Category Archives: Pan-Mass Challenge

Fatherhood: push it

Jewel had her birthday party this weekend, with a teddy bear theme. We held it at our house and, thanks to Mama’s diligent planning well in advance, it was a great success. We had a few activities for the kids and they spent the rest of their time roaming the backyard, bouncing on the trampoline, swinging on the swings and picking tomatoes in the garden.

This was after a morning of mini-meltdowns from Jewel–nobody will like those activities, nobody will have fun, 3B will ruin my party. 3B joined in with salty cursing and general grumpiness followed by breakfast and screen time. By the time the party started, what with all of the preparations Mama and I had to make, we were wrung out. Nothing we did was rocket science–hence no rocket–but there were lots of little things to keep track of and complete.

So, after the party–at which Mama and I had a splendid time as well, visiting with friends and watching the kids play–we all took a little bit of down time and then took the dog for a walk. Snowy had been crated during the party, for everyone’s sanity and her safety–what looks like a tasty bowl of grapes to you looks the same to her, but is actually a bowl of toxic death to her.

Even though we’d let her run around the backyard and played with her after everyone left, Snowy needed a walk. And, despite playing all day with their friends, 3B and Jewel could use one too.

3B led most of the way on his bike while Jewel followed closer behind than ever on his old bike, which I just put training wheels on. Previously she was on a bike that was too small and didn’t run as well, so she had a hard time keeping up with even a scooter. Now, however, you better let her take a turn in the paceline.

But, she still did tire out on the long hill back home, and so I pushed her. As I did, I pulled out my iPhone and played Push It, which actually gave her a lift and got her to pedal harder for a little ways.

As Mama and Snowy caught up to us, Mama said, “Nice music.” But Jewel liked it enough that I played it again when we got home. Or maybe I was just reliving my college days for a moment.

Either way, I’d forgotten that 3B learns a song the first time he hears it and never forgets it–hence his picking out Ode to Joy and Yankee Doodle Dandy on the piano earlier this week. So, for the rest of the night, we were all serenaded by an eight-year-old whistling Push It as he curled up in an armchair reading about Star Wars.

Yo, pick up on this, indeed.

Elsa pulls on a tauntaun coat

80 miles on a bike is a long start to any day, especially one where the finish line is at 110 miles. Add rain and you’ve got a recipe for misery, unless you add a dash of hope, a pinch of purpose and a cup of context.

So, after I learned about love, we rolled out. I was with the bulk of my team, PHAT Tuesday, and with only 20 or so miles to the finish, I counted on being with them to the end of day one. Even though we only ride together once a year, I know how they ride–aware, careful and strong.

We hit the road at over 20 mph, hovering between 21 and 23 mph, as soon as we left the Pedal Partner water stop. I’d been at the water stop long enough to cool down somewhat, which was a welcome respite most years, but which would almost undo me this year.

It was soon after we restarted rolling that the rain came pouring down. Again. By this time, I was soaked with rain, road spray and sweat but now the new rain was falling cold, in bucket loads. I wouldn’t have been chilled so quickly or thoroughly had I pulled on my vest and arm warmers as we rolled out of the water stop, but I took a chance. It hadn’t been raining for awhile and I’d been overheating with either of those layers on.

Now, however, that a cold, heavy rain was soaking us, I debated–stop, put the layers on and lose the team, getting to the finish warmer, but much slower? or keep riding with the team, without the layers, and get to the finish faster?

I opted for the latter.

Honestly, at that point, anything that would have gotten me to the finish faster–paceline, bionic legs, jetpacks–was welcome. Under other conditions, I might have attempted layering on the go, but in a heavy downpour, with increasing car traffic, after that many miles wearing down our reflexes, it wasn’t worth it. If I stopped, though, I was sure I couldn’t catch back up to that train. The locomotives were too strong.

But waiting to layer was wearing me down too. I started to notice that a few of my fingers were tingly, and then I realized that I couldn’t really feel them as well as I could, well, when they weren’t numb. With layers that made as much sense as the sudden slit up Elsa’s dress that appeared while her ice castle rose from the mountainside, I couldn’t count on my clothes to save me. I started moving them around on the handlebars more, flexing my arms (don’t laugh, there are some muscles in there) and doing whatever I could to get blood–warm blood–flowing to my hands.

Whatever I did was just enough to get me to the next water stop, where I didn’t need water, but I pulled in with the team anyway. Usually we stop and chat a little, but I had only three things I wanted to do there, and talking over tea wasn’t one of them. First, I dropped off some water I picked up earlier. Second, while I was doing that, in out of the rain for a moment, I pulled on my extra layers. Finally, I got some water and poured in my recovery drink powder, so it would be all mixed in by the end of the ride, in 10 miles.

Before I could finish those three tasks, PHAT Tuesday was already back on the road.

I scrambled to catch them, through some of the worst road conditions–weather and surface deterioration–of the entire route. Fortunately for me, they got caught at a red light, so I was able to roll right up and latch onto the back of the train as they pulled out.

The rest of the way, with my extra layers, was smooth sailing. You know, smooth sailing through a gale. My hands returned from numb to tingly, and I stopped looking for a tauntaun to slice open and hibernate in. My teammate and roommate wasn’t so lucky, though, as I found out after I arrived in the dorms at the end of day one.

All you need is … what I got

Standing with 5,700 others in garish spandex, listening to an opera star sing the Star-Spangled Banner in the pre-dawn darkness, with Mardi Gras harlequin masks strapped to my helmet and beads around my neck, the 2014 Pan-Mass Challenge (PMC) got off to a totally normal start.

Totally. Normal.

Mercifully, the first little bit is a slight downhill before we hit the hilliest sections of the ride, all of which come in the first few several many miles of the first day, as did much of the rain. We went slower in the rain, more cautious on the downhills, wary of the painted stripes and reflectors, which are like ice and moguls in the rain.

Like the hills, the rain came and went, soaking us and then letting us dry out, but never really making us cold. We put our heads down when the rain came and rode on, watching out for each other and calling out warnings to one another. When the clouds parted, we lifted our heads and continued talking and laughing, giving thanks and high fives to the many who lined the route, throughout the day and throughout the rain. All of them had been touched by cancer, so it would take more than a little rain to dampen their spirits.

Lunch was a mercifully dry spot, where I was able to grab a selfie with Billy Starr, the founder of the PMC, responsible for over $450 million in donations to cancer research and patient care.

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After that, we rolled onto the Pedal Partner waterstop. Pedal Partners are kids–pediatric cancer patients–who are in treatment, recovery, remission or who are cured, who are partnered with PMC teams. The teams support the kids by visiting with them during the year, as possible, sending them messages, etc., and the kids definitely motivate us during the year. This year my team’s Pedal Partner, Kira, wasn’t at the waterstop, but I spent a long time visiting with VampBoy, who has a spectacular smile and a wonderful little sister.

I was talking with his mom about the standard challenges of parenting elementary school and preschool kids when she told a story that stuck with me. It was about a time when VampBoy was trying to be in charge and control his little sister–stop me if you’ve heard this story before–when a squabble broke out, because, guess what, she didn’t want to be controlled. She’s now old enough to do everything herself, of course.

VampMama listened to VampBoy insist that VampGirl had to do it the right way, and to VampGirl explain why she could do it her way, then asked them, “What’s the most important thing?”

“Love,” they both replied.

Wow, I said.

I’m articulate like that, especially after 80 miles on a bike.

That’s amazing, I told VampMama. You definitely got that part of parenting right if that was their answer.

That seemingly simple exchange has stuck with me ever since. When I’m agitated, upset with someone or find myself in a power struggle with the kids, I wonder to myself, “What’s the most important thing?”

And if I look around and I don’t find love with us in that moment, I take a pause. Because really, what’s more important?

OK, so a little bit past that waterstop, love plus appropriate layers would be important, but in that moment, all I needed was a reminder of what I got.

Safety–and disaster–first

With a sickening crunch and a bumping jerk to a stop is how my 200-mile, 2-day bike ride to make cancer history started.

We hadn’t even left my driveway, but that’s where I’d left my bike helmet–in the driveway, on the ground, behind The Pilot’s truck. So as we waved goodbye and backed out, we rolled right over my helmet. I left it on the kitchen counter as a reminder to the kids not to leave anything behind a car, ever, not even for a moment while loading or unloading. Mom used to say it. I say it to myself. But an example is worth 1,000 reminders.

It was a good way to start the weekend, remembering my ABC’s–Always Be Careful–because it was one full of dangerous situations, each coming and going by in a flash. It was also a reminder to think about the consequences of every action–how will this affect those around me? What happens next? What would I do in the worst case scenario? It was also a reminder that when it comes to safety, it’s best to do it now, now get around to it later.

And that’s what we did.

We went straight to my LBS–local bike shop–and got a new lid for me. It was for the best. That helmet was old and worn out and may not have protected me when I needed it to, and you never know when you’ll need it the most, as The Pilot found out on day 2 of the ride.

He felt bad about backing over my helmet, but I’m the one who left it on the ground, and it was for the best, I’m sure.

30 Fathers’ Days without Dad

I want the same thing every year: A voice on the other end of the phone line. A house to send a card to rather than a cemetery to send flowers to. An ugly tie or some ticky tacky electronics from Brookstone.

I want my Dad back.

Then again, I’ve got an overdeveloped sense of vengeance.

This will be my 30th Fathers’ Days without him, so I’ve gotten used to it, but I will always miss him. Dad would have been 87 this year, so there’s no guarantee that even if a brain tumor didn’t kill him when he was 57 he would still be alive, but I wish I could know rather than having to guess.

Some things I do know about him

  • He had brown eyes, like my brother and my son.
  • He was left-handed, like me.
  • He was bald. No comment.
  • He loved sailing, riding his bike* and James Bond.

He also loved to be clean shaven. A story Mom told about him was that when she went into labor with her first baby, my oldest brother, she and Dad went to the hospital immediately. And waited. And waited. And waited.

By the time my brother arrived and my Dad could go back home it had been over a day and my Dad was disturbed–Mom’s word, not mine–that he had a day’s growth of beard. Disturbed enough that when Mom’s water broke for their second child, my oldest sister, the first thing Dad did was go into the bathroom, fill the sink with hot water and start shaving.

This is how I know that Dad would love knowing that you made me shave my beard.

I recall sitting across the dining room table from him at dinner while he angrily pulled out a clump of what little hair he had, showing me what the radiation treatments for his brain tumor were doing to him. So, I’d love to shave my head in solidarity with him–make me do it. Donate now.

Dad would probably hate to see me shave my legs. On the other hand, Dad loved all of his kids, so I’m pretty sure he would have loved to meet and play with 3B and Jewel. Throw a ball. Ride a bike.* Take them for a sail in his boat.

It makes me cry just to write that.

And so, if shaving my legs means that a Dad could meet his grandkids, means that a baby could see his brown eyes reflected in his grandfather’s brown eyes, Dad would be all for it.

After all, wherever he is, he’d love to get a phone call from me too, if only to talk to his grandkids. He’d much rather get a card scrawled all over with markers than flowers on his grave. While it’s too late for him, we can stop this same fate befalling other dads and their kids by fighting cancer in any way we can.

That would be a gift my dad would love to get almost as an ugly tie, and you can give it to him.

Support my ride to make cancer history and you’ll make more Fathers’ Days possible.

Donate today.


* Mileage match
Since Dad loved riding his bike, I’m announcing a mileage match in his honor. For every dollar donated between June 9 and Fathers’ Day, I’ll ride a mile on my bike in July…up to 500 miles. I am only human, after all.

This won’t be easy, if you match me up to 500 miles. This May I rode almost 400 miles and it just about wiped me out, so 500 will really stretch me out. But I’ll do it for Dad, and for all the other dads out there who deserve to live to see another Fathers’ Day.

Donate today.

A sponsor doubles your donation to make cancer history – this week only

You met the match! Together, you donated $1,000 to make cancer history – congratulations! On behalf of the cancer researchers, patients and caregivers who got 100 percent of your donation, thank you.

There’s still time to donate to fight cancer, even if this match is over. Remember, if you donate enough, I’ll even shave my legs on Father’s Day, so donate now.


My friends and family have lost their hair, their breasts and their siblings to cancer. I, of course, lost my Dad when he was 57 and I was just 16. So my 200-mile ride to support cancer researchers, patients and caregivers is deeply personal.

You likely already know that 100 percent of every donation goes directly to those doctors and their patients. This week, thanks to a generous sponsor, I can double your donation–but only for this week, so donate now.

1538809_10151930638677585_1261980255_nA generous donor has offered to match all donations this week up to $1,000. As always, 100 percent of every dollar donated goes directly to the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, which has

I’m sure that you would love to live in a world free from the fear of cancer; where every case of this now dread disease can be prevented, treated or cured. Dana-Farber works 24 hours a day, every day of the year to make that future happen now. Please support their work and donate now.

As an added bonus, if you meet this match, you’ll make me shave my head on Father’s Day … so what are you waiting for? Make cancer history and donate now.

It’s too late to save me

Carefully aiming the electric knife around my eye, the dermatologist slowly sliced away another growth from my face.

“Most people wouldn’t tolerate that like you did. Redheads have a higher pain threshold than most other people,” he said, when he was finally done with the knife and the can full of liquid nitrogen that he’d used to freeze off the other growths he’d found.

Jewel had accompanied me to this appointment, and the doctor turned to her. “So your daughter here and your son will have that too.”

Skin full of cells that are more likely to become cancerous, even in the total absence of exposure to sun, is their other inheritance from me. That trait was exposed recently by research into the causes of skin cancer, and knowing it could save their lives.

It could save my kids from the knife around their eye, at least.

My skin is already beyond its lifetime limit for exposure to sun, according to the dermatologist, so I go in every six months so he can lay into my face, arms, legs and any other place where my skin has turned on me and is now attacking me rather than protecting me. To be fair, I failed to protect my skin for about 40 years, allowing the sun to beat on it every day–but I didn’t know that would kill it.

Maybe my skin doesn’t know that what it’s doing will kill me.

But I do. And I know that 3B’s and Jewel’s skin, even if they lived out their days in a lightless cave, is likely to turn on them too. It’s too late for me, but maybe by the time this happens to them, there will be a treatment, a vaccine, a cure.

That’s why I ride–to save my kids.

Even with my higher tolerance for pain, I couldn’t bear to see them under the knife or worse. I’ll do whatever it takes to save them, as any parent would. Part of that is simply insisting on sunscreen, hats and protective clothing when they’re out in the sun, just as I wear a hat on every sunny day when I remember–I am an old dog, after all.

I’ll also continue to work for more research for prevention methods, treatments and a cure and I’d love your support. Please donate today.

And if you don’t think cancer can be cured, you haven’t met Charlie.

Honor a cancer survivor – put a face on the fight against cancer

Team Bradstein 2013 PMC jersey
Team Bradstein 2013 PMC jersey

Honor a cancer survivor.

Remember a loved one.

Put a face on the fight against cancer.

You’ll do all of these when add a photo to the Pan-Mass Challenge jersey I’ll wear in my 200-mile ride across Massachusetts in the 2014 PMC, where it will be seen by thousands of people cheering for our ride to make cancer history. Every rider and volunteer is 100 percent committed to curing cancer, and thanks to the fees they pay and generous event sponsors, 100 percent of your donation goes directly to cancer researchers, patients and doctors.

Chemotherapy was invented at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, and it continues to develop new, innovative and powerful treatments, such as the first vaccine for prostate cancer. Your $100 donation and photo on my jersey supports today’s efforts to develop tomorrow’s cures.

To place a photo on the jersey, simply donate $100 or more to my ride.

Go the extra mile and get your own jersey when you donate $250 or more to my ride.

Wearing these jerseys from past rides, I carry with me the memories of all my family and friends affected by, and sometimes lost to, cancer. Struggling up hills, freezing through slicing icy winds and sweating through the sauna that is summer in DC, I think of you all, and those thoughts flatten the hills, warm my heart and fill my water bottle with an iced latte. OK…maybe not that last one, but seriously, although I’m carrying all of you with me, it’s you who carry me forward.

And I’d love to be able to show all of you to my fellow riders as well.

Please join me on my ride, or send a friend or loved one along with me–donate today.

Putting my legs where my mouth is

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It killed my Dad when I was a kid, so I’m 100% committed to making cancer history–but I need your help to do it.

To raise money for cancer researchers, patients and caregivers, I will join 5,500 cyclists in the Pan-Mass Challenge (PMC), a 200-mile ride across Massachusetts that raises money for research and care at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute (DCFI). Dr. Sidney Farber founded Dana-Farber after he developed modern chemotherapy to combat childhood leukemia. Since then, Dana-Farber has continued to develop new treatments and cures for cancer, literally carrying their research results from the lab bench to the bedsides of cancer patients.

The PMC is the single largest donor to Dana-Farber and raises more money for charity than any other single event in the country–$375 million since 1980 and $37 million last year alone. That all came from donors like you, giving to make a world free from fear of cancer possible.

Because every penny matters, 100 percent of your donation goes to DFCI to fight cancer and care for cancer patients.

Together, we can make cancer history. Will you join me?

Over the last four years, we’ve raised $40,000 together to make cancer history. This year, I’ve again made a personal commitment to ride and raise $4,300. I hope you can help me achieve this goal.

I’ll do my part, training constantly to ensure I can complete the ride. While I’m doing that, please donate to my PMC ride at one of the following links:

Donate $25 to make cancer history

Donate $50 to make cancer history

Donate $100 to make cancer history and place a picture on my 2014 jersey.

Donate $250 to make cancer history and get a 2014 jersey of your own.

Donate $500 to make cancer history

Donate $1,000 to make cancer history

Every donation brings us closer by the mile.

P.S. – Your donation is tax deductible and 100% will go to Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. If you prefer to write a check, please make it out to the PMC, The Jimmy Fund or Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and mail it to me directly (email me for my address).

P.P.S. – If your employer has a matching gift program, ask your Human Resources department for a form, and follow the process for matches.

How Coke + Snickers became kale juice + Clif bars

I suppose that by now it’s been almost a month since I wrote here, since before my PMC ride, 3B’s technology summer camp and our family trip to Grammy’s. School has also started for 3B–yesterday was the 1st day of 2nd grade for 3B–and Jewel, who returned to her preschool just in time to learn about Rosh Hashanah before we head to our friends’ house for a dinner of apples and honey…and all that other stuff.

A good time, then, to reflect on recent events and write a little more in this book of my life that this blog is.

My ride went well, though my lack of training showed in my inability to ride strong for as long as I have in the past. Recovery was also harder this year than in past years; I was more tired for longer after the ride than I have been before. But each cancer survivor who greeted us along the route with a thanks for making their life possible was a balm for each ache and a charge of energy for each moment of fatigue.

In addition to riding with my team, PHAT Tuesday, I also managed to find the brother-in-law of our neighborhood friends out of a sea of 5,500 identically clad riders on the first day. We only rode for about 15 minutes on the first day, but on day two I managed to latch a tow rope to his seatpost so I could stay with him and we rode together for the second half of the day. He’s a strong rider and a good guy who I look forward to riding with in next year’s PMC, if not before. He lives in Mass., however, so coordinating a meeting point between us for a training ride might be tricky.

The PHATs were, as always, a fun, fast, friendly group fueled by 100 percent pure awesomesauce. There are several big motors on the team, and each of them cracked me like a roasted peanut at some point on the ride as I tried to follow on their wheels.

You’d think this would have taught me my lesson and that I’d be on my bike every night, riding hard for next year. Yes, you would think that, because you’re smarter than I. But, while I haven’t been on my bike as much as I want, I have been watching what I eat. This year I got to the PMC heavier than I have in the past, and while it would cost me a pretty penny to get a bike that is ten pounds lighter than my current one, it will only cost a dessert here and a drink there to get my body down those ten pounds…if I start now. Oh, and a score of pushups and core workouts every morning.

What happened to my teenage years, when I would ride 30 miles fueled by a Coke and a Snickers bar?

So, that’s how the ride went. More about computer camp, Grammy’s and school this week.