raising little ones in the great outdoors

Ultrarunner Dad: Interview with Ty Draney

Ultrarunner Ty Draney has had a pretty good year. In September, 2008, he won the 50 mile distance at the Grand Teton Races in record time. He followed that up with a win at the Bear 100 a few weeks later. This September he won the 100 mile distance at this year’s Grand Teton Races, setting a course record in the process. He’s also a member of the Patagonia ultrarunning team. But he won’t tell you any of this.

“Running is a way of life,” Ty says. That’a a drastic understatment.  He has been running competitively for over 20 years, including high school and college. His “free” time is spent coaching the Star Valley High School Cross Country and Track teams and as race director for El Vaquero Loco 50k/25k.  Like many successful ultra runners, Ty has a “real” job. He teaches Spanish and enjoys himself the most while spending time outside with his family.  He has been married for 12 years to the former Andrea Baxter and they have three children — Jenna and Kayli, age 10, and Noah, age 6.”

I met Ty a couple years ago when I signed up for the El Vaquero Loco. Set in the Salt River range near Ty’s home in Afton, Wyoming, the course follows a rugged trail with 9,000 feet of climbing. Luckily for me, the 25k version only has half of that. After the race, I continued to follow Ty’s blog and I was impressed with the way he was able to blend a successful ultrarunning career with his professional career and family life. One picture stood out for me – Ty in running clothes pulling his kids through the snow in a plastic sled.

This summer, while running the Wasatch Back relay, I noticed a guy who looked a little familiar walking past. It was Ty, running with a team of his high school runners. We chatted at a couple of exchanges, and he was nice enough to pick up the reflective vest that I dropped out the window as I yelled “Go Star Valley!” Our team was mightily impressed that he would make that kind of effort to give his kids such a great experience in the middle of his summer vacation. I was mightily impressed that he was confident enough to wear the blazingly wild shorts his team had given him, even if it was the middle of the night.

A month or so after this year’s Vaquero races, I ran into Ty again at a cross-country meet near our house. My daughter, Abby, was running in her first cross-country race. It was the first meet of the year, the so-called ‘mud run’ where runners navigate various obstacles including a canal swim and several passes through a mud pit. Most teams treat it as a fun kick-off to the season, and it looked more like Halloween than a sporting event. Ty’s team was no exception, but when the gun went off they were all business. His girl’s squad won the event in a flourish of sagging butterfly wings and ripped pantyhose.

A friend and I decided to run the Vaquero Loco 25k again this summer. I sat down with Ty and Andrea after all the runners had left the registration area.

Outdoor Parent: You’ve got so much stuff going on – the coaching, the racing, the family. How do you fit it all in?

Ty: I don’t know (laughter). I guess the best way to illustrate it would be, you know people say they wish there were more hours in the day? I’m really glad there’s not. There’d just be more stuff to do.

A lot of it kind of works together. The coaching part is the closest I come to getting paid to run. That gives me a couple hours after school to run, get my speedwork in. It does make it tougher to compete a little bit, especially in the spring with meets on the weekends.

I think the hardest thing is probably for Andrea because it all lumps together for her because I’m always just gone. It’s always running. We’re always having that, um, discussion. I’m recreating…

Andrea: This is personal running….

Ty: This is recreating running, this is work running. In my mind it’s pretty easy to separate that.

Andrea: For me it’s all the same. For Ty he’s got ultrarunning, cross-country, and track. He’s got every weekend, every day till six it’s running. And when he says he’s going to a race I’m like, “You were gone the last five weekends.” He says, “That was cross-country, this is ultrarunning.” Oh, that’s different, I’m still alone.

Ty: She always tells me that 10 p.m. to 7 a.m. is mine, however I want to use it. And I stick to that pretty well, especially with work and stuff I do that a lot. I get the kids to bed, put on the headlamp and get the dog and away we go. Or I’ll get up really, really early and try not to nap the rest of the day. There’s some give and take, no doubt about it.

OP: Andrea, what’s your thing? what does Ty support you in?

The Draney kids cheer on dad

The Draney kids cheer on dad

Andrea: Oh, well…

Ty: She’s headed to Europe in a couple weeks…

Andrea: And he hasn’t even complained, he’s like “Oh yeah, whatever you want, have fun.” He’s always good that when I get my time, which I don’t know is very often (Ty laughs), that he’s happy and just says go and have a fun time. And when he goes I’m not quite as enthusiastic.

OP: That sounds kind of familiar.

OP’s wife Jennie: I say “He’s going to come in the door and I’m going to walk right out.”

Andrea: Yes!

Jennie: And then he gets there and I think, “Oh, I haven’t seen you” and I don’t go.

Andrea: But a lot of mine kind of coincide with his. I love travel and photography and you can kind of take those with you on a race. And the anniversary where we went to Hardrock I’d always wanted to go to Colorado and it was lots of fun, it was beautiful so it works pretty well together.

….to be continued on Monday.

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