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Jan. 2, 2023

Courtney Dauwalter | 2023 Bandera 100K Pre-Race Interview

Courtney Dauwalter | 2023 Bandera 100K Pre-Race Interview
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Courtney Dauwalter is a professional trail runner for Salomon based in Leadville, CO lining up for the 2023 Bandera 100K later this week.


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  • (0:39) - career to date, training and racing mentality, current outlook on the sport
  • (9:44) - thoughts on being a public figure, career investments, legacy
  • (16:17) - Bandera, Western States, Hardrock

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Finn: I've always been curious, what did you think was possible for your career? Did you always imagine that becoming a professional and achieving the success you've achieved was was in the realm of possibility, or was this gonna be a hobby?

Courtney: Yeah, I had no idea. I didn’t know ultrarunning was a sport. I sort of stumbled into it after a few road marathons and I quickly fell in love with it. And was like discovering all these new races all the time and having my mind blown that people were doing these courses and you know, just like traversing these mountains with their feet. I couldn't understand it, but I knew that I loved it and I loved the community, so I wanted to be a part of it right away. But I didn't foresee I could be a person to run a hundred miles. In fact, the first a hundred mile race I did, I dropped out of it at around mile 60 because I convinced myself that I couldn't do a hundred miles and that it was a joke that I was trying and I should just, you know, stop and be okay with running 50 miles. So yeah, I had no idea.

Finn: I'm curious based on that, just given where you're at in your career, is there anything you have changed your mind about in terms of what's possible? Because I know that, you know, you're famous for, enjoying sort of like a lack of planning going into races. You kind of like to run intuitively and off feel, but when it comes to like goal setting and the long-term, has anything changed for you?

Courtney: I think the  biggest thing ultrarunning has taught me is that the bar we set for ourselves is usually too low and we should, you know, raise it up three notches to where it feels like kind of scary and crazy. And that's the thing that we go after and just see. And like every time I sign up for a race or, you know, go out for an adventure, it feels crazy that our tiny feet and legs can move us, you know, a hundred miles across a mountain range. That still blows my mind, but to feel that, it’s a little bit crazy that we're doing this. It’s a feeling that I want.

Finn: So even when you think about like the course records you've achieved, the wins you've achieved - in retrospect, with where your mind's at now, do you think you were setting the bar too low even in those instances and that there's still more to accomplish?

Courtney: I hope so. I mean, I hope to always be looking for my limits, but to never actually find them. So whenever I finish something, it never feels like, uh, done and dusted. It always feels like, you know, enjoy the moment, but then also reflect on like, you know, what could I have changed or what could I try next time? Or what variable could I work with additionally to see if that helps or not. I think that's so interesting. And to never feel like something is, you know, done or perfect is important to me.

Finn: This is a question that I asked Jim Walmsley before UTMB earlier last year, and I think it might be relevant to you because you both came up into the sport at relatively the same time, like in the mid 2010s. And it seems like you are, but are you as excited and as motivated to get out the door and to push limits as you were in say 2018 and2019?

Courtney: Absolutely. I think the more I learn about the sport and the more I experience and the more things I do, it just feels like the domino pushed over of wondering, you know, what else is possible. And that line of dominoes, they keep falling and I keep, you know, wondering where that leads to. So I'm absolutely as excited about it and I think it's a really fun time in ultra running right now. There's, you know, huge growth in the sport. More people signing up for these races and trying them, more coverage of it, you know, bringing these races to people's living rooms is pretty cool. The women who are crushing distances and races is exciting. So all of it is exciting, I’m still really fired up about it.

Finn: I love how you've talked about it on the Rich Roll Podcast - about the pain cave - and taking the pickax and making the space bigger. We talk a lot about the physical toll of this sport. I think it's interesting to talk as much about the mental as well. Is it as accessible as it's ever been for you mentally to go to the well in races? Have you found that that has been an expanding capability or it has been contracting and it's harder and harder each race to to go there?

Courtney: Because of this visual I have of it is as a cave, and when I go into the cave, it's the same cave every race, and I'm going to the very back corners and chiseling to make it bigger. It feels more accessible because it's the same cave. I've made it larger, you know, I want to dive into it every single time and I want to get to that back corner. So I can make it even more spacious for my next visit. And I still find that really fun, which I think is important for that mental side. Because the mental, like your brain can get really tired sometimes after a race. My brain is the most tired part on me and it's my legs that are ready to run again, but my brain is like, let's take a week of, you know, eating ice cream on the couch here for a minute. But I think that being able to grow that mental strength is attached for me visually to this cave. So it feels like I can see the growth there because I have this visual of the cave getting bigger.

Finn: In your experience, has it been easier to improve physically or mentally as an ultra runner?

Courtney: I don't think it’s either or necessarily. I understood that running is a physical activity. Immediately, you know, I understood that what I was undertaking was a physical thing and I didn't immediately understand that it was also mental. And so it took me a few more years to grasp that. The mental game of ultra running and how important our brains are and how important what we tell ourselves in those hard moments is. Yeah, and I more quickly understood that running, you know, is like a thing you can train and you're putting one foot in front of the other. All of those physical aspects of it.

Finn: This is probably an insanely premature question because you're clearly still at the very height of your powers, but how much longer do you wanna keep at this for in terms of being a professional athlete, being highly competitive? Is this just like an era of your life, or do you wanna play this infinite game, if it's possible?

Courtney: I hope to be running my entire life, and I hope to be part of the ultrarunning world for my entire life. You know, obviously that role will change a lot over the years, but for now, I don't have any desire to stop pinning on race bibs and giving it my all, every single time. So, for the foreseeable future, I still find this exciting and fun and I feel, yeah, like it's something I want to keep pursuing so that I don't wonder what if.

Finn: You're one of the very few people in the community that have transcended the sport and appealed to a wider audience. I've always been curious, do you welcome the pressure and I'll use the word “responsibility” of being an ambassador at that kind of level?

Courtney: I never could have predicted this chapter of my life would happen. And so my husband and I, while we're in this chapter, are trying to do as best we can and as full on as we can and enjoy it as much as we can. And part of that, yeah, has been like getting to meet people out on the trails or in the grocery store or in the airport and hear a little bit about their story or their goals or you know, what they're motivated to try. And so that feels really special to be able to connect to people like that. And that's part of this chapter that we’re in. And I think it's because our sport is so small. It's almost like we're one big family, that once you transcend our ecosystem and you become at least somewhat of a public figure, there are unique challenges like you've just described.

Finn: Do you feel like it's easy to be yourself in this position?

Courtney: I think if you asked anyone who knew me growing up, they would never have predicted that I would willingly talk to strangers or talk in public, like public speaking mortified me when I was growing up and yeah, would make me feel just like sick to my stomach. I would never voluntarily talk basically. But I think because I love ultra running so much, it, I feel really passionate about it, it's easy to talk about and it's easy to, yeah, I guess like step into a role that I would've never foreseen for myself because, I'm just so excited about it and love it so much. And so feeling that is like, I wanna spread that and I want more people to find the thing that fires them up in the same way.

Finn: It's funny because I've done 170 something episodes of the podcast and you're probably one of the easiest people to talk to. The idea that there wasanother era in life where you preferred not to talk is interesting. Another question - some athletes in your similar position and this, this can be in basketball, you know, LeBron James, the whole like shut up and dribble type stuff, the Colin Kaepernick stuff. We've seen Killian do some stuff in our sport. Some athletes at your level, they decide to be outspoken on social issues, economic issues, the environment, et cetera. Again, because of your status in the sport, do you feel, do you ever feel pressured to be more than an athlete and to champion initiatives in any particular?

Courtney: I think  currently my big hope is to light sparks for people and to help people feel more motivated to step outside their comfort zone or to try something that sounds impossible and just see, and while doing those hard things to enjoy it, like enjoy the process, enjoy those tough moments, we can, choose our attitudes about things and how we go about living our daily lives. And so that's where I feel I can make the most contribution, like the biggest contribution right now. And so currently that's how I wanna impact the world.

Finn: Do you ever get approached by people asking for help on a certain initiative or for comments on particular issues?

Courtney: Not a ton on like the buckets you referenced. OBut I also hope, like, you know, I'm a a growing, evolving human who learns things along my path too. And so who knows, you know, eventually where I'll feel like I can make a big impact on people around me or the world around me. So I hope for all of us, that's always a moving target of, you know, where we wanna focus or how we be the domino pusher or a spark lighter for a web of the community around us.

Finn: What else do you anticipate is a part of your legacy when it's all said and done? Like either from a performance standpoint or from the way you inspire people? What comes to mind for you right now in the end of it all?

Courtney: Oh man. I don't need anyone to remember a single result or race I did, or time or place. But what I hope people will remember about me is, that I made them smile and that I helped them or helped be a tiny, you know, part of their story in trying something difficult or pushing themselves to, you know, do something hard. And I hope to be a model that you can be working really, really hard at something and find the time to enjoy it and find the time to be supportive of people around.


Courtney Dauwalter

Courtney Dauwalter is a professional trail runner for Salomon based in Leadville, CO