GearUp4CF Day 9: Invermere to Banff

Well, that’s it. All done. I’ve cycled from Vancouver to Banff and clocked up around 1,200km in the saddle. I loved all of it.

Our last day was meant to be rainy but once again the weather held out. It was mostly cloudy and cool with occasional bursts of sunshine or little spatters of rain. The predicted thunderstorm never materialised; we rolled into Banff happy and dry.

Welcome to Banff!

Welcome to Banff!

The terrain today was stunning and the roads were the quietest I’ve experienced on this trip. I decided to ride on my own and just soak it all up, letting the trees, lakes and rivers of the Rocky Mountains keep me company.

At the top of our first climb

At the top of our first climb

I pulled over and grabbed a picture of George cycling through the mountains.

I pulled over and grabbed a picture of George cycling through the mountains.

Posing at the Great Divide between B.C. and Alberta

Posing at the Great Divide between B.C. and Alberta

At a little over 150km it was our second longest ride of the trip, but it felt like it was over far too quickly. The miles just flew by and suddenly we were in Banff.

I’ve settled into the rhythm of days out on my bike and I have a feeling I’m going to miss it tomorrow.

Here’s my final plea: How about a penny for every kilometre I’ve cycled? A $12 donation would make me oh so happy.

I had a fantastic ride. Not a single flat tire or bad day on the bike. Thanks for reading along, sending encouraging messages and donating to the cause. Over and out.

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GearUp4CF Day 8: Cranbrook to Invermere

The penultimate day of the ride was a rolling 135km. The forecasters called for rain but the weather gods were on our side. After a light sprinkle in the morning it was dry and cloudy with the wind pushing us from behind.

We rode fast and hard, covering the first 96km to lunch in under 3 hours. I spent most of the morning staring at Paul’s wheel and getting as close as I dared. It was quick going, particularly considering our tired legs and various aches and pains. (As the ride goes on we’ve all become increasingly liberal with the application of chamois cream.)

Our picturesque lunch stop.

Our picturesque lunch stop.

After lunch I didn’t have the legs to keep up the pace, so I rode on my own and took the opportunity to look up and take in the view. Beautiful rolling hills, snow capped Rockies and plenty of little lakes dotted the roadside. It was blissful.

Selfie on a quiet road.

Selfie on a quiet road.

Great views today

Great views today

Today we met up with a group of riders doing a weekend challenge – they rode out from Banff and will turn around and ride back there with us tomorrow.

And then it’s all done. Just 154km and a couple of climbs to go.

 

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GearUp4CF Day 7: Creston to Cranbrook

On day 7 we crossed over into Mountain Time. It was a rolling 105km ride with an ever so gentle incline. Just enough to rack up around 800m of climbing for the day. It was a pretty nice ride. Except that it was pissing with rain for the first 70km or so. Although the forecast was for a light sprinkling of 1-3mm, we were drenched within minutes of setting out. Never mind.

Big trucks, wet roads. Photo from 2 days ago (and not of me!) but there was more of this to contend with today.

Big trucks, wet roads. Photo from 2 days ago (and not of me!) but there was more of this to contend with today.

After yesterday’s climb my legs felt surprisingly good so I spent most of the day at the front of a gentle pace line creating some draft for the riders behind me. Bonus: less time getting muck in my face from the wheel in front. Downside: The rain was so heavy that I could barely see. I was pretty much guessing when I pointed out debris on the road to the riders behind.

It was too wet to take pictures but I know there are a few floating around that I’ll endeavour to track down. Most simply show me soaking wet and covered in muck. (There might be one or two of me climbing into the hotel’s enormous tumble dryer and going for a spin.)

The pic above is from 2 days ago when conditions were much the same. Wet roads, big trucks.

Tomorrow is day 8 and is another flat(ish) day. The forecast calls for more rain too. No matter the weather we’ll gear up and get out there once more.

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GearUp4CF Day 6: Rossland to Creston

Day 6. The big one. The day that jumped out at me from the route guide because of this:

Elevation profile for day 6 where we climb the Kootenay Pass Summit

Elevation profile for day 6 where we climb the Kootenay Pass Summit

The Kootenay Pass Summit (that bit at the top) is Canada’s highest paved road that is open year round. After a fairly relaxing 65km warm up that was mostly rolling, the climb was as tough as it looks. I couldn’t quite remember exactly how long it was and so surprised myself by reaching the summit 5km before I thought I should. The descent was also icy cold and once again rainy. It was a hard day.

At the summit: me, Norm, Walter, Paul, Patrick

At the summit: me, Norm, Walter, Paul, Patrick

I grabbed a photo at the top with everyone who reached the summit at around the same time. Walter, in the middle, has two kids with Cystic Fibrosis. His eldest daughter died about 12 years ago when she was just 12 herself. His youngest, Ali, is 21 today and is doing pretty well thanks to a double lung transplant.

Paul, to the right of Walter, has Cystic Fibrosis and had his own double lung transplant a few years ago. He’s one of 3 riders on the trip who have Cystic Fibrosis.

Special kudos to Andrea, Patrick and Tom who each climbed the Kootney Pass twice for extra donations to the cause. (Patrick’s on the far right of the photo – he passed me on his second lap of the climb although he is a bike racer) All three are exceptional cyclists but were still pretty knackered by the end of the day.

To mark our biggest climb of the trip I want to share an email we received from a guy called Cary who is living with Cystic Fibrosis:

Dear GearUp4CF Riders,

My friends George and Paul are riding with you and I’ve asked George to share my story.

I am a 36 and I live with CF. Until I was 28 my life was very normal and mostly unrestricted. I played ice hockey, completed a BSc, MSc and started a PhD in computer science and enjoyed swimming (usually about 1200-1600m per workout). I got married at 26, bought a house and was full of optimism that I was beating CF. I tended to need IV treatments around every 18 months. The only time in my life CF really had gotten in the way was when I was trying to get my pilot’s license and could not get it due to my genetics.

Then at 28 my life began to change.

The first bit of news was that I was cultured with B. Cepacia. I knew little about the bug at the time but assumed I had just months left in my life. I panicked and had no idea what to do. Since then I’ve learned a considerable amount more about the bug. I luckily have a strain that is not considered exceptionally dangerous, only “kind of concerning” as I was told many times. I still have no idea how I got it but I do know it was a kick in the pants and a major motivator at the same time.

So my wife and I did what every CF couple would do, we put blinders on and tried to forget about the future. We started trying to have kids artificially and just before my 30th birthday I was blessed with two super healthy twin daughters, Anna and Sophie. They have been my motivation and focus since I first saw their hearts beating on the computer screen during an ultrasound at the ripe age of 8 weeks into development.

My lung function has dropped considerably over the last number of years. I am now at a FEV1 of 30% on my good days. I’ve been as low as 22%. I was employed as a software engineer until Nov. 2013. Without warning I was laid off, likely due to my frequent illness. Officially I was let go for budget cuts, but then somehow a few weeks later money was found to hire someone new. Before my insurance expired I applied for long term disability, only to sadly learn that my employer did not know how to administrate their own plan. I had never been signed up correctly and did not qualify to receive the coverage I expected.

Life below an FEV1 of 30% is something I wasn’t prepared for. I often get out of breath sitting up and need to lie down. I have spent close to 40% of the year on IV drugs, just trying to build up enough strength to carry on. Simple things like grocery shopping have become my one big activity of the day.

I was listed for a lung transplant in March of this year and I am currently patiently waiting for the call. I find visualizing simple things like running, swimming or seeing my daughters grow up and walking them down the aisle at their weddings helps me forget all the risky and scary parts of transplant. There just isn’t a choice but to carry on.

This week the news about Vertex Pharmacutical’s Kalydeco and Lumacaftor is something that the entire CF community is excited about and should be proud of. This is the true game changer for a good number of people suffering from CF. Years ago the CF battle was with nutrition as most CFer’s didn’t get the chance to mature to adults. Through research and new treatments CF care generally beats malnutrition. For a long time the CF battle now has been about lung disease as most young adults suffer from increasing lung damage until transplant is the only remaining option. Now we may be moving to a new phase. But the battle isn’t over yet.

We have gotten here because people like you have dedicated your time and energy to CF awareness and fundraising to find a cure. Unfortunately these new drugs don’t help everyone and we don’t know what will emerge next for the CFer’s who no longer suffer from lung damage.

The ride you are on is something I feel I could never accomplish myself. Yet joining you are CF adults who have completed the transplant journey and are thriving. While you are physically climbing mountains, I am figuratively trying to climb my own transplant mountain. Your incredible dedication and sacrifice to be making this long bike ride somehow helps me feel your support is behind me and my family. At the same time, if you are having trouble climbing your own mountain I hope my story helps you keep going. I too will be capable of astonishing physical feats once I’ve recovered from transplant and I hope to join you on your ride.

Good luck the rest of your journey and thanks again!

Cary

I know many of you reading this blog have already donated or come along to my fundraiser event. But if you can find it in your hearts and wallets to spare another $10 it will make a difference. Please do me a favour and share the link to my fundraising page with everyone you know and ask them to donate.

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GearUp4CF Day 5: Grand Forks to Rossland

Day 5, yesterday, was a breezy 95km. I had some errands to run in the afternoon so didn’t get a chance to blog afterwards so this is coming a day late. To be honest I can hardly remember it now.

It was sunny but not too hot with just two significant climbs. First, 30km of varying gradient but probably sitting at an average of around 5%. Second, a mere 9km of similar terrain.

Halfway up the big climb of the day.

Halfway up the big climb of the day.

I thoroughly enjoyed both the riding and the sunny day. We officially passed the half way mark at some point during the day. My legs are starting to tire but I’m also settling into a rhythm. My biggest challenge yesterday was an old neck injury that flared up, giving rise to occasional spasms.

Pretty nice scenery to keep me company on the road.

Pretty nice scenery to keep me company on the road.

All in all a pretty good day. Now bring on the Kootenay pass. . .

 

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GearUp4CF Day 4: Osoyoos to Grand Forks

And on the fourth day it rained. And rained. And rained and rained and rained for the entire 125km. Not a dry moment to be had.

The day started with a lung opening 30km climb up the Anarchist Summit. Once again, relatively fresh legs felt good and the gradient wasn’t too tough. The wet weather at least kept us cool.

Then down a 20km descent that was fast, wet, and accompanied by big logging trucks blowing by. The roads were slick from the recent rain so I kept off the brakes for fear of skidding, sat up as tall as I could to slow myself down and sang out loud to stay relaxed. Probably the hairiest moment was when two logging trucks passed in quick succession where the road was narrow and I was forced onto the gravel-strewn shoulder. The air disturbance from a big truck going by sucks you forward, then seems to push you back and to the side. Fun times.

The rain kept up for the rest of the day and so I was grateful for a second 30km climb (although at a much gentler incline) to keep warm.

All was fine until the last possible second. I spotted our hotel across the street and pulled over to the right to wait for a safe moment to cross. The roads were so wet that what I thought was a ramp onto the pavement was actually a curb, so I hit it side on and toppled over to the right. Now I can add a bruised hip to my growing list of aches and pains.

The only picture of the day taken upon my arrival at the hotel.  It was too wet to stop and take any more.

The only picture of the day taken upon my arrival at the hotel. It was too wet to stop and take any more.

Tomorrow is our shortest day of the ride at only 95km but with a few punchy climbs thrown in. Fingers crossed for sunshine.

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GearUp4CF Day 3: Manning Park to Osoyoos

Day 3 is the longest day on the schedule at nearly 185km. It was a spectacular day, moving from the forests of Manning Park through to the desert-like warmth of wine country in Osoyoos.

It started off dry and cool, which was a welcome break from the previous day’s heat. And with relatively fresh legs the first couple of climbs felt good. The roads also seemed a little bit calmer.

Rocking my new jersey (thanks Shona and Charlie!) at the top of the Sunday Summit.

Rocking my new jersey (thanks Shona and Charlie!) at the top of the Sunday Summit.

Despite being a long day a big chunk of it was downhill. Into a headwind. Which sort of cancels out the downhill bit. And there was still nearly 1,400m of climbing all told.

As the day went on and we rode further inland it got hotter and hotter, hitting a high of 36 Celsius. I was draining both my water bottles nearly every 20km and found myself getting parched even on the descents.

On the road to Osoyoos

On the road to Osoyoos

But the view coming into Osoyoos, our lakefront hotel, and the welcoming BBQ put on for us by the local Kinsmen group more than made up for our tired legs.

Everyone piled straight into the lake, shorts on, for a cooling dip. Later, we spent some time listening to the stories of a couple of local residents who have a granddaughter with CF. It was nice to be reminded of why this ride matters and who it’s helping.

Please do donate if you can.

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