Tuesday, February 2, 2016

When I Grow Up, I Want to be Just Like Nancy

Our friend/mentor/captain, Nancy, celebrates her 80th birthday this year. Friends and family convened to celebrate this milestone and more importantly, a transition into a new age group! Watch out runners, this endurance athlete walker is going to give you some new competition.

In anticipation for her birthday party, she posted, “Oh I'm getting worried. Tomorrow my two families are going to meet! My children are going to meet the people with whom I act like I'm a youngster. Gonna be some shocked people, I'm thinking!” We ALL love you Nancy just the way you are! Walking in the door at the birthday party, I complimented Nancy on the new hairdo. “I like the tufts of purple, Nancy!” 

“It’s actually raspberry. Purple is for old ladies.” 

Nancy with her first TNT Mentor, Tim
That in a nutshell sums up Nancy. She may have been the oldest person at her own birthday party but her spirit and positive attitude toward life makes her seem younger than everyone around her.

Nancy and her three children, Cindy, Bob and Boyd. When their family gets together and someone asks 'who's the youngest?', they all point to their mom.
Ron met Nancy at Clorox 16 years ago where she was working as an on-site nurse. They were both members of Diamond Toastmasters and Nancy gave a speech to the club about fundraising for the Leukemia Lymphoma Society (LLS) through Team in Training (TNT). In exchange for raising several thousand dollars, TNT coaches train you to complete a half or full marathon. 

Nancy signed up for TNT when she turned 65. Tim was Nancy’s mentor her first season with TNT in 2001. Nancy was Ron’s mentor his first season with TNT in 2005. Ron was Susan’s mentor her first season with TNT in 2006. We affectionately call Tim our great-grandmentor (he hates the term but I’m sure he appreciates the legacy).

Four Generations of Team in Training Participants
Tim Yagle, Nancy Ryder, Ron Carino, Susan Carino (from left to right)
Clorox has a generous charity matching, making it easier and less intimidating to fundraise. Her first marathon event was the Mayor’s Midnight Sun marathon and since then she’s made 6 trips to Anchorage, Alaska, finishing five full and one half marathon. That season they were headed to Anchorage again. Ron, always happy to help a worthy cause, joined the Team. I laughed at him, being the oh so supportive wife that I am. I told him that there was no way he could complete a marathon with his bad knees. Here’s the catch – Nancy was a mentor on the marathon Walk Team. Ron decided he would walk a marathon, help a worthy cause, and check off 'eating a meal in all 50 states' at the same time. We’ve both come such a long way since then. 

This was taken during a race in Anchorage in either 2005 or 2006. We've all lost track.
Nancy quickly adopted me even though I chose not to fundraise for TNT that season. I occasionally came to trainings as an observer with my friend Wendy. She and I had decided to train for the half marathon in Anchorage because we were only half crazy. However, once we reached 13 miles it seemed too easy so we kept training for the full 26.2 miles.

Fast forward six months, on June 17, 2005 Ron and I celebrated our 10 year wedding anniversary with Nancy and Wendy with breakfast (a meal in Alaska) at Safeway in Seward before going on a most memorable cruise seeing whales and getting dive-bombed by puffins. The marathon was more challenging than we expected. It was cold, wet, and windy. Yet, all of us on the team completed the event forging lifelong friendships along the way. We have several memorable trips including RNR Savannah 2010 and a full marathon at Mount Desert Island (Bar Harbor, Maine) with our friend Michelle.

Michelle passed away in 2010, but not before we got her to finish her first full marathon.
I no longer laugh at Ron for wanting to do a marathon and we’re planning to complete half marathons in all 50 states someday. Well, I guess Ron will also end up eating a meal in all 50 states again but at least this time he’ll have earned the calories.

So what makes Nancy so special to us? Besides being someone who we admire, respect, and are in awe of for who she is as a person. Even Nancy’s doctor is jealous of her and how strong her heart is. She puts new meaning into being young at heart.

Personalities can be broken down into the four elements – Earth, Air, Water, and Fire. Nancy is the WATER personality type. Not just because she fondly gives out epsom salts to all her TNT mentees for the ice bath after the race. Symbolically though her heart is her guide in everything she does, and she is very attuned to other people’s experiences. Nancy doesn’t dwell on the past. She doesn’t live with regrets. She doesn’t focus on the negative things in life. Instead, she focuses on the future and how she can help others. True to her profession as a nurse, she puts others ahead of herself.

Take for example, a race in Monterey, CA a few years back. People often ask me what my favorite local race is and I always recommend the Big Sur Half Marathon on Monterey Bay in November. The course is flat, scenic along the ocean, and the hand crafted medal is unique, though fragile. Nancy and I raced together several times and one year, Nancy was having a particularly difficult race. We finished together beyond the 3.5 hour cut off after the finish line had been torn down. It wasn’t until she told me that she had given blood the day before to the event that we realized why she was struggling. (Note to the readers, don’t give blood at least a week prior or a week after an endurance event.) You need all your blood for strength to endure and recover! But true to Nancy’s character, she was giving to others first before thinking of herself.

Fellow TNTer Roz put together the Nancy Quiz at the birthday party - 20 questions about Nancy’s life. All of us struggled with the answers (except maybe her daughter Cindy and two sons Bob and Boyd). Of course they debated a few of the answers but we let Nancy be the final authority about her own life. Even after spending hours walking with her, we learned a lot more that we never even knew about!

During the Quiz we learned that 50 of the 52 weekends in 2015, she was either participating in a race, volunteering at a race, or out actively training. Nancy was the first person we knew who broke an unspoken TNT training rule: you need three to four months to train for a half marathon and at least six months to adequate train for a full marathon. We stuck to this schedule for the first two years, completing each event six months apart. 

Rebel Nancy however was known to do more than one race every few months. If fact, she often did more than one race in a weekend. Her reputation raised a few eyebrows among TNT coaches but it opened our eyes to another approach to marathoning. Instead of training every weekend and completing long miles either alone without support, in a small mentoring group, or with the full team, you can get your mileage in at a race. The caveat is that you treat the race like a training event rather than another opportunity for a personal record (PR). Striving for a PR every six months or so is still good advice. Nancy broke the mold and is living proof that you can be active and healthy into your 80’s.

Nancy is young at heart and living proof that attitude is everything. 

We want to be like Nancy when we grow up.


If Nancy inspires you as much as she inspired us, please consider a donation to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society for support of research and financial assistance of patients at her web page (http://pages.teamintraining.org/gba/anchor16/nryder). She'll be headed to Alaska this June for a second half marathon, her seventh race there and an well more than 100 since turning 65. 


  1. Lovely article! We didnt know Nancy will doing Alaska! We made a donation on her page as we saw it in the blog. Hello, Coaches Ron and Susan! We follow your blog! Thanks for sharing! *Lally and Jay-r

  2. Thank you, Lally! Nancy was such a big part of us getting started, Susan had the blog done before the end of the day. SO many nice things to say about a wonderful lady. Thank you for helping her out with the donation!