Take 5 with Pan-Mass Challenge cyclist Heather Lautman
Send Heather to the PMC
Breckenridge resident Heather Lautman is two weeks away from returning home to the Boston area for the Pan-Mass Challenge, a 192-mile bike tour held Aug. 1-2. Over the past two years, she’s raised a total of $8,700 for Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. This year, her goal is $4,300 — or more. Here’s how to donate:
- Visit the PMC website at www.PMC.org
- Click the red “donate” button and search for Heather Lautman
- Donate directly via credit card or a secure donor fund
In the wake of a devastating injury, Breckenridge resident Heather Lautman didn’t hang up her shoes and resign to a life on the couch.
She simply adopted a new mode of travel.
About three years ago, the avid runner and native of Reading, Massachusetts, suffered the sort of injury all endurance athletes fear: a strain to her IT band, the oft-abused group of fibers running along the outer thigh. It derailed her long-distance running career, but as an all-around athlete with parents who are die-hard cyclists, she easily embraced life in the saddle. She now bikes with abandon on just about every roadway in her adopted hometown, including her first-ever ride to the top of Loveland Pass earlier this summer.
Around the same time as her injury, Lautman decided to join her father for the Pan-Mass Challenge, a two-day, 192-mile tour of New England to raise funds for the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. The race has raised nearly a half-billion dollars since 1980 — including $68,000 from Lautman’s father alone — and each year, it attracts more and more participants. When she returns home this August for the tour, she’ll join thousands of riders from across the nation to raise a combined $45 million.
A few weeks before the PMC, the Summit Daily News sports desk chatted with Lautman to hear more about the ride, the cause and how 192 miles doesn’t seem like much when every last inch is lined with supporters.
Summit Daily News: What’s your connection to the PMC?
Heather Lautman: My dad has done it for the past 10 years, so I really got involved though him. I just grew up watching him do it every year, that sort of thing. When I started getting into biking after my injury, I started feeling like I could do it with him, and then, I started to learn more about the race and the cause. My dad always did it with a team, so I wanted to do it with him at least once, to support my dad, but after doing that first ride, I started coming back year after year.
SDN: And you started right away with a big race. What was that like, tackling 150-plus miles shortly after getting into the sport?
HL: It was really nerve-wracking, but I really enjoyed biking. I really wasn’t sure if I could do 160 miles that first year, but, coming from a distance runner perspective, I knew I would be OK if I could figure out my groove. But really, just knowing it’s for a good cause, knowing my dad and hundreds of other people across the country have done it, I just knew I would be OK.
The other motivation is what it stands for. You don’t just want to give up because it is a good cause. When I started riding that first year, I was surprised — you don’t go further than a quarter-mile without seeing people on the road supporting you, holding signs, encouraging you along. You see cancer survivors out there cheering you on, and, at that point, the distance doesn’t become intimidating anymore.
SDN: You moved to Colorado two years ago, right after your first PMC ride. How has living at altitude helped you train for a distance bike tour?
HL: Colorado has incredible biking trails, so I feel super-comfortable getting out by myself to ride and train. I think that’s really helped me because I can get out and ride — I love to get out and ride — and getting in those miles can be a blast. I’ve also met a lot of other girls my age who like to ride bikes. That’s been a huge perk, just having a group of girls who are outdoorsy and willing to get out and train.
This year, I decided to challenge myself a bit differently in the spring. Last year, I rode around Lake Dillon a lot, or I would go to Copper (Mountain Resort), but, this year, I’ve been going out to get a few of the mountain passes. I was intimidated by the altitude when I first came here — really intimidated by the altitude, actually. But now, I’m finding girls to go riding, do Vail Pass and Ute Pass and Loveland Pass.
SDN: How do mountain passes compare to a long-distance ride like PMC?
HL: They’re both tough, but it’s always tough to complain, especially with the PMC. You just can’t complain because in order to do this ride and raise the money, you have to put in the effort. Reaching the top of those passes were great personal accomplishments, but, in the back of my mind, I knew I was doing it to be able to make the ride in Massachusetts,
SDN: After cycling in the PMC for two years, what’s your favorite part of the ride?
HL: The cause really is my favorite part. When you’re actually out there, just the intense support and community you’re a part of is incredible. It really is. You go by all these groups, these stops sponsored by people who might be having a party along the route, and they’re thanking you for what you’re doing. You’re riding with survivors, you’re passing by survivors, you see the same kids with the same signs every year, thanking you for what you’ve done — the support is incredible.
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