XTERRA USA: Sharing glory with Whitmore
October 8, 2008
Jamie Whitmore once owned the XTERRA USA Championship course in Incline Village. The 2007 champion won in five of the last six years, taking everything Lake Tahoe, the Flume trail and Incline’s running trails had before cancer nearly took all she had.
This year, a noticeably thin Whitmore, bound to tubes and aided by a walker, owned the course again, providing commentary from the Village Green during Sunday’s XTERRA USA Championships. She was analyzing updates from the course and dispensing her own knowledge to the crowd of XTERRA spectators.
She held court with well-wishers and fellow athletes, all eager to see how she copes with the cancer, a disease that affects her nervous system and took her left glut muscle.
“I knew this crowd was supportive, but it really amazed and surprised me how much the XTERRA crowd supported me,” Whitmore said.
She held the tape at this year’s finish line, waiting for Canadians Mike Vine and Melanie McQuaid to win their first-ever XTERRA championships, earning them $5,000, respectively.
McQuaid didn’t even exit the finishing gate after defeating nearly 150 female athletes, instead turning and sharing a tearful embrace with Whitmore.
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“I just told her that I really missed her,” McQuaid said. “This is her race, and I couldn’t imagine how fast the time would have been if she was in it.”
Vine, who shares the hometown of Victoria, British Columbia, with McQuaid ” “This is the only time Canada will invade the US,” McQuaid said ” said Whitmore was at the front of his mind as the perennial runner-up won his first-ever XTERRA USA Championship.
“Every time I felt my energy levels ebbing, I just thought of Jamie and I knew she’d want me to win,” Vine said.
He crossed the finish line in 2 hours, 32 minutes and 38 seconds, a course record. Vine unseated three-time champion Conrad Stoltz when Stoltz lost time on the field while ascending the Flume trail toward Marlette Lake.
Many of the athletes commented on the state of the Flume, which was padded down by Saturday’s rain-snow mix, making it very fast.
“The Flume was under the fastest possible conditions,” Vine said. “I’m always so used to going slow because of the sand up there, but that wasn’t the case today.”
Vine was followed closely by Seth Wealing, who has been making his home and training in Incline since February.
“The (Flume) was completely different with the rain,” Wealing said. He said he viewed living in Incline as an advantage over last year.
“Last year I definitely wasn’t in as good of shape, and I think more than anything knowing the course helped me out,” he said.
Wealing finished nearly one minute after Vine, who had built a lead as large as 2 minutes, 10 seconds exiting the bike-run interchange at the Village Green.
In a field that also included Incline residents Eric Ronning and Ross McMahan, it was 21-year-old amateur J.P. Donovan who stood out, coming out of the 1,500-meter swim in 29th place ” ahead of 15 XTERRA professionals, male and female. Donovan, an Incline native and 2005 Incline High grad, was the 29th male amateur to cross the finish line with a time of 3:06:06.
“I felt pretty good on the swim, but I really felt the altitude,” Donovan said. He said the transition from near-sea level San Luis Obispo, Calif., where he attends college, to Tahoe’s 6,200-plus-feet was difficult. “I’d have to say the altitude really got to me on the run; I tried to finish strong but sort of died at the end.”
He said he’d have to do more sit-ups in anticipation of next year’s XTERRA to strengthen his core and avoid fatigue.
Whitmore congratulated many of the athletes as they crossed the finish line and said she is excited to re-join XTERRA as a challenged athlete after a year of intensive cancer treatments.
“I’m in a unique position now in that I’m going to be a challenged athlete with a unique disability,” Whitmore said.
She plans to begin working out as soon as possible and said swimming will be the first sport she transitions back into. Being short a glut muscle, Whitmore said she has been working with prosthesis specialists on crafting all of the artificial parts she will need to compete again.
She is also hoping XTERRA’s challenged-athlete population continues to grow once she becomes one of them.
“Look at the war, all these guys who are coming home from the military who are so messed up, I think they’ll need an outlet and I think triathlons are perfect for them, the community will really embrace them,” Whitmore said.