Courtney Dauwalter will start the 2018 Western States 100 as one of the women’s favorites. In this interview, which was part of the iRunFar Live at Western States show, Courtney talks about her diverse interests and skill sets in trail running and ultrarunning, what she learned through the difficult final miles of her most recent 100 miler at Ultra-Trail Mt. Fuji, and what she thinks of the competitive women’s field.
For more on who’s running the race, check out our women’s and men’s previews, and, then, follow along with our live race coverage on Saturday!
Courtney Dauwalter Pre-2018 Western States 100 Interview Transcript
iRunFar—Dylan Bowman: iRunFar live from Olympic Valley, California, at the Coffeebar before the 2018 Western States 100. We’re here with Courtney Dauwalter from Golden, Colorado. We met just a couple months ago in Japan, but I don’t know much about you, and you said this was your first iRunFar interview.
Courtney Dauwalter: Yeah, I’m so nervous.
iRunFar—Bowman: Introduce yourself. Tell us about… I heard you were a great Nordic skier back in the day when you were a kid. Maybe tell us about your background and how you got into the sport.
Dauwalter: Yeah, I grew up in Minnesota.
iRunFar—Meghan Hicks: Yeah, Minnesota.
Dauwalter: That’s correct. I ran cross country, track, and did Nordic skiing, and then I went to college in Colorado at the University of Denver and did Nordic skiing there. Afterward I was looking for an outlet for activities. I did a few road marathons, and then that has just snowballed. I tried a 50k, and now I keep living for the longer races.
iRunFar—Hicks: I think snowballing is a perfect metaphor for your entrance into trail and ultrarunning. There aren’t a lot of people in our sport who are good at every distance and every terrain, but you’ve had success on the track, in 100-mile racing, at shorter stuff like 50 miles…
iRunFar—Bowman: 200-plus-mile races…
iRunFar—Hicks: Oh yeah, 240 miles… what’s the deal with you?
Dauwalter: There’s no deal. I just like trying everything. I’m really intrigued by 24-hour races and track running, and I also love getting out on the trails in the mountains. If it’s a race I can sign up for, my answer is, “Yes, put me in.”
iRunFar—Bowman: It’s interesting because in the sport, there’s nobody else, either men or women, who does everything particularly successfully.
Dauwalter: I’m sure there are. I’m sure there are.
iRunFar—Bowman: Not at an elite level. Where do your competitive motivations steer you? Is it always the long races, or do you…?
Dauwalter: I love the long races. That’s what I love doing the most, but then I love signing up for the 50k and the 50-mile races to get in good training, try something new, and challenge myself a little bit to see if there is any speed left in my legs.
iRunFar—Hicks: Have you found that there is?
Dauwalter: I don’t know if I’d call it speed.
iRunFar—Hicks: Relative speed. Am I correct in remembering that you are a teacher?
Dauwalter: I was a teacher. I took this year off. I’m currently retired.
iRunFar—Hicks: Amazing. You live in Golden up in the mountains, and I think you do most of your training on trails?
Dauwater: A lot of it’s on trails. Luckily we are situated next to a huge trail network, so right out our door we can get tons of miles. I also love running the roads or the bike trails. I’m not picky. I’ll run any of it.
iRunFar—Bowman: Golden is sort of an underrated running destination in terms of that. Like I said, we met in Japan two months ago. We raced Ultra-Trail Mt. Fuji.
iRunFar—Hicks: You both won.
iRunFar—Bowman: You won, of course, and won rather easily, but you had a rough stretch the last 10 to 15 miles, you said. How did that go, and how have you recovered, and how has training been since you returned from Japan?
Dauwalter: I know people have talked bout your amazing finish there, but they didn’t see the actual trails he was crushing at the end.
iRunFar—Bowman: Please stop. Don’t do this.
iRunFar—Hicks: Actually you can. Go right ahead.
Dauwalter: So the trails you were crushing, I was actually crawling up and taking dirt naps and whimpering along. Recovery went really well, and I think my poor finish there has me fired up for doing it better at the end here.
iRunFar—Hicks: Have you been able to trace back why the sufferfest at the end—was it training ahead of time, going out too hard, environmental, or do you know?
Dauwalter: I’m not really sure. The end was really hard. There was a ton of climbing that I didn’t expect. I was pretty smoked by the time I got there, and then was just getting beaten down by these climbs. There were literally ropes that you had to climb up the rocks.
iRunFar—Hicks: Ninety miles into the race.
iRunFar—Bowman: It’s a total speed-trap course because you can run so fast early and then the end is the hardest part.
Dauwalter: Then I climbed aboard the puke train, so I had that going for me. I also didn’t mentally fight as hard as I needed to to stay in the game. I kind of gave up on myself a little bit and had a little pity party for awhile which I don’t like doing. It was a good reminder of what a 100 miler feels like and what it feels like to race it all the way through.
iRunFar—Hicks: So Western States this year, you’ve come here by intention. You earned your Golden Ticket at the Sean O’Brian 100k earlier this year. Why Western States? What’s made you want to come here?
Dauwalter. I think, why not? The history of the race and all the people that come and the amazing competition… the trails are awesome out here. I just want to test myself and see how I can roll on a fast, hot, pretty varied course. I’m excited.
iRunFar—Hicks: Let’s talk about the heat. We come from the Rocky Mountain West where an 80-degree day is a very serious day. We’re going to see temperatures 30% warmer than that on Saturday…
iRunFar—Bowman: Did you prepare for it, or are you just hoping to manage it as best you can?
Dauwalter: Yeah, a little of both…
iRunFar—Bowman: Did you do the sauna or run in the middle of the day?
Dauwalter: Not really. I did some afternoon runs, and we’ll just see what happens.
iRunFar—Bowman: I think it’s going to be interesting. You’re in a unique position because you’ve done a lot of racing and you’ve raced a lot of competitive fields, but this is probably one of the most competitive races you’ve been in. With a few of the unfortunate scratches with Cat Bradley out and Camille Herron, I think a lot of people look at you as the favorite right now particularly with past couple years you’ve had where you’ve been so darn successful. Do you think about that at all in your training or in your preparation or how you execute the race?
Dauwalter: I think it’s kind of crazy to have a favorite going into a 100-mile race. It’s so long.There are so many hours for things to go wrong.
iRunFar—Bowman: But we have an iRunFar prediction contest!
iRunFar—Hicks: Put your entries in by 6 p.m. today based upon what she says next.
Dauwalter: The women’s field is amazing. I think it’s a little bit crazy. I’m going to do my best out there and see how it unfolds.
iRunFar—Hicks: Let’s talk about that competition for a minute. You’ve raced in the [IAU] 24-Hour World Championships where there were fast women around you a lot. But in terms of a trail race, this is maybe your first time having women passing you or you passing them or you sharing the miles. Have you given any thought to that aspect of sharing the trail with lots of other quality women?
Dauwalter: Yeah, I think it’s going to be really cool. I’m excited. A lot of women I’ve never met. I’m excited to meet some people I’ve been idolizing and are amazing athletes, but at the same time, I’m hoping to just run my race and not get caught up on anyone else’s pace and what’s happening in the field early on.
iRunFar—Bowman: I think after Moab 240, this will feel like a short race for you, but for everyone else, this is going to be a long one. Good luck to you out there, and thank you for taking the time. Maybe a round of applause for…