Monday, August 4, 2014

Pan Mass Challenge - Recap

Where does one start to recap a 164 miles and just under 11 (10:53 of moving time to be exact) hour amazing moving bike ride?

Let’s start at the beginning  

Once upon a time…  ok not that far back…

In January I was flipping through the Christmas cards and spied one from Diane Legg  I love this picture and the emotion it shows and it brings to me. 

I re-read her personal message on the back if she could get me to ride with LUNGstrong in the Pan Mass Challenge (PMC) for 2014. I looked up the ride dates, and did a double take on the date.  August 2nd?  That is the 7 year anniversary of when my mom called to tell me she had lung cancer.  This is kismet, I must do this.  

I met Diane through Team Lung Love, my first ½ in May 2011 (3:18) and I still remember the conversation I had with her at the team dinner.  She was a bit dubious on my even finishing the ½, she never said this, her face did. It was at that point I knew she was someone I would admire and aspire to be like.  I did finish that ½ and paid the price for being completely untrained.  Lung cancer wasn't going to best my mother and this ½ marathon business wasn't going to best me:  2012 was my comeback year and I finished in 2:17 and signed up for the Marine Corps Marathon and finished in 5:09.  Vowed to do better in 2013… 

Well that didn't go so well for a variety of reasons. I loved running for Team Lung Love but that marathon experience was going to be my last, and I am sticking to that.  The Ultra isn't a Marathon it is a whole different experience, so quiet.  It was also time to do something different, and the PMC had been lingering in my head since I stalked LUNGstrong over the last few years.

Diane and I talked in January and I signed up, scoped out the training plans and clearly I could continue to focus on my Ultra training, plus the Ultra (is that even supposed to be capitalized?) and the PMC were all about endurance.  Keep up with my spin classes and Sufferfest when I missed spin and I’d be OK.  I was SO chomping at the bit to get out on the bike as soon as I could.  Nearly accomplished my goal of riding once a month, I missed (Feb and Mar).

History of LUNGstrong provided by Diane 

“When I was diagnosed with lung cancer almost 10 years ago, I remembered that our friend Ira Hart had ridden in the PMC in the early ‘90’s and thought that this would be a great thing for Dave (my husband) to get involved with since he liked to mountain bike (I thought all bike riding was the same…ha!)   Dave wanted no part of it.  He loved mountain biking, didn’t have a road bike & had no intention of getting one…I dropped the notion.  Summer of 2007, Ira called to tell us that his sister was diagnosed with lung cancer, she died a mere 18 months later, she was only 42 years old and left a devoted husband and three young children.  The day of Arielle’s funeral, Ira asked Dave if he would ride with him in the PMC that summer (it was 2009) and of course Dave said yes.  Dave still didn't have a road bike but Ira lent him one of his bikes; Dave figured it would be one and done.  It was the two of them that year, there was no “Team LUNGstrong” but 100% of what they raised went to lung cancer research at Dana Farber and they raised $13,761.  Dave was hooked after his first PMC by the thrill of the ride, the cause, the volunteers & the overall experience…by the end of the 2009, Dave would have his own road bike.

While Dave was riding his first PMC & Ira’s second, the boys and I were with my friend Maura Chapman and her family in Falmouth and met them at the finish in P-town….Maura had just lost her dad to lung cancer that Spring.  Maura’s husband, Cory, decided he didn’t want to be on the side lines and committed to ride in the PMC the following year and suggested we put a team together.  It was Maura & Cory who came up with the name LUNGstrong!!  Team LUNGstrong was born!

In 2010 we had 5 riders, Dave, Ira, Cory, Chris Vossler (my brother in law), and Carolyn Hodges (who was riding in her 9th PMC & a childhood friend).  At the end of the PMC we met up with Tom Leblanc, who had just finished his 12th PMC, we gave him a LUNGstrong t-shirt and he joined our team!  The team raised over $36,000 that year!

In 2011 we grew to 15 strong and raised over $110,000.  In 2012, I joined the team along with 32 other riders….we raised over $210,000!!  And last year we had 61 riders and raised just over $300,000.

All of us have a reason to ride in the PMC this year.  Many of us have been personally touched by lung cancer, which may have drawn you to this team; but regardless of the type we ALL have been affected by cancer….whether it is a wife, husband, mother, father, sister, brother, son, daughter or friend…whether we are riding in memory of or in honor of…we all ride to make a change…And we all will be changed this year AND we all will make a difference!

Dave and I wanted to let you know how much it means to us that you are riding with Team LUNGstrong this year.  We appreciate it and look forward to seeing you all on the road or at least in Bourne!!

Thanks again!!

Diane & Dave”

NB: 2014 61 riders and $170,00 raised towards a goal of $350,000, that will mean Team LUNGstrong has raised over $1,000,000 for lung cancer research at Dana Farber in 5 years. 

Show time

I drove up to Wellesley on Friday afternoon, super quick drive and easy to park and get my stuff, although the volunteer handing out the package was all excite this was my first one and rang the cow bell and handed me my bag.  Um, what do I do with all this stuff???  She was on to the next person.  No worries, I unloaded my bike and set it up and talked to a few other riders and got it straight what tags went where and racked my bike.  Off to find the Babson Conference Center where we were all staying.  I noticed my roommate, Traci, had her bike in the room.  I remembered reading no bikes in the room (well that was for the Mass Maritime Academy – doh).  I hemmed and hawed about going back to get my bike or not or what and decided well we all had to leave from where the bikes were racked, it would be OK. 

The team leaving from Wellesley met for dinner at 6:30. Diane gave all the gals an Alex and Ani bicycle bracelet!  Goes very nicely with my winged foot!  (no comments about swimming, ok?)  Good to meet a few of the gals and finally meet my roommate for the night!  I felt a little more comfortable, especially knowing some of the people I would be spending the next two days with.

There are a total of 61 members of Team LUNGstrong 2014, 7 started at the NY border riding from NY to PTown (through Sturbridge) to do a true Pan Mass, 13 started in Sturbridge, 40 started in Wellesley, and 2 started in Bourne.  I chose Wellesley because I prefer to ease myself into things, wade into the water versus jump in and all. I don’t have a lot of hills locally.  I've heard how tough the ride from Sturbridge is and was concerned.  A friend who rides out of Sturbridge assured me if I can ride the hills here and especially the Tour de Lyme, I’ll be fine for Sturbridge next year. Now that I've seen the Strava elevation profile I think I will be ok with a Sturbridge 2015 start.

Day 1 Wellesley to Bourne 84 Miles

Strava info:

Up and on the road by 7 a.m. on Saturday.  I was a wreck for the first 21 miles until the first water stop.  The rain was not going to hold off or be kind, this was going to be a wet ride was part of my anxiety and the other part was just riding in a group.  Fortunately, everyone was very cautious and courteous and that helped put me at ease.  I hooked up with a group of LUNGstrong at the stop and we all checked in with each other 

Smug smile = apprehension

I lost the team before we got on the road because yep, I needed my rain jacket thing.  I picked it up on a whim when I first started riding and hadn't used it.  It worked great!  Kept the chill off my arms and chest which was what I was most concerned about. Took about 6 weeks for that horrible cough to finally disappear and I didn't want is coming back!

Eventually I caught up with team members here and there and rode and chatted and eventually one of us sped up or slowed down.  I am always curious to know their connection to lung cancer.  

When I caught up with Deb.  She and I matched pretty well for pace, riding and conversation style  we rode together to lunch and rode the last 40 miles together. (I think she Ro and I would be a treacherous trio besides being a blonde, brunette, and ginger) These were also the rainiest of the miles. A great time to have someone with a similar style to you to power through with. At one point we were giggling about someone avoiding a puddle.  We are soaked to the bone, really avoiding a puddle?  What is that going to help?

I found co-worker Lisa at lunch, 5,700 riders and I saw the orange cones and BOOM! There she was in all of her absolute cuteness.

Getting in to Bourne the rain was pelting, all I could think was how much more horrible this would be on a motor cycle.  Oh yeah, and there was beer in Bourne, Harpoon IPA.

After figuring out what to do with bikes and find bags Deb, Cathy?? and I headed to the dorms, I had a room overnight and sure wasn't going to let them stand in the rain or use the portable showers.  We all huffed it to the dorms to find the room I shared with Mary Ellen and two women neither of us knew.  That was a little strange.  At least the LUNGstrong women weren't strangers to me.  One of the gals showed up and we introduced our selves.  No one actually ever met the 4th gal she was asleep by the time the 2nd roommate, and didn't get up at the 4 a.m. reveille.  Guess it was strange all around for everyone? 

Four to a room, bunk beds, or what I thought were bunk beds, the bottom bunk was actually a desk.  There were two pads so I put them on the desk, seemed to make sense. Many people left the pad on the floor.  Ick, the floor was dirty.  Yes, yes, we spent 6 hours riding in the rain and were full of road dirt from the roots of our hair to our toes, but still, we weren't about to sleep in it!!  It was at this point I started regretting not remembering to pack a fan like Paul suggested.  The rooms were a teensy bit stuffy.

The shower was hot and wonderful.  It was hard to not be a total pig about just standing there first getting a good deal of the road grime off of my bike clothes and then to warm up.  Going from cold blue to a warmer pink and that point where your skin starts to itch as it warms up.  Eventually I gave up my shower.  This was a dorm, they weren't going to run out of hot water.  And from what I could tell they didn't. 

Shared what I could of the newspaper I brought to stuff in my shoes to dry them out.  You have to change them every 30 minutes or so, a section of the Sunday paper can soak the water out of a few pair of shoes, ahhhh…. Wish I would have crammed more papers in my bag to help more people. 

We rounded up the female contingent of LUNGstrong and one was missing a bag, eventually an outfit was pieced together for her and her bag was found.  Then off to find beer, food, and meet up for the team picture.  The rain stopped and the sun peeked out a little bit for our picture.  All of us in either the LUNGstrong riding jersey or a LUNGstrong race shirt.  I didn't want to risk getting my jersey wet before Sunday and opted for the race shirt.  

Bedtime, 8 p.m. are you kidding me???

You’d think after 3 beers and two Advil PM I could fall asleep.  Nope.  Usually I can’t get through all my Words With Friends games before I doze off.  Tried some 2048 and nothing.  It was stuffy but I bet the fan would have really helped with some white noise to lull me to sleep.  Mary Ellen said she was the same way.  If either of us got more than 3 hours of sleep it would be amazing.   I didn't have my FitBit and that will tell me how I slept.  I’m kinda glad in the rush of packing in the a.m. I managed to pull it off my wrist.  It may have been more of an annoyance.  I left my wedding et all rings at home, didn't want to lose them or just have them in the way.  It was one less thing to keep track of.

Day 2 - Bourne to Provincetown - 80 Miles

Strava info:

4 a.m. reveille and we were groggily up, brushing teeth pulling on our ‘kits’ we had laid out the night before knowing it was going to be tough to get moving, packing up our bedding and trash bags of wet clothes from Saturday.  I had a diet coke with me to have with breakfast, at least a little caffeine, not cold or anything, but something to help.   We were ready to ride by 5 a.m.  

Off by 5:12 according to the Garmin.  Up and over the Bourne Bridge.  

I was so thankful I set aside my favorite bike shorts for the second day.  I am bummed the company no longer makes these and haven’t started selling a replacement yet I only have one pair.  

My butt didn't hurt like it had been in the beginning of July.  Guess things got all sussed out with my week off from everything but drinking?

For some reason I expected the Bourne Bridge to be more of a climb, like the Newport Bridge, it wasn't.  maybe it was different in the saddle from on my feet?  Who knows.  Perhaps it was the fact it was 5:30 in the morning and none of me was fully awake yet?

Up and over the bridge, a couple of slippery wiked hard turns and we were off on the Cape Cod Bike path.  Nice, all these bikers whizzing by guys fishing and biking to their fishing spot on the canal, bikes all tricked out with pole holders, very cool.  

Couple miles of rollers until we hit the rest stop in Barnstable.  Love riding on the rollers.  Always challenge myself to not down shift at all during these sections to get up enough speed to power to the top of the next roller.

Guess who I saw!!!

Ran into Dave Legg for a bit, we chatted.  He is usually WAY in the front of the pack and was trying to stick with the pack and having a problem figuring out the pacing.  It was nice to see he and Diane riding together, despite his confusion over this slower pace.  Such a sweet couple.  

Along another bike path section I saw Mike off by the side fixing a tire.  I offered some moral support and he was happy to have the company and he efficiently changed the tube and we discussed the hole in his tire and what to do about it.  It was a pin prick and the tube didn't come through so we figured it was fine.  It was nothing like what happened to my tire during the New Haven Century.  He got everything all put together and we rode along together for a while and I guess I lost him or he lost me...  I'm not much of a talker, more of a listener.

Riding out to PTown was very cool a bit on the bike path a bit on the road.  Made it to the PTown border!!  There were two men trying to do a selfie with the sign.  I pulled over and said, "Hey I'll take your picture if you take mine."  They were game.  They started from the NY border and wanted to document they made it!  Absolutely adorable!!  I think I kind of surprised them tearing off over two lanes of traffic to get to the median.  Brain off, pedals on?

I love the dark shirt WAY better than the white one!

After I got a little further down the road I had a decision, the short way to the finish or the long scenic way.  I stopped here for a bit wondering when I should be meeting up with my LUNGstrong team mates.  Funny for ME to be waiting for team mates -- usually the WTAC guys have collected their prizes and finished their cool down runs by the time I make it across the finish line  --  I hung for a bit and got passed by a LUNGstrong shirt and he went the long way.  OK cool that is the way I wanted to go.   He was stopped just ahead and said the plan was to stop and wait at the turn off for the Provincetown Inn and we could all ride in together.  Well I found that and thought he said it was a left not a right, so I ended up finishing,  oh shit… that was where I was supposed to stop, it was a right not a left and perhaps this is why I get lost? Me and directions always a bit dubious, at least I didn't get lost, or should I start saying ‘confused’?  Hmmm…    I managed to bike back to the turn off point (it was a mile) and waited for a while.  I saw Ann and she said everyone stopped in Truro and they’d be a while she wanted to be done.

I hung for a bit, really just wanting to ditch the bike shoes and helmet and don some Birks and a hat, I went back to the end, ducking out before the actual end.  Finishing twice may confuse the people who scan the riders in.  Got my bike loaded onto a truck heading to Wellesley (totally forgot to take out my phone charger and money, figured that out too late – rats) found my bag, put on sandals and stashed all the gear stored in those super handy three back pockets on bike jerseys in my bag, ahhh…  found Ann who had a key to the room where we could shower and a beer.  The beer was far more important to both of us.

There were many of us taking the slow ferry back to Boston, it was a nice mile walk to the ferry, I enjoy a walk after a long event, helps loosen up the muscles, kinda like a cool down run.  Sadly I had no money for beer, my teammates were more than willing to buy me beer,  I owe you Mary Ellen!  Thank you!  Had a beer on the deck talked to Dennis for a bit, we both snoozed for a while and he disappeared and Mary Ellen came searching for me to join the party and to buy me another beer! Whoop!  I was happy to be with the loud crowd after my little snooze.  I’m an introverted loner, it is important for me to have some down time and that was my first opportunity since I left the house on Friday afternoon.  

After the ferry it was a bus ride to Wellesley where I found my bike and the key for Vinnie (pshew).  Slogged the bike and the bag about ½ mile, up hill, and loaded up Vinnie and we were ready to go home.  Truth:  I got a little ‘confused’ leaving Wellesley – I took the scenic route?

It was nice to be home.  The dogs all had words with me, especially Gizmo who was cheated out of 4 walks by his count, 2 by mine.  Dave eventually was able to worm his way in and welcome me home.

Looking forward to getting to know more members of Team LUNGstrong over the next year and anxiously awaiting for PMC 2015 sign up to open!

Beth who doesn't think she did this ride justice.  It was amazing!  Looking forward to 2015!


  1. WOW – good write up, how do you remember everything
    Sounds like a fun ride – even in the rain
    That person who avoided the puddle after being wet – that would be something I would do (don’t ask)

    1. When the guy avoided the puddle, you were the first person who popped into my mind. HA!

  2. Well done Beth! The logistics of this ride seem terrifying to me - I would be worrying about that more than the actual riding.

    1. Johnny - Thanks! Yes the logistics terrified me a couple times. I'd wake up in the middle of the night just sure I missed a step and I'd be pedaling back to Westerly!

  3. Wow, great write up and great ride! And for a good cause too. You should be very proud of yourself - that's an impressive amount of mileage!

  4. Wow Beth! Great write-up. I am so impressed with your ride. The rain would of killed me. Way to go!

    1. Nicole - thanks! You do what you have to do. I am glad that I got in 20 miles in the rain during training, that helped prep me. Plus riding with so many other people it was hard not to just keep going. Although not too close to someone, those tires can spray water pretty far!!