we’re in kindergarten. I manage to give myself “brain freeze” when I ate a popsicle to fast. I didn’t care, I went for another one 🙂

Another highlight of the Nickerson stop is Jack. Remember Jack? He became famous to PMC riders way back when he first held up a sign that said “I’m 4 now thanks to you!”. Well Jack is now 12 and still very appreciative. He’s planning on riding in 3 years when he’s old enough. He’s a great kid and living testimony to why we ride.

(Our hero Jack. He’s touched us all and we can’t wait for him to ride!)
Out of Nickerson and on to Wellfleet, the final water stop of the day. Here we go! This next section is very fun and takes us through some really great roads and beautiful scenery. These miles seem to pass even faster which makes no sense. We should be getting tired but for some reason it’s not hitting us. We climb the road in Wellfleet by the Beachcomber Restaurant along the coast. It’s amazing. We feel the cool, crisp air immediately when we turn on to this road. It’s like walking into a cooler and very refreshing. The road is hilly with wind but we enjoy every minute of it. We exit that road and turn the corner toward the water stop and the heat hits us smack in the face. What a huge difference several hundred feet make. On we push up the hills to the third and final water stop of the day. The Wellfleet stop is famous for its festive party theme. The mocktails are gatorade. The couches are made from bags of ice. Music is cranking and as much as you want to stay and drink it all in we have to go.

Welcome to Wellfleet...
(Welcome to Wellfleet!)
Ice Couch...
(Paul is loving the ice couch… “I’m not leaving here…”

Off we head to the final destination, Provincetown! We wind through Wellfleet and Truro. Out onto route 6 we head for miles. The winds coming at us blowing sand make it even tougher but we keep on pedaling. Up ahead we see the sign, “Entering Provincetown”. Cheers and screams erupt from the group as we know we’re close to completing our long 190 mile journey. We turn off route 6 and enter “race point” and pull over to the side of the road to regroup for a team photo before riding the final 5 miles to the finish line. This ends up being a 25 minute stop waiting for all to get back together.

PHATs at race point...
(PHAT Tuesday team photo entering race point)
Once we all were there we headed out for the final tough miles of the day. Race point starts with a fairly decent climb. This is pretty tough anyway but after stopping for the pictures my legs felt like they were turning to stone. I was up in front of the pack climbing the first hill and just kept turning the cranks. Top of the hill we turn left and drop into the race point rollers. I don’t know what it was but something came over me. All of a sudden I had this enormous burst of energy and I let out a scream and jumped on the pedals and was up to 30 mph before I knew it… going up the next hill. Dave was on my rear wheel and I looked back and asked “you want to wait for the rest or just crank on?” He replied “what do you want?” I said “here we go, no waiting for me I just want to finish the day and get off the bike.” Off we cranked. The final miles passed by in a flash. We saw the finish line up ahead. The volunteers were yelling for us to slow down. Nope, I was not slowing till I got to the finish. We hit the finish line around 25 mph and I hit the brakes and skidded to a stop. I felt like I was possessed. It felt so good to get in and off the bike.

Heading into race point...
(Here we go. Final miles into the finish. Who put these hills in P-Town?)
Where is Bill and Dave?
Anyone seen Bill and Dave?

PHATs crossing the finish.
(The Phinish line… Yeah!)
In hindsight I wish I had stopped and waited for the team so we could all cross together. We had come almost 75 miles that day as a group. Whatever the case that’s over and it was time to hit the inn for a nice hot shower. Cleaned and in street clothes it was time to get some food and a celebratory dry martini. Off to my massage and boy did I feel good. I had completed my 20th Pan Mass Challenge. The feeling was like any other but this year was very special. It was a huge milestone for me. I was not injured which was a great change from years past. Personally I had just finished close to 4000 miles of Pan Mass riding and I was proud of that.

We spent the afternoon around the Provincetown Inn eating and drinking. And I did eat at least one of everything. Hamburg, chicken, tuna roll-up, sausage sub, cookies, cake, beer, and chips. All of this and I was still hungry 🙂 No worries, I stopped for pizza on the way into town and to the ferry. Now I was close to feeling full.

The ferry took off at 3:30 and the closing party began. It was a beautiful day for the boat ride home. There were a couple storms that we went through but they passed quickly. I’d much rather get rained on while on the boat than while on the bike. It didn’t seem to slow down the party much. We just moved below deck to stay dry (well, some of us anyway) and enjoyed the afternoon.

Back in Boston we’re greeted like returning heroes. It’s quite humbling and amazing. The harbor master greeted us out in the open water with a Pan Mass jersey from years ago hanging on the back of the boat. He was circling the ferry and sounding his horn. The boston fire boat greeted us as usual with the water cannon salute. That never gets old.

Here we come home....

Here we come home....

We say our goodbyes, find our luggage, and leave Boston for our homes. Another Pan Mass concludes and it was a great one. All the training miles, the miles ridden over the course of the weekend and it seems like it’s over in an instant. Once again it was a phenomenal time and I can’t wait to ride number 21 next year!

Thanks for allowing me to ride on your behalf. As always it was an honor and a privilege.

Till 2009, adieu.

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