Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Pan Mass Challenge Aug 3-5, 2007

My PMC started on Friday August 3, 2007 with a 40 mile ride from West Springfield towards the official start the next day in Sturbridge. I rode in memory of my aunt Judy and she lived in West Springfield, so I felt that starting there was more fitting.

Getting through Springfield was super sketchy but soon enough I was in Wilbraham on much quieter roads. The first 20 miles was very hilly and hot: much more difficult than I had hoped for but I finished the 40 miles to Southbridge at a leisurely 14.5 mph. It took exactly three hours like I planned: mostly because of the climbing and not because I had taken it super easy like I wanted to.

Friday evening I got registered, grabbed some food and watched the opening ceremonies. The volunteers were there in the hundreds and everyone of them was friendly and grateful to the riders. The positive energy was contagious. This was by far the best supported ride I’ve ever done. Recalling Jim Sullivan's 2004 IMLP experience, I passed on the “B!TCH” socks at the expo and bought some cool Space Invader ones instead.

I arrived at the official start an hour early on Saturday morning to see that the football-field sized “20+ mph” corral was nearly full. I used my cyclocross starting skills and placed myself and bike right up front, a good move in hindsight as I got up to the leaders straight away on Rt 20. Being further back would have made the first few miles much more challenging and dangerous.

Last year I heard that there was a group of around 20 riders that stayed together for 80 miles before things started to break up, with a select group of 6 eventually finishing together in Bourne at 11:05 am. This year the front group was down to 6 with a huge gap back to the next riders after just 15 miles. I saw the wife and kids in Sutton which was nice. Andy Salmon joined us about that time as we rolled in a pace line through Whitinsville, topping 35+ mph on the flats at some points. Andy stayed with us until Mendon and we kept the pace high right through to the Dighton rest stop at mile 70. We saw a lot of empty lawn chairs along the route and most of the intersections we got to after Attleboro were unmanned as the police had yet to arrive. Our lead support car was great though, handing out water and blocking traffic at the intersections for us so we could just roll through. After the Dighton stop we were down to 4, then just 3 with 30 miles left (with only myself and Tyler Munroe taking turns in the wind for the last 20). We fought hard to beat the earliest ever arrival time of 10:45 am but missed it by 4 minutes. We ended with a 23 mph average for the 110 miles and my avg HR was 147.

The apr├Ęs-ride at the Mass Maritime Academy was great: plenty of food and drink for everyone, but I was feeling the effects of the two days of difficult riding. Bad leg cramps, a horrible massage, an entire day in the sun and lying awake in my tent that night until 1:30 am lowered my expectations for Sunday a lot. I knew that if the legs felt as bad in the morning as they did that night I would have trouble about half way to P-town.

On Sunday morning I missed the “official” start of 5:00 am by 40 minutes, although people start leaving the MMA as early as 4:00 am from what I’m told. While part of me wished I’d gotten going on time so that I wasn’t stuck behind half of the PMC and facing the entire 80 miles alone, it was good to have the pressure of another hammerfest off as I wasn’t sure how I’d feel anyway. By the time I rode over the Bourne Bridge, I knew it was going to be a good day. The crowds were out in force, there were riders everywhere, and the legs felt 100%. They had told us to ride single file but no way was that possible: there were just too many people. Imagine having to run the Boston Marathon single file... not happening! I spent most of the first 30 miles riding right on the double yellow line shouting "on your left." I must have passed 2,000 people, maybe more. Things finally thinned out in Barnstable and by the time I got to Brewster I would go for miles between seeing anyone else. It got a bit harder to keep the pace up without anyone to try and catch, but the speedometer was still consistently around 20-21 mph and there were no signs of the cramps I'd had the day before. The crowd support was fantastic the entire day & “the hedge” in Brewster was really great: hundreds of screaming kids holding up huge thank you signs while standing (inexplicably) on the other side of a long hedge. The family was out cheering again in Eastham so that was a nice little break. I was joined by Bryan Gareau with around 15 miles to go, and he was nice enough to tow me through the windiest parts of the cape just before P-town. I finished at 9:35am or thereabouts, and based on the number of bikes on the racks at the finish, it looked like I was about the 15th person to arrive. Saturday was 80 miles, 20.4 mph average, 137 avg HR. The biggest heartbreak was discovering that the beer tent didn’t open until noon: 2.5 hours after my arrival. It was worth the wait.

Thanks for reading and for supporting my fund-raising efforts! WE sent $5000+ to the Dana Farber, and I can't thank you all enough... Stick your spare change in a coffee can marked "PMC donation for Matt" for next year.

Thanks - Matt

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