Going the Distance for Cancer Research

Another day, another hot afternoon. Welcome to Boston in August.

Massachusetts’ capital city has seen its share of 90-degree temperatures this summer, but the weather was lovely for the Adaptive Insights team during last month’s Pan-Mass Challenge (PMC). “I’m happy to report that all of the team completed the 84-mile bike ride in good health and good spirits,” said Javier Florez, a solutions expert based in Boston. 

Raising money for the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute

Each year, the PMC attracts thousands of bike riders who raise money for cancer research and treatment. Founded in 1980, the PMC has raised a half-billion dollars for the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. Cyclists are required to raise $500 or more to ride in the PMC, depending on the chosen route. In 2015, the PMC donated $45 million. Its 2016 goal is $46 million.

“This year was very special as we had an eight-person Adaptive Insights team,” said CEO Tom Bogan, who has biked in seven previous PMCs. “Collectively, we set a goal of raising $50,000 to support the PMC. We exceeded that goal with pledges totaling almost $54,000. I am very proud of our team and what they did this year.”

The team was organized by Florez, who has cycled in the last three PMCs. He also ordered the specially-designed Adaptive Insights cycling jerseys and helped everyone get set up with their own gear. “The team was strictly volunteer,” explained Florez. “I only solicited the Boston office because of the fact it’s mostly a local event and would be the easiest logistically.”

Team Photo -Mass Maritime Bourne

A team that works well together is more effective, and Florez was always there for guidance, instruction, and a quick high-five. “He led the way, reminding everyone to fundraise and kept the scoreboard,” said team member Chris Shea, Boston sales.

Not surprisingly, the team bonded over time. “We had email chains pumping each other up,” added Shea. “We would celebrate big donations that came in, and we got a ton of support from colleagues and partners cheering us on with every donation.”

Through the quaint New England streets

The bikeathon runs through 46 towns across Massachusetts. More than 6,500 cyclists rode in 2016, choosing from 12 routes of varying mileage designed to cater to all levels of cycling strength and fundraising ability. There are six two-day routes that range from 132 to 190 miles and six one-day rides that range from 25 to 110 miles.

Cyclists choose to participate in the PMC for a variety of reasons. For some, it provides the chance to give something back to the community. For others, it’s more personal. “In early 2011, I was diagnosed with an aggressive breast cancer,” said team rider Linda Hull, another Boston-based solutions expert. “I was lucky to live close by to one of the nation’s leading cancer institutes and take part in a nationwide clinical trial led by my brilliant Dana-Farber Cancer Institute oncologist. I am now healthy and cancer-free. Now it’s my turn to pay it forward.”

“I have had a number of friends and relatives impacted by cancer, including the loss of my mother in 2000, my father-in-law in 2001, and my mother-in-law in 2004,” said Florez. “So for me this was a great cause.”

Ladies and gentlemen, start your bikes

For the Adaptive Insights team, the action began on Aug. 6 at Babson College, where 2,500 riders assembled for the 84-mile trek to Massachusetts Maritime Academy in Bourne. The team met at 6:15am for a pre-race photo and group encouragement. “One of the things I love about the PMC is that people line the streets the whole way to cheer you on, thank you, and hand out water,” said Florez. “It makes you feel like you’re at the Tour de France.”

Chris Post Race 2And although the PMC doesn’t include a climb through the Pyrenees, it is a serious endurance test. As such, some preparation was important to ensure all went well. “I hadn’t ridden a 10-speed since I was a teenager, so I had to borrow a bike from a colleague, get some gear, and give it a shot,” said Shea. “I rode for about 50 miles over four sessions leading up to the PMC.”

“The amount of training people did was all over the map,” said Florez. “We tried to organize a few group training rides, but it was challenging to get everyone on the same schedule. We ended up meeting twice, but no more than three of us at a time.”

Inspiring moments

The PMC also has its share of emotional highs and lows. “Probably the biggest thing that affects me every year is that many of the riders are riding in memory of someone and wear signs on their jerseys with their stories and pictures,” said Florez. “There was one team that had pictures of two young girls on their jerseys. The writing said they were riding ‘with angels.’ It’s equally heartbreaking and motivating.”

“Along the route there are pictures of the PMC pedal partners,” said Bogan. “Mostly children, these are cancer patients whom teams choose to sponsor. Their pictures are spaced a few feet apart and cover almost a mile. There are always a few with black ribbons for those children who did not live long enough to make it to the ride. Eight years on and I have never made it past these without tears.”

“That was an emotional stretch where the adrenaline was much needed,” added Shea.

At the end of Day 1, the Adaptive Insights team, six of whom were PMC first-timers, synced up about a half-mile from the end so they could finish as a team. Together they crossed the finish line, proud of completing an incredible first-day journey that marked months of training, intense fundraising, and a clear sense of accomplishment and camaraderie.

Back in the saddle, pedaling for charity

On Day 2 of the PMC, Bogan was up bright and early, ready to rack up an additional 75 miles. So was his wife and fellow team member, Kathleen, who was participating in her sixth PMC. She was riding for two close friends who are battling breast cancer.  As they proceeded toward the landmark known as “de Hedge,” they passed hundreds of spectators who had come out to cheer the riders on. “They play loud music and party for hours while supporting the PMC,” said Bogan.

Bourne Finish 1 (Javier

Later on, in the town of Eastham, Bogan spotted a familiar face on the sidelines. “Along the way, there is Ethan Carlson, one of our top Adaptive Insights partners out with his family supporting us,” recalled Bogan. “Thanks Ethan!” That wasn’t the only chance encounter during the PMC. “One really cool aspect of the ride is that we met three or four Adaptive Insights customers who said, ‘Hey, I love Adaptive,’” he said.

Today, bikeathons are all the rage. But the PMC stands out as the pioneering event that connected athleticism to charitable fundraising. “It was humbling to be a part of the largest sports related fundraiser in the U.S.,” said Shea. “Because I am local to the area and the PMC is so well known and publicized, I feel a special sense of pride having been a part of the event.”

As this year’s PMC came to a close, many riders were already thinking about the 2017 challenge. “I think all our team members were pretty moved by this event, and only one threatened to never ride a bike ever again,” joked Bogan. “I feel confident we’ll be able to organize a team again next year and am looking forward to starting it all over again.”

Learn how the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, whose exclusive mission is to support cancer research, is using Adaptive Insights to maximize their organizational performance.

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