Seven Questions About the Oregon Timber Trail with Jaimie Lusk

Editorial Note: Jaimie Lusk, part-time bike rider, full-time civil-servant and all-time favorite person will line up for the second annual Oregon Timber Trail Grand Depart in just a few weeks. I intended to sit down for some nitty-gritty discussion about the details of ultra-endurance preparation. What came out of our conversation was frankly far more interesting. Here are just a few examples of the mindset, training and world view that Jaimie carries with her into this event – and the world at large. Take a look below, then join us in following on this ground-breaking bikepacking race on July 10th. 

 Q. What draws you to ultra-endurance events in general and the OTT specifically

A. I got into ultra-endurance events as a place to find an altered state, one where the only decision of consequence is to keep going. There aren’t multiple balls in the air, there’s only one ball – keep going. I crave that simplicity and clarity.

I’m a mountain biker first and foremost. At the end of the day, what I most love is riding trails alone in the wilderness. As an Oregonian the Oregon Timber Trail is our crown jewel. I’ve had the map on my wall since the route was drawn up. I’ve looked at it and dreamed of riding it all for years. I work full time, so I can’t go do stretched out over days and days, I have to cram it into my schedule. So, I might as well line up and race it as fast as I can.

 Q. Is there anything you want to say about the community and organization that’s built and supported the OTT?

A. There is NO WAY I deserve to ride the OTT--over 10,000 hours of trail work have been dedicated to this route since 2017. That’s incredible!

I am immensely grateful. I am glad to have been able to contribute financially, but have not spent significant time caring for the trails. The OTTA leadership both past and present have provided clear vision, community building, trail stewardship and advocacy, making it possible for someone like me to escape into the wild on a mountain bike from one end of Oregon to the other--what a treasure. I promise to pay it forward in my work with Veterans.

Q. What parts of yourself do you confront during a big adventure like this and what do you learn about yourself?

A. The level of dependence you have to have from other people. You really can’t do this without other people’s help. Whether that’s help from Brian (Roddy, owner of Rolf Prima) with wheels, my boyfriend taking me to the starting line or all the folks who will give me support along the way.

Receiving things from others in life can be challenging. So, what can I do? I could respond with guilt, ignore it, or get grateful and pay it forward. Doing these events has helped me learned to trust that people genuinely want to help me without anything in return or feeling resentful later, to embrace that and do my best to do the same for others.

 Q. What do you do for work and how do you balance this training?

A. I am a psychologist. I work with veterans, focusing on PTSD and moral injury. My job is emotionally intense and I find the freedom and simplicity of big rides as essential to clearing the weight I otherwise find myself carrying from doing this work.

The key piece of my training is getting in big rides on the weekends. I’m thankful that I have good terrain and a truly exceptional group of humans to ride with right here in Salem, Oregon.

Q. Do you have any fears as you head into this?

A. No. Well. I could die, but I guess I'm not really afraid of that either. I think I need these things to actually touch my fear, as that's not something I encounter much in daily life. I know I could die, that things could go wrong, but it is hard for me to process that in abstraction. I need to get close to that sometimes in order to feel it as a reality.

Then again, it’s often in the middle of nowhere that I feel the safest. Most of the scariest things that happen in the world have to do with people. When I’m out in the wilderness, setting a bivy in the dark I’ll sometimes realize just how safe I feel.

Q. What is your bike set up for this ride?

A. I’ll ride my Yeti SB115. It’s maybe “too much bike” than most would want to race this, but it’s the bike I have. With the help of Astral Cycling I’ll ride a Serpentine Wheelset with a SON generator hub and a Sinewave beacon light so I won’t have to deal with so many batteries and electronics. In some races in the past I’ve wasted a lot of time with malfunctioning technology so this will really improve things for me.

Q. Do you plan to sleep during the race?

A. Only when I have to. I have a bivy, a puffy coat and puffy pants and I’ll carry a little tarp I can hang on something if it rains. I’ll lie down when I need to rest a bit or if I’m hallucinating too much to safely ride.

Q. What is your goal for this event?

A. My goal is to explore what is just beyond my perceived edges physically, emotionally, and spiritually. I will get to these edges by continuing to make the only decision of consequence: to keep going. I will ride until I am falling asleep, and I will sleep until I wake up, and then go again. When I am not present to my surroundings and my breath, I will turn my attention back to my body. 

I will follow the advice of Rainer Maria Rilke; 

Let everything happen to you

Beauty and terror

Just keep going

No feeling is final

In practical terms, I would like to put in about 100 miles a day, and I will strive for this ambitious goal, knowing I need to cooperate with internal and external factors. These races rarely go as planned, so they are an exercise in acceptance. As I learned in the USMC, "adapt and overcome." I will be proud of a ride where I stay open, aware, and engaged--courageously pushing myself while not being reckless.

 Transcribed and edited by Loren Mason-Gere

Photo 2 credit: Seth Debois