You asked, I answer! Part III

I had a few more questions come in for my Q&A game, so I’ll take care of them today.

Part I.

Part II.

Julie asked:

When you run on unmarked trails like the ones you search and find in your neighborhood, how do you ensure you’re safe?!

A few things:

1. I actually feel safer on an unmarked trail because there are no people around. In my experience, other people are the ones that make things dangerous. A tree isn’t going to jump up and rape me.

2. If you’re talking about being safe from injury, I feel I run the same risk getting injured anywhere. So no matter where I run I watch my step and listen to my body.

3. I have great spidey senses. I’m not sure if it’s from growing up in a rough area or from watching out for my sisters, but I seem to have a sharper sixth sense than most people. The second I feel a slight discomfort, I split. Sometimes I don’t even know if that discomfort is justified, or what to attribute it to. But I don’t stay to find out. I trust my instincts and immediately leave.

I have similar sensations around people. Sometimes I’ll meet someone new and I’ll instantly get a weird vibe. In those cases I don’t bother to get to know them. I just stay away. Sometimes the opposite happens, and I meet someone I instantly sense is amazing. And they always turn out to be. Basically, I never question my gut instincts.

Occasionally, I meet what I call “nightmare people”. It’s happened a few times where I find someone who, whenever I see them or speak to them, I’ll have a horrific nightmare that same night. It doesn’t matter how frequently or infrequently I see them – the nightmares always follow them. I don’t try to reason it – I just stay away from people like that.

4. When my spidey sense isn’t going off, I am very bad at feeling fear. The things that most people are afraid of, I’m not. And I’ve always been that way. I’m insatiably curious and I ALWAYS want to explore places I’ve never been. When faced with the unknown, I respond with excitement and eagerness instead of fear. I don’t think about what may happen and I’ve been told that I can be reckless. I’ll climb things without thinking about how to get down. I don’t think of back up plans or safety nets. I just sort of GO and DO. That’s probably not a great way to live, but it’s the way I’ve basically functioned this far.

Mike H. asked:

What does barefoot running do to the soles of your feet?  Do you go barefoot in other public places?

It seems to have strengthened and widened my feet in general. My soles aren’t tough. I try to take good care of them. I wash (obviously) and I moisturize them. I even do a bit of self-applied reflexology (basically a massage I guess). I pamper to my feet more so now that I ever did. I’m pretty proud of my soles.

I rarely go barefoot in public places. Sometimes if I’m caught without shoes in the middle of a run and I need to buy a drink, I’ll walk into a store. But I don’t intentionally enter stores without shoes. I know there are people who do that, but for me that’s not what being barefoot is about. I want to run barefoot on trails and in the forest, not walk around inside some filthy building. I also don’t like to have unnecessary confrontations. I don’t feel a need to change the world or preach about the evils of shoes. I just want to be happy, running barefoot in nature. And outside.

Shelly Robillard asked:

What is your relationship like with your dad today?

Non-existent. That has been a rough relationship throughout my life, but I always still felt affection towards my dad. Until this year.

When my baby sister started experiencing emotional and mental issues, she really needed her dad. I begged my dad to help her. All I asked was that he spend some time with her and maybe hug her or something. He promised he would move closer to help her out.

He did move. But he moved further away. And that’s what it finally dawned on me after all these years – he really doesn’t give a shit about any of us. My sister got progressively worse and became suicidal. She was admitted into hospital wards for treatment and counseling, but when she’d get released my dad would stalk her out at school and scare the shit out of her.

He had his own innovative ideas of how to “fix” her, which involved a combination of beatings and moving her to El Salvador. My sister was scared and so was I. I tried to get a restraining order against him, but I couldn’t because I wasn’t my sister’s legal guardian.

Some people felt I was overreacting in my desperation to keep my sister away from my dad, but he had done this before. When my other sister was the same age, he took her to El Salvador where she was malnourished and abused. She lost a tremendous amount of weight and it wasn’t until all her hair started falling out that he dumped her back in Canada, all alone.

I fought my dad off with everything I had while at the same time scrambling to find help for my sister. We did eventually find her a place where she could get help, but my dad wouldn’t consent to admit her there. So she lost her spot, and overdosed around the same time. It was that final action to deny her help that made me write him off.

My sister never did get help, but instead moved out to live with her friends. She’s at least still in school. I taught her not to not be afraid of my dad, and I think that’s the greatest thing I’ve ever done for her because he gets his power from instilling terror. Today my dad considers me an enemy that came between him and his daughters.

I consider my dad a cancer. He spreads and infects poison into any life he comes in contact with. I feel my only hope at a fulfilling future is to cut him off completely. I don’t feel hate towards him, but I feel a strong need to stay away from him. He’s sick and he makes everything he touches sick.

Peter King asked:

I would love to hear your story. I started following you on Twitter pretty recently and would love to catch up on what brought you to this point.

It’s a long story! I’ve compiled a point form version for you here:

  • Born in El Salvador
  • Parents immigrated to Canada illegally when I was 3
  • Lived happily until my mom died of leukemia when I was 9
  • Dad stopped caring and we grew up in neglect
  • My uncle sexually abuses me
  • Dad found “God” and become extremely protective, controlling, abusive
  • Spend my teenaged years in isolation, wasn’t allowed to have friends or participate in social activities
  • Sometimes I was locked in the closet, but one day I came home from school to find my dad kicking my baby sister in the stomach
  • Became a Canadian citizen
  • Married at age 20 to escape my dad and left the country
  • New husband was abusive and I returned to Canada alone
  • Divorced my husband and disowned by the church – my only social connection in life
  • Worked odd jobs and lived in crack house rooms to put myself through University to study something I loved – Journalism
  • Refrained from making friends in University because I was embarrassed by my poverty
  • I was constantly hungry. Ate pizza crust leftovers from the tables at my University cafeteria
  • Started dating my best friend at the time. He was married
  • Best friend left wife and we moved in together. Disowned by both our families
  • Best friend & partner suffered a deadly brain trauma in a work accident (fell on his head from 20 feet).
  • Partner was in a coma, nobody knew if he’d live or die
  • He lives, but I’m not allowed to see him (not permitted by his family)
  • Everyone tells me his accident is my fault because God is punishing him for being with someone completely and purely evil – me
  • Dropped out of school to work full time to pay his bills
  • He recovered and his parents take him home in a wheelchair. I’m not allowed to see him
  • He finds a way out and we move in together. I go back to school
  • Partner goes through full process of rehab/recovery. Takes years and he cannot work
  • Back to multiple odd jobs and poverty
  • I start running
  • I graduate with a Journalism degree
  • I study towards an additional Certificate in Magazine Publishing, and graduate
  • I get a job in my field
  • The recession hits and one year later I am laid off
  • I can’t find a job in my field. I go to nutrition school
  • I start this blog
  • I run 5ks, 10ks, halfs, and my first marathon.
  • My baby sister is hospitalized for multiple suicide attempts and one drug overdose
  • I run barefoot
  • My dad refuses to consent to get help for my sister. She moves out at 16
  • I complete my first ultra marathon
  • I graduate as a Registered Holistic Nutritionist
  • I land my first sponsorship to race an ultra in San Diego
  • I move to San Diego permanently

That was last month, so it pretty much brings us up to date. I’ll be training in California this summer, and I have some exciting prospects around that as well but it’s too early to post details.

I know you like spiritual stuff Pete, so here are some posts I think you’ll enjoy:

https://vanessaruns.com/2010/04/06/post34/

https://vanessaruns.com/2010/11/09/post158/

I noticed that you run ultras, what’s it like?

I have to confess that I’ve only run one ultra so far. I will be running my second one in September. But I still define myself as an ultra runner because I can’t imagine loving any other distance. The longer the better for me, and I’d love to work my way up to a few 100 milers.

What’s it like? For me, it almost feels like living an entire lifetime in the span of one day. You go through good times, bad times, happy times, sad times. It’s truly a journey and every race changes you.

It also makes me feel invincible. Like I can do anything. It’s an accomplishment that nobody can take away from you. Often when I go through hard experiences in life, I think back to my ultra. And I reason that if I can do THAT… I can overcome anything.

I know I’ve probably done harder things in life than run an ultra. But for me the ultra puts everything into perspective. I can use it as a measure of pain and effort and reward and fulfillment. I can weight every life experience against that one scale.