Category Archives: Pan-Mass Challenge

Thanks to my team…that’s you

This is the week of sleepless nights, spent packing, asking “What if…?” and checking over my bike one last time. Or 27 last times.

Then, on Thursday, I’ll drive north with a fellow Phat Tuesday teammate to arrive in Sturbridge, Massachusetts in time for registration and opening ceremonies on Friday night. On Saturday, at oh-my-gawd-it’s-early o’clock, I’ll join 5,000 other riders on the start line in the predawn darkness and we’ll roll out to ride across Massachusetts, ending up at the tip of Cape Cod on Sunday afternoon.

Standing at the end of that spit of land, with the waves of the wide open Atlantic washing up around me is almost as far as I can go within the U.S. from where I stood 29 years ago. Then, I was standing on the edge of Dad’s grave, his casket suspended above the wide open mouth of dirt, waiting to swallow him whole, never to be seen again, except in my mind’s eye.

Never to be there in bed in the morning, before the alarm goes off, for me to snuggle with, to explore the mysterious creases of his huge hands. Never to ride bikes with to Sunday school. Never to stand on the beach, water lapping at his ankles, waiting to catch the bow of my boat as I sailed into shore in the cool California evening after an afternoon of freedom gliding before the wind back and forth across the harbor.

But he’ll be with me as I prepare to ride. As I stand at the sink to shave, I’ll remember looking out from under his blankets, watching him stretch his legs as he shaved, and I’ll stretch my legs. As I look over my bike on the starting line, I’ll remember being on our white concrete driveway as Dad showed me how to fix a flat and lube a chain. And I’ll have all of you with me too–not just those of you on my jersey, but all of you in my mind.

Some of you have donated. Some of you have cheered me on, from near and far, during the long days of training. Some of you have shared your stories of how cancer has affected you–battles fought and won, and others lost. All of you have made my ride possible.

The first year I rode, I called myself Team Bradstein on a lark, but it became apparent to me even before I rode that year that it did take a team to complete the 200 miles. It starts in the winter, after all the fundraising and riding, when everyone else’s thoughts turn to holidays. That’s when I call my brilliant cousin and ask if she’ll design my jersey for the next year. That jersey drives half of my donations, so we brainstorm ways to do it better the next year. And then I contact key supporters and ask if there’s anything else I could do better–more emails? fewer? more swag? less? I couldn’t finish this ride without everyone who supports me. And, of course, nobody supports me more than Mama and the kids.

Mama is the one who goes to bed by herself while I stay up to ride my bike into the night in the family room. The kids are the ones who wake up on weekends ready to play with me, only to find me already out the door on a training ride. And all of them spend a weekend without me as I take a trip across Cape Cod–OK, so I’m not exactly sipping cocktails while I lounge on the shore, unless you count Gatorade as a cocktail and riding a paceline into a block headwind lounging.

And all throughout the year they tell me it’s OK that I do what it takes to get ready, they cheer every dollar raised…and they raised a few of their own.

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Without them, I could never start the ride, much less finish it. That’s why, when I come back home, I’ll go to bed at the same time Mama does, I’ll relax, and I’ll put the bike away…for a week or two.

But then it’s time to get back on and start training for next year, because I’ll never forget how it felt on that November day to stand at Dad’s grave, feeling as empty as that dark hole. And I won’t stop riding until nobody has to feel that way again.

Thanks for raising my kids right

Thanks to everyone who filled my birthday with warm and wonderful feelings by committing to support cancer patients and doctors in honor of 3B’s lemonade and lollipop stand.

Lemonade sign
(click to see full size image)

With great support from Mama–who found herself standing in 7-11 yesterday wrangling our two weasels while holding a half-dozen bags of ice…and then the clerk tried to hand her two free Slurpees–3B and Jewel together collected $31 for my PMC ride. 100 percent of that money will go to cancer patients, doctors and researchers, as will all of the money you pledged to match their proceeds.

They helped buy all the lemonade, dispensers, ice and schlep all of that, plus a table and the signs they made to our community pool. Then, they manned the table for over two hours, recruited all their friends as volunteer help (we’re raising a red-headed Tom Sawyer, to be sure), and went chaise lounge-to-chaise lounge with a coffee can, asking for donations. Such dedication, hard work and courage…and such a reward.

Lemonade stand
(click to see full size image)

The feeling I got watching them light up and bounce around when I told them that their $31 had become $410 with all the matches pledged throughout the day was priceless.

I’m humbled and honored that so many of you responded to their efforts with such generosity. It makes tangible to them the rewards of doing good for others, and of taking courageous action–they know now that others will come to their aid, stand at their side, lend their hands and hearts when they do. They know how good that feels, and so they are more likely to do it again–maybe for this cause, or maybe for a friend who falls down on the playground.

They are better people for the support you gave them, and I cannot thank you enough for that.

And if you still want to match their $31, you can donate today.

All I ever wanted

“Daddy wants money for his birthday, Mommy–money for other people,” Jewel said. Mama stammered, “What? He wants what?”

“Money, Mommy. For other people. For his big bike ride.”

Jewel is absolutely right. I don’t need more stuff. I’ve got two bikes, two iPhones and iPads (counting those supplied for my job), two cats, and enough ugly ties from my Dad that my kids can start saving for college now rather than every having to buy me another one.

I’ve also got two sorta good ears to hear my kids laugh with, two not so bad eyes to see their smiles with and one heart that’s big enough to power me 200 miles across Massachusetts for those who sometimes can’t get out of bed in my Pan-Mass Challenge.

I’m lucky enough to be married to Mama, who knew all about me, and married me anyway. And I’m blessed by my two bodhisattvas, who love my sourdough waffles, laugh at my so-called jokes and teach me everyday about this life thing and how I’m holding it wrong.

These are the reasons I get up in the morning. These are what make me smile when I’m sitting alone on the bus, watching the stars slide by outside, sipping coffee. These fill my belly with laughs when I’m hungry for love, fill my pockets with treasures gleaned from the ground when my wallet is empty and these are what give me their hands, their courage and their faith when I falter and fail.

I never wake up to check my bank account balance, nor smile at the memory of a profit made, nor take solace in the sight of a dollar.

People, especially my family, make me rich. I don’t need more things or the dollars to buy things. If there’s anything I would like, it’s to do whatever I can for those who can’t do it for themselves. Those who can’t find a cure for their cancer; those who can’t afford the medicine they need, or the trip to receive it; those who care for them through the long, lonely nights, carrying them to bed when they can’t carry themselves; and those who are down in the Petri dish trenches, fighting for the lives of others one molecule at a time, if that’s what it takes.

Knowing that I did that, so that those people could hear their kids laugh, see their parents smile, and feel their love’s heartbeat in the still of the night…that would make me the wealthiest man on earth.

So, if you want to give me something for my birthday, give me that. I turn 45 today, so give $45 or $4.50 or $450, and know that you’ve given me all I ever wanted.

Screwed

I had the opportunity to work with show business legends at the Palm Springs Follies, although they may have all been from my parents’ era–people like Howard Keel, Kay Starr, Foster Brooks.

Brooks and his wife were delightful people–generous, fun and seemingly always laughing. He told a story as only he can, with plenty of drunken pauses and stammers, about a farmer who was having a problem with squirrels in his barn, eating his apples and nuts. The farmer told a neighbor about how he finally caught the squirrel by setting traps. “Where did you catch him?” asked the neighbor. “Did you catch him by the apples?”

“No,” says the farmer. “I caught him by the…by the…I caught him by the…” Brooks’ struggle to get the words out in his drunken retelling of it had the audience laughing so hard, he never had to finish the sentence.

I was reminded of this joke in the most unfortunate way this weekend while I was out on one of my PMC training rides. I’d gone a little over 20 miles and was grinding up this little rise in a series of rolling hills that leads back home when I heard a crack. Then I heard, and felt, a large crack and felt a sinking sensation as my seat fell away from me.

Now, the thing about my bike seat is that I don’t always sit in the same place on it. On flat roads, I tend to be closer to the middle or front of it. On steep downhills I slide way back, sometimes even off the back of the seat, to put more weight on the back wheel, not only to help balance the bike front-to-back, but to help me slow down and even stop if I have to.

Riding up hills, I’m not off the back of the saddle, but closer to the back. So, when my seat started to sink, it dropped in the back and came up in the front. Abruptly.

Now, the thing about the seat post under the seat is that it had a unique adjustment system. Most seat posts have one large bolt that screws into a large nut that holds the seat tight to the post. On my old seat post, there was one bolt that controlled the forward-and-back positioning of the saddle and another bolt that controlled the angle of the seat. This allowed me to make the seat level without affecting the distance from the seat to the handlebars. It was a bit more complicated than other seat posts, but allowed pretty fine control.

There aren’t many moving parts other than the nuts and bolts. So, people asked, “What broke?”

In my careful analysis, performed while doubled over on the roadside, it appears that one of the bolts snapped.

“So, it was the bolts that broke?”

I recall that sinking feeling, how the nose of the seat came up abruptly and say “No…I caught it by the…by the…I caught it by the…”

Pool, beach, food, repeat

As I explained last time, we dove right into our week in California before the wedding we were there to officate, ring bear and flower girl at.

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The first order of business was to reward the supporters of my 200-mile ride to make cancer history by shaving both my beard and head as promised.

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Hard to believe that I still have this much hair on my head…

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There will be another basin full of hair on my birthday, because I’ve since raised enough money that I have to also shave my legs. That doesn’t mean the fundraising to fight cancer stops, though. My goal is to raise $6,000, and I’m just a little short of that. You can help me get there–and remember that 100 percent of your donation goes directly to the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute–donate today.

I took my newly bald head to get a fresh sunburn visit with family at the beach that I grew up spending my summers. After a fun day, we had a wonderful family dinner at my brilliant cousin’s house.

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This was followed the next day by another, larger family dinner at our aunt’s house, where we were staying and playing.

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The bride and groom generously brought a metric ton of ice cream, which we all graciously accepted…

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The next day we ran though the ceremony during the rehearsal–literally in the case of the kids, who ran their routes as quickly as possible. I’ll let you know in another post how that went and whether they did the same at the wedding.

Please make me shave my legs for Father’s Day

“Dad has just about stopped breathing. You want to come in?” My brother MrJumbo said softly as he shook me awake from a Thanksgiving Day nap.

It hadn’t been a long time coming, but long enough that we all knew what was coming, just not when. Dad had his first seizure a little over a year before that Thanksgiving, and the diagnosis and treatment of his aggressive brain tumor followed much the same course then as it did recently for Senator Kennedy, who developed the same type of tumor. An ironic twist, since Dad died on the same day of the year that Senator Kennedy’s brother was shot down in Dallas years before.

For their kind of cancer, not much has changed over all these years, but time has not stood still for other types of cancer. Since President Nixon declared war on cancer in 1971, survival rates for certain types of cancer have soared, particularly for many types of pediatric cancers–a blessing for children and their parents.

I can see my 16-year-old self kneeling at the foot of Dad’s bed–the bed we all ran into on Christmas Day to bounce our parents awake, too excited to sleep any longer–watching him seemingly sleeping peacefully. I wasn’t really able to absorb what it meant that his chest was no longer rising and falling in the familiar rhythm that would lull me back to sleep after I crawled into that bed between he and Mom early in the morning, before their alarm went off.

It seems like I’ll never fully absorb the meaning. After 3B was born, then again after Jewel was born, I was reminded that they won’t have that grandfather to visit. If they were to learn about sourdough waffles on Sundays, how to sail or why Skylark is such a beautiful song, it was up to me.

They would never get books of whimsical Ogden Nash verse from him on their birthdays, nor would they ever call to wish him a happy birthday or Father’s Day. And, while I’ll enjoy all the ugly ties, malodorous aftershave and scrawled cards I’ll get over the years, what I really want is one phone call with Dad–one dad to another–on Father’s Day. To hear his warm voice, to hear him laughing down the line…

And so it is that this Fathers’ Day you won’t be able to give me what I want, but you can help me get what I need–just like last year.

And just like last year, there’s something in it for you.
As I wrote then

Even now, I reflexively delete Father’s Day offer emails. Sure, in part because they’re spam, but also because it’s my habit to mutter under my breath, “That doesn’t apply to me.” Except that now it does because I am a father, but it still doesn’t because I am still fatherless.

Revenge may be a dish best served cold, but my vengeance against cancer is heated by my anger. And the best vengeance is success. I’ve already succeeded despite cancer, what’s left is to succeed over cancer–to go on living after cancer itself has been defeated.

And that is why, this Father’s Day, since you can’t give me what I want–a father to send a card to–give me what I need. Feed me the fuel I need to succeed. Support my ride.

For those of you who will give, I offer up my pride. I’m extending my previous challenge deadline until Fathers’ Day, so if I raise enough money by then, I will shave my beard, my head and yes, I will shave my legs.

And yes, I will post video of it here, so you can revel in my discomfort.
Please donate today.


“I want my father back, you son of a bitch.”

This is some serious shirt

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Update: If you don’t have $100 to place a picture on my jersey, consider sharing the cost with someone else. Odds are someone else–or many other people–connected to the person you’re honoring would like to donate as well. When you make your donations, just mention in the comments what you’re doing. Two people can partner to each give $50, or 10 people each give $10, or 100 people each give $1 (then watch my hands cramp from writing the thank you notes)…the possibilities are are as extensive as your love for the person you’re honoring.

 


 

I want to give you the shirt off my back, and not just because it’s garish spandex with elastic pockets across the back. I want to give it to you because this shirt kills cancer, but you don’t have much time to get in on this, so don’t wait.

And by “I will give you,” of course, I mean “I will give you in recognition of a donation to my PMC ride…” But you knew that, right?

Even if you don’t want the bike jersey, you can contribute to it by placing a picture of a loved one affected by cancer on it. This can be a survivor, someone currently in the fight, or someone you lost to cancer. It can also be the child, parent, cousin, aunt, nephew, and so forth of your loved one. And, yes, animals are welcome.

As I ride with 5,500 other cyclists, over hundreds of miles, across Massachusetts, through crowds of thousands, these pictures are seen by all of those people. Every time I stop–and sometimes even while we’re rolling–I’m asked who they each are, and it’s my great honor to share their stories with everyone who asks.

In addition to honoring your loved ones, every dollar you give will also support the “Public Embarrassment of Papa” fund, also known as the “Make Papa Shave His Legs” fund.

Here are the deals…if you donate

$100, you can put a face on the fight against cancer by placing a picture on my jersey. This is one of the most popular rewards, but time is running out. You need to donate and get me the picture before May 15 to ensure it makes it onto the jersey. Donate today.

$250, you can get a jersey of your own. To get a jersey of your own, your donation can arrive no later than June 15–final deadline. Donate today.

And then the big reward…if before June 1 this year I raise

$3,500 – I will shave my beard.
$4,000 – I will shave my beard and head.
$4,500 – I will shave my beard, head and legs.

Donate today.

And yes, I will again post a video of the shearing here for you to enjoy watch. Remember that you will make my mom happy while you embarrass me. Also, I will keep shaving through the PMC in August, so here’s your chance to make me suffer not just on the bike, but everywhere I go, for months.

To give you an idea of how it goes for me after I shave, when I walked into work the day after shaving last year, the first reaction I got was, “Did you lose a bet?” That was followed immediately by, “Were you at a frat party this weekend?”

You get to

  • embarrass me
  • honor a loved one
  • dress like a Solid Gold dancer on acid
  • kick cancer’s ass

…well, what are you waiting for?

Donate today.

Happy birthday, Mom…I’m still trying

Eighty-one years ago in Los Angeles, a baby girl was born. The year was 1932, the Great Depression gripped the country, and while L.A. was no longer a sleepy town, it wasn’t anything near the sprawling metropolis that it’s become. This girl was taken home from the hospital to grow up in the low hills above Crenshaw that overlook the L.A. Coliseum, home to the 1932 Summer Olympics.

That girl grew up to be my mother, and she lived a life worth living.

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During that life, she met and married her best friend, my father. Together they had many adventures–flying in his plane above the state they both were born in and loved, driving across the western states for thousands of miles to see the natural wonders of their country, and raising six children.

But their next great adventure was stolen from them.

Just as the last of their six children–me–was about to leave the nest (for the first time, anyway), cancer stole Dad from Mom. There she was, midlife, midmarriage, in the middle of it all, and she was suddenly a single mom, without the comfort and support of her best friend. All because of cancer.

It’s sad to know that even if Dad had lived to this year before he developed his brain tumor, his outlook would be the same now as it was then–bleak. In the 29 years since he died, not much has changed about the treatment or prognosis for Dad’s type of cancer. It took Bob Marley, Senator Kennedy and many others in a similar fashion.

However, for other cancers, progress has been staggeringly fast. Certain types of cancers that used to be certain death sentences are now treated as chronic conditions. But I’m not satisfied. I’m still mad as hell–and that’s not just my red hair talking.

I’m mad that Dad never got to see 3B’s red hair, watch him strum a guitar or sing a prayer. I’m mad that Dad never got to look into Jewel’s sometimes green and sometimes blue eyes, watch her build a tower taller than herself before she could walk or show off her arabesque from dance class. I’m mad as hell that Mom didn’t have a date to take her to the dance floor at my wedding.

It’s an anger that burns hot, deep in my core, and rather than letting it burn me up, I’ve learned to use it as fuel to drive me. I’m angry enough that even though I wouldn’t shave my beard for Mom on my wedding day, I’ll shave it now to make cancer history–but you’re going to have to make me do it.

And why wouldn’t you make me do it? It would fulfill Mom’s dream of seeing me clean-shaven–trust me, wherever she is, she’s still keeping tabs on me. It would fulfill Mom’s dream of curing what killed her best friend. And even if this isn’t the year we cure Dad’s cancer, it may be the year we cure cancer for another Dad or Mom or son or daughter.

That anger, those dreams, and those Dads and Moms, sons and daughters, to come–that’s why I can’t stop working. As I would say to Mom so often growing up, “I’m still trying.”

I can still hear her dry reply, “Yes. Yes, you are.”

This year, though she is gone, you can give Mom the gifts of knowing I finally shaved that beard, that a cure is coming, and you can give me the gift of finally replying, “Mom, I’m not just trying, I’m doing. We’re getting it done.”

Help me get it done today. Help me make cancer history. Donate today.

Lessons I learn from my children, part 367

The weekend started with a day in the driveway and ended with a journey across the known world. On Saturday, our community had a yard sale event, which meant that whoever wanted to participate could have a yard sale, while the community did all the advertising for it. Mama had spent the week putting things together for the sale–with growing kids and a recent move, there’s no shortage of things that don’t fit around here–and got them all out on the driveway first thing Saturday morning.

The kids loved the idea, and loved it even more when they started peeling through all the art supplies our neighbor was selling…and then her boyfriend arrived with a box of massive donuts. It really doesn’t get any better than that.

Mama and I followed the lead of our neighbor, whose rule is that nothing goes back into the house, and packed up the car at 1 p.m. to take everything over to our local thrift shop. The kids were excited to come along, although they were too tired from the morning to go pop some tags…or maybe that’s because they didn’t even have $20 in their pocket, having spent it all on art supplies. It was nice to see our local thrift shop, which benefits our local hospital, which the thrift shop is within sight of.

It’s a renovated house, and the donation area is meticulously maintained, and frequented by a steady flow of our neighbors handing off goods to another cadre of neighbors who carefully look them over and sort them. This is not the semi-industrial scene behind the Goodwill or Salvation Army of our old ‘hood, where there was a line of cars pulling up to a production line of workers shuttling goods into the back of a 40-foot semi trailer to ship off for processing in parts unknown. No, at our thrift shop, if you drop it off on Sunday, my guess is that you can see it for sale upstairs on Monday.

Besides the drop off, what was fun for Mama and I was hanging out with our neighbors. We’re all emerging from the winter to stand in driveways, watching the kids play and talking. Although my six-year-old self would tell me I’m being boring, it’s great fun for all.

And on Sunday the fun continued with dear family friends coming over from our old neighborhood for brunch and a playdate. 3B still talks about two or three friends from his preschool days, and this was one of them, and his brother. He and 3B were born within weeks of one another, had some of their first playdates together and are still somehow like peas in a pod, no matter how much time has passed between visits, though our trampoline may have helped with that.

Then again, the trampoline with four kids was probably asking for trouble, which arrived several times. Nobody was hurt, although I believe 3B’s pride was injured, which he reacts to with great anger when it happens in public. My reactions weren’t my best either, but we got it sorted out, though when they were leaving, 3B was up in his room with me because he’d just been starting physical fights. He did go downstairs to say goodbye, and then set off to chase them down the street on his bike, which about gave Mama a heart attack.

I followed on my scooter–and my six-year-old self was jealous to see that I have a scooter–and saw 3B go around the corner of our cul-de-sac and down toward the major street through our town. He pulled up and waited once he saw me, and I realized, for once, that I had a decision to make. He had disobeyed Mama’s call to stay at home and not chase. He had heeded our request to put on a helmet and shoes (OK, flip-flops, but for a half-Californian, those are shoes). He was headed toward a dangerous street, but he was waiting for me.

So I asked him what he was doing, and he said he was going back to Virginia to their house to keep playing. I told him that they were still in the ‘hood, visiting their families, who live near us, but that we could try for Virginia, if he’d like.

We then sorted out which way was south and found a street that heads that way. As we went along, it became less of a chase and more of an adventure to parts unknown. As we went, I pointed out our house between the houses of that street, then his school between the houses, as it became visible. 3B then concluded that to get back home we just needed to find a turn in that direction, and when we found a trail that did turn that way, we took it right into the playground of his school.

He also saw that it led down to our local forested park, and we headed down that way. After about 20 minutes walking through the woods and stream, collecting trash for disposal and recycling, we headed back home. 3B was excited that he’d found a new way to his school, and proud of having ridden his bike so far, so when we got home, he convinced Mama and Jewel to reprise the journey with us.

They were ready in a moment; it was 3B and I, ironically, who took longer to be ready to do what we had just done. Part of that was because I was getting my bike out of the shed, for the first ride on pavement (rather than a trainer) since last year’s PMC.

Maybe it was the mimosas left over from brunch that I poured into an insulated water bottle for Mama and me, but we all appeared to have had a nice ride. Mama and I switched off partnering with either kid on the ride over; we played imaginary baseball on the diamond at 3B’s school, having left our balls and gloves at home; we made it through the forest, over the rocks and onto the playground; we all got a little chilly and headed back home.

The journey, like all good ones, seemed to have taken us not only out of our home, but out of our heads, unmooring us from the thoughts we’re anchored to. It might have started out of anger and mourning, much as the Greeks set out for Troy, but returned us home more settled and reflective. From the playground atop the rocks, I was able to look back on my reactions to 3B while our guests were with us and see where my mistaken steps fell and where I’ll walk a different path next time.

I could see that he had stopped shouting, “C’mon! Hurry up!” and started shouting, “Looks good. You’re doing well!” after I pointed out that criticizing was less encouraging than, well, encouragement. And I knew that he saw the difference it made in his sister, too, even though she still stops as often Spinal Tap tunes their guitars, and for the same reason: because she can. She was the model of consistent persistence–without making a point of it, she just did it, showing me its intrinsic value.

Jewel herself had a reaction to our sojourn that was similar to 3B’s, including pride in making such a long ride and delight at playing with her family all across town, from our house to his school to the park. Mapping it, I saw that she had ridden 1.5 miles or so, which meant he’d done 3 miles in the day, but more important than the decimal places on the odometer was the trip we’d made from our morning to our afternoon, from conflict to peace.

Everyday heroes

Every year, my first view of Boston is framed by a fireboat spraying full blast from all of its nozzles, giving a hero’s welcome to the boat I’m on, which is full of riders who have just completed the Pan-Mass Challenge. It’s a fitting recognition for the riders, most of whom are not athletes. They are ordinary people who have responded to extraordinary circumstances brought about by cancer by summoning all the strength and endurance they can muster.

The strength they need for the training and the ride. The endurance they need to complete their journey, of which the two days of the ride are usually the shortest and most joyful–the longest are the lonely months of training as they ready themselves for it.

What they add to their strength and endurance is what makes them an indomitable force: optimism–an unshakeable belief that the future will be better, if they work for it.

And work they do. The hardest work, most of them will tell you, is raising the money required. Each rider must raise a minimum amount to participate in the ride, signing a contract to pay the minimum if they don’t raise it in contributions. It’s no small beans; this year the minimum is $4,300. It’s a task that each of them isn’t equipped for. They don’t have an ad department to blanket newspapers with calls for donations. They can’t host black tie dinners full of well-heeled celebrities. What they can do is ask their neighbors, friends and family.

Most of these people they solicit, however, have already been solicited by someone else because the overwhelming majority of the riders come from Massachusetts. But that doesn’t matter, because the people of Massachusetts respond just as the riders have: with tremendous generosity. How generous? Last year, 5,000 riders raised $37 million.

That number has grown every year. Through good times and bad, through rising and falling economies, through bubbles and bursts. No matter how difficult it is for the donors, they still give. It’s money they could have spent on themselves, on their loved ones, on comforts large and small, but they chose to send it to those suffering from and fighting hard against cancer.

This is why, to me, the true heroes of the PMC aren’t riders like me–they’re the people like you who give whatever they can afford to help people in need–people they don’t and probably won’t ever know.

And it’s those Massachusetts heroes who ran into the clouds of smoke yesterday, who ran toward the sounds of breaking glass and cries for help. It’s those same heroes who gave blood after running 26.2 miles across their city, and who tore the shirts off their backs to stanch the flow of blood from the fallen. And it’s those same indefatigable heroes who will not rest until their city is restored and whosoever tore it asunder are found and made to answer for the death and destruction they wrought.

Whoever the bomber was, they targeted not the elite athletes at the head of the race, those who seem to sprint the full length of the course. No, they detonated their deadly devices when the finish line area was filled with those runners who don’t enter to win, but run to finish. They run to perhaps better their own personal record, or to overcome the odds, or to raise money and shine a light on a particular cause.

But while the bomber appeared to target these everyday runners–the same type of people who ride the PMC–they don’t seem to have accounted for how extraordinary they are.

Just as PMC riders know that they cannot ride one year and then lay down their bike because every year cancer keeps coming, these ordinary people will create the truly extraordinary legacy of the Boston Marathon bombing through their strength, endurance and optimism. One of the surgeons interviewed last night was asked what the state of his patients was and he replied that they were all remarkably calm and resolute. They wanted to know what they could do so that he could do whatever it takes to heal them.

They lay on their hospital beds, bleeding, looked their doctor in the eye and asked, “What can I do to help?”

These are the people who looked the British Empire in the eye on the town common all those years ago; these are the people who stare cancer down every day; these people will not blink. They will not flinch. They will not turn away.

They will go about their lives as ordinary everyday heroes.

And that is extraordinary.