Two weeks after my first Pan-Mass Challenge, and I’m struggling to answer the simplest, but most asked question. . . “How did it go?”
I could tell you about the route – 190 miles from Sturbridge to Provincetown, on roads I have never had an opportunity to ride, lined by spectators cheering us on with signs, applause, music (bag pipes!) and photos of cancer survivors, patients and those lost to some form of this terrible disease.
I could tell your about how I did physically – which was great. The PMC training plan was spot on, and with the help of my group, I felt strong during the weekend and afterwards.
I could tell you about the volunteers – who were amazing. I’m particularly grateful to the young woman in Bourne, who seeing our confusion (and our Year 1 tags) gave us a warm welcome and a lay of the land.
I could tell you about the riders – the experience of riding with a community of over 6,000, many who have committed year after year to one cause. And the discovery that within this massive group I found friends, teammates and a high school classmate.
I could tell you about my personal community of supporters – donors, friends, and family who cheered me on in person, and online. I could tell you about the friend, who hosted us Saturday night, giving us a much needed respite before day 2, and the strangers who gave me watermelon and poposciles just when I needed them most.
I could tell you about all those things and yet, it would hardly do the weekend justice.
Because this was not just a ride. It was the ride of a lifetime.
Nearing the end of day 2, I started to feel the real impact of my first PMC. Rolling into a rest area with Fight Song playing, I started to dance as I thought of our daughter, who loves the song, and who I was looking forward to seeing at the end my ride. Stepping into the port-a-potty, the words of the song started to hit me…
This is my fight song
Take back my life song
Prove I’m alright song
My power’s turned on
Starting right now I’ll be strong
I’ll play my fight song
And I don’t really care if nobody else believes
‘Cause I’ve still got a lot of fight left in me
Those words, the survivors, the families, the photos, the miles . . . I started to cry.
Rolling out of the last stop, I found myself dragging. I was low on water (my fault for getting impatient with a long line), I was tired and I was chaffed.
It was at that moment I thought of our neighbor, a high school boy who that week had his knee replaced because of cancer. His mother had been sharing his progress, and he was having a tough weekend after the surgery.
It was thoughts of this young man, and his family, that got me to the end. Realizing the pain I was feeling was minor, and temporary, I reset. With clean water from a support vehicle, and a clear brain, I rode the final miles through the dunes of Provincetown, grateful for the chance to help. To donate. To ride.
I can also tell you – I will ride again next year.
Like a small boat
On the ocean
Sending big waves
Like how a single word
Can make a heart open
I might only have one match
But I can make an explosion.