It’s hard to explain why the people who participate in the Pan-Mass Challenge as riders and volunteers make such a big deal of it. For my part, I make it the center of my summer activities and the almost singular goal of my cycling training efforts for the seven months before the event. Like the others involved, I talk about it frequently and nag my friends about donating to the cause – fighting cancer. I think about it a lot.
The focus may all seem nutty if you don’t see it for yourself. The thousands of people riding (5,200) and the thousands more (3,000) supporting the ride; the people cheering on the sides of the road through every small town the riders travel; riders with the names and pictures of their family members killed by cancer on their backs and bikes; tractor trailers worth of food and goods donated by stores to support everyone involved; the woman on the side of the road holding a sign that says, “I’m a cancer survivor because of you.” It’s so impactful and meaningful that being part of it becomes a drug. Maybe even a way of life.
I guess that’s why I’m crushed that because of my previous knee injury, I couldn’t do day two of the ride (Bourne, MA to Provincetown, MA). A combination of obligation, guilt, desire and a deep down need for the endorphin rush I get from the athletic accomplishment all combine to make me miserable about not finishing what I started.
Fortunately, my knee held out for most of the first day, which I finished stronger than I expected to, although way off my personal best for the ride. The last 20 miles got tough. My right knee gave out and I had to pedal almost exclusively with my left leg which, like most of the left side of my body, has been ignored for most of its life – I’m very right-sided. This is hardly heroic. There are a few PMC riders who don’t even have two legs. I saw one rider with a prosthetic leg (from close to the hip) and another riding with one leg without a prosthesis. Those guys are heroic . . and insanely strong.
The other heroes are those that donate to the cause. For my part, that’s those of you who donated to and supported me on my ride. This year, my supporters donated $8,950 (so far) to the fight, the most I’ve raised in any of the seven years I’ve ridden. To all of you, my apologies for not holding up my end. My heart was in it, but my body couldn’t back it up. I let you all down, though, and I feel terrible about that.
My family stepped up to fill in some of the hole I left by not riding on day 2, each of them volunteering for the event. My wife has volunteered for years, but this year even my kids got out of bed at 5:00am to participate. It was a real family effort.
For the first five years I rode in the PMC, my life was hardly touched by cancer. Since then, we’ve lost my mom (a multi-occurrence cancer survivor), my aunt Gerry (lung cancer) and my wife’s aunt, Bev (stomach cancer). Additionally, a very close friend who I have known most of my life was diagnosed with multiple myeloma, almost being caught too late. Scary, scary stuff.
Thanks you so much for your donation and support. As soon as I get my Steve Austin bionic knee replacement, I’ll be back in the saddle and prepping for next year’s PMC.