Courtney Dauwalter completes ultra-trail triple crown with UTMB victory
In a span of about a month and a half this summer, the Leadville runner won — and set course records – at Western States, Hardrock 100 and UTMB
Leadville ultra runner Courtney Dauwalter made history on Saturday.
The 38-year-old won her third-career Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc (UTMB), a 106-mile race that gains 32,000 feet as it circumnavigates Mont-Blanc through Italy, Switzerland en route to Chamonix, France. In doing so, she completed an unprecedented ultra-trail triple crown — winning the Western States Endurance Run (June 24), the Hardrock 100 (July 14), and UTMB in a single summer.
The legendary Kilian Jornet is the only athlete to have won all three — over the course of a lifetime. Nikki Kimball won the Western States and UTMB in 2007 but didn’t attempt Hardrock that summer. In 2012, Krissy Moehl attempted all three, finishing fourth, fourth and 14th, respectively.
“You can’t triple unless you try,” Dauwalter, who smashed course records in all three wins, told Trailrunnermag.com. “Any time we’re given the opportunity to try something difficult or crazy, we should absolutely take it. This was totally crazy and really, really difficult, but worth it.”
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“It’s sort of what my approach was with all three of them. Not have, you know, an excuse queued up, not be thinking of the fatigue that might still be there, but just give it everything I have,” she stated in a post-race interview.
“So, lining up for this one, that was the plan. And for sure I started the race with that intention. Like, my pace was not trying to be conservative or hold anything back because it was the third in a string of hundreds this summer. It’s like, let’s race it how we normally would, and then just see where that road leads us.”
Dauwalter started the race well, UTMB reported, but faced issues which “put her energy and fitness levels to the test.” The Salomon runner described the second half of the race as very difficult.
“My body was not wanting to run anymore and my stomach was a little finicky, so I almost lost my lunch on the streets of Champex-Lac,” Dauwalter said. “Luckily, held it together and was able to will myself to this finish line. But I honestly am not sure I would have made it back here without Kevin — my husband — and some of my family here crewing.”
Dauwalter’s winning time was 23 hours, 29 minutes and 14 seconds. Germany’s Katharina Hartmuth (24:10:52) and France’s Blandine Hirondel (24:22:50) rounded out the podium.
“I felt strong until the aura of the migraine hit,” she posted on social media. “I got dizzy and nauseous and then the headache. I couldn’t keep the headlamp on because of the pain.”
Despite the disappointment, Harrison’s post was upbeat.
“It’s not always rainbows and butterflies but it’s ALSO always rainbows and butterflies….depending on which way you look,” she stated. “Choosing the latter.”
History was made on the men’s side as well, as Jim Walmsley became the first American male to win the race, largely regarded as the most prestigious and competitive ultra in the world. The Arizona-based runner, who moved to France a year ago to prepare specifically for the event, broke the course record with his 19:37:43 winning time. Zach Miller, who lived at Barr Camp on Pikes Peak for over four years, took the silver after leading the race at one point.
“I put myself where I wanted to be, which was in the lead group and essentially covered moves and raced people,” Miller told irunfar.com. “And, it would have been really easy to just give up on Jim. I know I didn’t, like I know his lead grew after he caught me, but mentally I did not. I was still trying to catch him.”
Dauwalter told irunfar.com she is looking forward to enjoying Colorado fall weather as she recharges her batteries.
“Right now I’m in no mental space to make any future plans,” she said. “But after some relaxation, we’ll start scheming for sure.”