Over a decade ago Norwood’s Sheryl Ardunio stumbled upon the Pan Mass Challenge while enjoying the summer at the family cottage in Onset. For the past 12 years, Ardunio and her mother cheered on the riders that went through the Cape Cod town. This year was a very different story. Ardunio was not going to be able to stand along the downtown streets of Onset and cheer the bikers along as she had done in the past; this year she was one of those bikers.
When her father passed away from bone marrow leukemia as well as enduring kidney cancer, the Norwood resident knew that she had to support Dana Farber, which had been so good to her father; she joined her friends from Team Wow. This past August, Ardunio took part in her very first Pan Mass Challenge, opting for the two-day ride starting at Wellesley and finishing in Provincetown (a total of 168 miles).
Although donations can still be collected through October 1, the first-time rider has already surpassed the mandatory $4,900 requirement pulling in $14,000 so far. Originally, Ardunio thought it would be cool to be a heavy hitter and bring in $8000, but this is above her wildest imagination.
“I was hoping that I could reach that $8,000 plateau so I just kept pushing,” Ardunio said. “The donations just kept coming in. There are a lot of generous people that supported me and I was so very excited.”
The night before the race, the Norwood resident began to feel the anxiousness of the event. And they continued right up until the morning of the race.
“The nerves were more logistics; I could have only one bag, no more than 20 pounds (sheets, pillows, etc.) and did I have the right things,” Ardunio said. “When I pulled into Babson College Saturday morning, the butterflies really started, but as soon as I got on my bike and began the first leg (87 miles), everything went away and it was a calm ride.”
Calm until the midway point. Around 10:30 a.m. that morning, Ardunio was meeting up with the rest of Team Wow in Dighton-Rehoboth to have lunch, and as they were parking their bikes, it began to sprinkle. The slight rain didn’t bother them at first, but once they were out of the elements and under the tents, Mother Nature decided to have some fun and the skies opened up. The excessive amount of water never let up the rest of the day. Following their lunch, riders were hoping to wait out the rain, but it just wasn’t going to be, so they took to the roads once again.
“With it raining, now I had to be much more tentative with my riding and be careful when hitting my brakes, as I could hydroplane on the water at any second,” Ardunio said. “I had trained in a little rain, nut nothing like this. I was absolutely drenched and covered in mud from the bikes in front of me. I also had to make sure my mouth was closed whenever there was a bike in front of me so that I wouldn’t be eating whatever their bike kicked up.”
As Ardunio continued to ride in the rain, she had two thoughts going through her mind. First, her father had always had sub-par luck and now that he had left the earth he passed it along to her, and second, that the rain that was pouring down on her was her PMC baptism.
Eventually, Team Wow made it to Bourne to stop for the night. Two miles prior to the stop, Ardunio stopped at Onset, the same place she used to cheer all the riders, for a quick visit with her family.
“When I pulled into Onse,t half of the neighborhood was standing in the pouring rain to cheer me on.,” Ardunio said. “It was a very emotional experience and I just wanted to jump off my bike and give my mom a hug.”
After a 20 minute visit, she was back on her bike heading over to Bourne to take a shower and enjoy the night’s meal before getting some sleep for the second half of her journey.
Although sleep was a priority for her to be able to continue on her second leg of the ride into Provincetown, it was not going to be easy to come by. Ardunio figures she got about four hours of sleep before she was awakened for the morning.
“I was sleeping on the top bunk in a room with no air conditioning and my roommates, who I did not know at all, got up at 3 a.m. to get ready for the day,” Ardunio said. “At that point, I couldn’t fall back to sleep so I was up for the day. I slowly packed everything and brushed my teeth numerous times before we took off at 5:30.”
Although very foggy that second morning, Ardunio said it was pretty cool to ride into the canal and over the Bourne Bridge. Eventually the fog burned off and the rest of the ride was a perfectly sunny day. With the warm sun bearing down on their bodies, Team Wow rolled into the Wellfleet rest stop and was able to thoroughly enjoy the ice couches.
Despite riding most of the first day in torrential downpours, it was a weekend that Ardunio will never forget.
“I had a blast and cannot wait until next year,” Ardunio said with excitement. “It was so amazing to be on the other side after cheering the riders on for the past 12 years. There are no words to describe the feeling.”