Tyler and Ellie Fox met when he was racing Summer Solstice and she was there as a spectator.
“I think that was my first weekend off-duty,” says Ellie, who spent the summer of 2017 as a nanny for Jason Schlarb. “So I decided to head over to Lake City to just spectate and climb some peaks. Tyler was a friend of a friend. I was at the finish line with my friend and Tyler came in before any of his friends did. I felt really bad for him. I invited him over and we kind of hit it off.”
Their first “real” date? That’s when Tyler paced Ellie at Ouray 100 two months later.
“We spent 20 miles running-hiking through the San Juans — it's a totally brutal race,” he says. Shortly thereafter they moved in together and now live in a van with their dog and cat.
The couple that trains together, stays together. It’s a balancing act, though as both partners have their individual goals and races.
“Fortunately we both like the same style of race, lots of mountains,” Tyler says. “We're not trying to race that much. For anything under 100 miles, we will try to do the same race. So our training schedules line up and there's not taper jealousy and race day jealousy.”
They’ve worked together to create a routine that works for both of them.
“Finding the balance has been one of the biggest troubles but we've also done a really good job,” he says. “It's definitely a learning process. People would think that it's so easy, you know marrying someone who does the same exact thing as you but then it becomes a lot harder than you would think. We’ve had to work through a lot of issues regarding that topic.”
Crediting coach Roche
In 2018, the Foxes had a great year of racing. Tyler won the Bear 100 and Devil on The Divide. Ellie also took first in the Devil race and Cloudsplitter. They credit their coach, David Roche.
“Most of my success last year can be like directly attributed to his training program and his endless support and willingness to really work with his athletes on a one-to-one basis,” Tyler says. “It is really incredible what he's got going on.”
Ellie recalls one of the first lessons she learned from Roche. “The first thing he said to me was, ‘Let's not be afraid of failure.’ That was a super hard mindset for me to get into because I'm really used to just going out and hanging out in the middle of the pack, having fun and smiling and eating everything at aid stations.”
Working with Roche was the catalyst for Ellie to dream big and push her limits.
“After that happened it was kind of like, ‘Wow, I could actually be competitive in the sport if I wanted to,’” she recalls thinking. “That was cool. The highlight of the year was definitely Devil on The Divide.”
Some work, all play
Tyler started training with David and Megan Roche’s Some Work, All Play (SWAP) about a year ago, and Ellie followed last July.
“I made Tyler start coaching with David because he was putting in monster mileage and I just didn't think it was good for him,” Ellie recalls. “I think he needed someone to tell him what to do.”
Tyler says Roche has helped him improve “a hundred percent” and ticks off examples. Instilling confidence. Reducing mileage. Doing quality runs.
“He just believes in his athletes,” Tyler says. “He gives you more confidence than you probably give yourself. It’s a lot of easy miles, but there are strides — short hard efforts not meant to be a workout necessarily, but just to get you used to running fast. Those have been incredibly helpful.”
And it’s not just the training, the recovery is an important aspect.
“David has made us actually take time to recover because we were very guilty of the same thing which would be to race and the next day we'd be putting in big miles again,” Tyler says. “Whereas now, David has really emphasized our entire system. Not just our legs. You need to respect your body more and take the time off that it deserves.”
Both runners have also sharply cut back on their mileage.
“When I first started working with David, it was more of an offseason anyway,” says Tyler, who went from 110-mile peak weeks to 70 or 80 miles. “I remember being shocked. It's like, ‘Oh man, I just signed up for a race and now I don't get to run anymore. Not sure I want to do that.’ But then over time the mileage increases.”
He admits that was a big issue for him previously. “I didn't really know when to shut it off, especially during the off season.”
They have not only learned from Roche, Tyler and Ellie have also been educated by each other. I asked each of them to tell me one running lesson or tip they learned from their partner.
Tyler: “During long and terrible races she always has a smile on her face. It makes you smile even if you're crewing. I remember one race when it was absolutely pouring out and we're all miserable and cold, waiting for her. She comes in with this huge grin on her face. I remember thinking I have pretty much nothing to complain about. I'm dry and warm. Just the ability to smile through really terrible circumstances is awfully inspirational.”
Ellie: “Tyler taught me that sometimes walking and hiking hurts just as much as running does so you should probably just run and get it over with. I used to be a really big proponent of the ‘hike it out’ mentality. Doing training runs with Tyler has been very enlightening in the fact that sometimes running actually feels better. And so you should probably at least try it before you swear it off.”
Sharing the knowledge
The Foxes credit Roche for not only the training he provides but steering them on the path to coaching others. They are looking to expand their client base.
“I think that coaching is really enjoyable,” she says. “David turned us on to it and we’re grateful for that. It's really fun getting to experience other people's running. You like to think you're making a difference and sometimes the results show that. It's really gratifying to see that through another person's running.”
As another year cranks up — and elite runners circle dates on the calendar, Tyler and Ellie plot out their races and work with their clients, their main source of income, as they plan for owning their first home.
“It's a super awesome position that we're in,” he says. “We probably put in six-hour days every day of the week. But other than that, we have a lot of time to run. Right now we're actually ‘renovating’ our kitchen in the van. We have a lot of time for being young, having projects and living the dream. We pinch ourselves frequently to make sure it's actually happening. It’s hard to complain. We have a really good setup right now.”
Name: Ellie Fox
Hometown: Boulder, Colo.
Number of years running: Three years
How many miles a week do you typically run: 60-90 miles
Point of pride: Can eat unlimited potatoes. All of them.
Favorite race distance: 100K to 100 miles
Favorite pre-race or training food/drink: Cereal for breakfast, always! And when I'm out on the trail, I LOVE Muir Energy!
Favorite piece of gear: When there's enough vert to justify them, my favorite piece(s) of gear are my Black Diamond trekking poles!
Favorite or inspirational song to run to: Shake it Off (T. Swift, duh)
Favorite or inspirational mantra/phrase: "It never always gets worse"
Where can other runners connect or follow you:
• Instagram (which is really just photos of mountains and Roo, our dog): ellieb.runs
• Website (and occasional blog): wereprobablyrunning.com
Name: Tyler Fox
Number of years running:Three years (ran for conditioning very occasionally beforehand)
How many miles a week do you typically run: 65-90
Point of pride: I put mustard on almost everything, and subsequently, almost never cramp
Favorite race distance: 50K to 50 miles
Favorite pre-race or training food/drink: I really like nut butters; 50 percent of my calories may come in the form of nut butters.
Favorite piece of gear: NAKED belt for running storage. This is an awesome piece of gear for a 5-mile or 100-mile run.
Favorite or inspirational song to run to: Dani California - Red Hot Chili Peppers
Favorite or inspirational mantra/phrase: Don't have a phrase I turn to, but the first thing that came to mind was, "If you can dodge a wrench, you can dodge a ball" — not motivational, but humor can bring you out of a low spot during a race as well.
Where can other runners connect or follow you:
• Instagram: shuffling_for_snacks