Courtney Dauwalter is back to run the 2023 Hardrock 100, three weeks after winning and setting a new course record at the Western States 100. In this interview, she talks about how she’s managing this tight turnaround, the amazing team behind her performances, and her sense of unfinished business with the counterclockwise Hardrock direction.
Courtney Dauwalter Pre-2023 Hardrock 100 Interview Transcript
iRunFar: Sarah Brady of iRunFar. I’m here just before the 2023 Hardrock 100, and I’m with Courtney Dauwalter. Courtney, how are you doing?
Courtney Dauwalter: I’m great. How are you?
iRunFar: Good. Yeah, great to see you again. So, yeah. Last time we’ve seen you was just after Western States, like, 10 minutes ago. [laughs] So, Meghan [Hicks] interviewed you post-race, and I remember you said at the time when she asked how it felt to have won that race, and broken that iconic course record, you kind of still hadn’t processed it. So, just a couple of weeks on, how do you feel about that now?
Dauwalter: Oh, man, I am still not quite sure, because immediately after Western States, it was a couple of days of, you know, just enjoying. And we stayed out in California, but then almost immediately started thinking about Hardrock. And so maybe after Hardrock I can think of the whole summer. At this point Western States feels like it was years ago, though. Like, time is very weird in these three weeks.
iRunFar: Yeah, for sure. And then more in terms of physical recovery, I suppose, did you give yourself a full week off, or were you like, straight back in? Or how did you feel after it?
Dauwalter: The first week was pretty much all entirely off. Just walking, sitting a lot, and eating a lot. The second week I tried to move a little bit more, so did some jogging. Did a little bit of hiking with poles just to wake up those muscles, and some biking. And the third week, here we are, so we’ll see. [laughs]
iRunFar: Okay, I know you’ve not been here for very long. So, have you had a chance in recent weeks at all to check out like, current Hardrock conditions?
Dauwalter: No, not personally, just from videos and photos that people have been posting, or that Hardrock has posted about. I love surprises, though, so I’m excited to just get out on the course and discover the wildflowers, and see the snow fields for myself. And hopefully just have fun playing in the mountains for a lot of hours.
iRunFar: Okay, brilliant. And then so last year, you set the course record on the clockwise direction. But then the year before you weren’t so lucky on counterclockwise, with stomach issues taking you out of the race. So, I’m just wondering, do you look at the two directions as two separate races? And is there like, a sense of unfinished business coming back to race this direction?
Dauwalter: There’s definitely a sense of unfinished business. I am feeling really excited and motivated to finish this counterclockwise direction. Because in 2021, my race ended going up Camp Bird Road out of Ouray, around 62 miles. So, I’m hoping to get to that point in the race this weekend, and then keep going. You know, get over to Telluride and finish up the rest of that loop so I can hopefully kiss the rock, is the major goal.
iRunFar: Okay, brilliant. And then, say if they were on the same day, identical conditions, do you have a preferred direction, and why?
Dauwalter: I have no idea. We can talk afterwards though, and see. Yeah, there’s just so much, like, I haven’t seen this other direction for those last 40 miles. So, I’m really looking forward to getting my feet on that part and seeing it going the other way.
iRunFar: Okay, super. And then just since that, like 2021, the last couple years, you’ve gone from strength to strength, and you seem to be just kind of nailing it more and more. So, is there any big change you’ve made, like, nutritionally that things seem to be just working a little bit better now?
Dauwalter: I’m hoping to always just keep learning how to train better, how to race better, and all of the pieces that are involved with that. So, dialing in the nutrition was a huge part in the last couple of years. And figuring out our systems better for that. And like, the plan A, but also then the plan B, C, D, E, the whole alphabet exists now, where we’ve got different options ready for when things go south, and that is a big improvement and a big change since 2021.
iRunFar: Okay, seems to be working. And then in previous interviews, I think I’m not the only one who’s noticed you always seem to really credit the team effort behind your performances. And you say “we” not “I” in terms of how you get things done. So, I was just wondering, do you want to give a shout out to who’s crewing and who’s pacing this week?
Dauwalter: Absolutely. This is for sure a team sport to me. It makes it so fun to share with people, with your crew, with your pacers if you have them. And it’s, to me, all of our finish lines that we get to, and that’s pretty special. So, I’ve got Kevin [Schmidt] here. He’s at almost all of my races, and I feel really lucky for that. And then our buddies Stan and Melody, who were also out at Western States. And I have my friend Mike coming into pace me for a part of it.
iRunFar: Okay, great. And I suppose that’s one thing that’s quite different about these U.S. races compared to the big Euro races you’ve done like UTMB. Like, it’s a smaller field, but then there’s a little bit more involvement from pacers and crew. So, when you compare the two, do you kind of prefer a smaller intimate race like this versus a big European zoo like UTMB?
Dauwalter: I like them both equally for different reasons. I think being at something like this this weekend just feels like a big family reunion. You know, you walk down the street and get to stop and chat with everybody because you know each other, and you’re sharing this weekend together. But also something like UTMB is fun where it’s just electric, and the love for trail running and ultras and just trying hard things is huge. And that feels cool in a different way.
iRunFar: Okay. And then just in terms of your race day strategy, I was just wondering like, will you make more of an effort to sort of listen to your body and be conservative considering what you just did a couple of weeks ago? Or are you just going to go all in and hope for the best, or kind of somewhere in between?
Dauwalter: My plan, as much as I make a plan. My idea for this race is to put Western States in a drawer in my brain where it’s not even on my mind that we just did that, and race this like it’s my only race of the summer. So, going at it like I would any 100-mile race.
iRunFar: Yeah. Okay, that sounds good. And then like any particular point on the route that you’re quite excited about? Besides the finish line — that doesn’t count.
Dauwalter: Yeah, I am quite excited for all of it, really. I haven’t been out here in the San Juans since last summer. So, there’ll be a ton of sections where I know I’ll be hooping and hollering through wildflowers. And be so excited to run through them. I’m really looking forward to Camp Bird Road and trying to get to the top of that, to Kroger’s Canteen. And tip over, so that I can feel like, you know, we’re moving past the point where I stopped two years ago.
iRunFar: Okay, great. I’m sure that would feel like a win to get to there. And then, yeah, too soon, but I ask nearly everyone anyway, have you got any plans for after this? Are you going to kind of chill out for a while, or is there anything else this season?
Dauwalter: I have a lot of ideas for the rest of the summer and the year. But for sure after this one, I’ll do a full reset, and make sure everything feels good to keep going after some of those ideas.
iRunFar: Okay, yeah. And then just finally, I suppose more generally, I can see it here, like, on the elite level. I can see it at home in Ireland, that women’s ultrarunning is just growing so rapidly. And I think a lot of people knew for a while that women are better at longer distances, but it’s like more women are figuring that out now. So, would you have any advice for anyone looking at this — thinking of like, stepping up to like, hard 100 milers like this?
Dauwalter: Go for it. 100% try it. Why not? It’s a really cool time to be in ultrarunning, and women’s ultrarunning in particular is blowing up like crazy. And I think we’re all trying to figure out like, what’s possible, and I just feel really fortunate to be in the sport right now. And hope that more and more women will keep trying something hard. Something that sounds crazy. I think we should go after that thing.
iRunFar: Yeah. Okay. That’s great. Great advice. Well, thanks so much for taking the time to talk to me anyway, and can’t wait to follow you at the weekend.
Dauwalter: Thank you.