San Marino mom Nancy Szeto Ko is president, publicity chair and fall social chair for the National Charity League Juniors of San Marino; PTA financial secretary, publicity chair, room parent and site council committee member for Valentine Elementary; programs chair for Partnership for Awareness; and recording secretary for Volunteer Leadership Council of Huntington Hospital.
She also has 8-year-old triplets with her husband, Jonathan, and is a Girl Scout Brownie troop leader and a Cub Scout Bear troop leader.
But wait, there’s more. Since May, she’s also been training daily for the Ironman Arizona, or IMAZ, in Tempe, Ariz. that will take place on Sunday, Nov. 20. The race will include a 2.4-mile single-loop swim in Tempe Town Lake, a 112-mile three-course bicycle ride that runs through the Sonoran Desert and then a 26.2-mile two-loop race around Tempe Town Lake and through Papago Park.
At first, Ko didn’t know what she was getting herself into, but soon realized how important the race would be to helping something close to her heart.
“My marathon buddy, Ly Ly, asked if I would do it with her and her husband Lam,” she explained. “I said ‘Sure!’ without knowing exactly what it was I said yes to! It just seemed like something fun to do with her.”
While Nancy Ko was supposed to compete in the Ironman Arizona last year, a bicycle injury sidelined her for a year last September. She did compete in the Half Ironman in Oceanside in March 2015, just before running the LA Marathon.
Nancy Ko said training and competing in the race is a great example to set for her children—Nicholas, Ethan and Jennifer—and nothing makes her prouder than to hear what they say about her.
“I want to show them that they can do anything that they can put their minds and heart to,” she said. “They should do something that they love and hopefully help contribute to our community in a positive manner while doing so. Through my training I have been able to demonstrate to them that in order to do something well is not easy – it takes time, patience and a lot of hard work. But if you continue to practice and work every day, it gets better and easier—you just have to hang in there.”
Jonathan Ko said he’s not surprised that his wife is competing in the Ironman Arizona. Throughout the years, he’s cheered her on while she ran numerous marathons, including the Goofy and Dopey Challenges in Disney World.
“She always tries to push herself, so the Ironman was a natural progression in pushing herself to the limit,” he said. “Our children have seen her do marathons and the Half Ironman.”
Jonathan Ko said the Ironman Arizona will be one more event that his wife completes in to inspire their children that they can do anything that they put their mind to doing.
The Ko’s children are the ones who suggested that she raise money for a cause, as they’ve watched her fundraise for Valentine Elementary for the past few years. Nancy Ko said she decided to focus on raising funds for the hospital where the triplets were born—Huntington Hospital in Pasadena—which also is the recipient of the funds raised by NCL Juniors.
“As the president of NCL Juniors this year, I am raising funds for Huntington Hospital’s NICU and PICU,” she said. “I want to lead by example and show that anyone can do something, no matter how small, to make a difference in their community.”
Nancy Ko said when she and her husband found out that she was pregnant with triplets, they knew there would be a greater chance that they’d end up in the NICU. She said that fortunately her children were born at 35.5 weeks and went home with her four days after birth. Nancy Ko said, as she explained to her children about what she was raising money for, many families aren’t so fortunate and have babies or children who have to spend time in the hospital until they are healthy enough to go home with their parents.
She also hopes to help NCL Juniors purchase a Dornier Diode Surgical Laser for fetal surgery for Huntington Hospital, which recently began partnering with USC Institute for Maternal-Fetal Health to offer fetal surgery to recognize and treat medical problems while children are still in utero. Ko said she’d also like to assist with donating funds to the hospital’s Parent Connection Program and advanced education and training for NICU and PICU nurses.
Jonathan and Nancy Ko were high school sweethearts at Alhambra High School and attended college together at Loyola Marymount University. He said they’ve always enjoyed doing charity work together and Nancy always likes to make contributions to the community.
Nancy Ko trains with triathlon coach, Lynne Fiedler, who arranges workout regimes around Nancy’s busy schedule.
“Each week, I send her my schedule for the upcoming week and she puts together a workout for me,” Nancy Koh said. “In order to have enough time to do all I have to do and spend time with my family, I usually wake up at 3:30 or 4 a.m. on most days.”
“She’s training for her first Ironman so she’s doing a lot of swimming, biking and running,” Fiedler said. “She does pool swims and open water swims.”
She said Nancy often uses a bicycle trainer to ride her bike in a stationary position.
Feidler said Nancy’s regimen keeps increasing in duration to build up endurance.
Nancy said the hardest part of training for the triathlon is waking up early and juggling her many activities.
“Needless to say it’s been challenging raising 8-year old triplets, fulfilling my volunteer responsibilities and fitting time to train and sleep,” she said. “It is only with the unwavering support from my husband, Jonathan, and my parents, Warren and Mee-Lee Szeto, that I am able to do what I do. I am most grateful to them.”
To donate to Nancy Ko’s cause, visit http://ncljrssm.tofinoauctions.com/ironmom2016.