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August 14, 2008

Another wonderful ride for a good cause -- 2008 Pan Mass Challenge wrap-up

About two weeks after the Pan Mass Challenge, I feel reintegrated into the rest of my life, and no longer part of a 10,000-person village on wheels.  (The PMC is the annual two-day bicycle fundraiser for Boston's Dana Farber Cancer Institute's Jimmy Fund.)  Monday morning after the ride, I was sitting in front of my computer, but my head was still out on the road.

In my neck of the woods, if it's the first weekend in August, it must be the Pan Mass Challenge.  Two days, 5300 riders, 2500 volunteers, thousands of supporters, 192 miles.  Since I carried a rain jacket in my bike jersey pocket, we didn't get caught in any rain; the rain waited until after the biking was over each day.  Late Saturday afternoon, once we had arrived at the Mass Maritime Academy -- where later we had our massages, dinner, and slept until reveille at 4 a.m. -- the wind whipped up the 4000-person food tent into such a fury that a giant pole came loose and crashed down on one of the serving tables -- luckily, no one was hurt.  Sunday afternoon brought some weather, too.  (The PMC's photo highlights linked to below include a few dramatic rainbow shots from the ferry back to Boston from the Provincetown finish.)

I rode at my fastest pace of the whole season (not too-too fast; just fast for me), thanks to the adrenaline rush of riding with so many other riders, and being cheered on by so many well-wishers, and overall I felt really great about the ride. (Of course I couldn't climb stairs very well on Monday or Tuesday.)

The well-wishers were out all day -- the Sturbridge High School cheerleaders out at breakfast and at the start before 6 a.m. Saturday, bubble-blowers along the first hill before 6:30, the annual block party as we ride down Cherry Street in Wrentham -- complete with teenage rock band on the front lawn at 9:00 a.m, the "over-the-hill cheerleaders" at the last big hill on the Cape.  

As usual, the water stops were staffed by enthusiastic volunteers. The theme at the Nickerson State Park water stop on the Cape was "PB&J Ranch" -- as we rode in, we passed bales of hay and wagon wheels, tables were covered with red and white checked tablecloths, volunteers were wearing straw cowboy hats and bandannas and carrying around platters of PB&J sandwiches, one water bottle filling station was a prairie schooner, and they had giant plastic sheets with images of outhouse doors plastered onto the port-a-potties' doors.  One other feature of that water stop, independent of the theme, is washcloths soaked in ice water, which feel good on the head and neck.  Oh -- and many of the water stops were stocked with wiffle ball bats, to use in stirring huge vats of Gatorade.  You can see the prairie schooner and get a visual sense of the event-- and even catch some elusive photos of me in spandex -- in my PMC photo album.  Also please check out the PMC's own photo highlights, and the video montage of the PMC weekend

I relaxed, of course, on the ever-popular ice couch at the last water stop, in Wellfleet -- this year the theme there was disco, and volunteers were wearing mini mirrored balls around their necks.  (The ice couch is an oversized couch-shaped object made up of many bags of ice and covered with leopard-skin-patterned throws.)

There was the usual smattering of bagpipers, including one in full dress regalia at the middle of the Bourne Bridge at 6 a.m. Sunday.  There was also a group of young girls wearing togas on the Cape end of the bridge.  I think it was because it's the "Pan" Mass Challenge.  Get it?  Pan?

The riding, the well-wishers along the route,the feeling of being part of a village on wheels, and the sense of being part of something larger than all of us, all added up to an incredible weekend experience. 

Thanks to everyone who has helped me personally with the ride and the fundraising this year, and each of the past years I've done this.  In particular, thanks are due to my wife, Heather, the self-described "bike widow," and to my riding partner, Hillel, who got me into this crazy subculture about five years ago. 

For those who haven't done so yet, please click here and join me by donating to the Jimmy Fund on line.  The PMC motto is "Let's Make Cancer History."  Each year, we raise money to help the researchers and clinicians at Dana Farber work to do just that.  We are well on our way to meeting this year's $34 million fundraising goal, so help push us over the top.

-- David Harlow 

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