fbpx

Following Arizona tune-up, Jim Walmsley targets historic Olympics trials

By Larry Carroll

When it comes to sports, sometimes stepping outside your lane can be seen as a major affront. Which is strange, because as anyone from a world-class athlete to your run-of-the-mill gym rat will tell you: The best exercise is the one your body doesn’t expect, something that pushes you outside your routine and forces the body to adapt.

Which is why one of the more fascinating stories in the ultra-running community these days is Jim Walmsley’s quest to try his luck with next month’s U.S Olympic Marathon Trials. As Walmsley trains to go down in distance, from being an ultra-runner to a standard marathon participant, he has been facing considerable backlash, both online and elsewhere. It’s no secret that the marathon community sees him as something of an outsider, so after years of insisting that ultra runners are different animals whose 30-mile training runs are nothing like the sub-5 minute splits needed to be a competitive marathoner, many view Walmsley’s dream as something akin to a publicity stunt.

But Walmsley has never been the type to take on a challenge and then fold like a deck chair. This is an athlete whose resume of wins reads like a list of the most difficult ultra-racing events in the world: Western States (twice), Lake Sonoma (twice), Bandera, JFK (three times), Moab … and the list just goes on and on. Which is why he has just as many supporters who are quick to point out that this isn’t an ego trip.

And then there’s the one thing both sides have in common: A desire to see how this whole thing plays out. Like Michael Jordan attempting baseball, or Conor McGregor stepping into a boxing ring with Floyd Mayweather, curiosity is piqued by the question of whether the skills of one discipline will translate to the other.

“I’d say I’m not in contention for the top three,” Walmsley told the Arizona Daily Sun recently. “The goal, more or less, is to be competitive and try to hold my own. … At the end of the day, I still have ultrarunning. I still have my day job.”

It sounds like Walmsley hopes that if he does get a crack at the Olympics, his unique training will present some sort of opportunity to overcome an obstacle that traditional marathoners would have a more difficult time grappling with.

“You never know,” Walmsley said. “I bring something to this race, a toolbox, others don’t. The race could turn out like, ‘Well, I’m the only one who brought this wrench. I can do that.’ You never know.”

Believe it or not, Walmsley — a Phoenix, Arizona native who just turned 30 earlier this month — has never run a marathon in his life. But he did set a Grand Canyon rim-to-rim record, and last year he won the World Mountain Running title. In 2019 he also set the world record for fastest 50 miles, running it at 4:50:08, which puts him at an average of about 5:48 per mile — not too far off the pace of a solid marathoner, but he still has much work to do.

“For an ultrarunner, [this] challenges the status quo for how we are stereotyped,” Walmsley says of his current mindset, just days after Ultra-Running magazine named him Ultrarunner of the year for the fourth year in a row. “Challenging that and putting up a good fight, that sort of thing, is more or less the bigger story that I’m after by doing this.”

On Sunday, Walmsley ran the Rock N Roll half-marathon in Phoenix. He finished with a time of 1:02:13, putting him at a pace time of 4:44. It’s the latest workout in a training regimen that has had him averaging 161 miles a week (with two weeks of 175 miles) over the last several weeks. But will it be enough?

“There’s just an unknown about it, whether the strength from running trails and the high volume I do now will translate to something that’s maybe closer to my top potential for the marathon,” Walmsley says, looking forward to next month’s Olympics trials. “With the hills in Atlanta, there’s no certain time that’s going to get you there to the top three. People aren’t sure what it’s going to take, so why not put your nose in that?”

Read more...

HURT 100 pushes aside scary conditions, crowns winners Fuchs and Albrecht

By: Larry Carroll

As the 2020 HURT 100 approached, things felt … ominous. The annual Honolulu event is typically set in paradise, but this year’s recent weather in paradise has been less than ideal. On January 12, organizers for the race posted a warning:

“Recent high winds and heavy rains may result in poor trail conditions. While we are hopeful that conditions will improve leading up to the event, January weather on O’ahu is very unpredictable … Currently, the HURT course is mired in water, mud, and fallen trees.”

Not exactly music to a runner’s ears. But ultimately, the course was cleared (mostly), the weather cooperated, and the 20+ year-old iconic ultramarathon once again did not disappoint.

The big winner was Trevor Fuchs, who finished muddied and exhausted, but with a big smile on his face. The Ogden, Utah native ran his 100 miles in a time of 22:04:49, more than a half hour ahead of his closest competitor.

“When I first started running, I would have never guessed the places it would take me,” Fuchs wrote on his Instagram a few days before the race, looking forward to a big 2020 that has since started out on the best foot imaginable. “I would have never guessed the friendships I would make or the community that would become such a vital part of my life. I would have never guessed the opportunities that running would present. I am so incredibly grateful, honored, and stoked beyond measure to share that I have joined the @salomonrunning U.S. team. This coming year will have no shortage of adventure with Hardrock and UTMB in the summer. But in a few days, I get to start this thing off with a bang in Hawaii at the HURT 100 as a Salomon athlete.”

Featuring nearly 25,000 feet of vertical ascent, completing this race in the rainforests of Honolulu is anything but a given. Named for the Hawaii Ultra Running Team (HURT), a group of eccentric athletes who trained together on Maui’s jungle-covered mountains, the race was invented when they got sick of traveling all the way to the mainland to find competition. Known for its roots-heavy trails and humid temperatures, it has grown into one of the most beloved 100-milers in the ultra-running community.

On the women’s side, local favorite Anna Albrecht led the pack. The Honolulu native finished 15th overall, with a time of 28:55:50. She also finished more than 3 hours ahead of the second-place women’s participant.

About a week before her run, Albrecht posted a picture of herself kissing the famous sign that serves as a ritual for those who finish the HURT. “I’m so excited and nervous for this journey. It’s been the CRAZIEST ride since my name was drawn in August,” she wrote on Instagram. “This is going to be the hardest race of my life but I’m so ready to go to battle with it. Bring on the blisters, tears, sweaty cast, nerve pain, and bliss. Can’t wait to dance in the jungle for a couple days with all my crazy friends.”

Dance, she did – and she danced well enough to lead the pack. Here’s the women’s Top 10:

1. Anna Albrecht (Honolulu, Hawaii): 28:55:50

2. Denise Bourassa (Lakewood, Colorado): 32:03:50

3. Suzanna Bon (Sonoma, California): 32:19:46

4. Michiko Uchiyama (Shizuoka, Japan): 32:46:58

5. Chelsey Topping (Lethbridge, Alberta, Canada): 33:01:15

6. Jody Sanborn (Banner, Wyoming): 33:24:17

7. Jessica Hardy (Dana Point, California): 33:39:01

8. Hannah Perry (Vancouver, Canada): 33:54:36

9. Candice Burt (Leavenworth, Washington): 33:56:46

10. Mayuko Floyd (San Diego, California): 34:39:10

Men’s Top Ten:

1. Trevor Fuchs (Ogden, Utah): 22:04:49

2. Nate Jaqua (Eugene, Oregon): 22:37:34

3. Brandon Stapanowich (Colorado Springs, CO): 23:28:07

4. Tomokazu Ihara (Takao, Japan): 23:57:20

5. Takeshi Noda (Yokohama, Japan): 24:54:38

6. Daniel List (Santa Maria, California): 26:01:05

7. Will Jones IV (Bellingham, Washington): 26:24:47

8. Tim McDononough (St. John’s, Newfoundland, Canada): 26:48:05

9. Shin Iwatare (Suginami, Japan): 27:05:43

10. Sergio Florian (Kaaawa, Hawaii): 27:07:26

Contrasted with the final results, the halfway leaders show that Fuchs, Stapanowich, Jaqua and Ihara were in the driver’s seat for pretty much the entirety of the HURT 100. Also worth noting is the return of Tracy Garneau, who set the course record in 2010. Now 50 years old, Garneau unfortunately was unable to finish.

Read more...