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Final Impressions of My First PMC (2003)

My first PMC was incredible.

It rained some for the first half of Saturday's stage, but that really just kept us cool and slowed us down. The ride was probably safer as a result. The weather for the rest of the weekend can be summed up in two words: "hot" and "humid."

I like to understand how things work at a details level, and one enduring impression of this weekend is the scale and complexity of everything. I'm no stranger to large events, but this is a large event in which everything must be portable, so it can be moved with the riders!

How do you house 4,000 riders and 2,000 volunteers, without dramatically increasing the overhead of the event by renting an entire hotel? Use the Mass Maritime Academy and it's gigantic floating 'hotel', the Enterprise (along with all of its dormitories)!

The riders have to be guided along all the state highways and back roads from start to finish with lots of yellow arrows at every intersection (even those where we just go straight through), and protected from traffic the whole way by police officers, some of whom stopped traffic for an hour at a time or more.

Everybody has to be fed, too. Setting up a food tent and feeding 6000 people is impressive, but doing it in five different places in three days (Sturbridge, Wellsley, Bourne (MMA), Provincetown regular finish and Provincetown family finish) is nothing short of amazing.

Having said and experienced all that, one thing has become crystal clear. The work that goes into the PMC, behind the scenes, is all about making the riders feel safe and appreciated. That credit all goes to the volunteers (including Corinne, my personal volunteer!). They're simply amazing.

I told another rider on Sunday morning that I'd much rather ride my bike for two days than clap, cheer, smile, and serve gatorade and PBJ sandwiches to a crowd of smelly, sweaty cyclists. There is one volunteer for every two riders, but it's safe to say that the PMC could not go on without either one of them. The riders are out front and in the media, but how could we ride again 'tomorrow' if the volunteers weren't there to pour food, water and appreciation over us (and down our throats) today? There would be no PMC without them, or at best it would still be just Billy Starr and his 35 friends, like it was 23 years ago.

Friday morning, before driving up to Sturbridge, I was nervous about the weekend. Now I'm sorry it's over.

Will there be a single, complete cure for cancer found as a result of the PMC fundraising? I don't know. Will people continue to die even if cancer is banished from the world? Yes. Does that in any way rain on the PMC parade? No, of course not. The real cure for the ills of mankind don't lie with medicine or mankind, but this effort to help people, to ease suffering and find new ways to heal, is a good and selfless cause that I'm very happy to now be a part of.

The next Pan-Mass Challenge is August 7-8, 2004.

Page last updated: 8/5/2003

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