Friday, August 18, 2017

14th PMC Complete!

It's been two weeks since my 14th Pan-Mass Challenge, and I am still having pleasant flashbacks to that wonderful weekend! The ride is always an amazing event, but my teammates, and Maya, our reason for riding this year, made it a memorable one.

Ready to start the ride!
I awoke at 3:45 AM on Saturday to get ready for Day 1, which is 110 miles long. To break up that distance, there are many fun milestones along the way:

  • At mile 6, my friend Sheila and her husband always cheer me on with a big sign an even bigger smiles! I always stop for a hug and a quick chat. Thank you both for coming out year after year!
  • At mile 47, the route hits Cherry Street in Wrentham. It's like the entire town comes out to line the street and cheer us on! There are bands, signs, chants, cheering, and even a bagpiper along the whole road! And to make things even better this year, the town paved the street - no more dodging potholes as we take in the love!
  • At mile 65, the riders who started in Wellesley merge with the Sturbridge riders. This is the first time that all 6,000+ riders share the same route, and it's the first reminder of what a HUGE event this is!
  • At mile 70, we have our "lunch" stop (I put it in quotes because we got there at 9:55 AM!). It's a critical point in the ride - we've climbed most of the hills for the day already, but still have 40 miles left to go!
  • At mile 85, we start to see big signs with photos of the pedal partners lining the road, leading to the pedal partner water stop. That's where we saw Maya and her family. She spotted us easily because of the unicorn horns that we wore on our helmets in her honor!
    Me, Maya, and her mom Gina at the rest stop!
  • At mile 100, we hit the triple digit mile mark and enjoy our last rest stop before continuing on to the Mass Maritime Academy, our home for the evening.
  • At mile 110, after parking my bike for the night, my only thought is, "where is the beer?!"
The rest of Day 1 includes a shower, dinner, a team photo, a massage, and visiting with my friend and volunteer extraordinaire, Kim! Then, it's bedtime - gotta rest up for Day 2!

Day 2 goes quickly, almost too quickly! It has arguably more milestones than Day 1, partially because the route is much more scenic and iconic. Here are a few highlights:
  • At mile 2, we begin the climb over the Bourne Bridge at sunrise. Though it was a little crowded with riders which meant we went very slowly, the view of the sunrise was unparalleled!
  • At mile 11, we begin a steep climb up to Service Road, which is as close to riding a roller coaster on a bike as one can get! The rolling hills make for a fun and fast ride!
  • At mile 38, we pass by Da Hedge, a figurative wall of children attending the Cape Cod Sea Camps, cheering us on. As is tradition, our team rides by Da Hedge together, champagne glasses held high in toast to their support!
  • At mile 53, my teammate Lance's family passes out Twizzlers to the riders at the top of a particularly steep hill. We always stop to say hi (and to down a Red Bull!).
  • At mile 64, we begin the final leg of the day, riding on Route 6 in Truro into Provincetown. This is head down, pedal to the medal time. Unfortunately, this year we had a strong and steady headwind from this point in the ride on. It took all our collective effort to go somewhat slowly on this stretch, but we made it!
  • At mile 76, my team pauses for a moment, one mile from the finish line, to take the traditional team photo at the entrance to Herring Cove Beach. We once again raise our champagne glasses, this time to each other for another ride well ridden.
Team Kinetic Karma finishes another great PMC!
I never get tired talking about how wonderful the Pan-Mass Challenge is. Everywhere you look, there is inspiration. The 19-year-old cancer survivor thanking me for riding while he fills my water bottle. The supporter who claps for us next to their hand-written "I'm alive because of you" sign. The massage therapist who is on his 20th 15-minute massage of the day, telling me that I did the hard work of the day (I respectfully disagree). The PMC is a slice of the good of humanity that everyone should experience, now more than ever.

Thanks to my incredible supporters, I have raised over $11,000 this year, but I am still short of my $12,000 fundraising goal. If you haven't made your donation yet, I hope that this summary inspired you to make a contribution. 100% of your donation will directly support programs and research that are saving lives. Together, we will make cancer history. Thank you!

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

This Weekend, We Ride

Team Kinetic Karma by the Cape Cod Canal RR Bridge
How is it already August? Seriously, the summers seem to fly by more quickly with each passing year. Because I spend so much of the spring and the first half of the summer training and fundraising for the Pan-Mass Challenge, August approaches especially quickly.

Last Saturday, several of my teammates and I completed a 65-mile bike ride down the Cape, crossing over the PMC Day 2 route several times. Today marks my final training ride for the PMC - a 30-mile ride through the Blue Hills to and from my bike shop for a final adjustment. Tomorrow, I'll start to pack for the big ride. That's when the nerves will start to set in.

Nerves, you say? But Jared,  you've been riding the PMC for well over a decade - how could you possibly be nervous?! I'm not nervous per se, I'm just anticipating all of the special feels that I get during the weekend. Here are some highlights:

  • Arriving in Sturbridge on Friday afternoon to see thousands of people doing the same thing as you: registering, catching up with friends over a (free!) beer, and heading to bed early in anticipation of a long but fun weekend.
  • Waking to see those same people all wearing the same jersey as you. In the dark, mind you, because it's barely 5 AM.
  • Seeing my friend Sheila, who every single year cheers us on with a huge "Go Jared Fijalkowski" sign (I always feel like a rock star!).
  • Riding down Cherry Street in Wrentham, which its residents turn into a party. I think of it as a reverse parade - we roll by and take in the cheers and the musical acts.
  • Riding up to the water stop at mile 85, where the street is lined with large photos of every single pedal partner (children undergoing cancer treatment). I always, always cry. They are why we ride.
  • Seeing our pedal partners at that water stop. Maya, see you on Saturday!
  • The luxuries of staying at the Mass Maritime Academy. No, really! Free beer, massages, music, tons of food, and I get to see my friend and volunteer extraordinaire, Kim!
  • Riding over the Bourne Bridge and along the Cape Cod Canal Bike Path at sunrise. I never get a chance to take a photo, but take my word for it - breathtaking.
  • The uphills and downhills of Service Road. Wheee!
  • 'Da Hedge, a veritable sea of children at camp cheering us on.
  • Riding across the finish line in Provincetown with my teammates, "champagne" "glasses" in-hand as we toast to another great ride, and another step forward in the fight against cancer.
My legs feel ready for the ride ahead, but I am still short of my ambitious fundraising goal of $12,000. Please make your cancer-fighting donation today. 100% of it will go straight to the Jimmy Fund in support of the innovative research that the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute is doing. Research that saved the life of my team captain, Dave, several other teammates, and Maya, our pedal partner. Thank you!

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Climb to the Cramps

The most important training ride that I do every year is an organized ride called Climb to the Clouds. It ranges from 48 to 100 miles, depending on the route you choose. Some of the routes include riding up Mount Wachusett (hence the name of the ride). I did the 60-mile route, which includes the big climb.

At mile 20 or so (beginning of the big climb) I didn't feel strong, but I motored up the hill anyway. But at mile 50, at the last big hill of the ride, my left quad started to cramp. I thought to myself, just push through this - the end is near! Well, I kept pushing, then my right quad started to cramp. Then my left hamstring. Then my right hamstring. Soon both of my legs were on fire! I had to stop, just a few hundred feet from the top of the hill. As I reached my feet for the ground, both legs fully extended and seized up. I couldn't move, and was in excruciating pain! It took a few minutes to just be able to get my feet back on the pedals. Worst. Cramps. Ever!

Ice cream at the end of the ride was amazing!
I've always said that if you finish the Climb to the Clouds, you're ready for the PMC. While I did finish the ride, it put a dent in my confidence. It wasn't a lack of strength that did me in, it was a lack of good nutrition. Luckily, during the PMC, the volunteers pretty much through food and beverages at you, so I'm at a low risk of cramping badly during the PMC. Fingers crossed!

Don't forget to make your cancer-fighting donation! Do it today! Thank you.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

The $2,000 in 7 Days Challenge is Back!

It's mid-July - peak PMC training season! Last weekend, Team Kinetic Karma did a 51-mile training ride to visit Maya, our Pedal Partner, at her house. Because she loves unicorns, we all sported colorful unicorn horns on our helmets - she thought we were silly, but she loved it! It was so nice to visit with her and her family, and we can't wait to see her on Day 1 of the PMC at the Pedal Partner rest stop!

Team Kinetic Karma with Maya and her mom and brother!
It's also peak fundraising season! I'm thrilled to announce that my $2,000 in 7 Days Challenge is back! Over the next seven days, I have set a goal to raise $2,000 for the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in support of my 14th Pan-Mass Challenge ride. If I meet that goal, I will have raised over $80,000 in my 14 PMCs, thanks to hundreds of donors!

Thanks to a good friend and his generous company, I have an incentive to offer to all of the people who donate over the next seven days. For every $25 that you donate, you'll be put in the running to win a one-night stay at the W Boston Hotel. A great place to stay for a vacation in Boston or for a staycation if you live here! Thanks to John and the W Hotel Boston!

Remember, 100 percent of your donation goes directly to the Jimmy Fund, Dana-Farber's fundraising arm, to support  innovative cancer research that is saving lives like Maya's and my team captain, Dave's. The money raised through the PMC is making a huge impact in the fight against cancer. Please make your donation today! Thank you.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Slow Start to Spring Training

On the new bridge on the Lower Neponset River Trail
It's been a wet spring here in New England, which has been putting a damper on my Pan-Mass Challenge training. In addition, it's been a busy spring - weddings, new house upkeep, and tending to my broken-legged husband have taken up more of my time than normal. I've yet to clock 50 miles in a single ride, which is usually an early milestone in my training. 

I haven't been sedentary, though! The Lower Neponset River Trail was just extended behind our new house in Milton - we can see it from our back yard! From our house to the new terminus in Mattapan Square, then to the ocean and back is about 11 miles round trip. I certainly need to be biking more than that, but it's a peaceful, beautiful ride through my neighborhood and others. Ian has been biking with me - he's rebuilding the muscles in his leg, and I'm getting some much-needed miles in!
View of the Neponset River as it meets the Atlantic Ocean

One aspect of preparing to ride the PMC that I haven't been slacking on is the fundraising. I am exactly halfway to my fundraising goal of $9,000 thanks to some very generous donors. You could (and should, IMHO!) be one of them! Here's my standard run-down of why supporting your local PMC rider is an excellent idea:
  • 100 percent of your donation will go straight to the Jimmy Fund, the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute's fundraising arm. That money funds cancer research that saves lives.
  • Cancer SUCKS. This year more than ever, I'm learning that lesson as people close to me battle a form of cancer. 
  • PMC donations are making a difference in the fight against cancer. Click here to read about how last year's $47 million is making a difference.
I could go on, but I think you get the point. Making a donation to the Pan-Mass Challenge is an excellent way to take a stand against cancer. Do it for Maya, my team's pedal partner who is battling Clear Cell Sarcoma right now. Do it for a loved one who may have passed away from cancer. Do it for yourself. Please make your cancer-fighting donation today by clicking here. Thank you!

Monday, May 15, 2017

Riding for Maya

On August 5 and 6, I will ride my bicycle 190 miles across Massachusetts. This probably comes as no surprise to you – I’ve been doing that for the last 13 years as a Pan-Mass Challenge rider. Many things in my life have changed since my first ride in 2004 (I was only 22!), but one thing has remained constant – my dedication to contributing to a world without cancer.

Since joining Team Kinetic Karma in 2010, I’ve had the pleasure of riding for and getting to know several Pedal Partners – children undergoing cancer treatment: Charlotte, Megan, and Anna. Now that all three of them have completed their treatments and are cancer-free, my team was looking for a new Pedal Partner for our 2017 ride. Little did I know that our next pedal partner would be so close.

Maya, our Pedal Partner
In January, my officemate Gina’s daughter Maya turned five years old. In February, doctors found a large mass on one of her kidneys. Following surgery to remove it, doctors told Gina and her husband that Maya has Clear Cell Sarcoma, a very rare renal cancer. Maya completed six days of radiation and now is undergoing seven months of chemotherapy to beat her cancer. Gina reports that Maya is taking her treatments in stride and that she is starting to see positive results!

I truly believe that the funds that donors contribute to Pan-Mass Challenge riders is making a difference in the fight against cancer. While still a terrible family of diseases, I think that there are more and more success stories about cancer than there were 5, 10, or 20 years ago. Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, one of the premier cancer research hospitals in the world, is helping to lead that charge, and I am honored to raise money for their work to save the lives of children like Maya.

Team Kinetic Karma ready to ride for Maya!
Earlier this month, my team and I were delighted to spend time with Maya at the Pedal Partner Party at Fenway Park. Sporting a unicorn hoodie that even the adults were jealous of, Maya charmed my teammates, and all fell in love with her. While Wally the Green Monster was a little too scary for her (he scares me too, Maya), all in all it was a good day. We look forward to our team training ride to her house this summer and seeing her at the Pedal Partner water stop on Day 1 of the ride!

Please join me in my continued quest for a cancer-free world. My 2017 goal is to raise $9,000 to support the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute’s innovative cancer research and compassionate care that is saving lives like Maya’s. 100 percent of your donation goes straight to this important cause – the fight against cancer. Please make your donation today. Thank you!

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Back in the Saddle!

Sun and smiles in the Blue Hills!
It's finally starting to feel like spring here in Massachusetts! The warm weather on Sunday compelled me to get back on my bike to go for my first training ride of the cycling season.

Ian and I moved in January to Milton, the first town south of Boston. It has great cycling infrastructure - a recently extended bike path that runs right behind our house, bike lanes on major thoroughfares, and, perhaps most importantly, smooth pavement! In addition, Milton is one of the towns that includes the Blue Hills Reservation, which is a great place to ride a bike! I did a short 21-mile loop to kick off the season, and it felt great!

That was just the first of many rides that I'll do to get ready for my 14th Pan-Mass Challenge on August 5-6. While the riding is a lot of fun, that's not the only reason I do it. I've set a goal of raising $9,000 to fund the innovative research and compassionate care going on at Boston's world-class Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. The funds that we raise are quite literally curing cancer and extending lives. I'm proud to be a part of two excellent Boston institutions - Dana-Farber and the Pan-Mass Challenge.

Please join me in the fight against cancer by making a donation today. 100 percent of your tax-deductible donation will go directly to Dana-Farber's Jimmy Fund. Thank you!