Reluctantly, she agreed, opening up about her continuing struggles with food and exercise, the demons from her childhood, and speaking, for the first time, about being raped at thirteen. "It turned my life upside down, inside out," says Diane. "It stripped away the layers of who I thought I was, and the personas I have worn as a therapist, and different roles I have played in my life. It really forced me to reflect on a lot of things."

The project didn't always go smoothly. Production took much longer than expected, and the three women often didn't see eye to eye. Diane, in particular, struggled. "It was a huge process, and it was very hard for her," says Julia Anderson, assistant producer on Beauty Mark. "She's hard on herself, for sure. She can build others up but can't do it for herself."

Still, the final product was well received, winning awards at a variety of film festivals in 2008. A version designed for classrooms was purchased by the Media Education Foundation, a documentary film company. The project's success inspired Diane to make more films — starting with one that focuses on Linnér but also has personal connections. "Karin's story reflects that of my mom," she says.

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.

Thirteen years ago, Diane's mother, Joan — still beautiful and athletic, still manic-depressive — was nearly killed by a devastating stroke. "She was the last person in the world you would ever have imagined to have a stroke," says Diane.

Joan was left a shadow of her former self. Now largely paralyzed, with minimal ability to speak, she lives in a Boulder high-rise with a live-in caretaker. Diane stops by several times a week with an exercise program, shaking maracas with her mother to children's songs and helping her stand for a few minutes at a time as Joan grimaces through the pain. The work, though tiring, has helped Diane see a new, more positive side of athleticism. "My mom had a 1 percent chance of living, and she lived because she was a great athlete," she says. Watching her mother labor through the simplest of gestures now, she adds, "reminds me of the miracle of being able to move."

Diane still lives in the bungalow near Chautauqua, but she's since purchased it and turned it into a modern, rehabbed home. She shares the house with her partner, Lindsey Hansen-Sturm, a onetime competitive swimmer and triathlon competitor herself. "We met through movement," says Hansen-Sturm, who is six years younger than Diane; decades ago, Hansen-Sturm's mother ran in the New York City Marathon on the same team as Diane.

The scrappy triathlon scene that Diane helped create has also evolved, growing into a massive industry, one that "feels like a very different sport to me," Diane says. Today, Boulder is a "city of triathletes," where a single big race can draw upwards of 2,000 participants ranging from seventy-year-olds to three-year-olds competing in the "IronKid" division. When Diane competed, her triathlon equipment included a beat-up old aluminum bike and a stash of figs and avocados as energy food; nowadays, competitors spend several thousand dollars on triathlon bikes alone, not to mention hundreds more on triathlon-themed shoes, heart-rate monitors and aerodynamic outfits. As a racer, Diane was used to stripping naked out of her swimsuit and changing into her biking attire in full view of the public, not to mention taking bathroom breaks in suburban front yards. Now professional racers have crews armed with clothing changes and spray-on sunscreen that look like something out of NASCAR.

Diane is still very much connected to this scene, strange as it might seem to her — making films about athletes, writing about exercising at age 51, seeing triathletes in her classes and therapy sessions. Behind the ultra-athletic culture's modern, glitzy facade, many athletes still suffer the same demons she did.

"She is not an isolated case," says David Scott, one of the most celebrated triathletes in the world. "There are a whole handful of athletes who follow that destructive path. I have wrestled with it my entire life. I wish I could turn it off, have a moment where I could let my mind relax and feel I am not on the stopwatch."

Diane considers herself lucky to have gotten out before it was too late, before she became one more grisly statistic. But that's not to say she's completely healed. During the one race she's participated in since her collapse in 1988, the 2009 Komen Denver Race for the Cure, it didn't take long for the old, dark feelings to start creeping back. That's why there are no athletic trophies in her home; why Diane and her partner might exercise together, but make a point of never competing; why Diane maintains a Flatiron Athletic Club membership but hardly ever works up the nerve to go there.

Diane is still a racer, no doubt about it. She always seems to be going at top speed in several directions at once: teaching at Naropa, working as a therapist, making films, running a small exercise studio she co-owns with Hansen-Sturm, talking about starting an innovative new home for elders based on her experiences with her mom. "This is my mania," she says with a shrug.

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