I’ve known Jesse Ellis throughout my competitive running life – like most of us, my first encounter with Jesse occurred as I was turning a particularly aesthetic corner 2/3 of the way through some race with my HR pinned at something like 180 BPM. Somehow, Jesse snapped a photo that made everything look awesome, and he was kind enough to share that photo with me after the race.
Jesse is the owner/operator of Let’s Wander Photography, and he specializes in trail running photography. He’s worked dozens of races in an official capacity, including WS100. He’s an avid runner himself, and a proud member of the Donner Party Mountain Runners. His photography is inspiring, and he’s an incredibly positive person. I’m proud to call him a friend. I peppered Jesse with a couple of questions to try and dig a little deeper…
Where are you from and where do you live now?
I was born & raised in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. I called Auburn, Ca. home for 22 years. I have lived in Phoenix, Az. for the past 3 years while my wife works for Grand Canyon University.
When did you begin running and/or long-distance running, if that applies? Why?
I have been running since Jr. High School. I ran cross country all the way through High School. I ran my first (And Only) marathon at Big Sur in 2007. My first ultra marathon was Headlands 50 Miler in 2013.
Do you race? Does racing motivate you? If not racing, what motivates you?
I have been racing for 21 years. I took several years off from racing while going to College & building my first career.
I am motivated to run from my upbringing. I had the special privilege of being raised with Jim King’s kids. For those that may not know who Jim King is, he won Western States 100 Miler 3 times and was The first sub 15 hour finisher ever! Knowing a super star in the running world gave me a special insight to the wonders that is running.
Do you have any dream races (either hoping to qualify for or get selected for)?
My dream race is Western States, my home 100 Miler. I would love to join the 1,000’s of people that have the honor of having my local 100 buckle. I also would love to adventure to UTMB’s CCC 105k. I also have ambitions to make the 12 hour USATF team.
Do you have a favorite on-trail food or nutrition strategy and favorite post-run meal or beverage?
My nutritional lifestyle is based on the Optimized Fat Metabolism OFM program. Also called, fat adaptation. This program was developed by Peter Defty of Vespa Power. In 2017 I lost my Gallbladder in emergency surgery. I used to eat fast food almost every day, as an athlete. In 2014, I was introduced to Vespa and had a good experience, but failed to change my eating habits between events. Last year I decided to give Vespa my full attention. I have found my groove with the program and seen massive improvements in my health.
I also have found that intermittent fasting is a great tool, which was one of the tools truly explained to me by Peter Defty.
Do you have a favorite recipe to share, either for pre-run fueling or post-run recovery?
My recovery is the biggest key to my success to running. I use Vespa which helps my body recover quickly. I also use Prevail CBD on aches and sores, when they appear. I am a huge advocate for Epsom Salt baths, and I find it key to balance my electrolytes and hydration all the time.
What was your favorite running experience this past year?
In the past year I have not raced very much, but I am an event photographer. My company Let’s Wander Photography shot the Franklins 200 Miler. I hiked 50 miles in 5 days with 10,000 ft of gain and loss. The experience was one of a kind. It was also the last year of the race.
I also just finished a unique training plan to build an incredible base for the rest of the year. I ran 30 Days of 10 Milers. I did this in response to the Covid-19 Pandemic. I knew I would have a lot more time to train with events being canceled. The experience was interesting because I did 27 runs completely solo or pushing my kids in the stroller at times. And only 2 of the runs were on trails. The rest were run all over my University campus, where I live.
What are your upcoming racing/adventure plans?
The only event I have left on my calendar at this point is Tahoe Rim Trail 100 Miler*. I was honored to be picked at last year’s race to represent DPMR this year! I am making the most of the Covid-19 situation and putting in some tough mental training. I lost The Canyons 100k & Ruck a Chuck 50k as great training events.
What do you do for a living? Is it hard to fit in time for training?
My photography business & being a Stay at Home Dad Monday-Friday, usually presents itself as a challenge. My wife works 60 hours a week between an internship & her full time job at the University.
My normal training routine is 5am-8am 4 days a week. Then, I shoot an event on the weekend. Around the event I get a few more miles on trails in the location I am shooting.
My Covid-19 training has been mid afternoon every day since my wife is working mostly from home.
What led you to join the DPMR?
DPMR is a community of mountain happy people, that serve, care, and share the trails in a special way. As a newer member I aim to take part in the trail community in a bigger way.
What has been your favorite DPMR experience so far?
DPMR hosted several aid stations I have passed through while racing & I finally got the opportunity to serve at Tahoe Rim Trail. I love how DPMR works to create “best experience & service” at the aid stations.
Favorite Truckee/Tahoe trail?
I am a huge fan of the Ellis Peak Trail, which is a feature in the final miles of the Tahoe 200 Miler. The views of Desolation Wilderness & the Lake are inspiring. Plus, I’m fond of the name.
Do you have a mental training technique, mantra, or similar that you rely on to combat the mentally trying times of a longer run?
As a man of faith, I have leaned into a verse from the Bible my entire life. Hebrews 12:1 “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us.”
Do you listen to audio while you run and if so, what have you been enjoying lately?
I train a lot on the treadmill or on the track, which allows for uninhibited audio time. I listen to a variety of music, which I attribute to my spin class days. I find music to enhance my cadence on long climbs in races as well. I especially enjoy music that is 145 beats per minute.
Recovery technique(s) that you swear by?
Besides being fat-adapted, I used full spectrum CBD rub and Epsom salt baths. I find that rolling out muscles and using trigger release point can free up most of my physical ailments.
Do you have a favorite piece of running gear (shoe, layer, etc.)?
I know I’m really having fun when a trail is tough enough that my Leki poles need to be used. I thoroughly enjoy Hoka One One Speedgoat series for shoes. And the most important tool in my bag is Squirrel’s Nutbutter.
What other outdoor or indoor interests do you have (outside of running)?
Besides running my energy gets spent on soccer, photography, and the occasional dance party with my kids. I lift weights 3-4 days a week usually.
Any other interesting facts about yourself you would like to share?
Though I spend 5 days a week in Phoenix, my home address, my wanderlust leaves me craving the mountains. I feel more at home when I’m racing or photographing events than I do at my home address. One day, I will be able to call the mountains home again.
*Editor’s note: TRT 100 was canceled after the interview due to Covid 19.