Diane recently asked about a teenager she recalled crashing on her couch for a few nights. That, she was told, was a young Lance Armstrong.

"She was like the pied piper. She has always been like a pied piper," Robert, who never pursued a running career and founded the snack company Doc Popcorn, says of his sister.

"In those days, we used to think more was better," remembers Diane. "We were all maniacs." Training would begin early in the morning with a couple of sets of hour-long swimming drills at one of the public pools, with Dave Scott's sister training Diane and the others. Then they would bike, clocking 50 to 100 miles a day up and down the foothills, followed by a seven- to ten-mile run.

Diane Israel (right) with her partner, Lindsey Hansen-Sturm.
Jim J. Narcy
Diane Israel (right) with her partner, Lindsey Hansen-Sturm.
The young Diane Israel (left) excelled at road races, but they almost destroyed her health.
Jim J. Narcy
The young Diane Israel (left) excelled at road races, but they almost destroyed her health.

Diane won the Pikes Peak Ascent trail run, competed in the famously grueling Ironman Triathlon in Hawaii and was named Colorado Sports Monthly's Athlete of the Year. In the mid-1980s, the U.S. Triathlon Series ranked her the third-best female triathlete in the country.

But she was no cover girl.

She was never chosen for the cover of the triathlon magazines, because she never had time to consider what she looked like. "I was too raw, too dirty," Diane says. "Always drooling and cursing and shitting in my pants." She was perennially injured, never resting long enough to recover — and she wasn't starting out that strong. "I think my first reaction and response was she better eat some more food," says Dave Scott. Diane was an emaciated 89 pounds, and her weakened bones suffered seventeen stress fractures. As she was too busy to eat, she thrived on seeing how light she could be, how little she needed to get by.

She could have slowed down, but there was always this gnawing fear that someone — or something — was right on her tail. "I believe what separates the good from the great is that they work through their criticisms and self-doubts, and they convince themselves that they believe they are the best," says Diane. She was never able to do that, though, beating up on herself for never being good enough, lashing out at her colleagues as she'd done to her brother. Far from the leisurely cross-training she'd first envisioned, she recalls, her triathlons ended up being "three times the obsession."

"I think she had the internal makeup to make it all the way," says Scott. "But I think the downfall about her, and also what reined her in, was the seriousness with which she went about training. I never saw her let her guard down. That is a hard thing to maintain. It can be physically and emotionally destructive. I had won Ironman a few times, I was supposed to be the hot stuff on the block — but here was this woman who was more intense than me."

Eventually, Diane remembers, "I was running on empty, driven just by fumes and beliefs and self-hatred and fear."

In 1988, that last reservoir of fuel finally gave out. Like a drug addict who can't recall the specifics of the final, world-shaking OD, Diane doesn't know which particular race did her in. All she remembers is that she was running down the Diagonal Highway in Boulder, near the end of a race, when she realized that runner after runner was passing her by, as if she were frozen in place. And she knew, without a doubt, that she would never catch up.

"I finally got it," she says. "Something was terribly, terribly wrong."


Diane's running career was over. The 28-year-old didn't need the doctors who diagnosed her with chronic fatigue and exercise bulimia to tell her that. She could feel the finality of it in every inch of her wasted body. She didn't want to wake up anymore and feel like she had to do three sports that day to be a good person. She didn't want to be chased all the time; she didn't want to chase others. And deep down, she felt that if she ever again got lost in the mania and abandonment of her racing, she wouldn't find her way back.

In the months that followed, she began to recover physically — but the emotional recovery wasn't so easy. It wasn't just the triathlons and the marathons that were over for her; she'd also lost the world that went with them. For as long as she could remember, nearly every aspect of her life had revolved around racing. Now all that was gone. "Before, when people would look at me, I would think it was because I was a great athlete," she says. "Now I thought it was because there was something wrong with me."

Among the ultra-athletes who had long been her de facto family, she felt like an outsider, an outcast. "Nobody wanted to be around me because I was questioning so many things," she says. "I was still sick, and when you are sick, it's hard for athletes to stop and really look at you. It slows them down."

Without support, how could she get well? Although Diane had seen a therapist in college, he hadn't understood her relationship with racing, telling her she simply needed to cut back. A philosophy and psychology major during her checkered college career, Diane now thought that maybe she could become the therapist she'd always wanted, one who really understood athletics and addiction.

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