‘You’re still riding the #PMC?” my friend said to me. “You go girl, I stopped 10 years ago.” And that conversation happened over and over again. I am not sure how many women have ridden the PMC over 35 years and are still riding but I’m betting we can count us on one hand.
My original riding posse has thinned. Thirty-five years ago I rode this event with my sisters. Loved to ride with those sisters. We were the 3 cycling sisters and one year we were the 4 cycling sisters. But for the last decade it’s just this ole sister. I have my riding buddies I meet at the event, and who I love to see for annual get togethers. But I don’t train with them. Each year, I have to pivot and find women to ride and train with but i’ve not found a women’s riding group on my island of Martha’s Vineyard. Until now!
And by the way, the reason I keep riding this event is because I don’t know how else to raise this much money to fund research for cancer and the money goes to Dana Farber. And I have 36 years of donors and I am not giving them up and I’m not giving up riding until my legs won’t do it anymore because until we don’t have to fear cancer anymore, and there’s more research to be done, this is what I can do to help. And that is non-negotiable!
This year more than ever I needed to train because the event was closing in and I hadn’t done more than a few solo rides in and around my neighborhood and a few were on my new E-bike which was a dream but not good for training.
“I need women to ride with,” I said to Bill. Those guys you ride with are awesome but that whole testosterone thing isn’t my vibe.
My friend David was encouraging, “Ride with us. We love riding with you, you’re a girl/guy. You’re tough. I mean that in the best of ways.” That’s probably not PC but at my age I took it as a compliment. I like being seen as strong. But I don’t love riding with a pack of 10 men. They stop for coffee (that’s good), talk about their marriages (didn’t want to weigh in on that), their business deals (wasn’t asked to weigh in on that), their guy stuff. It’s their ride. I needed my women.
Then I asked my summer girlfriends who were loving their new bikes and were new to longer rides and they said yes but with disclaimers. “We are not going to ride fast, so if that’s ok we will ride with you.” It was ok with me. Permission to slow down and smell the roses. It was more than ok. We explored, we had coffee AND we put in the miles as well. And we talked about women stuff. I loved it. I wasn’t in a rush on these rides. It was so much fun. I rode with Laurie G and Linda K and Susan R.
But then I needed to do the hill training! There was no avoiding the reality I wasn’t trained for the 60. I had decided I wasn’t going to join the throngs off-island to ride in a group. I had decided to do it on this island “my way.” No overnights, no ferries to the starting gate. No huge groups of people. The most important thing was to ride, finish and fundraise.
“I keep thinking by some miracle, without training in the hills or riding more than 30 miles, I will be able to do the 60 miles,” Bill didn’t agree. “You need to get some hill training in.” And he was right.
I texted Martha T. and Catherine M. and met them up-island and they took me on a fast 25 miler. And I couldn’t catch them in the hills. It was a fantastic ride but I knew I was totally untrained. I was working way too hard to keep up.
And then there was Ellie. She said yes. My friend Ellie got me through this PMC. Every time I asked her to do a training ride she said yes. She left her house guests and her husband behind and showed up. Thank you Ellie. We rode and rode and rode and she literally trained me. Younger, stronger and even longer legged than me, she got me in shape. And so I invited her to ride the PMC with me this year.
“Ellie, would you like to ride around the island with me. We are going to do 60 miles and start at 6 am.”
“Sure, I would love to.”
“Who says that every time?” I thought. Ellie!
And we hatched a plan. Then I texted Betty. She rides with her husband and is strong but I hadn’t ridden with her but once. “You want to join the women’s ride, 60 miles around the island.” And she said yes. And we had a plan.
And then one week before the PMC, the men decided they weren’t leaving the island and would ride the PMC here. The Delta Variant had played it’s card. And suddenly we were an event. Billy P sent us a route list. I thought I would just ride from light house to light house, but Billy P had a plan and we had a real Martha’s Vineyard PMC route!
And we gathered in West Tisbury at 6:30 am. And it felt fantastic to back in the PMC but without leaving the island and with my women’s group too. What was to be a ride with Ellie and Betty and me, was now a full event. It was amazing. We women stuck together, waiting for each other to pee, and waiting for each other to hang at the rest stops. We hung together, talked, rode, ate and finished strong.
What an accomplishment. And now the fundraising begins. I’m convinced I will raise even more than ever for this ride because this kind of Karma is powerful.
Click here if you would like to contribute and read all about the Pan Mass Challenge.