NRC Runners of the Month – Tandy Blaylock and Blake Bivens

Tandy Blaylock

Our female NRC Runner of the Month has been with the crew longer than most, but while she’s been building her miles and speed, she’s also somehow managed to run under the radar!  So, without Blaylock familyfurther ado, we’re psyched to feature a determined self-competitor and quiet encourager, Tandy Blaylock!

Tandy heard about NRC from her neighbor, Shawn Berkau, and started running with the group in January 2011.  At the time, a typical group on a Wednesday night or Saturday morning would be about 5 to 10 people, so she said, “In the early days they always had to circle back for me!”

At one point in our training cycles, I had the personal honor of running fairly regularly with Tandy and a few other amazing NRC women as we pushed ourselves, and each other, closer to our ambitious pace goals.  I will always remember those runs; the challenge of the training eased by the effortlessness of the conversation.  Even though our goals have changed, I know I can still count on Tandy and those ladies for support when needed.

Tandy, Jamie, friends at raceRunning and Tandy go way back.  A St. Louis native, having lived in 6 states, 13 cities, and 24 homes/apartments, she’s blazed a path along her way, but technically, she began the sport of running at age 14.  As a freshman on the cross-country and track teams in high school she found her legs.  She continued running as an adult sticking to 5ks and 10ks, but she started upping her distance goals when she began running with NRC.

As a child, Tandy was always on the move.  She enjoyed gymnastics, softball and water skiing; plus she has 3 older brothers who would take her skiing, skate boarding, and riding on their motorcycles.

It was no mistake that she met another mover and shaker in James Blaylock!  Her trainer at the Knoxville restaurant, Gradys Goodtimes, James who is over 6’ tall found his match in this 5’ 1” go-getter.  There is nothing this duo can’t tackle together be it long-distance moves and running injuries, or the many happy triumphs they’ve had along the way!  The happy couple just celebrated their 20th anniversary on April 8th and they will be going to Vegas this summer to celebrate!

James also happens to be an incredible athlete and they have two gifted daughters who have clearly inherited their parents’ athletic genes.  I asked Tandy to help me remember a few of their accomplishments:  James completed the IronMan 2009 Coeur d’Alene, Idaho and qualified 4 times for the Amateur World Championships in the sport of Duathlon. Taylor (16) swims 6 days a week including 5am practices 2 mornings a week – year round and has run several 5ks and enjoyed a 10k.   Jamie (14) is the reigning state record holder for the ½ marathon as 12 year old and her 13 year old PR is 1:36:36, all of this as she somehow manages to run cross country and track, plus swim year round.  This just goes to show how dedicated this family is to meeting their personal goals… I mean, seriously!!! 🙂

Tandy and taylor 2As a family they love just about any outdoor activity – hiking, fishing, camping and just throwing the Frisbee or football.  They enjoy white water rafting, snorkeling and hanging out at the beach, and Tandy takes the girls to Dollywood several times a year.  They run races together when they can, but have found that as a family trails are really fun!

Tandy has several favorite races including the Middle Half, which she completed in 2012 and 2013, and her first marathon, the 2015 Carmel Full.  She loves taking on races with her extended family and regularly meets up with her brothers, nephew and parents at the Expo 5k/10k a11272229_10204623296804922_1501909628_nnd Hot to Trot Thanksgiving 5k/10k in Knoxville.  Quick on her feet and a speedy opponent when she wants to be, Tandy has won several trophies at races, but balances her competitive streak well with her laid back approach to life and running.

Since she just completed her first racing Full Marathon, she is thinking about focusing on 5ks and 10ks once again and ramping up her speed work.  She plans to run another Full someday and try again for a sub 4-hour time.  She was crazy close to hitting her goal on her first attempt; so I can’t wait to cheer her on when she crushes that time in her next go around!

With keeping up with two ridiculously busy teens and ensuring Nolensville kids are eating healthy through her work as Sunset Schools Cafeteria Assistant Manager, it can be hard to find time to get out and run.  But, she and James are like a championship pro-wrestling tag-team, supporting each other from “the mat” and making sure each member of the family gets their workouts in during the week!

So, why does she keep coming back to NRC?  “For the people,” said Tandy.  “I love running with people and getting to know everyone.”  If you haven’t had the joy of running with Tandy, I hope this article has helped you get to know her a little more, too.  Congrats Tandy!  You are such a dedicated, long-time member of our crew and a perfect example of the spirit of NRC!

ROTM Speed Round
Runner of the Month
quick-fire question section

The story behind her name: My mom, Shirley, heard it in a movie.  Her name was so common that she wanted something unique for me.

Something surprising about you that no one in NRC would guess?  I went to see The Rocky Horror Picture Show and acted out several of the characters 40+ times during my high school years.  HAHA…seriously.

Favorite mid-race fuel: Honey Stinger Gel

Do you run with music? No, never.

Hobbies (when you’re not running, of course)Watching movies, reading, and I love going out to eat!


Blake Bivens

Blake Bivens trailOur male NRCer of the Month is worthy of a little recognition, but he won’t be the one to say so.  He’s unpretentious but quick-witted, perseveres in spite of challenges, plus he’s capable of rocking the Irish vocal styling’s at the end of Dreams by The Cranberries (so I’ve heard).  Like NRC, Blake Bivens is a perfect blend of serious and fun and for these reasons and more we’re happy to tell you his story!

Blake was born and raised in Gallatin, TN with a short move to Murfreesboro when he was 20 to finish college at MTSU.  Growing up, he played baseball in high school and also excelled in music.  Blake admits, “Believe it or not, I was in Performers Choir in high school and first year of college.”  Well, NRC thanks you because, you know, jazz hands make for amazing high fives!

Blake and his wife, Angie (also an NRCer) are high school sweethearts.  They started dating shortly after their junior year and have an incredible bond that is no doubt strengthened by their shared faith, friendship and of course, flagrant sense of humor; case in point, the hilarious one-liners this couple cracked us up with during the NRC Christmas Party Newlywed Game that will Bivens Family 2forever live in infamy!  “Angie’s an amazing woman, wife and mother and I couldn’t imagine my life without her,” offers Blake.  They have a busy summer planned this year complete with making an in-town move, welcoming their third child, and celebrating their 10-year anniversary this July!

They have two precocious boys, Lucas (6 in July) and Liam (3).  They love cheering on their Mom and Dad at races and while Blake is hoping to get the boys running some on trails after the baby arrives, right now they spend a lot of time at the ballpark with Lucas who’s playing baseball.  Locally, they enjoy bowling and church and when they can get away, they REALLY enjoy time at the beach soaking up the sun and beach life.

When asked about how he first became interested in running, he gives credit to Angie.  About 10 years ago he saw her challenge herself by running the Country Music Half Marathon and was inspired to begin training for his first half.

Bivens boys raceThen, about 5 years ago at the Franklin Classic, Blake discovered NRC.  He and Angie were actually living in Nolensville, but they hadn’t really seen a lot of runners in the area or heard of a group.  There were about 20 participants with NRC shirts on and he made a mental note.  Oddly, he noticed an article in the Nolensville Dispatch about NRC not long after, so following “the signs” he showed up the next Wednesday and has been an active part of the club ever since. 

You don’t have to know Angie and Blake very long to see that they actively seek out opportunities to help others.  A few years ago, through their desire to help the Nolensville Food Pantry, they organized an NRC Turkey Drive that generated huge support from the club.  Not only did the collection provide local, needy families with Thanksgiving turkeys, but also provided holiday hams and got Scott Alexander to don a turkey costume at the Boulevard Bolt!  This drive has become an annual tradition.

From 5ks to Ragnar to marathons, Blake has worked hard to realize many running accomplishments.  One of his most memorable is completing his first marathon at Rocket City in 2013 and crossing that finish line for the first time with all the support of NRC.  It was a natural high that he says lasted for weeks.

Blake has also suffered his share of injuries.  Just after the Rocket City marathon, he developed a kneecap tracking disorder.  As frustrating as the injury was, he is sort of thankful it happened.  He was forced to do more cross training, which has made him a better overall runner.  He also had a torn hamstring that technically, happened while running, albeit playing softball during the inaugural, injury plagued Fireballers softball season.

Blake Bivens trail 2But, Blake rolls with the punches.  His motivation during recovery came from setting race goals, along with the desire to get healthy for his family and get back out running with NRC.  He also found comfort and motivation from other NRCers battling injuries.   There were many hours of aqua jogging in the pool at 6am that will not soon be forgotten.  He adds, “Those badasses know who they are and I’ll be forever grateful for their encouragement and free therapy.”

When asked what keeps him coming back to NRC, Blake explains, “For me NRC is a constant.  No matter how bad your day has been or how crazy your life may be at the moment NRC will always be there.  The smiling faces, the listening ears, the voices of encouragement and of course, the trademark Scott Alexander high fives.”  And we would add, members like you, Blake, who make NRC the place to run and have fun while making a difference!  We’re glad your family is a part of the NRC family!  Congrats!

ROTM Speed Round

What is a perk about your work?
I work at Omnicare, Inc. (a Long Term Care pharmacy) and get the most satisfaction out of helping people solve problems whether it’s a customer, a responsible party or a coworker.

What is your favorite mid-race fuel?  I’m really big on Trail Wind right now.  It’s pretty awesome.

Do you run with music?  No music for me.  I secretly enjoy talking to myself.

Something surprising about you that no one in NRC would guess?  I may or may not have read all the Harry Potter books.  That’s an accomplishment right?

Hobbies (when you’re not running, of course): 
I enjoy time with the family and watching sports – anything UT, Yankees and Titans.