Posted by: James | November 28, 2008

The Carleton Shinearama news story

The Carleton University Student’s Association news story that broke yesterday has rightly provoked an outraged response.  The students union there passed a motion to change their fundraising efforts from the CF foundation.  It is, of course, entirely their right to decide to whom they direct their fundraising efforts.  However, it is a great shame that not only did they choose to switch from CF but in the manner of doing so they have undermined all the tremendous good they will have done with their past fundraising for CF.

The problem with what CUSA did was not that they decided to switch their charitable efforts, but why they did.  The motion the union executive voted on contained the following statement regarding CF: “Cystic Fibrosis has been recently revealed to only affect white people, and primarily men”.  There has been an outraged response in the media because of the clear chauvenistic and racial implications of the CUSA motion.  But it is even worse than that because it contains not one word of truth.

Firstly it is absolutely not true that that it is primarily a disease of men – the CF burden is almost equally split between males and females.  Indeed, in the past it was actually the case that females with CF have not done as well on average as males in terms of median survival.  Secondly, while it is true that a great many people with CF are classified as ‘white’, it most certainly is not true that it has been revealed that it is only white people affected.  Indeed, the more research that is done, the more CF is found in other populations, often at a lower frequency than in Canada generally, but the literature describes cases in people from North Africa, to South America, to Israel, to Asian and Arabian countries.

When CF was first described the average survival was just 4 years.  Due to the success of research, funded in large part by charitable CF organisations like the Canadian Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, this has now been extended to late 30s and promises to rise much higher with further advances.  However, to make these advances, continued research funded by CF foundations is vital and so it is essential that any misconceptions in this story are debunked.

CF is a horrible disease.  People with CF, their families and caregivers have a substantial range of major daily challenges in their life, from significant digestive problems to chronic lung infections.  The biggest chunk of money raised by the CF foundation is spent on research to help improve the lives of people with CF.  However, it is also important to understand how scientific research and advance is made.  Research funded by the CF foundation does not get published in a box marked ‘only relevant for CF’.  All research has a much broader relevance.  

To take one example of this, one of the  most common causes of infections in CF lungs is a bacterium called Pseudomonas aeruginosa.  Dealing with Pseudomonas infections is vital in CF and so much research is funded on Pseudomonas.  However, Pseudomonas aeruginosa does not only infect people with CF.  It is a very significant cause of hospital acquired infections and among other things it can also cause severe, vision threatening, eye infections in people who do not clean their contact lenses properly.  Therefore, any research funded to better understand Pseudomonas is clearly going to benefit anyone who may get a Pseudomonas infection.  

The benefit of research on bacterial infections in CF is even wider than just one bacterium.  One of the features of Pseudomonas aerginosa bacteria is that they are very resistant to a lot of commonly used antibiotics and so there has been a lot of CF foundation funded work in Canada and elsewhere to understand this.  Because of this research, very significant advances have been made in understanding antibiotic resistance in a very wide range of bacteria that cause large numbers of infections in people without CF. A substantial amount of this research has been done in Vancouver and Canada.

This, of course, is just one example of how charitable money raised for CF helps not only CF but the whole world.  Next year, like with the last few years, I will be actively raising money for the Canadian CF Foundation in the full knowledge that it is going to one of the most worthy causes there is.  The generosity of donors in the last few years has been humbling for me.  Anyone donating to CF can rest assured that only are they donating not only to improve the lives of Canadians afflicted with a very unpleasant disease but they also helping advance human knowledge in a way that helps humanity as a whole.  

James E A Zlosnik, PhD (Cystic Fibrosis Microbiology Research Scientist), Nov 27 2008

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Posted by: James | September 10, 2008

Day 3: Manning Park to Penticton

Day 3 last year was the big one – 180km, from Manning Park to the desert of Osoyoos.  This year on this route it is almost exactly the same in distance but this time a different destination – Penticton.

Because of the distance and anticipated heat in the desert areas later on, most of us woke early had a quicky breakfast of coffee, toast and cereal before heading out.  This morning the weather was looking tremendous, but as it was only 7 in the morning it was still cold.  I put on all my gear, pumped up the bikes tyres and left with David, Zach, Hilda and Chris B.

Chris B zipping up for the cold start to the day:
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We set off down the familiar and fabulous tree-lined round that starts this day. The great advantage of this start is there is a lot of downhill first and this allows quite a distance to be covered relatively easily before any climbs.
Heading out on a long day:

David, Zach, Chris and Hilda head out on the 184km day

Next was the climb up to Sunday summit, again this was made much easier by having done it last year and then knowning what to expect.  Here I was greeted by Fran (support driver on the Lance Gregson Memorial Route) and all the riders who had set off very early on and this provided a perfect opportunity to get a photo with my friends Max and Leona who played a big role in organising the ride this year and were about to head off on the other route later in the day.    The weather was just about perfect, unlike last year, with the sun shining down.

Leona, me and Max at the top of Sunday summit:
Leona, Me and Max at the top of Sunday summit

Following Sunday summit was a nice long downhill into Princeton, which brought with it the phenomenon that I had discovered on the first day – the forgotten hill. I usually have a great visual memory, but for some reason (I cannot imagine what) I had forgotten the location of a number of up-hills.  So my hopes of a long cruise were slightly dashed. Incidentally this phenomenon was not limited to me – Hilda said the very same thing later on. Over optimism on the Hill front in fact would turn out to be a repeating feature of this ride.

On the way into Princeton I stopped to lend a hand – well more a tyre pump to Bill who was helping Hunter fix his 3rd flat of the day. At this point I was feeling a little smug about my pre-ride purchase of kevlar lined tyres (no flats for me…so far!!).

After Princeton, I was fairly sure it was a long run with a very gentle decline. Last year I rode this flat out with John and Heather. Having caught up with Bill and his group I was no in a position to be able to ride this in a peloton with some others, including Bill, John E, David Strange and Hilda. Usually you cannot repeat really enjoyable experiences – not so this time. We blasted down into the beginning of the Okanagan Valley at speeds of at least 35 km/hr. When we arrived at the lunch spot at almost exactly half way David remarked to me that the group riding at speed had been one of the best experiences of his life. This for me was a real highlight – to see someone just get that buzz out of this event.

After a fairly lengthy stop for lunch I again headed out with a big group to complete the next section – through the Okanagan Valley to Keremeos. It would be here we would split, but for now I was able to ride in a very large group with Bill, Hunter, David Strange, Hilda, Brian Carlson, John J and John E. Again the Okanagan Valley was a joy, noticeably greener than last year too (probably a reflection of the very wet start to the year we’d seen in Vancouver).

Me in the Okanagan Valley:
Me in the Okanagan Valley

By the time we got to Keremeos is was getting very hot and humid and I was beginning to feel more than a little tired. Refueling was available at the gas station in Keremeos and here I waited for as many people as possible from the other ride to say my farewells. If I do this ride again I hope a lot of the people from the other ride join us as it would be great to ride with them some more.

After a while it became clear it was getting just a bit too humid to stay around and so I set off with John Sullivan and Hilda to Penticton. John rode with us a bit, but it was clear quickly he had far too much pace for us – John is another incredible rider. After he had disappeared into the distance Hilda and I worked our way up the valley and then up the climb to the pass just before Penticton. I decided to try some music to get me up the last bit as it was taking a lot of energy. I have to say too at this point when my body started slowing up I decided to just do my best to ignore it. This is in part what this ride is about – some pysical exertion to raise money for people who have far more significant challenges in their lives than just completing 180+km through amazing scenery with support people! Specifically I though of Alex and his family and so not once did the thought of not finsihing enter my consience and I think this made it easier.

Just as the top of climb was approaching Elton John’s Take Me to the Pilot came on my earphones and that was more than enough to get me moving! Luckily there was also a tail wind that made the reminder of the climb and then the descent just a joy.

By this time I had left Hilda behind, but we met up at the bottom so we could navigate our way into Penticton together – excellent directions were provided this year, all took us straight to the motels, but after 170km energy depletion makes it easier with 2 sets of eyes to find the way!

And so the end of the longest day. And again it had been a tremendous experience. Better still the stats were looking good:

Trip distance: 184.57km
Trip time: 6hrs 16 mins 48secs
Average speed: 29.39

We finished the day off with a nice meal in a Greek restaurant, where we were joined by Simon who had been forced to leave us the day before to start a new job today. In fact he also met us in the car park of the motel too having jogged there – he makes it look so easy!

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Posted by: James | August 28, 2008

Day 2: Harrison Hot Springs – Manning Park

Day 2 had been dreaded by some, following last year when it was generally regarded as one of the hardest days.  This year I was feeling fairly sanguine about it as I felt fairly sure that one of the problems the previous year had been that we didn’t know what was coming, whereas this time we did.  The day started slightly ominously for me when I was woken in the middle of the night by driving rain (I was fortunately too tired to pay too much attention or really worry that I didn’t have much in the way of waterporoofing with me – the cycling wardrobe is already rather large and costly!!).

Perhaps I should mention, that this year there are in fact 2 rides.  Last years ride was so successful that so many people wanted to do it this year it was decided to have 2 rides.  Mine is obviously going to Jasper, whilst the other ride is taking exactly the same route we took last year to Banff.  To make it more fun the first two and half days are overlapping with us going our separate ways once we reach Keremeos in the Okanagan valley.  The only real downsides of this for me were that there would be many riders we would not see again after the 3rd day, but for the first 3 days it made for a tremendous sight as we all headed on our way.

By the time breakfast came around the rain had mercifully stopped, so the day could begin without too many problems, although full legings and arm warmers were definitely the order of the day.

Leona and Su-Ning ready to go in Harrison:
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I knew from last year that the first part of this days ride is a long flat blast up to Hope, so I set off early leaving behind some of the faster riders and was soon at the head of the pack heading towards Hope. After a very enjoyable long ride down the valley we all convened for a bit of refuelling in preparation for the climb up to the Hope slide where lunch was scheduled.

I then headed out with Jen, Simon, John Sullivan and a few others for the journey through Hope and then up to the Hope slide. On our way through Hope John in parted the first of many interesting bits of information – the movie Rambo First Blood had been filmed in Hope and the strip we were just cycling through was where they shot the scene where he trashes the town.

The climb to the Hope slide was not too difficult, although I sometimes wonder if one just blocks the difficulty out in hindsight as I met someone later who expressed amazement that I had cycled up there (yeah, well that was relatively easy!!). Whilst one of the support vans was at the top, it was so cold up there that most of us didn’t hang round long. Hilda and I headed out and then she had the great idea of stopping at a real estate agents office at the bottom of the descent – this provided us with warm and clean restrooms and a nice hot cup of coffee – thanks guys.

The remainder of the day consisted of a nice run to the bottom of the final climb up to Manning Park.  The clim up to Manning Park being made much easier by the memory of last year, the only thing missing from my memory was just how steep it got towards the end.  A rest stop was awaiting at the top and I stopped briefly there before heading out on the descent into the Lodge.  Here, just when I thought everything was behind me, my chain jumped off the front cogs and got wrapped around the crank.  With perfect timing one of the support vans was behind me and in it was Danny, our mechanic – he had it back on in no time.  I had not been over concerned by this event, but Danny informed me that you have to be careful the chain isn’t bent – sure enough since this event even though it looks ok it keeps jumping on the front cogs every now and again.  Road bikes, despite their considerable price, it would seem are really quite sensitive!

Some vital stats:
Trip distance: 108.77km
Time: 4 hrs 17 mins 24 secs
Average speed: 23.71 km/hr

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