Thursday, June 20, 2024

Courtney Dauwalter’s golden hat-trick – AW

Adrian Stott writes about a rare trio of race wins which have moved the extremely distance runner to a brand new stage

Underneath regular circumstances, Courtney Dauwalter securing her second victory on the basic Extremely Path du Mont Blanc (UTMB) race in the beginning of September would have been noteworthy sufficient by itself. Positioned within the context of her yr, nonetheless, the achievement turns into really outstanding.

This was the American’s third 100-mile occasion in 10 weeks and her third victory. To high it off, two of these wins happened because of course file breaking performances.

Earlier than 2023, the 38-year-old from Colorado had already established herself as top-of-the-line of the present technology of extremely runners. This summer season noticed her transfer into new territory.

The primary race within the treble was the Western States 100 on June 24. The course, within the Sierra Nevada mountains of California, is by far probably the most runnable of the three, with 5500m of climb. Western States is a well-established extremely with 328 entries and 311 finishers in 2023, 68 of them ladies.

Courtney Dauwalter (Getty)

Dauwalter had run 17:27:00 when successful in 2019. Illustrating simply how a lot she has progressed since, this time she improved by over two hours to fifteen:19:33. Within the course of, she lowered the 2014 mark of 16:47:19 set by former Comrades and World 100km champion Ellie Greenwood by one hour and 18 minutes.

The second race on Dauwalter’s listing was the Hardrock 100 on July 14. Of the three races, it’s the smallest with a household really feel and solely 146 entries and 111 finishers in 2023. It’s also arguably the toughest as not solely does it function a large 10,360m of climb, however going as much as a excessive level of 4281m (14,048 ft) – over 3 times greater than Britain’s tallest mountain Ben Nevis – signifies that altitude can also be an element right here. 

Dauwalter had damaged Diane Finkel’s long-standing 2009 file of 27:44:35 with 26:44:36 when successful the 2022 race. Three weeks after her Western States file, she lowered her personal mark by half-hour to 26:14:12.

The UTMB, in the meantime, is the longest occasion of a week-long sequence involving over 10,000 runners in over seven races. It has 2814 entries. At 171km/106.5 miles, it’s the longest of Dauwalter’s treble and includes slightly below 10,000m of climb.

Her psychological race plan was to erase the earlier two 100 milers and let the race unfold. She had firm within the early levels however, as soon as she took the lead, she was by no means overtaken. 

It was not all plain crusing. In post-race interviews, she talked of battling complete physique fatigue, however nonetheless her successful time of 23:29:14, though 50 minutes slower than her 2021 file of twenty-two:30:54, is spectacular sufficient to rank fifth all-time on the UTMB “100-mile” listing. 

Solely her compatriots, the 2022 champion Katie Schide, plus two-time winner Rory Bosio, have run sooner, albeit the UTMB course has diverse between 169-171km attributable to minor route modifications every year.

So how has Dauwalter been capable of full this extraordinary hat-trick?

Firstly, the double of Western States and Hardrock was deliberate from final winter as a reputable problem. It wasn’t till two to a few weeks after Hardrock that she felt, though nonetheless not 100 per cent in thoughts and physique, that including within the UTMB was attainable. 

Submit-UTMB interviews relate how, from 60 miles on, she felt she was operating on empty with little extra to offer, however her internal resilience, honed over 10 years’ expertise of operating 100-mile occasions, saved her transferring. 

Skilled extremely runners know a 100-miler is rarely plain crusing. There’ll all the time be a tough patch you must get by means of. In lots of respects, it’s what you join. The information that this might final a couple of minutes or just a few hours, comes with the territory of discovering out simply what you might be able to. Folks speak of a “Ache Cave”, however runners of all talents study the artwork of problem-solving on the run to allow them to achieve the end line.

Dauwalter has discovered how to do this and to answer alerts from her physique. She has a really close-knit help staff, too, who work collectively to make sure she is nicely ready. Chief amongst these is her husband, Kevin Schmidt. 

He’s identified to organize elaborate spreadsheets with data and splits earlier than main races. Dauwalter, although, tends to race like she trains. A tenet plan is rarely concrete, as she has discovered to hearken to her physique whereas coaching and racing and adapt to how she is feeling. After a few DNFs just a few years in the past attributable to abdomen points, she now pays additional consideration to this space and works with a nutritionist.

Maybe above all else, past the cerebral science of any coaching or diet plans, she reveals an nearly childlike enthusiasm for her sport and, though a full-time professional athlete, it looks like every day she is simply “going out to play”. 

Dauwalter’s treble…

June 24
Western States 100
(100.5 miles / 161km / 5500m climb)

July 14
Hardrock 100

(102.5 miles / 163km / 10,360m climb)

Sept 1
(106.5 miles / 171km / 9963m climb)

» This text first appeared within the September challenge of AW journal, which you’ll subscribe to right here

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