The UTMB may be the Superbowl of ultra running. It draws large immense crowds and can be compared to the Boston Marathon for its international acclaim. The UTMB or the Ultra Trail de Mont Blanc takes place every year in August in Chamonix, in the French Alps.
Over the last 15 years, this has been the hallmark race where the best athletes from around the world show up to test themselves against not only each other but the demands of the course. Unfortunately, over the years, American men have not been able to perform to their potential. Could this year be a turning point in all of this?
Jim Walmsley aims to become the first American male to win the UTMB. This marquee race win has escaped his clutches before, though he has a myriad of accolades in the ultra-running world as it already stands. Already a 2-time winner of the Western States and course record holder, Jim is searching for the elusive title of winner of the UTMB.
To keep him focused while he prepares to tackle the UTMB, Jim uses the Wahoo RIVAL Sport Watch to track all of his training data. Curious as to what metrics and data screens he utilizes. We asked him to break down the different screens he uses, what metrics he shows, and the units of measurement he tracks it all in.
First and foremost, Jim breaks down his RIVAL tracking into 3 different display screens that he is able to shift through during both training and racing.
- Lap Distance
- Current Pace
- Lap Average Pace
- Current Lap Time
“I like breaking a race up into its aid stations or points on the course where I am targeting splits I would like to hit. I can then break that distance and time into a pace for the lap. Many times I will create index cards to pick up and look at throughout the race. I will grab a new index card for the next sections until I see my crew again. So throughout many races, I will actually be splitting my watch into shorter sections.” Using the split function on his RIVAL watch helps to not only break down the race (or training) into sections but can help Jim figure out in analysis if any sections are having a hard time detecting GPS errors in tracking. Splitting his watch, allows him to “refresh” his data in case there are any errors in tracking the previous sections.
Jim likes having the comparison of current vs average pace side by side. Why? “A current pace is usually a ballpark number for me, I take it with a grain of salt.” “It can be a nice check of pace if I am going too fast. If I happen to be going pretty slow, I try not to pay it a whole lot of attention.” The average pace for each lap is his target and is the most important when aiming for specific splits throughout a race. He can use the downhills to gain time while knowing on the uphills he will be reminding himself not to push too much. Jim likes to work above and below the average pace depending upon the terrain he is currently tackling. Using the average pace also helps to keep his pacing strategy in check.
When not racing, using the splitting function on the RIVAL is also beneficial when structuring workouts. He is able to take splits during fartleks, track sessions, looped courses, or periodic intervals. Having split data stored is great for analysis post-session, and can be used to help drive data for both effort and recovery.
- Total Distance
- Total Time
- Total Average Pace
- Time of Day
While not his main screen, this screen on his RIVAL helps to keep track of all the totals throughout the day rather than the laps. As Jim states, “Having the total distance, total time, and total average pace will be the best way of looking at the race as a whole.” Jim can use this data for post-race analysis, or to help him figure out where he is at on the course and hitting large section targets. Using the time of day functions also helps for keeping track of time till the race starts when completing his warm-up.
- Current Elevation
- Distance Descended
- Distance Climbed
Screen 3 on Jim’s RIVAL is specifically for one thing: elevation. Jim keeps his elevation metrics in meters, even when he was training in the US. Why is that? When racing internationally, elevation was more relevant than most places in the US according to Jim. He states, “Signs indicating elevation are more common on running and hiking trails in Europe. On topographic maps of races and routes, sometimes it’s easiest to only remember the elevation of a high point or a low point.” He uses these markers to help him then calculate how much elevation he still has left to climb or descend. He enjoys the cumulative elevation feature to see just how much gain he encompassed over big training days and how this aims toward vertical gain goals for the week….just like many of us do, whether on foot or by bike!
While he has always kept his elevation metrics in meters, Jim has also switched over all data units on his watch to the metric system. He states, “In the US, I used to use miles, meters, and min/mile. The pace change of min/miles to min/km has been the most difficult to get used to. In trail running, we deal with much greater differences in paces. To learn a broader range of paces than something for the marathon or track, the correlations of somewhat close relationships of 3 to 5, 5 to 8, 8 to 13, and 13 to 21 help make a framework to the ballpark from there. The first number is pace in min/km which correlates to the second number in min/mile.” For example, a 5-minute kilometer would be roughly equivalent to an 8-minute mile pace, just like running 8 kilometers is equal to running 5 miles.
When you’re an ultra-runner, you have a lot of miles to keep track of. All of these miles encompass myriads of data-tracking: heart rate, pacing, cadence, distance, elevation, run dynamics, you name it. Having the RIVAL helps Jim to keep all of this information available not only for post-race and training analysis but offers a real-time view of the metrics that matter. When the gun goes off at UTMB, the RIVAL will be there to help Jim Walmsley cement his place as one of the top ultra-runners in the world.