Dawn - Sometimes An Ultrarunner

Dawn - Sometimes An Ultrarunner

November 1, 2014

Dawn's Red Bull X-Alps Athlete Profile

Please forgive the completely shameless bragging...this was my application to get into the world's toughest adventure race, after all!

Check out all the athletes here: http://www.redbullxalps.com/athletes.html



Nationality: United States
Date of birth: 01. Jul. 1978
Profession: Nutritionist
Assistant: Jaroslaw Wieczorek
Glider: Ozone Delta 2. For the Red Bull X-Alps I will fly an Ozone Alpina 2
Sponsors: Eagle Paragliding, Two-Can Fly Paragliding, Ewa Wisnierska, Antofaya Expeditions, MARU Holding LLC, and Tast Corp.

  • "Paragliding and long distance trekking are two sports where men and women can compete almost equally," so says the former US soldier. Although she only has 5 years paragliding experience under her wing, she has a solid adventure racing background. "Rarely can anyone I meet keep up with me either on the ground or in the air," she says. Will she be able to say the same after the Red Bull X-Alps?"

    • When and why did you begin paragliding?
    • I first saw paragliders in Switzerland when I was in the US Army stationed in Germany. I knew I wanted to fly someday, and soon took a tandem flight in Norway where I was hooked! It wasn’t until I got out of the Army and traveled around the world that I had a chance to learn to paraglide in Colombia. This was in 2009 and since then I have been flying every chance I can get.
    • Do you paraglide competitively? List rankings and events.
    • I have flown in two competitions, I’ve wanted to do more but there aren’t many chances in the States. I enjoy competing and want to test myself against other pilots. So far I have mostly concentrated on XC flying, in Chile, Colombia, the Alps, and in the Wasatch Range of Utah. I have had two articles published in the US Hang Gliding and Paragliding (USHPA) magazine. One in the February 2014 about a long flight in Iquique, Chile. The second one is in the August 2014 issue, about the XC valley flying in Roldanillo, Colombia. I spent 6 weeks in Colombia this spring focusing on solo XC flying. Rat Race Sprint 2013, I finished 3rd woman. USA Open Distance Nationals 2013 in Salt Lake City, Utah, I was 3rd woman. I am ranked 18th woman on XContest (as of 8 Aug 2014). I am planning to do more competitions this winter in South America, and next year in Europe. If I am accepted into the Red Bull X-Alps, I will move to Europe early in the year and make it a priority to enter some competitions there as well as learning the course.
    • What is your mountaineering experience?
    • I have climbed to 6,000m on Huayna Potosi summit in Bolivia. Details are here http://hikerdawn.blogspot.co.at/2009/05/huayna-potosi-summit-bolivia-19975-feet.html I have completed Via Ferrata routes in 8 countries, including France, Spain, Slovenia, Austria, Switzerland, UK, Scotland, and Italy. More info is here: http://hikerdawn.blogspot.co.at/search/label/Via Ferrata My highest elevation on a backpacking trip was in Peru, where I crossed a 4,870 meter pass on the Santa Cruz Trek. http://hikerdawn.blogspot.co.at/search/label/Peru I have also spent 3 weeks on a NOLS (National Outdoor Leadership School) backpacking class in Montana, USA. There we crossed over high passes and lots of snow, and learned how to self arrest on a glacier and safely cross snowfields. http://hikerdawn.blogspot.co.at/2013/08/nols-backpacking-expedition-beartooth.html I have been climbing both indoors and outdoors for 20 years. I am qualified in both sport and lead climbing. I was certified as a Wilderness Emergency Medical Technician (WEMT) in 2013 by the National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS). I learned orienteering and map reading in the US Army and have been navigating my way around the world ever since. I love maps and by using them, I always know where I am and where I am going.
    • What is your paragliding experience?
    • I have been paragliding for 6 years in 10 different countries, including USA, Colombia, Chile, UK, Spain, Italy, Slovenia, Austria, Switzerland, and Turkey. I have about 340 hours of airtime and 1,100 flights. I have extensive experience with sidehill and top landings, and I am confident that I can land anywhere I need to. I estimate I have top or sidehill landed at least 700 times. I have done both hike-and-fly and vol biv paragliding, and I have the lightweight gear and the location (Utah Wasatch mountains) to make it easy to practice. I have completed SIV courses in Utah and in Turkey. I have my T-1 rating and I am working on getting my tandem certification. I have trained under some of the pioneers in the sport of paragliding, including Ken Hudonjorgensen and Rob Sporrer.
    • What is your adventure racing / endurance sport experience?
    • My biggest adventure race so far has been the 2012 Adidas Terrex Expedition Adventure Race in Scotland. It was 5 days and 500km and included running, trekking, canoeing, canyoneering, via ferrata, and mountainbiking. My teammates and I were able to work well together, stay uninjured, and we finished 10th overall! http://hikerdawn.blogspot.com/2012/09/adidas-terrex-sting-adventure-race-part.html My biggest stage race was across England, where we spent 4 days racing over mountains including running, kayaking, swimming and mountainbiking. I finished 3rd woman. http://hikerdawn.blogspot.co.at/2011/08/adidas-terrex-coast-to-coast-adventure.html The longest non-stop race I completed was 100 miles across Wales and England. http://hikerdawn.blogspot.co.at/2011/05/housman-hundred-101-mi-28-29-may-2011.html I have completed 2 Iron Man Triathlons, and over 60 marathons and Ultramarathons. I estimate that I have competed in 500 races and events, which include Adventure Racing, Iron Man, Triathlon, Ultra Running, Mountain Marathons, Orienteering, Stage Races, and Volksmarches.
    • What does your typical training week consist of?
    • I don’t think that training for ultra running is anything typical, but I try to keep a good mix of activities in my weekly routine. Depending on what I am training for, I include running, trekking, swimming, rock climbing, strength workouts, and bicycling. I am working with a personal trainer to help me train specifically for the uphill hiking, strength and endurance I will need for this length of race. I have kept track of all my workouts since 2004, and I average about 600 hours of training time and several thousand miles a year. It is hard to break it down further than that because some weeks are really intensive and some are for recovery. On a hard week, I typically do a hike-and-fly up to my local takeoff, go skiing or bike riding depending on the time of year, climb at the indoor climbing wall near my house, and run a marathon or ultra marathon on the weekend. This can be between 15-20 hours of exercise. I live just a few miles from the Point of the Mountain paragliding site in Utah, so I am able to hike up to launch, and then either fly home or hike back depending on conditions. I will plan doing this several times a week for the Red Bull X-Alps training. I am also able to hike up to an XC launch in the Wasatch mountains from my house so I have the terrain available that will help me for this race.
    • What are your best and worst adventure/flying moments?
    • My worst moment in racing was at mile 76 of my 100-mile run. I kept telling myself that I had gone 3 marathons already ... but my mind kept reminding me that I still had one left! My legs hurt and it was cold and windy on a hilltop in Wales, and I must admit that I might have bawled my eyes out! Luckily another competitor came along to cheer me up, we had some food at a rest stop, and we spent the next 24 miles walking and talking and the time and the miles passed by quickly, believe it or not. It’s a reminder to me that mood can get better just by eating, drinking, and talking to someone. To qualify for the 100-mile race, I had to run a long qualifying race and there were only a few near me that were available in England. The race I chose used a very interesting style of map, but at the start I was not looking at it and only following other racers. In fact I was distracted by talking to another person. After a while we realized that there were less racers around us and we were lost, really lost. By the time we got back on the course, we had gone TEN miles out of our way extra, on a 50 mile race. This was very early in the race and the first checkpoint had almost closed before I arrived. I knew I had to finish this race to qualify for the 100-mile I wanted to enter, so I kept going even though I had already run an extra 10 miles. I was the very last person for a while and then started catching up to a few people, then more. I was determined to finish and by the end I was famous at all the checkpoints because I was still running when everyone around me was walking. I did learn how to read the special maps but realized that following other people was never a good idea! So I guess my worst moment turned into a really good day after I determined to finish no matter what! http://hikerdawn.blogspot.com/2010/10/rowbothham-round-rotherham-50-mi-60-mi.html My best moment was my long flight in Chile I wrote about for the USHPA magazine. We had a really rough flight on the high cliffs above the Pacific Ocean, wondering if we could battle the winds far enough to make it all the way. The final turn is sometimes the roughest, but when we came around and we could see the city of Iquique, the winds were calm and we had an amazing high glide over the ocean to land on the beach in front of our hotel. I really value the idea of either leaving from my house or returning to it, on foot or bike or paraglider or whatever I am doing at the time. Human power rather than vehicle power, I guess you could say. So to be able to get all the way back to the hotel that day was really satisfying, and is a reminder of how cool it is to be able to fly like a bird, over land and even water! http://hikerdawn.blogspot.com/2013/11/iquique-chile-paragliding-tour.html
    • What are the sporting moments you are most proud of?
    • When I was in the US Army in 2004, I was in good shape but hadn’t really gotten into racing or long distances yet. In fact I hadn’t ever run longer than 6 miles! My coworker asked me if I wanted to run a marathon. I blinked and said, sure, when? He said this weekend (4 days from that day)! I still agreed, and finished my first marathon with absolutely no training! It was at that moment I realized that I could do anything I wanted if I worked at it hard enough. Since then I have just kept trying longer and longer races, and still haven’t found my true limits. I am most proud of the fact that I have finished every race that I have started. I have never been injured and have been able to keep myself injury free through rain, wind, snow, and other extreme conditions. I lived in England for 3 years, and raced most weekends through lots of wet and mud and wind. Through it all I rarely had a blister and my feet stayed in great shape. I have been featured in a video about women pilots, which won the 2014 award for best Paragliding video at the NorCal Free Flight Film Festival http://we-are-pilots.com/two-part1/
    • When and how did you first hear about the Red Bull X-Alps?
    • Since the first moments I started paragliding, people started telling me that the Red Bull X-Alps would be the perfect race for me. I set my sights on it early as the perfect challenge for me to combine my two favorite sports!
    • Have you competed in the Red Bull X-Alps before and if so, when?
    • No.
    • What appeals to you about the Red Bull X-Alps?
    • I have always been the type of person to aspire to do the hardest challenge I can find. This race is the ultimate challenge I can think of, which plays to all of my strengths. I love maps and choosing new hiking trails and XC routes. I dance to the beat of a different drummer, as they say, and rarely can anyone I meet keep up with me either on the ground or in the air. Competing on this level would be a true test of my skills. I also want to prove that women can be competitive on a race of this length. I think that paragliding and long distance trekking are two of the few sports where men and women can compete almost equally. I believe that women can have as good or better endurance than men over long distances. Women have been breaking records in almost everything in the last 20 years, and I think this is a chance for me to show that paragliding is a sport where they have an equal chance at being great. I want to show women everywhere that they are capable of doing more than they could ever believe, and that nothing will stop them except their own mind’s limitations!
    • What will be your strategy during the race?
    • My strategy for the race will be to rely on my own judgement and decision making. I have learned many times in the past that relying on other racers to make the decisions for me can lead to getting lost and not taking the best route. I will do a lot of pre-planning on the route and will try to hike and fly as much of the distance as I can before the race so I can make better decisions during the competition. I believe that my decision making skills are usually very good, and to help with that, obviously I will try to stay healthy, hydrated, well-fed and rested during the race, so that my brain functions on a high level and I can get as far as possible. This will help me make safe choices about when and where to fly, and when to stay on the ground.
    • On average, over a third of the Red Bull X-Alps participants fail to finish the event. Why do you think you will make it?
    • I have never failed to finish a race. Part of the appeal of racing to me is pushing my boundaries. I have continued to compete in longer and longer races and have never found one that I couldn’t complete. I’m always looking for a new challenge and the Red Bull X-Alps race includes all my favorite activities, including planning, strategy, navigation, paragliding, and trekking. I feel like all of my outdoor experiences in my whole life have been leading up to this race.
    • What scares you the most about the event?
    • Obviously the whole race is scary! We will be racing in conditions where pilots normally would be sitting in at home glad they are out of the elements. It will be hard to safely practice this as no conditions are the same especially because the course is so long. However, what I like most about this race is that I have my own choices about when to fly, so I will be able to make safe decisions for myself about the conditions.
    • Have you ever done anything of this magnitude before?
    • Yes. I believe the 2012 Adidas Terrex Expedition Race was comparable in terms of the training and preparation required before the race. We spent almost a year accumulating the gear we would need for 4 team members, including bikes, canoes, dry suits, harnesses, multiple sets of dry clothes, packs, food, etc. During that 5-day race, I got only 1 hour of sleep the first three nights, and still continued to race the entire 4th day while trekking 40 miles across the Scottish mountains. We did get some sleep on the 4th night! Of course the Red Bull X-Alps would be about twice as long as my expedition in Scotland. But I believe that preparation would be the same process. Step by step, getting gear and maps, breaking the race down into sections, conferring with my supporters. That is what I am best at and I look forward to the challenge. I'm dreaming about it already, actually!

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