Courtney Dauwalter refused to imagine she was going to win the well-known Western States 100 till she set foot on the Placer High School observe in Auburn, California, the place the race ends, simply earlier than 10:30 p.m. on June 23. She had been in first place for the final 45 miles, however so much can occur within the 2nd half of of a 100-mile race.
When she crossed the end line, in 17 hours, 27 minutes, and a couple of seconds, she secured the second-fastest ladies’s time within the race’s 44-year historical past, gapping second-place finisher Kaytlyn Gerbin by greater than an hour and ending 6 minutes and 54 seconds behind the 10th place man.
Dauwalter’s athletic résumé is nothing to scoff at: Western States was simply the most recent in a string of main path extremely wins for the 33-year-old Colorado native, together with back-to-back wins on the 2017 Run Rabbit Run 100 and Moab 240. (She gained the Moab 240 outright, gapping the first-place male finisher by greater than ten hours.) But it’s Dauwalter’s humble character and relaxed strategy to coaching and racing which have made her a fan favourite within the extremely group.
Even when you’ve got no plans to try an extremely, all endurance athletes can study from Dauwalter’s philosophy on competitors.
Don’t Overthink It
Dauwalter has excelled at slower, extra mountainous races just like the Run Rabbit Run 100. A quick 100-miler like Western States, the place the general winner routinely finishes effectively under 16 hours (in comparison with Run Rabbit Run’s 17 or 18 hours), was out of her wheelhouse. But Dauwalter didn’t put a lot thought into devising a race-specific coaching plan. “I just kept doing what’s already been working,” she says.
When requested for particulars, Dauwalter admits she doesn’t actually have a set coaching schedule. “I just leave my door and see where my legs take me for the day,” she says. “Some sections of trail I will do a bit faster—informal interval stuff. But there’s not much structure to it.” This manner, she leaves herself the liberty to take a time without work or minimize a run quick when her physique wants it, or go longer when her physique is feeling good, with out feeling responsible for modifying the plan.
Dauwalter carried that very same mentality over to race day. Many athletes spend the times earlier than the gun learning their aim paces and going over technique. Dauwalter handed that point taking part in cribbage together with her crew. “I didn’t want to go into the race mentally exhausted from worrying about splits or other runners,” she says. As at all times, Dauwalter toed the road with no technique in any respect. “I like to see how the day unfolds,” she says, “and do what feels comfortable and natural.”
Focus on Yourself, Not Other People
Leading as much as the race, Dauwalter was getting recommendation from plenty of different runners who instructed her that sauna classes and sweat-suit coaching had been one of the best methods to organize for the triple-digit temperatures she would seemingly encounter on race day. She tried just a few sauna classes however felt “drained and destroyed” afterward. After just a few stints within the sauna, Dauwalter determined she needed to discover one other strategy to put together.
“I’m pretty good at listening to my body,” she says. So Dauwalter logged some afternoon runs within the Colorado warmth, however largely she labored on her psychological recreation. “I just focused on acknowledging that the day was going to be hot, and that was going to be OK,” she says. “The heat wasn’t going to destroy my day, because I wasn’t going to let it.”
Accept What You Can’t Control
Dauwalter knew she would face plenty of unknown variables on race day, most notably a area of quick, skilled ladies she had by no means raced earlier than, together with former Western States champs Stephanie Howe Violett, Kaci Lickteig, and 22-year-old Aussie phenom Lucy Bartholomew. Dauwalter made a acutely aware choice to not fear about issues that had been out of her fingers. “I had no control over how the day unfolded for anyone else but myself,” she says. “I just had to be ready to react to it.”
When she handed Bartholomew round 55 miles into the race and moved into first place, Dauwalter’s nerves kicked in. Fear instructed her to react to the specter of your entire ladies’s area now behind her and to begin transferring quicker, however Dauwalter knew that will solely result in a blowup.
“If I got caught, that would be what it was,” she says. “But I was going to make them work to catch me.” To try this, she needed to management the issues she might: consuming, pacing, staying calm. “I was taking time at aid stations, making sure to still get in calories, moving efficiently but also not blowing it by going too fast.”
Just Keep Moving Forward
At her first 100-mile attempt, in 2012, Dauwalter DNFed at mile 60. She was in ache and didn’t but perceive that lows move if you happen to wait. “Not finishing that race got me really fired up,” she says. Dauwalter signed up for an additional 100-miler the next yr and spent the subsequent 12 months mentally making ready to not quit. She completed the Superior Fall Trail Race 100 in 2nd place and walked away with newfound confidence that her legs knew the best way to maintain operating even when in immense ache.
Dauwalter carries that baseline belief in her physique’s capabilities and a fierce dedication to the beginning line of each race. “Forward motion is the only way to get to the finish line,” she says. “You can do it if you just decide that there are no excuses good enough to make you stop.”