In speaking with Ty Draney over the years, his personality is one of subtlety with no inclination towards glamor. He’s funny but in a dry way that picks its own path through a story.
He works hard, very hard. If you want to watch or better yet, follow, that’s great. If not, that’s fine too.
The Independent caught up with the Star Valley High school cross-country coach after he had been doing “some pretty aggressive napping.”
He deserves it. He just had a top-10 finish in a race that is the equivalent of climbing the Tetons 15 times in a 30 hour span amid what was discussed as perhaps the most stacked international Ultramarathon field ever.
“I’m just a Spanish teacher,” he croaked over the phone. “I’m not going to beat those guys. My whole plan wasn’t to be out front. There is no pressure on me, the best is out there beating up on each other and I hoped and figured there would be a lot of carnage. My whole goal was to break 30 hours which I thought was pretty realistic for me.”
Not only was it realistic, it was slow. Draney shaved off approximately four hours from his personal best from the same race he last ran in 2007 with a time of 28 hours and 47 minutes. Good for ninth overall.
He talked about his first two entries into the Hard Rock, known as a “graduate” level Ultramarathon among those who run them.
“I was extremely overwhelmed and unprepared [in 2006], he said. “I placed fairly well but didn’t have a very good time.”
He decided to do it all again in 2007 and he made the field despite having to be selected via a lottery system where 140 masochists are chosen from a pool of more than 1,300 candidates.
“Maybe my best performance is going three for three in their lottery system,” he chuckled over the telephone line.
Draney has always been one to shift credit and shoulder blame. In a race that had a bevy of international media outlets from France, Spain, Japan, Canada and Italy as those countries all boasted some of the top runners, he again deflected praise for his ninth place finish to those around him.
“Having the right people helping me out and just having the right day,” he said of the result. “It was amazing this year to have by far the toughest field that’s ever been assembled there. In the Ultra world they talk about this being the toughest field. I had things I had to reclaim out there. I told the race director that I left pieces of my soul out on the course in 2007 so it’s taken this long to build up the interest and desire to go back.”
The man whipping Draney into a running frenzy over the course was Luke Nelson, a man Draney has paced in several races including one recently where he had to back out near the end with a tight Achilles tendon.
“He burned my barn to the ground,” Draney said metaphorically of course. “He shamed me, he begged me, he pushed me, he tricked me; he did just about everything to keep me going. At the end someone asked if we were still friends and I responded that we were afterwards but during the race we might not have been.”
The duo encountered more experiences as they went to climb a 14,000 peak known as The Handies more than 60 miles into the race in the dead of night. In a lightning storm.
“There was so much electricity in the air that our wet hair was standing on end and we decided it would be a really good idea to get down off the pass,” he said. “We ended up in the middle of the storm at the highest part of the course. You really don’t want to be climbing a mountain in the middle of a lightning storm for obvious reasons but [Luke] kept prodding me. It was a pretty surreal experience to be able to come in on that time through that place.”
At the end of the Hard Rock 100, there is a giant stone that is kissed by those that finish. After Draney puckered up he sat down and removed his shoes to experience what he had done. Readers may know the feeling of taking off their shoes after a long day, but not necessarily after directly challenging Mother Nature. He is at peace. After losing part of himself seven years ago, he is complete.
“I told [them] I think I’ve exercised the demons and I think I’m done,” he muttered. “It’s time to give somebody else a chance. I’ve been doing this long enough to know that these days don’t happen nearly as often as you’d like. The extreme conditions and remoteness of the course with the rain and the mud and the snow and this huge international field, it was a pretty unique opportunity that for all sorts of reasons it won’t be replicated. It was a perfect storm.”