Jim Walmsley, 2019 Western States 100 Champion, Interview

For the second-straight year, Jim Walmsley won the Western States 100 in a course-record time. In the following interview, Jim talks about the effect racing his housemate Jared Hazen had on his own run, whether he thinks he can still go faster at Western States, and where he’ll turn his attention to in the future.

Be sure to read our results article for the full race story. You can also watch the video finishes of Jim and the rest of the men’s podium.

Jim Walmsley, 2019 Western States 100 Champion, Interview Transcript

iRunFar: Bryon Powell of iRunFar here with Jim Walmsley after his record setting win at the 2019 Western States 100. What a day Jim.

Jim Walmsley: Yeah thanks Bryon. One of those special days for sure.

iRunFar: Was it even more perfect than last year or is it the conditions?

Walmsley: Both. I think both kind of played a factor in it a little bit. You’ve got just stay on top of splits, you’ve got to take care of stuff. My legs felt sore all day, but really good all day. I felt like I was just running good and I missed some splits but I think having that cloud coverage in the canyons was where I was able to make time up after a little bit of a slower high country.

iRunFar: Yeah, hearing you talk to Kaci Lickteig a little while ago, it seemed like what you were most excited about, not just the cool temps but there were clouds in the canyon.

Walmsley: Yeah, there wasn’t sun, you didn’t have just this blaring heat on you at the bottom. Like Eldorado Creek, you could’ve almost skipped dipping – I didn’t, it’s one of those things. It’s still Western States, do the smart things otherwise you will find out too late if you do skip those things.

iRunFar: I remember somebody saying, I posted a picture of you coming up the climb up to Michigan Bluff and you are like, he needs a shirt change. And I’m like, no, he’s being smart and keeping himself wet, that’s what you are doing.

Walmsley: Yeah, yeah. I was doing pretty drenched and even when I would do – I do shirt changes last two years and we have a ice bucket and basically pull out this soaking shirt every year and I love those. Yeah.

iRunFar: What other sort of things have you progressed with in terms of your race plan?

Walmsley: Well, I’m still not quick enough through aid stations and [Jared Hazen] was definitely chewing time at every single aid station, but I think I was pretty efficient and quick through the non-crew aid stations so he wasn’t really chewing as much time on those. Just worrying less about the smaller details and more getting the mind right with showing up tough and ready and it’s going to get terrible so I think mindset wise is probably what has matured the most.

iRunFar: Now, were you in your own headspace thinking about your own race or were you thinking and worrying about Jared, 8 to 10 minutes back for like ever?

Walmsley: Yeah, basically all I heard was he’s eight minutes back all day, but I kind of also knew that something could have happened because I remember 2016 I was getting Foresthill splits, like everybody learns what the splits are at Forest Hill. It gets trickled down the line through the next 30 miles and so also knowing that something could happen but finally getting to Pointed Rocks and kind of hearing that he didn’t – he still hadn’t cracked or wavered at all it was just like, if this turns into some sort of mile race I’m just going to be terrible. But I put some really good splits and that was one of the focus areas for my race plan before the race was to focus from Green Gate to Pointed Rocks and I thought I ran good splits through there and I think that was some of the deciding minutes that I was able to put on Jared.

iRunFar: And you think that’s played a big part in running such a fast time is having Jared running so well and so close the way?

Walmsley: Definitely from the river on. I think there’s an easy way to relax if there wasn’t that pressure from Green Gate on and even Pointed Rocks, there’s still pressure. So it’s really rewarding knowing that I felt like I gave it my all in 100 miles and there wasn’t a let up and he did keep me honest.

iRunFar: Was it at all slower up in the snowy sections?

Walmsley: I think so; I think I was eight minutes back on last year’s split through Lyon Ridge.

iRunFar: Which is significant.

Walmsley: A lot. And I thought Lyon Ridge and Red Star generally are two splits that should be a little bit of free time and this year we ran up almost all of the escarpment and I thought we ran a really good effort with it but we were slow. So it was a little bit of, well maybe it is going to be a slower year and legs are maybe not there but once we got to some drier stuff and I get really excited for the canyons, I just like the descending and the climbing and just feel like I can put some punish into people’s legs there. I try to embrace that part of the course.

iRunFar: When did you see you were sort of dipping under that course record pace?

Walmsley: From Duncan to Robinson. I kind of wanted to catch Jared with a couple minutes because I knew he was in second at Duncan and I think I can surprise him with a couple minutes so I turned like two, three minutes all of a sudden into eight minutes and, then, that’s what kind of stuck all the way to Green Gate and, then, it didn’t start expanding. I think at Pointed Rocks I heard was 14, 15 minutes. That was a crucial little squeeze there I think.

iRunFar: And there was a section after that where Jared did make some of that 14 minutes down to that 8-to-10-minute range, did you have a rough patch or did he just kind of kick it in for one of the surprise sections?

Walmsley: I think Cal Street was a little bit of a rough patch for me. Especially through Foresthill I was feeling really good and, then, I had my splits for Cal Streets and a couple of them was just like I’m not hitting the splits it seems like the splits should be more downhill on this section and I keep feeling the ups. So that was a little frustrating just like knowing it just kind of hanging in there, hanging in there but I think more moderate Cal Street gave me a little more strength from Green Gate to Pointed Rocks.

iRunFar: So giving up that little bit of time it never felt like, oh no we’re not looking at blowing up?

Walmsley: No, I was moving well and I kept saying, I’m running really well, I feel like I’m running my best race and at the end of the day if someone has a better race than you there’s not much you can do. And, unfortunately for Jared, that’s probably the situation that way but fortunately for me my best day was a little better than his best day yesterday and I was able to hold him off but yeah it was pretty epic.

iRunFar: Jared said he was getting a little sick at that situation.

Walmsley: Yeah, there wasn’t much wiggle, we’re both pretty hard-headed.

iRunFar: So you’ll probably give him some shit at home the next…

Walmsley: Oh yeah, for sure. Remember that time at Western States you couldn’t get that minute back and he finally gave up.

iRunFar: But I assume you guys will celebrate together as well?

Walmsley: Yeah, this is probably the most rewarding Western States because that guy pushing me and clipping my heels is also one of my best friends by train with all the time in Flagstaff and for us we couldn’t have asked for a better day and Stephen Kersh really crushed his 100 mile debut. [Eric Sensemen] was in there through 85 and hanging onto ninth all day from what I understand and being tough, having caught up with him yet but I’m interested to see what happened with his day and a little unfortunate there. It happens.

iRunFar: I’ve seen you finish a lot of races and I’ve never seen you as excited as yesterday.

Walmsley: Yeah, it feels special to pull off two here. I think two at to Western States is a huge benchmark, not lucky, back-to-back, two extremely different years. Yeah so.

iRunFar: After last year you said I’m going to take some time off from Western States and then you found yourself back here. What you think about next year?

Walmsley: Things kind of transpiring with some road ultras with Hoka just a little while ago, so that started to change things back to, “well it actually looks like Western States might work out best,” so that’s how I found it, same plan, and people ask me, you are targeting the downhill year at Comrades? It’s like, not really it’s just the year that’s open for me, I could care less if it’s uphill/downhill or whatever.

iRunFar: So to spell that out you’re thinking no Western States and go to Comrades?

Walmsley: Yeah that was the plan for this year but is also the plan for next year and I knew like even last year I wanted to give Comrades an uphill and downhill year but if I can get lucky maybe it will be a one and done it Comrades it is pretty far to travel but it’s a pretty special race that’s worth it.

iRunFar: I’ll bet. You broke Bruce Fordyce’s 50 mile world best and I think his reply to that was now get your butt over to get some real competition.

Walmsley: Yeah, he’s been real encouraging for me.

iRunFar: In a good way.

Walmsley: Come out and try Comrades and really test my hand there. In a lot of ways Western States is the best of the best in one world of running. UTMB is the best of the best in one world of running. And Comrades is another best of the best in a different world of running and there’s all sorts of worlds of running that it’s hard to overlap a couple and if you can pull off a couple it really writes your own little niche in the sport I think. That would be really special, it would be extremely hard but one of those new challenges I think that would reinvigorate training hard, getting ready and that would be a huge fire to light.

iRunFar: You’re not done with Western States for good?

Walmsley: Not for good, no way. I mean already I will be back next year in some sort, whether it’s crewing, pacing, spectating.

iRunFar: Maybe James Bonnet can get in. Did he pace you this year? A little bit?

Walmsley: So we were actually talking about it at Foresthill and he was like, let me know if you want me to pick you up somewhere and I’m like, pick up a bib and I let him hop in with me at Pointed Rocks and I was pretty special to finally, a little bit of revenge on 2016 to bring it home and through the finish. That was rewarding for both of us.

iRunFar: Do you have anything on your calendar in the next couple months?

Walmsley: Yeah, I made the mistake of signing up for a race in six weeks and seven weeks from now. So I’m doing Sierre-Zinal and Ultravasan and questioning all of it because my legs don’t feel great right now. But what’s nice about pulling such a great race at Western States like this, it takes a little bit of pressure off and I’m going to enjoy the training for Sierre-Zinal and Ultravasan and there’s not enough time to rest, train, taper again.

iRunFar: So you just roll with it?

Walmsley: Yeah. And really it’s getting some experience at Sierre-Zinal, because I think Jonathan Wyatt’scourse record there and if Kilian keeps showing up every single year and then just the field of runners that assemble there, that one’s so competitive and a bit of a different niche as well it will probably take a couple shots.

iRunFar: So you sort of get to write your own book a little bit in terms of shoes and socks and that sort of stuff, you’ve got some good partners there, what were you wearing on your feet this weekend?

Walmsley: So I was wearing a future prototype of the Speedgoats that will eventually be coming out. I think Jared wore the same ones. And then I was wearing some Drymax, it’s not max protection, extra protection, hyper thin ones.

iRunFar: So it’s what you wore last year?

Walmsley: Yep, same sock. It’s generally my race sock.

iRunFar: But now they are publicly available.

Walmsley: You can get those – for the Speedgoats I do all my training in the regular Speedgoat and I save these ones as a lightweight, they drain water super well.

iRunFar: I’m trying to picture this so maybe a little stripped-down upper on a Speedgoat?

Walmsley: It looks a lot like Mafate Evo 2, the one that I think just came out, which was my backup shoe. Today, I just stuck in the same pair of shoes all day and it was feeling good. The Speedgoat having so much rubber on the bottom especially in the high country was a really predictable grip. The Mafate is really cushioned and great for a long day and grippy but not quite as predictable on the grip as the Speedgoat.

iRunFar: The Speedgoat is just super luggy?

Walmsley: Yeah the Speedgoat is definitely a bomber shoe for me.

iRunFar: No, that’s interesting because you’re such a fast build in stride and all this but you’re not striving to wear some 6-ounce flat, you are wearing a comfy shoe.

Walmsley: Maybe it’s because I bounce so much when I run, every time I hit, the extra cushion is good especially late. I think if I was wearing a thinner shoe I think my legs would be getting that shock a lot more. So yeah, Speedgoat – last year the Mafate got it done and this year the Speedgoat got it done so it’s pretty cool to do it in a really classic Hoka shoes.

iRunFar: Nice and you got it done once again.

Walmsley: Yeah, it was pretty special.

iRunFar: I mean obviously you got the two wins here, you ran two course records here. You kind of set up before the race, now 14 hours is there?

Walmsley: I mean I think especially this year with Jared running 14:26 and then me getting down to 14:09, you are going to have people, other people dreaming about that under 14 hours. I still, especially after last year, I think I will stick to I think it takes a cool year. And you know what, those eight minutes on Lyon Ridge, kind of the early high country could have been the difference this year.

iRunFar: Overall in balance the conditions were super fast but the snow was…

Walmsley: Yeah, because the canyons were the fastest it’s been while I’ve been here.

iRunFar: And your nutrition was good all day?

Walmsley: Yep, stomach went down, it was good I think I use the restroom again at Dusty Corners.

iRunFar: The reserved sign.

Walmsley: Stomach was good and I actually didn’t go to any backup plans at all it was the same hydration drinks and gels.

iRunFar: Just rolling along.

Walmsley: Yep.

iRunFar: Well, congratulations on another great run Jim.

Walmsley: Thanks, Bryon.

iRunFar: Thank you.

There are 2 comments

  1. Paul

    Nice interview. Interesting that the Olympic trials marathon did not come up at all. A lot of us would really love to see what Jim could do in a road marathon with some focused training.

  2. CLF

    Great race and interview!

    Excited to see what he can do a S-Z, seems like a race that could suit his talents well – more raw speed than many of the recent champions and probably able to hold his own on that terrain. Just hope the post-WS recovery goes well enough (Kilian won it two years ago after winning HR only 3 weeks prior, so it can be done). Go Jim go!

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