Jim Walmsley will be taking on his first 100 miler at the Western States 100 this weekend. In the following interview, Jim talks about what he’ll be shooting for on race day, why he set lofty goals, how his Western States training has gone, and much more.
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Jim Walmsley Pre-2016 Western States 100 Interview Transcript
iRunFar: Bryon Powell of iRunFar here with Jim Walmsley before the 2016 Western States 100. How are you, Jim?
Jim Walmsley: Doing great.
iRunFar: You are about 100 yards from the start of your first 100-mile race. Are you excited?
Walmsley: I am. It’s kind of a lot of hard work finally coming to race day. It’s all done.
iRunFar: How long would you say you’ve been focused toward Western States in your training?
Walmsley: I think I knew back in December last year that Western States was going to be a big goal this year. Not sure how Bandera was going to go… you still have to qualify because I don’t know if I even had a qualifying race to even enter the lottery the year before… so qualifying was part of the process, but more or less all of the races this year have gone toward building towards this or keeping me occupied before this race.
iRunFar: On those occupational races, were they sort of lower-level efforts? Do you have a second gear, or are you always all in if you have a bib on?
Walmsley: No, I take them easy if I can, for sure.
iRunFar: You can do that?
Walmsley: Yeah, kind of.
iRunFar: Some people can’t.
Walmsley: For the most part sometimes.
iRunFar: Do you think you’ll be able to hold back at all early on Saturday, or do you even want to?
Walmsley: The goal is always to, yes. As you’ve seen, sometimes it happens and sometimes it doesn’t. I think the goal at Sonoma was to hang back, and I lasted 10 miles. Then that was it. This is a lot different than a 50-mile race, so you just have to keep the bigger race in perspective.
iRunFar: You’re in Flagstaff these days. Have you had some folks down there try to drill it in your head?
Walmsley: Everybody always tries to drill that into my head. Anyone that knows me knows that they can tell me 100 times, and I’ll say yes every single time, and then the gun goes off and it may or may not happen. Usually though, if the stakes are high enough—which it doesn’t get bigger than Western States in ultrarunning—I can stick to a more disciplined race plan.
iRunFar: It’s your first hundred, but you’re also a competitive guy. How do you balance… is just finishing a goal? Or is it to go for the win and go for the podium?
Walmsley: I’m totally starting with my goal is to win, period. That’s the goal with the side goal being I want to have a crack at the course record and keeping that in mind all day. I’m starting there. I’m not really focusing on the other goals. There are 100 other goals I can take away from this. I think those are the goals I need to concentrate on if things do start falling apart. That’s where you break it down and you step back. If I can finish 100 miler, that’s awesome. At the end of the day, that’s super awesome, and I can build off of that.
iRunFar: You can see that… if things did go sideways and you end up having to walk down the downhills, you’d still be, Let’s get to Placer High?
Walmsley: Unless something is going to affect my career, I’m getting to the finish line for sure.
iRunFar: It’s not quite all or nothing. It’s all or get to the finish?
Walmsley: Yeah. The goal is to win. I’m out there for 1,000 other reasons besides that, so it’s not going to be a dropped race.
iRunFar: What gives you the confidence, especially in your first 100, to say you’re going to go for the course record? That was set and attempted by a lot of people with experience in 100s and experience in this course, and the course record was set on an exceptionally cool day. How do you consider it like that?
Walmsley: The heat, I don’t … I think in my mind, if it was going to be over 100 degrees, which means it’s going to be 110 in the canyons as it’s much hotter in the canyons, and I know that, but I think in my mind if it was over 100 degrees I’d see the course record starting to be a stretch, but in the upper 90s, I’m not too worried about it. I run really well in the heat. I grew up racing in the heat. It brings me back to running cross country in high school. It’s fun. High-school cross country went great, so I’m not too worried about that. As far as the confidence of just finishing and talking about that sort of stuff—it’s just the competitive person in me. You shoot for that and you miss by a little bit you’re still going to do great. I think the mindset has to be there, otherwise you don’t have a chance.
iRunFar: Are you the sort of person that always runs well alone up front? Do you think it would help to have some people together at Foresthill?
Walmsley: I have a pacer at 62.
iRunFar: You’d rather have your pacer?
Walmsley: That’s my buddy. I don’t need to run with anyone else. James Bonnet is picking me up at 62, and he’ll take good care of me.
iRunFar: I’ve think I’ve run out on the course in that section with him way back when. You have a pacer. Is that going to be your first time with a pacer?
iRunFar: Is that something that appeals to you, or are you just trying it out?
Walmsley: Yeah, it’s one more person I get to try to drop. I’m just kidding.
iRunFar: No, you’re not.
Walmsley: I keep telling James I’m going to try to drop him.
iRunFar: It’s fun.
Walmsley: After the river, we’ve talked about it, there’s a green light, and I can try to do it then.
iRunFar: You probably shouldn’t try to drop him on Cal Street, yeah.
Walmsley: Well, there’s also a split from Highway 49 on in which might be the place to try to drop him. I’ve got to go after that for Craig.
iRunFar: I’m sure you know what the Cal Street record is?
Walmsley: I’m not as worried about that. I think Rob [Krar] has that. That’s a mid-race split. I think if you’re going to go after a middle-of-the-race split or record, you might as well aim for the last one. That’s the best part to run your best.
iRunFar: If you’re aiming for that, that means you have to manage all the rest of the race well unless you want to jog for 91 miles and then hit it.
Walmsley: Not the plan.
iRunFar: How have you formulated your nutrition plan to go for 15 or 16, hours let’s say?
Walmsley: I’m basically taking what’s worked for me in 100k’s and 50 miles and hoping it works out for 100 miles.
iRunFar: What is that? What does it look like for you?
Walmsley: I generally take gels probably two to three per hour. Then I put calories in my bottle. I’ve talked to people about this, and they think it’s crazy, but I usually say I aim for 500 to 600 calories per hour which is crazy, but how I look at it is that’s what I am for; I usually don’t get that, so I’ll end up closer to 400 or 300 in a bad split. Aiming that high, sometimes you get extra calories in, and I think that helps in the long run just to have more fuel than your goal.
iRunFar: What does your training look like specifically since Lake Sonoma? I assume it’s been Western States-specific training since then.
Walmsley: After Sonoma, the goal was to get recovered. I took a little bit of a down week and got back into things. I think I had two days off because I got in a bike fall—that wasn’t bad, though—but with the timing and still feeling draggy from Lake Sonoma, it just turned into… I think I took two days off, but I still hit 70 or 75 miles that week with two days off. Then from there, I just hopped right into it.
iRunFar: What’s a core week in a high phase look like?
Walmsley: Before Lake Sonoma, I put in a block… my big training block was a 120, 105, 120 essentially. One of them might have been a 125-mile week. The goal was 120.
iRunFar: What does that look like on a day-by-day basis? Are you doing a couple long runs, a lot of doubles, or speedwork?
Walmsley: I’ll get into it. That’s what I did for Lake Sonoma. For Western States, not necessarily for Western States, but trying to get myself fit, after that down week, I got into back-to-back weeks of 140 for the first time ever. The first week was the week that it was really a big week that I’m drawing a lot of confidence and a lot of fitness and just absolutely nailed the first 140-mile week. It was all in singles. I had over 22,000 feet of vert, and it finished in a two-hour, 20-mile long run at 7,200 feet. So, I felt great. It went great. I got in a crazy 30-mile day with James. That was a huge week. The next week I took down the vert a bit, but the intensity was still there. Then essentially after those back-to-back weeks, I came out fine and everything worked out awesome, so I basically needed to manage and stay fit off of that until race time.
iRunFar: You didn’t keep building, You were fit.
Walmsley: I hit 140, 140, and then I backed off to 120, 100, and two weeks of taper.
iRunFar: What does a taper look like?
Walmsley: I ran 60 miles last week and this week, I took a day off for the first time in a month-and-a-half and have just been running eight miles each day and today I might run eight or six. It’s just keeping the legs moving. I do drills and strides at the end of a taper week because I’m doing less, so I want to do somethings that help with feeling a little sharper.
iRunFar: You had your biggest back-to-back training weeks ever. How do you feel energy-wise right now?
Walmsley: Awesome. I started taking a post-run protein drink. That’s been really the only things I’ve changed with my training since after Sonoma. It’s just helped a lot. It’s something I kind of cut out of my routine after college. I’m not really training hard enough to warrant it, and it’s something I finally reintroduced back into my training.
iRunFar: What is it specifically that’s working?
Walmsley: I’m taking First Endurance Ultragen Recovery Drink, and it’s just been awesome. I just feel a lot stronger every day. I think it just boils down to eating calories, eating sugar, hydrating after.
iRunFar: Which you might be able to do with real food, but you’re not as inclined to…
Walmsley: The recovery drink just seems to work for me. It’s got 320 calories, 60 grams of sugar, and 20 grams of protein. Then you’re drinking it with about 20 ounces of water.
iRunFar: Which one is your favorite?
Walmsley: I like tropical punch or orange cream. I actually think they kind of taste similar.
iRunFar: You’re not a cappuccino guy?
Walmsley: No, not at all. Not really. I’ve tried it. I just don’t… even in the morning, I like Red Bull more than I like coffee.
iRunFar: You’re not a coffee guy?
Walmsley: I’ll drink it sometimes. I like it in the afternoon, but I’m too lazy to make it in the morning. Red Bull has the caffeine, and it doesn’t get to me to have to go to the bathroom like coffee does.
iRunFar: You’ve been up in the Sierra Nevada for a little while. How has that gone?
Walmsley: It’s been fun. It’s kind of an adventure. It’s been unplanned for the most part. I almost got talked into, by Chris Vargo, to go to San Francisco for a weekend to just go knock out KOM’s right now in the Mill Valley, which would have been hilarious, but I talked to James Bonnet about it and that’s why I run stuff through him.
iRunFar: He’s more collected than Chris Vargo?
Walmsley: He’s more level headed. I think Chris is just baiting me and thought it would be funny. Yeah, we have a Flagstaff running group called Coconino Cowboys… I don’t know. It would have been kind of us stepping on their turf. It’s kind of funny because they can come to Flagstaff and they’re not going to get stuff just because they’re coming up in elevation.
iRunFar: Did you hear that, guys?
iRunFar: Why did you specifically come to Tahoe because you live at Flagstaff and it’s just as high as here probably? Did you get out on the course a bunch?
Walmsley: My initial plan earlier in the year was not get on the course. I didn’t really care to get on the course at all. It all started with coming out for the Tahoe Ultrarunning Camp, which was a lot of fun with John Fitzgerald and Sean Meissner. I met a lot of good friends. Essentially it was whether or not I drive 12 hours back to Flagstaff and then drive out 12 hours again or just hang out. It just became a lot of driving. I just decided to come out here and just camp. I’m really glad I came out and checked out the course. It’s a lot more mountainous than I think what you hear about Western States. It doesn’t get the credit for the ups and the downs. Everyone’s like, “Runnable downhill course.” “Oh, that sounds great.” Then you get out on the course and early on in the mountain high country, some of the parts of the trail are fairly burly, and there are a lot of ups still. You’ve still got to be able to climb.
iRunFar: Some of your most notable performances in ultras have been on flatter or more rolling courses. What gives you the confidence to come out here and race a course that has 18,000 feet of climb and 23,000 feet of descent?
Walmsley: I train on the mountains. I run every day on these types of trails. That has no aspect. I think everybody points at my Speedgoat. “Oh, you can’t run in the mountains.” No, I wasn’t fit. I wasn’t fit. I wasn’t acclimatized to elevation. I wasn’t training. I thought I could maybe get the prim at the start. Yeah, Sage [Canaday] was in that one. Pat Smyth ran that. I totally got my butt handed to me. Biggest lesson was don’t show up to a race you’re not fit for. I think I gained a lot of respect for the ultra world. People work their tails off. You’ve got to train professionally to compete professionally.
iRunFar: It’s not perhaps what a LetsRun board might suggest.
Walmsley: They’re entertaining. I’m a very different runner now than 2014. My training is different. It’s more back to the college days of grinding training. Things are going well.
iRunFar: Best of luck out there, Jim. Have fun.
Walmsley: Appreciate it.