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Jim wrote the following letter to encourage fellow cancer patients to sign his racing suit leading up to the American Birkebeiner Ski Race in Hayward, Wisconsin in February 2003. Gear West, a local ski, run and bike shop located in Long Lake, Minnesota, donated the suit for the race. Numerous cancer patients and other supporters signed the suit and were "taken along for the ride" as Jim successfully completed his sixth Birkie.

Please Sign My Suit!

February 14, 2003

Dear Friends:

Jim at 1998 BirkieI have spent my life aggressively pursuing my dreams and goals. Next Saturday, February 22nd, I hope to continue this by skiing my sixth 51K American Birkebeiner Cross Country Ski Race from Cable to Hayward, WI. Like you, I am presently undergoing chemotherapy at Minnesota Oncology Hematology. But I will not let my life be dominated by this disease.

Signing the Birkie Racing SuitGear West, a local ski, run and bike shop, donated this suit for this race so I could carry the names of my fellow patients battling cancer as I do battle with the challenging hills of the "Birkie". My hope is to inspire you to keep your dreams, to fight and to have faith that better days are ahead.

I was diagnosed with a low-grade brain tumor in 1998. Thanks to the care of numerous skilled doctors, the love of family and friends, and the grace of our Lord, my recovery has been strong. I began a new round of my battle in January 2003 and anticipated six months of chemotherapy. But I am determined to continue living my life as normally as possible, which includes training and competing.

City of Lakes Loppet 2003I have been a competitive athlete for 30 years. I swam and played Water Polo in college. I am a veteran of eight running marathons, 11 ski marathons, and nearly 100 triathlons and shorter running races. I swam under the Golden Gate Bridge twice and swam from Alcatraz to San Francisco on my way to being a top Thumbs Up!amateur at the 1989 Alcatraz Challenge Triathlon. Last year I biked 125 miles over a weekend with Lance Armstrong, and in the process raised $22,000 for his foundation. I intend to be by his side again next fall.

My current battle is as difficult as anything I have ever faced, but I will persevere. I am committed to being a survivor, not a victim.

Jim Owens
jimswim@mn.rr.com