Jason Lechner started running Tough Mudder in 2012, and has been addicted to it ever since. Since 2012 he has run numerous West Coast events, culminating with last year’s effort (around his 40th birthday) to run 6 events and collected his first Holy Grail. Lechner was a close friend of Jennifer Golick, and is proud to run in her memory at Tough Mudder Sacramento.
I’ve never written a blog post before. Making my first attempt under these circumstances probably won’t make it any easier. However, since Jennifer was killed, I haven’t really been able to cry. I want to, but I can’t. My wife wants me to. Being the incredible therapist that she was, Jennifer would want me to let it out so that I could heal. Since I’m probably going to break down while writing this, I guess she’d be happy.
I met Jennifer Golick a few years ago, while she was the Clinical Director of an adolescent drug treatment center for teenage boys. I was asked to join her for some lectures at a local high school, educating the students on drug and alcohol issues, and we hit it off immediately. Soon after, Jennifer hired me to come and work at that treatment center, and being the only two therapists on staff, we quickly became one another’s right and left hand. Jennifer was GOOD at her job. Beyond good. A clinic full of teenage boys will put you to the test constantly, and there wasn’t a situation that came at her that she didn’t handle with grace. Working by her side, I felt like I had to step up my own game to keep up. Not even kidding, I used to Google the definition of certain words under the table in our staff meetings just to try to follow what she was saying – she had a thing for “dollar words”. Jennifer was invited around the country to speak on issues of teen drug abuse, and a host of other subjects. Sometimes, she would accept an invite to go lecture on a subject even when it was something she felt she didn’t know very well, but by the time the lecture came around she’d knock it out of the park and people would be begging her to come speak again. Eventually, our career paths took us in different directions, but the friendship we had forged stayed strong.
Jennifer came to Tough Mudder through the event of my 40th birthday. While she had gotten involved in running events in recent years – 5ks, 10ks, half marathons – she had always looked at me like I was crazy when it came to Tough Mudder. Mudder always comes to Northern California on my birthday weekend, so for my 40th I decided that I was going to run the whole weekend, Saturday and Sunday, and Jennifer was one of the lucky friends that I dragged along with me. And when she got on the course in Sacramento, as Tahoe had been relocated, she learned why Mudder means so much to some of us. Enough so that despite intending to only join our group for Saturday’s run, she paid full price Sunday morning to go and do it again, bruised and sore from the day before.
Everyone has “their obstacle”. Maybe it’s Arctic Enema, or Electroshock, or whatever strikes a nerve for you. For Jennifer, that obstacle was Balls to the Wall. I don’t really know what it was about that obstacle – though she was afraid of heights – but she knew going into the course that it awaited her. A few of our group, myself included, went over first. I stood and watched from the far side as Jennifer climbed Balls to the Wall. She got to the top, and she froze. I don’t know what happened inside her, but I saw that something was wrong and that she was too scared to move. I raced up the backside of the wall and got my arms around her. I don’t remember what I said, or if she said anything, but I stayed up there with her until finally she got herself over the wall and down the other side. She got a few steps away from the wall, fell to her knees, and cried. And we huddled up as a team, and we held her in our arms until she was ready to continue. I’ll never know exactly what that was for her, but it was clear after that moment that something had fundamentally shifted for her.
And the very next day, she crushed that same obstacle. A new Mudder was born.
I have always hated the adjective “fierce”. “That’s fierce”, or “she’s fierce”. It has always sounded ridiculous to me. Until now.
Dr. Jennifer Golick was FIERCE. She loved fiercely – her family, her friends, and everyone she met.
Some of you know that because after a few online words in a Community page you felt like you had a new best friend. She loved her work and the people that she helped fiercely. She would never give up on anyone, as hard as the case may have been (myself included). She could engage you on any level, fiercely, whether it was discussing neurobiology or rapping Tupac lyrics. She was raising her daughter, Makena, to be as fierce and as fearless as she was. The woman who “hated” running was now running all the time, out every Sunday with her Great Dane named Hambone even in 30-degree Napa mornings, training CrossFit 3 days a week, with a personal trainer on her off day, and maybe resting one day a week. Fierce. She did two Tough Mudders last year, back to back as her introduction, and by this year she was signed up for four Mudders and Toughest South, devouring every article or training tip on Amelia Boone, Lindsay Webster, or Rea Kolbl with the same intensity with which she obtained her Doctorate. Fierce. If anyone deserves that word, it is Jennifer.
My wife and I were with Jennifer and her husband Marc in Scottsdale, Arizona two weeks ago for The Giant Race hosted by the San Francisco Giants – baseball and the Giants another thing she was fierce about. Jennifer and I ran a similar pace, so we were close to each other the first mile or two of our 10k. I was nursing a bad knee, and was taking it easy, and I started walking. She stopped and asked if I was okay, and I said, “I’m fine. Don’t wait for me. Go and run.” I knew she wanted to, and she went on to set a new PR for herself that day.
Now, I wish I hadn’t said that. I wish I would’ve said, “Walk with me.” I wish I had gone as slowly as I could, so I could have had as much time with her as possible, not knowing that was going to be the last time we’d ever be out there together. And now, about 10 days out from Sacramento Mudder, we must run without her. I ran World’s Toughest Mudder for the first time last November, and I was less scared of that than I am of our team being in Sacramento without her. But we will be there, as a team and as a family. We will face that fear with the same fierceness that Jennifer would have brought to it herself, because she’d expect nothing less of us. Of any of us. So, whether you knew her or not, take her spirit with you in whatever you do, and don’t ever let your obstacles stand in your way – on course, in love, and in life.
Jennifer – I cried. A lot. And my hands shook so bad it was hard to type. I miss you. I’m a better person because of you.
There is a fundraiser to support Jennifer’s 8 year old daughter and loving husband of 18 years.
All donations for this incredible woman will be used for her memory.