Interview | Courtney Dauwalter | Way Beyond 200 Miles | Big’s Backyard, WS100 and her Future
Courtney Dauwalter shares with us her experience at Big's Backyard Ultra and her outstanding year. She has positioned herself as the moving mark of not only what's possible for women, but at the edge of human performance, period.
Courtney Dauwalter completed 280 miles at Big’s Backyard Ultra – probably not news unless you have been disconnected for the last couple of weeks. Only bested by Johan Steene. So far beyond any other woman in the history of this race (albeit a small race) and 7 hours more than last year’s overall winner, Guillaume Calmettes.
Listen here: (transcript below)
She won Moab 240 outright in 2017. She holds the 2nd fastest time for a woman ever at Western States 100. Becoming known for a very relaxed style, her secret to performance appears to be more about focus and persistent aspiration to test limits.
TT: Welcome to Territorio Trail we have with us Courtney Dauwalter one of the toughest women in the ultra scene. How are you Courtney?
COURTNEY: I’m great.
TT: How are you? Excited to talk to you. Well after you finished two hundred and eighty miles at Big Dog’s Backyard. How does it feel to finally have more than a few minutes for some food, feeding yourself and for rest.
COURTNEY: It was weird yeah. Like what are we doing now? Yeah I think it’s such a cool race and the format was so awesome that I instantly was thinking about going back next year and what I could do differently or better. from that which was so fun.
TT: And what was your takeaway at the moment?
COURTNEY: I think just lots of little things, just experiencing at one time and seeing the format and seeing the course now we can picture it better in our heads. And I think that would end up paying off, you know, being there and executing a better race.
TT: Gotcha gotcha. And what would you say was your guilty food pleasure after that.
COURTNEY: My husband and I spent some time in Nashville so we did a lot of beer and I think nachos and country music it was great.
TT: What could be better. Courtney this has been a great year for you. Moab 240 last year. How does that change your perspective and personal goals?
COURTNEY: I think it just makes me keep wanting more to see what’s possible. I’m now like learning about all these ultras that exist that are over 100 miles and realizing that it’s possible to run that far. So it’s opened some doors of possibility in the brain like, what else should we do? You know I don’t think there are limits.
TT: That quest; that’s going to take a while for you to discover.
COURTNEY: I know I wish I could do more like cool races a week to keep on searching for it. Unfortunately you have to rest etc.
TT: Well it’s going to be fun to watch. Western states champion this year. When did you absorb that you had the second fastest women’s time ever at the race.
COURTNEY: Maybe I’m still absorbing.
TT: How did you prep and how did that become what it was.
COURTNEY: Yeah I mean I just trained like normal. I did put in good spring miles and I read a lot about it but I hadn’t run any of the course. I just tried to find information so I could at least be as prepared as possible without having actually raced it before. I think the best way to learn about a race is to actually do it. So there’s no substitute for that. It was just getting to race day healthy and seeing what happened out there.
TT: It worked out. Where do you keep your cougar?
COURTNEY: It’s in the house. We keep the cougar indoors. (youtube link – for a laugh)
TT: It’s well fed?
TT: You seem to be testing your boundaries all the time. What is the seed of this and what is feeding you?
COURTNEY: I think just curiosity. You know like I think my feet have become my vehicle searching for what possible. And everyone you know can do that in their own way. So I if you’re a math person you could be looking for your limits and what you can do with math, space travel or whatever. I mean just taking advantage of this time in my life where my body is working and seeing what we can do with it.
TT: This goes back a little bit but sudden blindness is kind of a nerve wracking prospect. It happened to me altitude induced about 25 years ago but I didn’t have to move afterwords. How did you finish your race and did you discover what the causes are or what might be going on?
COURTNEY: Yeah I mean if I had a choice I wouldn’t have had that happen for sure. It wasn’t fun. But since then it’s been recommended that I wear protective eyewear at night and in the daytime like clear lenses and sunglasses and I’m using rewetting eyedrops more consistently during races. So since then I haven’t had it hit like it did at Run Rabbit Run a couple years ago. But I did at Tahoe. I started to notice it, the whiteness creeping in the the side of my vision. And like what do we do stop it? We don’t want this to happen again.
TT: And were you really able to stave it off by using drops and stuff?
COURTNEY: Yeah luckily it just stayed on the edges and never closed in so we used the wetting drops and I try to take in more calories hoping to give my body something to fight it off.
TT: Big’s Backyard. No woman has come close to what you did there, Courtney. Even if it’s just a niche race it’s a different unique race yeah. So where do you go from there?
COURTNEY: Oh my gosh it’s such a unique race. Such a cool format!
TT: You’ve entered this world of Laz. Any intentions for Barkley?
TT: I would bet money that you could have spent a few years learning the course and maybe have a good shot at finishing.
COURTNEY: Yeah I’m pretty curious about it. We’ll see if I can start to learn the secret to applying and get that started in the next couple years. That would be really cool.
TT: Yeah I’ve heard people compare it to a 200 mile race in the sense of the actual amount of physical toll. So there’s a pretty good chance that you could figure out the difficult parts of the course and have the effort to do it.
COURTNEY: Oh man. That would be cool. I gotta learn how to do some map reading.
TT: Yeah that’s just part of the trick.
COURTNEY: Yeah yeah.
TT: You said your perspective on races beyond 100 miles has widened etc. Any goals to race in Europe or the Global Ultra scene?
COURTNEY: Yeah. I would love to. I have no plans yet for my calendar for next year. I haven’t figured any of that out yet. So we’ll see what we can get in there. I love to see the world and experience the trails and meet the people everywhere. It would be awesome.
TT: We enjoy the travel and the running. And like you said seeing all the mountains everywhere as much as you can.
TT: What would be a message that you want to transmit to women doing these crazy races? Courtney it’s really amazing what you do.
COURTNEY: Thank you. I think to get out there and try and be patient and don’t give up on yourself or sell yourself short.
TT: When did you get this itch to break into the longer distances?
COURTNEY: Oh gosh I started trail running in 2011 and did my first 50k. And that basically has just snowballed since then. I think I got my first hundred miles distance completed in 2013. So yeah basically I’ve been learning how to run ultras since I started and whenever I finish one I just wonder what’s next. What else can these legs do? exploring that has basically driven the desire to keep looking for longer races or the crazy challenges.
TT: It fuels the engine that is the training that is the competing and then it just kind of keeps repeating.
TT: We are excited to see what happens next in your new forays into more feats of endurance.
COURTNEY: Thank you. Thank you so much.
TT: Thank you so much for your time. We are really honored to talk to you and wish you the best.