Courtney Dauwalter is one of a handful of runners running the 2023 Western States 100 and Hardrock 100 double. In this interview, she talks about why she wants to run Western States again, having already logged one of the fastest women’s times on the course with her 2018 win, as well as what snacks she’s been enjoying on her taper week!
Courtney Dauwalter Pre-2023 Western States 100 Interview Transcript
iRunFar: Meghan Hicks of iRunFar. I’m with Courtney Dauwalter. It’s a couple of days before the 2023 Western States 100. We’re in the Olympic Valley, Courtney. Hi.
Courtney Dauwalter: Hi. How are you?
iRunFar: I’m good. How are you?
iRunFar: Two Minnesotans being overly nice to each other.
Dauwalter: [laughs] I love it.
iRunFar: You’re back at Western States. It’s been four years since you’ve been here, five years since you’ve won this race. Do you feel like a whole different ultrarunner coming back to a familiar place or what’s the feeling for you?
Dauwalter: I hope that I’m a different ultrarunner than I was four years ago or five years ago. I can’t believe it’s been that long, actually. I haven’t done the math or processed the math on it, but that’s quite some years. I hope over the years and by doing more races, and learning more about training, and the mental side, I’m always changing and hopefully getting better. But we’ll see. I’m just so excited to be back and to get out on that course again. In 2019, when I was last here, I didn’t finish. And those last 20 miles, I would love to get to and enjoy and finish. So that’s a huge motivator.
iRunFar: Yeah. You had, it was a hip injury, and you made it to the river. And I think you limped to Green Gate at mile 80. And is that where you stopped last time?
Dauwalter: Yeah, it was a hip injury and it started on Cal Street.
Dauwalter: So we walked quite a bit of Cal Street, which I’m really excited to then hopefully properly do Cal Street. And yeah, got to Green Gate where my crew was, and pulled the plug there. Just because we didn’t know what the injury was.
iRunFar: So is that sort of the mantra for this time? It’s like, get to Green Gate and just be able to enjoy the last ribbon of trail?
Dauwalter: Yeah, I think it should be. Manage the day through all the pieces so that when I get to Green Gate, we get to actually run it and finish on that track.
iRunFar: You have the fifth fastest women’s finishing time in a race that has a near 50-year history. Running under 17.5 hours at this race is pretty serious. What brings you back after a performance like that?
Dauwalter: A couple of things. For sure, not finishing the last time I tried. I think the first time in 2018 when I did finish,afterwards, I knew that there were ways I could do the course better. And that I had left myself some room for improvement. So in 2019, not getting to actually see that through is a huge draw to be back at it. Another draw for it is that I’ve lined up this double, or Western States and Hardrock . I really, really, really want to finish Western States so that I actually have the potential to do the double.
iRunFar: I think you’re one of four people who are doing this pretty awesome double this year. A three -week break between Western States 100 And Hardrock 100. What is the mentality going into 100-mile race number one knowing that Hardrock looms?
Dauwalter: [laughs] It’s probably not correct, but all I’m thinking about right now is Western States.
Dauwalter: And I will race it like it’s my only 100, and then we will just see what those three weeks look like, and how I can piece myself back together to be ready for Hardrock.
iRunFar: Well, you already answered my next question, that you’re racing this race for this race and not thinking beyond this finish line.
Dauwalter: Yeah, absolutely. I would love to finish this one.
iRunFar: You’re always open ended about your training. But Western States and Hardrock are, I don’t know, both ends of the 100-mile spectrum, to put it lightly. Did you just train a variety of things? Did you think okay, I should do something that’s Western States specific. I should do something that’s Hardrock specific. Did you think about that at all? Or are you just winging this?
Dauwalter: [laughs] I thought a lot about the things I should do. [laughs]
iRunFar: And then what did you do? [laughs]
Dauwalter: Good question. It felt like basically anything was going to be useful in some way. So it was almost like, more freedom to just do what sounded good on the day. And, oh, do a mountain with poles. Or, you know, run some more runnable trails. Try and find some speed, all of that, suddenly was going to be useful in the next few weeks.
iRunFar: Yeah. That’s really interesting.
Dauwalter: Yeah, it was like, I didn’t have a plan. I didn’t intentionally do specific days for either race, but it felt very much wide open. Like everything will pay off somehow this summer. But we’ll see if I did enough of the right things. [laughs]
iRunFar: So there’s some snow out there. We’re looking at snow not far away from the starting line of this race. Did you know that by living and training all winter in Leadville, you were going to be so well prepared for a California race?
Dauwalter: I had no idea, but that’s kind of cool. [laughs] Yeah, a lot of snow on the course this weekend, and a lot of snow in the San Juans at Hardrock. So there’s where they overlap and have some similarities.
iRunFar: Also, there must be some overlap in candy and snack consumption. Like anything in your training goes. Anything always goes. You’ve been sort of a study of your 100-mile nutrition through time, sort of tweaking it when something stops working, working towards something else. Where is nutrition looking for you these days for 100 miles?
Dauwalter: For during the race? Or can we just talk about candy? [laughs]
iRunFar: How about one answer about the race and then candy.
Dauwalter: [laughs] Yeah, I mean,
iRunFar: Or we can just talk about candy!
Dauwalter: All I can think about now is all the bags of candy right inside this house.
iRunFar: As Courtney goes walking in. [laughs]
Dauwalter: [laughs] See ya! I think that will be interesting because for the two races coming up, they’re so different. The heat and fast pace of Western States this weekend is having me lean more towards liquid calories, for sure. So, I think in our plan we have liquids starting full on at Foresthill to the finish. So no candy, no delicious slices of pizza. We’ll be going full liquid until we get to that track. And I hope that that will work with the conditions and the pace.
iRunFar: And then save the pizza and the potatoes and things like that for Hardrock.
Dauwalter: Yeah, that caters better for those solid foods, I think.
iRunFar: Do you want to talk about candy?
Dauwalter: [laughs] Always. How much time do we have?
iRunFar: [laughs] Are you going to be eating any candy in this race or is this just your race week taper activity?
Dauwalter: Race week taper is definitely including candy.
iRunFar: What are we leading on in the taper?
Dauwalter: Currently, Nerds gummy clusters, very good. Jelly beans, M&M’s are what we’ve got going.
iRunFar: Jelly Bean flavor specifics?
Dauwalter: All of them.
iRunFar: Oh, okay.
Dauwalter: Yeah. 49 flavors.
iRunFar: All 49.
iRunFar: Last question for you. The neighborhood here is very bear fortified. This is like a bear-centric part of the world. Have you seen a bear? What will happen if you see a bear when you’re running at the front of this race this weekend? What’s the bear preparation mentality?
Dauwalter: I have not seen a bear yet. I have been looking. [laughs]
Dauwalter: I don’t know. I think it’d be cool to see some wildlife during, but also to see it from a safe-feeling distance. And while I would love to see a bear cub, and how cute and fluffy it would be, I think I would prefer to not encounter one of those.
iRunFar: That sounds pretty safe.
Dauwalter: Yeah. I better Google though what bears are out here, and what my best strategy is if I do see them.
iRunFar: We can show you the giant bear prints we saw yesterday on the course.
Dauwalter: Oh, great.
iRunFar: [laughs] Okay, best of luck to you on Saturday on your 100-mile run from Olympic Valley to Placer High School. Best of luck with cuddling a bear.
Dauwalter: Thank you.