In winning the 2023 Hardrock 100, Courtney Dauwalter became a two-time champion of the event and set a new course record for the second year in a row — and she did all this after setting a course record at the 2023 Western States 100 just three weeks before. In this interview, Courtney talks about managing issues all day long, how she came to peace with the challenges, what she enjoyed about this year’s race, and how it felt to reach the event’s finish line this year.
For more on how the race played out, read our in-depth Hardrock 100 results article.
Courtney Dauwalter, 2023 Hardrock 100 Champion, Interview Transcript
iRunFar: Meghan Hicks of iRunFar. I’m with Courtney Dauwalter. It’s the morning after the 2023 Hardrock 100 Endurance Run. Good morning, Courtney. Congratulations on your amazing run this weekend.
Courtney Dauwalter: Thank you. So glad to be in Silverton.
iRunFar: It was just this time 24 hours ago that you were crossing the line. Can you take us to that moment and the feeling inside both your legs and your brain?
Dauwalter: When I finished?
Dauwalter: Oh my gosh. I mean, it was touch and go the entire run, of how I could get to the finish. And so, when I finally got above town, I knew that we were here, and all I had to do is roll downhill and kiss a rock, it was sweet, sweet relief, for sure.
iRunFar: If I can be honest, this was the first time that I’ve seen you race in quite a long time where the pain cave was actually externally visible for, I don’t know, a lot of miles of the race. Is that what it was like inside your body, too?
Dauwalter: Yeah, it was almost immediately from the beginning. So, the first block even, running it, it just felt, everything just felt tired, and it felt hard. And it was like, where are my body systems? Like, where are my legs? Where are my arms? Where are my lungs? And where’s my head? Because nothing was working together, and it stayed that way pretty much the entire race. Just one of those runs where you have to work for every mile. None of them came for free. None of them flew by quickly. It was full effort the whole time.
iRunFar: You’ve talked a lot before about how one of the biggest missions of trail running and these ultra runs is troubleshooting. And I don’t know, maybe sometimes there’s like, three problems to troubleshoot. Were you troubleshooting all day, all night long?
Dauwalter: Kind of. But also, I kind of tried to just settle into like, this is the situation. Like, you’re tired. And so, I was trying not to focus on it too much. And I definitely was trying not to like, think of all the reasons I maybe was tired. And instead it was just, yeah, settling into that feeling, and trying to be as okay with it as I could be, given how bad it felt. But like, yeah, even downhills would feel so hard. Like, wait, this is supposed to be a recharge mile.
iRunFar: This is the free gravity part.
Dauwalter: Exactly. Yeah, so there was less troubleshooting and more just trying to get my head around like, this is the day. There’s always time for things to turn around. So, let’s just keep giving it time.
iRunFar: You are like, I don’t know. I’m used to watching you run at the front of the race and kind of be like, in control of everything. But for the first half of yesterday, or whatever days those were, it was you and Anne-Lise [Rousset Séguret] sort of doing some accordioning and leapfrogging. And it wasn’t until the second half of the race where you began to take charge of the women’s race and lead off the front. What was it like being around some women and yeah, racing like that?
Dauwalter: I loved it. Anne-Lise is amazing. She’s a wonderful human and so strong. I got to meet her last year at Grand Raid [Réunion.]
Dauwalter: So, we already sort of knew each other, but we actually got to spend some miles together yesterday, and it was cool. It was fun to just have people around in general. And like, we definitely kept accordioning, like, with different sections of the course.
iRunFar: It seemed like on all of the uphills you would reel her in, and then on all of the downhills she would just, yeah, make some distance between the two of you.
Dauwalter: She’s a very strong runner in general, but for sure she crushes downhills.
iRunFar: It was actually, yeah, amazing to watch her run downhills. Like, all the entire race it was, she never got slower.
Dauwalter: No, no. So strong. So like, yeah, her footwork is so good. I was like, “See you!”
iRunFar: “I hope I see you on the next climb!” There seemed to be a transition point in the race. It must have been like going up Camp Bird Road where instead of like, catching up on the uphills and reeling Anne-Lise back in, you put distance on her. And then at each aid station after that, you earned minutes back on the lead. Was that intentional on Camp Bird Road? Did you try to send it?
Dauwalter: Sending it was for sure relative.
iRunFar: [laughs] Air quotes sending it.
Dauwalter: Yeah, I don’t know. Leaving Ouray I picked on my buddy Mike as my pacer. We were super psyched before the race to hit Camp Bird Road together and like, try and mash it. And yeah, cruise up it as best we could, but I told him when we started, because in Ouray, I had a moment. Like, we took a few minutes in the chair. I was trying to just regroup. It was super hot all day. And yeah, just feeling it. And when we started together, I was like, “We’re probably going to walk a while.” But we got shuffling, and then the shuffling turned more to like, a little more of a jog motion. And soon the legs still felt terrible, but they were at least cooperating with the motion I was asking them to do.
iRunFar: They were they were going to do a little bit of the running motion.
Dauwalter: Yeah, they came to play a little bit.
iRunFar: Now, last year you finished in the clockwise direction. This year was the counterclockwise direction, and so Camp Bird Road was also the place where in 2021 your race ended. You had stomach issues you just couldn’t sort out that year. What was it like to get past that point and into new territory on the counterclockwise direction?
Dauwalter: So cool. We actually high fived when we went by the spot, and I was like, “That’s the spot! And we are not stopping.”
iRunFar: See ya, spot.
Dauwalter: Yeah. And then to just, you know, we got to Kroger’s, felt like a big tipping point heading to Telluride then of like, okay, we are getting to the last portion of this course. And we’ll get to that rock no matter what it looks like.
iRunFar: There’s been some talk about some interesting conditions in the last third of the course. Some snow, some really crawling around to get up passes. Can you share what the conditions felt like in the night and then in the early morning?
Dauwalter: Oh my gosh, yeah, there were some snow fields, because we were going through there in the night, that were just frozen solid. So like, rock-hard ice up slopes with maybe some divots from people’s feet, but maybe not.
iRunFar: Maybe not.
Dauwalter: Yeah, so it was a lot of just like, jamming poles in, hoping that the feet can get some traction, and not fighting it. It was just part of the course, you know. So it was like, not getting worked up over it. Just trying to be as safe as possible.
iRunFar: It seemed like as the race went on, momentum, I don’t know if that’s a good word to use, but it just felt like it was like, Okay, she’s like really rolling now. Watching from the outside looking in. Did you feel momentum building as the race went on? Or were you still in like, “Okay, I’m just chipping away as carefully as I can.”
Dauwalter: Just chipping away as carefully as I could. And I mean, I was trying to squeeze everything I could out of my legs knowing like, you can rest after this. You know, you can take a beat. So, let’s just see what we can get out of them. But it was hard work till the very end.
iRunFar: Did you have any moments where despite spending a lot of time working hard, where you were like, Look where I am, look what we’re doing?
Dauwalter: Absolutely. I think this whole course you have to be taking that in while working hard, because it’s so beautiful here. And the wildflowers were out in force, and the snow, you know, looked really pretty even though it was difficult to move across sometimes, but this is an amazing place.
iRunFar: What was it like running 100 miles yesterday and the day before, that were so different from the 100 miles that you ran three weeks ago? Like, they’re just two different worlds of a sport.
Dauwalter: Yeah, it felt kind of cool because of that, because it was a whole different game. You know, having poles out there, hiking up at altitude, and just knowing going into it this is a, you know, full day-plus adventure versus a maybe less than a day adventure.
iRunFar: 15.5 hour adventure, let’s be honest. Way less than a day.
Dauwalter: That makes it feel different. You know, it has a different feeling about it when you’re like, you just have more time to process everything and problem-solve anything. And yeah, it was cool that they were so opposite.
iRunFar: Last year, you chunked a half hour-ish out of the course record. This year, you chunked another half hour-ish out of the course record. You’ve progressed the Hardrock women’s overall course record about an hour in two years, but knowing that you had Western States in your legs from three weeks ago, I find myself asking myself, and I heard a lot of other people saying yesterday, what could a person like her do if she didn’t have Western States in her legs here? Do you feel compelled to come here and just like, really let it rip ever? Well. Maybe it’s more of can you please come here and do that someday?
Dauwalter: I love it here. I love this course. I think the toughness of it is intriguing. And you know, figuring out how to bring your best self to those days out in the mountains is pretty cool. So, I am not done here. But we’ll see.
iRunFar: Yeah. There’s a lot of adventures out in the world still.
Dauwalter: There sure are.
iRunFar: Speaking of adventures out in the world still, what does the rest of the summer and maybe the fall hold for a person like Courtney Dauwalter?
Dauwalter: Man, that is way up in the air right now.
iRunFar: So rude to ask.
Dauwalter: [laughs] I have some ideas. In the last, I think, like, four miles yesterday, Kevin was pacing me and I just said to him, “We are not talking about August or September yet. Let’s get to this rock, and then give ourselves a week or so. And then maybe assess the systems.” Because yesterday I was like, “I don’t know if I’ll ever run another step.” It was so hard.
iRunFar: So, fair enough. The future of Courtney Dauwalter involves beverages, snacks, and what? Like, porch time or couch time or lake time or?
Dauwalter: Yeah, all of that sounds perfect. I would love to do it all, please.
iRunFar: Congratulations to you on your course record. Oh, I neglected to mention that you set the Western States/Hardrock double record yesterday. Congrats on your win of the 2023 Hardrock 100.
Dauwalter: Thank you.