Now that is a Personal Best — for all of us.

42.2 KM or 26.2 Miles through the streets of Manhattan, lined 4 or 5 deep with spectators encouraging you on. Race logistics for 50,000 runners that are out of this world, including bagels, hats, coffee, protein at the start line and water/Gatorade every mile that doesn’t run out. Vistas from the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge and bands on every corner….doesn’t get any better than that….but it does.

We left for NYC on Friday morning, November 1st, feeling ready. Jan had caught a cold, but we were pumping him with all the antioxidants and cold fighting remedies and we were confident he would be ok to run on Sunday. The entourage was with us, my mom and dad, good friend Linda and my Aunt Anne was meeting us in the LaGuardia airport arriving from Montreal. We arrived on time, ditched our bags, ate AGAIN and headed to the runners expo. This was held at the Javits convention center and was the location to pick up our bibs. Once that very important task was accomplished you were shuffled into a runners heaven of ING NYC Marathon authentic gear and the latest and greatest running technology to see, try on and play with. This was by far the best expo I have ever seen and we made the most of it:). We were very impressed with the security and checks even going into the expo. It was thorough and didn’t hold up the 50,000 participants at all. This city has done this before! After a few hours of the expo and about 30 min trying to get a cab in rush hour of the Friday Marathon weekend, we located the subway and successfully returned to our hotel. We had gotten up early and wanted to conserve our energy, so ate AGAIN and retired early for rest.

The next morning we had the Marathon Route tour in a coach bus. It departed at 9am and as we made our way through the route it started to dawn on me….we are running a long way tomorrow morning…..and it is hilly as %^&*. The hills were not steep, but LOOOONNNNGG. Nice steady inclines for several KMs. My mind reverted back to other marathons where I felt the wall, nauseated or didn’t want to move. Most 42.2KMs runs have this, and I usually experience it at about 27KMs and it disappears again by 32KM. But it is always there. So as excited as I was, I had that gut wrenching feeling…the anticipation and concern about how I would feel the following morning. The route was through the 5 Boroughs and if I reflect to that tour I am very happy we did it. I think it will help us remember the route even more. During the run I was able to say “now we are on borough #2….Brooklyn!”. The cab situation after this tour improved and we headed back to the hotel. Jan and I rested in the room, watching The Heat (hilarious!) for a few hrs, getting our run gear out and going through all the information about the race. We got ready for the Team Fox private dinner and met our family and friends in the hotel bar. I felt the nerves still – getting a bit anxious and uptight. We arrived at Arno’s for the pasta dinner with all the Team Fox runners/families. There are 215 runners and together we raised almost $600,000 for Parkinson’s research. That is $22,900.76 a mile. Now that is awesome! We felt a bond with so many in the room, as we are all there for the cause, for a loved one and to make a difference — and we felt we did. 87 Cents of every dollar goes to research and the Fox Foundation is doing leading edge activities to not only help find a cure but deal with the symptoms. 6 men in the room were diagnosed with Early Onset Parkinson’s and were running this marathon. Oh My God! Michael J. Fox then arrived to say a few words, some funny and all inspirational. He also committed to getting out on the course and completing the last few miles with us….and he did. We were sitting right beside him, so I didn’t want my camera phone in his face, but I did get a minute of his speech. MJF Pre Race Speech. Listening to him, and his pride in all of us beaming through, well running a marathon seemed like a pretty minimal thing to do at this point and all the nerves and anxiousness melted. I was able to thank him for that and we all thanked him for the wonderful work that the foundation is doing. MJF with Jan and Dad

The reason why we were here stayed with us to race day morning and literally carried us through. I won’t get into all the race details, but from a runners perspective this event is something to experience. There was so much to look at, but one thing that really caught my attention was the number of runners that had charity or names written on their shirts. The majority of people on the course were here for something greater, and it was like New York knew that and came out in spades. I of course thought of my dad quite a bit and how our family has changed since his diagnosis. Michael J Fox has taught us to look at what Parkinson’s has brought into our lives. My mom reminded us that none of us would be in NYC doing this, experiencing Team Fox, if it had not been for my father being diagnosed. It is so easy to look at those challenges negatively, but life is not about that….it is an experience and if put in the right perspective it is an expression of gratitude. I have never had a long run go by so fast. I absolutely LOVED every single minute. There was not a step that I felt the wall, tired or like stopping. We came down 1st Ave towards 93rd street, the location of the second Team Fox cheering section and from blocks away I felt so much love and anticipation to see our family there – with us. That moment will absolutely stay with us forever. There was smiles, laughs, hugging and a few tears of joy at the 28KM mark.marathon 2013 NYC 034marathon 2013 NYC 037 We kept going, out of Manhattan into the Bronx and then back down 5th Ave to the last Team Fox cheering section. I could not believe we were at 38KMs, it felt like 20KM. I know my legs slowed slightly on the inclines, but that didn’t seem to impact the run or the force pulling us to the finish. We headed to the last leg in Central Park and I had a moment that I wished so much for time to slow down. The flagged line path, going into the grandstands is completely surreal. We were at 42.2KMs and our mission was complete. We ran at a great pace, but also took a bit of time to soak it in and stop at the Team Fox sites along the way. Jan made sure that we passed the finish line at precisely the same time (to the second!) and we have that moment to share in for the rest of our lives. It was not a personal best time, but wow….what a personal best time ever!

You were all there with us. Names scrolled through my mind, emails of encouragement, words of understanding — we were all on course together to make a difference….and with $18,000 combined towards the Fox Foundation ($15,660 going right to research!) we have made a difference to all PD patients and all that BELIEVE.

From my entire family, thank you. Those words seem so small for such wondrous gestures. Know that our hearts have been changed forever.

Love Karen
Here is a short slideshow of our journey to the start and finish line of the NYC Marathon. It is in sequence and includes some photos from our training time. Sorry – some are blurry phone shots but mean a lot to us! Trotting For Fox Slideshow


Bah Humbug – Taper Time

Approach with caution and bring a bagel....

Approach with caution and bring a bagel….

Training is pretty much done! We peaked one week at about 63KMs and have slowly been tapering. We have about 20-25 more KMs total to go, only 4 more runs. Last speed workout was tonight, our long 36KM run is behind us and now it is about staying healthy and keeping the legs going. Those really long runs are interesting. You have to plan the route, and make sure there is an opportunity to refill water and hopefully have some nice views to appreciate being outside while you are hard at work. We actually passed signs of townships we have never heard of and could see Barrie far in the distance highlighting just how far out we had gone.

No more weights and a lot more food is coming in the next 11 days — sounds like a good break eh? Well…marathoners in taper time get grumpy. I am so looking forward to having some more time back, less schedule and more flexibility, but when your body is used to producing these endorphins so often, well there are some withdrawal symptoms for sure. Combine that with the increase of food the days leading up, the bloated feeling and lack of exercise can really make you feel sluggish! But it all works out, because the idea is you are itching to run on race morning and your body is so rested it feels wonderful. No tired muscles or legs that feel like lead, just the light rhythmic movement of the run. At least that is the plan.

Jan and I have raised over $17,000. We are over the moon and still in awe of the generosity and support. We honestly will never forget this, each and every person’s name that has reached out is in my head and I know I will think of you all during our long run in NYC. It feels like we are all going, and the love for a great man is behind it. I am thrilled my dad will be there and plan to have him as my date for the Team Fox dinner Saturday night. We are also booked on a bus tour the day before that will take us along the Marathon route (and remind us just how long 42.2KM is!). There is a guide that will point out all the sites, giving us more appreciation for the route. I figure this is a good thing to do the day before, sit on my butt and eat while somebody points out cool things. Perfect! The weekend is full of fun activities and I will be capturing it throughout to post when we return.

This journey to the start has been an interesting one. On my run tonight I reflected on all the things that have happened in this short training period. Life has changed, work has changed, friends are engaged, new family members have arrived – the journey of life continues and it has been so interesting having Team Fox and the NYC Marathon as the backdrop to the summer of 2013. Ok – Get me on the plane — We got a Marathon to run!!

See that water tower? That's Barrie - we took the long hilly way back...

See that water tower? That’s Barrie – we took the long hilly way back…

Crown Hill? Never heard of it.  Where are we?

Crown Hill? Never heard of it. Where are we?

Extra Training in Training Season

Total Wkly Workout – 55 KM
8K easy, 10KM Speed (6x 800M Yassos), 5 Easy, 32 long

The end of the summer has gone by and the crisp fall air is here. As a runner, this is absolutely the best time! No more heat, making a running schedule much easier with less early mornings, and always a pick up of energy. My husband, Jan, has now secured a spot with Team Fox and we’ll get to experience this run together. I am so happy to have somebody to share this with, and especially him. It means that he will not only get to hear the story of the run, but we can see it together. I also have never ventured to a marathon start line alone and am very relieved that I won’t be alone at this one — the most meaningful one we’ll likely ever do. We have transitioned from hill training to speed work and our long runs are getting over the 30 mark. I feel ready, but it has a been challenging balancing the demands of life and finding the magic lately.

We lost our best friend on August 1st. We said goodbye to Louis and we still cannot believe he is gone. I thought that after he left there would be some relief, as the constant worry everyday and managing his pain would be over, and he would be free of it. There was no relief though. I still wait for that, but it just doesn’t feel right that he is gone. This is part of having a pet in our lives and I remain thankful that we had him even if it was for a shorter time than we anticipated. Looking back those 7 and 1/2 years will remain a highlight in our life journey and he will be in many conversations always. “When you are sorrowful look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight” – Kahlil Gibran – this was certainly the case with Louis.

Shortly after Louis’ death the Universe proved to be magic again. A new Doberman pup was literally brought to us. It is quite a cool introduction, but a long one. To say the least it was clearly meant to be and this pup chose his new home with us. We are just under 2 months from our big day in NYC and my training schedule has not only ramped up from a running perspective, we are now training Donovan our Doberman :). Puppy class started on Saturday at a school called “Time and Patience”. Isn’t everything that is worth while require this? We certainly know patience is going to be required. We finished a 32KM run on Sunday afternoon and Donovan didn’t care at all! I had to walk him after this. We have had a bit less sleep lately and adjusted training and work schedules to accommodate the demands of our new baby, because that is literally what he is at 11wks old. The best news is once that training is accomplished I will have a new running partner for the roads and trails. One of my favorite times is that early spring or fall run with man’s best friend beside me and this will certainly be worth the time and patience. As I hit a wall at 27KM Sunday I took an extra walk, a bit more fuel and reflected that my life is a bit busy and that I might have to apply more time to my runs and patience with myself since I am not as fast as I usually am. I think the buzz in New York will solve that on November 3rd. I thought of my dad who is patient with himself every day. He has an ongoing joke “if you want me to slow down just tell me to hurry up”. Patience is a virtue….it is a cliché saying. However, Patience is a means to great rewards – most of all if it is practiced correctly there is a peace within that comes. Again, worth the time !

"He is your friend, your partner, your  defender, your dog.  You are his life, his  love, his leader.  He will be yours,  faithful and true, to the last beat of his  heart.  You owe it to him to be worthy of  such devotion."

“He is your friend, your partner, your
defender, your dog. You are his life, his
love, his leader. He will be yours,
faithful and true, to the last beat of his
heart. You owe it to him to be worthy of
such devotion.”

Sometimes Runners think they are so hard-core….until they find out they are not…

Total Wkly Workout – 50 KM
8K easy, 7.5 Berzy Hill, 5.1 Easy, 29.4KM long

In an earlier post I talked about the warrior that dwells inside you that can be discovered when pushing yourself onward to a goal. The relentless part of your being that just will not quit or wimp out. You need this part of yourself to grow, to push and to accomplish new heights. But then, there is the perspective on the situation that does nothing short of humble you.

I finished my long run on Sunday morning. The last 2 Sundays have required a 6am rise and KMs getting up close to 30. I’m feeling strong and have a moment of satisfaction. As I pull up to the park to find some of the other runners cooling off and stretching we start talking about the run. One of the girls says she had to stop before 6KMs because she got sick. We started discussing how she was feeling and it comes out that she was diagnosed with myelodysplastic syndromes (MDS, formerly known as preleukemia) in April. She has had 2 Chemo therapy treatments and several blood transfusions. Wow. She got up at 6am….she put shoes on….and she ran! She had a great 21K run last week, but I guess not all days will be the same when you battle an ailment like this. Suddenly my run, on healthy legs and with a belly full of carbs, seems easy. Shortly after this discussion I was in another conversation about co-measurement. A friend was in the hospital for a moderately serious issue, but met a person who was unfortunately in the last stage of a fight with cancer. Again, he was sharing how his perspective changed drastically.

There have been runs that I struggle, my legs feel like lead or my body just screams “sit down already”. Since the Team Fox journey started, my mind quickly tells me that most patients with PD cannot do this, that I am running for those people….for my dad. My dad has had times that he stands up and his legs won’t move at all, and I’m thinking about how my legs feel a little heavy or tired while I’m bounding down some country road with the sun on my face? I’m not claiming that my Team Fox fundraising is saving the world, or even those with Parkinson’s, but we are all doing something by focusing on this initiative, and it might only take $10 of ours, or all $10,000, to have one of the great minds within a researcher have the opportunity see something differently. Team Fox is looking to find the biomarker to identify patients earlier and then find a drug that slows the progression of the disease. You can hear more from Michael here from his appearance on George Stroumboulopoulos. (minute 4 is when he talks about the foundation more)

Realizing what you are able to do, or practicing co-measurement, can only result in gratitude for what you have. A conversation with my dad a few weeks ago was a great demonstration of this. He was sharing how fortunate they were to have had their time of strong health, trips and career. He has been forced to change the way they live now, but is so grateful for the decades of life that was full of energy and experience. Some lives stop very short and families are left behind at a very young age.

I am grateful that I can go out and do this and every run I think about how it might not always be this way. I’m definitely not hard-core as I have nothing in my way. The will of others that DO THINGS in spite of those obstacles….now that is hard-core.

Extreme Sports!

Total Weekly KMs: 47.6KM
Workouts: 9.4K run, 11.2K Hills, 5K run, 22KM Long Run

If you look up running it does not appear in the extreme sport category. Wikipedia describes an extreme sport as ” a popular term for certain activities perceived as having a high level of inherent danger”. Ok, so you think of running and it might not scream danger, but that does not mean that there are not some dangers out there for us runners. My little group of sweat sisters have battled dogs, helped civilians, provided directions and avoided conflicts with wild life such as coyotes, turkeys and horses (ok the horse was not wild but it did scare the bejesus out of us).

This past Saturday morning Lyndsay and I headed out of downtown Barrie very early to avoid the heat. The intention was a 23KM run with a route that starts downtown and heads out to the country. It is one of our favorites, just the right amount of hills for a bit of a workout, a farm that is open early with water and bathrooms and some beautiful vistas. We left our meeting spot by the Running Room at 7am. The first event was about 7:10. We had a creepy guy, who was obviously left over from Friday night in the city, appear out of nowhere and start yelling “Die, Die” at us. There was a small impromptu speed workout to start off this long run. It is interesting because we are always concerned about running out in isolated areas (the countryside) but most of our confrontations happen in town. We might take our chances with the coyotes more often. So on we go….and we just get out of civilization and nature calls. This happens to us runners. When you go out for a 2-3 hr run and you have had coffee to wake you up in the morning, well you can’t time the bathroom breaks! There was no way I was going to wait another hour before getting back to town, and hey, we were out in the country. I find a great spot in long grasses behind a huge for sale sign that blocked all view from the road. Lyndsay does her duty and stands guard on the roadside to make sure that we have privacy. The unplanned crop plane flying right overhead, close enough to see the people in it, also came out of nowhere and at just the right time. Horrified and embarrassed I finish up and am thankful not to be covered in pesticide. Geesh. Not good. Ok…lets keep going. About 2KMs after the “mooning” episode I adjust my water belt and ended up spraying myself with my pepper spray. I don’t know what Lyndsay was thinking at this point. Probably “Where the hell was that when we had our lives threatened by the crazy dude”, but I can say this run was starting to go down as a training mess. My arm is now burning from the cayenne pepper and I’m looking for that plane to give the SOS sign to. As far as the run goes though, I’m feeling good. The hill training has given me a strong base and the actually running part of this experience is enjoyable, so we continue. At about 15KMs I notice my baby toe is a bit sore. I look at my shoe and notice some blood coming through the side. The run wouldn’t be complete without a bloody mess. Toenails are not a runners friend. I suspected I might be in trouble with that toe when I got up but it was 6am and too early to deal with. I just hoped that the burning pepper spray would ward off any wildlife that was blood thirsty as I head back into town.

I am starting to understand why some runners take to the treadmill. Air conditioning, cup holders, bathrooms and no wildlife (except a few hard core body builders). So I’m thinking…can running be an extreme sport or was this just an extreme run?

Barrie Hill Farm Run and up Seadon Hill

Barrie Hill Farm Run and up Seadon Hill

Runs in the Family

Total Weekly KMs: 47KM
Workouts: 5K run, 10K run, 6K run, 21KM Long Run – Legs were tight so took an easier week with no hills or speed work

My training has been going well overall. I am getting a lot of support out there, given I am the only one signed up for a fall marathon at the moment! My amazing husband went out with me last week to keep me company for part of my long run. He ended up staying out for the entire 19K. Who can just do that? Apparently he can. We did 21 this past weekend and I had Lyndsay warm me up at the beginning and Heather jump in and out with me over a few KM. Besides my husband, my family is also being very supportive. While staying with my dad for a few days I had to fit in an easier run after some crazy hill training. I requested his input on a flatter route and he directed me out the door. I’m not sure if a flatter route just doesn’t exist on the escarpment or he was making sure I was taking this Team Fox training seriously, but I got an extra hill workout in that day with some colorful language.

Most long distance runners have been asked “Why do you run?” or “What do you think about while running for hours?”. I think the reason why people lace up their shoes changes. At first, it might be to stay fit, start an active lifestyle or move a fitness regime to the outdoors. Many get talked into their first 5K race by a friend who runs. But after time and when you start deciding to run over 10K or think “I could do a half marathon”, that no longer is the reason why you go out. It has passed the fitness goals and there is something else inside that wants you to go further. One thing I have observed is we all take part in journeys. Some by choice, some not, but it is part of the human existence. It could be on trip to Florence, Italy with good friends to drink fabulous wine in a café, or work away at advancing your career, battling an ailment….or consciously picking something you are not sure you can do and going for it. Some spiritual practices would call this your “ring pass knot”, and you slowly strive and grow to pass what was once a limitation. This is why I think runners decide to go the distance in the beginning. And doing so is a journey on all levels, physical, mental and for many spiritual for the previously stated reason. During my long distance running journey, and for many others, you discover another layer of yourself. The qualities of who you are can be discovered, often connecting with something greater within and finding a endless pit filled with the strength of a warrior. This place becomes a home to you, or as Heather and I call it, the moving sanctuary. I find it amazing that when things are tough, or you feel frustration or anger, it will completely disappear after a good run. You just don’t have energy to care about the “small stuff” anymore (god bless endorphins). Running is much cheaper than therapy and I find myself instinctually running to my shoes when I need to get balance back into my life.

I have recently been watching a similar journey from afar. My mother has been hiking for years, accomplishing every KM of the Bruce Trail here in Ontario a few years ago. Over this past year she has taken up walking with the Walking Room (clinic put on by the Running Room). I think after going out to all my races over the past few years, her and a close friend decided to get in on the action. They started with a fun 5K Santa Walk at Christmas, which was a piece of cake after doing 15KM hikes on a trail. They then talked about a 10K clinic, but ended up training with the 1/2 Marathon walking clinic. This past March they did their first 1/2 Marathon race in Burlington. It was so fun to actually be in the same race together! I was able to circle back to the 17KM mark to watch my mom go by, as she has done so many times for me on various race route spots with nutrition and special concoctions to hand me. I honestly cannot describe who I saw go by. It wasn’t my mom — it was a women who had found that warrior strength and against the odds she was dealt was accomplishing something she never imagined a few years ago. I just thought “this is the point….this is life”. Her and Linda most recently took that training and went to Ireland and hiked the hills of Killarney and Dublin.

The Warrior Walker almost done her first 1/2 Marathon

The Warrior Walker almost done her first 1/2 Marathon

Jan supporting me on my 19K Long run

Jan supporting me on my 19K Long run

Ireland Hikers

Ireland Hikers

New Month…New Shoes!

Beautiful Vistas and animals on the cookstown trail run!

Beautiful Vistas and animals on the cookstown trail run!

Total Weekly KMs: 37
Workouts: 5K run, 6.5K run, 9.5K Hills, 16KM Long Run on the trail.

May is behind us and June has arrived. May 2013 did leave with a vengeance, closing with a little bout of food poisoning or something. I look at that as the final purge of all the May toxins for a clean and healthy start to June. Spring is always surrounded with the feeling of freshness and new life. With this there is new goals, new training schedule and new shoes.

We hit the $5000 goal for Team Fox in record speed (at least in my mind!), currently sitting as the top MJFF fundraiser for the NYC Marathon. We continue to be amazed and inspired by all the donations and words of encouragement. It is only June though and I have until November to continue this fundraising endeavor. Seeing $10,000 on the fundraising meter would be an amazing thing and a realistic goal. Stay tuned for progress updates and again — THANK YOU for all the support! Our hearts are full.

As you can imagine, having a goal to complete a 42.2KM run requires some planning. I am going to include my weekly KMs in each post so you can see what goes into this journey. But you can’t just say “I’m going to run a lot and increase mileage”. Ok, some do that, but many of us like a plan. A Marathon training plan is usually a minimum of 16 wks. The start of that plan has long runs of over 10K though, so you need some kind of base going in. There will be a variety of runs that will assist in speed, strength and endurance. You need to incorporate intervals, hills and long runs. I plan on running 4 times a week this round, with 1-2 light gym workouts. I sat down with my coffee last Sunday morning and worked back from November 3rd, increasing mileage each week, working in a few rest weeks for recovery and a 30KM race mid August. The NYC Marathon will have over 45,000 runners. Now I have never been in an event of this size, but I can only imagine how it will be. I don’t expect to do a personal best, as hitting a pace will be difficult with so many runners, and to do so I would have to focus on time and pace….missing the experience. My goal is to be able to run the 42.2KM comfortably and actually get to hold that experience in my mind and heart after I complete it. So I need to be in good shape, but the stress of speed is off on this one.

New Shoes? Ok, that doesn’t sound like a big deal if you have ever seen my closet. We are currently planning some master bedroom renovations and my shoe collection actually has to be heavily considered in the design. My husband may have to give up his sleeping space for this collection, but it is all for the good of the shoe. But new running shoes….now that is something to be noted. Runners tend to be loyal to a brand and model of shoe. I have been wearing Asics (Nimbus) for about 8 years. I don’t try them on or consider things like color or look. I hit about 600KM in my runner and replace them. But recently they have felt “clunky”. My legs just never seemed to recover after the Hamilton Marathon last November and it felt like I had weights on the end of my limbs. I decided to try a lighter “faster” shoe. The Mizuno Precision, weighing in 2 oz lighter than the Nimbus, has made the cut and so far so good! I will slowly increase my mileage and see how my legs manage. The added bonus is a pretty big savings in money, which will quickly be redirected to my other shoe collection!

Hill training has started!

Hill training has started!

Vistas in the early morning

Vistas in the early morning