A record under the microscope: the data behind Kilian Jornet’s performance on the UTMB

Since 2003, the Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc (UTMB) has been recognized as one of the greatest ultra-marathon races in the world. Since its creation, no one has run the route around Mont Blanc faster than Kilian Jornet, on August 26 and 27, 2022. With a time of 19:49:30, Kilian Jornet not only set a new record, but also established himself as the second man to have won the UTMB four times, tied with François D’Haene.

With such performances, it is bound to be interesting to analyze Kilian Jornet’s training and racing data. This was revealed by the Coros brand, which now equips the Catalan who runs with an Apex Pro.

These data show how intense the start of the race, marked by the steady pace set by Jim Walmsley, was. Before Kilian Jornet voluntarily decides to let him go to grant himself a relative recovery which in the end allowed him to place a decisive attack in the last difficulty. With an adjusted pace recorded by Coros (as if he was in a racing situation on the flat) of 3’21 per kilometer at this time, when the Catalan had more than 150 kilometers in his legs

Here is the detailed analysis.

Before the UTMB

Basic physical condition

Kilian Jornet’s base fitness is clearly in the 150-170 range during training and preparation for major events. It reached a peak of 175 on August 1 before starting a slow decline towards the UTMB. In the end, Kilian started the UTMB with a basic physical condition of 149 and a fatigue of 29. A remarkable reduction.

©Coros

Training intensities

The majority of Kilian Jornet’s training time is devoted to endurance and aerobic power (zones 1 and 2). For long distance races, this is the focus to have. On top of that, Kilian Jornet mixes in higher intensity days in order to maintain strong VO2 and the ability to push himself when needed.

A record under the microscope: the data behind Kilian Jornet's performance on the UTMB
©Coros

Altitude training

Kilian Jornet averaged 75-150m/km of elevation gain during his last four-week training block. Not only was he training in the proper areas, but he was also building muscle strength!

A record under the microscope: the data behind Kilian Jornet's performance on the UTMB
©Coros

His record on the UTMB

When analyzing Kilian Jornet’s new UTMB record on the UTMB, a few things jump out. First of all, Kilian’s heart rate evolution is amazing.

The first 11 hours and 30 minutes proved to be the hardest. During this period, Kilian averaged 143 bpm and spent over an hour in his aerobic power zone (Zone 2). Then, even with a reduced heart rate, Kilian was able to maintain his adjusted pace and increase his cadence if necessary.

A record under the microscope: the data behind Kilian Jornet's performance on the UTMB
©Coros

An effort that can be broken down around key segments of the journey

  • Departure for Les Contamines Montjoie: Kilian Jornet ran at a heart rate in his threshold zone (166-177) for part of this segment. This is not tenable for durations longer than 3 hours. A huge strategic gamble with its potential risks and benefits.
  • Les Contamines Montjoie – Col De La Seigne: Kilian Jornet reduced his heart rate, but he was still functioning at a high level. Any time spent above aerobic endurance for ultra events is considered risky. Kilian alternated between aerobic endurance and aerobic power during these 30 km. The objective being to stay with the leader, this tactic was starting to put him in the red from a physiological point of view.
  • Col De La Seigne – Courmayeur: While the race has so far been between Kilian Kilian and American Jim Walmsley, Frenchman Mathieu Blanchard has adopted a different strategy. Blanchard adopted a more conservative pace and was 16 minutes and 32 seconds behind Kilian at kilometer 81.
  • Courmayeur – Grand Col Ferret: It was on this segment that Kilian Jornet had to let Walmsley slip away. The effort was way too high for too long and the Catalan took the decision to reduce it. Even running uphill he was able to lower his heart rate and ensure he had the ability to finish. This is Kilian Jornet’s lowest average heart rate so far.
  • Grand Col Ferret – Champex Lac: Considering this segment as his recovery part of the race, Kilian Jornet achieved the lowest average heart rate (119bpm). This tactic proved crucial in his effort for the final 53.5 kilometres.
  • Champex Lac – Trient: Kilian Jornet brought his heart rate up to an average of 125 for this section. The pace has dropped for all runners, but effort levels have increased as there is a new competitor pushing Kilian Jornet up.
  • Trient – ​​The Head of the Winds: Here is the decisive attack, demonstrated by its data. Kilian Jornet attacked for an hour, often running at a rate of more than 20 minutes for 5 kilometers. During his attack, the Spaniard even reached a maximum adjusted pace of 3:21/km. In other words, after running 151 kilometers, Kilian attacked at a pace of 16:45 in the 5 km. It’s amazing what he was able to do considering how the first 80 kilometers of this race went.
  • La Tete Aux Vents – Arrival: With an adjusted pace of 9:27/km, this is the slowest part of the race for Kilian. Having spent all his energy in his decisive attack, one can understand that there was nothing left in the tank. He calculated his shot perfectly during the previous section and was able to manage his effort until the finish.
A record under the microscope: the data behind Kilian Jornet's performance on the UTMB
©Coros

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.