Interview with Amy Hatch on Entrepreneurship, Packrafting, Ultrarunning, Motherhood, and How to Balance it All

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Amy smiling through the Leadville 100,
one of the toughest trail ultramarathons
in the world. (A. Hatch)
The outdoor community is full of inspiring women. Among them, without a doubt, is Amy Hatch. As a freelance writer, small business owner, skier, ultrarunner and new mom, she's finding ways to balance her passion for entrepreneurship and the outdoors with her growing family.

"I've been in the outdoors my whole life. When I was a baby, my parents had me at the bottom of the Grand Canyon twice before I was a year old."
Amy literally grew up backpacking and playing in the backcountry. She was on skis before she could walk, which led to a lifelong passion for the sport. After picking up telemark skiing her freshman year of college in Alaska, having unparalleled access to some of the most beautiful terrain in the world took skiing to a whole new level for her. "As much as I love resorts skiing for honing in on my skills," she says, "there's just something special about being in the backcountry."

"I thought, maybe I should try a marathon! There was one coming up in two weeks, so I signed up for it. And the weekend before, I ran 28 miles just to make sure I could do it. I ran the marathon the following week, and for off the couch, it went great." (editor's note: what?!)
Amy grew up in Colorado, but didn't pick up ultrarunning until she moved to Alaska. She realized that as much fun as hiking up mountains was, running was definitely the most fun way to get back down. Between managing life in a tiny cabin and adopting a young, spunky puppy that needed to be out every day, Amy used running as a way to get both her and her dog some much needed outdoor time. She linked up with an informal group of passionate ultrarunners and joined them for multiple runs each week, becoming completely inspired by the sport and gaining confidence.

(A. Hatch)
Amy signed up for a 10k trail race on a whim one summer and after placing third, she realized running was something she could do incredibly well. Most new runners wouldn't consider signing up for a marathon with two weeks notice, but Amy isn't like most runners. Her sub-four hour marathon "off the couch" was no small feat. She quickly signed up for her first 50 mile race, and then her first 100 mile race that same year. She kept following steps up in mileage, never repeating distances she'd already done, only increasing distances.

"...You really have to love and enjoy running. Someone once looked at me and told me, running must not hurt you. I laughed and said well, if it hurt, I don’t think I would run 100 miles!"
Amy describes running as a core part of who she is. She does concede that at mile 75 of a 100 mile race, it really does hurt, but she loves it so much that it just doesn't matter. She finds the miles naturally build on themselves when the true passion and excitement to get out and run is there. Others she knows are more systematic about building up their miles, but for her, it's always been on impulse. She listens to her body, and she runs with heart.

Amy with little Grace, adventuring in Hawaii. (A. Hatch)
"I just have to remind myself that it’s one step at a time, one moment at a time, just to do it for the love of running, and the high mileage will come back."
Amy and her husband Cory live in Jackson Hole now and welcomed baby Grace to their family in March. Amy didn't run for her entire first trimester, but started again in her second trimester when she felt her body was ready. She took it slow, describing her pace as more of a waddle than a run, but found the familiar feeling of freedom she'd missed. Fatigue came more quickly than it did prior to her pregnancy, but she did what she could, even cross-country skiing in the winter. Two months after giving birth, she was out running again, working to get her cardiovasular endurance back. Miles that she never blinked an eye at seemed daunting, but Amy knows she'll be ready to run another ultra race soon.

In fact, she's already got a feat most would consider super-human planned: a rim to rim to rim run in the Grand Canyon. It's just shy of 50 miles, but the thousands of feet of elevation gain and loss is what makes the trip particularly gnarly. Not to worry, though - Amy's done it before. For her, it's not a question of whether she'll do more ultra races, it's a question of training time now that she's a new mom. But she's making it work.

In case there was any doubt,
Grace is absolutely adorable! (A.  Hatch)
"I very much had the childhood that I want Grace to have. I have this great model in my parents, and they're my first go-to people for how to make it all work."
Amy and Cory a perfect examples of how to raise an outdoorsy baby and how to balance parenting with continuing to pursue what they love. From bringing friends along on trips who are willing to watch Grace to trading childcare with other outdoorsy parents, they've both been able to continue playing outdoors as much as possible. For them, it's not a question of whether they'll continue to do things outdoors, but how. She's even picked up a few new sports as a part of that search for balance, including mountain biking. They're also focused on making her a part of the activities using some "pretty cool equipment."

Amy already notices her daughter's calmer demeanor when they make a hike a family outing. "She's fascinated by the trees swaying, looking around and taking it all in. It's really neat to watch how, even at such an early age, she thrives in the outdoors."

Amy in a packraft on the Hoback River in Wyoming.
(Forrest McCarthy)
"Packrafting parallels the draw of long distance running in that it’s a lightweight, efficient mode of travel that can take you very long distances in the backcountry in a short amount of time."
On top of being a new mom, Amy's also a new small business owner. After picking up packrafting in Alaska, where it originated and has become quite popular, she was surprised to find it was still very much a niche sport in the lower 48. Through her excitement for the sport coupled with a goal of owning her own business, Jackson Hole Packraft and Packraft Rentals Anywhere (JHP) was born.

Through JHP, Amy rents the durable, versatile boats to enthusiasts across the country. The boats weigh five pounds or less and pack down to the size of a standard backpacking tent, making them ideal for a variety of trips and outings. Whether you're looking to cross an otherwise impassable river on a backcountry excursion or sit out on a lake for an afternoon, the inflatable vessels could be exactly what you need. Amy's run her rental business for a little over a year now, and it's obvious she has big plans for the operation.

At the end of this month, I'm excited to test out the packrafts to see exactly how portable, versatile, durable and maneuverable they are! Review forthcoming, of course. Huge thanks to Amy for the interview, and for being such an inspiring outdoorsy woman! What inspires you most about Amy's story?

9 comments :

Amy Hatch said...

Katie, What a fantastic job pairing down a wide-ranging conversation! Thanks for this post. It's really flattering. I look forward to the post on packrafting too. If anyone is intersted in a packraft rental, I do nationwide packraft rentals via FedEx shipping (www.jhpackraft.com).

Cleveon said...

 

Nothing like a picture in Hawaii with a stark landscape and you wearing
a hat.


Not what most people imagine Hawaii to look like.


You have set Hawaii tourism back twenty years


Dad

Ncschenck said...

Amy is an inspiration to all of us especially since she makes it look so easy and fun. Mom

k8tlevy said...

she truly is an inspiration! I'm grateful for the opportunity to interview her :)

k8tlevy said...

 she truly is an inspiration! I'm grateful for the opportunity to interview her :)

k8tlevy said...

the rafts came yesterday, and I can't wait to test them out! I'll have a review post up about JHP as soon as I get to take them out for a spin. thanks, Amy!

Kathycartymullen said...

Wow!  What a great story...no what a great woman and amazing life she has created. I'm
wishing I were 27 again!! 

ward said...

Great interview Amy !  Can't  wait for you guys to run over to Seattle.  We miss you.

W & W

Amelia Mayer said...

Oh wow - not sure how I missed this interview before! Amy not only does it all, but she is a JOY! Got the chance to meet her and her (super duper cute) Grace in person recently. Great interview!!