Vail Symposium hosts two extreme endurance athletes for Thursday program
Special to the Daily
Solving problems by looking at the big picture and then identifying each small step toward resolution: that’s how ultramarathon runner Courtney Dauwalter reaches every finish line.
“Even if I feel I run into a wall or max out… for me, that will be an indicator to figure out how to overcome an obstacle,” she said. “I don’t fall back on excuses. I look for ways to solve the problem.”
Two of the world’s top endurance athletes talk about training, bouncing back from injuries and maintaining focus and more on Thursday at Vail Interfaith Chapel, as part of the Vail Symposium’s winter programming. Dauwalter and Josiah Middaugh will share their knowledge, experience and inspiration during a talk titled Uncommon Endurance: Two Elite Athletes in Two Tough Sports, moderated by KZYR local DJ Steve Leigh.
Thirty-four-year-old Dauwalter won the Moab 240 Mile Endurance Run in 2017 and was the first female at Ultra Trail Mont Blanc 100 mile in 2019. She lives in Golden.
Forty-one-year-old Middaugh is the best off-roader in the nation’s history; he was the 2015 XTERRA champion, a ten-time GMC Ultimate Mountain Challenge champion and World Fat Bike Champion. Last October, he was the top American finisher — and 6th overall — in the XTERRA competition. He and his brother, Yaro, own Middaugh Coaching in Eagle County, where they train all levels of endurance athletes.
“What we give ourselves credit for and what our bodies and minds are capable of are two very different things,” Dauwalter said. “My goal is to look for my limit, and I hope the limit is so much bigger than (I imagine).”
Through ultramarathon running, she has discovered that persistence and using her mind to overpower pain has continually expanded any perceived limits.
However, she also advocates listening to your body. She’s been rehabilitating a hip injury for the past six months, which has underscored another approach she takes to doing her best: focusing on what she can do and control rather than what she can’t. Her hip injury has precluded her from running 100 miles, but it didn’t stop her from biking to maintain strength.
Middaugh has also learned to listen to his body while still pushing it. At times, he’s learned that he’s capable of more than he thought, and at other times, he has taken on more than he can handle. Now, he teaches athletes to get the most out of their workouts, not necessarily by training every free minute, but by making better use of the time they have.
After five knee surgeries, he knows people can come back stronger than before.
“An injury can be like pressing pause on your career,” he said. “Time isn’t wasted. It just means you have more time to tack on to the other end.”
He approaches exercise scientifically and believes that endurance athletes are made, rather than born.
“There’s a misconception about aerobic capacity being genetic, but it’s really about 40 to 50% trainable,” he said. “Most people aren’t living up to their potential. A lot of what you get out of it depends on what you put into it.”
It took him 15 years to win the championship in XTERRA, but these days, he said he recovers better than he did in his early 20s.
“I try to be a little better than I was the day before,” he said. “That’s really important for every athlete. They often have big, long-term goals, which can be good for motivation but can be kind of a curse if they don’t have progressive steps to get there.”
Much like Dauwalter, he focuses on the small steps he needs to take during his daily workouts.
“Then, the long-term goals take care of themselves,” he said.
If you go …
What: Uncommon Endurance: Two Elite Athletes in Two Tough Sports, with Courtney Dauwalter and Josiah Middaugh
When: Thursday, Jan. 16, 6-7:20 p.m.
Where: Vail Interfaith Chapel, 19 Vail Rd., Vail
Cost: $10 in advance, $15 at the door
More information: Visit vailsymposium.org.