Pilgrim Profile: Nancy Majerek (Votava, ’86)

Author: Timothy Deenihan

     Nancy Majerek (Votava, ’86) and I have a lot of ground to cover.

     Okay. Sorry. That was a terrible pun.

     But the truth is, I’ve been struggling with how to introduce her to you.  The conversation I had with her last week covered topics ranging from her role as the University’s Treasury Manager to her experiences in the New Mexico Desert on the Bataan Memorial Death March to the challenges of considering human idiosyncrasies when planning business systems to how she met her husband, Tom, in a volleyball league.

     I learned she moved to South Bend as a kid in time for the blizzard of ’77/’78 and that she was a gymnast in the way back when. I learned that, like my own roommate, she went to Saint Joe High School, then Notre Dame. Like me, she’s a fan of NPR and, in particular, Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me! We swapped book recommendations – she suggested I pick up Natural Born Heroes by Christopher McDougall and I told her she needs to read Lawrence Gonzales’ Deep Survival.

     When we talk about covering 35 miles a day under our own power in ninety degree heat with 90 percent humidity, she laughs and says, “When you put it like that, maybe I’ll just take up smoking.” I tell her a phrase I use all the time with my students and my personal training clients alike: get comfortable with getting uncomfortable. She says she likes it and then says she believes a person can do anything they are willing to properly train their body for.

     And that’s what I think I like best about her. Her choice of words there is a sneaky clue to how she sees a challenge. She’s analytical. I mean, man, is she analytical. I mean, there are Navy SEALs more chill than Nancy Majerek when it comes to planning, and – here’s the thing – I totally dig this about her. I seriously do. She instinctively works to outthink every possible scenario, her mind always playing a version of chess with the future, predicting possible outcomes and choosing her moves accordingly.

     As she’s gotten older (her words, not mine – she’s only a fistful of years older than me and I’m very very young) she and Tom have switched from the marathons and triathlons to hiking. But the hiking she does isn’t the lace-up-your-boots-and-go-for-a-walk sort of hiking. The hiking she does is start-training-your-body-and-honing-your-survival-skills-in-January-for-a-September-expedition sort of hiking.

     So, yeah, analytical and not a little intense.

     And in truth, those two words are the very reason I’ve had such a hard time writing this piece about her. Because I mean them as sincere compliments, but I’m aware many people hear them and think I’m searching for euphemisms.

     I’m not. I love that curiosity that can’t help but ponder the unseen influences of the bigger picture. That determination to be bigger than the challenge, smarter than the problem, a greater force than the obstacle.

     Nancy has that grit. She laughs hard when it’s time to laugh. She works hard when it’s time to work. And she’s always looking at the horizon, studying the clouds and trying to anticipate what might be just out of sight.

     And, yeah – I dig that.

About The ND Trail Blogger

Tim Deenihan ('92) is a writer, an actor, an impatient philosopher, and the only man in a house of four women. If you're ever in Seattle, look him up - he makes a wicked margarita and a mean manhattan. If you can't get to Seattle, you can find him on twitter as @tinangel. Walk with Tim in August. Join Us.