Last year, Sam Fox biked and hiked across the US to raise money—more than 2.5 million dollars—to fight Parkinson’s disease. Find out more about his inspiration, his training, and watch out video interview with him. And now, Sam is back at it—this time hoping to get even more people involved by offering bike rides in Cleveland, Vancouver, and Santa Rosa, California in a variety of distances from 10-milers to Century rides. Check out our interview Q&A with Sam on the next page to learn more about the most interesting person he met last year, his three cycling essentials, and how you can get involved this year.
For more information on the Tour de Fox, visit tourdefox.org
MEN’S FITNESS: Is your route the same this year as it was last year or are you switching it up a bit?
Sam Fox: What we wanted to do is take the spirit and theme of last year’s event, a lot of things that we learned, and carry it into this year’s series. So, we’ve turned it into three scheduled cycling events for 2016, one in Cleveland, Vancouver, and Santa Rosa, California. What I took most away from last year’s tour was the passion of the Parkinson’s community to come out and physically get involved, so we wanted to take down the barriers to entry of last year’s tour, with the extreme physical activities. Each event will have multiple distances for riders of all skill levels, of all experience levels, to come out and join us.
MEN’S FITNESS: How many miles are each of your rides this summer?
Sam Fox: Each tour stop will have three or four different options. The longest ride will be considered a century ride, between 75 and 100 miles. But if people are interested in coming out and they’ve never been on a bike, or it’s been a couple of years, or if they live with Parkinson’s and want to test their own limits, we have a ride for them. The tour has 10-mile rides, 35-mile rides–and a lot of different distances in between.
MEN’S FITNESS: Got it, and let’s talk a little about food and nutrition. What do you like to eat and drink when you’re putting on that kind of mileage? The longer mileages?
Sam Fox: It’s always a tough question to answer. For me, it’s just about numbers. When I’m riding long, long days, it’s about replacing calories at the type of mileage I cover. It really doesn’t matter what I eat, everything is so quick, it’s just about eating a lot rather than being too cognizant of what it is. With that said, you know, I always like to recover with heavy protein intake at the end of the day. I like to eat a lot of meat if I can–that sort of real protein seems to serve me the best. I think I would estimate I was in the 4,000 or 5,000 calories a day for last year’s tour. And so in preparation for the rides that I will be doing this year, it’s definitely not as strenuous so we’re not talking about numbers like that.
MEN’S FITNESS: On your long rides, what do you think about when you’re out there on your own?
Sam Fox: Last year, I was so rarely alone that I didn’t have to come up with anything. I had people that I was learning from. I was talking to people from all over the country and getting their perspective on their experience with Parkinson’s, their experiences with the outdoors. I sort of consider myself lucky and, like I said, this was an unexpected benefit of the tour, I didn’t have to keep myself entertained out there. But when I was in training, and on a couple legs of the tour, I was definitely out in the wilderness sort of on my own. I used to just try to turn my brain off because it makes it a lot easier when you’re not thinking about the difficult things you’re doing and rather to just get them done. But like I said I was lucky enough not to have to deal with that too much last summer.
MEN’S FITNESS: How would you describe the places you’re riding this year, and were there any cool memories from when you passed through those places last year?
Sam Fox: Earlier this month we had our first event in the Cleveland area. As I was out there setting up the course and sending riders off from the starting line, I saw not just a handful of people I met last year, but also places, street signs, intersections that I actually remembered. It’s funny how much of the stuff you actually retain, just down to the seemingly unimportant minutia. For our remaining rides this year, there will be another one in Vancouver, a place I obviously have fond memories of because that’s where I finished up last year, as well as a ride in Santa Rosa, California, out in the Sonoma Wine country. So all very scenic places. You know rural places, nice green rolling hills, great places to ride. Having ridden in all three of these places, one of the main reasons we picked these spots is because one we know the community network is strong and also because the riding is great.
MEN’S FITNESS: What’s been the strangest thing you’ve ever seen either on the original Tour de Fox or your most recent ride?
Sam Fox: I’ve got to say last year I was very surprised how much road kill there is out on the road. Wild stuff. I think the strangest would be my set throughout Alabama, and I bet people in the south will attest, I must have passed a dead armadillo every two miles.
MEN’S FITNESS: That’s hilarious. Who is the most interesting person you met on your trip last year and why?
Sam Fox: This is an extremely difficult question to answer and the reason why is because we met about 3,500 people last year who came out and joined the Tour in one way shape or form. There are a lot of people to choose from and I don’t want to sell anyone short. I think the person that stands out most is a guy named Roger Long. I knew him before the tour actually but I’d only met him in person once, and I hadn’t gotten to know the Roger that I now do. Brief background: Roger is from Colorado and he’d been hiking and trying to make it to the top of Colorado’s fourteeners for a few years. He has Parkinson’s himself but he’s quite a young guy. He signed up to do two different climbs with me last year as part of the Tour. The first one was in Utah, the second was in Colorado. And so he came out to the Utah climb which planned to be a three-day, two-night trip, some 45-mile round trip climb to the top of Cave Peak. He was having significant physical trouble, his symptoms were firing up, his legs were getting stiff. So even on day one, he sort of knew that his body wasn’t feeling up to the task. On day two, he started out with us, made it about 20 percent of the way, and then we decided that for safety reasons, he was going to turn back and spend the day at camp. He’s a tough guy who is a good athlete so it was difficult to see him make that decision.
So then, a couple days later, we were climbing the high point in Colorado. Again, Roger was a little bit slow. He’d been to the top of this mountain before, but he decided his legs weren’t going to take him up to the top that day. They were getting stiff again. His medication cycles were a little bit affected by the altitude. So, two times in a row he hadn’t made it to the top, and I could tell that it was eating at him. He’s a really positive guy, but the top of the mountain for Roger is more than just a symbolic endeavor. He really wants to get to the top. He wants to prove to his Parkinson’s that it doesn’t control him. He decided that he wasn’t going to give up and would meet me in New Mexico for the next stop. He drove down through the night, met me in New Mexico and the rest of the group that was climbing Wheeler Peak there, and ended up making it to the top, which is over 13,000 feet. So, third time is a charm for him, and he celebrated at the top with the entire group, and everybody who had been involved with the tour was really excited that Roger accomplished his tour goal for the summer. I think we all learned about perseverance from him and toughness.
MEN’S FITNESS: Here’s a random question after that nice inspirational story. How many pairs of shoes did you go through last summer?
Sam Fox: Surprisingly, I ended up only using one pair of bike shoes. I also had a pair of hiking boots that I wear for those sort of multiple terrain climbs, when you’re going from rock to snow to ice, that sort of thing. I had them for almost a decade, and after I climbed Montana’s highest point, Granite Peak, I had holes in them and they were wet and unsafe to use on any other trip, so I ended up leaving them in a dumpster in Idaho Falls.
MEN’S FITNESS: They were retired.
Sam Fox: There was a ceremonial goodbye and they served me well for years.
MEN’S FITNESS: The end of an era.
Sam Fox: Yup.
MEN’S FITNESS: The three most important things you pack for a cycling adventure.
Sam Fox: Lotion of some kind, that would be number one. Sunglasses or something to block all the stuff that flies into your eyes. And if they made like a mouth protector, that would be great too, but that might make it hard to breathe.
MEN’S FITNESS: Too many bugs?
Sam Fox: Yeah, all the bugs and stuff. And I had it kind of easy in some ways. The way that I rode across the country is different than the way most people do. I had a crew of three people that were with me when I needed them. So if you can pack yourself a crew of enthusiastic young people to help you out along the way, I would do that.
MEN’S FITNESS: Cool. So where can people meet you this year at those locations? How is that working?
Sam Fox: Our next ride will be in the Vancouver area in British Columbia on August 20. The last one for this calendar year will be in Santa Rosa, California, on August 27. The best way to get involved and learn more about the Tour is to visit TourdeFox.org. Because the tour isn’t just a bike ride–for those that don’t want to ride, we’ve got finish line festivals, we’ve got food and drink, we’ve got people from the Parkinson’s community sharing their stories and experiences, and sharing the things that they do to live positively through the disease.
MEN’S FITNESS: We didn’t talk about this yet, but how much did you and the team raise last year and what’s the goal this year?
Sam Fox: Last year we had a million dollar goal, and things were tracking great, donations kept coming in and people kept showing up. We kept living positive experiences. When we were in San Francisco, about two weeks before I was scheduled to hit the finish line, the tour officially hit that million-dollar goal. And in those last two weeks of the tour, and especially in the remaining months after we finished, we raised an additional 1.5-million, so the total for last year’s tour was actually 2.5-million dollars.
MEN’S FITNESS: Congratulations, man.
Sam Fox: Yeah, so the tour went incredibly well and blew our expectations out of the water. That said, it’s catching lightning in a bottle for a project like this, there’s a lot of luck involved. We’ve got a great community, and it helps tremendously when you get the word out, when people like you, Men’s Fitness, help share our story. So, it’s always hard, to know whether you’re going to be able to catch that same lightning. This year, for the three tour events, our fundraising goal is one million dollars again. We’re well on our way right now, but we’ve obviously still got work to do.
MEN’S FITNESS: That’s great though, man. Let’s talk a little bit about the foundation overall. In your opinion, what’s the most exciting thing to come out of The Michael J. Fox Foundation?
Sam Fox: Well as you know, I work specifically on the fundraising side. So, the majority of my time is spent, especially this year, focusing heavily on how do we make these rides enjoyable for people? But, our team is on top of the science that’s happening in real time and I would say just in a general sense that the foundation is at a turning point, in fact the whole field’s at a turning point. There are multiple new therapies in development that would better treat the symptoms of Parkinson’s and these therapies are expected to go for FDA approval sometime in the next few years. This means, seriously needed medicines are one step closer to patients, and we actually have a near-team goal to give people living with the disease. In the past we reported that, “More treatments will come.” Now we know the names of these potential new treatments, we know what they’re supposed to do and we expect them to be coming to market in the future. It’s an exciting time to be a part of Parkinson’s research.