JohnK’s 2013 PMC

Congratulations to my cousin who completed his 28th Pan Mass Challenge raising over $9000 to fund treatment of childhood cancer at the Dana Farber Cancer Institute.
Here is his account of number “28”

Dear friends,

Twenty-eight is a nice number…   I have long since been disappointed that this event still exists.   Cancer is not going away soon, and it will test the endurance of my legs and our hearts.

For those who have better things to occupy their time, here is a summary in 2 paragraphs 🙂 :

            The weekend could not have been better!  Read the rest of the story below or at , see the pictures at and see the video of the start in Sturbridge,  Saturday morning 5:30AM, at .
As of August 8th, you and I have crossed $9000 for the year, thank you very much!  Saturday’s ride for me was 7.5 hrs on the saddle, 9:11 in transit including water stops and lunch.  Sunday was just over 6 hours in transit with 5:10 on the saddle.  It was good speed for me on both days.  Also as of Aug. 8th, the whole event sits at $28M of the $38M goal.  Stats for the weekend were 5534 registered riders, 33% female, 20 % first time riders, average age was 45, all representing 38 states and 7 different countries.  Estimated total cycled miles exceeded 800K miles; 12 riders were hospitalized and all were released with 1 being readmitted.  There were over 2700 volunteers.
I offer my heartfelt thanks as you all make this event possible.

For those who are curious and have some time:

Friday night is the registration and kickoff dinner.  Cowbells ring frequently as a sign of rookie riders registering. Tom Erickson had bummed a ride and a bunk with me this year as his logistics got complicated.  On the plus side, this was the first time in years that he had been there before Saturday morning.  We registered, tagged our bikes and posted them in the overnight corral and checked out the goings on.  Mechanics were already busy fixing bikes and the dinner folks were serving huge amounts of food. We found a table and met a fellow rider, Greg, a veteran of several years and chat about why we do this and the upcoming ride.  He mentions that he and his wife, Amy, will be riding together this year.  And, oh, she just had chemo two weeks ago…  We run into Greg later and meet Amy, with the positive attitude and sunshine smile.   It’s hard to not be moved.  We run into Chris Spear, whom I convinced 25 years ago to ride the PMC.  Neither of us have missed it since, though Allie, his daughter, was born on PMC weekend some 23? years ago and there was something about a taxi and breaking speed limits…  His son had better timing.   We chat with Danny, a photographer working the PMC weekend.   He tells of PMC night at Fenway with the kids and the bikers and how incredibly gracious the Red Sox Players were to both.

He warns that he will be with the bagpiper just before lunch.  We head home to try to get a few hours of sleep before the long weekend.
We rise at 3:00AM.  We are in the car by 4, hurtling through the dark through the back roads of Central Mass heading back to Sturbridge.  The start is 5:30.  With a quasi-illegal maneuver, we park, and head off to the bikes.  Bill Derosier, chauffer for the morning and for Sunday night, heads off with us.  He has my camera and is taking stills as we prep the bikes for the ride.  His plan is to get a vantage point for taking a video of the starting line as the pack heads out.  He was quite successful; check out the pointer above.
Tom and I are set up together in the ‘slow’ lane.  The start is preceded  by the national anthem, sung by noted opera singer Andrew Garland, a 16 year rider and of the upcoming Boston Lyric Opera production of  ‘The Magic Flute’.  Wow.   It is a bit overcast, about 58 degrees and a light westerly breeze.  We head east on Rt 20.   At the first incline, I bid Tom good-bye as it is too early for me to try to keep up. There are police officers at about every intersection and will be for about the first 15 or so miles.  Their presence is so constant that un-manned intersections just seem wrong.  The folks along the side of the road are a constancy both days.  Signs indicating survivors are the most moving.  Everybody makes a lot of noise.  There are no lonely PMC riders.  Even the cars join the spectacle.
At the first waterstop, I met Andy.   He told me that his young daughter raised much of his minimum by telling people if they donated enough money, she would get her dad to wear a tiara and tutu for the ride.  True to his promise to his daughter and the remarkable outcome of her fundraising, he rolled on fully dressed in his commitment.
The stretch between Franklin and lunch is the longest leg of the weekend, some 36 miles.  It is made bearable by the wonderful display on Cherry St. in Wrentham. There were 3 groups of live music, folks in costume, banners across the road, on the road, and people lining both sides of the street.  And Jeannie.  Jeannie comes out every year, rain or shine, heat or cold, in her clown attire.  We recognize each other anymore as we both go back a ways.  Where else can you do what you love and be applauded despite your mediocrity?
Lunch is a welcome sight.  I run into Danny and Mary who say the bagpiper did not show  up this year and they were shooting the lunch crowd.  I turned the tables on them is took their pix.  In the process of getting back on the bike, I met a Boston Globe photographer and we got to chatting;  he asked about my experiences, took a picture and my name.  I did not make the papers.  I did in ’88; front page, even.
Exiting lunch, we face 40 more miles.  I kept waiting for the ‘other shoe’ to drop.  So far we had ideal overcast and temperatures, and, it seemed, a constant tailwind.  Surely, this could not continue.   A few miles into this leg, I start a conversation with a woman named Mary.   I go out of my way to talk to first year riders and she was one.  We talked about why each of us started to do this, we talked of parents and friends so afflicted, we talked some aspects of our lives.  She said she was concerned about finishing  and offered my wheel for drafting.  Turns out she grew up in Holden, just next door to Princeton and was now living in Yarmouth.  We distracted each other for the 12 or so miles into the next waterstop such that we hardly noticed it go by. Now only 20 to go.  Maybe that ‘shoe’ won’t drop.
I miss the cheerleaders.  Those who have read these stories before might recall the two ladies who over the years have dressed in costumes as monkeys, political party mascots, baseball and basketball players, ladies godiva, etc.  They had decided to take a year off.  We would not see them Saturday nor Sunday atop Corn Hill.  It is good that they are okay but sad that they had a better offer. 😎
The Mass Maritime Academy is a welcome sight, although this year I felt good enough that I wished I could have knocked off twenty miles of Sunday’s ride before quitting.  Showers, food, drink, music, Perini Team picture, reunion with Nancy Sheppard, Chris Spear, Jon Gordon… drink, sleep, sleep, sleep…  4:30AM……
If Saturday had been the perfect weather for cycling, Sunday morning was the most beautiful.  Blues, pinks, whites, greys all made for a spectacular sunrise over the Cape Cod Canal.  It seemed as if there were no ill effects from the day before, but I found myself taking a long time to get loose.  About 2 miles from the MMA, I reached the base of the first hill, the Bourne Bridge.  The traffic sign proudly displayed 5:38AM, 59 degrees.  I tried some artsy shots while riding over the bridge and while slipping back down under but none really were in focus.  Off to the canal path and we head northeast to the power station.  Keep the legs moving before the rest of the body wakes up and finds out we are pedaling.   Today again the density of cyclists is amazing.  I don’t remember being in this type of crowd in years past. The density limits the strategy for the first test of the day:  the rolling hills of the route 6 access road.   I usually use my ‘momentum’ downhill to ease the next uphill.   Too many people to do that this year.
At the Barnstable waterstop, I chatted with Oliver who gave me a good referral to a knee guy, and told of his daughter working as a nurse in the children’s cancer ward and riding this year.  I stumbled across Roger, Stew Robert’s friend, who I see every year on this; small world.
The section to Nickerson is where I usually discover what I’ve got in the tank.  It is ‘old Cape Cod’ with the saltbox houses, cedar shake siding and salt marsh vistas.  The good news is that it is about 7am and the body still does not know that the legs are working…. good so far.   The Ocean Edge sea camp came out in force again to cheer up.  Their theme was that everybody had foam whales…  Somewhere in this stretch my heart monitor decided to stop working right.  It started showing heartbeat rates more in keeping with my weight in pounds. Should have changed the battery Friday.  I’m not going back to get that data.
From Nickerson, there are only 40 miles left.  Onto the rail trail, off, across route 6 and back onto rail trail…  along the beaches on the east shore and we head inland to Wellfleet.  They usually have balloons strung above the road.  This year they had about 15 old jerseys to welcome us.  Another mile and a sharp right up a hill and we are greeted at the last waterstop. Twenty miles to Provincetown.  Only a couple of hills, the stretch on rt 6 and the dunes of Race point keep us from the PTown Inn.
I feel good when I get to rt 6 and that is usually the difference between a slog home and a brisk ride.  Even in a crowd, I manage to use that momentum thing to keep me going.  Finishing, I feel strong. The end is made of mixed emotions.  I am pleased to dismount but I will miss the energy and camaraderie of shared purpose.  Twenty-eight IS a big number.
The logistics of the ending at Provincetown Inn are themselves interesting.  The Mass. National Guard puts up military shower tents in the street where you shower with 20 or 30 of your closest friends while you are literally inches away from the public strolling up and down the street.  It is wall to wall people.  The Inn cannot handle the full crowd that will arrive so the PMC encourages you to shower, eat, drink and get out.  Tom, and Christine, his wife, who met us at the finish, have carried on a tradition for all of his 11 years where they go to a bistro on the main street in Provincetown for a civilized lunch before taking the fast ferry to Boston.  This is the 4th or 5th year I have joined them.  With a couple of their other friends, we toasted a successful year of few misadventures with a glass of wine and a wish for a world with less cancer.  Thanks for coming along.
 Closer by the Mile
  JK0013 John Kowaleski

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