In this interview, she talks about the decision to add UTMB, turning her impressive double into a triple, and her excitement of that challenge. She also talks about a recent training camp with her Salomon teammates, where she saw much of the UTMB course in daylight for the first time, and which parts she was particularly enamored by.
Courtney Dauwalter Pre-2023 UTMB Interview Transcript
iRunFar: Sarah Brady of iRunFar. I’m here just before the 2023 UTMB with Courtney Dauwalter. How are you doing?
Courtney Dauwalter: Great. How are you?
iRunFar: Yeah, not too bad. It stopped raining for a few minutes to do this anyway. So, we last interviewed you just after the Hardrock 100 back in July where you won that in course record just three weeks on from doing the same at Western States. So, I know you were really psyching yourself up for that double, but I don’t think then you had decided, or announced at least, that it would be a triple so, when did that decision come about, and how?
Dauwalter: The double turned to a triple in mid-August. Or start of August, I guess. I did not plan to do all three races going into the summer. I knew that the two by themselves were a huge challenge, and I had no idea what I would feel like after finishing Hardrock. And so it was like, a seed planted that maybe I could try three, if I feel good. But definitely wasn’t counting on it. After Hardrock I was really wrecked. Hardrock was difficult for me this year, and so I took a good amount of time not running, not really doing anything except eating ice cream. And then a couple weeks after Hardrock I went for a little jog, and it felt okay. And I was like, “Kevin [Schmidt], we have to try this.” Like, the opportunity is so rare to get to do all three of these races in one summer. We have to try and just see, so that we know, you know. There’s no wondering then what would have happened. Now we get to find out.
iRunFar: For sure. So, it’s the challenge then of doing all three rather than this race on its own that’s kind of bringing you here, is it?
Dauwalter: Absolutely yeah, the challenge of adding this third one on is big and it’s unknown. I don’t know how my body or mind are going to react during the race. So that’s what is really drawing me to go for it and see, because I’m just curious.
iRunFar: Yeah, for sure. That’s really exciting. And then so apart from that initial time where you just fully took time off, did you ever get back up to full volume training weeks, or was it just kind of easy ticking over after that?
Dauwalter: A little bit of everything. I was lucky enough then to come over here for a Salomon training camp on the UTMB course. Almost immediately after, I decided to sign up. I left for Europe to tromp around the course in four days, which was huge volume and climbing, but a nice chill pace. And like, snacks, and you know, taking pictures, and just enjoying the route. So, I did get back up in some mileage, but it was still definitely straddling the line of what’s recovery, what is training. Like, how am I actually feeling? And can I push the gas, or should I just try and arrive to the start line healthy and rested?
iRunFar: Okay, so still super relaxed anyway. And then was that your first time being on the course since 2021?
Dauwalter: Yes, and I had never done it like this. So, the parts we do in the night during the race, I’d never seen in the daylight. All of Italy basically. And that was so beautiful. I’m so glad I got to see the course like that. But it was the first time I’ve been on it and the first time that I’ve actually trained on it.
iRunFar: Okay, super. Were there any particular surprises, like any parts of the course that stood out in those days?
Dauwalter: I couldn’t believe that you can see Mont Blanc from so many spots, especially those night parts. Yeah. I was like wait, that’s the backside right now? What?
iRunFar: You don’t have time to look at it while you’re racing.
Dauwalter: No, no time to look and it’s been pretty foggy in both editions that I did, in certain parts. So, it was just cool to see it all with fresh eyes, and to share it with teammates, so that when I roll through those sections, I’ll have those fond memories to think of from when we trained on it.
iRunFar: For sure. Yeah. And then last time we’ve seen you, you were seeing the crewing and pacing gig from the other side at the Swiss Alps 100 where your husband Kevin was racing. So how was that experience?
Dauwalter: The coolest. I got to crew at him and pace him a lot of miles on the Swiss Alps course, and he was a machine out there. It was really inspiring to be on the other side of it, and just see him keep plugging away at this really tough course, and pretty hot day. And yeah, we made a lot of memories with that race that are very special.
iRunFar: Yeah, such a fabulous place there as well.
Dauwalter: Oh man, magnificent. I’d never been. And exploring new places with your feet is the best way to see them.
iRunFar: Yeah, for sure. And then just to go back to your last performance here. So, in 2021, you set the course record on the UTMB. So, going into this weekend, would you be happy with a similar performance, or do you think there’s still room for improvement on that? And if so, kind of where do you think that room is?
Dauwalter: For me going into this weekend, I am hoping to finish. I will be very happy to make it back to Chamonix. I know there’s a lot of room on that time. So, I hope that women will, you know, push it down further and further. And if that happens this year, that’s awesome. If not, I know that it can happen.
iRunFar: Okay, were there any particular points on the route? I know, I think you had a pretty good day, but were there any points where you struggled on that route and sections that you think you could take minutes off?
Dauwalter: I struggled a lot on the very last climb, which…
iRunFar: Is gone now I think. [laughs]
Dauwalter: Which funnily enough, they’ve taken out this year. [laughs] So, I actually was thinking, because even when we did the camp a couple of weeks ago, we skipped that climb. So, I hadn’t been on it since I zombie marched up it at the end of the race in 2021. And I was thinking this year like, Oh, that’s kind of cool. You haven’t been on it since then. When you get there, it’ll be new and exciting. And I was coming in with this really fresh, positive attitude about that climb.
Dauwalter: And then they were like, “Oh, we’re taking it out.” [laughs] That’s fine. But yeah, I think if someone came into the race and could crush the climbing and descending, and all of the pieces, there’s room everywhere to pick up time.
iRunFar: Yeah, that replacement end section that they’ve put in sounds pretty great as well, though. I think it’s like the end of the Mont Blanc Marathon. Have you run those trails before? Or is that just going to be a surprise on race day?
Dauwalter: A full surprise and I’m leaving it that way.
Dauwalter: I like a little bit of mystery in a course.
iRunFar: Okay, yeah, that’s super. And then after that, are you going to stick around in Europe for a while? Are you heading home?
Dauwalter: Sticking around a little bit. I have some family coming over for the race. So, we’re going to make it a little trip afterwards, and enjoy each other’s company here in Europe, and then head back to Colorado for the best season of all.
iRunFar: Yeah. Fabulous. It sounds like you’ve had a pretty nice time here in Europe. You were in Italy just before this. Where did you go there?
Dauwalter: We were in the Aosta Valley. Yeah, just in a little town eating pizza and going for walks around on the paths was nice and relaxing.
iRunFar: Okay, yeah. Perfect taper.
iRunFar: But thanks so much. Hope you have fantastic race, and I’m sure we’ll see lots of you out on the course.
Dauwalter: Thank you.