Monique Bortoli and Jess Sims are passionate trail runners in New South Wales in Australia, I caught up with them both and chatted about how they got into it and what their exciting new group Elemental Adventures is all about. – Interview by Phil Burgess
So how did your obsession with trail running start?
Monique Bortoli: Honestly I always wanted to run ,but really didn’t have the confidence to try. Its taken a long time after a very emotional abusive relationship to even try new things, so its been very much a long healing process, My journey started by walking around the block and getting out of the house again.
Then last September a friend posted about UTA, and I had commented that I’d like to try being a trail runner. She then dared me to do the 22km. I closed my eyes said “YES” and the running obsession began. I started barely making it to the top of the street, I thought I could actually die doing this but I built up more and more each day. 1km, then 2.5km and the distance started racking up.
The obsession for me is about the freedom of running, the personal challenge taking your body to places its never been, pushing your mental limits and growing stronger.
Another 12 months later, I have now completed the Pace 22, a 30 km event and heaps of training. In 3 weeks time I take on a 70km, epic challenge. Its so far beyond what I thought I could even imagine. I’ve found friends in the middle of nowhere, I’ve seen places so magic they make your heart soar. Nearly every day I’m up waiting for the sun to rise and the adventure to begin.
Jess Sims: I wouldn’t call it an obsession. Just because we think about it 24/7, it doesn’t mean we’re obsessed.
I hated running. Growing up I was into every sport except running. I’ve always been active, I have done rowing, soccer, football and love riding my dirtbike on my free weekends.
At the start of 2017 Mon roped me in to do a Trail run. After weeks of persistent nagging (she called it constructive encouragement) and being as naive as I am, she signed me up for the UTA 22. I had no idea what to expect. After a practice run of the course, I realised how much of a crazy idea this was.
However the word quit doesn’t seem to be in my vocabulary. The scenery was stunning. The people are amazing. The encouragement that everyone gives is unbelievable. After just 6 weeks of training, we ran the comp. We finished it.
I decided at that point that we would be signing up for the 50km next year. I believe that this is where our obsession for the trails started and our mentally unstable downward spiral began.
What’s a typical running week for you?
Monique Bortoli: Well this is my week:
Monday – is usually a rest day for me, rest is really active recovery, walking, yoga, stretching.
Tuesday – is a short sharp 6-7 kms and stretching , I walk in the door from work, running gear is ready to go and I run back out,
Wednesday – is 1-2 hours on the trails early and strength PT session with my coach.
Thursday – is usually 3-4 hours on the trails
Friday – is strength and PT
Saturday – is usually on the trail by 5am and a few hours on elevation and km’s.
Sunday – at least an hour of walking or mountain biking.
I also try and throw in some yoga, stretching after every run , during Summer I will add some surfing and SUP to keep up the core work. This is my typical event lead up training
Jess Sims: I try to juggle working 8am-6pm most days, ‘mumming’ and getting my run on every week. I’m lucky my kids are old enough now to jump on their bikes and come with me. We try to go out of a night after work. Most weekends we try to get 20kms in. We do 16km night runs when we have spare time. This usually gets spread out over a 2 week period.
Daylight savings and summer plays a huge roll in our training also.
What’s your favourite runs?
Monique Bortoli: Mount Sugarloaf, the view and scenery is breathtaking, its has hills, fire trails, epic downhills, hand and knee climb outs and my fave technical single trail.
I also love my local state forest in Port Stephens, it’s home and I love my night runs there. I’m a sucker for the Blueys,(Editors note: Blue Mountains) I call it my second home.
Jess Sims: I mostly enjoy runs that let you enjoy the surrounding scenery. The Blue Mountains are one of my favourite places to go, possibly because it popped my trail running cherry. Trail runs out at Barrington Tops are also amazing.
I’ve always been a sucker for tight single trails, whether it be on my motorbike or using foot power.
I see you do night running, which I’ve been thinking about doing, any tips you’d like to share?
- Always start with a trail you know, night running can very overwhelming to begin.
- I always train with a friend or take my dog.
- Don’t use headphones and be alert in the bush
- Every run I do, I advise someone where I’m going and roughly when I expect to return
- Get yourself a good lightweight rechargeable head lamp. Its the one thing you will rely on, source , research and spend the extra $$ to get the right one
Jess Sims: To emphasize Mon’s point get a good headlamp that is rechargeable. I recently bought one from a big brand shop, the batteries died an hour into the run and I had to run the trail using Mon’s light, which was not ideal when she is possum spotting.
Needless to say I took it back and found one ten times better.
Having a running partner, how beneficial has that been?
Monique Bortoli: It’s made me more accountable. I know someone else is relying on me to show up. Some days after work, or when times are tough, kids are sick, the last thing on your mind is running. Knowing she is relying on me makes it happen and I’m always better for it
Jess Sims: She pushes me to move. On our 4am starts she makes me a cuppa and brings it into my bed to wake me up. She’ll make someone a great wife one day!! In all honesty, she is my motivation. Even if one of us can’t run that day, we still seem to call the other and chat throughout the run. Everyone needs a bestie like her to tackle the trails with. The right amount of push to keep you moving on the gnarly uphills, and the right amount of crazy to keep the conversation interesting.
So what is the group Elemental Adventures about?
Monique Bortoli: It began as a way of motivating people to get active and outside. My passion has and always will be , showing people, especially women, that parenthood, your past and your responsibilities don’t have to hinder your passion in life, whether it be adventure, running, anything you love.
If you want something, make it happen. I feel by sharing my story and my life, I may inspire at least one person to get out , get healthy and get active.
You can be in charge of your own life, we get so overwhelmed by responsibility and what we are taught is important, we forget what we love and who we are.
We feel we have to live up to expectations from so many sources, family, friends, social media. We forget we have a responsibility to ourselves
Elemental Adventures You Tube Channel showcases mine and Jess’s weird and wonderful lives, our passions, our ups and our downs. Our random shenanigans and of course my thirst for using the F bomb in every sentence I say .
It has continued to grow and we recently launched a range of buffs and arm sleeves , we will continue to design an affordable funky range of adventure gear.