Welcome 2019 – be up for anything!

After many months of Celebrate The Gray absence, I am back and ready for 2019! I have been busy the last six months, emotionally and physically but mostly emotionally. I have been preparing for my youngest child to graduate high school, planning and going on an end of summer family trip to Costa Rica, dropping off said child to college, entering empty nest stage with my hubby and last but not least deciding to go back to work full time!  
I am glad to close the door on 2018 and be up for anything as we enter 2019! 
The story below inspired me to realize once again, that no matter what your age it’s never too late to burst out of your comfort zone.  So grab the bull by the horn and GO FOR IT!! 
– Stephanie

Here’s your 2019 fitness inspiration: She’s 95 and is doing the splits

Phyllis Sues has never exactly rushed into things.

She launched a business at 50 and became a trapeze enthusiast at 75. At 85, she took her first yoga lesson, got into tango dancing shortly after, and jumped out of a plane at 90.

She launched a business at 50 and became a trapeze enthusiast at 75. At 85, she took her first yoga lesson, got into tango dancing shortly after, and jumped out of a plane at 90.

Now, at 95, Sues — who lives in an elegant home above Sunset Plaza — is writing her first book, “20 Tips to Change Your Life,” pushing the notion that it’s never too late to develop at least a few healthy habits.

The former dancer says she wants to be an inspiration to people of any age who might be struggling with their health. Sure, she has good genes; her mother lived to 94, and her older sister recently turned 100. But she believes that the key to longevity and lasting health lies in remaining active, open-minded and unafraid to learn new things. And her big secret? She enjoys a steady diet of buttery mashed potatoes, bread, El Pollo Loco and nightly helpings of ice cream — but says it’s all in the portions.

Here’s how she does it:

Bust out of the comfort zone

I took my first ballet lesson at 14. After, I knew I was going to be dancing for the rest of my life. I did some Spanish dancing, performed around Europe and South America and on Broadway. When I was 75, I read an article about trapeze flying. The person who wrote it said that when he was out there and on the bar, he was really present for the first time in his life. I remember thinking, ‘That’s where I want to be.’ I went to a place near the airport. I climbed up a 30-foot high ladder, and that was the part that scared me. Once I got onto the platform, I put my hands on the bar and just flew. I loved it.

Cracking the handstand and slaying the peacock

When I was 85, someone dragged me to a yoga class at the YMCA in Hollywood. The instructor said, ‘Handstands, everybody.’ I thought, ‘Come on now.’ I asked the guy next to me how long it took him to do a handstand, and he said six years. I thought, ‘That’s OK, I have time.’ I do hatha yoga every morning for an hour. It’s not an exercise. It’s a practice. You learn to take your time. I can now do all those difficult poses like the peacock. The first time I saw my instructor do it, I remember thinking that it was impossible, your whole body is balanced on your hands. But I wanted to get it right, so I kept practicing and I woke up one morning and tried again and all of a sudden, I was up.

Dance, walk, anything, just move.

Hit that tango

Someone introduced me to tango, and that’s been my diamond in the rough. I knew I couldn’t do tango if I wasn’t sufficient in yoga. I needed balance, and the two of them made a marriage. I went to a milonga — a place where they do tango — in Burbank. I told the instructor I wanted a private lesson a week, but after the first one, I made it three a week. After my instructor moved away, I went to see Marcos Questas and his partner Ruta Maria as they rehearsed. I couldn’t believe what was going on, it was so gorgeous. I take lessons from them three times a week.

Develop a routine

Every morning when you wake up, say out loud, ‘Good morning, good morning, I love this day, I’m out to play, I’m not going to delay.’ And then, do something. I do 20 minutes of stretching in bed before yoga. Sometimes I jump rope or lift weights. My living room is my gym.

I have issues, but …

Phyllis Sues makes sure to fit in plenty of stretching.
Phyllis Sues makes sure to fit in plenty of stretching. (Gary Coronado / Los Angeles Times)

I have rotator cuff problems in one shoulder, a ruptured bicep, meniscus in the knee and neuropathy in my feet. I want to feel good. I want my body to be in perfect shape. And it’s very difficult as you age because things start to fall apart and you have to fight like crazy. It’s an uphill battle.

Carbs, come on down

I’ve never weighed more than 100 pounds, but I can eat whatever I want. I just don’t eat a lot of it. Breakfast is a slice of cinnamon raisin toast with Irish Kerrygold butter, peanut butter and sliced bananas, and an espresso. I like El Pollo Loco chicken breast or thigh, nothing else with it, and I have it with a salad. I love mashed potatoes with butter and heavy cream. And every night, I alternate between Häagen-Dazs Coffee and Vanilla Bean ice cream. Mostly I eat alone, and I find I eat even less when I’m by myself.

Move. Listen. Learn.

Phyllis Sues says:
Phyllis Sues says: “To be sedentary is terrible, so move.” (Gary Coronado / Los Angeles Times)

That is my philosophy. To be sedentary is terrible, so move. Dance, walk, anything, just move. Then, know how to face challenges, because there are so many out there. Receive them and respond to them, and learn something every day, a new language, a musical instrument; it will keep you all there. I’m so driven and I don’t give up; no matter how difficult something is, I will accomplish it.

By KAVITA DASWANI

 

Sheri gets by with a little help from her friends – Carol, Pattie, Susan and Linda!

Friends may come and go but those that stick it out for the long haul really make a difference in our lives.

A Harvard study on aging (https://news.harvard.edu/gazette/story/2017/04/over-nearly-80-years-harvard-study-has-been-showing-how-to-live-a-healthy-and-happy-life/) found those interpersonal relationships are the key to a long and happy life.

So as the song goes, “make new friends but keep the old – one is silver and the other gold”.

My recent post on Sheri led me to four other amazing women who she calls inspirational and in turn they put Sheri on the top of their list of women who inspire them.

Meet Sheri’s friends:

 

Carol, 65

friend, hiker, pilates, traveler, wife, mother, grandma, artist and activist!  

One of the best things that happened in Carol’s career was being let go of her 17 year copyediting and writing job at PacSun! At 61, she had to interview and landed a fabulous new job as an editor at Pearson Education. It was a scary time of reinvention and challenge all bundled together.  One of the perks of the job at Pearson was working with younger people and being introduced to Stitch Fix, movies and books that otherwise would have been off her radar.

Carol is part of a book group with Sheri, who have been together for years. The friendship also included hiking the Hadrian Wall Trail with Sheri and a group of 7 other people, two men and five women ranging in age from 60-74. This adventure was physical hiking 10-12 miles a day

Carol has never colored her hair and is inspired by the gray haired pro-agers of Marin.  She wants to travel more, stay active, watch her grandkids grow up and be active with them.  Carol wants to continue working while working on her art, reading more books and continuing to volunteer for causes she supports.

Carol says, “Seek out your passion”!

 

Pattie, 71

hiker, artist, teacher, friend, wife, mother, grandmother

Pattie grew up in Marin spending much of her time in West Marin (Marshall/Tomalas).  Her mother’s family were Swiss immigrants and are 3rd generation in West Marin (Marshall/Tomalas).  Her mother’s Swiss upbringing instilled global citizenship and neutrality, making her have compassion and empathy for all people.

Pattie reinvented herself at 33, after getting divorced she moved to Sebastapol and on a blind date met her second husband, married for 35 years.

Art saves lives! Pattie’s job at Youth in Arts was the best job she ever had and lasted 20 years!  She met other artists, took lots of classes at College of Marin and become an accomplished artist (http://www.pattiegrey.com). She continues to create beautiful art pieces and is inspiring her granddaughter to become an artist too, having her own work station in Pattie’s studio.

Some of Pattie’s inspirations, Sheri and a friend who recently started a detective agency at 72!!

On aging, Pattie doesn’t care about others opinions and she embraces her good health and family. She says have social interactions daily, don’t become isolated and keep learning!

 

Susan, 71

hiker, artist, teacher, business woman, friend, wife, mother

After teaching spanish for a year in California, Susan decided to go to Spain with her sister for a year to travel and teach english.  During her first days in Spain, Susan met her husband, an American and they have been married for over 45+ years!! When they returned to the States, she taught kindergarden but knew she always wanted to be an artist.

Her friend came to her about starting a business and since she always wanted to design fabrics, they started a shower curtain business together.  Susan designed and silk screened original art which morphed into aprons, dish towels, pot holders.  Bullocks was one of her first and biggest clients.  They were passionate about what they were doing and they were making money.  Her children inspired her to start a kids tshirt line working with various brands in the area.  She evolved her designing with the times and learned to do computer designs too.

Once when admiring a painting by a local artist set in Redwoods, Susan began to visualize creating a life and home with a similar view.  While house hunting in Marin, she and her husband walked into their dream home, loved it, bought it and set up their life in the Redwoods.  Unbeknownst to Susan, she and her husband had moved in next door to the artist that had painted that inspirational view!  Talk about making your vision happen.

Art: (http://www.susankathleendoyle.com)  Materials inspire Susan, from a carload of empty Arizona Tean cans to discarded books to beautiful scraps of silk. Her art is inspired by color and relationships, both personal, political and in nature. She uses non- traditional art techniques – weaving aluminum or pages from a book, making a dress that has more meaning than just a fashion statement (see pic above – Cycle of Life Dress).  Art is one of Susan’s languages for expression.

Susan stays active hiking the hills of Marin.  Her love of hiking and Spain inspired her to hike the 500 mile Camino de Santiago a few years ago.

“Surround yourself with positive people who are doing what they love. Be confident and follow your vision.”

 

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Linda, 67

friend, swimmer, reader, traveler, career woman, student of the world

Linda is very good at what she does, as the Director of Business Affairs at a small ad agency, Argonaut.  Her depth of experience (J.Walter Thompson, Foote, Cone & Belding and Butler, Shine & Stern) is being put to good use at Argonaut.  Linda loves working with younger people and has learned a lot from them (I have a feeling they are learning much more from her).
In her free time Linda does a lot of reading — mostly fiction and non-fiction essays.  She’s  a swimmer and tries to go at least once or twice a week to the swim club she’s belonged to since the early 80’s.
Linda loves watching films, old and new, foreign and domestic.  She enjoys going for walks in San Francisco, her favorites being the Presidio and along the Bay.  Visiting museums and art galleries is also a favorite. And she really loves hanging out with friends, going out to dinner, sitting around talking/laughing and enjoying each others’ company. She and a group of girlfriends take a trip together up to Northern California for a few days every year where they rent a house and talk for three days straight.
Her passion is educating herself about the world in all its forms.  Linda loves learning about art, politics, history and how people live their lives everywhere.
Linda says she has a wider, more experienced perspective on life which helps her balance the bad news with the good.

 

 

” A true friend is the greatest blessing”

 

Sheri discovered at 13 – continues to inspires at 74!

IMG_4160I was reminded of the tv theme song, “she can turn the room on with her smile” upon meeting Sheri. Numerous people suggested I speak with Sheri about pro-aging and embracing aging.  She embodies what it is to age gracefully.  Self described as an artist, hiker, traveler, writer and life lover.

At 74, Sheri illuminates confidence, strength and grace through her art, personality and outlook on life.  It all began at 13 when her mother enrolled in Adrian Modeling in hopes of helping her overcome her shyness.  I guess it worked, in addition this Look Magazine cover, Sheri graced many Confession covers and won the prestigious Miss Rheingold title (the 2nd largest election after the president).  Sheri’s modeling career continues today!

Family & Early Career: Sheri married young (since divorced) and moved to Denver. From 13 to 39, she never took a break from modeling until 1982 when she moved to Marin from Hawaii.  She has four kids and four grandkids. When Sheri moved to Marin, she become involved in doing road art (making art out of found or recycled pieces).  In addition to Road Art, Sheri also did paper quilts to make money in the beginning of her art career. Sheri taught at Drake High School & Tam High School through the Adult Ed program and was also involved in Youth in Arts program.

Start in Art: Sheri entry into the art world was via an artist boyfriend who was painting

 

 

while she was writing. She started dabbling with art and her first project was an art quilt, later taking a design class at COM, making the famous pin.  People liked the pin so much that they wanted to buy it so Sheri made more and people bought more, thus started her commercial art business. Her art has supported off and on over her career and she still makes a little bit of money here or there.

Life Today: After the election of 2016, Sheri felt we were headed into a frightening and unknown era and the only thing to do at that moment was something kind, something for others. She had made quilts for the Linus Project (www.linusproject.com), an organization which gives quilts to kids in the hospital or shelters, so Sheri decided to make some more, this activity engaged her mind and disengaged it, for the moment, from the political climate.

The Kindness Project: One of the most thoughtful of Sheri’s is the Kindness Project. Kindness can change the world but we can’t count on it.  In the meantime, a kind act might make at least two people feel better for a least that moment.  Even the small things, like letting someone else take that parking space you were waiting for or letting someone go in front of you in traffic, can change someone’s day.  Sheri asked friends to send her their everyday acts of kindness and created the Kindness Project book.

IMG_4190For the past 20+ years, Sheri and a group of six art friends stay creatively active by exchanging resources and doing local collaborative projects together.  In addition to Linus Project quilts, Sheri works in paper making quilts and books (Kindness Project).  She and her boyfriend, Ken work together on team art projects too!

Everyday Life: In addition to art, Sheri stays active with hiking, yoga and Pilates.  One of her favorite hikes was an adventure with a group of friends enjoying the 7 day, 86 mile Hadrian Wall Path (https://www.nationaltrail.co.uk/hadrians-wall-path) in England.

Shopping: She loves shopping at Seattle’s Value Village (www.valuevillage.com) with her daughter and does most of her Marin shopping at consignment/thrifts stores too.  Bloom, formerly Image for Success, is a frequent venue for shopping.  She has an eclectic style so for value, quality and variety thrift stores provide the greatest resource for shopping.

Are we embracing aging? Sheri commented that currently no but it’s mostly due to social conditioning.  We are conditioned to not expect mature faces in marketing and advertising so with some reconditioning expect Sheri to become one of the faces of pro-aging.

In closing, Sheri left me with this: “You’re here for a good time not a long time, so make the most of it!”IMG_4169

At 90, She’s Designing Tech for Aging Boomers!

In Silicon Valley’s youth-obsessed culture, 40-year-olds get plastic surgery to fit in. But IDEO, the firm that famously developed the first mouse for Apple, has a 90-year-old designer on staff.barbara-ideo_custom-8b14c66bdec3b3322f0d91ec726cac4cd4ff389b-s800-c85

Barbara Beskind says her age is an advantage.

“Everybody who ages is going to be their own problem-solver,” she says. And designers are problem-solvers. Beskind speaks while sitting on a couch at the open office space of IDEO in San Francisco. She commutes to the office once a week from a community for older adults where falling is a problem.

“People where I live fall a lot,” she says, adding, “For a friend of mine, I tried to design air bags of graded sizes that would be activated at a lurch of 15 degrees.” She is stumped on how to find the right power source for her air bags.

Beskind says she started designing when she was 8 years old — toys, of course.

“Well, in the Depression, if you can’t buy toys, you make ’em, ” she says. Beskind’s first design was for a hobbyhorse. “I was determined I was going to have one, and so I made it with old tires. I learned a lot about gravity, ’cause I fell off so many times.”

When it was time for college, Beskind told her counselor she wanted to be an inventor. That required an engineering degree. In those days, women couldn’t get into those departments. So she studied home economics and later enlisted in the Army and became an occupational therapist.

After 44 years, she retired as a major and then went into private practice. From those years, she has six patents on inflatable devices that help children with balance issues.

Beskind tried to retire again. Two years ago she was watching 60 Minutes and saw David Kelley, the founder of IDEO, talking about how important it was to have a diverse staff on a design team. He emphasized how important it was to bring different perspectives to a project.

Beskind says the interview made her think she wanted to work at IDEO. “Oh, that sounds like that’s for me,” she remembers thinking. “And besides that, I was living in Silicon Valley. What could be better?”

Beskind wrote to the firm and she heard back within days. It turns out that interest in designing products for older adults is growing as baby boomers age.

Gretchen Addi, an associate partner at IDEO, hired Beskind. Addi says when Beskind is in a room, young designers do think differently. For example, Addi says IDEO is working with a Japanese company on glasses to replace bifocals. With a simple hand gesture, the glasses will turn from the farsighted prescription to the nearsighted one.

Initially, the designers wanted to put small changeable batteries in the new glasses. Beskind pointed out to them that old fingers are not that nimble.

“It really caused the design team to reflect,” Addi says. They realized they could design the glasses in a way that avoided the battery problem. “Maybe it’s just a USB connection. Are there ways that we can think about this differently?”

Like many IDEO employees, Jason Dehler thinks Beskind’s energy is contagious. “I’m sitting here doing a not very inspiring task,” Dehler says. “I’m doing budgets. And listening to you talk and your attitude … I got more into it.”

Beskind has macular degeneration and only has peripheral vision. So she draws her designs with easy-to-see thick black felt pens. She hands me a design for glasses that would help people like her. One of the features is that they take a photo as people walk up and introduce themselves. The glasses also have a small speaker. “So that the next time as you approach within 10 or 12 feet, something in my ear would say it’s Laura,” she says.

Beskind says as she gets older and faces new problems in the world, she’s thankful she’s a designer. “It makes aging more tolerable, more enjoyable,” she says. “I enjoy the age I’m in. I think it’s one of the best chapters of my life.”

And for the bulging demographic of baby boomers growing old, Beskind has this advice: Embrace change and design for it.

 

by Laura Sydell – NPR

Judy, 76, living a vibrant life with her mantra of “why not”!

IMG_5829Over the past two years, I have stopped admiring those 20 and 30 year old models and lamenting the body I use to have.  These days, I am inspired by the 80 yr old at my yoga class, the 70 yr old on top of the Sierra Butte Outlook and the mothers of my friends, like Judy!

Judy, 76, is the mother of a good friend of mine, Kelly.  I met her years ago at a school event and have followed her adventures on Kelly’s Facebook page ever since.

IMG_5894-1As Kelly puts it, “my mom is very can do—there isn’t anything that she can’t put her mind to and accomplish.  Her batteries are always charged!  If it’s being on the County’s Civil Service Commission and Review Board, chairing a fundraising event for the County’s Women’s Commission or driving non-stop through a blizzard from Montana to Ojai with her Prius full of frozen buffalo, she does it with aplomb.”  Kelly added that “my mom is highly intelligent, charming and very interesting….and sharing life with her is never boring!  People really like my mom and I am always hearing comments from strangers how she just has a special glow.  And men (single or married and young or old) still regularly hit on her!)”

img_1639.jpgJudy has always cared about the environment and became an eco-warrior in the late 60’s.  She was the head of the Environmental Coalition in Ventura County and even penned and performed a guitar solo which got a lot of radio time—-the song was titled “Trust us Said US Gypsom”.  It was a song about corporate greed and environmental destruction.  Also in the 70’s, way before Farm-to-Table became a thing she pulled out all of the landscaping and planted artichokes, herbs and other vegetables.  She scuba dived on the weekends and speared fish —- which all found its way to the dining table.

When it comes to fashion, Judy commented that women’s bodies look different as we age and clothing not only needs to be shown on real aging bodies (not 20 and 30 year olds) but also address the needs of our changing bodies.  She looks for clothing that allows her to live her active lifestyle, are no nonsense and are easy to launder.  She shops at Nordstrom (one of her fav brands -NYDJ), REI, Patagonia, Eddie Bauer and small boutique shops.  She tends to wear gray (complements her hair), white, black and blue – especially jeans.  She also likes to add a scarf or neck warmer for health reasons but it has now turned into a fashion statement.

IMG_0062Judy keeps active with Pilates twice a week, “aggressively” hiking the mountains behind her house daily and restorative yoga. She is currently involved with the Ventura County Women’s Political Council (VCWPC), they recruit, train and support progressive women for office. Judy’s sister is like her with broad interests and a sense of adventure, they travel together and tend to reinforce one another’s most screwball ideas (we all need a sister like that).  Highlights from some of their adventures include four days on the Inca Trail, two weeks and 175 miles on the Camino de Santiago across northern Spain and traipsing through the jungles to remote Mayan Sites 25 years ago.  Most of those adventures were long before ecotourism made such travel easy.  Judy is currently cooking up something else fun and challenging!

She LOVED her 50’s, she LOVED her 60’s and she is LOVING her 70’s.  The bestIMG_0074 thing about aging says Judy is that the bullshit we worried about when we were young is no longer an issue.We have a better sense of what really matters and you get better at saying no. Another great thing about aging is we have erred and learned, and we are less likely to stumble over the same stuff again. Maintaining her health, having adventures with friends and family, devoting energy to meaningful projects and having the time to do those things bring Judy pleasure.

With a mantra of “why not”, it’s easy to see why Judy continues to inspire her family, friends and me.

I am excited to hear about Judy’s next adventure…stay tuned!

Cicely Tyson, 92, still inspires me!

 

Cicely Tyson,92, was recently honored at the annual “Women in Hollywood” event hosted by Elle Magazine (looking so absolutely beautiful)!

I have been familiar with Cicely Tyson since Roots. It was 1977 and I remember watching Roots as a family. Don’t we all remember the line, “my name is not Toby, my name is Kunta Kinte”.  Ms. Tyson playing Binta, Kunta Kinte’s mother. . And most recently, she played Constantine Bates, Emma Stone’s nanny, in The Help. Another memorable and strong character.

Cicely has long inspired me for her grace, beauty and choice of roles both in television and movies.

Ms. Tyson says, “Age is just a number. Life and aging are the greatest gifts that we could possibly ever have.”

Bad-ass buttes meet bad-ass pro-agers on the PCT (Pacific Crest Trail)!

IMG_3494I recently joined a group of bad-ass women to hike 31 miles of the Pacific Crest Trail from Quincy/La Porte to Sierra City.  Due to an unexpected snow storm, our PCT adventure was slightly altered that included no overnight camping.  We ended up in small rustic cabins on the pristine Packer Lake doing day hikes around Round, Big Bear, Little Bear, Cub and Silver Lake on day one (9 miles).

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That night we indulged in cocktails at Sardine Lake with our entertaining new friends Art & Carol + friends (all in their 80’s).

With snow still on the ground the next day, we set out from the Packer Lake Saddle heading up to the Sierra Buttes Lookout and then down the PCT to Sierra City (12+ miles). On the intense snowy 6 mile hike up with a gain of 1800 vertical feet ending with an intense set of stairs, we met Victoria, north of 70.

IMG_3486She was part of a large hiking group out of Sacramento and was one of the first women in her group to make it up the challenging Lookout hike.  She quietly told us her age because her group thought she was in her 50’s and she didn’t want them to put limitations on her. Ugh, why does age have to limit us!!

 

After a comfortable and warm evening at our cabin at The Lodge at Whitehawk Ranch.  The owners of Whitehawk, Jerry and Mary Ann, are a retired couple who run the lodge six months out of the year from May to October.  Another example of pro-agers rocking retirement!  We also met pro-ager, Mary Lou,68. img_3528.jpgShe has been coming to Whitehawk for years and is still active after years of biking and skiing the area and the country.

Nature nurtures the spirit and the addition of good girlfriends, heartfelt conversations, laughter and inspiring pro-agers on every step of the journey made it a memorable adventure for all of us.  We were able to reminisce about our past, appreciate the present and visualize our future.

Bad-Ass Buttes took on the PCT and conquered it all!  Stay tuned for our next adventure…

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Allure magazine phasing out the word Anti-Aging!

This issue is the long-awaited, utterly necessary celebration of growing into your own skin — wrinkles and all. No one is suggesting giving up retinol. But changing the way we think about aging starts with changing the way we talk about aging.

With that in mind, and starting with this issue, we are making a resolution to stop using the term “5991b4a2140000401aed08b9anti-aging.” Whether we know it or not, we’re subtly reinforcing the message that aging is a condition we need to battle — think anti-anxiety meds, antivirus software, or anti-fungal spray.

If there’s one inevitability in life, it’s that we’re getting older. Every minute. Every second. We produced a video recently that featured 64-year-old gray-haired Jo Johnson, who made the poignant observation that aging should be appreciated because “some of us don’t get an opportunity to age.” Repeat after me: Growing older is a wonderful thing because it means that we get a chance, every day, to live a full, happy life.

Language matters. When talking about a woman over, say, 40, people tend to add qualifiers: “She looks great…for her age” or “She’s beautiful…for an older woman.” Catch yourself next time and consider what would happen if you just said, “She looks great.” Yes, Americans put youth on a pedestal. But let’s agree that appreciating the dewy rosiness of youth doesn’t mean we become suddenly hideous as years go by.

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Mardelle Peck, 70 = motorcycle racer!

Mardelle Peck proves that no matter what age in life, it’s never too late to make a change. At the age of 65 she began racing motorcycles and put the doubt in the rearview.

Some people would think that’s a silly thought especially since most pro-racers begin in their early 20s and retire around their later 30s to 40s. But let’s agree with those who don’t think racing has a time limit. After all, there are guys out there who’ve been racing for 30 or more years–a long time to be in the sport. Those guys are very fortunate to have made it that long too, especially in a high-risk sport like motorcycle racing.

Now, let’s say there is a woman out there who wanted to start racing at the age of 65. What would you or most people say to that?

Mardelle Peck is a 68-year-old racer for the American Federation of Motorcyclists (AFM), an amateur road racing club in Northern California, who began racing in 2012 at 65-years-old. So what lead her to do this to begin with? It all started when she met her husband, Ron Peck, 50 years ago.

“Ron was a crazed 21-year-old who rode motorcycles and when I jumped on the back, he scared the heck out of me. So I decided I’m probably going to have to learn how to ride my own bike,” said Mardelle.

Mardelle and Ron circa 1972 Women of motorcycle racing
Mardelle and Ron circa 1972

After they were married, they had one daughter and Mardelle worked as a fleet manager for a Chevrolet dealership in Chico. Throughout that time, she was riding on and off, mostly Honda motorcycles. She started getting back into riding more frequently in 1998 when she purchased a Harley Sportster. From there, it snowballed into buying up and riding a series of different motorcycles.

The one that lead her to the track was an ’01 Honda CBR 929. From there, she attended all three levels of Keith Code’s California Superbike schools in order to improve both her track and overall riding skills. She went on doing track days for about 11 years before the race bug bit her. Mardelle decided to race because it was on her bucket list.

“I was waiting until the end to race!” she laughed.

Her first race was at Thunderhill, a racetrack located north, right off of highway I-5 in town called Willows, CA.  She decided to race the all-women’s class for the AFM called the Afemme.

“I had been at various track days with most of the girls, so I knew I could compete in Novice Afemme,” she said.

Source: Oxymoron Photography; Women of motorcycle racing
Source: Oxymoron Photography

When asked about if age was ever a factor, she said it never was in deciding whether or not to race.

“I did limit my exposure by just racing Afemme however. I had done the practice starts with Keigwins [a local track day provider] and thought that was quite fun. ”

Mardelle started off racing a 2007 Honda CBR 600 her first season. She also said she wasn’t too nervous for her first race and only had the normal “butterflies.” That first year, different women came in and out of the competition, so she was able to obtain the points needed to get her second place overall for the championship. Now that’s not a bad way to start off your first season racing.

Mardelle Women of motorcycle racing

She remained a novice racer the next year and raced a prepped GSX-R 750 that she never really fully bonded with. She has also been fortunate to never crash during a race, but she did have an incident on the Gixxer at a track day. She went down at turn 10 at Thunderhill the first time taking it out.

“I just bruised up my body and made a yard sale out of the bike. I bought new skins and a tank and rode it the rest of the season. I did try racing in the over 50 class, but the first race about five of the expert racers went down and that scared the heck out of me.”

Mardelle eventually moved from novice racer into expert in 2014 and also hopped on a new 2014 Yamaha R6 to race. This past year, she was able to land in third place overall for the Expert Afemme championship. Even though this is quite an exciting feat, it’s the influence she has had on other people (especially women riders) she is truly thrilled about.

Mardelle Women of motorcycle racing

“A female racer came up to me one time and asked, ‘My Mom hates me being on a motorcycle, do you mind taking a picture with me?’ That just kind of justified what I was doing.”

Mardelle not only had a ton of support from fellow racers to accomplish her goal of racing, but also from her husband.

“I had amazing support from Ron. It takes a lot of determination and effort on his part each season.”

Mardelle Women of motorcycle racing

Unfortunately, 2014 was Mardelle’s last season she will race. Even though she is retiring from racing, she won’t be retiring from riding two-wheels any time soon. She and Ron take various trips around the country on their BMW GS 1200 motorcycles, traveling to places such Canada all the way down to Montana, Arizona and Wyoming.

The great thing about Mardelle’s story is that she has officially marked one thing off her bucket list. It also goes to show that if you want to accomplish a goal in your life, the time to start is now.

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