Nancy Dankenbring, 1974–1999
Photos by Chris Kostman, Furnace Creek 508, 1998
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I have the distinctly unfortunate task of announcing that Nancy Dankenbring passed away suddenly at her parents' home in Pasadena early Thursday morning. I may have already called some of you on the phone and left a message, and I may have sent some previous emails, and I apolgize for the duplication of efforts. This has been such an incredible tragedy that it is beyond belief.
Nancy was 25. According to her sister, she died from a heart attack brought on by pulmonary hypertension. Nancy was a great friend, but more importantly a great athlete and a super-great person.
I am devastated like everybody is about this, and I still can't get over it. No words can completely describe this unbelievable loss.
Nancy was a skilled bike mechanic, a concert-level cellist, an excellent writer, and extremely well spoken. Besides road riding, she liked riding mountain bikes and BMX. Last year before Christmas, Nancy and I were going to attend a party, but Nancy had to put in a 90-mile training ride from Pasadena to the Mt. Baldy ski lifts—AND a few laps on the BMX track before going to the party! She was so insane, that even "Insane" Wayne Croasdale was truly impressed by her.
Professionally, she worked at the retail bicycle level in sales and women's clothing for two years at Pro Bikes of Arcadia before becoming Purchasing Manager at Nytro Human Powered Rockets near San Diego. But she wanted to race, so she moved back home with her parents in Pasadena about mid-year to concentrate on training. Still, if she wanted to, because of her experience and knowledge, she could have found a good job in the bicycle or triathlon industry. But she wanted to race and win so much, because that was where her heart was.
Nancy enjoyed racing triathlons, and in 1998 had worked her way up to 12th in the country in USA Triathlon age-group standings—in spite of the fact that she turned Pro partway through the year. Somehow, at my insistence, she was also immediately an excellent ultra racer and finished second Open Woman in the 1998 Furnace Creek 508, an event that traditionally does not favor the young or rookie riders. She was so intent on racing Furnace Creek next month that she was making plans almost up to the day of her passing.
At times Nancy could be totally outrageous and flamboyant. At last year's Furnace Creek pre-race banquet, she dressed up as a street hooker in a pink miniskirt outfit—and nobody could figure her out, except that she ate tons of food. But then she went out the next morning and did what she did best—kick ass.
A couple weeks after that, Nancy's humor got me in the hot seat at the 30th Anniversary Hot Wheels Convention in Anaheim when she said off the top of her head that I was "a kleptomaniac." I will not go into details here, but it was one of the most embarrassing moments of my life. Before her death, Nancy was plotting to go around on Halloween as one of the girls from the ZZ Top videos—all she needed was a hot rod and a couple guys in suits and beards! But almost every day was Halloween for Nancy. She was the most fun person I have ever known and she will be irreplaceable to everybody who knew her.
One of Nancy's backers for the coming year brought up the possibility of establishing a foundation in her name. This was my thought exactly, but would be quite a deal, considering I have NO money of my own. But if such a thing could be done, it could honor Nancy's memory in a number of ways—the disease that brought her down would be too depressing; but how about something to encourage promising young female triathletes or ultracycling racers, or something to encourage young women in the bicycle or triathlon industry. I have no clue what to do about it. I DO know that Nancy would be just unbelievably embarrassed by me writing this email out and sending it to so many people. She would kick my ass, and that would be okay by me right about now.
-Rex Reese, September 18, 1999
To read about the Nancy Dankenbring Award, click here.