A hot and steamy Pan Mass Challenge is in the books…192 miles of sweat, hills and exhilaration. I was one of 5,454 riders last weekend, who are projected to raise $36 million for cancer research at Dana Farber Cancer Institute.
The 192-mile ride from Sturbridge to Provincetown, Mass went down last weekend. Actually, Pan Mass has 11 routes, but the big kahuna is the Sturbridge to Provincetown route. The first day runs from Sturbridge to Bourne, 111.76 miles, according to my odometer. Leg two on Sunday is the length of Cape Cod or 78 miles.
It almost did not happen for me as three doctors treating me for prostate cancer and a stubborn urinary tract infection urged me not to ride. But I ride with two urologists, Tony Caldemone and Marc Cendron, who said go for it. I was ready to blow off one oncologist’s recommendation not to ride given my other docs gave the green light. But then my primary care physician and the physician assistant to my surgeon piled on and also advised me to abstain. They were fearful that 14 hours on a bicycle seat would exacerbate the infection.
My spirits sank until I decided not to follow their advice. I felt good and I was going with it. I had trained for months and raised thousand of dollars for prostate cancer research at Dana Farber Cancer Institute. I would not be denied.
All the angst is by the boards and my ride is now history.
We – Tony, Marc, Frank Epps, Bill Dolan and myself with an aggregate 38 Pan Mass rides – knew it was going to be hot and humid on Saturday. Fortunately, we got a 5:20 a.m. start from Sturbridge, which offered relatively cool and sun-less running for at 2-3 hours. It was just before the first water stop 23 miles out in Whitinsville when we saw the red fireball rising on the eastern horizon.
It wasn’t bad until water stop two in Franklin. When you stop, you feel the heat as the goopy mixture of sweat and sun block pours off your neck and arms.
By mile 68, we hit the lunch stop at Dighton-Rehoboth HS. I was still in pretty good shape, save for some hot foot where the balls of your feet get sore from so much repetitive motion. Mysteriously, it went away after lunch.
I had no problem until the 18-mile stretch between water stops 4 and 5, which was 10 miles shy of our overnight stopping point at the Massachusetts Maritime Academy (MMA) in Bourne. The temperature soared on that segment to 100-103.6, according to the temperature gauge in my speedometer on my handlebars. Eating helped and I sailed through the last 10 miles with Frank. Tony, Marc and Bill were long gone.
Arriving at MMA, I felt slightly sick from low sodium, which was promptly resolved by pretzels, chips and party mix per Marc’s sage advice. Chips to rescue…go figure.
Day 2 was uneventful, but I was pretty tired from day one. Sunday was just as humid, but cooler with overcast skies and a 15-minute downpour about two thirds of the way onto the Cape. The last 20 miles can be brutal, but a crosswind slightly at our backs did not plague us on the Truro hills and causeway like last year. We departed Bourne at 5:10 a.m. and arrived at the Provincetown Inn at 10:50 a.m.
Given all the uncertainty over my participation, I felt extra satisfaction at the finish. The fab five rode in together as the group waited for me just before finish as I fell a bit behind in the last few miles although I seemed to averaging a very respectable 17 MPH.
The day was capped off by a terrific dinner at Tony and Barbara’s Caldemone’s lovely home in East Orleans. My favorite sign was “Freedom from Cancer” given the disease’s tyrannical and random nature. And one of the thousands of roadside boosters yelling “You’re the reason I’m here” choked me up a bit as I pulled into the MMA.
See you next year.