Project Carbon X 2 saw Jim Walmsley set a new American record of 6:09:26, a 45-minute PR just 12-seconds shy of the world record.
While it might not be a triathlon, with no swim, bike, run events happening at the moment, last weekend’s Project Carbon X 2 100km event certainly filled the void for endurance racing.
Held on 23 January, Project Carbon X 2 featured a selection of Hoka One One’s finest ultra athletes attempting to simultaneously break the men’s and women’s 100km world records.
This was certainly a big ask. The records stand at 6:09:14 for the men – set by Japan’s Nao Kazami in 2018 – and 6:33:11 for the women, set by Japan’s Tomoe Abe in 2000. While none of the racers managed to beat those Japanese bests, it was still an enthralling race with some incredible performances.
It also provided a spectacular launch for the Hoka One One Carbon X 2 – the carbon-infused shoe that’s we’re expecting to see on the feet of Jan Frodeno, and a whole host of other Ironman athletes around the world.
To celebrate the event, Hoka is giving you the chance to win a new pair of Hoka Carbon X 2 shoes by completing 100km yourself throughout February.
Project Carbon X 2 – The Men’s Race
An athlete for whom ultra running was an elixir to escape from the darkest of places, Walmsley has quickly risen to the top of the ultra world. Multiple wins at the JFK 50 miles and the 2017 Tarawera 100 victory paved the way for his record-breaking win at Western States 100 in 2018 – banishing his wrong turn and overheating woes of years prior.
Walmsley was the standout runner for Hoka’s 2019 Project Carbon X event where the American set a new 50 mile world best of 2:57:28. The American then went on to take his second Western States win, beating his previous year’s best by 20 minutes.
Before this year’s race, Walmsley spoke to Ironman legend and Hoka ambassador Julie Moss about what he’d learned from the 2019 Project Carbon X event and when the 100km attempt would really begin to bite.
“From my last race I hit that wall closer to 40 miles,” he said. “But I think I had a bit more sporadic pacing, a lot less patience and so I think I made mistakes in 2019 at the Sacramento [Project Carbon X] event. However I think mentally, I’m expecting that mile 20 of the marathon to feel like mile 47 or 50 of this 100k. And I guess the last 20k I would consider is 80% of the race right now.”
The back-weighted nature of any long-distance even can’t be overstated when you’ve been out on course a whole day. And just as an Ironman really only starts deep into the marathon, Walmsley’s 100k effort would need expert pacing to keep the record in sight.
“It’s going to be about dialling in a pace,” said Walmsley. “[I’m] trying to come in with a really tempered head on my shoulders… be steady and not lose patience to start clicking miles too fast too early… not really looking to have much of a positive split, much of a negative split. The more steady I can be, I think the better chance I’m going to have.”
That perfect advice for any amateurs, whether runners or triathletes, isn’t always easy to put into practice but it proved decisive on the day. Walmsley’s metronomic splits kept him in the hunt for the record throughout the race and well within his 100km personal best.
As the hours ticked away and Walmsley entered his final lap, the American – bloody shouldered after clipping a railing earlier – began shouting words of motivation to urge himself onward. Finally, Walmsley entered the finishing straight, the world record time ticking inexorably, and excruciatingly, down.
He crossed the line 12 seconds outside the world record, but in an astounding American record time of 6:09:26 – smashing Max King’s 2014 national best of 6:27:44.
Having let the race win and time sink in for a while, Walmsley was upbeat about his performance.
“I don’t think I’m done with the 100k yet… there’s probably another one down the road”Jim Walmsley
“It definitely feels like one of the more special runs I’ve had,” he said. “I really felt like I got everything out of myself today and dug really deep and fought all the way to the line. I don’t feel like I gave up, but it was tough to see the seconds tick by.
“It’s a little bittersweet but definitely rewarded with an American record today and those don’t come very often…So it’s extremely positive – a 45-minute PR – it was a pretty amazing day.”
Even as he stood awaiting the return of the other competitors, Walmsley was already contemplating the future: “I don’t think I’m done with the 100k yet… fortunately or unfortunately, there’s probably another one down the road.”
Rajpaul Pannu came second in his first-ever 100k attempt, coming home in 6:28:31 while the men’s podium was rounded out by Kris Brown in 6:39:14.
Project Carbon X 2 – The Women’s Race
The women’s race featured more lead changes than the men’s event and proved to be compulsive viewing.
With nine Open American records on the road and track, Camille Herron was the all-out favourite for the win. Herron won the Comrades Marathon in 2017 with a wire to wire victory and holds the women’s records for 100 miles and 24-hours – covering an astonishing 270.116km in the latter.
However, it was British Lands End John O’Groats record holder Carla Molinaro who led for the majority of the race with Herron in second, a few minutes behind.
By around 60km in, France’s Audrey Tanguy moved ahead of Herron, who was forced to pull out of the race with a hip flexor issue.
Tanguy, a trail specialist running her first ultra road race, continued to narrow the gap. The Frenchwoman eventually caught Molinaro just after five hours in at around 70km.
US-athlete Nicole Minette was the fastest mover behind and was taking time out of Tanguy, moving into second while Courtney Olsen overtook Molinaro as the Brit started to slow.
Tanguy crossed the line first in 7:40:36 with Monette in second (7:43:18), Olsen third (7:55:11) and Molinaro fourth (8:01:22).
Project Carbon X 2 – Your Turn
To celebrate Project Carbon X 2, Hoka is holding a Strava challenge with the chance to win one of 20 pairs of Carbon X 2 shoes.
All you have to do is log 100km of running between 1 and 28 February to be in with a chance of winning a pair.