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Ashland - Local Town Pages

PMC Rider, Kristin Brandt

Jul 31, 2020 04:12PM ● By Chris Tremblay

Kristin Brandt, whose husband owns a bicycle shop, has been riding around the state for the past 25 years. 

As a cyclist the Ashland native had always thought about taking part in the Pan Mass Challenge for at least one year so that she could check it off her bucket list. Five years ago, she pulled the trigger and signed up to take part in the prestigious event, but little did she know what was about to follow.

“It was going to be a one and done thing, so I decided to go all out and do the two-day ride of 200 miles,” Brandt said. “Not only did I have zero understanding of what I got myself into but once you take part in the ride you just can’t quit. You become part of the PMC family and you see all these people throughout the ride; people everywhere you become hooked.”

Through her five years of riding the PMC, Brandt began to lose people in her life to cancer, so it became even more inevitable that she could not give the event up. 

Despite being someone who was already a strong cyclist Brandt found herself training excessively for her first PMC ride. In fact, she trained so much, people told her to slow down. That first year (2016), which was supposed to be a one and done year, she didn’t ride with a team but a friend.

“Because it was to be a one and done thing, we did the Sturbridge to Provincetown route that first year,” she said. “Being a cyclist, it didn’t bother me all that much; my body was a little sore, but I don’t think it was too much the 200 miles compared to sleeping on someone’s floor after the first day.”

Following the inaugural ride in which she was hooked, she joined up with some other friends who order on Team Perry (for Perry Levy and the Gastrointestinal Cancer fund). At her first team dinner with the team, Brandt found out a lot about the cancer type.

“At that dinner I realized that a lot of the people that I had lost to cancer fell under the gastrointestinal cancer category,” she said. “It was really a weird way to end up riding on the right team.”

Last year Brandt eased back on her training regimen and didn’t go as hard as she usually does and because of that lack of training she found herself stopping at just about every med tent along the route during the first weekend of August.

“The PMC is the best organized event ever and even if you find yourself having a tough time on the route, there is never a point where you can’t stop. Every 20-25 mikes there is a tent to give you the help you need to keep going,” she said. “It can hurt, but you can get through it, the medical staff made sure that I could continue. Cancer patients don’t have the option of stopping. While the masseuses gave me the comfort, I needed to keep going I don’t think too many people wanted to be around me as I smelled like Ben Gay.”

For 40 years, the Pan Mass Challenge has had a mission in which to save lives with the goal being a cancer-free world. Every August thousands of participants get on their bikes to ride the 2-day trek down to Provincetown while securing donations for the fight against cancer. However, with all that has been thrown at us with the Covid-19 pandemic the past five months, PMC Founder and Executive Director Billy Starr had to make a hard decision about the event.  On May 1, he delivered a painstakingly tough message to the riders that in order to protect the PMC family there would be no actual ride this summer. Instead he decided to reimagine the 2020 PMC weekend.

With all the health considerations surrounding Covid-19, Starr felt that it was impossible to deliver a high-quality experience while guaranteeing the safety of the PMC riders. The PMC represents something that is at the core of each and every rider’s lifestyle and values; the many months and miles of training along with year-round fundraising efforts are the lifeblood of the Dana Farber Institute. When Brandt had received the message, she really wasn’t all that surprised.

“By the time that they decided to call it so much had already been cancelled so I knew that it was inevitable,” Brandt said. “I saw it coming, I was just grateful that they waived the fundraising portion of the event. Although I still want to go out and achieve the heavy hitter status (Brandt has been a heavy hitter 3 of the last 4 years and has raised $32,000 during that time) I didn’t want to push myself on people, especially since a lot are having a tough time during this pandemic.”

Back in early March, prior to the pandemic blowing up, Brandt sent out her donation letters, but that was just about all that she had done in terms of fundraising. Now that the July holiday has passed, the Ashland resident planned on restarting her fundraising efforts en route to heavy hitter status. 

“A lot of people are going through some hard times right now,” she said. “But as the PMC says there’s  a lot riding on us; those who can afford to give will continue to give.”

 With the 2020 Pan Mass Challenge being reimagined, Brandt figured it was the perfect opportunity to introduce her 15-year old daughter Sophie, a sophomore at Ashland High School, to the event. 

“I got her to become a virtual rider this year now that things have changed. We won’t be doing the full 200 miles, but we will do around 30-50 miles on PMC weekend,” she said. “I’m excited for her to experience the PMC and this is a good way to introduce her to it. It’s still up in the air as to what route we will actually do that weekend, but I’m hoping that its something with the team.”

As Brandt and her daughter prepare for a PMC that no one could have ever imagined, she is hoping that her donors continue to take to her PMC profile page and help find a cure for cancer.