Why I PMC by Sarah DeLude Muncey

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Bill Alfano

Why I PMC by Sarah DeLude Muncey

Why I PMC guest blog by Sarah DeLude Muncey

Eight years ago I didn’t own, and had never once ridden, a road bike.  A busy mom of two boys, full time teacher, and student working on my masters degree, I was looking for a way to reclaim a little bit of “me”.  I craved exercise, a chance to give back, and a little quiet time.  So naturally, I signed up for the Pan-Mass Challenge.  How was I to possibly know that by clicking “I Agree” at the end of registration, I would be changing my life for the infinitely better?  

In retrospect, my life has been dotted with PMC encounters.  As a child growing up on Rock Harbor Road in Orleans, we always wondered why our Sunday morning lemonade stand was booming the first weekend in August.  When more cyclists than any other weekend zipped past, many would stop and offer words of encouragement and leave big tips for three little entrepreneurs.  It was only decades later, as I poured over the PMC route as a pre-first year rider that I realized we had served lemonade to PMC riders.  Years later as a new family we were on our way to P-town to visit friends at the beach.  Traffic was heavy, as it is wont to be on the Cape in the summer, and PMC cyclists were battling the headwinds and heat of 6A.  I commented that I’d love to be a part of the PMC some day, which was met with a reply of, “You couldn’t do that.”  Not only was this the wrong thing to say to a new mom with weight to lose, it was the wrong thing to say to me.  Telling me I can’t do something is like throwing down the gauntlet...it’s how my dad “taught” me to change a tire, and being told I “couldn’t” bike such a distance stayed with me and fueled my determination to ride.

Fast forward two years to my second son and a routine trip to the pediatrician when the subject of bikes came up. The doctor mentioned that her husband was riding the PMC.  “I’ve always wanted to do that,” I said, to which she replied, “So have I.”  We laughingly agreed that if she ever rode, I would join her. I don’t think either of us foresaw such a tremendous undertaking fitting into our busy lives, and yet two years later, I found myself committing to ride 192 miles over a “semi-mountainous” route and raising thousands of dollars for the Jimmy Fund.  The doctor, now my friend, had completed her first PMC the prior year, which meant she was the expert.  Not only did she bike shop with me, but she put up with my incessant questions and worries as I launched into full preparations.  When my first training ride of a measly three miles left my legs wobbling and my confidence shaken, she reassured me.  When my second ride found me floundering in the middle of the road, still clipped to my bike, having bruised pride more than body, she told me that with crashing it’s a matter of “when, not if,” and at least I got it out of the way.  When PMC weekend finally arrived, we trundled off to Sturbridge in her mini-van packed to the brim with family, gear, cowbells, and signs.  We were ready!

I will never forget my first Pan-Mass Challenge.  I remember thinking my cheeks hurt from smiling as much as my legs hurt from pedaling.  I was awestruck by the camaraderie and determination of thousands of riders and volunteers.  I was amazed by the families who spent their weekends cheering and encouraging us as we rode by.  When the hills were steep and the miles long, my friends were there to keep me going (and I like to think I had the same effect on them). We laughed, we cried, we used choice words when struggling up hills, and we grew closer in friendship. We prayed for all those we rode for, their names on lists on our handlebars.  I learned the hard way why they’d been eating chips starting at the first water stop, and I developed a newfound appreciation for mineral ice.  Had someone handed me a pen when I crossed the finish line in P-town, I would have immediately signed up for the next year’s ride.  My first 192 miles as a PMC rider left me humbled, honored, and ready for more.  

As the years have passed I have come to realize that the PMC is more than just a weekend spent on a bike the first weekend of August each year. The PMC has taken hold of my heart and strengthened my desire to make a difference.  Mahatma Ghandi said, “Be the change you wish to see in the world,” and I truly believe that riding in the PMC is a way to live this out, as well as to spread the idea that each of us can have a positive impact on the world around us.  Both of my boys have become PMC Kids Rides riders, something they have embraced wholeheartedly.  As a teacher, my PMC experiences provide plenty of stories to share with my students, and I believe that they begin to open their minds to new possibilities of helping others.  Thanks to the ingenuity of the parent of a student, our school has successfully run a “Coins Against Cancer” campaign for the past two years, raising over $8,000 for the Jimmy Fund through a week-long drive.  It’s amazing to see the enthusiasm and excitement the whole school puts into helping others.

In 2011, my third year riding, my PMC took on an even more meaningful, personal aspect when I learned that one of my students, Alanna, had been diagnosed with osteosarcoma.  This was her second battle with cancer, and she bravely fought the disease while maintaining one of the most positive, cheerful attitudes I’d ever seen in a 10 year old.  Her courage, sunshine, and positivity pulled not only her friends and family together...it united an entire community.  I felt particularly fortunate to be able to call Alanna my PMC Pedal Partner that year.  It was amazing to see her shining face as I pulled into the Pedal Partner waterstop (Lakeville - presented by John Hancock) and to share part of the PMC with her and her family!  As Alanna’s battle continued, it was my privilege to have her as my Pedal Partner.  Sadly, she lost her fight in 2014 to a third manifestation of this insidious disease, and for once, I was grateful for the raindrops that masked my tears as I rode past photos where hers had once shone….I ride in honor and memory of this brave little soul to this day.

For me, the PMC is more that just a ride.  It is truly part of who I am.  Hope, courage, determination, bravery, positivity, and love.  Each of these characteristics shines forth through the PMC...through each rider, each volunteer, each spectator, and each person we ride for.  Through the PMC, I have forged friendships and hopefully set an example for others to live by.  I choose to live my life in hope, not fear.  I choose to do what I can to make a difference.  And so I ride.  My story is not unique….you will hear similar veins echoed through the voices of every person who is part of the PMC.  Together, our shared determination does spread hope and does make a difference.  Why do I ride?  Because I can…