Jackie Adamek embarked on her first mountain run at 21. Young and likely naive, she climbed the Bridger Range with the only goal of finishing in sight. Gearing up for the run of your life is so much more than tacking on miles to your trail shoes. It’s a commitment, unlike most, to yourself. In the head-down, grueling moments where your body shows up even when your mind simply feels it no longer can. Miles pass you by, the voices in your head silence, and you keep waiting for the pinnacle - but it doesn’t show. Until it does, boldly, as you cross the finish. It’s the small fractured moments of life that guide one to the top, through the peaks and valleys. The mental struggle of the entire pursuit, testing you each time you swiftly let one leg in front of the other. And once you’ve harnessed that strength it doesn’t leave, it amplifies and that’s just what it did for Jackie. She shares, “the runs are difficult. Most times it’s your mind, in the moment, talking you out of it. It really is about letting your body show up. You’re ready, trust that.”
Jackie's arms are delicately colored in tattoos, but there isn’t really anything too delicate about her. There is an element of toughness in Jackie that, once confronted, you want by your side, on your team, and in your circle. Her presence is known the minute she arrives, painted in neon and pastels and finished with long sandy brown hair. Unapologetically herself, without fault, every damn time.
There is truth when people say that mountains have the ability to change someone but it is actually more than that. You can’t reach peaks or summits without the ability to be malleable. They will test you, sometimes even rob you of any confidence you began with and in those moments, where you are tested, it really is about how you show up - for the outdoors and for yourself. As I sat across from Jackie, pondering all of her biggest climbs from marathons in Minnesota to Lone Peak in Big Sky, Montana it wasn’t in that moment until I realized that her biggest and proudest, yet toughest, challenge was motherhood.
“I could say that my time training for these runs and even time spent in the backcountry taught me discipline and rigidness all in one but it was actually so much more than that. I found my voice and a backbone. Had I not found those, when I did, I wouldn’t be here. With this life or my son.”
Larkin, born from wedding night bliss, rules her world. Baby beach blonde hair, blue eyes from Jackie, and a heart built as tough but as real as his parents, he’s her purpose - newfound but everlasting. A bond built in the nine months of growing a child is similar to the bond you build miles into the backcountry. Rugged without choice, exhausting yet fleeting, beautifully life-changing, and maybe the most important - soul finding.
Knowing Jackie, it is safe to say that the term soul finding may just be the best way to capture exactly who she is. Jackie has an energy that fills the entire room, silence and all, and welcomes you in as if you were meant to be there. Her heart doesn’t belong to be tamed but shared and if you’re lucky enough to witness her heart in unison with her grit, then you know what I mean. She doesn’t give up. Not on you, or anything but most importantly - not on herself.
Now, you can’t say that the vertical feet alone reinvent a person because they don’t. Jackie didn’t reach the top of the Bridgers or Lone Peak to simply cross a finish line. It’s the strength the mountains give you. The knowledge that you can do it and without fault - you do, again and again. Although the run ends, the pursuit doesn’t. You strive for more. You chase bigger, you break through when you thought you’d break down. You finally become exactly who you want to be.
As Jackie sat at my dining room table proudly reflecting, she left with one last sentiment.“If I could go back and tell my younger self anything, it would be that it does turn out and it will be ok - it may not always feel like that at the moment but remember that feeling too. More importantly though, to always continue to make the choice - to stand out, to be yourself, and to do something different.” Moving to a new place, trusting every fall you've taken, getting back up - confidently choosing yourself, accepting where you are and how you got there. We can all take something from that.
As our official launch of Alpen approaches, I can only hope to create something that women want to be a part of. I really stressed one thing from the very beginning and that was realness. Showing up as authentically as you can. Starting and finishing, the best you know-how. Getting through your worst days, to celebrate your best - and to stand proud during both. I knew this was Jackie, I've always known this to be her. From the moment you meet Jackie, you want to know her. And in fairness and full transparency, she has shown me how to authentically show up - to believe that I was meant to be where I am, as I am, and to own it.
So to you, Jackie, thank you for being the first woman of Alpen. For being you, for being a light and a force. And on a final note to my dear friend, the universe does love you very, very much.