Courtney Dauwalter dominates almost every race she enters, so a lot of eyes are looking to her at the 2019 Madeira Island Ultra-Trail. In this interview, Courtney talks about if and how she’s specifically prepared for MIUT, why she’s racing more selectively in 2019, her first impressions of Madeira Island, and the debacles of international travel.
Courtney Dauwalter Pre-2019 Madeira Island Ultra-Trail Interview Transcript
iRunFar: Meghan Hicks of iRunFar and I’m with Courtney Dauwalter. We’re on Madeira Island, and the Madeira Island Ultra-Trail starts tomorrow night. Good morning, Courtney. You just arrived on the island.
Courtney Dauwalter: Yeah, good morning! This is my first glimpse, so it’s cool to share it with you.
iRunFar: Such a moment. So, you arrived last night and had your first sleep on the island. How are things going this morning?
Dauwalter: Great. I had some coffee and I’m excited to wake up in a new place. It’s cool to get here at night sometimes.
iRunFar: But you’re in the middle of your own Shakespearean dramatic comedy.
Dauwalter: Yeah, nothing went right during the travel yesterday.
iRunFar: You’re here. Nothing else is here.
Dauwalter: This is what I’ll be racing in.
iRunFar: And wearing for the next week.
Dauwalter: Yeah, I’m looking for a bag. But it will be here. We’ve got 36 hours to make it happen, so send some good vibes.
iRunFar: Some good bag-finding vibes. Fortunately, your husband, Kevin, is currently at the airport hunting for baggage.
Dauwalter: Yeah, doing his best. We’ll see. If the bag’s not there, though, there’s nothing to hunt. It could be in London [laughs]. We don’t know. But that’s fun. It’s a good game.
iRunFar: All right. So, it’s April. You’re racing Madeira Island Ultra-Trail. You’ve had a couple races this year, but I went back and did some math on your previous years of racing.
Dauwalter: That’s not recommended.
iRunFar: Last year you raced over 1,000 miles. By this time last year, you had already raced double the miles that you’ve raced this year. This is already your third big race of 2019, but you’re on fresh legs, comparatively.
Dauwalter: I’m trying to be smarter about racing and ease off the gas pedal a little bit. Yeah, at this time last year I’d done five races. This will be my third [in 2019].
iRunFar: Wow, way to take it easy.
Dauwalter: Yeah [laughs].
iRunFar: Because your three races have been Tarawera, Behind the Rocks [and Madeira Island Ultra-Trail]. Tarawera was 100k, Behind the Rocks was 50 miles. It’s not like either is a weekend 30k race, either. They’re both big races.
Dauwalter: Yeah, I like racing, though.
iRunFar: I wanted to ask you about that. It’s one thing to have motivation for your daily run, getting out for adventures. It’s another thing to race as frequently as you do. How do you keep that fire in there?
Dauwalter: I don’t know. I love it. I love pushing really hard and making it hurt like that. In races, usually, you’re exploring new trails: getting to check out a new area with people and wonderful volunteers at aid stations. I like the whole experience of racing. Yeah, that experience of putting everything you’ve got into a day, and seeing what that is.
iRunFar: But you’re such a pleasant and optimistic person. How do you balance out that, “I’m willing to suffer” [mindset], and kind of go hard out there, but then be as you are?
Dauwalter: The suffering is by choice.
iRunFar: These are all kind of made-up hardships.
Dauwalter: Exactly. I mean, if you’re choosing to do this, you better enjoy all the parts of it.
iRunFar: I feel like, looking back at your calendar of races over the last couple of years, you’ve done a little bit of everything. There are road ultras, track ultras, these weird last woman/man/human-being-standing races.
Dauwalter: You would love those.
iRunFar: No! We’re not talking about that.
Dauwalter: Trying to make this the Meghan interview [laughs].
iRunFar: Do you feel compelled to try everything? Do you actually have a favorite style of race?
Dauwalter: I like trying everything. This will be more climbing and more of a technical race than I’m used to. I’m not sure how that’s going to go, but I’m excited to try something new and figure out how to do it better.
iRunFar: Where you come from, in the Front Range of Colorado, you can access vertical, but you kind of have to go deeper into Colorado to get to the more technical stuff. That area’s not freed up from snow, and it might not be all summer with the record winter in Colorado. How do you actually prepare for what you’re about to see?
Dauwalter: Yeah, I’m not sure that I have, but I like surprises [laughs]. I’ve done a lot of miles. I’ve got the base, but my quads are definitely not ready for this amount of downhill and I don’t know where my uphill grinding gears are. But it’ll be a good kick start, no matter how it goes, to get the climbing body going for the year.
iRunFar: On the upside, the high point of the race is about the altitude that you live at.
Dauwalter: And it looks so beautiful in pictures. I’m excited to get there.
iRunFar: And you’ll have a little extra capacity, given that the high point is a low point for you, in terms of altitude.
Dauwalter: We’ll see. I’ll try and remember that during the race: “Meghan says this is easy.”
iRunFar: “And now I shall hate her.” Okay, one other interesting factor about this race is that it starts and ends at sea level and the climate is fairly benign here. We’re doing this interview under a canopy because it’s raining outside, which means there’s probably epic weather up high. Have you thought about gear and clothing? There’s humidity and it’s cold up there in the nighttime and hot down here.
Dauwalter: Not tons. Now I’m like, “Uh oh.” Whatever it is, those are the conditions. No, I haven’t nailed down the perfect gear for that. If you keep moving, then you’ll move through that weather eventually.
iRunFar: Then you won’t have to experience it as much?
Dauwalter: I don’t know. Look how prepared I am.
iRunFar: You’re probably going to win by like 45 minutes, too. Just a couple of weeks ago you were on the Azores with a Salomon trail running camp. That’s another set of islands on the Atlantic Ocean.
Dauwalter: Yeah, they’re amazing.
iRunFar: There are some similar features to Madeira Island. What are your thoughts on that?
Dauwalter: It was so cool. Mimmi Kotka, who’s here racing, too, was there as well. Getting to share a whole week of training with her and exploring with the Salomon team was really awesome. There would be parts where we’d be running and Mimmi would turn and be like, “This is like Madeira!” We’d get to another part where I was like, “What the?!” And she’d say, “This is like Madeira!” I’m like, “Okay.” So, that was really cool. I’m excited to be in the same race as Mimmi and maybe learn a little bit of her mountain skills and then just share a lot of hours, maybe. We’ll see. Maybe I’ll be looking at her back.
iRunFar: Do you have an interesting race schedule lined up this year? What happens next?
Dauwalter: For sure Hardrock, which is really exciting.
iRunFar: If the snow melts. You could be skiing Hardrock.
Dauwalter: Which could be fun.
iRunFar: That might not be allowed in the rules. I think it says something like no devices on your feet.
Dauwalter: Yeah, and then I’m going to try TDS just to check out the scene and the trails over there.
iRunFar: And check out 140k, is it? Only the “baby race”? [Laughs]
Dauwalter: And the IAU 24-Hour World Championships are this year. Those are in October.
iRunFar: So mountain legs from now until the end of August.
Dauwalter: Yeah, hopefully I’ll figure out the mountain legs.
iRunFar: Then quickly train on the flats for a month or so. That sounds like a fun year.
iRunFar: All right. Well, I guess we’ll be seeing you on the trail in just a short time.
Dauwalter: Here’s the outfit [gestures at the shirt she’s wearing].
iRunFar: Breaking news! Courtney will be in her traveling clothes: cotton t-shirt, cotton sweats, flip flops.
Dauwalter: It’s gonna’ be great.
iRunFar: We’ll see you Saturday.