Jim Walmsley and Lighting the Fire – Western States 2017

Ryan looked at me and asked, “You going for sub-14?” It was a gut check moment where I realized I needed to commit to myself on what my goals were for the day. So, I said “Yeah Baby!” and Ryan pulled back and let me go.”

So, guess what, Jim Walmsley didn’t win Western States. Yes. Who’d have thought it? Well actually, I think a great deal of people thought he wouldn’t win but the pre-race Western States PR machine got rolling and before I knew it and ultra-fans around the world knew it, Jim had got the Cougar and the buckle and the race was over.

Thing was, the race hadn’t even started!

Don’t get me wrong, Jim inspired the ultra-running audience in 2016 with some great racing, stunning FKT’s and an almost fairy tale Western States. Yes, it was an almost fairy tale because as we now all know, he went of course whilst in the lead and then walked it in way off the top-10. 

It was a day of what might have been. 

I interviewed Jim post Western States and you can listen to the audio HERE and read the interview HERE. I like Jim, I like someone who really believes in their ability. Is it arrogance, yes, I think it is. But I didn’t believe then and I don’t believe now that Jim’s arrogance was designed to upset anyone – on the contrary, I think Jim desired to be liked.

Post the 2016 Western States it came as no surprise that the ball started to roll and as expected, Jim got a sponsor (Hoka One One) received invites and gained plenty of air time. It was going to happen, it’s the way the world is. However, in and amongst all this buzz, Andrew Miller, the guy who won Western States was almost forgotten. I tried to interview him but he didn’t reply… his victory was so unexpected that Salomon (who he is sponsored by) who had a photographer following the other Salomon runners had not planned to follow the young gun up front who took victory. Andrew’s victory was remarkable and yes, he was the youngest ever champ! I neglected the story as so many others did because the media and buzz was about Jim. 

Cut to 2017 and Jim was back with more great form, fast running and FKT’s. He stuck his neck out early on and said that a ’14’ at Western States was his target and that is what he’d do! 

No keeping the powder dry, no reservations, no question marks – it was clear cut, “I will run 14 -hours.”

We heard it so many times that everyone started to believe it and as the 2017 Western States approached, like I said earlier on, it almost felt that the Cougar and the buckle had been awarded.

I’ll hold my hands up, I said Jim would win but I also clearly stated that I felt that the person to beat Jim on race day was Jim. Running too fast, too hard, not respecting the conditions and not respecting the competition would be the downfall of Jim and it was.

In my opinion, Jim ran a very poorly judged race. He learnt nothing from 2016 and the mistakes made and he went and repeated them. I believe that the PR machine had snowballed so much that maybe Jim had lost perspective?

You see racing is not the same as an FKT. Racing is about being first across the line and that doesn’t need to be a fast time, it just needs to be faster than everyone else.

Everything was against Jim? 

He talked his race up with a level of transparency that the ultra-community embraced. They loved his goals and strategy. In the week before the race a film was released that delved into why Jim runs and how it was an escape from inner demons. We all love an inner-demon story and let’s face it, ultra-running is full of troubled souls. As a community, we could all relate to this story and how the redemptive powers of a long run heals us.

Video here

Jim was on a pedestal and while some would want to see him stumble and fall, the majority were rooting for him – they wanted him to have the moment that was ‘snatched’ away from him in 2016.

On analysis though, Jim losing the Western States in 2016 wasn’t because he went of course, it was because (in my opinion) he ran too fast and too hard and he blew-up. The signs were there with his swim at the Rucky Chucky, his navigation error was no doubt due to a lack of concentration with fatigue.

So, cut to 2017 with 8 of last year’s top-10 returning and some serious new competition, Jim would have to run smart to win. I said pre-race, “I personally think Jim should try and win the race and forget CR’s, especially with the snow. If he does that, I think he will win. However, the only person that is going to beat Jim in my opinion is Jim himself by racing too hard and too fast looking for that time.” 

I went on to say, “The surprises, although not surprises to trail running fans may well come from outside last year’s top-10. Ryan Sandes is back and he’s addicted after placing 2nd in 2012. I don’t think he can beat Walmsley in a toe-for-toe run but if his form and fitness is good, the podium is a possibility. For me though, Alex Nichols and Jonas Buud are the ones to potentially upset the apple cart in what is essentially a runner’s race. Both guys excel at running fast and Nichols gets the nod for handling the vert and snow.”

Listen to the pre-race chat (and post-race chat) from experienced old hands like Ian Sharman, Jeff Browning and so on. They knew it was going to be a day of grinding out a finish. Ryan Sandes has been 2nd at Western States, he knew what was in store, he’s won Leadville, won Transgrancanaria and he is known from coming from behind to take control in the latter third to clinch victory. Alex Nichols, new to the 100-mile distance but with a Run Rabbit Run victory under his belt, all these runners respected what was ahead.

Did Jim respect what was ahead?

Ryan looked at me and asked, “You going for sub-14?” It was a gut check moment where I realized I needed to commit to myself on what my goals were for the day. So, I said “Yeah Baby!” and Ryan pulled back and let me go.”

Credit @mykehphoto Instagram

Jim will be applauded for that commitment, but what was that commitment based on, was it the snow he was running on at the time that was sapping everyone’s strength and causing them to hold back? 

At the top of the escarpment he already had 7-minutes on the competition, a lead that he would extend beyond 30-minutes.

“…but then immediately you get into the high country. What ended up happening is that it was icy, rugged and lots of falling, and pretty slow. I came through the 16-mile split like one minute off the year before, but I was way more efficient in 2016.”

Quote from runnersworld.com interview here.

But all the early efforts would come back to haunt him as the heat of the canyons started to punish an already tired body. The pace Jim had decided to run would give him a course record (note I don’t say victory) but it wasn’t sustainable. He dropped at mile 78. Whereas Sandes and the competition ran smart races and let’s look at the finish times, victory came with a time of 16:19:37, Alex Nichols 2nd in 16:48:23 and Mark Hammond 16:52:57. 

Compare to 2016 when Andrew Miller won in 15:39:36 or Rob Krar’s 2015 time of 14:48:59. As Western States veteran Ian Sharman said, ‘That was the toughest Western States I have ever run.” If perspective were needed, he’s done 8 and finished in the top-10 every time.

It certainly appeared Jim had all the signs and either ignored them believing his own pre-race PR or when he fully realized it was too late…

“I really wanted to slow down and try to maintain a more comfortable, easy pace and take care of myself really well. I would try to take a little more time through aid stations to slow down that rhythm, but I was still clicking good splits. Usually that’s a good thing and nice, but it ended up being the downfall. Not being able to slow down meant I was just overheating. Around Devil’s Thumb [mile 48] things got warm. Michigan Bluff [mile 55] is a hot climb. I was pretty beat up by the time I got to the top of Michigan Bluff.”

Quote from runnersworld.com interview here.

Jim is a great runner. He will win Western States, I am sure of it. But for now, he is a great 100km ‘ish’ runner, he has the results and FKT’s to prove it. However, at the 100-mile distance, thus far, he’s yet to prove he can run the pace he wants for that final 30 or so miles. As Speedgoat Karl Meltzer always says, “The race only begins here!”

If Jim had run slower, could he have won the race? 

I am aware I am going to open myself up for some criticism here but let’s face it, EVERYONE was talking about Jim pre-Western states – post race, it’s all gone a little quiet.

I personally feel somewhat a fraud writing another article about Jim when really, I should be writing about Ryan Sandes and how he has slowly but surely persevered to win the race he has always wanted to win – it has not been an easy journey. The rise of Alex Nichols, arguably one of the most talented runners out there – he’s excelled in Europe, topped podiums in Skyrunning and now has clinched two 100-mile victories. Believe me, the USA has a potential UTMB champion in Alex as he has already laid down the platform with victories at Mont-Blanc 80km. And let’s not forget the ladies, look what happened in that race with a surprise victory from Cat Bradley and how the ‘sure’ podium potential of Magda, Kaci and Steph didn’t pan out the way we expected – Magda placed 2nd and Kaci and Steph fought the ultra-demons for a hard-fought finishes way below their pre-race expectations.

This isn’t an anti-Jim post. It’s a post to generate some debate and analysis on many aspects our sport, not only Jim’s Western States performance.

Placing a runner on a pedestal can only mean that a fall will come, is that fair to that runner? I wonder in retrospect if Jim now thinks all the pre-race PR was a good thing? I also wonder, will Jim race a different way in the future?  

We’ve seen it before with Zach Miller, Hayden Hawks and yes Tim Freriks who have, ‘Gone big or gone home!’ Tim pulled it off at Transvulcania with a stunning win, Zach and Hayden have pulled it off too but by equal measure, but they have also failed. Is the failure part just an occupational risk? You know, ‘you win some, you lose some!’

Jim is an exciting racer and Western States certainly gained some additional PR in 2017 with a fireball on the start line. But as the fireball said post-race, “Sometimes when you’re not careful trying to set off fireworks you light yourself on fire.” 

I love Jim’s style, his enthusiasm and transparency and in the weeks and months to come, Jim will do much self-analysis. He’s surrounded by supporters and they are dedicated to the cause, they don’t want him to run any other way, they want him to go big or to go home!

Jim ran beyond his limits and found his own. He laid this all out for everyone to see and in defeat he has been saluted and humbled. 

A new chapter begins.

Credits:

@mykehphoto Instagram and runnersworld.com interview here.

Episode 114 of Talk Ultra – Kaci Lickteig, Jim Walmsley and Joanna Williams

A_GRAVATAR

This is Episode 114 of Talk Ultra and we have two interviews from Western States – Ladies champion Kaci Lickteig and the incredible Jim Walmsley who looked to break all WSER records only to go off course at 92 miles. We also speak with Joanna Williams, the outright winner from South Africa’s Richtersveld Transfrontier Wildrun. We have the news, ultra chat and Ryan Sandes co-hosts!

00:16:46 NEWS

WESTERN STATES

Andrew Miller 15:39

Didrik Hermansen 16:16

Jeff Browning 16:30

notable Paul Giblin from UK 5th 16:53

Kaci Lickteig 17:57 4th fastest lady ever

Amy Sproson 18:54

Devon Yanko 19:10

00:27:42 INTERVIEW KACI LICKTEIG

RICHTERSVELD TRANSFRONTIER WILDRUN

Results:

Joanna Williams 22:23:01

Tobias Mews 22:42:00

Dawid Kaswarie 23:07:34

Daniel Meyes 25:18:20

Linda Doke 25:43:52

John Cuff 26:41:19

Ryno Bakkes 26:52:04

Elisabet Barnes 27:01:56

Christiaan Vorster 27:23:19

Stephen Cunliffe 28:23:19

01:04:45  INTERVIEW with JOANNA WILLIAMS

BIG RED RUN

Results:

Elisabet Barnes 19:47:39

Jamie Hildage 20:54:34

Andy Dubois 21:25:02

Top 3 ladies:

Elisabet Barnes 19:47:39

Helen Durand 23:35:04

Anna Bennett 25:54:10

Top 3 men:

Jamie Hildage 20:54:34

Andy Dubois 21:25:02

Braddan Johnson 22:29:18

*Audio for Big Red Run to follow in the next show

LAVAREDO

Andy Symonds 12:15:06 new CR

Gediminas Grinius 12:23:06

Javi Dominguez 12:36:45

Andrea Huser 14:32:39

Uxue Fraile 15:13:09

Fernanda Maciel 15:20:57

MONT BLANC 80K

Caroline Chaverot 11:40 (winner Transgrancanaria)

Diego Pazos 10:52 (3rd at Transgrancanaria)

MOUNT MARATHON

David Norris 41:26 broke KJ’s record from last year by 22 secs

Nick Elson

Eric Strabel

Christy Marvin 51:02

Yngvild Kaspersen

Denali Forager Stabel

WMRA in Slovenia

Annie Conway from UK world champ! ahead of Antonella Confortola and Lucija Krkoc

Alessandro Rambaidini beat Marco De Gasperi and Mitja Kosovelj

Robert Young of the U.K. appears to have succumbed to a foot injury somewhere around Indianapolis, falling short in his attempt at a Guinness world record for the transcontinental run. The tracker has not moved since June 17. Though no concrete resolution was reached on the claims of cheating, the run’s final week was mired in controversy and is likely to remain a polarising topic? “Skins’ are investigating… HERE

Timmy Olson – American Tarzan. Discovery Channel HERE When Tim gets low on energy, he goes into his trademark “Animal Mode,” and enters the “Pain Cave” to get through it – training which will serve him well in the jungle!”

Coming up – Hardrock 100, High Trail Vanoise, Dolomites SkyRace and the Skyrunning World Champs

02:14:00 INTERVIEW JIM WALMSLEY

UP & COMING RACES

Andorra

Celestrail | 83 kilometers | July 16, 2016 | website

Ronda dels Cims | 170 kilometers | July 15, 2016 | website

Ultra mític | 112 kilometers | July 15, 2016 | website

Australia

Queensland

1&1/2 | 63 kilometers | July 08, 2016 | website

3 Marathons in 3 Days | 126 kilometers | July 08, 2016 | website

3 Marathons in 3 Days | 126 kilometers | July 08, 2016 | website

Gold Coast Kokoda Challenge | 96 kilometers | July 16, 2016 | website

Victoria

You Yangs 50K Trail Run | 50 kilometers | July 17, 2016 | website

Belgium

Wallonia

La Chouffe Trail 50 km | 50 kilometers | July 17, 2016 | website

Brazil

Ultraaratona dos Perdidos | 105 kilometers | July 15, 2016 | website

Bulgaria

65km Tryavna Ultra | 65 kilometers | July 16, 2016 | website

Canada

Alberta

Sinister 7 Ultra | 100 miles | July 09, 2016 | website

British Columbia

Broken Goat 50K | 50 kilometers | July 16, 2016 | website

Ontario

The North Face Endurance Challenge Ontario 50 Km | 50 kilometers | July 16, 2016 | website

The North Face Endurance Challenge Ontario 50 Mile | 50 miles | July 16, 2016 | website

Quebec

50 km | 50 kilometers | July 16, 2016 | website

Finland

Lapland

NUTS Midnight Sun Trail Ultra 125 km | 125 kilometers | July 15, 2016 | website

NUTS Midnight Sun Trail Ultra 55K | 55 kilometers | July 16, 2016 | website

France

Corrèze

L’EDFi du Lac | 100 kilometers | July 16, 2016 | website

Le Tour du Cardant | 65 kilometers | July 16, 2016 | website

Finistère

100 km de Cléder | 100 kilometers | July 10, 2016 | website

57 km | 57 kilometers | July 10, 2016 | website

Gard

Grand trail Stevenson 110 km | 110 kilometers | July 17, 2016 | website

Grand trail Stevenson 126 km | 126 kilometers | July 16, 2016 | website

Grand trail Stevenson 144 km | 144 kilometers | July 16, 2016 | website

Grand trail Stevenson 179 km | 179 kilometers | July 16, 2016 | website

Grand trail Stevenson 224 km | 224 kilometers | July 16, 2016 | website

Grand trail Stevenson 55 km | 55 kilometers | July 16, 2016 | website

Grand trail Stevenson 59 km | 59 kilometers | July 18, 2016 | website

Grand trail Stevenson 65 km | 65 kilometers | July 17, 2016 | website

Haute-Corse

Restonica Trail – 69 km | 69 kilometers | July 09, 2016 | website

Ultra Trail di Corsica | 110 kilometers | July 07, 2016 | website

Haute-Loire

Le Puy-en-Velay – Conques (Juillet) | 208 kilometers | July 07, 2016 | website

Haut-Rhin

Trail du Pays Welche | 50 kilometers | July 10, 2016 | website

Isère

La Grande Course | 65 kilometers | July 14, 2016 | website

Jura

L’intégrale | 120 kilometers | July 14, 2016 | website

Relais de 2 coureurs | 120 kilometers | July 14, 2016 | website

Pyrénées-Atlantiques

Grand trail de la Vallée d’Ossau | 73 kilometers | July 16, 2016 | website

Savoie

Grand Parcours | 64 kilometers | July 10, 2016 | website

Ice Trail Tarentaise Val d’Isère | 65 kilometers | July 10, 2016 | website

Germany

Bavaria

Chiemsee-Ultramarathon Juli | 108 kilometers | July 16, 2016 | website

Rhineland-Palatinate

Bärenfels Ultra Trail | 64 kilometers | July 16, 2016 | website

Greece

Kronion Ultra | 70 kilometers | July 16, 2016 | website

Iceland

Laugavegur Ultra Marathon | 55 kilometers | July 16, 2016 | website

Italy

Piedmont

BUT – 85 km | 85 kilometers | July 16, 2016 | website

Veneto

Asolo 100 km | 100 kilometers | July 16, 2016 | website

Asolo 50 km | 50 kilometers | July 16, 2016 | website

Japan

Oxfam Trailwalker Japan | 100 kilometers | July 09, 2016 | website

Madagascar

Racing Madagascar | 150 kilometers | July 19, 2016 | website

Mauritius

Trail des 7 Couleurs | 120 kilometers | July 09, 2016 | website

Norway

Hornindal Rundt 75 km | 75 kilometers | July 09, 2016 | website

Ultra NORWAY Race | 160 kilometers | July 08, 2016 | website

Poland

TriCity Trail 80+ | 80 kilometers | July 10, 2016 | website

Portugal

Ultra 75 km | 75 kilometers | July 10, 2016 | website

Romania

Marathon 7500 Elite | 90 kilometers | July 15, 2016 | website

Singapore

50 km | 50 kilometers | July 16, 2016 | website

Slovakia

Nízkotatranská stíhačka | 100 kilometers | July 16, 2016 | website

South Africa

Rhodes Trail Run | 52 kilometers | July 09, 2016 | website

Spain

Andalusia

Al Andalus Ultimate Trail | 230 kilometers | July 11, 2016 | website

Ultra Sierra Nevada | 103 kilometers | July 16, 2016 | website

USN Trail | 62 kilometers | July 16, 2016 | website

Aragon

Distancia Maratón – 111 km | 111 kilometers | July 07, 2016 | website

Distancia Media Maratón – 66 km | 66 kilometers | July 07, 2016 | website

Basque Country

Ehunmilak | 168 kilometers | July 08, 2016 | website

G2handiak | 88 kilometers | July 08, 2016 | website

Cantabria

Trail La Herradura de Campoo – 55 km | 55 kilometers | July 17, 2016 | website

Trail La Herradura de Campoo – Trail Etapas 28+32 | 60 kilometers | July 16, 2016 | website

Sweden

GAX 100 miles | 100 miles | July 16, 2016 | website

Swedish Alpine Ultra | 107 kilometers | July 16, 2016 | website

Switzerland

Berne

Eiger Ultra Trail E101 | 101 kilometers | July 16, 2016 | website

Eiger Ultra Trail E51 | 51 kilometers | July 16, 2016 | website

Valais

La traversée | 61 kilometers | July 10, 2016 | website

X-Alpine | 111 kilometers | July 09, 2016 | website

Turkey

80K Ultra Maraton | 80 kilometers | July 16, 2016 | website

Erciyes Ultra Sky Trail 64k-3000m+ | 64 kilometers | July 16, 2016 | website

United Kingdom

Buckinghamshire

Chiltern Ultra Challenge “Intro” 50km Ultra | 50 kilometers | July 16, 2016 | website

Essex

Saffron Trail Ultra | 70 miles | July 16, 2016 | website

Glasgow City

Clyde Stride Ultra Marathon | 40 miles | July 16, 2016 | website

Kent

The 50 Mile Challenge | 52 miles | July 10, 2016 | website

Oxfordshire

Race to the Stones | 100 kilometers | July 16, 2016 | website

Shropshire

Wenlock Olympian Run | 50 miles | July 16, 2016 | website

Wenlock Olympian Walk | 50 miles | July 16, 2016 | website

Somerset

Ham & Lyme 100k | 100 kilometers | July 09, 2016 | website

Ham & Lyme 50k | 50 kilometers | July 09, 2016 | website

USA

California

Badwater 135 | 135 miles | July 18, 2016 | website

CTR Lake Chabot Train Run 50 km (Jul) | 50 kilometers | July 17, 2016 | website

Golden Gate Trail Run 50 km (summer) | 50 kilometers | July 09, 2016 | website

Mt. Disappointment 50K Endurance Run | 50 kilometers | July 09, 2016 | website

Mt. Disappointment 50 Mile Endurance Run | 50 miles | July 09, 2016 | website

Pacifica 50 km | 50 kilometers | July 10, 2016 | website

Rancho Canada del Oro and Calero Park 50K | 50 kilometers | July 16, 2016 | website

Colorado

Hardrock 100 Endurance Run | 100 miles | July 15, 2016 | website

Leadville Silver Rush 50 | 50 miles | July 10, 2016 | website

Sheep Mountain 50 Mile Endurance Run | 51 miles | July 16, 2016 | website

Idaho

Beaverhead 100K Endurance Run | 100 kilometers | July 09, 2016 | website

Beaverhead 50K Endurance Run | 50 kilometers | July 09, 2016 | website

McCall Trailrunning 40 Mile Classic | 40 miles | July 16, 2016 | website

Illinois

Calumet Region trail Relay | 40 miles | July 17, 2016 | website

Indiana

110 Miles HIgh School (up to 7 runners) | 110 miles | July 16, 2016 | website

110 Miles Open (5-7 runners) | 110 miles | July 16, 2016 | website

110 Miles Superhuman (2 runners) | 110 miles | July 16, 2016 | website

110 Miles Ultra (3-4 runners) | 110 miles | July 16, 2016 | website

55 Miles Open (5-7 runners) | 55 miles | July 16, 2016 | website

55 Miles Superhuman (2 runners) | 55 miles | July 16, 2016 | website

55 Miles The Gump (1 runner) | 55 miles | July 16, 2016 | website

55 Miles Ultra (3-4 4unners) | 55 miles | July 16, 2016 | website

Kansas

Honey Badger 100 Mile Ultra Road Race | 100 miles | July 09, 2016 | website

Psycho Psummer 50K | 50 kilometers | July 16, 2016 | website

Maryland

Catoctin 50k Trail Run | 50 kilometers | July 16, 2016 | website

Massachusetts

The Rock Run | 50 miles | July 16, 2016 | website

Montana

50 Mile | 50 miles | July 15, 2016 | website

Devil’s Backbone 50 Miles | 50 miles | July 16, 2016 | website

Seeley Lake 50K | 50 kilometers | July 15, 2016 | website

Thunderbolt Creek 50 Km | 50 kilometers | July 16, 2016 | website

Nevada

Tahoe Rim Trail 100M | 100 miles | July 16, 2016 | website

Tahoe Rim Trail 50K | 50 kilometers | July 16, 2016 | website

Tahoe Rim Trail 50M | 50 miles | July 16, 2016 | website

Ohio

Buckeye Trail 50K | 50 kilometers | July 09, 2016 | website

Oregon

50K | 50 kilometers | July 10, 2016 | website

Mt Hood Pacific Crest Trail Ultramarathon | 50 miles | July 09, 2016 | website

Relay | 69 miles | July 16, 2016 | website

Texas

Muleshoe Bend – 60k | 60 kilometers | July 16, 2016 | website

Utah

Skyline Mountain 50 Trail Run | 50 miles | July 09, 2016 | website

Speedgoat 50K Ultra Marathon | 50 kilometers | July 09, 2016 | website

Ultra Adventures Capitol Reef 100 Mile | 100 miles | July 09, 2016 | website

Ultra Adventures Capitol Reef 50K | 50 kilometers | July 10, 2016 | website

Ultra Adventures Capitol Reef 50 Mile | 50 miles | July 10, 2016 | website

Vermont

Vermont 100k Endurance Race | 100 kilometers | July 16, 2016 | website

Vermont 100 Mile Endurance Race | 100 miles | July 16, 2016 | website

Washington

Grey Rock 50K Trail Run | 50 kilometers | July 09, 2016 | website

Ragnar Relay Northwest Passage | 190 miles | July 15, 2016 | website

Wild Woman Trail 50K | 50 kilometers | July 16, 2016 | website

Wisconsin

DWD Devil’s Lake 50K | 50 kilometers | July 09, 2016 | website

DWD Devil’s Lake 50M | 50 miles | July 09, 2016 | website

03:10:46 CLOSE

Many thanks to Ryan Sandes for co-hosting this show.

 

03:14:23

ITunes http://itunes.apple.com/gb/podcast/talk-ultra/id497318073

Stitcher You can listen on iOS HERE, Android HERE or via a web player HERE

Libsyn – feed://talkultra.libsyn.com/rss

Website – talkultra.com