Triathletes uniting to help one of their own |

Triathletes uniting to help one of their own

Emma Garrard/Sierra SunJamie Whitmore wins her fourth XTERRA USA Championships in 2005.

Nobody wants to compete in next week’s XTERRA USA Championship in Incline more than five-time champion Jamie Whitmore.

But Jamie won’t be there.

I’ve had the opportunity to watch Jamie perform and compete against her ” well, sort of. Is it a “competition” when someone’s lapping you?

Seeing her break the tape in Incline in ’05 when I was an out-of-shape journalist inspired me to get back on the trails and train.

Jamie is kind, helpful, honest and approachable ” even to an upstart like me. We live in the same region and compete in the same sport; but that’s pretty much where our similarities end.

But you wouldn’t know it from the smile she gives me, and everyone she encounters ” be it for a training ride or on race day.

They say true competitors don’t have many friends. But like many stereotypes she shatters, Jamie breaks the mold on that one as well.

Perhaps the stereotype that triathletes are the best athletes in the world ” that nothing can hurt them ” is one she didn’t want to test.

But she was forced to anyway.

For the last six months the 32-year-old triathlete has been battling something much, much harder than an XTERRA course: Cancer.

Since feeling an abdominal pain in January, Jamie has undergone an operation, chemo, another operation and days upon days at UCSF Helen Diller Family Comprehensive Cancer Center fighting the disease ” fighting, fighting, fighting.

“This entire ordeal has been the hardest thing I have ever gone through,” she wrote this summer in her blog ( “Harder then the adventure race I did with Mike Vine in Mexico. Harder than the three-day mountain bike race I did with Courtney from one coast to the other in Costa Rica. The three-hour XTERRA races even pale in comparison to what I have gone through, am going through and still have to go through. It requires a new strength. One I didn’t even know I had!”

But it’s going to take more than just Jamie’s strength to get her to the finish this time.

The Whitmores are enduring the costs of medical care along with the loss of Jamie’s income from racing (believe it or not even top XTERRA pros live paycheck to paycheck, race to race).

To help support her, XTERRA athletes have organized a silent auction to benefit Jamie on Friday, Oct. 3 from 1 to 6 p.m. and Saturday, Oct. 4 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the XTERRA Village (Incline’s Village Green).

Auction items include a signed Eli Manning jersey and all the tri gear (shoes, shirts, sunglasses, shorts, jerseys, swim suits, goggles) you could hope to find.

Supporters can also pick up a ‘J-Dawg Crew’ T-shirt ” I’ll have mine on Sunday night.

Come next weekend, when we line up on the shores of Lake Tahoe, there’s no doubt Jamie will be thinking of everyone ” even if she can’t be there.

And we will be thinking of her. Her smile. Her attitude. Her spirit that never quits.

If that’s not a reason to race hard, I don’t know what is.

Emma Garrard is a photographer at the Sierra Sun. She may be reached at

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