If you know someone who has successfully battled cancer, you know that the road they travel gets tough before it gets easier. For those who are victorious, who are lucky enough to have the best of care and loved ones to support them, stormy weather gives way to glorious sunshine.
In a way, the 2018 Pan-Mass Challenge (PMC), a two-day cycling event across eastern Massachusetts, gave the fundraising event’s more than 6,400 riders a small taste of that journey. It rained. Then it rained harder. Then it rained sideways. But in the end, there was perfect sunshine.
Raising $50 million for a worthy cause
I recently blogged about the PMC as Team Adaptive Insights prepared for the more than 150-mile race. The PMC raises money for breakthrough cancer research at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. The work it does is worthy and miraculous: One of our very own team members had her life saved by treatments developed there. This year’s overall PMC fundraising goal is $50 million, adding to the nearly $600 million the event has raised over the years. Every penny goes directly to research.
Our Team Adaptive Insights fundraising goal is $90,000, 34% more than 2017, with a stretch goal to reach $100,000. Raising this money would not be possible without your support, and we’re grateful for every donation. We ride for our family members and friends fighting cancer, and we remember those loved ones we have lost to this insidious disease. When you donate, it feels you’re riding right along with us.
This year, Team Adaptive Insights grew to 16 riders (up from 11 last year). In 2017, just six riders participated both days. This year, that number jumped to 14. Five riders were first-timers, and they rocked.
If you’re a donor, are considering riding with us or your team in the future, or are just curious about what it’s like to participate in the most successful athletic fundraiser in the country, here’s a brief summary of our PMC 2018 experience.
Saturday: Early, hot, and humid
Day One began at 6 a.m., when our team met at Babson College. We joined 2,500 other riders assembled for the 84-mile ride to Mass Maritime in Bourne.
Joining us were first-time riders Fred Gewant, Jon Bandi, Michael Burns, Stephanie Erickson, and Tom McDermott. PMC veterans included team captain Javier Florez, a five-year PMC veteran, as well as three-year riders Chris Canton, Chris Shea, Linda Hull, and Brian Willette and two-year riders Katie Doneghy, Keane Johnson (son of our CFO Jim), Rachel Sadhwani, and Neal Dotterer. My wife, Kathleen, joined us for her eighth year, and this was my 10th.
After an inspiring rendition of the national anthem, we joined hands to remember why we ride and to recognize the cancer survivors among us, including our own Linda Hull.
Overcast skies thankfully dulled the impact of heat and humidity as we wound our way through the early towns with supporters cheering us on. We met up in Dighton, where we ate lunch and compared notes.
Then the rains came. While a welcome relief from the earlier humidity and heat, it made for some treacherous riding. It rained, then it rained hard, then it poured, and then it got so windy that vertical rains turned horizontal. Finally, the rain softened as we made our way to Mass Maritime in Bourne.
Along the way, there was Lakeville, always a Day One highlight. Approaching Lakeville are pictures of the PMC Pedal Partners—children who are cancer patients that teams sponsor. Their pictures are spaced a few feet apart, and we see them as we ride into Lakeville. Unfortunately, they go on for a full mile.
Our Adaptive Insights Pedal Partner is 4-year-old Danny, who was diagnosed with leukemia at age 2. Danny and his family are an inspiration to all of us. Despite the miserable weather, they came out to support our ride. For some of us, it was a chance to meet Danny for the first time. We hope to see Danny at the PMC for many years to come.
The rain continued as we rode to Mass Maritime, grateful that Day One was in the books.
As tempting as the Mass Maritime tents were, we decided to overnight in Mashpee on the upper Cape. We had a great dinner with 15 of us (including our roadies).
Sunday: Picture perfect
Day Two broke as a picture-perfect Cape Cod day. It was a little cloudy and foggy in the morning but morphed into a clear summer day as we made our way down the Cape ready to finish our ride styling into Provincetown.
The ride began at 5:40 a.m., heading out from Mashpee and meeting the course in Sandwich. The early miles had us riding on rolling hills on a course favored by Cape cyclists in training. As we approached Chase Road at 6:30, a bagpipe player greeted us with “Amazing Grace.”
Vectoring onto Route 6A for the trip into Barnstable, we were struck once more by all the supporters along the roads. Cancer survivors and cancer haters were all voicing their support. The spirit on the Cape for the PMC is amazing. Our teammates riding the Cape for the first time were touched by the outpouring of support from people in each town we passed through.
After Barnstable, we headed toward Nickerson State Park. Just before we reach Nickerson, we pass “De Hedge.” It’s a highlight of Day Two, with hundreds of people playing loud music and partying in support of the PMC.
After lunch, we navigated the beautiful Cape Cod rail trail and worked along the ocean in Brewster, Eastham, and Wellfleet. The rolling hills along this route make it vital to leave something in reserve. Special thanks to Ethan Carlson, not only for his financial support but also for joining us in Eastham and riding with us the last 25 miles into Provincetown.
Headwinds, then blue skies and a sense of triumph
The final stretch is perhaps the most difficult. Thanks to sand dunes, Truro and Provincetown are surprisingly hilly, and headwinds can be fierce. As locals know, the spit in Truro is about a quarter-mile wide and the winds bear down on this narrow stretch of land. Fortunately, this year we were blessed with a crosswind and blue skies as we worked our way through the hills and the spit.
To the very end, our team rocked it. Inspired by your support, we were determined to finish strong—and we did. We crushed the challenging finishing stretch and rolled into P-Town as a team. Lunch at a local pub and, for most of us, a ferry ride home marked the end of a spectacular weekend.
Our sincere thanks to everyone who supported this year’s ride. We’re still accepting donations, by the way. Because the fight against cancer continues, and if we keep riding through the rain, we’ll help ensure more cancer patients finish their journeys in sunshine.