2022 Pan Mass Challenge – Long Version

The 2022 PMC took place on August 6 and 7 and it was the hottest in my 34 years riding it. It was great to be back to a normal PMC after 2020 and 2021 being anything but due to Covid.

My weekend started Friday morning, waking up to what I feared, a forecast of extreme heat and humidity. Anyone that’s followed me over the years knows that these conditions are my kryptonite. Living on the cape we rarely have high heat and humidity to train in. Even if you’re acclimated to the heat it can be challenging, especially over long distance. Day 1 for me was going to be 110 miles with a lot of climbing and I seriously considered changing my route to the shorter, flatter, 86 miles out of Wellesley. I’d done it 31 times before. I knew what I was in for. I decided to just go for it but to put a ride strategy in place that made sure we had the best chance of completing the entire distance. This meant dialing back our speed and not going flat out at a race pace as I’d been known to do. I set a goal of an average speed of 17mph for the day, about 6.5 hours in the saddle of riding time.

I met up with Eric in Natick and drove out to Sturbridge to begin the weekend. We got out there, checked into the hotel and walked over to BT’s BBQ for lunch. If you are a BBQ fan I strongly suggest taking a trip to Sturbridge, you won’t be disappointed. It’s a no frills place but their brisket, ribs, and pulled pork are incredible.

The afternoon was spent catching up with old friends, some of whom I hadn’t seen since 2019. It’s like a big family reunion. The hours flew by, we attended the opening ceremonies, prepped our bikes and supplies for the next day and were off to sleep by 9 as wakeup call would be 3:45. It’s never easy sleeping the night before the event with all the anticipation. I think I might’ve got 4 hours total. Before we knew it the alarm was going off. We rushed to get our bikes out to the starting line as I like to start up front. It’s a lot safer and easier than being behind thousands of bikes. For the first time in my 34 starts we were in the front row! We left the bikes and grabbed some breakfast, packed our bags and put them on the truck heading for MMA.

The starting line seemed smaller for some reason. Just felt like there were much fewer people than in years past. Regardless, we waited with everyone until the national anthem was sung and we were off.

Nothing like rolling out of the start en masse. Motorcycle police escorts, everyone with fresh legs, the air was crisp and the sun was just starting to come up. It was humid but we didn’t feel it while we were rolling. We covered the miles through the first 45 miles of hill quickly. It was really nice pulling into the second stop in Franklin at mile 45 with a pace of 18.2mph. This was a little faster than planned but it felt comfortable. I’ve gotten to this point averaging 21+ and knew that I’d pay for it down the road because I know how much energy I had expended and how my body will behave. You get to realize your limits so that’s a huge reason for us dialing in a reasonable pace with a goal of 17mph overall for the day.

Nancy, Nicole, and Meaghan volunteer at the Franklin stop. Nancy and Nicole have been doing this for 20 years. They’re up early and work hard. This year they endured the heat like we all did. A big thank you to them and the other 2700 volunteers that work over the weekend. We can’t do what we do without them.

We got back on the road quick and were on our way to the lunch stop at mile 70. The miles flew by. We had cut our pace back a little as it was starting to get hot. We pulled into the stop with an average of 17.8 overall for the day. We kept to our plan for short breaks and were back on the road 15 minutes later. It was only 14 miles to the next stop but we felt as if we’d ridden into a furnace when we got back on the road after 70 miles. We got to the following stop and I was starting to feel it. Slightly disoriented and fatigued but that’s the toll the heat was taking on me. We filled our bottles and downed some extra water while there. I was going through a full 24 ounce bottle of water with electrolytes between each stop as well as another 12 oz or more of pure water. this was barely enough but you have to be careful to not overdrink as well. Watermelon was also great at each stop in addition to other fruit and my PMC favorite, fluffernutters!

Once again we were on our way out of the stop and our way to the last stop at mile 100. At mile 90 my legs started to cramp. This was not fun. I downed a Hot Shot on the side of the road and this helped to quiet them down letting me make it to the last stop of the day before the final 10 mile push to the finish. I refilled my bottles and downed a big glass of pickle juice, yes, pickle juice, and was heading out when I ran into an old friend and teammate from my prior team. Also ran into my buddy Jen so we stopped to say hello, catch up a bit, and rolled out on our final leg of the day towards MMA.

Off we went. We made it about 4 miles when cramps hit Tony’s legs. Eric yelled out to me to stop and we did and waited while he worked it out. Back on our way with 6 miles to go and feeling good. A couple miles later Eric yelled out to me that Tony was not with us. We assumed the cramps returned and since we were so close to the finish I told him that we should just continue on and stop before the finish line to wait for him so we could all cross together. We waited a few minutes and sure enough there he was. He was grateful we did and we all rolled across the day 1 finish line together as well as some of our other teammates that came in at the same time. Day 1 was done!!! Hands down the hottest I’d ever ridden in. We crossed the finish line with an average speed of 17.0mph, my exact upper goal for the day.

We showered up and spent a couple hours at MMA eating, drinking, relaxing, and enjoying the day. My cousin Elaine volunteers serving up pizza and I made sure to visit with her. Of course I had to have a couple slices. I had 6 and was still hungry but wanted to be careful not to overdo it.

The team grouped up for our photo and we headed back to my house for the night for a great meal and a walk on the beach. We had plans for a swim or possibly to go out on the boat for a sunset cruise but reality had other plans as we were all drained from the heat of the ride.

Up at 3am to get ready to head to MMA at 4:15 for a 5:15 wheels up time. Everything went well regarding timing. We rolled out of MMA exactly at 5:15 as planned. It’s a slow roll to wake up the legs. We entered the ramp leading up to the bridge and I went to downshift and my chain dropped. This hadn’t happened to me in years. Of course it happens when we’re inside a blocked off lane with hundreds of cyclists of varying abilities. No biggie, I pulled off the road and Eric and Tony stayed with me. I was able to repair this once I realized how the chain was wedged. Once back on the bridge, not an easy feat, we rolled over and into the lot to take us to the bike path along the Cape Cod Canal. I was blown away to see that the entire team stopped and waited for the 3 of us. All thanks to Captain Tim Brightman and greatly appreciated as we assumed we’d be riding the first leg alone.

The white list on my back was a list of names people asked me to carry with me on my ride. They were my inspiration both days when times got tough. The 6 miles along the canal flew by and we would our way to the service road, aka, The Rollers. That’s one of my favorite sections of the ride. It’s miles of rolling hills that parallel the main highway. Once you hit your groove you can just fly on this section and fly I did. The team pace line broke up here and we would regroup at the first water stop in Barnstable.

Regrouped and fueled at the stop, we headed back out for the second leg of the day that takes us to Nickerson State Park in Brewster. It’s a really fun water stop. Very festive with music cranking. We were all pretty heated up by this time as we’d been pushing pretty hard in pacelines. My line averaged over 20mph on this section. The favorite food at this stop, popsicles! I ate two very fast and they were so good but also gave me brain freeze, I loved it, I did also push down a glass of pickle juice as a preemptive strike against potential cramps due to the humidity and exertion level. Once again this was a quick stop where we grouped up and rolled out.

The next section takes us along the Cape Cod Rail Trail for a ways as well as into Wellfleet along the coast, just beautiful scenery. The miles just seemed to fly by. It really helps when you’re riding with a fun group chatting the whole way. The water stop is at mile 58 in Wellfleet, 19 more to go…

After cooling down on the Ice Couch we saddle up for the final 19 mile push into the Provincetown finish line. This section takes us through some very scenic and hilly roads in Truro. We turned onto one road and there written in chalk was “Go Snapper 2” courtesy of our friend Andrea. We exit the dunes and hills of Truro and are put onto route 6 for 10 miles. This is the main highway going to Provincetown. Cars are flying past us at 70+ mph. It can be a bit unnerving but thankfully there were no incidents. And also thankfully that this year we didn’t have grueling headwinds as we’ve had in year’s past. Our teammate Tom pulled our line almost the entire 10 miles at a nice pace. Well, all good things must come to an end. We turn off route 6 and into Race Point. This is where we pull over and wait for those that fell behind with the goal of reassembling the team so we can all ride across the finish line together.

This wait is tough for me. At this point we’ve got 5 miles of hills ahead of us before the final mile or so to the finish line. Waiting is not what you want to do. Your legs are fatigued from the 2 days in the saddle and you run the risk of stiffening up before the final push. This wait was somewhere over 25 minutes and we finally decided that it was time to go and we’d wait for the stragglers at the final half mile into the finish line.

We reassemble and off we go to finish as a team. It’s the right thing to do but it’s not easy this late in the ride. All you want to do at this point is get out of the cycling clothes, take a shower, and get into some clean clothes. We crossed the finish line just after 11am after 4.5 hours of riding with a pace of 17.2mph for the day. Not bad considering we managed to keep most of the team together over the 77 miles on Day 2.

Day 2 is done and the 2022 PMC ride is in the books. It was one hell of a ride. We had the grueling heat of Day 1 over the 110 miles and thankfully a much cooler ride on Day 2 across Cape Cod. The heat did manage to turn on when we hit Provincetown but at that point we’re just going as hard as we can as we can smell the barn and we were ready to be done!

Nancy and Meaghan got to see me and Eric cross the finish line. We were done with the 2022 PMC. It was a phenomenal year on so many levels and I couldn’t be more grateful to be able to ride it the way we did.

I’d like to thank all of your for your support. As always, it’s been a privilege training, fundraising, and riding on your behalf.

Till my 35th PMC on August 5, 2023…

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