Recapping the 1st Annual PMC Unpaved Ride
As some of you may know, I had the incredible opportunity to participate in the first-ever PMC Unpaved ride. This unique gravel cycling event brought together riders from all over New England and beyond to support the Pan Mass Challenge (PMC) in their mission to raise funds for Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.
From the moment I committed to the PMC Unpaved ride, I was filled with a mix of anticipation and anxiety. While the adventure ahead promised an exhilarating journey through the rugged terrain, it also presented two significant challenges: meeting the ambitious fundraising goal and conquering the physically demanding ride.
As I embarked on this undertaking, doubt began to creep in. Could I really achieve the required fundraising goal? Would my friends, family, and colleagues rally behind my cause?
My fears about raising the money were unwarranted, and I was floored by the immediate outpouring of support from everyone; their generosity exceeded my expectations! It was both humbling and heartening as it was game-on to get myself in shape for the grinding gravel ride.
The PMC Unpaved ride is no ordinary cycling event. It’s 5,000+ feet of elevation gain over 50 miles of backroads and gravel trails. When I committed to the goal and the ride, I knew it demanded more of me than I was prepared for at the time. I knew it’d push me to my limits.
In May of ’22, I embarked on a six-day mountain biking adventure through the picturesque landscapes of Virginia and North Carolina, joined by three friends who shared my (new-found) passion for mountain biking. Our journey took us to the renowned Pisgah National Forest in Brevard, North Carolina – a mecca for mountain bikers seeking the perfect blend of challenging trails and breathtaking scenery.
In Pisgah, we met up with our knowledgeable guide, Yuri, who would accompany us throughout our stay. Armed with a well honed local’s knowledge of experience navigating the area’s intricate network of trails, Yuri led us on a series of exhilarating rides, each more thrilling than the last.
Our days in Pisgah were filled with grueling climbs up steep fire roads that tested our endurance and rewarded us with access to some of the country’s most sought-after mountain biking trails. These rides pushed us to our limits, as we navigated technical descents and traversed narrow ridgelines, all while surrounded by the forest’s verdant beauty. Who knew Rhododendron could form lush canopies ? (I didn’t)
Returning home, I carried the momentum from our trip into my ongoing training regimen, I logged long rides in preparation for the PMC Unpaved ride. On shorter rides, my son Callan joined me on the local bike trails.
As the training miles accumulated, my confidence grew, but the lingering uncertainty remained. Was I truly prepared for what lay ahead?
The Pan mass challenge unpaved — what an experience!
As the much-anticipated weekend of the PMC Unpaved ride arrived, the air was thick with excitement and the scent of an autumn drizzle. Undeterred by the damp conditions, cyclists from across New England and beyond descended upon the picturesque Camp Mah-Kee-Nac in Massachusetts, eager to participate in the inaugural event.
Upon arrival, I set up my tent, which would serve as my home base for the weekend. The camp’s atmosphere, nestled amidst a backdrop of fall foliage, exuded a sense of camaraderie and festivity. When evening fell, cyclists and volunteers congregating in the large shared dining room. Hearty, delicious meals were prepared by dedicated volunteers; welcome fuel for the next day’s ride.
Outside, the warmth of glowing fire pits drew us in, casting flickering light on the faces of those gathered. Roasting marshmallows filled the air, as we assembled s’mores. Under the canopy of the night sky, the Camp Mah-Kee-Nac transformed from a mere event venue into a vibrant, bustling community. As we prepared to embark on our journey the next day, it was clear that the spirit of the event would remain with us long after the final pedal strokes were taken
50 Miles to go…
As dawn broke over Camp Mah-Kee-Nac on the morning of the PMC Unpaved ride, a palpable energy stirred from slumber as riders readied themselves for the day that lay ahead. A quick breakfast fuel up and everyone gathered for the event to begin. The starting line buzzed with anticipation, a symphony of activity as riders made their final preparations for the 50-mile journey ahead. Despite the chilly, drizzly weather, a warmth emanated from the crowd, fueled by the collective excitement and a fair amount of unknown.
Amidst the chatter of last-minute gear checks and the exchanging of words of encouragement, a hush fell over the crowd as Pan Mass founder Billy Starr and PMC president Jarrett Collins took to the stage. Their presence seemed to amplify the significance of the event, as they stood before us – a testament to the dedication, passion, and hard work that had transformed the PMC from a dream into reality.
They spoke of the incredible impact our fundraising efforts would have on the lives of those affected by cancer, and of the resilience and determination that had brought us all to this moment. As the speeches concluded, the cold and damp conditions seemed to recede into the background, we were ready to start…
Bang — the starting gun sounded.
As our tires began to roll and we embarked on the PMC Unpaved journey, it quickly became apparent that this ride would be unlike any other that I had been training for. The route wound its way through the picturesque landscapes that ran along the border of Massachusetts and New York, taking us along winding backcountry byways and rugged gravel roads that meandered past idyllic farmland and through dense groves of New England hardwoods. The beauty of our surroundings was matched only by the hills we had to climb.
In the early miles of the ride, the throng of cyclists rode in a tight-knit pack as we left the familiarity of Lenox and Camp Mah-Kee-Nac behind. But as the miles ticked by, the group began to naturally disperse, each rider finding their own rhythm on the undulating course. It was around mile 8 that I found myself riding in stride with a fellow cyclist named Mike. I suppose when you’re out on a long ride, brevity is not a necessity and our shared pace quickly turned into a shared conversation, as we exchanged stories about our motivations for participating in the event and the personal significance it held for each of us.
Our journey together was punctuated by moments of adrenaline-fueled exhilaration, like navigating a treacherously loose corner on a gravel downhill or conquering the seemingly insurmountable climb near mile 45. Yet, amidst the physical challenges and triumphs, it was a quieter, more poignant moment that left the deepest impression. As we rounded a bend, we were greeted by a powerful reminder of the true purpose of our ride: a series of photographs featuring the faces of pediatric cancer patients whose lives would be directly impacted by the research funded by our collective efforts.
Crossing the Finish Line
Crossing the finish line of the first annual PMC Unpaved ride was an experience marked by a mixture of sensations – the relief of having reached the end, the exhaustion that permeated every muscle, and the immense pride in knowing that each mile ridden had served a greater purpose. This was my first real big ride, my first challenging cycling event. I am hooked!
With this year’s events on the horizon, my anticipation continues to build. Having already registered for both the two-day Pan Mass Challenge taking place on August 4th and 5th, as well as the 2nd Unpaved ride scheduled for September 28th, I eagerly await the opportunity to once again take to the road, pushing myself to go further.
But if there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that I can’t go it alone. That’s where you come in. 🙂
— I’m raising $ for cancer research as part of the Pan Mass Challenge —