It’s one thing to feel something in your gut and know it to be true, and another to say it aloud. Stating the outcome of some inner turmoil, whether to your partner, your puppy or the mirror, is acknowledging whatever truth you’re struggling with for what it is. It’s acceptance.
I will not be running the Western States 100 this year, and although I’ve only just acknowledged that reality, I’ve known in my heart for months that toeing the line in Squaw would be a mistake. I knew in March when I saw my hair, brown and unmistakably mine, lining the shower drain. I knew in April when every other run felt like I had skipped a meal, and in May when I felt as if my ankles were chained to the ground, every step weighing more than the next.
The day before Quicksilver 100k, fatigue smacked me down, and I found myself lying on the bike path, needing to recover from a hill that lasted less than a minute, just 1.5 miles into the 5-mile jog.
My body was screaming at me for my negligence and inability to acknowledge its limitations. But fatigue is easy to chalk up to training volume or insufficient calories, so I resorted to a self-prescribed treatment of doubling down on dessert and jogging at an even slower pace.
For a while, I tried to take care of it myself. I’m young, healthy and naturally, had everything under control. Still, my health deteriorated with as much momentum as my denial. The quality of my runs suffered and finally, my priorities shifted from Western States training to simply feeling whole again.
Blood tests don’t lie- for the last several months I’ve been experiencing anemia, hypothyroidism and a laundry list of other deficiencies including all B vitamins, zinc, and protein. I was shocked. I eat well and enough and have always felt like I do a good job taking care of myself. After I expressed my concerns the doctor assured me that the results from my multiple blood tests, especially the low protein and B vitamins, indicated that it wasn’t a matter of intake, but a matter of absorption.
After ten days of treatment, things are getting measurably better every day. My hair seems to be staying where it should, and running makes me smile again. After a few weeks off of training, countless supplements, intravenous iron and B vitamins, and thyroid medication, I feel good again. I feel like Cat again.
I decided to forgo this year’s Western States when efforts to improve my health seemed futile, and I was convinced I’d never feel like myself again. However, every vanishing symptom was replaced with a sliver of hope that States might still have been in the cards and so, I was reluctant to go public. But, running States this year would be even dumber than ignoring months of fatigue. I’m able to run and even start training again! And more importantly, I’m able to really live again. Why would I risk running a 100-mile race, severely undertrained and in shaky health, when I could safely look toward the rest of the season with hope, potential and possibility? It would be stupid and would prove that I’d learned absolutely nothing from this very important lesson.
The absence of Western in my 2018 racing schedule is as heartbreaking as it is exciting. The summer and its mountain running season are just beginning, and I have not let go of my competitive ambitions. Sitting this one out creates the opportunity to make my international trail running debut and dip my shoes in the worldly competition European races are known to offer. If my health continues to progress the way it has been, my itch to race may not even take too long to scratch.
But a piece of my heart is on the Western States trail, and it’s there to stay. How I am living my life and will continue to live my life is rooted in Auburn. I hit the Placer Track in 2017, and my path pivoted. I owe so much to that race and the surrounding community, which is why it was so incredibly hard to let go and accept that sitting this one out is the only right decision. When I strip away my ego, heartache, and ambitions, I’m left with sincere gratitude.
Thank you to the community who poured ice on my back and helped me get to last years finish line. Thank you to those who support me, follow me and have made this dream possible. Thank you to the sponsors who I know, will support me through this tough decision and all of the tough decisions in the future. Thank you to those who build, protect and love the trails that we entrust our hearts. I don’t know how I got so lucky. I love this sport. I love this community.
Good luck to everyone running the 2018 Western States 100. Stay cool, start slow, thank the volunteers, and smile even when you have no reason to. Cherish every high, every low, and every step. Have the guts to get to the finish line even when you think you can’t. Take risks. And seriously, as cliche and overstated as it is, have fun.