Kilian Jornet’s UTMB Record Breaking Running Data
Posted on September 02 2022
Starting in 2003, the Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc (UTMB) has been recognized as one of the largest ultra-marathon races in the world. Since its inception, nobody has run its full length faster than Kilian Jornet did on Aug 26-27th, 2022. With a time of 19:49:30, Kilian not only set a new record, but also established himself as the second male to win UTMB four times (matching Francois D’Haene). With performances such as this, the mind starts to wonder… What does it take to perform at this level? How fast are the best in the world running up steep gradients? What is their training like leading into these events. Below is a full summary of Kilian’s training and UTMB race data collected via his COROS APEX Pro and displayed on the COROS Training Hub.
Training Prior to UTMB
When looking at Kilian’s training data, there are a few key items that begin to lay the foundation for his performances. These items are his Base Fitness, his training intensities, and his specificity of training. These three items are the pillars of success for any endurance athlete. How fit are you? What energy systems and physiological adaptations are you training for? Will your body hold up to the demands of the course. Kilian’s training focus surrounding these three questions paved the way for his record breaking 19:49:30.
Kilian’s Base Fitness firmly sits within the 150-170 range while training and preparing for major events. Kilian hit a peak of 175 on Aug 1st before starting a slow taper into UTMB. Ultimately, Kilian started UTMB with a Base Fitness of 149 and a Fatigue of 29. This was a fantastic taper!
A majority of Kilian’s training time is spent at Aerobic Endurance/Aerobic Power (Zone 1 & 2). Racing long distance events, this is the focus you should have. Along with this, Kilian mixes in higher intensity days to maintain a strong VO2 and ability to surge as needed.
Kilian was averaging roughly 75-150m/km in elevation gain during his final 4-week training block. Not only was Kilian training the appropriate zones, but he was building his muscular strength as well!
Breaking Down The UTMB Record
When breaking down Kilian’s new UTMB record, a few items jump off the screen. First, Kilian’s heart rate trend is amazing. The beginning 11 hours and 30 minutes proved to be the hardest. During this time, Kilian averaged 143 bpm and spent over an hour in his Aerobic Power zone (zone 2). Second, even with a reduced heart rate, Kilian was able to maintain his adjusted pace and surge as needed. To gain a better idea of how the race played out, we will break down each of the key segments and provide data points to showcase Kilian’s effort!
Start to Les Contamines Montjoie
The race started at an exceptionally fast pace! The first 31km showcased Kilian’s fastest 1km, 5km, fastest adjusted pace segments, and highest heart rate. Typically when starting a 170+km race, athletes will go out a bit slower and ease into their pacing strategy. That being said, Jim Walmsley (men’s leader through 31km) had other plans. With Kilian’s plan of staying with the leader, he pushed through 31km with Walmsley and sat on his hip the entire way. Coming through the first key section of the race, Kilian was 2 seconds behind Walmsley and running in 2nd position.
Key Data Point: Kilian was running at a heart rate within his threshold zone (166-177) for portions of this segment. This is unsustainable for durations longer than 3 hours. This was a huge risk/reward strategy Kilian was implementing.
Les Contamines Montjoie – Col De La Seigne
Throughout the 2nd key section, Kilian remained on Walmsley’s hip. This segment proved to be a bit slower due to technical terrain along with the first aid station stop for both athletes. While the pace was slower, the effort remained high. For the 30 kilometers combined, Kilian maintained an average heart rate of 148. Throughout both uphill sections, Kilian was sitting between 150-155bpm which is at the top of his Aerobic Endurance zone. Finishing the first 61km, Kilian was 5 seconds behind Jim and well within striking distance going into the final 110km of the race.
Key Data Point: Kilian reduced his heart rate but was still operating at a high level. Any time spent above Aerobic Endurance for ultra events is considered risky. Kilian was alternating between Aerobic Endurance and Aerobic Power throughout these 30km. With the intended goal of staying with the leader, this tactic was starting to put Kilian into the red from a physiological standpoint.
Col De La Seigne – Courmayeur
The third key section of UTMB is where Kilian begin to take notice of the first 60 kilometers. From the data above, you can see that average heart rate begins to reduce and downhills are being used for recovery at this point. While the overall effort did reduce during this section, Kilian still hit 166 bpm as a max. This put Kilian in his threshold zone and resulted in a sharp decline in heart rate shortly after. Kilian lost time to Jim throughout this section and ended kilometer 81 down by 1 min and 24 seconds overall.
Key Data Point: While the race to this point has been between Kilian and Walmsley, Mathieu Blanchard (COROS pro athlete) has taken a different strategy. Blanchard paced in a more conservative approach and is 16 minutes and 32 seconds behind Kilian at the 81km mark.