Thursday, August 18, 2011

Pan Mass Challenge - RECAP

Well, I finished my first PMC ride where only 30% were female riders!  2 days of riding, 192 miles, ~16 hours in the saddle, almost 16K calories burned, and almost $7,000 raised for the Dana Farber Cancer Institute!   It was definitely and experience, but not the one I expected! 

I joined the team Phils Phriends, a great group of folks that offered some comfort and support during the weekend.  I'm thankful for them for keeping me sane!  We met up on Friday night for opening ceremonies.  There is a huge dinner and lots of excitement about the upcoming weekend.  Then we all herded into a large room (and overflow went outside for a simulcast) to listen to Billy Star, Lance Armstrong and others speak.  In the beginning, they played this video.  How do you not get the emotion of the day from this??

PMC 2011 Deputy Video from David Hellman on Vimeo.

We got to hear Lance Armstrong speak, I wish I could have met him..maybe next time! There are stories, as you can imagine.  Everyone is riding for someone, sometimes even as a survivor.  Those are the most awesome riders!
A man spoke, his son had a rare form of cancer, less than ~30 in the country.  He was given a prognosis of weeks.  His emotional story ended with "I am so proud to introduce to you, my son.. " who proceeded to ride his bike up the middle isle through all of us!  I'll probably say this 14x during this blog post, but this is why we ride! To have amazing successes like this!  To think that a little peddling and some begging for donations could give a boy a chance to ride his bike down the isle! 

I left Friday night ceremonies, very emotional and excited to embark on the next day's ride!  2 of my teammates spent the night with me. I'm lucky and live near the start so I didn't have to trudge to a hotel!  I was more than freaked out at what I would forget!  I'm glad I had my teammates there to help me, and my forgotten items were few. I forgot a brush and SHEETS for Sat night! 

I have such a small bike and finding realestate on it for my needs for a long ride were pretty tough!  I have to carry my own fuel as I'm allergic to some things, medications, and of course my gadgets!  Thanks to Abby's dad I had a 'spot' GPS, so my friends and family could track me. And I had a helmet cam, which required me to carry additional batteries and cards.  (I will eventually edit the video and post it here). 

I was so excited and could not sleep, when I finally DID fall asleep I felt a migraine coming on.  YUP, can you believe it? I actually talked to it and swore at it, saying "F.. you can't have me this weekend, F-U Ehlers Danlos Syndrom, see me next weekend, ok?"  I've done plenty of races with a migraine, but I wanted to ENJOY this one! 

With about 4 hours of sleep, the alarm went off at 3:30AM!  I woke and took some medication and hoped for the best. I made sure I had enough meds packed into my bento box and just left it at that.

We arrived in the dark and many people were already there!  You line up in a parking lot, and people just lay their bikes down!  Now I have a speedfill hydration system on my bike so if I just laid it down, my electrolited water would have spilled out.  Phils Phriends lined up on the side and luckily I had a tree!

We then stood in line for breakfast.  I normally have a english muffin and peanut butter before working out.  They only had bagels and as I've said before, don't anything new on race day, so I didn't!  I had a banana, a little pastry and a coffee cup lid full of peanut butter.  The odd thing was no one even looked at that twice!  There is just a sea of bikers everywhere!  When you stop to think about it, its crazy, all of us here to do the same thing!  Amazing! 

Next thing I knew we were ready to go (man that hour went FAST)!  There was yet another emotional moment for me, the National Anthem.  Regardless of the situation, I always get emotional when at sporting events when they play the National Anthem.  Today was no different.

This giant sea of people half 'walk' half 'ride their bikes through the hotel exit.  If you think the peleton in the Tour de France looks crazy, this was just insane!  Thousands of bikers all in the same spot!  It was about 100 yards before I could clip in and start peddling.  As you leave the Sturbridge cheerleaders are up and at em, and the street is just LINED with people ready to watch this awesome event!

We rounded the bend and off to route 20.  A road I would NEVER ride on unless I was accompanied by such a crowd :).  Immediately I hit a bump and lost one of my water bottles!  OF COURSE it had to be the water bottle that I was using as storage, so I had to go back and get it!  That was fun!

From here everyone was finding their groove.  I was doing ok in this part because it was flat. Once we hit the first hill, I was done keeping up with everyone.  I can fly on rollers but if I have to climb, I'm stuck!  I also can't really ride in a paceline because I have aerobars (it's dangerous).  With my EDS, if I tried to ride a regular road bike, my shoulders would be around front or something by mile 30!  The aerobars make me able to ride, I just have to ride harder!

The first hill (which was the steepest) wasn't as bad as I expected.  Luckily I train on hills (even though I'm not fast) so this was ok!  Looking around, especially on the hills, there were people THANKING us.  "thank you for riding."  Little kids holding out their hand for you to slap them five!  And many, many signs that said "I'm [X-age] because of you."  Seeing those kids is very inspiring, and makes you keep peddling!   One person even said "kick ass for Abby, do you want a push?" They offered to PUSH me up the hill!

By the first water stop, most people had passed me and they were starting to 'clean up' already!  I stopped and talked to this volunteer who wanted to know about Abby.  All you want to do is talk to everyone, but you have a job to do! - keep peddling! 

Before the next water stop I saw one of my teammates on the side of the road with a leg cramp.  I stopped and gave him some packets of biofreeze (a MUST in a ride like this).  This did the trick and we were off!  YEA I had someone to ride with!  We were Phils Phriends Caboose!
We rode the whole way to Bourne together.  It was nice to have someone to share my first centry with, and to cross the finish line with - Thanks Rick!   We peddled and peddled, at the back of the ride!

What I didn't expect is that the ride would 'wrap up' before we all made it!  By mile 50 or so, the police had gone home (or weren't paying attention).  So we had to clip out and stop at all stop signs/red lights because there was no support.  This just made us slower! 

Then we got to the lunch rest stop, most of it was broken down, AND there was no water!  They had dumped it out!  Rick and I weren't the LAST riders there were at least 20 other people 'around' us, and we heard that some folks were way behind us at this point.   I started to get frustrated and disillusioned at this point.  I thought of Billy Star's speeches where he said that 'people even take 12 hrs to finish.' To me, I expected to have at least water and the police at intersections, we weren't going THAT slow.

But take it as it is, and we were off!  The spectators did not falter.  People stuck around for us at the end, there were families sitting in lawn chairs in their ROBES.  Kids still out to cheer each of us on.  Even a man on this pretty long hill who just waited for each rider to 'take us up.' (let us draft from him).  I wonder how many times he did that climb?  We got to the notorious "Cherry Street" and everything was gone. Rick told me that it's usual hopping.. all I saw was remnants of the party. 

I found that I LOVE long distances, but have a 'wall' around 80 miles.  80-90 were probably the hardest for me. They seemed to take FOREVER!   We landed in the last water stop, and knew the finish was just around the corner.  We took off and tried to end the day on a high note!  We pulled into Bourne and most people were gone, no cheering, just a couple of volunteers to 'scan' us in.  The photo people were gone, and it was a relative ghost town right at the finish (compared to what I've seen in other people's pictures).  Another teammate came to get me and helped me find the bike rack and my room! 

What I was most disappointed in, is the fact that they close up the FOOD before all the riders have completed the day.  I mean, if you ride 110 miles and expect to ride another 82 the next day- you need DINNER!  One woman told me "there are some potatoes over there"  (POTATOES?).  I was literally in tears wondering how I could do the next day's ride without any protein.  AND I wasn't about to eat another GU.  Then this WONDERFUL volunteer thanked me for riding and said "if I can get a grill hooked back up I will make you a hamburger."  GOD LOVE THAT MAN!  Another volunteer saw the issue and went into the truck and brought me some corn on the cob out!  The volunteers are AMAZING!  I hope that next year they save some plates for the 'end of the pack.'

We stayed at the Mass Maritime Academy, I was in one of the dorms.  Another teammate was stuck with 3 guys and my room appeared to be a threesome so we moved her into my room.  That ended up being a highlight of the day.  At night we giggled like 4 schoolgirls.  We even got "shusshed" by our neighbors, that only exacerbated the giggling!   It didn't matter that I forgot sheets. I slept with a tiny blanket and my pillow was a clean pair of riding shorts! 

Again that 3:30AM wake up, but Sunday it was to an absolute DOWNPOUR!  This pic was taken later in the day but it's about what the AM looked like.
Everyone was texting each other and trying to decide IF they would do the ride or not. To me, there was no question. I don't give up.  Migraine, weather, who cares!  I'm here to do a job!  I said to one other teammate "I'm doing this no questions" - her reply "Yup me too." We all trudged to breakfast and as the sun came up, the weather started to clear a bit.  We all got a later start than we would have liked, but it was not pouring on us! 

The day started out better.  No headache, I had food, no rain! WHOOHOO.. here we go!  The Bourne Bridge was a bear for me. This is from the car, but you can see the incline.  BUT, behold the other side is DOWNHILL!

My team waited for me on the other side of the bridge.  I tried to tell them I'm too slow but they were awesome and waited anyway.  We got to the canal bike path- that was pretty fun for me.  I was cruising at double my speeds from the day before!  My team waited for me again at the first water stop.  I knew this wouldn't last .. I really would like to be faster!  I hope training and EDS lets me!  The first two waterstops of the day were as I had EXPECTED.  Lots of people, lots going on!  I had to get some of the crud out of my gears and brakes so I stayed behind the team when they took off this time.

I stopped to reflect on this sign:  Apparently this boy would stand at this waterstop every year with a large sign over his head "I'm 12 because of you, I'm 13 because of you, etc"- THIS year he was able to RIDE in the PMC!  What an accomplishment!

I left that water stop with a little hope.  I thought "I'm not at THE END, people are still around today!" Day 2 was shaping up to be a little better!  John snapped this picture at one of the water stops.  I fully plan on donating that braid to locks of love in the spring.  So far I think it will be 15-20 inches by then!  Maybe even TWO wigs! 

I'm glad day 2 was only 80 miles.  I found it harder.  I LOVE the rolling hills.  Apparently many people hate them. At one point I met up with one of my giggly roomates.  It was her first ride as well and she didn't know how to gear.  You absolutely need to know this to get over these rollers so I stopped to help her.  One the 2nd hill, in pure Laura style.. I FELL OVER... INTO A STORM DRAIN!  I was circiling at the top and I decided to stop. I couldn't get my foot out quick enough and I fell over.  My sunglasses were in my helmet and I lost one of the lenses into the drain!  Only me!  I had some bruises up my entire side.  I was really looking to see if I had grid on my face "Drain face." 

After this I was incodent free for a while.  Getting closer and closer to the end, I turned a left and my back tire fizzled.  GREAT a FLAT!  I had to put the wheel on my lap because there was so much sand around.  In the 3 minutes I was sitting there, two of our team support vehicles stopped and then the PMC road crew stopped.  I had the tire off, but that's all I did - the road crew fixed me up in no time!

The rain had held off mostly, but there was a slight drizzle. I welcomed the drizzle as it was refreshing!  There were a few spots that were dangerous, especially if you rode "the line."  Then came this awful hill!  It wasn't that steep but it was torture!  The Cape is full of traffic on a normal day, so I was passing cars on the uphill, but it just went ON and ON and ON and ON!  Prior to this weekend I never thougth of The Cape as HILLY!  I have a different perspective now!

I turned onto the 'access road' and was very much alone. No other riders in sight.  I knew I was at the end again!  Then came a bright smile.  Abby and her family drove past me! They rode next to me for a mile or so and I knew that shining face would be there at the finish!

Those last few miles were pretty, but LONG.  I turned the last corner and KNEW the end was in sight.

I did it! - Then came the real treat!  Abby and her family at the finish line!  It is so amazing to be a part of her life.  She has such spunk.  She's since told her dad that she "saw Laura today."  This is when she saw a random female rider!  Her mom says "I guess you are every female rider." :)

She saw the picture on my bike "hey that's me." - Yes Abby- I ride for the most awesome little girl ever! :).

Seeing her smiling face at the end was just the best.  We know we're doing a good thing out here, but when you see the little ones who are fighting Cancer, and see them with such bravery, you know it was the least you could do to help fundraise and ride in their honor!  I continue to be amazed that 100% of rider donations go straight to research and care!  This is where it belongs!  Knowing what we can do and why we're here, made the issues of yesterday seem stupid. 

I will continue to do what I can! I think I'll ride again.. I'd like to see some of the rest of the ride.  And our job isn't done until there's a Cancer Free world!

PS: It's not too late to donate, we have until Oct 1.- then I imagine I will start this all again in January!