Jim Walmsley Pre-2021 UTMB Interview

Jim Walmsley will make his third attempt at UTMB this week. In the following interview, Jim talks about how his training went after winning Western States in late June, what he learned from DNFing UTMB in 2018, and what it might be like running with his friend François D’haene (who he recently paced at Hardrock) during UTMB.

Check out our men’s and women’s previews before following our UTMB live coverage starting on Friday.

Jim Walmsley Pre-2021 UTMB Interview Transcript

iRunFar: Bryon Powell of iRunFar here with Jim Walmsley before the 2021 UTMB. How are you, Jim?

Jim Walmsley: I’m doing great. I’m out here. Travel went good and uh, been enjoying some easy days out here.

iRunFar: Hopefully some really easy days.

Walmsley: Yeah. Alright. I got in some good ones on Saturday and Sunday getting the legs moving again. But other than that, it’s been very chill and yeah, it looks like my legs went through travel well.

iRunFar: Felt good afterwards. That’s good. Because it’s not a given, is it?

Walmsley: Yeah. Yeah.

iRunFar: So obviously you won Western States. You had a good run there. How did you feel afterward?

Walmsley: Tired. Yeah, it’s been, I guess the year kind of started getting ready for January. And but then there’s a long break in between kind of debating whether I was going to race or not race in between my 100k in January and Western States. Decided not to just knowing that I’d be pretty worn out by now. So yeah, I think it ended up being a good call and all things considered like, I think things are coming back around now.

iRunFar: Did you go as deep into the well this year at Western States as maybe 2019 or 2018?

Walmsley: I don’t know. I mean, more or less we’ll find out.

iRunFar: Yeah.

Walmsley: I feel good. Sometimes you don’t know how far you went until you go to try to give it 100% again, and you don’t have everything anymore. So we’ll see.

iRunFar: So you were going into Western States dealing with a lingering injury.

Walmsley: Yeah.

iRunFar: Has that given you issues?

Walmsley: Yeah, the IT band has been gone basically, like it kind of resolved maybe a week, two weeks before Western States. And so that’s been really great which has been nice. I knew kind of once I got out to Silverton for training for out here, up and down tends to be pretty nice on it. And then, but some little foot things popping up here and there but just kind of part of it.

iRunFar: But new is better than dealing with that same injury.

Walmsley: Yeah, it’s okay. Yeah. So as long as nothing stays around too long. But this week things are starting to feel as healthy as ever, and hopefully no problems on race day.

iRunFar: I think, in general, people who just follow ultrarunning from a distance on the internet think of you as a flat and fast runner, not as a mountain runner, but you really enjoy running mountains.

Walmsley: Yeah.

iRunFar: Like, you just glow when you’re in the San Juans.

Walmsley: Yeah, I like the mountains. I definitely spend, I mean, every summer out there, but a lot of time in the mountains every year dedicated to basically big mountain ultras because I think career-wise, that’s where I’d like to find myself doing most of my stuff. That’s where I find like, most of my passion. Just happened to be like, when I’m younger, kind of turning the legs over. But just that that timeframe on my career is more limited. And just try to get the best out of myself for those and move on. But hopefully, we’ll be back.

iRunFar: You enjoy the climbing and the descending and all that.

Walmsley: Yeah, hope to be doing like the Alps races for years to come.

iRunFar: Got it. Have you, in terms of racing Western States, it took a couple less than stellar results before you nailed it.

Walmsley: Yeah.

iRunFar: You had a good finish with a fifth a couple years back. And then a couple of DNFs. Do you look at those as failures? Or do you look at them as sort of building blocks to finding some success in the future?

Walmsley: Yeah. Yeah. So fifth in 2017 and DNF in 2018. And then it’s been three years. So definitely learning experiences. Both of them tons and tons I took away. 2018 is a little like, kind of stumps me a bit of just, I showed up really tired. And stumping me like, that hasn’t happened too many times as tired as I was on race day, but took away a lot from training for the race and that aspect of it and kind of how I approach this year and making sure that as best I can not trying to cook myself in between Western States and UTMB. And if I don’t get in enough training, that’s probably a good thing rather than doing too much and just not having it.

iRunFar: Yeah. And how do you prepare yourself not to cook yourself too early in the race itself?

Walmsley: Well, I mean, I guess yeah, you’re talking four, three years ago in my career, like I just feel I’m more confident with I guess the ultrarunning shoes I’m in right now. I think, I hope to be up front. I hope to compete for a win but at the same time, like good race, bad race, like I’m still pretty happy with where I’m at in the sport and UTMB is not going to change too much. And I feel like I have a lot of years to keep coming back and keep trying. So if it continues to be a learning process, well, that’s okay. But I definitely dream and hope to have a great day out there.

iRunFar: Yeah. People I think are rightly looking at you and François [D’Haene] to the prime favorites here. You two are friends and he paced you at or you paced him, excuse me, at Hardrock.

Walmsley: Yeah.

iRunFar: So what’s that going to look like out on the trail?

Walmsley: I don’t know. I’m excited to run with François there. I think of it as almost a plus that especially if we find ourselves together, we’ve spent a lot of miles together in the mountains. And it’ll be really enjoyable. I think, perhaps like, we’ll both be better, better off or stronger for it. And maybe if we work together compared to, I mean, if there’s only three of us, and that’s myself and François, we’ll probably work together to get third guy, like, almost no matter who it is, out. Which that was more similar to like, even where we found ourselves in 2017. And working together to try to do anything to Kilian [Jornet].

iRunFar: [laughs]

Walmsley: And then eventually, I was the odd man out, I guess. But it’s fun. We have a good camaraderie and like, a good, like, yeah, we’re happy for each other’s success. And we like pushing each other.

iRunFar: You can also enjoy part of that too, like, if you’re together at 30 miles you’re not going to be pushing each other at 30 miles hopefully.

Walmsley: Ah, we test each other all the time.

iRunFar: Do you?

Walmsley: Yeah, it’s fun. It’s a lot of fun. I think we have very different strengths. So like, that’s where the testing kind of, we get to poke each other.

iRunFar: But how would that work if you’re out there because, you know, you may be faster on the flat.

Walmsley: I don’t know. We’ve both had really good results just in 2021. So I think both of us feel like we hope to have a good day, but then not as much pressure to make a good day.

iRunFar: Yeah. You’ve already nailed one.

Walmsley: Like create anything. Yeah, yeah.

iRunFar: Anything here is bonus?

Walmsley: Yeah, it feels like that.

iRunFar: How you kind of look at this?

Walmsley: Yeah, I mean, I’m really happy with what I got out of myself in the road 100k. Yeah, I think this race will maybe if anything, just dictate a little bit of my schedule for next year. So yeah, I don’t know what next year will look like.

iRunFar: Why is that? Like, if you nailed this, you just be like alright, I’ve got that, time to try something else?

Walmsley: I don’t know. Because I mean, even like, Western States right now I have three wins in a row. It’s like well, can we make it four, do we start looking ahead to trying to do more? Do we turn a chapter? I’m not sure I need to, all I’ve decided is after UTMB I want a break.

iRunFar: Nice.

Walmsley: I’ll plan things out then.

iRunFar: Alright. Well, I hope you are going to that break having had a great race.

Walmsley: Yeah, thanks.

iRunFar: Take care.