Training: Baby Steps

Given that this campaign is going to be a bit of an undertaking, I would be a fool to attempt it without some training behind me. Since breaking my ankle in October, I've had to slowly, and sometimes painfully, push myself to get back into shape, build my endurance up, and yell at my ankle to stop slowing me down.

While training alone and with friends was a fantastic step up, I've always found that the only true way to push one's self is to sign up for a race (mind you, this is likely just because I'm too competitive). As such, while my progress had been going well, I knew I had to take it to the next level.

On May 10, I raced in the Blenheim 7km fun run. Being only 7km, I biked the 15km (I was training for a triathlon afterall) up to Blenheim Palace and met up with Vicky and the St. Anne's Couch Potato Running Club. In addition to having the greatest name ever, this crew was also fantastic fun, and a little out of their mind (one of the members did the entire race in full Cricket uniform, including shin pads and carrying the bat).

I hadn't done a timed race since 2007 in Montreal, but felt in good shape and was eager to get racing. I finished 52nd out of around 500 runners with a time of 31m27s. I had never done this well in a race before, so either Canadians are faster runners than the English or more realistically, training was actually paying off.

I was brought back to reality the following week when I competed in the Oxford Town & Gown 10km run. While the previous week had been glorious and sunny, my good friend Michal and I were not so lucky this day. It poured rain nearly all morning, the peak of which was about 10 minutes after the start of the race.

The Town & Gown race has a history of goofing around and dressing up, so I donned my team Canada Hockey Jersey that morning and set off for the start line. What I didn't anticipate was that this jersey would accumulate another 5kg of water weight and make my life exceedingly difficult.

I also didn't anticipate that I would 'hit the wall' around 7km, after foolishly trying to keep pace with my previous week's performance. Still, I would struggle through the last few clicks and finish in 44m47s; around 400th out of nearly 3000. Mike and I were covered in mud and chilled to the bone, but it was nothing a quick bowl of chili couldn't fix (thanks for that, Mish).

Both races filled me with confidence about my ankle, and the future. Mind you, 10km was a leisurely stroll compared to what was churning around in the back of my head.

The Route

The path will follow over 3500km through the prairies and the Canadian shield. I will primarily be following the trans-Canada highway from Calgary to Toronto with a few deviations for some very important people. The trip will be unsupported, and I will be tenting, unless I'm lucky enough to find friend's couch or floor along my travels.

I will be flying into Calgary from the UK with almost no possessions to my name. I am starting here because in late July, my sister Brie will be having her first child and I will be henceforth known as Uncle Shane!! I will spend just over a week staying with my other sister Jana and her husband Scott preparing equipment and planning for the journey ahead.

From Calgary, I will be detouring through Lethbridge on my way to Medicine Hat to visit my sister, her husband Morgan, and the latest addition to our family. After putting in my obligatory “crazy uncle” time, I will be riding highway #1 through Saskatchewan.

I will eventually need to take a detour south towards highway #2 to spend a day or two on the farm near Souris, MB with my wonderful parents, Verne & Lynda Saunderson. Though I’m sure it will be difficult to leave behind the comforts of my own bed, and all the steak I can eat, I will inevitably have to get back on the road.

After traveling across my home province and through Winnipeg, I’ll link up with the dreaded highway 17 in northern Ontario. This will begin what will unquestionably be the most difficult portion of my journey. Passing through Thunder Bay and around the beauty of Lake Superior, I will slowly make my way towards Sault Ste. Marie.

From there, it’s just a hop skip and a jump past the North Channel and across Manitoulin island, before eventually reaching my final destination of Toronto. My intention is to then go home to my apartment, take an extremely long shower, crack open a beer and decide what next to do with my life.

Cow town to Hog town; when you put it that way, it seems so simple.

The Reason

Just over two years ago my father was diagnosed with multiple myeloma. Hearing this news was one of the most frightening moments of my life. Working on a farm, my dad has kept in fantastic physical shape for his whole life. He has never smoked. There had been little prior history of cancer in our family. Generally, my father has led a safe, healthy life. This truly was proof that cancer can affect anyone, anywhere and at any time.

He and my mother are avid travelers, and were it not for this fact, he may not still be around right now. Prior to a vacation in 2007, my father had a routine blood sample to ensure that he was safe to travel. The results of this test showed early signs which were eventually confirmed to be myeloma. Fortunately, the cancer was found early and treatment began almost immediately.

Unfortunately, myeloma is currently considered to be incurable, though remissions are possible through an assortment of treatments.

However, for the past two years, my father has been fighting every day. He is one of the strongest people I know, and alongside my loving mother and his supportive friends, has been trying to live his life to its fullest. He has been on various treatments which have helped, however as hard as he fights, and as much as the hospitals can do, there is still no cure.

For the past two years, I have felt helpless. I’ve wanted to be more supportive of my father in his struggle, but was unsure how I could help. Only recently did I realize that I had the means to help raise support, funds and awareness for a disease which affects my father, thousands of other Canadians and could one day affect me.

Myeloma is a much less common form of cancer and as such, does not have nearly the wide recognition, or financial support as some other forms. However, while it is rare, survival rates are very low for those diagnosed with myeloma.

Myeloma Canada is the only organization in Canada focused uniquely on the Canadian myeloma community. With your donations, this organization is able to continue their support for the myeloma community and aid research into new treatments to fight this difficult disease.

So please, help my father and the over 6000 other Canadians currently living with myeloma in Canada. Show your support, spread the word, and give generously.

The Cyclist

Hi there! My name is Shane Saunderson and I’m cycling from Calgary to Toronto to raise funds and awareness for Myeloma Canada. I’m 27 years old and originally from the small farming community of Souris, Manitoba.

I moved to Montreal in 2000 where I did a bachelors in Mechanical Engineering at McGill. Afterward, I co-founded an engineering consultancy business and also worked for another small Montreal company. For the past year, I’ve been living and working in the UK with a startup business in Oxford.

In October, I broke my ankle while playing rugby, and required surgery to pin the bone back together. My recovery has been slow, however thanks to the pushing of my friends and triathlon teammates Vicky, Michal and Iain, I’ve been slowly stepping (actually, pedaling) towards riding two wheels across the center of the greatest country in the world.

I am an avid writer, obsessive musician, lover of all kinds of sport, and as most friends will tell you, am completely out of my mind. I play in a band with my good friend Iain called The Noble Rogues and maintain a music review blog called Evil Shananigans. If you’re curious to learn a bit more about me, you can also visit my personal website.

The Gear

I've finally managed to get my gear list sorted and together. I shed a lot of weight in Lethbridge and have found that what's remaining is hopefully what will be with me for the long haul.

The FAQs

How can I donate?
The easiest way is for you to click on the ‘Donate Now’ link in the top right hand corner of this webpage. This will take you to my Canadahelps Giving Page which is setup to forward all donations to Myeloma Canada. Alternatively, you can send a cheque payable to 'Myeloma Canada' to:
Prairie Pedal - Myeloma Canada
P.O. Box 326
Kirkland, QC H9H 0A4

Where are my donations going?
A portion of the funds raised will be used to support and expand upon the services provided by Myeloma Canada, the only national organization exclusively devoted to the Canadian myeloma community. Established in 2004 as a grass-roots, patient-driven organization, Myeloma Canada has focused on addressing the growing needs of the Canadian myeloma community through educational and awareness programs, such as the annual Patient, Family & Healthcare Professionals Conference, regional information workshops, the quarterly newsletter Myeloma Canada Today and national webinars.

The money raised by the Prairie Pedal fundraiser will be used not only to support Myeloma Canada in its educational and awareness initiatives, but will also help support myeloma research in Canada. A portion of the funds will be put towards the Molly & David Bloom Chair in Multiple Myeloma Research being created at the Princess Margaret Hospital in Toronto. This Chair, the first in Canada and only the second in North America, will focus on new drug development, ensuring that more promising new cancer drugs will be tested and moved as quickly as possible from the laboratory to patients.

Where can I learn more about Multiple Myeloma?
The Myeloma Canada website is a fantastic resource for information about Myeloma, causes, symptoms, and treatments for the various types of myelomic cancer. In addition, the website has a swath of recent news and publications on research into myeloma treatment, new government and health Canada initiatives, and experimental clinical trials.

As usual, Wikipedia also has a very useful page on multiple myeloma which can be found here.

How can I contact you on the road?
If you’re interested in getting in touch with me on the road for any reason there are three possible methods:

1) Send me an email to; I will try to check this as often as possible.

2) +1-647-992-9267: Call or text me with your questions. I can’t promise I’ll answer every call; I’m already a klutz on a bike and trying to talk on a phone will prove disastrous.

3) Keep an eye on the roads and holler when I pedal past!!

Have you ever done anything like this before?
Not even close. To date, the longest bike ride I've ever done is around 50km. I've never toured on a bike in my life, and my camping and survival experience is limited to what my father and the boy scouts taught me. In short, the most likely outcome of this journey is me pulling a muscle in my leg or getting eaten by a bear.

When will you be passing through my town?
If you navigate to ‘The Route’ section, you will see my planned course from Calgary to Toronto in addition to the schedule I will be trying to maintain. Obviously, due to bad weather, injury, laziness, or good times with amazing people, this schedule may fluctuate from day to day.

I will also (try to) keep a log of my daily travels which should include updates on my location and estimations of my arrival in major cities on the path.

How much are you NOT looking forward to the rough paved, black fly ridden section of highway 17 through northern Ontario?
You have absolutely no idea.

Can I join you?
Please do!! The road can be a lonely place and I would positively love it if you wanted to come out and ride with me for anywhere from 3 to 3000km. I even plan to buy a 2 person tent if you want to snuggle up!! :-p

If you are hoping to catch up with me on the road, send me an email or call and we can make plans to cross paths.

Who would you like to thank?
I need to give a massive thank you to the following people:

  • My family for their endless love, knowledge and support
  • Iain, Mishoo and Vicky for helping whup me back into shape after my injury
  • Aldo Del Col, Marie-Claude Hamel and the team at Myeloma Canada for all their support
  • The countless friends who helped me prepare for this journey and promote the fundraiser
  • Everyone who is able to donate and help make myeloma a thing of the past