You didn’t think all that excitement and enthusiasm Jack Edwards exudes during the season as the Bruins’ play-by-play voice on NESN takes the offseason off, did you?
No, Edwards is always as high-strung as he can be away from, and at, the rink 365 days a year. This summer for the first time, he brought all his exuberance to the course of the Pan-Mass Challenge and conquered the more than 190 miles of terrain along with a team of approximately 30 riders representing the Boston Bruins Foundation.
“I had a little residual fatigue just from not getting a lot of sleep. But physically, legs, lungs and that, I feel really good,” Edwards, 53, told TheBruinsBlog.net earlier this week about the effects of last weekend’s ride.
Edwards then pointed out a funny thing about biking: “If you’re bike is fit correctly to you, you actually get stronger by riding all the time and immediately. It’s really strange. It’s a big effort, and you’re tired from the effort. But when you wake up the next day, if you’ve done your stretching and stuff, you usually feel like you can go out and ride again.”
Edwards has been seriously biking since 1989. He’s on his third bike, and in preparation for his longest ride to date – the PMC to benefit research at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute – he trained by putting in around 100 miles a week for eight weeks. All the while, two people in particular were foremost in Edwards’ mind. One, Elizabeth Jorgensen, was a neighbor who succumbed to cancer way too early.
“She was an adorable young woman, who just brought sweetness to every day even when she was in dire straits, it was obvious that she was going down,” explained Edwards. “She never failed to smile or be cheerful. … I ride so that stories like that don’t happen.”
Second was Caroline Fries, who was the NESN junior play-by-play commentator a couple seasons ago before she was taken away from us by cancer. In the midst of the ride, Edwards found inspiration from one banner in particular along the route in Barnstable. It said “Ride for the Fries.”
“When I saw that sign, I really got emotional,” said Edwards. “I really had a lump in my throat and I had a really heavy, sad feeling in my chest. As you ride a bike, there’s a lot of symbolic stuff that goes on. And it made me dig in deeper and put a little more purpose in my pedaling.”
And pedal hard he did, with the help of his Bruins Foundation team members. The group mostly broke up into smaller groups of five or six riders. Former Bruins player Frank Simonetti was actually part of Edwards’ group, which stuck together and made sure even the most difficult aspects of the ride were made a little easier.
“If you’re riding in a pace line, you fall in single file and you’re literally wheel to wheel. Your front wheel is only a couple inches from the wheel in front of you,” said Edwards, who also explained that the lead rider is expending about one third more energy because of the wind resistance. “In essence, you’re doing what the NASCAR guys call drafting.”
Beyond his teammates’ assistance, Edwards said he and his fellow riders benefitted from amenities along the way that were “off-the-scale great.” The rest stops were all stocked with the proper beverages and food, and Edwards even had an extraordinary encounter at a Landry’s Bikes tent when looking for a repair.
“I had a cable problem. I had a cable that was beginning to fray. And in four minutes, not only did the guy diagnose what the problem was but he replaced by cable for free,” said Edwards.
There’s little doubt Edwards will ride in the PMC again. The opportunity to spend time with and bike with great people and raise money (organizers estimate this year’s ride raised more $31 million) for a great cause will be impossible for him to resist.
“I consider myself lucky that I’ve been able to healthy for more than half a century,” he said. ““I’ve seen too many of my friends and relatives get struck down for no conceivable reason.”
So when it comes to the PMC, Edwards said, “I’m a lifer.”