Corporate Volunteer Council of Greater Boston Honors Harpoon Brewery

Janelle Woods, CVC Executive Committee, shares opening remarks
Janelle Woods, CVC Executive Committee, shares opening remarks

I went to the Corporate Volunteer Council of Greater Boston (CVC) Year-End Meeting last night at Harpoon Brewery. Given the time of year, it was a small gathering of about 30 people. What we didn’t have in numbers, we made up for with good conversation, good cheer, good food, and free beer (thanks Harpoon!).

I met Dan Leonard from Genzyme. He’d just come in from Kendall Square on his bike. After stowing his helmet, I said hello, and we were off. Get two bike riders together and they’ll talk about bikes all night. Shortly after, Charlie Storey, Harpoon’s VP of Marketing, joined Dan and me. We chatted some about biking, especially the Harpoon Brewery to Brewery Ride (affectionately known to riders as the “B2B”), the single-day, 148-mile bike ride from Boston to Windsor, VT that Harpoon has sponsored since 2001.
(See my post on the B2B at

More to the point of last night’s meeting, Charlie told us that about 180 Harpoon employees donated about 8,200 hours of community service in 2010. The company supports major charities like: Dana Farber Cancer Institute, dedicated to cancer research, treatment, and education; Vermont Foodbank (Vermont’s largest hunger-relief organization), and The Angel Fund, a non-profit organization dedicated to supporting ALS investigations at the Cecil B. Day Laboratory for Neuromuscular Research at UMASS Medical under the leadership of Dr. Robert H. Brown Jr. In addition, Charlie also told us that Harpoon donated to over 200 other charities during the course of the year. These are AMAZING STATS for a company the size of Harpoon!!!

Charlie Storey, VP of Marketing at Harpoon Brewery accepting the 2011 Corporate Volunteer Council of Greater Boston Award from Regina McNally, CVC Executive Committee
Charlie Storey, VP of Marketing at Harpoon Brewery accepting the 2011 Corporate Volunteer Council of Greater Boston Award from Regina McNally, CVC Executive Committee

Janelle Woods and Anne Bowie, CVC Executive Committee Members, shared some opening remarks about CVC, its core mission, and appeal for membership. Then Regina McNally, another CVC Executive Committee Member, presented the 2011 Corporate Volunteer Council of Greater Boston Award to Harpoon which Charlie Storey graciously accepted. His words about Harpoon’s commitment to community service since their founding in 1986 were true inspiration to all of us.

TRA360 will be joining the CVC in September 2011. We look forward to getting to know our colleagues and doing more community service in Greater Boston.

148 Miles for a Harpoon: My Hardest Day Ever on a Bike

Valentina Rosa, TRA360 founder and CEO (l) with friend Kyle Bettigole at the B2B start line
Valentina Rosa, TRA360 founder and CEO (l) with friend Kyle Bettigole at the B2B start line

This past Saturday I completed my second consecutive Harpoon Brewery to Brewery Ride, the single-day, 148-mile bike ride from Boston, MA to Windsor, VT that Harpoon has sponsored since 2001. Affectionately known to riders as the “B2B”, this ride is not for everyone. To wit, here’s the opening paragraph on the official B2B website:

“The Harpoon Brewery to Brewery Ride is one tough ride. By design, it is not for everyone. This ride is for cyclists who enjoy great beer, are physically and mentally tough, take pleasure in the fellowship of others, don’t whine, excel in the face of challenges, play by the rules, and can ride 148 miles to the finish safely and without their hands being held.”

Oops, they forgot to mention the 6,500+ feet of elevation. Guess they don’t want to scare people away.

I hear you asking, “What, are you crazy?” “YES,” I’d reply, “AND TWICE OVER!”

More than just a one-day bike ride, the B2B is a fundraiser for the Dana Farber Cancer Institute and Team Psycho, Harpoon’s elite triathlon team. So, it’s an opportunity for a physical challenge and giving back. I did this ride for the first time last year with 6 other members of Team Kermit, my Pan-Mass Challenge cycling team. I wanted to prove to myself that in my 50th year that I could take on and complete this ridiculous ride. And, despite a day in the 90+F range with high humidity, I achieved the goal.

2011 was a lot different. Because of the extremely wet spring, I’d logged 100s of miles less than in 2010 and my longest ride of the season was a 56-miler in New Hampshire’s White Mountains. Hillpeats were the norm for the last 6 weeks prior to the B2B but they weren’t enough. I was setting myself up for a brutal day.

Team photo at the foot of the Leviathan, a 7-mile climb in VT
Team photo at the foot of the Leviathan, a 7-mile climb in VT

We rode pretty much as a team for the first 90 miles, though in small groups of 4-3-3. Mile 90 brings on the Leviathan, the longest and hardest climb of the day to mile 98. After that grueling grind, it’s only a half century (50 miles) to be done and dusted. Approaching the last rest stop at mile 125, I got separated from my 3-man team. I knew I was in trouble when the sign reading “Last Rest Stop 1 Mile” was being marched toward the rest stop by a volunteer.

After refueling, rehydrating, and resting for the last time, I asked a volunteer:

“When do we have to arrive at the brewery?”

“They told us 5:00,” she said, staring down at her clipboard.

“Really?” I gasped. “What time is it now?”

“4:15,” she replied without looking up.

WHAT?!?! I quickly calculated the remaining distance…23 miles. Even on our fastest days in a team pace line on flat ground we average 26 mph. How was I ever going to cover 90% of that distance in 45 minutes? Simple answer: I wasn’t. What did I do? I took off.

As if to punish the stupidity of this decision, the skies opened up minutes later and it rained hard for 20 minutes, horizontally a good portion of the time. Getting wet on a bike isn’t that bad when it’s warm. I didn’t have a watch and resorted to looking at my bike computer, counting up to the magic number of 148 miles. At about mile 145 a sag wagon (emergency vehicle) drove by and a guy stuck out his hand with five outstretched fingers and screamed “Only 5 more miles! You can do it.” What? My computer read just 3 more miles and an extra 2 might do me in. This was no stage of the Tour de France but I would finish.

Then, it happened in a few heartbeats later. First, a huge, huge gust of wind so strong it blew me across the road and back, followed in very rapid succession by a downpour and an enormous drop in temperature. “On no,” I said to myself, “could this be a tornado? (Central MA had 7 of them ravage the state in early June.) What about hail?”

BAM! BAM! BAM! BAM! Hailstones the size of peas started falling by the zillions, pummeling my body, and littering the ground. Seconds later the hailstones increased to the size of grapes. Now I’m getting really, really scared and getting pummeled by the hail is really starting to hurt. Desperately looking for help or an overhead shelter, I saw one in the distance, about a 1/4 mile down the road. I put my head down and raced as fast as my legs would carry me. Shelter at last, listening to the deafening din on the tin roof, and hoping it would stop.

Minutes later another rider named Judy pulled into the shelter. She was bruised and bloody, having gone down on the slippery railroad tracks a few miles before. We chatted and waited for the storm to pass. It did and the sun came out. I offered to escort Judy to the finish, now just 2.5 miles away. We made the last climb of 3/4 mile @ 2.3% at 4mph together with Judy on my rear wheel. When we crested the hill we were greeted by this sign: “It’s All Downhill From Here.” We both laughed. “Go in front of me Judy,” I implored, “you’ve earned it more than I have.” She smiled, said thanks, and took the descent. We crossed the finish line seconds apart, smiled broadly and hugged each other warmly, and said at almost the same time: “Great job and see you next year.”

Team photo at the end of 148 miles. How about those smiles?
Team photo at the end of 148 miles. How about those smiles?

Riding with the Next Generation of PMC Riders

My son Dan and me at the Newton-Needham-Brookline PMC Kids 2011
My son Dan and me at the Newton-Needham-Brookline PMC Kids 2011

This photo of my 21-year-old son Dan and me was taken at the 2011 Newton-Needham-Brookline PMC Kids Ride. Dan did his first 196-mile Pan-Mass Challenge (PMC) as a 15-year-old and two more until age 17. We ride with Team Kermit, co-founded with my dear friends Steven, Ellen, and Adam Branfman, and a few others. We ride in memory of my loving friend & artist Jared Branfman who died from brain cancer at 23.

Dan and I haven’t done the PMC together since 2007. But we always make it for the Kids PMC; the ride has special meaning for both of us. In previous years, we’ve led young teens, the next generation of PMCers, on a 17-mile ride. This year the PMC organizers initiated a shorter 8-mile, on-road ride for younger kids, mostly 8- to 10-year-olds. When we were asked which group we wanted to chaperone Dan immediately said, “Hey Dad, let’s take the little kids on the road.” “Works for me,” I said. “Let’s have some fun.”

Newton-Needham-Brookline PMC Kids 2011 team photo
Newton-Needham-Brookline PMC Kids 2011 team photo

And fun we had. We took off with eight excited kids with their orange rider T-shirts, helmets, bikes, and name tags on their backs, and another adult chaperone. I led the group and was asked constant questions like: “How fast are we going?”, “How far have we gone?”, “Where are we going?”, “When will we get there?”,  and the classic “Are we there yet?”

We had a blast with the kids, especially when we stopped the second time and they decided that we needed a team name (Orange Crush) and a cheer (sorry, I don’t remember that). We knew we’d done well when they all asked at the end: “Can we do it again?” “Sure,” we said, “next year.”

2011 will mark my tenth year riding in the PMC. To read my profile and make a 100% tax-deductible donation, go to

NewtonSERVES 2011: Picking Up Butts One at a Time

I’ve lived in Newton, Massachusetts since 1990, and worked here since 1991. But, until yesterday I’d never participated in NewtonSERVES, “A Day of Community Service”. Like most people I’d always had a number of excuses/reasons for not participating—family commitments; not in the city that day; too many other things going on; just didn’t want to do it; blah, blah, blah.

But, this year was different. I decided weeks in advance that I was going to participate, and, as the City’s website said “rain or shine”, I was determined to show up and do my part. Luckily, hundreds of brave volunteers and I weren’t deterred by the weather. We’ve been in the midst of a horribly wet spring and yesterday didn’t disappoint the ducks. I forgot to register in advance and upon arrival was told I could pick from tasks for any of 50 non-profit organizations or City of Newton departments that needed my help. Being an avid bike rider, I opted to do bike trail maintenance in Auburndale, one of Newton’s 13 villages.

So, what is “bike trail maintenance” you might ask? It’s more aptly described as “trash pickup” but if they called it that, who would do it, especially on a cold, wet day? Fortunately, five hearty souls, agreed to take on the task. Led by Nathan Phillips, an Associate Professor, Geography and Environment at BU and Vice President of Bike Newton, we each got our black garbage bags and simple instructions: “Pick up whatever litter you see and put in the bag. We’ll collect them at the end.”

We traipsed along the trail starting off Commonwealth Avenue and ending at Auburndale Cove for 4 hours. The rain came down steadily for the entire day and with temperatures in the 50s, we had to keep moving. If I had a dime for every cigarette but I picked up, I would have been rich. Who knew there were so many butts and so much litter until you’re scouring the earth looking for them?

We all got soaked in the spring rain, picked up a lot of litter, and mugged for a group photo. And, best of all, we got to return to City Hall for free bright yellow T-shirts and hot fudge sundaes from Cabot’s Ice Cream, a Newton institution. With the people I met, the T-shirt, and ice cream, I’ll be back next year. And, if I can get my act together ahead of time, I’ll bring people from TRA360 to join me too.