Riding Across Italy to Cure Cancer
On Sunday, I completed a 342 mile, 7-day bike ride across Italy. I had two simple goals: to raise money for the Dana Farber Cancer Institute’s Jimmy Fund and to survive. Thanks to the help of many caring donors, I raised $6,400 for cancer research and care this year (so far). Since you’re reading this, I obviously achieved my second goal as well. The ride is an official route of the Pan-Mass Challenge, an annual ride across Massachusetts (yeah, sort of a PIC – Pan Italian Challenge – instead of PMC) established 30 years ago to raise money for Dana Farber.
The ride was orchestrated by the terrific Ciclismo Classico that put together a special PMC version of their their standard ride across Italy tour – combining their final four days into just two. We started our journey in Fano, on the Adriatic and ended near Monte Argentario on the Mediterranean. We had two incredible guides (Massimo and Marcello – how perfect is that?) who kept our minds off the gallons of lactic acid flooding our legs, climbing loads of steep grades in 100 degree heat while crossing the country.
The first day of the ride was really just a warm up to test out bike fit – a short loop around Fano. The four subsequent days were made up of what would seem to be reasonable rides – 40 to 50 miles. The last two days were setup to mimic the PMC. Long rides both days, about 80 miles each. All doable distances of course, aside from the fact that there were loads of really steep hills including the Apennine mountain range that added to the challenge. We climbed roughly 25,000 feet over the 6 days of regular riding (not including the short loop on the first day). According to my bike computer, I burned something like 22,000 calories during the week. The food was so good though, I think I consumed about 35,000 calories (OK, I admit that more than a few of those calories came in liquid form).
In retrospect, while there were a lot of hills, some of them pretty steep, they weren’t the biggest part of the challenge. The heat was. Man, was it hot – che caldo! Italian roads seem to be missing any shady spots, too. So almost all of the climbing was done in direct sun and a lot of it in the middle of the day.
We stopped in terrific cities and towns and generally had a chance to spend an hour or two when our legs permitted to check out where the day’s ride ended. Gubbio, Spello, Assisi, Urbino, Orvieto and loads of small towns in between. Simply gorgeous places. Man, the Romans built a lot of stuff.
Anytime one is thinking about crossing Italy, one has to consider the Apennines, the spinal column of the country. It’s a mountain range that runs north to south and is sorta in the way if you’re looking for an easy way across. I think our route was along about the lowest altitude path available. Not quite as flat as a billiard table, but no shear, vertical mountain faces or anything like that.
This was my sixth PMC. Those of you who know me, know that I’m a data junkie and collect as much data about my rides as possible. Here’s this year’s data, a lot different from my previous Massachusetts-based PMC rides:
|Money Raised||$6,400 (so far)|
|Altitude Gained||25,000 ft|
|Average Speed||13.9 mph|
Cancer has had a bigger impact on me this year than it has at any time in my life. My Aunt died of lung cancer earlier in the year and my mother, who is a cancer survivor, is very ill right now. All this made it even more appropriate, in a strange way, for me to have to work my ass off in this charity event. In a funny way, this ride was one of the most rewarding experiences of my life.
Thanks so much to all my sponsors and supporters and to everyone on Twitter and Facebook who checked in with encouraging messages.
Oh yeah, pictures. I almost forgot. Most of them can be found here. More coming later.