Kyle Curtin and Courtney Dauwalter put on a show at the Tahoe 200 Endurance Run.
Curtin of Durango and Dauwalter of Golden smashed the previous course record at the 200-mile ultramarathon in California. Daulwalter led all runners at the halfway point, with Curtin behind more than two hours before he started to gain ground on one of the best distance runners in the U.S., man or woman.
Curtin would go on to win the Tahoe 200 on Sept. 7 in his first 200-plus-mile race. He finished in a record time of 49 hours, 27 minutes, 22 seconds. Dauwalter was second overall and the first woman to finish, as she crossed the line in 49:54:36. Dauwalter smashed the previous women’s record by more than 18 hours, while Curtin’s overall record time was nine hours better than the previous record of 58:29:16 set in 2017 by Sean Nakamura.
“The first half went really smooth, hardly and highs or lows,” Curtin said. “It felt like a race the second half. I slowly kept reeling (Dauwalter) in.”
Curtin was 100 minutes behind Dauwalter after 142 miles, 40 minutes back at 161½ miles and only 25 minutes behind through 175 miles. He finally caught Dauwalter at the Loon Lake aid station at 181½ miles.
“I chased her for 181 miles,” Curtin said. “I was super amped up. I took a ton of energy drinks, but I think it was more the thrill of the chase and being neck-and-neck for two days into a race that really had me going. I didn’t mean to catch her that quickly. It was way easier to chase than to constantly look back to see how far ahead I was.
“After the aid station, I could see her headlamp for at least another hour. So, thinking she was right behind, I pushed hard the whole way into the finish. It felt like such a relief and a monumental accomplishment at the finish. I didn’t know exactly what the course record was, but I knew we’d crush it from before the race started.”
A total of 138 runners finished this year’s Tahoe 200, while 77 dropped out. Across 205½ miles, there were 14 aid stations, including five sleep stations that had a five-hour time limit.
The route has 176½ miles of singletrack trail, eight miles of paved roads and 21 miles of dirt roads. The route primarily was run on the Tahoe Rim Trail with sections through the Mount Rose Wilderness, Granite Chief Wilderness and west of the Desolation Wilderness. It ran around the Lake Tahoe through California and Nevada with the start and finish line for the loop at the Homewood Ski Resort in California. Runners tackled 40,200 feet of elevation gain and descent. The top elevation was 9,716.2 feet and came 115 miles into the race.
Spike Harrisburg finished third overall and was the second-place man in 60:01:35. The second woman was Mika Thewes of Michigan, as she finished in 72:22:55.
Dauwalter’s run didn’t surprise Curtin. The 2018 Western States 100-Mile Endurance Run women’s race winner caught the eye of the ultrarunning world in 2016 with a women’s win and eight-place overall finish at the Run Rabbit Run 100. She again won Run Rabbit Run in 2017 and finished sixth overall before she won the Moab 240 Endurance Run, a 238-mile race in Utah. Dauwalter placed fist overall at the Moab 240, as she beat the men with a time of 57:55:13.
Curtin also is a runner on the rise. After he served in the military, he moved to Durango to get his degree at Fort Lewis College. The U.S. Army Special Operations veteran is originally from Columbus, Ohio.
Earlier this year, Curtin was fourth at the Jemez Mountain 50-mile race in Los Alamos, New Mexico. Last year, he placed fifth at The Bear 100-mile race in Utah and was sixth at the Ultra Race of Champions 62-mile race in Virginia. In 2016, he was third at Run Rabbit Run after a top-15 result in 2015 at the HURT 100 in Hawaii.
“I ran my first ultra in 2012 at the Ozark 100. That race crushed me,” Curtin said. “I ran the second half of Tahoe faster than I ran this first race. I ran it for three consecutive years and ended up winning in 2014 with a new course record there, too. I also won the Kettle Moraine 100 in Wisconsin that year, too. It’s been a few years since I won a big race like this, but third at Run Rabbit Run two years ago was a pretty big accomplishment in my book.”
At this year’s Tahoe 200, Curtin finished the first half of the race in 22:45. He didn’t spend much time in aid stations and avoided blisters on his feet until the final 15 miles, but he did have trouble eating.
“I was moving pretty good through both nights, so that helped keep me much warmer than if I had been walking more,” he said. “My biggest issue was not being able to keep down food. I took a peanut butter and jelly sandwich to go from the aid station at Mile 30, but after a few miles of carrying it, I gave up on solid foods. A candy bar was the closest thing to real food I was able to eat from Mile 30 until about 12 hours after the race.”
Curtin had four pacers as part of his crew. He picked up a pacer at Mile 65 and had one the rest of the route. He didn’t hit a mental low until Mile 130.
“I was as far away from the lead as I was all day, and I had taken the last section too hard and was physically hurting,” he said. “That was really the only time I felt like I couldn’t run at all. Then I heard there was a guy in third who was gaining on me. That next aid station was a game changer, and I came out feeling much more refreshed and back in the race mentally.”
Once Curtin saw Dauwalter’s footprints on the dirt after 150 miles, he knew he had closed in on the lead.
“I could see her footprints in the dust and if she dropped a gummy or something,” he said. “It felt like a hunt, and I was amped up for it.”
Curtin said he does 90 percent of his training in Durango, and he has a goal to run the trail up the Hogsback this year 100 times. His favorite run is the loop around Engineer Mountain. Curtin will compete in the Durango Double trail run and mountain bike race Oct. 13. He then will target the Pinhoti 100-mile race Nov. 3 in Alabama.
Curtin credited the community in Durango, Rotem Ishay at the Durango Performance Center at Fort Lewis College and his sponsor, Altra Running, for pushing him to have top results.
“Brett (Sublett) and the community he has created at Durango Running Company has been an awesome source of advice and camaraderie, especially with his creation of a team of runners based out of the store about a year ago,” he said. “It’s become a hub for some of the fastest runners in the area, and it’s been great to be able to train with such high-caliber athletes.”