The Neophyte Tyler Andrews vs the Dreamer Jim Walmsley vs the Champ Yamauchi — Hoka Project Carbon X Notes

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By Weldon Johnson, LetsRun.com
May 3, 2019

Editor’s note: HOKA ONE ONE is sponsoring LetsRun.com’s exploration of the ultramarathon over the next month and our quest to determine the answer to the question: “What are the best ultramarathons in the world?” You can join the debate here. While this is sponsored content, HOKA had no say in what was written.

SACRAMENTO — A few quick notes on the press conference for the HOKA ONE ONE Project Carbon X 100km race tomorrow that starts in less than 12 hours (6 a.m. Pacific/9 a.m. Eastern Saturday morning). There will be a live stream on the the HOKA YouTube page, Facebook pages, and possibly on LetsRun.com as well.

All eight runners racing tomorrow were at the press conference. That would be Jim Walmsley (ultramarathon legend, has rewritten the trail record books, including breaking the Western States course record), Hideaki Yamauchi (two-time defending world 100km champion), Patrick Reagan (great road ultrarunner has finished 3rd at World Championships), Tyler Andrews (neophyte to the ultra world, he has never raced farther than 50k), Sabrina Little (former American record holder for 24-hour run), Mike Wardian (tons of ultra records), Yoshiki Takada, and Aiko Kanematsu.

HOKA’s Mike McManus at the pre-event press conference

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The invitational event is being billed as a 50-mile and 100km world record chase, but the only athletes going out at world record pace will be Walmsley and Andrews. Both plan on starting out at 50-mile world record pace (4:50:51 for 50 miles, or 5:49 mile pace) which puts them on almost on track to run 6:01:27 for 100km (the world record for 100km is 6:09:14). Reagan and Yamauchi will start at the more conservative 6:20 for 100k pace (6:06 mile pace). The American record for 100k is 6:27:44 by Max King.

Walmsley and Andrews present a total contrast in ultramarathoning. Walmsley is an ultramarathon legend, having rewritten the trail records the last few years. He has exceeded at events up to 100 miles. Andrews has never raced longer than 50km.

The tentative plan is for Walmsley and Andrews to start off together with pacers. The course starts in Folsom, and the first 20 miles are net downhill going into the city of Sacramento, where the runners then run five loops. Andrews then indicated he would likely go ahead of Walmsley and see if he can first target the 50-mile world best of 4:50:51 held by ultra legend Bruce Fordyce (the 5o-mile is an American record distance, with Barney Klecker‘s 4:51:25 being the oldest record on the books, but the IAAF only recognizes a “world best” and not a world record). Andrews admittedly said he has no idea what will happen once he ventures beyond 50k. To get the 50-mile American record however, he would have to finish the full 100k since the actual race is at 100k.

In discussing the records, it was clear Walmsley is a student of ultramarathoning and has been studying some of the greats before him. Andrews did not know who held the 50-mile world record, but immediately Walmsley jumped in and said it was Fordyce, who actually sent the runners texts of encouragement.

The Carbon X shoe

Walmsley said he has been reading some of the books on Fordyce and his mantra for the race is “Caution,” which is a term Fordyce liked. Nonetheless, while Walmsley may claim he likes to think about “caution” and how anything can happen in an ultra, he loves to set big goals. He bragged of smashing the Western States record prior to ever running Western States (and ended up running off-course at 92 miles while on record pace in his first attempt). And thus, the sub-6-hour goal is out there for Saturday even though Walmsley knows with road ultras there are a ton of questions marks.

Walmsley has only run one 100k road ultra in his life, at the 2015 World Championships, where he went out in the lead at 3:05:20 at halfway before fading miserably in the second half and finishing in 28th place in 7:05:19. He said he has more experience and is a different runner since then. However, he said the big unknown in all long road ultras is a) how your legs will respond to the pounding on the pavement, (as running 62 miles on the pavement is not something you do in training) and b) figuring out what pace you should be running on the day. It’s not an exact science.

Walmsley also said he had been tempted to run the Comrades Marathon this year. It’s one of the most prestigious in the sport of ultramarathoning (despite the name, Comrades is 55 miles) and if Walmsley wants to leave the sport as one of the all-time greats, winning it would go a long way. HOKA incentivized him to run the 100k race here instead, and Walmsley is aiming big with the sub-6-hour target. As for Comrades, Walmsley said that although he prefers the trails, he wants to target Comrades while he is younger as he believes ultrarunners lose the speed necessary to win the road events as they age.

More notes: What about the weather?

Tyler Andrews talked about it being warm by the end of the race. It should be 51 degrees at the start, but might reach 70 by the finish. He indicated that might lead him to run faster early.

Bathroom breaks and fueling

One thing that is different about ultrarunning is the runners may have to take a pit stop for a #2. Walmsley said you just hope it doesn’t happen in a race that is six hours long. In terms of fueling, he’s going to try to drink 12 ounces of fluid every 30 minutes (there are 20+ aid stations on the course) and consume 300 calories per hour.

Sabrina Little is shooting for 7:10 pace. She said on a perfect day she might be able to challenge Ann Trason‘s American record of 7:00:48.

Each runner was asked about a mantra they may have while racing. Some of the responses:

“Enjoy the pain and suffering” – Yamauchi
“Embrace the suffering ” – Reagan
“Time to shine. Why not me? embrace the suck?” – Wardian
“Hunker down” from a Dave Foster Wallace book – Andrews
“Caution” – Walmsley

Quick take: Does Walsmey (or Andrews) smash it out of park or does Yamauchi’s smarter plan prevail?

I don’t have time to write up quotes as there is a HOKA dinner now and the race starts in 12 hours, but I’ll embed some videos. The HOKA execs said informally a world record event has been in the planning for four years and they decided to do it with the launch of the new Carbon X shoe.HOKA ONE ONE VP Lee Cox and Mike McManus below talking about Project Carbon X.

(More videos from press conference on our YouTube channel)

The races start at 6 a.m. Pacific/9 a.m. Eastern on Saturday and will be streamed live on the HOKA ONE ONE Facebook page here (if all goes well, the first person will finish around noon).
*The course is USATF-certified and record eligible. It has a downhill section at the start (roughly 150 feet), and then 5 relatively flat loops. Course profile here.
*Discussion thread on the race here.
*We’ll have more after the press conference on Friday afternoon.

Editor’s note: HOKA ONE ONE is sponsoring LetsRun.com’s exploration of the ultramarathon over the next month and our quest to determine the answer to the question: “What are the best ultramarathons in the world?” You can join the debate here. While this is sponsored content, HOKA had no say in what was written.


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