Me: My right hip hurts like a bitch.
John: what did you do to it?
Me: nothing. The outside just burns like nerve pain. It’s done that every day for like seven years.
John: Maybe you’re making it that way? You’re always doing something so extreme to it.
Me: What do you think I should do?
John: I don’t know. You’re always so patient with me. Maybe you should pretend your right leg is me. Be kind to it.
The stranger the suggestion, the more likely I am to try it. I haven’t felt any burning or pinching in my hip for a week, for the first time in seven years. All I had to do was pretend it was something I liked.
I hate myself. I think that this has been true for as long as I can remember. Nothing I’ve done has ever felt good enough and I project the dissatisfaction onto other people because it’s easier than having a conversation with me. I’m not athletic enough for my dad, I’m not pretty enough for the boy I like, I’m not friendly enough for any of my friends.
I don’t actually have a ton of negative people in my life walking around and saying these things to me, they live in my head, and feed off my fears.
In high school, when I learned to run, I learned to love it pretty fast, even though I wasn’t. I liked killing myself in track workouts because it made me feel like living was worth it. But I was fast to hear ugly things about a should-be simple thing that made me happy.
I was too fat to be a good distance runner, but all I wanted to do was see how far I could run. It probably would have worked out fine in the end, seeing how I was a whopping 120 pounds at 5’4” but I still didn’t look the way I felt like I should.
I hated myself for that so intensely that I threw up everything I ate past 800 calories a day for most of the last two years of high school. I became bad at walking around and less good at running, but the pain of malnourishment offered it’s own fucked up euphoria, and I decided I that felt better. The lowest I weighed myself was under 100 pounds.
Nothing made me face the pain and misery that it brought me, even the things that were made just for that purpose. I remember I read one of the anecdotes in “Chicken Soup for the Teenage Soul when I was 15, and this girl talked about how she would eat so little that it was difficult for her to walk up her driveway. I was able to make it up the driveway ok, so I decided to eat less until it felt hard, and that honestly felt like the right thing to do.
I had stress fractures in my shins from this, which I would run through because I could. I went to at least three different doctors about this, and not a single one asked me if I was throwing up my food. Nobody asked me outright, so I didn’t bring it up. No one in the world is more determined than a teenage girl. Just look at the Salem Witch Trials.
I did not finish Tahoe 200, and I wasn’t even really close, even though I only had about 15% percent of the race left to finish. I just stepped off the track halfway through the last lap.
What I told people was that I don’t know why I didn’t finish, or that I was tired from all of the rhabdomyalosis symptoms, or that I didn’t want to run in the storm, or that I wasn’t having fun. All of this is bullshit and all lies.
I have one other drop that I still carry with me. In 2015, I ran the first Canyons 100k and came into Foresthill at mile 31 in second place between Magdalena Boulet and Kathy D’Onofrio. I was trashed but in my head I was planning how to get out of it and how to make up time on the up coming downhill. Even if my plan failed miserably and I hiked the rest of it, I probably would have ended up with an ok time.
What happened instead was that I became completely demoralized, and quit. I have told a lot of lies about why I quit that day too, and if I’ve told them to you, I’m sorry and now you know that I make a lot of shit up.
Running from Michigan Bluff to El Dorado Creek on the return trip back to Foresthill, I thought that I had missed the turn, and started hiking back uphill to look for a marker when I ran into Peter Fain who was running the 50k.
I asked him if I missed it, and he gave me solid directions, but told me that Michigan Bluff was in the other way, thinking I hadn’t make it there yet on the original outbound trip. This filled me with rage. When I ran into Foresthill, my boyfriend at the time was not expecting me to be any sort of fast and continued to carry a conversation with Eric Shranz for a good 15 minutes before seeing me. This also filled me with rage.
I let these feelings tell me that I didn’t belong there and I decided to go home.
This was fucking asinine. Peter Fain was redlining at 6 something pace to crush to 50k and it’s not like I had some elaborate race plan with splits that Lucas should have been attending to. But I wanted to project the hate I felt toward myself on them instead, because it was easier. I want to apologize to all of you for that.
Tahoe 200 overwhelmed me, but it had nothing to do with the beauty of the course, or the excitement of starting an impossible task. I was completely overwhelmed by the people who showed up to support me in steadfast commitment and love.
Stacie Riddle showed up unannounced and drug me up the climb to Armstrong pass, a section where I didn’t have a pacer, and what I know consider to be the hardest part of the course. She stopped some highly concerned hikers form calling search and rescue while I was taking a nap. She also had to listen to me cry real tears for too long at 9,000 feet.
Kayla Vodacek slept out near Spooner Summit so she wouldn’t miss me and rapped all of “Lose Yourself” with me also at 9,000 feet because it’s Tahoe and there’s LTE everywhere. She also had to listen to me cry real tears.
Lesley Dellamonica got recruited in the middle of the night to pace me after Heavenly and showed up happily. I got to watch her take her first ever shot of fireball. I actually can’t remember if I cried on this section but I remember that hiking up hill felt hard and I couldn’t make a fist because my hands were swollen and Lesley let me run in silence. The best people can cheer without words or sound.
Geoff Quine Had to listen to me cry real tears for about 20 miles because my back started to spasm after Tunnel Creek. Geoff Quine doesn’t hatefully endure things, though. He is just 100 % stoke. This is true down to his running mechanics: he turns his legs with gratitude freely and easily because he levitates from all of the stoke, since it’s lighter than Earth’s atmosphere (fact). He pulled traction on my legs at scheduled 15 minute intervals and witnessed probably the most classic American Ultrarunning experience Ill ever have. Scott Jurek and Luis Escobar passed us going up the powerline and Scott put his hand on my shoulder and told me I was doing a good job, right before howling at the moon.
Spike Wimmer drove around the lake and did everything that he could to keep my race from going off the rails, and kept me calm through some pretty intense pain. We have worked together, at this race, for three years and I consider his trust and friendship to be one of the most valuable things in my life.
When I was a sophomore in college I thought that I had grown wise and was a fixed person because I wasn’t throwing up my food anymore. This was fucking asinine.
When a relationship didn’t pan out exactly the way I wanted it to, I did what a lot of people would do and drank two 40s of malt liquor with a friend. After this, I think I was supposed to cry or sleep or eat French fries but I didn’t. I met up with some other friends and played two hours of pick up soccer. I wanted to lay on the hurt and I didn’t care if the victim was myself, someone else, the ball, or the field. I structured my life the way all good masochists and addicts do, with a bunch of groups of friends who don’t talk to each other so no one knows your full story and you stay protected inside of yourself. But this doesn’t protect you from the person who’s hurting you the worst, which is you.
So no one I was playing with knew how much I drank and after hour two my body gave up and my left leg hyperextended and my own body tore its own ACL and I’ve had nerve pain in my right hip which compensates for it ever since.
I’m writing this in broad daylight at the climbing gym, I’m crying even more real tears while I tell you about the next four people who helped me to see something different in the world.
You are etched in my brain and every time I run in the mountains, and sometimes even when I’m not: Jodie Wood, Naomi Plasterer, mom, and John McAnelly.
Where Geoff Quine stopped pacing me, John picked up. This is not when his work started. His work started two days earlier when he and mom saw me at every aid station possible from the start of the race. I slept in the back of his SAAB and he forced me to eat a lot of food I didn’t want to eat which is the only reason this story isn’t a tradgedy (I consider nothing about the outcome to be disappointing or sad).
John is also a mountain of skill talent when it comes to Thai massage (among many other beautiful and eccentric things). After having my back go out, 4 hours of sleep, two gourmet burgers cooked by Mike Tebbut, and some weird stretching and pounding, I was able to do 20 more miles without having to lie down again.
Those miles were all very slow. We jogged some of it, but I’m not convinced it was much faster than walking pace. I actually felt kind of ok for almost the whole time. I didn’t lose my temper with myself and neither did John, which he has only (miraculously) done once or twice outwardly.
But something else slipped away as my mind and my race lost tension. If I had been motivated to run the race for the sake of the endeavor and the adventure, this would have caused me to run faster and more easily. I felt easy, but I think I actually slowed down. The less I hurt the less I wanted to push and the feed forward cycle that usually propels my running lacked momentum. Then, a bunch of lightning started striking and sleet was pelting us in the face so we booked it back to Tahoe City.
Tahoe City was fun. Some guy was trying to get me more excited about running and eating some pizza and wouldn’t get out of my face, and john might have done something to his if Jodie and I didn’t get out of there when we did.
We made it a mile. I don’t see her often and we had a lot to talk about and I was excited to see her. But you don’t have to climb thousands of feet in the dark in a storm to maintain friendships even if that’s how you made them.
Me: I don’t want to do this anymore.
Jodie: Ok you’re going to sit here for 5 minutes and think about it.
5 MINUTES LATER
Me: I don’t want to do this anymore.
Jodie is a master of filling a space with energy, and she filled the void I’d started to feel in my heart about this race and my relationship to pain with the purest empathy and forgiveness that I wish I could wear daily around my neck.
Jodie, John, mom and I went to Pete and Peters in Tahoe City and it’s the highest amount of fun mixed with the lowest amount of regret I’ve ever experienced in a bar.
Mom and John were so happy that it was over. For a lot of the time after the race I’ve wondered if maybe I quit for them since quitting isn’t a characteristic thing for me to do. I didn’t. They had spent 3 days in the cold and shitty weather and that wasn’t enough to make me stop.
I wasn’t made to stop regretfully by any outside force. I moved forward in the race and John and mom moved around it with me, and they didn’t even give a shit if I finished or not, they just wanted to be there.
But did I?
I wasn’t even supporting myself in this race, other people had to do that for me for me to go anywhere. I just hated myself for getting rhabdo and not resting and eating enough and fucking up my race so bad and not training hard enough.
I think I understand, now, that it wasn’t about reciprocating kindness to my people by ending their sufferfest by ending my own. I just legitimately didn’t know how to love myself and mom and John led me to this in heroic silence, without criticism. I refused to hate myself to the finish line. 175 miles was enough and it was the finish.
John and I left the bar to watch Naomi finish the race. Naomi’s race was filled joy and drive in a way that mine was severely lacking and when she flew past me before Brockway, I was filled with inspiration and pride, but I didn’t have any dry spirit kindling because I cried all over it for 2 days and had nothing to set on fire.
Naomi and I have a strange relationship and we’ve been through a lot together. We have a difficult relationship sometimes because we feel the same pain and it compounds and engulfs us.
When I saw her at the finish line she sprinted through trailed by Corbin running in climbing approach shoes I gave her the biggest hug I may have ever given anybody and felt her spirit and her commitment and abandon of the restraint of all of the doubts she or anyone else had put on her, ever. That moment was pure accomplishment and love for her race and for us and our experiences and I will never forget it.
Without other people we could do anything and be anything and the stakes would be low. Especially if, like me, you didn’t care enough about yourself to live better. Other people give us a reason to kind and appreciate kindness given and show us how to be kind to ourselves.
Nothing is more important.
My right leg doesn’t hurt for the first time in 7 years.
I committed with a full heart to giving myself a break for the first time in 26.