Hi, I'm Jess and I live up in Yorkshire!
I grew up in rural Canada and have been a self-proclaimed athletic adventurer for as long as I can remember.
Growing up on a farm and having property on Lake Superior, my parents instilled a love of the outdoors from an early age (I went on my first camping road trip when I was six weeks old). From dawn 'til dusk, I'd be outside all day, only coming in to eat, and then it'd be right back out until past dark.
I've always been athletic. Name a sport, I've likely tried it, and if I haven't, I will. There is something about trying new things and challenging myself that has always been a key driving force in everything I do. And while my first true love is figure skating, running and endurance sports were always right there with it. Yes, I did cross country and nordic skiing, a little bit of road running, but did I do distance on the track? Never. I hurdled. I jumped. Anything over 1500m was for the team, not for me. I even competed in throwing when I got to university. Anything to avoid going around and around and around the track.
So how did ultrarunning come into play? When I was 16, I wrote an essay on the physical and mental limitations of humans. I had come across "Ultramarathon Man" by Dean Karnazes, and when I finished reading it, I looked at my mum and said, "one day, I will do Badwater" and I was hooked.
It wasn't until I moved out to Alberta for university that I got more involved with the sport and further into the mountain scene. I attempted my first 50 miler in 2013 and it was exhilarating. Combining my love of being outside and being able to travel to such amazing places all by my own two feet is unlike anything else. I just wanted to keep running further and seeing how far I could truly push myself. I've run in so many beautiful places, but the thing that made it that much better has been the people I have met along the way and forged lifelong friendships with.
When I was diagnosed with Ulcerative Colitis, an autoimmune disease, I worried about how my life would change and how it would affect my athleticism. But it was the outdoor community that helped build the strength I needed to come back. Since then, I've committed to inspiring others with chronic illnesses that they can continue to do the things they love and find new passions by adapting to their current needs.
Thank you for all the support and keep finding ways to get those s'miles on the trail!
P.S. Mum, I am still planning on running Badwater.
What are your personal bests?
I've always been one to push myself to the physical and mental limits, no matter the sport, and while most of my PBs are currently outdated, something I am most proud of is my return to ultrarunning. Not long after my UC diagnosis in 2018, it severely impacted my fitness and I was hospitalised. I've had to completely rebuild and start everything from ground zero. Within the six months of my return to running, I had completed a half marathon, managed to take an hour off my SciaccheTrail time, ran the London Marathon, and attempted my first 100 mile race. Accomplishing that not only showed myself, but others with chronic illnesses, that as long as you adapt, you can still do anything you set your mind to! Here's hoping to update all of my PBs in 2021!
What have you been doing during lockdown?
I certainly have done a lot to curb any boredom and attempt to stay busy during lockdown. I am currently undertaking my masters in sport and exercise science and have been able to put a lot of time and work towards that. I have a love of baking and cooking and have been able to develop some new recipes and learn some of the ins and outs of food photography so I can release a cookbook I've been planning. I've also been able to put work in towards an online coaching program that has been on the back burner for a few years. I have also caught up on a lot of tv and movies that others have been recommending over the last few years!
Did COVID-19 affect many events?
I had Hardmoors 55, Ultra Trail Scotland, and Ultra Trail Stokely Creek 100 miler lined up as my key races this year, and those, along with a handful of other races and large trips planned, were cancelled or deferred until next year.
I also had the unfortunate circumstance of shielding to deal with and making a difficult decision of whether to stay in the UK or go back to Canada during lockdown.
How did you cope with training during lockdown?
I want to say I coped well with training during lockdown, but in all honesty, I struggled with having to shield. With the park, canal, and trails I live next to being busier than normal, I kept my training outside between the hours of 00:00-05:00. It was peaceful and quiet, but it was hard not being outside during the day and running with others and that eventually took its toll.
I managed to get my hands on a turbo trainer before they became a rare commodity and got into Zwifting pretty quickly. The communities I rode with have been fantastic and they brought back some of the socialisation I had been missing. I got back into a daily yoga practice, which has helped a lot with the mental stress of lockdown. My housemate also built a mini home gym, so I was able to keep up with some strength training as well.
The moment my doctor gave me the go ahead to resume outdoor activity and slowly start training with others, I have been outside almost every chance that I can get. It's been really nice to have structure and a sense of normality back in my training.
How have you found being an ambassador for XMiles?
It has been fantastic and I am super appreciative for this opportunity! Having a wide range of nutrition to choose from to see what works best for me and being able to utilise the training and recovery tools available has made a difference in my training.
While we haven't been able to do much together yet, being able to follow along with what everyone has been up to and the support I have received from fellow ambassadors and the XMiles team has been great. I look forward to continue working together!
What do you have planned for the future?
With no races planned for the rest of the year currently, I am using this time to explore my backyard and see what else the UK has to offer. There is so much to do and see without having to travel very far. I've even brushed off my tent to do some hiking and camping!
There are a few FKTs on the radar I'd like to take a crack at, so we'll see how those go!
Otherwise, I'm focusing on the future and getting myself as best prepared for a very full on 2021 season.
I've got a lot of ultras, as well as my first cycling race and triathlon on the calendar so far.
About the Author
XMiles Ambassador -