This past weekend, I finished my 9th PMC. (Well, it was really my 8th year riding since there was that year where I couldn’t ride because I had foot surgery). I’ve been thinking a lot about the weekend ever since I returned home. I knew I wanted to write about it, and yet I wasn’t quite sure what I wanted to say. What I realized last night is that the PMC is the perfect metaphor for what it must be like to fight cancer. Uphills and downhills. Peaks and valleys. Moments of euphoria followed by stretches of anxiety, fear & exhaustion.
There are so many highlights throughout the weekend, peak moments, that make the weekend memorable and unique. The crowds lining the roads, cheering on the riders. Whole neighborhoods coming together, erecting balloon arches, blowing bubbles, youth drummers making music and further down the road, families handing out water bottles and popsicles. The volunteers making peanut butter and grape jelly sandwiches or cutting slices of watermelons. The 9 year old boy who looked tired but determined, holding open the door for the riders who were lined up to get their massages at the end of Day One. Feeling strong on my bike, riding fast, laughing with my teammates, giving high fives to Jacob and his friends. Reaching out to grab that piece of red licorice that I am convinced made the climbs up the dunes easier on Day Two. Asking my teammates to stop so I can photo-document these moments, each picture filled with smiling faces.
And yet, the pictures don’t tell the whole story. The fact is there were very intense valleys along the ride, moments where I couldn’t breathe because the enormity of the loss of lives to cancer hit me so hard that my eyes welled up with tears and I momentarily lost sight of the road ahead of me. These valleys came in waves this year and caught me off guard. This year, I was so focused on being physically prepared for the ride that the main reason why I do the PMC each year slipped into the background of my mind. It was an unexpected wake up call, one which I apparently needed.
In a nutshell, there were too many people with pictures on their backs of loved ones who are either fighting cancer or have lost their fight. Too many ribbons with names of people. Too many faces of innocent children, their smiling faces on posters flanking the road leading into the Pedal Partner stop at mile 80 on Day 1. It’s a reality that is unbearable and almost incomprehensible. The valleys this year reminded me that the PMC isn’t just a fun weekend where I get to ride my bike and spend time with my friends. It’s about a community made up of thousands, working together to help find a cure.
This weekend, I learned (rather, re-learned) my lesson about why I ride, about why I fund raise, why I train, and why I will always remain committed to doing the PMC. None of us can do this on our own. The PMC offers us the unique opportunity to work with complete strangers, to share stories, boost each other up, congratulate a fellow rider for completing his or her first ride, or thank the volunteer who has been pouring gatorade for the past 21 years. It’s about being inspired by every single person involved, from those who donate to those who organize, from the police officers who keep the roads safe for the cyclists to those who pedal 192 miles in sneakers on mountain bikes.
Many many thanks to everyone who participated with me by making a donation this year or in years past. YOU are part of this weekend, whether you realize it or not. Your support kept me going when I might have felt like quitting. Thank you so much for joining me in this fight to find a cure.
Finally, thank you to Team Crank for always…ALWAYS…making me laugh. You guys are the best.