There are the tests she chose, such as the XTERRAs that earned her USA and European championships and her pregnancy with twins. And then there are the tests that chose her, like the spindle cell sarcoma detected in early 2008, and the resulting operations that saved her life but altered it dramatically.
Jamie was once the most decorated off-road triathlete of all time, a nimble climber who would have thought nothing of Columbine. But when she was diagnosed with cancer, her doctors told her that she would probably never be able to ride a bike again. They had removed her left gluteus, leaving her not just without muscle, but without a sciatic nerve and without full facility of her left foot because of a condition called “drop foot” (paralysis or weakness of muscles that raise the foot at the ankle, often due to nerve and muscle damage).
What Jamie still has, though, is her unshakable faith, her will, her family (including her husband of 12 years, Courtney, who is also competing at Leadville this year) -- and her bike.
You competed at the Paralympic Nationals and started training for Leadville this year. How are you feeling?
I've been back on a bike for just over a year after three years battling cancer and having twins. About the same time I was accepted into Leadville, the Para-cycling road coaches contacted me and wanted to know if I was interested in going to Nationals. So in late February I started training for both a 12-mile time trial and a 100-mile mountain bike race. It has been crazy and probably not something I would recommend, but I was so excited to be back riding that I wanted to do it all.
In June I won both the time trial and the road race in category C3 at Nationals. Then I went back to the mountain bike to prep for Leadville. Besides all of that and taking care of my twins, I am looking to qualify for the 2016 Paralympics in Rio. I've always dreamed of being in a race of that magnitude. Of course, I will do a lot of mountain bike racing along the way. I would love to compete at Sea Otter and Downieville again! It has been way too long for both of those races. And mountain bike nationals, of course. I only hope they allow the physically challenged athletes to actually ride the full course and not the short track course.
Why is Leadville an important race for you? What is it about that particular challenge that motivates and inspires you?
Leadville has always been one of those races on my bucket list, one that I wanted to do when the doctors told me I may never ride a mountain bike again. I wanted to prove them wrong. I think the fact that I don't ride as fast as I used to and I don't climb as well as I used to is all the more reason to push myself in one of the hardest races around. If I can finish this race then I can show others that they can make the impossible POSSIBLE!
And it is definitely a status thing. When I finish this race I know I will have achieved something hard. Just being able to ride inspires me to make the most of it because I came close to never being able to do this again. In fact, I can never run. My disability is such that I am physically unable to run so I will ride wherever I can.
What are your goals for this race?
My first goal is to finish and I know I will. But I want to finish in less than 12 hours so I can earn a small belt buckle. I have no idea if my one leg can handle 100 miles plus the hike-a-bike sections, but I am going to push it as much as I can!
You've got two little guys who must keep you really busy. How do you balance the training side with the mom side?
My twin boys are two-and-a-half. They keep me on my toes and are full of life. They take after both their parents. They are already riding glide bikes, popping wheelies and riding some of the ladder bridges that we have around our house (I used to train on them!).
I am lucky because my dad is a huge help with the boys. He watches the boys while I ride. When he is not around I wait until my husband gets home and I ride in the evening. Sometimes I ride on the trainer while the boys nap. I do the best I can with the limited time I have. I can't wait until the boys are a little older and can actually train with me!! That would be awesome!!
What is your strategy for coping with and facing your adversities? How does working to stay physically strong help you with your challenges?
Between cancer, my disability (I have drop foot, no sciatic nerve and no glute muscle on my left side) and being an instant mom of two, I have had a lot of life changes in one year. It has been tough at times but my faith has remained strong. It is how I have been able to cope. Staying fit helps me feel better and more active. I ride a bike better than I can walk. In fact when I ride, I don't feel disabled -- until I climb a hill and only one leg can pedal. ;)