On June 22, 20 Team Fox members will take on IRONMAN 70.3 Mont Tremblant: a race comprised of a 1.2 mile swim, 56 mile bike and 13.1 mile half marathon run totaling 70.3 miles of athletic endurance. For any athlete, this race is a true test of athletic ability, but for Drew Heighway, who was diagnosed with Parkinson’s nine years ago, this new athletic feat is just “raising the bar.”
Any triathlon is going to be tough, but a Half Ironman!? What’s your motivation for doing this race?
A group of friends and family, led by my son Jamie, set out every year to challenge each other on our bikes in order to raise money and awareness on behalf of The Michael J Fox Foundation. Past events have included multi-day rides from Toronto to New York and Montreal to Boston. This past October Jamie and I rode the Klausen Pass Mountain Range in the Swiss Alps. So every year we try to raise the bar. The Mont Tremblant 70.3 Half Ironman just made sense!
Training for this type of race is difficult for anyone, how has it been for you having PD?
Parkinson's disease is so inconsistent. Every day I'm challenged with something new. In the early stages of training I had to deal with a number of issues that had me doubting my ability to complete the 70.3 distance. First is the swimming: my PD makes me choose between two of the three swim actions – arm stroke, kicking and breathing. Since I couldn't do all three at once, I gave up on the kicking to spend my energy and focus on the other two. We end with running, which isn’t so bad. I am forced to walk during training sessions, some days more than others. But that’s OK. I can run/walk the 13 miles. In between all that is the cycling – which is a very different story. I am extremely comfortable and fairly competitive on the bike. I can't explain why, but people who see me ride can’t believe I have Parkinson’s.
PD is so unpredictable and that makes training for an Ironman 70.3 challenging. I will often ask myself why I’m pushing so hard. But when I turn the corner for home after a workout, I am totally energized knowing I just accomplished something pretty special. I can't wait to cross the finish line on the 22nd of June!
What does being a part of Team Fox mean to you?
Quite frankly it is an honor to be associated with Team Fox. I feel privileged every time I pull on the Team Fox cycling and triathlon kit. When people see the Team Fox logo it’s not uncommon for them to approach me and ask me questions about my connection with the MJFF. Awareness! That’s why we do what we do every year.
Do you have any crazy pre or post workout rituals?
I guess my pre-race meal of Quinoa and baked beans could qualify as an odd pre-race ritual! After the race I can’t sit still. Most people want to kick back and relax. I need to keep moving.
What’s a piece of advice you’d want to give to someone living with Parkinson’s with regards to exercise?
Exercise is so important for Parkinson’s patients-- cycling especially-- and has even been shown to help in slowing the progressive nature of the disease.
Walking is also key to living a better life with PD. Here's a little trick I’ve found useful while walking: If your gate has been reduced to a shuffle, try turning around and walk backwards. Seriously, it really works!
Anything else you’d like to add, Drew?
For the folks dealing with PD, focus on what’s in front of you and do whatever it takes in order to make a difference. Be a positive influence! Set goals and you will find a way to achieve them!
Good luck to Drew and the entire Team Fox IRONMAN 70.3 Mont Tremblant team!