bikingIt’s my 30th year riding the Pan Mass Challenge and I’ve never been less ready. But there’s hope for me – I’m older, wiser and embracing bike training strategies that befit an aging rider. My big goal is pretty simple — to show up and finish.

My commitment to the PMC is something I don’t take lightly. I love this charity ride as 100 percent of the money raised goes directly to Dana Farber. There is no other way I can help to support cancer research except through fundraising so this is my best effort to help find a cure.

For the first 25 years I rode the full 194 mile 2-day event but I was in my 30’s, 40’s, and early 50’s. At 55 years old I gave up the second day. The uptick in aging seems to have a natural inverse relation to miles pedaled – I’m not fighting that equation.

Same person, same sport, a few years older and there’s stuff that has clearly shifted. This year’s training for the 2016 PMC bike event has resulted in “acceptance” of a body that needs way more coddling.

Here are 10 new shifts that I am happily embracing to help me complete my 30th PMC.

  1. Flying down hills in a tight tuck was the big thrill. I felt free as a bird. Forty mph hee haw downhills have become break gripping descents. The only thing that cramps is my hands. It’s ok though because at least I’m coasting.
  1. I used to track my average speed with a fancy bike speedometer that gave me detailed stats. I no longer have one. I only know how far I’ve gone but never how fast. This is a big improvement in embracing my biking zen.
  1. In the early years, my uphill sprints were muscle builders and calorie burners. Now, the term sprint is no longer part of my vocabulary. Climbing hills is nothing but a slog fest but, if I hum or sing it gives me a lift. One of my favs…“Ain’t No Mountain High Enough.”
  1. I now always carry money when I ride because I like to get an ice coffee along the way – that’s an indulgence that kicked in about 5 years ago and makes the ride more like an outing vs hard core training. This is a big plus.
  1. The buffet at the 20-mile water stops on the PMC ride makes the distances manageable. These past few years I devour a half PBJ on spongy white bread every 20 miles and a fist full of peanuts and M&Ms. In my youth I thought a few slices of cantaloupe was just perfect – I’m so glad I’ve stopped lying to myself. Eating whatever I feel like is way more fun!
  1. I considered it a badge of strength to ride in a pack with the guys. Well no longer. Gabbing and riding with the girls is way better and makes the miles fly by.
  1. Porta potties at the bike event used to gross me out. Peeing off-road like the boys was my thing (TMI)? In my 50’s I know that a quiet moment in a porta potty is a welcome relief. I never miss a visit.
  1. Riding in the rain was inevitable to keep up the weekly training schedule. Now there is no longer a weekly training schedule but more importantly — riding in the rain is insane and we all know it. When we cancel a training ride because of rain – that means more time on the couch hanging out. Smart riding decisions come with age and clearly have their benefits.
  1. Riding alone is for dummies. I used to train alone when I couldn’t find a riding partner. No longer – I wouldn’t even consider riding near cars without my posse. Being smart and cautious can actually be more fun.
  1. Being fully trained for the bike event is a thing of the past. I used to enjoy 50 to 80 mile rides in preparation. No more. They wipe me out for days. Now, I am totally content riding 25 miles a few times each week. Age has given me perspective to know I have options. If I don’t’ feel strong enough to finish the big event –there’s always a van.

This year, more than ever, I have needed to embrace these wise new biking strategies. My body has not been particularly cooperative. I seem to have contracted a creepy virus that has slayed my energy for the last month. The Doctor assures me the shelf life of this energy vampire is about 4-6 weeks and in fact it seems my zip is returning. The one day ride should be doable — however, it’s not a slam dunk.

As a veteran rider who is older and wiser — I know my limits (kind of). My training will continue for another 3 weeks and I’m planning on crossing the finish line on my bike (not in the van) for my 30th year.

If you would like to make a donation to the PMC ride and help support cancer research at Dana Farber that would certainly help to move me toward the finish.

Click on link to donate:

Just type in Felice Shapiro and together we will make a difference.



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