Jim Walmsley, 2016 Lake Sonoma 50 Mile Champion, Interview
No one will argue with the statement that Jim Walmsley put on a clinic in his course-record-setting win of the 2016 Lake Sonoma 50 Mile. In this interview, Jim talks about if he approached this year’s race differently following his fifth place at Lake Sonoma last year, some of the training and racing that led up to this weekend, and his ambitious goal for the Western States 100 later this year.
For the full story on how the race went down, check out our results article.
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Jim Walmsley, 2016 Lake Sonoma 50 Mile Champion, Interview Transcript
iRunFar: Meghan Hicks of iRunFar, and I am here on the hills above Lake Sonoma with the 2016 Lake Sonoma Champion, Jim Walmsley. Congratulations!
Jim Walmsley: Thanks, Meghan.
iRunFar: I didn’t recognize you walking around town yesterday because of your new hair style here.
Walmsley: A little bit. Kind of tying it back recently. It’s getting in my face too much.
iRunFar: Is this the new, “I’m just embracing the ultra culture, growing my hair out?”
Walmsley: Totally. I don’t know. I’m just winging it. I don’t know where it’s going to go.
iRunFar: Where it’s going… I don’t think you… do you say “winged it” or “wunged it?” I don’t think you wunged it at the race today.
Walmsley: I definitely winged it.
iRunFar: During the race today?
Walmsley: No, no, I had a lot more planning in the race today as far as far as aid stations and crewing. I had Cody Reed and Jeremy Drenckhahn and my parents kind of all crewing for me today.
iRunFar: I want to take things back a year here at Lake Sonoma last year where you finished fifth place. It seemed like it was a totally different race for you this year from the outside looking in. From the inside looking out, was it?
Walmsley: Both of them I didn’t really feel like I had much to lose. Last year I kind of decided to take it a little earlier. This year I waited a little more. Still, I kind of gambled a bit and went early. You kind of pay that back later in the race and it gets real miserable. I think I’m a lot stronger this year. Training is a lot more consistent. I’m up at altitude now. That’s a really big difference. I’m just more prepared and knew what to expect.
iRunFar: You’re in Flagstaff, Arizona, living up at 7,000 feet and doing your workouts at 7,000 feet.
Walmsley: Sometimes—my parents live in Phoenix, so sometimes I go down there or Moab or I trained a bit in Sonoma.
iRunFar: So there’s a whole crew of fast trail runner types there. What’s it like having integrated into that culture and training in that atmosphere?
Walmsley: It’s good, but at the same time, I’ve been working a lot at the local bike shop. I work at Absolute Bikes.
iRunFar: Road bike or mountain bike?
Walmsley: Everything is mountain biking there for the most part. People ask about road bikes and it throws you off your game real quick, but I come from a road-bike background. I did that in California for a little bit. I end up running by myself a lot in the mornings.
iRunFar: Before work?
Walmsley: Before work. Then on Wednesday mornings I run with Run Flagstaff group run at 7 a.m. There’s Biff’s Bagels Run on Thursday which is the biggest …
iRunFar: That’s the big Flagstaff…
Walmsley: That’s the big… yeah, it gets up to maybe 60 people in the summer.
iRunFar: Pretty serious.
Walmsley: No, totally not.
iRunFar: Serious in the turnout.
Walmsley: Serious in the turnout, super chill in the speed.
iRunFar: It seems like you’ve kind of been on fire in 2016—Bandera [100k], Red Hot [Moab 55k]…
Walmsley: Well, JFK [50 Mile], Bandera, Moab, Mesquite Canyon [50k] last month was a little one, and then keeping it going at Sonoma.
iRunFar: You’re on the journey to Western States.
Walmsley: Yes, that’s where things will be shifting now. Even Dylan Bowman asked me during the race how stuff was going for Western and I was like, “One race at a time. I’m worrying about today.”
iRunFar: “I’ve still got 40 miles to go.”
Walmsley: I think it was like 45. Yeah, I’m going to enjoy today, but that’s where the focus will go. I want to crush it for sure.
iRunFar: You seem to have a lighthearted and jovial personality, but I know you’re very dedicated and analytical and focused when it comes to your training. Talk about some of your key workouts coming into Lake Sonoma.
Walmsley: I did one threshold and it went terrible. It went really well. I was planning an eight-mile threshold and I took off a mile earlier so it turned into a seven-mile threshold because I quite two miles early because it was super windy. I think the whole West Coast got hit with a big wind. Phoenix… I did it down in Phoenix at basically 1,000 feet and the winds always swirl. So I felt like I was always in a headwind—I’m going to blame it on that—so I did seven miles at 5:20. It felt hard. That was enough. The leg speed I don’t worry too much about. It tends to pop back when I need it especially on race day. I might not be doing anything fast, but on race day the legs turnover pretty quick.
iRunFar: It must be fortunate to be young.
Walmsley: Still young, yeah, so it’s alright.
iRunFar: So how does a guy like you wrap your brain around 100 miles?
Walmsley: One mile at a time.
Walmsley: People do it. My thing about it has been a) it’s Western States, b) it’s one of the granddaddies of ultras, but how do people get into 100 miles to begin with? You just go do it. That’s going to be my philosophy. I’ll go do it. That’s how you get started in them for sure.
iRunFar: You’re either are going to nail it or you’re going to go out in this fiery, fiery crash.
Walmsley: Yeah, and I’ve done that a couple times for sure, but my goal is to go win it and then…
iRunFar: Just putting that out there…
Walmsley: If things happen, goals will change throughout the race. I without a doubt want to finish. I’m going to train, and I’m going to prepare like I want to win it. Why not?
iRunFar: Well, this is a day for saying, “See you in Squaw” for a lot of people, so congratulations on your win today. I guess we’ll #SeeyouinSquaw.
Walmsley: See you in Squaw—well, it’s been since Bandera, but I guess I haven’t been throwing that hashtag out yet. We’ll see… maybe. I don’t know if I’ll keep my training private or not on Strava. Maybe people can comment and vote whether I can.
iRunFar: On whether we can all view your training or not?
Walmsley: This week I took all the private stuff off, so you can see some of my runs on Strava now. There are some okay ones now—a bunch with Tim Freriks. We trained a lot for this race together and kind of gave him some tips on crewing stuff. As a whole group we had a lot of guys helping us both out in the crewing aspect. That was really beneficial this year for both of us.
iRunFar: Congratulations again. Now we’ll all just go dial into Strava and check things out.
Walmsley: Thanks you so much. Yeah. Cool. Awesome. Thanks.