This weekend we did our 2nd Pan Mass Challenge, from Wellesley MA to Provincetown MA.
We registered the night before, like last year, and then stayed at a nearby hotel. I was nervous that night that it would rain, both overnight and the next day. Of course, I was nervous in general. I need to learn to sleep before these types of events, because riding or racing on just a few hours sleep is not so good. I tossed and turned, and eventually the 4:45 wake up call came.
Driving into the lot we made sure we had our various bags sorted, and miraculously we did not leave anything behind. We met up with our team and got ready to head out. Of course, it was early, and I had no appetite. Another thing I don’t do easily – eat at an early hour. I tried to get down a banana and nearly puked. I had a gu, and that was about it. Oh well, I thought. My appetite will come along. It never did and this set a precedent for the whole ride of a queasy fussy stomach.
Temps were already in the upper 70s if not 80s, at 7 AM. It was going to be a very hot day. There were perhaps 2000 riders leaving from this location, and I was still eager to get going. Finally we were on the road by 7:30.
I rode at a pretty good pace, at least once we were all able to be riding at any pace. I tried to get miles in as I knew it would get even warmer. Unfortunately, neither stop one or lunch proved to be much better in terms of my appetite, and it was well warm by then, another appetite killer for me. I kept drinking as much as I could though both gator and water, and fortunately did not have a bonk. Still, I would have preferred to not be in that position as I wanted to have energy for day 2.
At stop 3 I had to rest for quite some time, and we’d stopped for a while at lunch too. At stop 3 I sat with ice on my head for a good 1/2 hour. But I felt much better after that and hit the next leg pretty strong again.
I would later learn that it was up to 92 degrees and at 74% relative humidity. YUK. That is just nasty weather to be doing an all day ride in. There were several who had to go to the hospital for dehydration. But, at least it wasn’t raining (which could make it very dangerous). It is challenging enough to stay alert with the cars and other riders.
The people along the route in the afternoon were awesome, many had their hoses/sprayers out and I took advantage of them as much as I could. It feels sooooo good. We rode with some teammates who were similarly matched to us in pace (and food issues, as it turns out) so it was really nice.
We got into the MMA later than last year, due to the long breaks. First day, 84 miles. I had felt that my actual riding was much better. I hadn’t found any hills to be spirit killers, even the hills in the last few miles which are out in the open. I had enjoyed my ride pretty well. And of course I was happy I did not have any bike or SAG requiring issues. But, I definitely was complaining and concerned about my not eating and the heat, and my husband was very patient.
I got showered in the shower truck which was awesome. For big events like this, the shower truck rules! Then, we headed over to the food and field to hang out with the rest of the PMCers. I was only able to eat about 1/2 a burger at dinner but I drank some juice. We stayed and talked til about 8 pm. We were in our tents by 8:30, and probably asleep by 9. The sun was just barely down at that point.
The locals setting off fireworks didn’t help to speed us to sleep, but the show didn’t last too long. They did this last year also.
4 am comes quickly, and we got out of our tents after another restless night – the wind had whipped around and I was sleeping lightly because I was again worried about oversleeping. But, we probably got around 6 hrs of sleep. As we took down the tent in the dark and made our way to the luggage trucks, we saw the thousands of other riders getting food, checking bikes, and so on.
We were on the road by 5:10. Fortunately, the temps and humidity were much better on Sunday, and it really seemed like perfect weather to be riding. I still couldn’t eat much though, my stomach was now just being fussy. I would only get hungry after it was all over.
But, managed to get down a little more than the prior day, and kept drinking. Good thing I really like Gatorade!
Since this part of the route was new to me, I was not sure where the hills would be and what to expect, but I’d grilled others about it the night before, and it really was very manageable. There were just a few spots with traffic, one of which is right when leaving the MMA at the rotary. Other than that, there were some hills but nothing that couldn’t be handled, even the hills at the end. They just didn’t seem too daunting after all the hill riding I’ve done this year.
There were good crowds of people on the Cape cheering us on, which was really really nice. Much different from last year where we had seen very few supporters on the return route.
The winds of course picked up as we got to the outer cape. That was fun, to have both hills and wind at points :). The ice couches at some of the rest stops were also very timely and much appreciated. But the highlight of my day was seeing my family (Mom, Dad, sister, sister in law and my niece and nephew, Aunt and Uncle who had just arrived on the Cape for a vacation) along Rt. 6. We pulled over and had a chat with them for a few minutes. It was really great to have someone cheering specifically for us! Soon enough, we were on our way for the very last leg which winds thru the Ptown dunes. Another day with no bike problems, no health needs, all in all most excellent.
Something like 79 miles.
And then we crossed the finish line. Had another shower truck shower, and ate a lot of food, finally. We met my parents and they listened to us tell them all about the ride. We walked around Ptown for a bit, then boarded an evening ferry and got back at 10:30 and we both nearly literally fell into bed.
I think I probably ate barely 2000 calories across the two days while riding. This was definitely not the optimal and I’ll try to pin down what I could do better. I had no problem with eating last year, I ate like a horse the whole time…
I am still exhausted now and am about to turn in…
A few more observations first.
One, one of the things I love is that after the first rest stop of the first day, the riders just kind of settle into a pack with a certain ebb and flow. You hear the whirring of tires and cranks, the “car back” echoed up the line, the “left turn/slowing/stopping” calls, and every once in a while catch some snippets of conversation between a few riders passing you or while you pass them. This is just the flow of the ride and I can’t describe it more but it’s very cool. It is a big peloton and the bikes matter. 97% of the cars are very respectful and the 3% that aren’t don’t have much choice.
No one likes to hear the ambulance though. Unfortunately I heard it a few times this ride. Per email today, there were 12 sent to area hospitals (of 5000) for various issues, and all have been released.
As always, the supporters and volunteers make such a big difference. I couldn’t really think of doing this without all the assistance it gets – from the volunteers, the townspeople, the police officers. A comment from the departure AM was “In other events, people shout ‘Go,’ or ‘You can do it’ from the sidelines. In this event, they shout ‘Thank you!'” It is true, and it gives me great humility to hear it when I feel like I wish I could do more.
This year’s ride was 36% women, though only a smaller percentage continue on to do the 2 day. It was more women than ever so we were told.
The scenery is quite nice, especially on the outer Cape.
Riding on Rt. 6 between Truro and P town was something I would have never dreamed of a few years ago, I always thought it would be too crazy and too far to go. Out there, we felt like we were in another world (like the desert). There were no bunched up packs of riders.
It was nice that we know that part of the Cape so well, because I pretty much knew what kinds of hills to expect, even though other peoples descriptions made them out to be super horrible. They are at the end when you either just want to be done (me, last year but returning to Wellesley) or have gone so far you no longer care (me, this year, so it was almost fun).
I felt more of an accomplishment the first year. This year, my thought was not Can I do it, but Will I do it? Subtle, but different questions.
Now we are thinking we should tackle the Sturbridge start since it is the longest distance and has the most hills.
I have uploaded a whole bunch of pictures to give a feel of the event:
I will definitely do it again but we do need to figure out where things will go with the house etc over the coming year. It is a big commitment to make and to prepare for it really means it is front and center for most of the best months of the year weather wise…
It is kind of like signing up for the IM 1 year ahead of time… no dropping out, but life can change things on you in a hurry. At least with this I won’t have to decide until January.
I want to learn some more advanced bike handling to deal with emergency or just useful actions (like drinking on the bike, grabbing water from spectators, etc). And I need to learn more repair skills so I feel more confident to ride alone around my home. These will be added to my upcoming goals.
And we still have more fundraising to do, before we meet our amount. I am amazed by the people who seem to almost effortlessly raise 6,000 or more… kudos to them.
I talked with someone who had done TNT for a while and thought the PMC was much better run. Interesting.
It was a great ride and there is a reason so many return year after year…
I truly think the hardest part of the whole ride, for me… is waking up the Monday after (today) and realizing that… the people you ride for are still not there or are still fighting their battles. It is only a temporary shared easing of the pain…
Anyway, thanks for reading.