Thursday, July 12, 2018

$2,500 in 7 Days Challenge!

It's that time of year again! Today I am launching my $2,500 in 7 Days Challenge! Over the next week, I will aim to raise $2,500 towards my $12,000 fundraising goal. To do it, I'll be posting stories on Facebook about why I ride, what the ride is like, who I ride for, and where the money goes.

Today, I'll tell you about my first Pan-Mass Challenge, in 2004. I was about to graduate from college, and really had no idea what I was going to do afterwards. I knew I'd be living in Boston, that was it. I wanted something firm to work towards, so I signed up for the PMC.

While I had read up on the PMC extensively, I really had no idea what I was getting into. While I had done a long charity bike ride before, this was on a whole other level. Thousands of people riding, almost all on fancy road bikes (I had a mountain bike with smooth tires), on unfamiliar roads. I rode alone for most of the ride, since I didn't know anyone and was slower than most.

I distinctly remember slowly riding into Provincetown on the (hot) afternoon of Day 2. I had been to Provincetown before, so I knew that when I saw the Pilgrim Monument, I was close! But, what I didn't know is that the PMC route takes a right off of Route 6 into the Provincelands, adding 5 very hilly miles. I nearly cried. But I soldiered through and crossed the finish line, somehow! I remember thinking "I will never do this again!" but when registration came around the following year, I signed up for my second PMC without hesitation.

It's amazing how things have changed over the last 14 years, both in my life and in my PMC world. Since 2010, I've been a part of the scrappiest and most fun team, Kinetic Karma. And I have a wider circle of friends and family who are generous enough to support my fundraising efforts. I've lost friends to cancer over this time, and have had many others, including several family members, beat cancer. I am honored to ride in their memory and honor.

Please help me kick off my fundraising challenge by donating today. Together, we will make cancer HISTORY. Thank you!

Thursday, July 5, 2018

Getting the Miles In!

Maya, our pedal partner, is on the top left! Now that's a happy, healthy girl!
It was a very busy spring, and summer is starting off very busy too! But I've made time to get three long training rides in so far.

On Memorial Day weekend, some of my teammates and I continued with tradition and rode a loop on the South Shore of Boston. Despite it being late May, the weather was hot and humid, making for a difficult ride. But, those will likely be the conditions for the PMC, so it's good training!

In June, Ian and I trekked north to Vermont to ride the Long Trail Century Ride. A century is a 100-mile ride, but we opted for the more reasonable 60-mile route. Rain clouds threatened to drench us, but we stayed dry (from rain, anyway) for almost all of the ride. The ride features one massive hill, followed by roads that follow rivers and hug lakes - beautiful! Gratefully, the hill is in the first third of the ride and the rest is relatively flat, so once you conquer that hill, you can just enjoy the rest. We also enjoyed the free beer and barbecue at the end!

And just last weekend, my teammates and I did a training ride to visit Maya, our pedal partner. It was another hot one! At mile 10 or so we stopped at Maya's house, as we had done last year. The difference between seeing her this year versus last year was remarkable. She had so much more energy, and hair! Her smile says it all, and she made us all smile. She is the reminder of why we ride - to help put an end to cancer.

The PMC is in just under a month! There will be more training rides between now and then to get my legs ready for the long ride. But it's not all on me - there are many who will make the ride the best weekend of the year. My teammates will make it feel like a rolling party. The volunteers will make sure I'm fully hydrated and fed. The folks along the route cheering us on will give me the energy to keep going. Maya will remind me of why we ride and the impact of the money we raise. And you, my donors, will remind me that, if we all come together for a common cause worthy of our time and money, we can make a difference. Please make your cancer-fighting donation today!

Thursday, June 7, 2018

Riding My 15th Pan-Mass Challenge

On August 4 and 5, I will ride in my 15th Pan-Mass Challenge. I know what you’re thinking: “Jared, you look so young and strong and handsome, how on earth have you done this 15 times?” I can hardly believe it myself! But at the same time, the PMC has become such an integral part of my summers, I can hardly remember life before it. I remain motivated to ride and fundraise for many reasons, but the most important are the people I ride in in honor of and in memory of.

Last year, I told you about Maya, my office-mate Gina’s daughter. Last winter, Maya was diagnosed with Clear Cell Sarcoma, a very rare renal cancer. Maya completed her treatments this past fall, right as she began Kindergarten. She is now a happy, healthy, and cancer-free six-year-old! I am confident that her positive attitude and the lifesaving care she received at Dana-Farber was the winning combination for her to beat her cancer. I took this photo during Day 1 of the 2017 PMC ride. It was such an inspiration to see her cheering on her unicorn-horned team!

On a sad note, late last year my team, Team Kinetic Karma, lost another teammate to cancer. Patrick joined our team in 2014 and rode in his first PMC to give back after battling leukemia. The photo below shows him crossing the finish line in Provincetown during that year’s ride. Later in 2014, he found out that his cancer was back. He knew the deal – more chemo and hope for another bone marrow transplant. He was feeling well enough to volunteer during the 2016 ride, which was the last time I saw him. Late last year, after four relapses, Patrick passed away, three months after the birth of his daughter.

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 that continues to take the lives of those that we love, 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.

Please join me in my continued quest for a cancer-free world. My 2018 goal is to raise $10,000, in Maya’s honor and in Patrick’s memory, to support the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute’s innovative cancer research and compassionate care that is saving lives like Maya’s and countless other children and adults. 100 percent of your donation goes straight to this important cause – the fight against cancer. Please make your donation today.

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.