To all the supporters of Carole and my fundraisers this year: thank you so much for your support. From 80 supporters we raised $8730. From that $1485 was donated to Boston Healthcare for the Homeless. And we were able to donate 100% of the $7245 you contributed to my PMC ride. That is part of the $38M the overall event expects to give to the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute this year.
First was the Alcatraz Sharkfest Swim. It was the earliest it has even been on May 19th! Very hard to get ready for a May open water swim living in New England. I forced my way into Walden Pond in early May when the water was not even quite 50 degrees. That was tough. But previously, as I had been well aware I might get little in the way of Walden Pond swims, I had been working very hard in the pool. The combination seems to have worked. The conditions on race day were absolutely perfect. I felt strong and relaxed and even at the age of 57 doing my 20th swim, I beat my previous best time by 2 minutes and did the 1.5 miles in 34:00. The entire family was there. Zac and Emily live there now, Joanna always comes out to be my crutch handler and Brendan and Cypress came down from Eureka. It was a great weekend and a great swim!
After that it was a very eventful year for biking in this family! In June we got over 10 inches of cold rain, in July we had 3 high 90s heat waves, we were on vacation with zero biking for two weeks, and then, as soon as we got back from the trip, Carole had a really bad biking accident on a training ride.
She broke her leg badly, broke her collar bone and had a deep laceration on her left thumb. She was in the hospital for a few days and then home in a lot of pain and a cast from toes to hip with no weight bearing allowed. She will go a total of 8 weeks like that in a wheelchair and occasional crutches. She is healing and hopes to soon be bearing weight and re-habing an atrophied leg. Her goal is to be ready to be the “kayak boss” at the second annual Boston Sharkfest swim across Boston Harbor on Sept 21.
Training or lack thereof. For me it was really hard to get ready. I have to work harder than two-leggers to be ready for almost 200 miles in two days. I was more worried about how bad this year was going to feel then I had ever been before. In addition to a number of short rides I got in two 50+ mile training rides which helped. I figured I was going to be in pain and just gutting this one out. As it happened, I did a bit better than that.
Day 1: 110 miles. Starting in Sturbridge with two friends, Kevin and Stacy, we set out with 3000 riders at 5:30 AM sharp. Heading east on route 20 we were all reveling in the unheard-of cool cloudy early August Saturday. It stayed that way all day with one short stretch of light rain. Just before lunch we merged with the group that skips 40 miles (and a wake-up at 3:15) and avoids the big hills by starting in Wellesley. Now we were 5000 riders. Lunch comes early when you start at 5:30 and by 10:30 we were sitting on the grass inhaling boiled eggs, sandwiches, cookies and sodas. I had really faded the last dozen miles up to lunch but food, drink and a rest rejuvenated me and I was much stronger. We had gone 70 miles and only had 40 to go.
Most of the morning Stacy and Kevin were ahead. But as we got closer and closer to the Cape Cod Canal and our evening stop over, I had a resurgence of energy. Pretty soon I was leading and they were asking me to keep the speed down around 17-18 mph. Fact is, by then all of us, from foot to butt to fingers were numb and just wanted it to be over. It is times like that, when you are in pain and ready to quit that we remember why we are doing this ride: as I well know, people dealing with cancer are suffering horribly both physically and mentally and our pain for a weekend of biking has raised over $350M for cancer research over the years.
Overnight on a ship. When we arrive at Mass Maritime Academy, we park the bikes in a huge sea of other bikes happy to leave that device for the night. We head first for the massage signups, get our appointment and then it’s off to the air-conditioned ship to set up our bunks and get our showers. You should see the skill I have developed on my collapsible crutches over the 11 years of doing this of getting up the gang-way ladders (and back down again in the morning with a full backpack). The feeling of getting clean and in normal clothes after 8 solid hours of riding is indescribable. So is getting all the free cold beer you want from the Harpoon Brewery tent. The clouds cleared but it stayed cool and dry.
Dinner, a 15-min massage (just from ankle to hip of my sole leg), and then the famous Living Proof photo of all 350+ cancer survivor riders. A funny thing was when the event founder asked the group if there were any 20+ year survivors. Sure, I raised my hand, but then he went down from 20. He never asked if there were any 40+ year survivors. I probably was the only one. This year I celebrated my 40th year as a cancer survivor! And the strong belief is that I would only have made it to year 3, when I was 19, if not for chemotherapy originally developed at Dana-Farber and early on given to me and to Teddy Kennedy, Jr.
Everyone rider’ goal is to try to make it until 8 PM before heading to bed or else we’ll wake too early. Quarter of eight was the best we could do. Sleeping the way the maritime students do is in very tight quarters. I took the bottom bunk of a stack of 4, a total of 8 were in our alcove. With earplugs and appropriate pain killers, I managed to sleep until 3:00. We had agreed to meet at 4:30 for breakfast but I decided to give in to wakefulness and be early. We rolled out for a day two that would be 80 miles out the Cape at 5:00 AM sharp.
Day 2: 80 miles out the Cape. It was still pitch dark as we crossed the Bourne Bridge–the longest and highest “hill” of the entire ride. Once over, we ride on the canal bike path all the way to the inside of the Cape. It’s a smooth, flat, fast ride and one of the most fun stretches we do. The entire Cape day is fantastic. As we head east along the path the sun begins to rise right in our faces. I saw the official PMC photographer and he later sent me the most amazing picture anyone has ever taken of me on my bike in silhouette riding directly towards the sun rising over the water.
As we turned out the Cape on 6A the road must go over ancient sand dunes because it’s a fun roller-coaster ride. Fast downhills, momentum gained for a smooth ride up the next rise ready to glide down again, over and over. Everyone is feeling relaxed and good and happy. People passed me on the uphills and I passed them on the downs and that repeats for a while. Then, as all during the ride, lots of people made comments to me. Over 100 people said they loved my book. Several had tears as they told me they only rode because I motivated them too after some disease or trauma event that set them back. Many others said I was their inspiration to ride year after year. Whatever the comment, it took me from wondering if I needed a break from this ride next year to being totally addicted all over again and wondering why I even questioned doing this again.
Joanna and Matt took Carole to the Cape for the weekend to get her out of the house and socially engaged more than with just me at home. In Easton where they were staying they got out on the route to cheer riders on and to greet our group as we came by. When I came over the rise and could make out that it was Carole in her wheelchair with her bright white cast sticking out from under a big poster board I suddenly realized what the sign she was holding up said: Don’t Draft Too Closely. It had an arrow pointing down right towards her cast. Hundreds of riders saw the sign and hopefully took her warning to heart. We stopped and visited and then before we stiffened up too much headed back out for our final 30 miles. Truro is the hardest part as you are just 10 miles from the end and get hit with several long hard hills. Then a long stretch of flat in a strong headwind. And finally the last 3 major hills in Provincelands Park just before the finish.
The truck showers used by Smoke Jumpers waiting for us at the finish is considered by all to be the best shower any of us have all year. It’s euphoria time now. We are done for another year. We made it. We raised a lot of money. And now we are clean and get to rest. Eating greasy fried food is guilt free for once. The fast ferry ride back to Boston is delightful and way better than a summer Sunday afternoon drive off of the Cape.
Thank you so much again. See you next year.
P.S. more than $1000 of what was raised for the PMC was the project of 12-year old Rebecca Soslowsky who heard me speak at a school in Philadelphia and then set out to help raise money as a Bat Mitzvah project. She was a huge help in this effort!