LEADVILLE, Colo. — A Colorado ultrarunner set a new fastest known time (FKT) for the 160-mile Collegiate Loop, which circles from the Twin Lakes Reservoir south to the Monarch Pass area.
On the morning of Aug. 30, Courtney Dauwalter, of Leadville, posted on Facebook that she had been craving a "multi-day effort all summer." A combination of a strong body and mind, eager heart, and good weather led her to start a FKT attempt of the high-altitude Collegiate Loop in Colorado that morning. She planned to complete it supported, meaning she could have a support team meet her along the way and provide supplies as needed.
In total, the loop is about 160 miles with 33,000 feet of elevation gain.
Dauwalter started the route at Twin Lakes and ran counterclockwise to stay on the west side of the Collegiate Peaks. From Twin Lakes, she ran all the way south to a few miles beyond Monarch Mountain. She then curved back along the east side of the Collegiate Peaks to go up to the Mount Princeton Hot Springs and west of Buena Vista before reaching Twin Lakes to finish.
"Thanks for setting stout times on this high-altitude route," Dauwalter said on Facebook.
As she set out on the morning of Aug. 30 at 6:25 a.m., she was recorded in her Instagram story running down the trail, waving back at a camera.
"Be safe!" she yelled. "Drive safe! Don't forget to eat lunch!"
Despite a few stomach issues overnight, she reached mile 98 around 6:50 a.m. the following morning.
That afternoon, Pedatella, the men's record-holder for the route, joined Dauwalter for a section.
Her final miles came in the dark of Aug. 31, but it didn't stop a group of family and friends from cheering her to the very last steps. And then briefly blasting Lizzo's "About Damn Time."
Dauwalter ended up breaking the record for both men and women, finishing just after 10:30 p.m. with a time of 40 hours and 14 minutes.
Her time has been verified by FastestKnownTime.com.
Dauwalter's previous Colorado adventures
Dauwalter is no stranger to extremely vigorous and long days in the mountains. She thrives there.
"Pretty cool when the place you like to test yourself and push your own limits is also your favorite place to reset & relax, think in silence, socialize with friends, explore, and sometimes even nap (rocks make great pillows)," she wrote on Instagram in July.
In early August 2020, Dauwalter set out with a goal of running a FKT for the 486-mile Colorado Trail, supported by friends, family and her sponsor Tailwind. The trail winds 486 miles between Durango and Denver and gains about 90,000 feet of elevation from the west to east trailheads. It moves through six wilderness areas and eight mountain ranges.
At the time, Bryan Williams held the FKT for the route Dauwalter was pursuing, with a time of seven days, 17 hours and 52 minutes. That record was broken in 2021 by Pedatella. During Dauwalter's attempt, Williams cheered her on from afar.
“She’s one of the toughest female ultrarunners out there right now," he told Denver7.
Around mile 309, Dauwalter left the trail with acute bronchitis. She was hospitalized and was healthy within a few days, though her record-breaking attempt had to end so she could recover.
Fellow Tailwind athlete Joe Grant — who has biked to and ran up every 14er in the state in one month — holds the record for the trail in the Denver-to-Durango direction taking the Collegiate West route.
Dauwalter has a long list of running accolades, including:
- A win and women's record at the 2021 Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc in France
- A win at the 2019 Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc in France
- A win at the 2018 Western States 100 in California
- A win at the 2017 Moab 240
- A win and women's record at the 2022 Hardrock 100 in Colorado