Nicademus de la Rosa, trudging up a thorn-covered mountain with sub-zero headlamps on, said he would complete the Berkeley Marathon, a 100-plus mile race in Tennessee. I realized that the attempt at other participants. The race has no trail markers, an elevation difference equivalent to climbing Everest twice from sea level, and a completion rate of about one. percent.
In the early days of de la Rosa’s career as an ultramarathoner, he probably felt an overwhelming sense of worthlessness and shame for failing to complete a race. But in the Tennessee Woods in March, he saw signs of improvement.
“Instead of hitting myself and telling myself how worthless I was, I congratulated myself on what I had accomplished,” he said. “I realized at Berkeley that I had nothing to prove. I didn’t have any more demons to beat, so I was happy to finish work early and spend time with his wife.”
It was an important moment for de la Rosa, who has battled a serious mental illness that has endangered both her running career and her life.
In a sport dominated by people in their late 20s, 30s and even 40s, de la Rosa was a genius. At the age of 19, he completed Badwater, his infamous 135-mile race across California’s Death Valley in the heat of July. At 21, he ran 135 miles in minus 35 degrees Celsius in Minnesota. The following year he became the 13th finisher since Berkeley began in 1986. At 24, he finished second in the Tor des Geans, a 205-mile race through the Alps. During that 76-hour race, he didn’t sleep for two hours and hallucinated that his running partner’s intestines were hanging from his body.
De la Rosa said he always raced to win, but now realizes his motivations were more complicated. He spent much of his adolescence and adolescence in mental turmoil, and instead of seeking treatment, he basically self-medicated by following a grueling training schedule and competing in the toughest races in the world. did In 2019, the 29-year-old was diagnosed with borderline personality disorder. This disorder can lead to a sudden shift from intense sadness to deep fear to shame or joy. People with the condition often have an unstable sense of self, have difficulty holding jobs and maintaining relationships, and many, including Dela Rosa, attempt suicide.
disease Affects approximately 14 million Americans, according to the National Borderline Personality Disorder Education Alliance.that is double the number That’s about as many people with Alzheimer’s disease as there are people with schizophrenia and bipolar disorder combined.
On a Monday morning in May, Dela Rosa, 33, and his wife, Jade Beltsberg, 31, were sitting at their favorite cafe in San Luis Obispo, California, where they live. Beltsberg himself is a formidable ultramarathoner, spending his weekends running in the mountains. Their sunburned faces, tired eyes, and sluggish gait indicated that they had gone on for miles.
Over coffee and tea, the couple discussed De La Rosa’s mental illness, her sporting achievements, and the future they consider to be inextricably linked.
De la Rosa is tall and broad-shouldered, with unkempt hair and freckles that give his face a boyish look. He said his mental illness was both strength and support. “It was a superpower at a race like Berkeley, so you had to grit your teeth and ride into the storm, and the conditions were so bad that any idiot would stop,” de la Rosa said. “But this particular idiot has borderline disorder and will need verification because this win means so much to me. I will try harder than anyone else.” intend to.”
Like many people with borderline personality disorder, Dela Rosa finds it difficult to control her emotions. He described the intensity of his emotions on a scale of 1 to 10. Flipping at 7 triggers the fight-or-flight response, leading to suicidal thoughts, rage, or intense self-loathing. . Fear of abandonment and rejection are his two of his strongest triggers. While de la Rosa’s career stagnated, Bertsberg, who had never competed in a race over 10km when the couple met 10 years ago, rose to prominence. Recently, when she passed him while running, he responded by punching himself in the head. He said all this in a tone that could easily be overlooked if he wasn’t talking about self-harm.
Dr. Peter Attia, physician and author of Outlive: The Science & Art of Longevity, suggests that dopamine, endorphins, the need for distraction, the urge for self-punishment, and the thirst for self-esteem are the culprits. It is said that there is no. Here’s why some people with mental illness, addiction, and trauma are drawn to endurance sports.
Dela Rosa, who moved to San Diego with her mother after her parents divorced, agreed, saying her unhealthy relationship with running can be traced back to her teenage years. “I wasn’t very good at cross-country in high school, so I wasn’t trying to stand out. So I did the marathon and everyone was like, ‘Oh my God, I ran the marathon!'” he said. Told. Feeling worthless and struggling to find an identity, he found all of his worth in ultrarunning.
In late 2017, de la Rosa was diagnosed with a heart condition that could lead to death if left untreated. He had a successful open-heart surgery, but then developed pericarditis, an inflammation of the tissue around his heart. Unable to train or race at the level he was accustomed to, and with his running career in limbo, de la Rosa spiraled out of control. A few months after the surgery, while running in British Columbia, Beltsberg was concerned about the weather and wanted to turn back. Mr. de la Rosa became extremely angry and threatened to push his wife into the snow and off the mountain, he said. Immediately embarrassed and terrified, he searched for a cliff to jump off. Beltsberg said her husband repeatedly “cried, screamed and laughed like crazy” on the way down the mountain.
In 2019, de la Rosa shocked the ultrarunning community by posting on Instagram that she was at high risk of suicide. He shared his diagnosis and mostly stayed away from intense training and competition.
Beltsberg, now a sponsored runner and representative of Canada at the World Mountain and Trail Running Championships in June, is lean, with long, dark, wavy hair and icy arctic eyes. there is Her whole face shrinks when she smiles. Long before Dela Rosa’s heart surgery, she said, there were signs she was suffering from mental illness. When his knee injury left him unable to run, he tried to drown.
Beltsberg, who started seeing a therapist after her husband’s diagnosis, said she often plays the role of caregiver. “I’m the one who suggests the residency program and I’m the one who suggests the medication,” she said. “It’s a fight like this every time, and it’s very isolating because few people know what’s going on behind the scenes.”
Bertsberg’s perseverance and de la Rosa’s sometimes reluctant focus on his health helped. He is on mood stabilizers and has been in Dialectical Behavioral Therapy for four years. This therapy teaches people how to reframe their thoughts and actions to help them cope with their distress. De la Rosa is currently on track for a master’s degree in sports psychology at Western States University, and he and Beltsberg have built an online coaching business working with about 70 runners.
in the meantime research Most people with borderline personality disorder show improvement with treatment over time, but Dela Rosa finds no comfort in that. He is frustrated by what he feels is a slow recovery, and he notes that many people with the condition do not survive.
“Recovery for me was like sitting in front of a TV screen a foot away and watching it wide open,” de la Rosa said. “After a few years, I’ve learned to put that TV upstairs in another room in my head and turn the volume down a bit. I don’t think it will stop playing, but it’s not as loud as it used to be.”
By the time the Berkeley Marathon hit this spring, de la Rosa felt ready to run. When he decided that his race would go through a lap and fall into half of the five laps of 20+ miles required to complete the event, he felt comfortable with his decision and learned a valuable lesson. said he learned.
“At Berkley, we prepared for everything but the reason,” said de la Rosa, who was coached by Wertsberg. “20% of me was wanting to finish this race, still wanting to be in the public eye so people would care about me and not forget it. When it was fucking cold and the headlights were dim, the scenery was bad, and the food was bad, what came to my mind was that I was worth everything. is not something that must be fought, fought, fought.”
Extreme sports are always painful. Sports and wellness journalist Alex Hutchinson said no one attends an ultramarathon without expecting to test their physical limits. But Hutchinson, author of Endure: Mind, Body, and the Curiously Elastic Limits of Human Performance, believes the view that running ultramarathons is about suffering is changing.
“If you take the ‘I’m going to be a glutton if I get punished’ approach, you might finish one ultramarathon, but you’re unlikely to finish 10,” he says.
When de la Rosa started running ultramarathons in the mid-2000s, his heroes were ultrarunners who glorified mental and physical pain and saw it as a sign of strength and dedication. Dela Rosa believes he would have benefited from having a coach or mentor who taught him how to be kind to himself while being successful from the start.
As a coach, de la Rosa is an endorsement of Steve Magness’s book Do Hard Things, which focuses on how athletes can use positive self-talk when they feel uncomfortable. De la Rosa now teaches clients that self-love is necessary to build her resilience and mental strength. He tries to apply that lesson in his own training and life.
After struggling with depression and exhaustion after Barkley, de la Rosa, with Berzberg’s encouragement, accepted that he would not be able to participate in the multi-day event and the more grueling 100-mile race. For now, sponsored runner de la Rosa will continue to work on her mental health and focus on the one-day event.
Beltsberg and de la Rosa, who have 21 rescued animals, including a cat, dog, rabbit, guinea pig, rat, 35-year-old pony, and pet crow, share a moment of joy when they run together. said to be much larger. tough days. One of the funniest memories is when de la Rosa held Bertsberg’s pace in her first 100-mile race, hallucinating that the couple were watching an aid station serving pancakes.
“I’ve always admired Nick’s determination,” said Belzberg, a ballroom dancer and author. “You see it in aspects of his life, such as his work with Borderline Personality Disorder. He has a strong willingness to try anything if it helps. It shows in his running as well.” He has an amazing ability to explode during races, but is still tenacious and even finishes very strongly. ”
If you are having suicidal thoughts, call or text 988, contact the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline, or visit the link below. SpeakerOfSuicide.com/Resources For a list of additional resources, see