What a great event for an even greater cause! Last month, I successfully completed my first Pan Mass Challenge. The opportunity to support cancer research and those who have been affected by the disease, and pay homage to my late grandmother brought purpose and personal meaning to my experience. However, training for the Pan Mass Challenge was not as clear-cut as I had first imagined. I’ve cycled for years, but have never been a true cyclist. If you are unfamiliar with it, the cycling community is a very passionate group with a deep-seated interest and innate understanding of anything bikes and rides. In addition, there is a lot preparation for events of this magnitude from both the side of the cyclists and the organizers.
My training began with a hybrid bike I found on Craigslist. At first, I thought my solo rides around town would be enough preparation until I joined Landry’s Group Rides. That’s when I realized I had a lot more to learn and that training on my hybrid wasn’t going to cut it. Hybrids can be substantially heavier than road bikes, and can create drag and slow a ride significantly. That said I purchased another bike on Craigslist from a highly experienced rider who left me with so many cycling tips I’d wished I’d brought my notepad. Information is a powerful thing so I made a mental note of the tips and also made several trips to REI, a local outdoor recreation store, to ask lots of questions of their cycling experts. Between the information I received and my new training schedule with Landry’s I began to notice a significant improvement in my performance.
The night before the race I passed out early and woke up energized, but with a mix of emotions. I was excited and nervous at the same time. However, once I arrived at the start line and looked around I quickly realized many of the riders were like me; novices interested in the ride for a great cause. The enthusiasm was infectious. Each of us had become impassioned cyclists, committed to helping find a cure for all types of cancer. This is what all of the preparation was really about and every cyclist and volunteer understood this.
As I waited at the starting line for countdown I hoped all would go well, but there was still the unknown. How would I perform and how would my Craigslist road bike hold up? A young boy, cancer survivor, no more than 12 years old counted down…4, 3, 2, 1…and we were off! The weather was great and so were everyone’s spirits. Volunteers had clearly marked the route and before long I had completed my first 25 miles! I grabbed a cold drink, a quick breather, and kicked it back into high gear headed for the finish line. As I turned the last corner my adrenaline was rushing. Waiting there and cheering me on were my parents and childhood friend. My legs were cooked, but my spirits were high. I had successfully completed the 50-mile ride, fundraised for a cause I care deeply about, and performed better than I’d anticipated.
When I first began this journey, I had some idea what I was in for, but my notion turned out to be vastly different than my reality. Training and fundraising was a fair amount of work. In the end, I got back more than I had expected making the overall experience richer, therefore more gratifying than raising some money for a cause by riding a bike. The Pan Mass Challenge brought together a group of impassioned people who care about finding a cure for cancer. Most brought personal stories with them and each gave meaning to the event. My experience was twofold. In addition to raising money and awareness for an important cause, I ditched my comfort zone and took the initiative to do something I’d never done before while accomplishing the goals I set out to achieve. I will always look on this as a highlight – a self-discovery – something I’ll be proud of for years to come.
Someday, when you find yourself curious about a new hobby or adventure I would encourage you to go for it! It can be a great way to foster trust in yourself and others, develop a sense of autonomy, and to take the initiative to enhance your skills and abilities, which can promote your healthy sense of identity. Go ahead! Create your own starting line!
Even though my ride is over the fight for a cure still continues. It is never too late to donate! All proceeds go to the Dana Farber Cancer Institute and Jimmy Fund; two non-profit organizations determined to help find a cure. Help support the fight against cancer by visiting http://profile.pmc.org/SL0228 or www.jimmyfund.org.
Embracing the Initiative
It’s almost that time! I am just days away from participating in the Pan Mass Challenge (PMC). All rider-raised dollars will go to the Dana Farber Institute (DFCI) and The Jimmy Fund for cancer research. It blows my mind how quickly time has gone by from when I first began training. This past week, the realization that the ride is just around the corner hit me like a ton of bricks. At first, the voice in my head kept telling me, “It’s three months away, you have plenty of time to train and reach your fundraising goal.” That voice repeated itself the following month, and these last weeks have sounded off an internal alarm, which helped me to kick my fundraising into high gear.
This is my first bike-a-thon and the first time I’ve delved into the world of cycling so it took time to create a balance between training and fundraising and fully understand the importance of both initiatives. Both have instilled a healthy sense of trust and confidence in my abilities and in myself. When I first registered for this event, I had some idea of the level of effort it would require, but of course that’s different from actually doing it. Once I began I quickly realized I wasn’t in Kansas anymore; there is a lot of training involved. Cycling is more than hopping on and off a bike and riding around town; it’s a test of endurance and, for many cyclists, a way of life. When I speak to cyclists they can talk endlessly about particular rides, destinations, bikes, and equipment. It didn’t take long for me to appreciate that cycling is not only allowing me to do something beneficial for others, but it continues to give back to me. I have been exposed to like-minded individuals who enjoy being a part of a charitable initiative and have an adventurous attitude. To prepare myself for the ride I developed a personal crash course on cycling: attend bike events, join a cycling club, and get to know other cyclists.
A couple of months ago I attended the 20th Annual Redbones Bike Party held in Davis Square in Somerville, MA. The Mass Bike Coalition organized the event and funds raised went to MassBike and New England Mountain Bike Association (NEMBA). This was a great opportunity to help me understand the cycling community. The event was filled with passionate cyclers and I could sense right away they were a tight-knit group. Redbones, a landmark BBQ restaurant in Davis Square, sponsored the event, which gave me a chance to enjoy some of their savory pulled pork and then check out a number of booths that featured bike shops, clubs, and committees from around the city and surrounding areas.
One group that stood out was LivableStreets. Their mission is to broaden our perspective on transportation to include walking, biking, and using the transit. These modes of transportation can help create safe, convenient, and affordable ways of getting around while helping the people of Boston and surrounding areas feel more connected. I have been a Greater Boston resident most of my life and I can say from personal experience that biking/cycling can be challenging with busy streets and few designated bike lanes, so thank you LivableStreets for your efforts!
Next, I joined a Landry’s Group Rides, a cycle club that meets every Wednesday evening and is sponsored by the popular Landry’s Bicycles. They split us into groups based on skill level. Some cyclists were highly trained while other viewed it more as a fun activity. Regardless of experience, everyone seemed to enjoy the ride and cutting through the wind each time we headed down a hill.
These group rides have given me a healthy perspective of what the PMC ride will be like. It has also promoted my competitive spirit, introduced me to a group of supportive individuals, and nurtured my love for cycling.
The PMC is just days away. If you haven’t had a chance to donate there is still time. Please visit my donation page at http://profile.pmc.org/SL0228. Your support will help increase the chances of beating this terrible disease that affects so many. Thank you for taking this ride with me!
See you at the finish line!
Join me and take the initiative – Create your own starting line!
Growing up, my bike was more an extension of my body than a means of transportation. After school and on weekends I ventured around town with friends. It got me everywhere I needed to go. Being on that bike created so many great childhood memories, but by the time I was in high school I had so many other activities it became less convenient and less practical to bike anywhere. During my first two years of college I rarely considered biking – my car became my go-to for transportation; but that all changed the summer after my sophomore year when I landed a job working on the Island of Martha’s Vineyard.
I was excited about the job, but quickly realized that gas on the Island was very expensive. One day I decided to take my bike to work as a way to save money. At first, the 20 miles round trip wore me out. It wasn’t long, however, before I realized I was cycling everywhere. It reminded me of how cycling energizes me; how the freedom that comes with gliding down the road or tackling a hill is addictive. I realized that cycling is a hobby that even when I drift away from it, once I hop back on it’s as if I’ve never stopped.
Once I graduated college and started working in Boston, I began cycling from home to the train for my commute. One day, I arrived back at my train stop to find my bike had been stolen. I didn’t replace it right away and found myself falling into a familiar trap – like rust on a bike that’s seen more rain than action, the rust began to build up in me. This all changed when I heard about the Pan Mass Challenge [PMC]. I was drawn to the connection between cycling and fundraising and went on to the event page to learn more about it.
The PMC is an annual bike-a-thon held in Massachusetts to help raise awareness and funding for cancer research and care. The event will be held this summer on August 6th & 7th. I have been both an active and passive participant in many fundraising events and have found direct participation the most rewarding. The PMC seemed to be the perfect opportunity to jumpstart my love for cycling and actively participate for a great cause that will help countless individuals and their families affected by cancer.
As I registered for the event, I considered the brutal August heat and humidity, but knew it would pale in comparison to the unforgiving nature of cancer. I’ve never participated in an event like this before, but I imagined the feeling that will come with crossing that finish line, reaching my fundraising goal, and the rewarding feeling that comes with giving while actively participating. Checklist: buy a new bike, fundraise, and train for the event. A quick search on Craigslist helped me locate a bike for sale. After dropping a fair amount of money on it, I realized there was no turning back. As my dad would say, “You’ve thrown your hat over the fence, now go get it.”
I have been an advocate for cancer research for as long as I can remember. My late grandmother, Louise Medwar-Capell, passed away when I was 5 years old after a long battle with lung cancer. We affectionately call her TaTa, the Arabic version of “grandmother”. While I may have been quite young when she was alive, her presence in my childhood had a major impact on me. I will forever remember her love for my sister and I. The memories I have of her during my early childhood will never be forgotten. We smile when we reminisce about her and how excited she was when we came to visit. When she saw us, she would throw her hands up in the air, call out our names, and wrap her arms around us. My sister and I still laugh about how she used to “hide” candy for us, in the bottom drawer of her dining room buffet table. This drove my mother crazy – LOL. Thinking back on these memories helps me feel like she is still with me in some way.
My grandmother also made an impact on me in terms of how I approach my life. I have always had a strong dislike for cigarettes, so much so that smoking never even piqued my curiosity. I have my grandmother to thank for this. I remember, as a child, seeing how much her lung cancer and her passing affected my mother. Losing her mother at a young age was a tough blow and I could see it in her eyes. I didn’t want to risk putting her through that with me, which led to my decision to not smoke – no matter the situation. I also remind myself that, had cigarettes not taken my grandmother from us, there is a chance she could have had a front row seat and witness many of my milestones. However, It was a blessing that I had my grandmother in my life, even for a short period of time. It took all of the strength she had to fight it for as long as she did. This strength gave her the opportunity to enjoy our early childhood and for us to enjoy her. For this, I am eternally grateful. I am participating in the Pan Mass Challenge in memory of my grandmother, Louise Medwar-Capell, and the countless others affected by cancer.
Please join with me in supporting the Pan Mass Challenge as I prepare to cycle towards the finish line. How can you help support the PMC and my ride?
- Please visit my donation page. My fundraising goal is $1,500. Any contribution is greatly appreciated.
- To join my fellow riders and me, please visit.
- Another way you can support PMC is by joining the thousands of people, from across the country, who volunteer each year. To learn more about volunteering please visit.
Any level of participation has its rewards, but for me, active participation takes it to the next level. Maybe it’s time to create your own starting line! Who knows what great places it will take you!
See you on my ride!