A Boston SoulCycle instructor has cycled nearly 100 miles in 90-degree heat, raising nearly $6,000 for cancer charities — never having ridden a road bike before.
Madison Ciccone, 33, had signed up for other sporting events in the past, but nothing on the scale of the Pan-Mass Challenge, a fundraising bike-a-thon that raises more money for charities than any other athletic fundraising event in the world. The 2-day race stretches from Sturbridge to Provincetown, offering a variety of courses from 25 to 211 miles.
A SoulCycle instructor since 2016, Ciccone is familiar with a stationary bike — but had limited road bike experience.
“I was really banking on my Soul cycling skills, and I’m still on the Bluebikes around town, but I had never really clicked on a road bike. It’s a whole different ball game,” she told Boston.com.
Ciccone agreed to take on the challenge two months before the August 6 start date. She was undeterred, she said, and inspired by the charitable aspect of the Pan-Mass Challenge, which raises money for the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.
“I feel like everyone is affected by [cancer] sort of,” she said. “I’ve lost aunts and grandmothers, and my boyfriend recently lost his father. It’s not very hard to get attached to an organization like this and to feel that on a deep level, to be like, “Damn yeah.”
Ciccone was recruited by a friend to join Team Next Gen, a 40-person Pan-Mass Challenge group made up mostly of runners whose families and friends have participated in the challenge over the past few years.
The team’s 100-mile trek raises funds, or “Pedal Partners,” for a young Dana-Farber patient battling leukemia. The band have funded the treatment of 4-year-old King Gaylor for the past two years and wear ‘Kangaroos for King’ on their uniforms.
“He’s our ‘why,'” Ciccone explained.
Ciccone had less than two months to prepare for the challenge, borrowing a road bike from one of his SoulCycle riders to test out on forest trails, in addition to teaching 12 SoulCycle classes a week. But when race day arrived, Ciccone still felt a bit off guard.
“I thought racing should be a breeze and it wasn’t a breeze,” she admitted. Ciccone faced an additional hurdle that doesn’t affect indoor runners – the ongoing heat wave. August 6 saw intense temperatures peaking at 88 degrees and 94% humidity. Ciccone said there were doctors “everywhere” in case runners passed out from the heat.
“As a SoulCycle instructor, I’ve been through some pretty crazy circumstances,” Ciccone said. “It took a whole new level of mental toughness.”
But some special visitors were able to lift team spirits in the grueling conditions as 4-year-old King and his family greeted the riders at one of their water stops in Lakeville.
“It was just when I hit my wall,” Ciccone said. “It’s really hard on your body, but you cry because you know you’re doing it for a bigger purpose.”
The team was able to move forward, with Ciccone using his SoulCycle expertise to play uplifting music. She said she was grateful for the camaraderie the challenge brought her: “The hottest commodity and currency is the community and I’ve found myself in a really great and helpful place.”
Ciccone ended her challenge after one day, covering nearly 100 miles. Individually, she raised $5,700 with a personal goal of $6,000. Donations are open until October.
After the physical and mental toll of the race, Ciccone said she plans to return to the Pan-Mass Challenge in future years.
“The craziest thing is I’m going to do it again,” she said.
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