I agree with you that JFK50 has not had the competitive depth over the years compared to a race like Western States or The North Face.
Keep in mind Zach Miller, won North Face 50 last year, has consistently been one of the top Americans at ultras for the past two years. He ran 5:38 at JFK on a windy day. [Yes, that's right, amazingly enough 10km track times aren't everything in the longer distance ultras]. It is likely Zach, Max and a few others might be able to dip under 5:30 on a very good day at JFK...but 5:21?, that is considerably better.
Speaking of Max, we now know that his mile (4:05 to Jim's 4:04), 3km (8:05 to Jim's 8:03), 5km (13:54 to Jim's 13:52) and 10km (29:08 to Max's 29:01) are amazingly similar to all Jim's times.
Where a runner like Max and Jim differ is in experience (mostly due to age).
Max has established himself as a 2:14 marathoner, who was top 20 in the last two Olympic Trials. He has also established himself as the World 100km Champion with an American Record of 6:27 in that race.
Jim has run on the road sparingly, and when he ran IAU 100km he had a big positive split day with a 28th place and a 7:05. Keep in mind he went out in the lead and split 3:05-:08 or so through the first 50km, but that is not a totally insane pace considering what Max was able to close in. Jim went out fast and died there. Fine, it happens.
But if Jim was really discharged early from the Air Force in March 2015, then perhaps he had some more time to train that year?
I think Jim is right that his most impressive performance this year is Western States. His 6:00 at Lake Sonoma and his Grand Canyon rim records and JFK now are all very impressive and part of an unprecedented year, but what he was on pace for at Western 100 (a more established US ultra race with arguably more competitive depth and history) was totally off the charts.
Compared to Max King, who broke open a lead at Western for the first 70 miles or so in '14 and gamely finished in 4th place, Jim ran superhumanly well.
In 2014 at the 100km mark (Foresthil) in the race Max led Rob Krar (eventual 2-time Champion, 3:44 1500m runner and 1:05 half runner) in 9:26.
Fast forward to this year and it was Jim coming through in 8:48. He would've been 38-minutes ahead of King at 100km mark when King was leading Western States on an arguably cooler day (high of 89 in 2015, high of 92 in 2016). Even guys like Canaday (2:16 marathoner, experienced ultra runner) came through that point in 9:12 and also under CR pace looking like he was going to bonk hard, which he did. Jim came through looking fresh as a daisy like he was running a 5km.
At mile 80 near the "Rucky Chucky" river crossing Jim split a 10:59. By then Max King would have been over 1 hour behind Jim. Only ultra experienced, 100-mile master Rob Krar had hit the river in as fast as 11:33 on a similar hot day...but he would've been totally sucking dust 34 minutes behind Jim.
Jim was simply running an average pace of 26 seconds/mile faster than anybody had ever done in the history of Western States (given all weather conditions, even the rare 'cool' years) . Way faster than Krar, way faster than King, and much, much faster than Jornet. At the kind of elite level all these guys run ultras at, where podium positions can often be determined by seconds or maybe up 5-10minutes over the entire race, that is a HUGE pace drop.
maximizing potential.... wrote:
I look at Walmsley's run at JFK a little differently and was not surprised at all at the time he ran.
Walmsley didn't approach the race only to win it. He had already done that twice. He approached the race with the goal of running 5:25 regardless of what had been done before. Therefore he wasn't racing the other runners, he was racing the clock and I am sure he had pretty specific splits he wanted to hit on the way. He was actually up on Max King's time over 15 minutes when he hit the towpath. That means King ran FASTER over the last 30 some miles.
I wouldn't be surprised if you took the North Face field that will be competing in two weeks and put them all in JFK, you would have had a lot of "incredible" times.
I AM shocked by how fast Walmsley is recovering. Two miles at 11:30 pace the following day and now on the third day he is already able to crush a 4 miler at 8:30 pace.