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PMC 2006, Day 1: Sturbridge to Bourne, 112 Miles

PMC LogoSaturday, August 5, 2006

Saturday morning I again awoke with the alarm clock, no problem at all. (Apparently, my body is trying to remind that sleeping enough at night means it's easy to get up in the morning. Not sure how I forgot that over the last couple of years...)

I took a quick shower to wake up, dressed for the ride, and carried the cooler full of gatorade and ice-water down to the car so Corinne wouldn't have to lug it down later on her own.

Oops. In a classic Seth move, I forgot my key and couldn't go back into my room! Mark and his wife were already waiting for me, but Corinne wouldn't wake up to answer the door, so I had to go back down to the front desk, get a new key, go back upstairs to grab my stuff (especially clothes for after my shower in Bourne), and then back down the elevator again to Mark's car for the 15 mile ride back to the Host.

Like this story? Check out the comments in the forum! Participants have included other PMC riders and even one of the long-term PMC Road Crew volunteers.

In all the confused, early-morning frustration, I left my cycling gloves and shades in the room. What a dope! (I didn't realize I'd forgotten them until I was at the start. This wasn't nearly as much of a problem as I'd expected, but I did miss them.) Definitely "classic Seth."

We didn't leave the hotel until 5:20 (sorry, Mark!), and arrived at the Host at 5:40. That left just 20 minutes to grab my bike from the back of the hotel and walk all the way around to my regular starting position.

At 5:55 AM Billy sounded slightly frustrated on his megaphone. Greg Lemond was supposed to say some words to get everybody started, but was nowhere to be found. (Turns out he was being interviewed, live, on Good Morning America or one of the other morning talk shows.) Billy was going to continue without him — the ride always starts at 6:00! — but Greg showed up just in time.

Then, well... we were off. A gigantic herd of cyclists — bigger than most people could ever imagine — covering the Westbound side of the road for as far as you can see in either direction, even long before the parking lot is empty. (If they make another movie like they did last year, watch for me! I'm the guy in the mostly-yellow jersey.)

Chris Rawson, Steve Davis, Paul DavisI still hadn't seen Steve or anybody else I knew... except for Chris Rawson, just a mile or two from the start! He said Hi as I rode by, which is the only reason I saw him, scooted onto the sidewalk and rode back to chat for a few minutes.

I stopped for a couple of minutes at the first water stop to eat a little. Mark had grabbed a cinnamon roll for me at the hotel, but I needed a little more. Didn't spend too much time here, as I knew Steve, Paul, and Mike wouldn't be far behind but would skip this stop (Steve always skips it).

Facial Recognition

As I had hoped, Steve saw me at the second stop. Over the years, this has always been where we connected.

See, the PMC is a really great experience, but there's one big problem for which there really is no easy solution. We all look the same! 99% of us wear that year's official PMC jersey. We all have helmets on. Yes, the helmets are different colors, but that's very little help since all the colors are bright. There's no variety like there is in hair styles. You can't recognize someone based on their walk, either, because we're all walking around in these clumsy bike shoes!

Now imagine trying to find your friends somewhere in a parking lot full of these identical shirts and brightly colored helmets. At the start of the ride on Saturday, there are about 2,500 of us in Sturbridge. If you can see my face, you'll recognize me, but sometimes it's just overwhelming and you'll need more than a quick glance for your facial recognition "systems" to work correctly.

If you find yourself separated from your friends, you have three options: spend a whole lot of time looking for them, stay put and hope they're looking for you, or just keep riding and hope you find each other again later. This weekend, I always chose the third option.

Anyway, like I said, Steve recognized me in the much smaller crowd at the second water stop, and called out so I'd see him. He was there with Paul (his son, 15, first time rider), Mike Lucas, and Dave Schlageter (his brother-in-law, who also rode with us last year). After warm handshakes all around, we were all ready to roll again. I'd parked near the exit, so I headed back to my bike...

... and promptly lost them. They rolled right past me, but we didn't see each other. I stayed by my bike for a few minutes wondering what was taking them so long, and then decided to just start riding: either they had missed me, or were still back there somewhere and would catch up. (As I rode out, Steve came riding back in. They hadn't seen me.)

Steve and Paul DavisThis happened a lot this weekend, and not just to us! Some groups have taken to wearing goofy stuff on their helmets, like tiger tails or ping flamingoes, so they can picked out more easily. But so many people do that kind of thing now that I'm not sure it really makes any difference. Steve and I both have great bellows, so we could always use those (a lions roar can be heard for miles!), but I'm not sure the other riders would appreciate that. ;-)

This was the first time I'd seen Paul ride. I've been hearing about this kid's amazing stamina for most of the year. On a regular basis, he apparently rides his Dad into the ground without breaking a sweat, then throws Steve and his bike over his shoulders and rides them all home in time for dinner. I hadn't seen any of this for myself yet, but I'd heard the stories.

The Science Behind Paul's Amazing Feats

I would have mentioned this years ago, but Steve seemed to want it kept secret. Now, with his son's reputation growing like a weed, I feel it's time to let the public know.

Steve has the mutant X-factor gene (think "X-Men") that gives him the amazing ability to dehydrate on demand. No, it's true! This explains all those times Steve has finished a ride and either made himself sick or actually put himself in the hospital because of dehydration. And those are only the ones "they" have let us know about. You can just imagine all the ones we haven't been told about.

Normally (that is, hydrated) weighing about 200 pounds, with a fairly low body-fat percentage, he weighs only 70 pounds when fully dehydrated (that is, a big piece of beef jerky). His bike only adds a few pounds more. So his 130 pound son is only carting home an extra 75 pounds or so, not a full 205+. Still impressive, certainly, but not miraculous.

Oh, and Steve? Don't worry about him. He re-hydrates pretty quickly: just drop him in water. Throw him in the pool, or a tub, or hook up an IV (again), and he's good to go in just a day or two. Cool talent, huh?

The third stop was lunch, at approximately mile 70. Somehow — believe it or not! — we got split up again and arrived separately. I don't actually remember how this happened, but no big deal. I was sitting down under one of the big tents, eating dinner, when I saw Steve surveying the food. His parents and a couple more of his sons were there. We chatted for a few minutes, then he left to find his family.

After waiting around for a while, and not seeing any of them again, I headed for the bikes. On the way I saw John Thomas — the other 'Clydesdale' from my first year in the PMC — and had a little chat with him. He complained (as he did last year) that I've lost too much weight to keep my speed on the descents. Oy. (I still weigh 250 pounds! Gimme a break, man!)

At the next stop, my butt was really starting to hurt. The edge of the chamois in my shorts is always my biggest problem on long rides. I think I could double my tolerance (or "capacity") for these long rides if I could solve this, but I just don't know what to do about it. (Gee, maybe I should try chamois butter, since that's what it's made for... Duh.) The pain gets so bad that I just can't take it anymore and have to rest for awhile. (This is why I haven't attempted a double century yet. If I figure out a solution, I'd like to try a double this year.)

Thankfully, the stop after lunch had a nice treatment for my sore butt: a very large pile of bagged ice, all covered in a tarp. :-D I'd been sitting on or against it for almost fifteen minutes when Steve, Paul and Mike showed up. Steve and Paul promptly joined me on this icy throne.

From there to the last water-stop (which is just eight miles from the finish), we managed to stay together for most of the time, though Mike and I did arrive just a little ahead of Steve and Paul. Along the way, I had noticed that Paul's right leg was starting to cramp up: he was rubbing his thigh constantly. Steve had been very attentive to Paul all along (for example, by making sure he didn't take any long pulls), and I can only assume he saw the same thing. Now Paul was clearly feeling the 103+ miles he'd already ridden that day, and seemed to decide he could just stop there. (Sorry, kiddo!)

His Dad eventually asked him if he was ready to go. "No, I think I'd like to rest awhile longer." Steve replied, "OK, well, I'll see you when you get there, then." Hah. The look on Paul's face was priceless. He actually believed, for a second, that his Dad was going to finish without him! I guess Paul's look made Steve feel guilty, because he admitted he was kidding right away.

I was still feeling good, and Steve and Paul were planning to "limp in" (Steve's words), so I let my legs run. With less than ten miles left, I figured I wasn't likely to burn myself out too much if I pushed it a little... except I ended up having to stop *completely* for some road work (brush clearing), and we all finished the day together anyway. (Which, I suppose, is as it should be.)

The Weirdest Thing

One of the most memorable — and certainly the funniest and weirdest — parts of the whole weekend happened right after my massage.

I was standing in line to get a beer (they are free, but there are a lot of us, and they can only pour so fast...) when I heard a woman's voice say, "Seth?"

I looked right, I looked left. Didn't see anyone I recognized, and nobody seemed to be trying to get my attention.

Again: "Seth?"

Definitely to my right. I looked more carefully, scanning every face in the area. I was very tired, but really didn't recognize anyone (and with the ride over, most were in street clothes, so the "everybody's dressed the same" problem was gone).

Finally, as I was scanning faces, the lady I was currently looking at said again, "Seth?"

"Yes..." I replied.

"Really?!" she asked.

No, I'm not kidding. She really asked, "really?" My first thought was, "What the heck?" Then I thought, "Why did she keep saying my name if she didn't know it was me?! Does she just say 'Seth' to everyone around her, until someone responds? This is weird!"

"I'm sorry, I know this is very strange..."

She and her husband explained that her sister's husband's cousin's best friend (seriously, it was something like that, I'm not exaggerating) reads my site and had told them that I'd be the tallest guy there. So all through dinner on Friday, they'd been saying, "Seth?" around any tall man who walked by, but didn't get any bites. They'd been trying again today, and couldn't believe it when I actually responded to my name.

(As I write this, it's been three days and this still gives me a chuckle. So bizarre. And silly.)

Oh, and after getting no "bites" on Friday night at dinner, they had decided that I was actually really short and just claimed to be tall for reasons of "stature." (ahem) They were quite amused with themselves when they learned I really was the tallest. (Actually, I was tied for first. There was another 6' 9" rider, as I've already mentioned.)

If you happen to be the "best friend of the cousin" of this woman's sister, please let me know who you are! I'm wondering if it isn't Chris from the road crew... but who knows?

Highlights from the rest of the day:

  • There were very few bikes in the lot when we arrived. That's how I like it.

  • My massage was over an hour and a half after I arrived. That's fine, but I'm sorry to say it wasn't worth the wait. My masseuse was a total space cadet: she actually forgot what she was doing, and spent the last five minutes staring off into space, just holding onto my left ankle with both hands! Even worse: I was at one of the tables with two masseuses, but the other one did nothing except rub the skin on my shoulders the whole time! Grr.

  • The food was great, as always. Gotta love that Legal Seafoods chowder, and grilled burgers.

  • Didn't see the Davises anymore today, nor anybody else I knew except Mike, very briefly. Told him I'd meet them by the bikes at 5:00 AM, Sunday morning.

  • Saturday night we were staying at the Bourne Bridge Best Western. Corinne was already there, all moved in. She came to pick me up at the Mass Maritime Academy, and we drove (with the bike) back to the hotel. Just three miles!

Oh, the stats! 111.44 miles (179.4 km) in 5h 42' 53" for an average speed of 19.50 mph (31.39 kph). (Paul claims to have finished with an average of 20+ mph, but he shut off his computer every time we rolled into a water stop. My time includes the "rolling", the bike-walking, etc.)

Page last updated: 8/12/2006

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