Courtney Dauwalter, 2021 UTMB Champion, Interview

Courtney Dauwalter successfully defended her UTMB title by winning the race for a second time in 2021. In the following interview, Courtney talks about what it was like running near but not with Mimmi Kokta for the first half of the race, what kept her moving quickly late in the race when she had a large lead in the women’s race, what change she made to her nutrition plan after nausea caused her to drop from the Hardrock 100 in July, and what she’s up to next.

For more on what happened during the race, check out our UTMB results article for the play-by-play and links to other post-race interviews.

Courtney Dauwalter, 2021 UTMB Champion, Interview Transcript

iRunFar: Bryon Powell of iRunFar, here with Courtney Dauwalter after her win at the 2021 UTMB.

Courtney Dauwalter: Hello.

iRunFar: How’s it feeling?

Dauwalter: I mean I feel good now.

iRunFar: So yeah, congratulations.

Dauwalter: Thank you.

iRunFar: Did that feel good?

Dauwalter: That was pretty fun. It was fun to make it all 107 miles.

iRunFar: And that’s a lot of miles.

Dauwalter: There’s a lot of miles, it’s pretty far.

iRunFar: It’s pretty far. So you didn’t have any real huge down points out there, during the day yesterday?

Dauwalter: Nothing really huge, no. I think as far as 100-mile races go, it was pretty steady, it was pretty smooth, there weren’t any huge hiccups and I think anything that did come up, my husband and I just managed fairly well.

iRunFar: You were able to assess and…?

Dauwalter: Yeah, and just keep everything in perspective, I think we’re both of the mindset, like nothing’s a big deal and will get to the finish line. So let’s see what that looks like.

iRunFar: Is that a change in mindset or just you’re maybe thinking of that perspective more after not being able to address things at Hardrock?

Dauwalter: Yeah, and I think lining up for this one, it was no matter how long it takes I’m going to make this whole loop. Because after Hardrock and not finishing it, I just wanted the adventure of 100 miles, so we were ready for whatever got thrown our way and likely nothing huge got thrown our way.

iRunFar: So in the early going you’re either behind, with or a little bit in front of Mimmi [Kotka], what was that first half the race like because you were together essentially, you were in Courmayeur, in the aid station together?

Dauwalter: Yeah, funnily enough we were so close in time always but we didn’t run one step together.

iRunFar: Really? You were never in sync?

Dauwalter: No. And I saw her 100 meters behind me at one point and was hollering at her to come up and join me because I love Mimmi and I would have really enjoyed some time together. But we were also just kind of both, you know holding our pace and doing our own thing.

iRunFar: In that first 50 miles, 80k, you didn’t feel like you are racing her? Cat and mouse, nothing?

Dauwalter: No, for sure not.

iRunFar: So how did you not sync up?

Dauwalter: I know, I know. And then I didn’t want to wait and then have her be like, no I want to run by myself. Because sometimes in your head, I know for her to translate to English because I don’t speak Swedish, is difficult so, it was fine though, it was a comforting friend nearby, it didn’t feel like we had to play games or try and trick each other. It was just Mimmi and I out on this course together.

iRunFar: Nothing artificial or anything about, to me at 30k, I think she came in first, you had a little quicker time in the aid station, nobody really rushed it but then you’re going out like, and it’s not like you’re just good luck or whatever, you’re stopping, hey do you want to go out?

Dauwalter: Right, and same at Courmayeur we were there together and I was like, come on Mimmi let’s go do this. And she’s like, get on, go.

iRunFar: And she was even a couple, you are there I think 4.5 minutes before her, something like that. Maybe it was 6.5, but she was much quicker and she was only like two minutes behind you going out.

Dauwalter: Yeah, I never knew exactly where that it was always like Mimmi’s there and that makes me feel great.

iRunFar: Nice. At some point she wasn’t there. Nor were any other women, at some point in that middle, second third of the race, you opened up a pretty, big gap on the field. Did you ever know that or hear that at all?

Dauwalter: No. Probably the first time I started to get the time splits was may be like Champex-Lac, which if I didn’t get any all day it would’ve been okay. It’s nice to get a little update, is there some breathing room or no breathing room? But in general, I would say I’m going to be putting in as much effort as I can anyways so a time split isn’t a game changer.

iRunFar: So you’re pretty self-motivated in that regard?

Dauwalter: Yeah, for sure.

iRunFar: Regardless of whether you’re in first or fifth you’re going to give what you have. Smartly and pace wise.

Dauwalter: That’s the hope.

iRunFar: The hope.

Dauwalter: Is that the paparazzi?

iRunFar: Cheers, paparazzi. So what does motivate you then to run that good time? Because at some point you did, you must know you’re a half hour, you’re an hour ahead in the women’s race. What keeps you giving your all?

Dauwalter: For every race that’s my hope is to cross a line without any questions of, what could have been or if I try to little harder or dug a little bit deeper. So if I’m going to race I want to leave it all out there.

iRunFar: And that means you’re racing for a good portion of the second half, you’re in the top-10 overall, are you then just trying to pick off who’s ever in front of you? If Hannes [Namberger] is there or?

Dauwalter: Yeah, and we kind of yo-yo for a little bit, for sure it was like, are there people to find but also just, how efficient can I be on the section and still save a little bit of juice for that last climb out of Vallorcine?

iRunFar: That’s a climb, ain’t it?

Dauwalter: It’s the worst.

iRunFar: I’ve never had that perspective, being at the finish line and seeing you going up the climb.

Dauwalter: I dislike it a lot.

iRunFar: It didn’t look like you are having fun on the downhill either.

Dauwalter: No, it’s so technical and steep and my legs were toast, so from Vallorcine to the finish I was out of juice and I just hoped there would be a little adrenaline left to help me push over. I don’t think the adrenaline worked because my legs were just rubber, my feet weren’t picking up so I was tripping on everything.

iRunFar: Nobody caught some sort of superwoman going down.

Dauwalter: But I felt lucky because last time I raced this, in 2019, that happened at Champex-Lac, so it was 30 miles of it versus 12.

iRunFar: And mentally, you can parse that out and manage it. I’m tired, there’s 12 miles to go.

Dauwalter: One uphill, let’s just get to that fire road.

iRunFar: And you are saying you and Kevin [Schmidt] were assessing and mitigating challenges that came away, I heard you talk a little bit, the climb from Courmayeur and descent to La Fouly, not everything, you had no huge low patches but everything’s going great, what little things did you have to assess and deal with out there?

Dauwalter: Basically at Courmayeur I switched to full liquid diet which had been in the plan but I thought I could make it to more like mile 70 before I switched to just liquids. So we kind of pivoted for that one just because solids weren’t working anymore. I did lose some of it up on the top of that climb out of Courmayeur but I don’t know. It was just a one and done.

iRunFar: It was just a rejection.

Dauwalter: Yeah. I think I just drank too fast.

iRunFar: It’s not like you are feeling nauseous for 10 or 20k before it?

Dauwalter: No. When I started throwing up I was like, no I’m having flashbacks of Hardrock, is this where it goes downhill? But really once I threw up and started running along that link part to get to Col Ferret, it was fine so it was like it never happened.

iRunFar: Nice.

Dauwalter: Yeah, I’ll take that any day.

iRunFar: So you didn’t have any major challenges out there, you major way, were you conscious of or thinking at all about, you were running a ridiculously fast time?

Dauwalter: No.

iRunFar: No, never crossed your mind? In retrospect you do know that right? It’s kind of like, for some years, I hate using boxing metaphors but the belts get separated between the different associations, there was a record on the shorter or the slightly faster course without the Pyramides Calcaires, and there was that course record and you kind of brought them back together because you ran faster than any woman had on that more traditional, or older 100-mile route.

Dauwalter: Yeah, I did not actually even know Rory’s time. I knew it was in the 22’s, I knew it was really crazy and that she super talented and amazing. And then, I don’t know, when I’m running it’s just too hard to do the math for things so I saw, maybe the time in Champex Lac, and I was like, they’re still like quite some hours before we’re in the 22’s. But I had no idea what those last three climbs to the finish line take so I was just going as best I could. And you can’t do more than that.

iRunFar: But now that it’s finished, do you feel proud of that, like what do you think? I know you’re a humble person but that’s gotta sink in that some point, right?

Dauwalter: I feel psyched, it feels like we put it together pretty well, like we were never rushing through aid stations. I feel like out on the course I was never rushing and I was always trying to keep the reins pulled in a little bit and keep that 100-mile distance in mind for pacing, so never pushing it past what felt like 100-mile pace. And then, I don’t know the little things add up, doing our crew stations, like at aid stations I think we were a little slower than normal because a lot of times I’ll just bust in, we’ll do the bottles quick and then get out of there. I spent like, I don’t know how many minutes at Courmayeur, but a lot.

iRunFar: Yeah, five or six minutes.

Dauwalter: That’s quite some, for us. But I feel like we were just very diligent about what do we need? Let’s do it well and do it right the first time so that out on the trail there’s less chance for problems. I think that kind of stuff…

iRunFar: So you slow down to speed up? Comparing apples to apples you ran a couple hours faster than you did two years ago.

Dauwalter: Yeah, I do feel like in general just my whole feeling about the race was just like, be chill. Stay chill, through everything. Pace and aid stations.

iRunFar: Now it’s fascinating, because. Describing your race but you’re using we and our and I think that’s really cool because I assume the other half of we and our, the other part is Kevin, your husband.

Dauwalter: Yeah.

iRunFar: It is a big team effort.

Dauwalter: For sure. I mean the sport to me as a team sport with him, my legs and feet to the distance but I mean he’s part of that finish line as well.

iRunFar: And he’s also like, there is a yin and a yang to it. I feel like, obviously you get along super well but your personalities are very complementary.

Dauwalter: Yeah, yeah, yeah. He’s the numbers guy.

iRunFar: He’s the analytics and logistics and you’re like, I’m here, gonna run.

Dauwalter: Yeah, which way do I go? Do I go now, okay.

iRunFar: And what’s it like, do you have to parse it out or you’re just like, hey Kevin you’re doing the logistics?

Dauwalter: No, it just kind of naturally happened, he’s been crewing me since my very first 100-mile attempt in 2012 and neither of us knew anything about the sport and just sort of fell into the things that we were a little better at figuring out. So he was instantly, love the data and liked figuring out splits and looking at courses and stuff and I just love the training.

iRunFar: This is taking things a little sideways but, so okay, we’re going to slide over here. To say Kevin is going to run High Lonesome next year or something like that. You’re crewing him, who the hell is taking care of the logistics? Are you bringing in Meredith Terranova or somebody, getting amalgamated to your crew?

Dauwalter: Yeah, that’s a good question. We have flipped roles where I have crewed him at a 100-mile race and it went okay.

iRunFar: From your perspective.

Dauwalter: But he’s the numbers guy so he’s crunching numbers anyway when he’s running.

iRunFar: And that’s what he does in his job, at his work, like he’s technical.

Dauwalter: I think his brain is just a spreadsheet.

iRunFar: We’re just watching the matrix.

Dauwalter: Yeah, and minds like a tie-dye, jelly bean factory.

iRunFar: I like it. Tie-dye jelly bean. I’d eat tie-dye jelly beans. Does anyone make those? Jelly Bellies are pretty close. Is this it for your season? You got any fun adventures this fall, I mean I hope you do?

Dauwalter: Yeah, I hope so too. I know Big’s Backyard is supposed to happen in October and so that will be the next official race but I’m just really excited to be in Colorado in September and play in the mountains. Maybe do some fast packing and just have some fun.

iRunFar: Less focus. Doing another thing that you love to do.

Dauwalter: Yeah, exactly.

iRunFar: Is Big’s like 100%? Because you’ve just, you had Hardrock and you went quite a ways and had a rough go and then you have this. Are you going to assess whether Big’s is going to happen or just go there and see what happens?

Dauwalter: I think the format’s pretty cool because it’s just the 4 mile loop every hour and so even if you’re not 100% certain of your physical readiness you could show up and surprise yourself and stay in longer than you think. But we’ll see.

iRunFar: Think you’ll come back here, either next year or sometime again? Is this done and dusted? You nailed it.

Dauwalter: No, it’s not done and dusted. We’ll see when I do come back. I love it here so it be fun to come, just be a part of it all again.

iRunFar: Nice. Well congrats on another great run Courtney.

Dauwalter: Thank you. Thanks for being out there, all the coverage was excellent.

iRunFar: Oh thank you. Our pleasure.

Dauwalter: I hope you guys get some sleep.

iRunFar: Me, too.