Rolling with Ann Wortman

One of the “Point Sebago Girls,” Ann joined Team Perry and the PMC in 2017 despite, as she says below, “not being a cyclist.”

I’m not a cyclist…?

However, one of my favorite childhood memories was sweeping the leaves on my driveway into long lines that would form “roads,” and riding around these roads for hours with my sister pretending to be grown-ups driving cars. I remember the excitement of getting my first “real” bike (one that never had training wheels attached), a road bike which became my mode of transportation and “ticket to freedom” as a teen – off I went to tennis lessons, summer jobs and beach days with friends.

Despite a childhood spent on a bike, I’m not a cyclist, believe me.

Fast forward to dating my future husband – his hobby was mountain biking. I didn’t even know the sport existed. I was not a stumps and rocks type of mountain biker like he was! But it was fun to get a hybrid bike, totally different than what I was used to, and discover a new way to ride. It was around that time that I worked for The Jimmy Fund and was introduced to the Pan-Mass Challenge. People kept saying what a powerful and amazing event it was. To me, it looked incredibly hard, like the Boston Marathon but for bikers, both in terms of the ride and the amount of money that had to be raised. I had participated in the Boston Marathon Jimmy Fund Walk and experienced the power of that event, so I had a sense of how “life changing” something like the PMC could be. But I kept thinking “I can walk 26 miles, but I could barely walk afterwards… I can’t even imagine what 160 miles on a bike must be like”. Not to mention those people were “real cyclists” with serious outfits, with incredible amounts of training time and staggering amounts of money raised. I mentally added it to my bucket list as one of those amazing things you have to try once in your life.

Then kids came along, and the bumpy trails were traded for occasional rides on smooth paths with a trailer attached to my bike for towing my little monkeys. This evolved into kids on their own bikes with me walking beside them and eventually carrying their bikes for them when they were too tired to make it back to the rail trail parking lot.

Definitely not a cyclist. I like riding my bike, but I’m not a cyclist. Just a mommy trying to stay sane and have a little fun with the kids.

Then the unthinkable happened. My dad was diagnosed with a rare, incurable cancer. Frequent trips to CT to visit with my dad and caring for young children meant my bike was relegated to the shed where it collected dust for years. Years went by as I watched the PMC come and go each year, envious of the riders and that amazing, life changing experience they were having, but knowing that the training commitment and fundraising minimum were too much for me to take on with young children.

Then my sister was diagnosed with breast cancer. I had already lost my dad to cancer, and it became very clear – if not now, when? It sounds corny, but it is true – it is as if karma intervened – at that very same time I had good friends who wanted to take on the PMC, and had recently become friends with Kristin and Steve (the Bike Guy) who could guide me, and suddenly there was no excuse not to try the PMC

But I was not a cyclist. All I had was a hybrid bike collecting dust.

I was incredibly excited to FINALLY be doing the PMC, a bucket list item! Curing cancer! Girls Weekend! Excitement turned to fear the very moment I clicked “commit” on my PMC registration. It was one thing to say I was doing it, it was another thing entirely to actually DO it! I was excited to get a new bike but also worried – I wanted the right bike for the task – not too heavy, not too much bike for my rookie level – a bike to get the PMC job done. So much had changed in the decades, yes decades, since I had purchased a bike. (That’s why I believe in a lot of ways it was fate that I met Kristin and Steve when I did.)

I started slow- verrrrrry slow….my first ride was when the snow had not even melted yet, I was in sweat pants to stay warm and I went a total of about 5 miles. Each day I tried to go further and further. I followed the PMC training guide but was not able to keep up with the pace that they had laid out. I was determined to just keep going out and getting rides in and build my endurance and confidence. I found the cycling community to be some of the nicest, most welcoming people I had ever met. They were so encouraging and never made me feel bad about being the last one or having to wait for me.

My first day with my new clip in pedals happened to be a group ride with seasoned veterans, and needless to say I got stuck in my clips and fell over at a stop sign…can it get any more embarrassing?! Yet I finished the ride, shared high-fives and felt the satisfaction that only a day spent with great people, riding in our beautiful surroundings on a beautiful day can bring. I look forward to my training rides because I get to see so much scenery, and enjoy so much beauty, that I miss every day driving in my car and rushing around. That is probably one of my favorite parts, among many, of cycling.

I was terrified the night before the PMC. What had I done? I’m not a cyclist!?! But again, karma intervened and they blasted U2’s “Beautiful Day”, my jam, as we rolled across the starting line and suddenly everything was ok. The ride was every bit as powerful, inspirational and challenging and I thought it would be, and then some. I made special friends and found a strength I didn’t know I had. And I killed it. I got up every hill and never once walked my bike. And, not only did I make the ferry, I had time to relax with lunch and a cocktail beforehand!

What stays with me is the power of being surrounded by thousands of people who have given so much of their hearts, time and money to finding a cure for cancer – it is indescribable.

I didn’t realize, until this moment thinking back on it all, that I was a cyclist all along.

Name: Ann McGuire Wortman
Adventure: Riding for Gabby
Ride: Scott Contessa Solace 35 (2017)

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