Five Minutes With... Jaimi Wilson
18 November, 2021
Jaimi Wilson is a relative newcomer to ultra-racing but is no stranger to long solo kilometres. Her third place at GBDURO21 took the dotwatching world by storm and she's becoming well-known for her dogged determination.
Congratulations on your 3rd place finish at GBDURO! How did the race go compared to your expectations?
To be honest I didn’t really have any expectations. The GBDURO was only my second ultra-race and I didn’t have any idea how I would measure up against others. I know myself and what I’m capable of pretty well now but I’m new to the racing scene so had little idea of how I’d fair. Going into the event my goal was to finish and as the race progressed so did my goals. My performance in the event is just a reflection of my mindset, planning and the culmination of training and discipline. This is where the value lies. Had I performed in exactly the same way but came last, I would have still had the exact same experiences and learned the same lessons, the only difference would’ve been the result, so it’s quite important not to get caught up in external measures of success.
To many in the bikepacking world, yours may be a new name. But you’re no stranger to long unsupported bike rides. Can you tell us more about your 3 year round the world tour and your motivations behind it?
I think of it as the best years of my life. The people I met and the cultures I experienced were life-changing. I got to see the world through other people’s eyes and got a unique glimpse into the lives of people born into a different world to me. I thought there had to be more to life than how we perceive and experience it in the UK. I wanted to see other cultures, meet other people. It sounds trite, of course, but I wanted to see the world. I found the mundane reality of ordinary life was making it fly by…I was heading out of my twenties and wondering where the years had gone. Every day we choose how we want to spend our lives and I think that’s worth reflecting on every now and then.
You’ve spent many a kilometre travelling on your own steam in remote areas. How did those experiences help you for GBDURO?
Actually, I think the experience of riding solo around the world is an important tool for me both mentally and physically. Firstly, I rode a steel framed fully loaded 60 kilo Surly 60,000 km over 5,000 metre mountain passes, if there’s one thing I’m conditioned to do it’s to just keep riding, not particularly quickly either. I can draw on hard times to get me through the lows of the races, I think every challenge and problem you overcome you build resilience and confidence and that enables you to face greater challenges. The horizon is constantly moving. These things don’t happen in a vacuum, there’s no shortcut for that experience. Being comfortable spending so much time alone is also something I gained from the round the world trip which I think is a struggle for a lot of people new to ultra-cycling.
Do you have any particular coping strategies for when the going gets tough?
Again, I think the prior experience is my greatest tool in coping with difficult situations. When times are tough, I can always draw on a previous experience and tell myself if you can do that you can deal with this. Being accountable is a great motivator for me, no excuses, no one else to rely on. Ultimately though I have chosen to be there and when it’s tough I can’t blame anyone else for my suffering. Discomfort really focuses your mind and you have to find a strategy to think your way through those times. Whether it’s getting lost in your surroundings, focusing on the task at hand or letting your mind wander to memories or broader thoughts. The mind's a powerful tool and anyways, you have to remember that the suffering is temporary.
You’ve recently taken on the role as instructor for the Lake District’s branch of the women’s led off-road curriculum: School of Rocks. What was your motivation behind taking on this role?
I’ve known El for a while and thought it was such a cool concept. The idea is to lower the barriers for everyone so that they feel confident and welcomed into a community that supports and shares the love of off-road riding. If I can be a small part of a community that is a welcoming space for people getting into off-road riding then that’s pretty cool. Riding has given me a lot and if I can be a facilitator of that for someone else then that’s a good vibe.
As a bonafide hard-as-nails Northerner, what is your advice for getting outdoors and on the bike as we head into winter?
Oh, it’s not easy but it’s usually worth it. In all honesty, in previous years I smashed through all winter riding 20-25 hours per week in all conditions, but I had a little realignment of some goals last year and incorporated more strength training, indoor turbo sessions and fell runs and I really benefitted from that. I think the only thing smashing through winter does is build resilience but I think you pay for that with feeling tired and a-bit run down coming into spring season. Having said that it’s still important to get out and do some winter riding. I’ll still head out 2-3 times per week in the winter. What keeps me motivated for that is having goals and a focus come spring. Something to work towards is my biggest factor for motivation. It’s also well worth investing in some decent winter kit.
What’s next for you?
I’ve got my eye on 3 or 4 races for next year but the applications aren’t open yet so no solid plan. Also hoping to have a go at an FKT and just continue to spend time on my bike, enjoying the feeling that comes with that!