Q and A with Ambassador Courtney Dauwalter: Pushing limits, searching for what's possible
Courtney Dauwalter has been on an ultrarunning rampage. After her victory in Squamish in the Squamish 50 -- 1st place all women's categories, 5th overall that also set a new women's course record -- we invited her to a Q&A to learn a little more about how she logs so many incredibly fast miles and what's ahead.
How long have you been running?
Forever! Starting in 7th grade I ran cross-country and track for my school. I grew up in a really active family, though, so we were always on the move, playing sports and running around.
How long have you been an ultrarunner?
I ran my first 50km trail race in 2011. Since then, I have just kept looking for the next race and the next distance I can cover with my feet.
How did you get into ultrarunning?
After college, I was running pretty regularly and decided to try a few road marathons in order to have a goal to train for and because I was curious if I could survive the distance. I ran the road marathons, loved them, and then found out there was a 50k race near where I lived at the time. This seemed like a no-brainer to me! The distance wasn't much farther than the marathon I had survived, so why not try some trails?! I found myself smiling the entire day out there on the trails and couldn't wait to try another ultra.
What was your first ultra experience like?
The first 50k I did was at a local park and was pretty relaxed. I loved the aid stations stocked with all sorts of treats and remember filling my pockets with jelly beans. Later that year I tried my first 50-mile race on some pretty incredible mountain trails in Colorado. This is the experience that really got me hooked! We ran on beautiful single-track through the changing aspen leaves in Steamboat Springs, Colorado and encountered all types of weather. It started sleeting/hailing/dumping on us and the people I was around in the race were whooping and hollering and enjoying the chaos the day had brought us. The positivity and persistence was really cool and made me want to continue being part of the ultra running community.
What's a common misconception about ultrarunning?
That you have to be superhuman in order to finish an ultramarathon. Anyone can finish an ultramarathon if you have the right mindset (that you won't quit.) You put in some work beforehand and are willing to just keep moving, no matter what.
Which Superfeet do you use?
Orange! Every pair of shoes I wear has Orange Superfeet. The extra cushion and arch support is perfect for my feet and the big miles I put in every day.
What are some of your other essential pieces of gear?
Shoes that fit - Salomon Sense Rides and Salomon Ultra Pros. Food that goes down easy - Honey Stinger waffles and chews, and Tailwind Endurance Fuel.
What are some of your go-to foods pre-race?
Pre-race I usually stick with a couple cups of coffee + creamer. I'll start eating early in the race but prefer just coffee initially.
Go-to foods after race?
Beer! Nachos, burritos, pizza. Anything, really!
When you're training, do you run by yourself or with others?
I do a lot of my training by myself because usually I am out running while other people are at work. I feel really lucky to have been able to retire from my teaching job in order to pursue ultrarunning fully. On weekends or weeknights, however, I'll run with my husband or friends in order to mix it up and enjoy the social aspect of running a bit.
What does it feel like to run 50 miles? 100 miles?
Oh gosh. How to describe it? I think during the race, you try not to think about how far you are actually going. One step at a time, one section of trail at a time. Afterward, it feels like a huge amount of appreciation for the day, the trails, the views, the people and the physical accomplishment: Thank you, feet. Thank you, body. Thank you, volunteers. Thank you, trails.
What's the furthest you've ever run?
238 miles in about 58 hours at the Moab 240 Endurance Run in 2017.
Why do you run?
I love the feeling of running and of enjoying the outdoors. I do my best thinking while I'm out moving silently across the trails. I also really enjoy the social aspect. Bigger picture, I am curious about what we can accomplish if we don't make excuses and are willing to put in the work. Physically, how far can we go? Mentally, what barriers can we break through? What is the limit and then how much past that limit can we push ourselves?
What are some of your goals for your running career?
Keep searching for what is possible.
What are you doing to chase them down?
Putting in the work every day, signing up for races that will challenge me physically and mentally, and trying to soak up as much knowledge as possible from the people I meet.
What races do you have coming up?
Tahoe 200, Big's Backyard Ultra (Last Person Standing event) and Desert Solstice 24 Hour