It’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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.”
- 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.
- 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!
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.