This past weekend I went out to CO to crew my BFF at the Silver Rush 50 Mile race in Leadville, we’ve run millions of miles together training, she’s crewed and paced me - it was my chance to repay the favor and be on the “other side”. I have huge respect for my crew but this weekend that respect grew to a whole other level.
If you want to see what true grit, determination, and mental & physical strength looks like, read below – it’s worth it. I could not be more proud of my friend, my run or die, for all she endured last weekend. Her mental fortitude will be something that I will take with me and remember always.
I should note races in Leadville *start* at 10,200' elevation, and go upwards to over 12,000'. 50 miles is a beast of a distance, and in Leadville, you get elevation, altitude + insane mileage. They literally nickname it "race across the sky" for a reason.
The weeks leading up to the trip, Jaime and I reviewed the race course. Thought through time estimates, packing lists, everything:)
Race morning the alarm went off at 3:50am and it was coffee time! It was go time! Watching Jaime get ready, I had all the feels of race morning jitters. She looked calm and ready, while I was bouncing out of my chair.
We arrived at the start - the base of a giant hill you have to climb up BEFORE starting the 50 miles…snapped some pre race photos of our Edge crew...good luck hugs…and boom…they were off…
Leaving the start and watching Jaime climb up the hill, felt like dropping Gwen off at Kindergarten for the first time. OMG will she be ok? Does she have everything packed she needs? Knowing it would be hours before I see her again! SO MUCH NERVOUS ENERGY!
Julie (my crew co-captain) and I went to City on a Hill to caffeinate and fuel up for the day. I was jumping outta my skin with excitement, ready to get this crewing thing started! We made our way to Printer Boy aid station, mile 14, and the first crew pit stop. We set up our “base camp” and then the waiting game begins. I learned I’m a bad “waiter” ha ha. I could NOT wait to see Jaime at this first check point! My hands were shaking with energy while I drank my coffee.
At around 7:40am, Jaime texted “walked thru PB 739”, I got excited and then scared for a second, wait how could we have missed her?? Ha then she corrected it to “BC” for Black Cloud! Alright she was on her way! (BTW It was Jaime’s idea to time stamp texts, since there always seemed to be a delay or just no reception, that was GENIUS!) Then another text, “see ya soon, at 13.70, will need sunblock!!! And balms.” (I had packed every lube/balm/cream/spray known to man ha ha – as crew – you GOTTA be prepared!)
A little before 9am, I went down the road to get a better view of the racers coming in, “patiently” waiting for Jaime, waving the Chicago flag, and before you know it, there's JAIME!! She was "cooking pushing" (IYKYK), and RIGHT on her target pace. As I ran along side her back to base camp, she told me how good she felt, and how her HR was in a good range - YES - ALL GOOD NEWS F*UCK YA!!! We reloaded her pack, and she was off!! BOOM yes - we were efficient!! (so much time can be lost at aid stations, so efficiency is KEY especially early on in a race). She looked so strong!
Off to Stumptown, the halfway mark, and Julie and I had made it up the climb from where we could park the car (damn that was steep carrying all the gear ha), to where you could crew. Cell reception is super spotty at this race due to the fact that you are in remote mountains which made communication and tracking challenging, and made me more nervous, not knowing if I was missing texts from her and/or my texts weren’t going through back to her.
Around 10am a text came through from Jaime, "just stopped to throw up”. And then "feel like I might again". I immediately texted my coach (also my nutritionist) to see if she had any suggestions of what I should have Jaime do to try to calm her stomach, trying to pre-plan for when I'd see her again. I wrote her back, "that's ok, let it out, one foot in front of the other, I'll see you soon, you got this!"
At 10:24am I got a text from her that she had left Venir (the AS at mile 18). And now the waiting game continued to see her at the halfway mark. I was nervous, hoping her stomach would settle, knowing how awful that feeling is alone, and even worse when running. Another text came through, "threw up again ." And then another text came through, “idk what to eat, not sure how to bounce back, but now likely depleted of all things.” I wrote back, “hey it’s ok, if you are hiking, you don’t need as much. Keep on hydration. We’ll get you chips for some salt. Can you get down even a little gel?”
11:39am, “just threw up again, mile 21.16”. I responded, “ok. It’s ok. Slow down. Just little sips of water. No food til stomach ok. Been doing your salt? (my coach had asked) We are 3 away!!! Take it easy. Let tummy get back.”
And all we could do was wait. The waiting was painful, I was praying that her stomach would come back for her. Julie and I watched and waited…at this point EVERY runner was looking like OUR runners…I was constantly scanning the road in the distance, looking to pick out her run gait to see if she was coming.
I saw Jaime round the corner into the incline heading up to Stumptown, the halfway point, and I ran down to meet her, it was a little after 12:30pm. She explained how miserable she was feeling. How essentially two miles after I saw her last, her stomach had turned and she had been throwing up ever since. Every step was literally gut wrenching. She couldn't even keep water down. Her body wasn’t processing ANYTHING with the altitude sickness. We walked the painful incline up and around the aid station and made it back down to our base camp. I could tell she was hurting, my heart sank. We would hike a few steps and then she would crouch over in nausea.
Trying to triage the situation, I explained what my coach had suggested. But she was unable to keep anything down, and hadn’t been able to for hours now. She sat for a while, and we talked through any and every option to help the situation. We iced down her buff, tried ginger ale, a ginger chew, EVERYTHING. I noticed she was starting to get the chills, so I draped the Chicago flag over her legs. Jaime explained how frustrated she was, that EVERYTHING, her legs, mind, HR, EVERYTHING felt good, it was just her stomach.
This race was essentially two years in the making, with countless hours and miles of training to get to this point. I knew what was going through her head and tried to keep her positive. I kept repeating, "You have to trust there IS a high coming, you just need to ride out this low. You got this!”
Around 12:50pm, I walked with Jaime and JRho for a bit as they left the Stumptown base camp. Reminding them both how strong they are. And that they can do this! I whispered to Jaime, “It will get better. Keep digging. YOU GOT THIS!" And with a hug, she was on her way.
I won’t lie. It was so hard to watch them walk away, I was a nervous wreck. I felt helpless, I wished there was a band-aid or balm that could magically make everything better but there wasn’t.
I shot her a text, not even knowing if it would go through, but needed to send the words, hoping that if she needed a boost, reading it would help.
I made it back to the Printer Boy aid station, now mile 36, and explained to the group what was going on. Mo thankfully suggested that I go up to the top of the hill for better phone reception to try and connect with Jaime to see how things were going. Due to dead zones, and bad reception, I had missed another text around 1:40pm, “my stomach is real bad, we’ve barely made progress, at mile 25.5.” As I read her text, my eyes teared up. I knew the suffering she had been enduring, she was literally willing herself to try and keep going.
Around 3pm I gave her a call to check in, and she explained to me that a medic truck had caught up to them, and stopped to see how they were doing. The medics mentioned as nicely as they could that she didn’t look good, she was very pale, and in typical Jaime fashion (I learned later) she replied, “Are you sure it’s not the sunscreen?” (in all fairness, by this point in the race, we were slapping SPF on, there was no time for rubbing it in ha ha). She convinced the medics to let her try and climb the hill up ahead, and once again, the immediate nausea set in.
I’m so glad she had that moment, to test her body one last time, as an athlete we NEED those moments to know, a limit has been reached. You can only will yourself so long, and Jaime had willed herself 10+ miles in extreme conditions all while not being able to take in anything or keep anything down, not even water. If that isn’t badassery, I don’t know what is.
She told me she made the hard decision to stop. That the medics would get them back to the start/finish to meet back up with us. In all honesty it was the ONLY decision to make, things can get dangerous so fast at high altitude. As her friend I was so thankful and grateful to those medics who happened to come up on them, I worried she could have ended up in the hospital.
I made it back down to the aid station, and as I explained to the rest of the crew, I couldn’t help but cry, tears of knowing how damn hard that decision was to make, how frustrated she was, how long she suffered, how sad I was there was nothing I could do to truly help.
It’s brave and courageous to make the hard decision. Especially when your heart, mind, and willpower want to continue. This girl is a fighter.
Jaime you truly left it all out there, I hope you are as proud of yourself as I am of you. You inspire me to dream a little bigger, push a little harder, to truly give it everything.
It was an absolute honor to crew her race and be a part of her experience. Her grittiness out there is something I will never forget.
I can only hope I was half as good crewing as Jaime was for me!!!