Kathy Yasenchak was the picture of health at last year's Freihofer's Run for Women in Albany — she set her best time record at almost 71 years old.
"She always beats me, she beat me again this year, but I think I was only a minute or two behind them," said Tonya Yasenchak, Kathy's daughter. "But just, it's almost without words."
Daughters Tonya and Tara Yasenchak have been running the Freihofer's Run for Women for the last 15 years, alongside mom Kathy, and this year was no exception.
"I started running when I was 57," Kathy said. "I used to watch my daughters and I thought, 'Why am I watching them? Let's do this as mother and daughter.'"
Kathy turns 72 next month. Last year, the trio completed the race but it was in the days following that changed things.
"Well, my dad called us up, called us each individually, and said, 'Your mom's not feeling well. It's not like her, she never gets sick. She should go to the emergency room but she won't,'" Tonya said.
Kathy thought it was the spaghetti she ate.
"A pain hit me that took me to the floor," Kathy said.
It wasn't the spaghetti. Doctors said her aortic valve had probably been leaking most of her life, but it hadn't affected her because she was so healthy.
"Then we got this text, 'Come now, it's life-threatening' and we were just shocked," Tara said.
She needed surgery immediately but the doctor's diagnosis still wasn't convincing.
"'If we can't get you in St. Peter's or Albany, we're airlifting you to Boston,'" Kathy said, recounting the doctor's diagnosis. "That's when I sort of thought something was a little amiss."
Seven hours of surgery later, her aorta was fixed. With friends from her church and family step-by-step, Kathy made her comeback on Saturday with 18 eighteen friends, plus Tara and Tonya by her side.
Kathy said different friends would come by three times a day to get her up and walking around the house. She walked, then jogged, then finally ran again. It took her until April to get back to her old self.
"Most of the people here helped her walk those first steps, as well as we did," Tonya said.
And while friends spent months cheering Kathy on, Saturday, the tables were turned.
"Seeing her joy throughout the race, I mean, she's running every mile saying 'whoohoo,' jumping, skipping," Tara said.
Kathy says every day is a party.
"It's just wonderful to celebrate life, as a gift, because life is a gift to you every day, but a lot times you don't realize it," Kathy said.