Courtney Dauwalter, 2019 Madeira Island Ultra-Trail Champion, Interview

Courtney Dauwalter was dominant in her win of the 2019 Madeira Island Ultra-Trail. In the following interview, Courtney talks about how she felt on the course’s variable terrain and technicality, what it was like to run across the spine of Madeira Island, how it felt to finally cross the line as the champion, and the custom-designed shorts she wore.

For more on how the race played out, read our MIUT results article.

[Editor’s Note:  Thanks to Clare/@farrowpaceism on Twitter for her word ‘shortneys,’ to which we refer in this video. :-) ]

Courtney Dauwalter, 2019 Madeira Island Ultra-Trail Champion, Interview Transcript

iRunFar: Meghan Hicks of iRunFar. I’m with Courtney Dauwalter. She’s the champion of the 2019 Madeira Island Ultra-Trail. Hi.

Courtney Dauwalter: Hi.

iRunFar: What are you doing here?

Dauwalter: Just hanging out.

iRunFar: Right. Congratulations on your win yesterday.

Dauwalter: Thank you. Thanks for being out there.

iRunFar: You’re welcome. It was fun. How’s it feeling right now, about a day after your victory?

Dauwalter: Good, yeah. It feels like almost a lifetime ago.

iRunFar: That was just yesterday.

Dauwalter: Yeah. A lot of things have happened but also nothing. Just getting moving again. Yeah.

iRunFar: Yeah, that’s my next question. How is everything feeling today?

Dauwalter: Pretty good once I’m moving. If I’m sitting too long then everything–yeah, forget about it.

iRunFar: Just stay moving.

Dauwalter: Yeah. Stay moving.

iRunFar: Seventy-one miles and what was that, like 24,000 feet of climbing? Something like that?

Dauwalter: A lot. Yeah.

iRunFar: You’ve got to feel that a little.

Dauwalter: Yeah. Yeah. Walking down stairs and down little hills, I got to just go straight leg.

iRunFar: [laughs] Some peg-leg travel today?

Dauwalter: Yeah.

iRunFar: But I think you’re moving pretty well overall. I saw you take those steps to go up to the award ceremony like a champ.

Dauwalter: Thank you.

iRunFar: Like the champ that you are.

Dauwalter: I was like, pull it together. [laughs]

iRunFar: [laughs] Must. Complete. Stairs. Alright, so how did yesterday’s race go for you? Let’s talk first about the night start. Firing off from that town at midnight and up into the hills.

Dauwalter: Yeah that was cool. I kind of like the midnight start.

iRunFar: Do you?

Dauwalter: Yeah it was fun. It was like, I don’t know, everything was a mystery then, the whole first part, and you’re just kind of living in this bubble of light and kind of getting a feel for the trails. But then when the sun rises, I was just blown away by, this is what we’ve been doing this whole time? That’s so cool.

iRunFar: [laughs] “I didn’t know.”

Dauwalter: Yeah. And then we had great weather so the views were, you know, we got way up high and could see in every direction so it was cool.

iRunFar: On that highest traverse between the two 1,800-meter peaks, you were actually above the clouds.

Dauwalter: Yeah.

iRunFar: It was like an ocean of clouds below you.

Dauwalter: So cool. Yeah.

iRunFar: I was noticing that, but I wasn’t running a super-technical trail. Could you appreciate the view a little bit?

Dauwalter: Yeah, I had to consciously stop or slow so I could appreciate the view, because I did try a few times to appreciate it while running and that didn’t go well.

iRunFar: [laughs] I feel like a lot of people appreciated the view a little too much while running yesterday.

Dauwalter: Yeah.

iRunFar: There was a lot of…

Dauwalter: A lot of bloodshed.

iRunFar: Blood and bruises at the finish line.

Dauwalter: Yeah.

iRunFar: Everybody left a piece of themselves out on the trail.

Dauwalter: I feel like it’s required.

iRunFar: So after about five kilometers in the race, is that when you–because at the bridge crossing at 5.5k Mimmi [Kotka] was actually leading the race. But then the next checkpoint you were in the lead by a couple of minutes. When did you take the ultimate lead there?

Dauwalter: Yeah, when that first big hill came. So you do the little up little down for the first 5k and then it starts in on the long grind, and there is when I did, but I thought I would see everyone again because all the women were way stronger on downhills. So I was like, my climbing legs feel good, so let’s take advantage of that. And they’ll just keep catching up on the downhills.

iRunFar: Yeah, it was interesting. I felt the first couple of big climbs and descents it was a bit of an accordion. You would stretch it out on the climbing and sort of the flatter stuff up high for a little bit, and they would kind of draw things back in on the downhill.

Dauwalter: Yeah. I felt like–I didn’t have a strategy going in at first, surprising. [laughs]

iRunFar: [laughs] Not at all surprised.

Dauwalter: That first 5k you get a little uphill and a little downhill. During the first 5k I was like alright, the climbing legs are there. The descending, I’m losing these women by huge amounts in a short amount of time. That wasn’t even a very technical downhill.

iRunFar: The first, the baby one?

Dauwalter: The first one yeah.

iRunFar: Okay.

Dauwalter: After that I was like, I can group up with them on uphills but get left in the dust every single downhill, or I could play the front side of it and then let them catch me on downhills.

iRunFar: Got it.

Dauwalter: Just because they’re way faster. So I decided to go that route.

iRunFar: And so that’s what happened, I think it was on the first two major climbs and descents, they got pretty close to you again, coming down the first one. And then you stretched it out on the second long climb, and then did they actually see you again at the bottom of the second one, or did they not catch you there?

Dauwalter: I never actually saw them.

iRunFar: That’s what I thought.

Dauwalter: They might have been able to see me.

iRunFar: I think that they drew it back in but [they were] two minutes [back] at the bottom of the second descent.

Dauwalter: Okay. Yeah. I kept expecting them.

iRunFar: [laughs] Are you like, “Any time, they’ll be there.”

Dauwalter: Yeah.

iRunFar: And then after that like, either you sort of figured out the descending, or…

Dauwalter: That wasn’t it. [laughs]

iRunFar: Okay. Or their downhill pace on the next descents slowed after that, because then you were just picking up minutes on everything.

Dauwalter: Yeah, I’m not sure. Then after a couple of those, they hadn’t caught me yet so I was like, what if you can make it to the high point without them catching you at all?

iRunFar: Uh huh.

Dauwalter: Maybe then you have a chance to hang on. Because the end of the race is fairly downhill. So knowing what was back there I was like, I’ve got to have a gap.

iRunFar: [laughs] Like a big gap.

Dauwalter: Yeah. If I want to hold on for the last what, 15k?

iRunFar: Yeah.

Dauwalter: Whatever the last downhill is. So then I was trying to buy as many minutes as I could. [laughs]

iRunFar: About 20 people asked me before the race, “How is Courtney going to do on the super-technical stuff?” And I was on Pico Areeiro which is at the end of that super-technical, high traverse. I could see you coming for over a half mile, and it looked like it was a game to you. You were dancing around these rocks and running down these stairs.

Dauwalter: Are you sure that was the same person? [laughs]

iRunFar: It was definitely you. Were you having fun? It looked to me like you were kind of playing a game.

Dauwalter: I was having a lot of fun out there.

iRunFar: Okay.

Dauwalter: The course was so cool. But it was hard. The best kind of game.

iRunFar: On the long descent from Pico Areeiro, you go all the way down to Rio–I forget what it’s called. Ribeira Brava or something like that. [Editor’s Note: It’s Ribeira Frio.]

Dauwalter: Right after that. Yeah.

iRunFar: And then you make one last climb and it’s like, bam, down, down, down, down, down.

Dauwalter: Yeah.

iRunFar: There was one runner who was gaining on you for some time.

Dauwalter: Yeah.

iRunFar: Katie Schide.

Dauwalter: Yeah. Amazing.

iRunFar: She was pushing the downhill pretty hard.

Dauwalter: Yeah well, and she was one of the ones that at the very beginning who had blown past me.

iRunFar: Okay.

Dauwalter: So I knew she was a strong downhill runner. And my husband Kevin was meeting me at the aid stations where he could crew. And at one point I had 24 minutes and then after a little downhill stretch suddenly it was 10 minutes, or whatever, 12 minutes. I was like, “Oh no.”

iRunFar: And so did knowing that just light a fire in your pants to push it as hard as you could? Or what was happening then?

Dauwalter: Yeah well, it was like, we’re at least going to try.

iRunFar: We? Who’s we?

Dauwalter: These legs. [laughs] Yeah. You have to try. I wasn’t going to go down without giving it everything I had. But in the last 10 miles I just assumed she was…

iRunFar: Right there.

Dauwalter: One hundred meters back, and uh, there weren’t openings really that you could get a glimpse to see until the very end where it’s like, 300 meters maybe from the finish and then I could look and see up this hill and she wasn’t there and I was like, okay, I don’t have to make my heart explode today.

iRunFar: The ghost of Katie Schide was definitely chasing you in the last kilometers.

Dauwalter: Yeah. Oh yeah, for sure.

iRunFar: Right on. How did it feel to cross the finish line? You’re winning so many races these days. Winning, has it started to become a usual thing?

Dauwalter: [laughs] No.

iRunFar: What are the feelings that go through your head when you cross the finish line?

Dauwalter: It was cool. It was cool to be here and explore a brand new place. To have my husband along to be a part of it all and crew and just enjoy this island together. And the community here was really great. The volunteers and aid stations and all the little towns just full of people cheering, it was really cool. So it was fun to finish on this beach in this beautiful, little village on an island. That’s crazy.

iRunFar: It is crazy.

Dauwalter: It’s so cool.

iRunFar: Well, okay, I was going to maybe not ask this but I feel like it’s just going to come out.

Dauwalter: I feel like you shouldn’t ask it then. [laughs]

iRunFar: Did you hear Tina Turner playing when you crossed the finish line?

Dauwalter: No.

iRunFar: Tina Turner was playing.

Dauwalter: What song?

iRunFar: That one that’s like, “You were the best. You were better than all the rest.”

Dauwalter: [laughs]

iRunFar: It’s like a love song.

Dauwalter: Did they play that for François [D’haene], too?

iRunFar: No.

Dauwalter: [laughs]

iRunFar: It was definitely for you. How do you feel about Tina Turner?

Dauwalter: I wish I could go back to that moment. I wish I had noticed it playing.

iRunFar: Well there’s a livestream you could replay the whole thing if you like.

Dauwalter: Okay. Yeah. I should have danced my way down.

iRunFar: I was laughing really, really hard.

Dauwalter: I wish I had heard it.

iRunFar: Cultural mismatches, but Tina Turner’s pretty awesome.

Dauwalter: I appreciate the music for sure.

iRunFar: You have a little bit of downtime here on the island. What are you going to do now that you can actually put your feet up and enjoy?

Dauwalter: I’m going to do just that. Try some of the local fare, go explore a little a bit. Probably by car more than by foot. And yeah, try and enjoy all the hours we’ve got left here.

iRunFar: Eat a little seafood, which might have been a little risky before the race?

Dauwalter: Yeah, yeah. Now it’s anything goes.

iRunFar: Anything goes. Well congratulations to you.

Dauwalter: Thank you.

iRunFar: On your win of the Madeira Island Ultra-Trail.

Dauwalter: Thank you for covering it.

iRunFar: And I think we next see you at Hardrock 100 in a couple months?

Dauwalter: Yeah.

iRunFar: See you there.

Dauwalter: See you there.

Bonus Question

iRunFar: Oh, guess what. It’s time for a bonus question!

Dauwalter: What? What?

iRunFar: Alright so I don’t know who to credit for this because I saw it through the ridiculous number of notifications we had on social media yesterday. I hope whomever came up with this identifies themselves so we can properly thank you. But somebody defined a new word for your shorts yesterday.

Dauwalter: Oh go on.

iRunFar: They’re called ‘shortneys’ now.

Dauwalter: [laughs] That’s cool.

iRunFar: How do you feel about that?

Dauwalter: I’m good with it. That’s fun.

iRunFar: But in all seriousness, I feel like your shorts are advancing.

Dauwalter: What did you think of the double color?

iRunFar: No, I want to ask you what you think of them, because this was a debut for these particular shorts.

Dauwalter: Yeah. I love them.

iRunFar: Yeah?

Dauwalter: They’re like a joker, you know?

iRunFar: Yeah. Your whole outfit was very color coordinated yesterday.

Dauwalter: Yeah.

iRunFar: The color blocking, that game was pretty on there.

Dauwalter: Like 10 out of 10 you think?

iRunFar: Ten out of 10? I might go 11 out of 10 or something.

Dauwalter: Ooh!

iRunFar: But were those just newly designed shorts for you?

Dauwalter: Yeah.

iRunFar: And there’s a cool mesh panel in them and maybe some compression shorts underneath?

Dauwalter: Yeah. Got to get it breathable but still discrete.

iRunFar: So is this something you have been working with Salomon?

Dauwalter: [laughs] Yeah, I just emailed them. I said, “Breathable but discrete.”

iRunFar: And that’s what they came up with.

Dauwalter: Yeah. I’ve been working on getting some like wilder colors but, double, pretty-standard Salomon colors is a win I think.

iRunFar: Yeah. So how did you feel about the shortneys yesterday?

Dauwalter: Loved them.

iRunFar: Yeah?

Dauwalter: They performed great.

iRunFar: Awesome. Thanks.

Meghan Hicks

is iRunFar.com's Managing Editor, the author of 'Where the Road Ends: A Guide to Trail Running,' and a Contributing Editor at Trail Runner magazine. The converted road runner finished her first trail ultramarathon in 2006 and loves using running to visit the world's wildest places.

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