France’s François D’Haene enters the 2014 Ultra-Trail Mount Fuji as a favorite for the win given his performances over the last couple years. In the following interview, François talks about his best performances, whether or not he’s prepared for a long race like UTMF so early in the season, and his thoughts on the course after having previewed two sections of it.
[Editor’s Note: Find out more about the race in our UTMF race preview.]
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François D’Haene Pre-2014 Ultra-Trail Mount Fuji Interview Transcript
iRunFar: Bryon Powell of iRunFar here with François D’Haene before the 2014 Ultra-Trail Mount Fuji. How are you, François?
François D’Haene: Very good, thank you.
iRunFar: You’re a very long way from home.
D’Haene: Yes, that’s right. It’s a very long way.
iRunFar: You’re starting your season this weekend. Are you excited?
D’Haene: Yes. Yes, very excited. It’s a real challenge for me to start the season with this. I [actually] started my season with a small race in France 10 days ago, but for me this is the beginning of the season this weekend. It’s really exciting to start with an ultra-trail because it’s 160k which for me is a lot for the beginning. Yeah, it’s a challenge, it’s exciting, I’m a little bit afraid about that.
iRunFar: You’re just coming out of your winter. How have you prepared for this course?
D’Haene: I do some cross-country skating. I do some ski mountaineering. I do a lot of training, some competitions, some really long competitions—200k cross-country skating. I do Pierra Menta, a famous ski-mountaineering competition in France. It’s a four-day race. I think my body is prepared to make long distance, but trail is very specific. I’m not sure I’ll be prepared to keep a very fast speed on an ascent or descent. It’s not like when I do ultra-trail at the end of the summer and I can run long time or pass long time in the mountains during the summer. During the winter, I can just run maybe three or four hours. Because I’m very fresh, maybe it’s better to be fresh than tired. I don’t know. It will be a big surprise for me. I’m so happy to be here. If the results are good, it’s very good for me. Maybe if the results are not like I’d like it, maybe it’s maybe because it’s at the beginning and I can’t be at the top of ultra-trail.
iRunFar: No, if you want to race well here, you also have big races with the Mont Blanc 80k…
D’Haene: Yes, a lot of races this year. Maybe it’s a big level with big competition. I hope my preparation with ski will be good for this race, but yes, like you say, the season is really long. I have an 80k at Mont Blanc; I have Ice Trail [Tarentaise]; I have UTMB. Then I have Diagonale des Fous…
iRunFar: That’s October. That’s a very long time.
D’Haene: Then I’d like to preserve during all the season, so maybe the solution is to prepare for this race with ski and small running. Since one month I’ve run a lot, but yeah, I think I’m a little bit too much fudge.
iRunFar: Your last two years have been very strong. You’ve been very strong throughout. You’ve finished 2013 on a great note winning Diagonale des Fous. How was that?
D’Haene: It was incredible. It’s a really famous race. It’s so spectacular from beginning to the end. People are crazy on this island about this race. The life of the race… for three days. I think for each trail runner I think it’s incredible to win this race. I hoped I could win. I want to come back this year, but it’s not to win the race but just to take part in the race because winning UTMB or Diagonale des Fous may be just one time in your life and for me, it’s happened. It’s just incredible. Since two years, I win two famous races in France and maybe internationally. For me, it’s really incredible. I would like for the dream to continue. It’s crazy how I grew since two years. I hope to discover new races.
iRunFar: Well, you’re racing Mount Fuji this weekend. We just went for a three-hour run. Did the course surprise you?
D’Haene: Yes, everybody said it’s really a fast race with a lot of road portion and it’s not very technical. But since today, I made two sections—one section with you and Fabrice [Armand] and it’s really, really technical with maybe just trail of 12 or 15k in three hours which is crazy and we were I think really fast. Yesterday it was the same with a lot of technical part. For me, it’s a really good surprise. I prefer when it’s technical than when it’s really flat.
iRunFar: Technical to the point where we were all using ropes. We had the shoes with the most grip on and you slide. People are going to fall.
D’Haene: Yeah, I think it will be really funny to see the people in the ascent and the descent especially. Yeah, I think it’s because it’s a lot of rain and maybe it’s muddy, slimy. It could take more time than I think they’re expecting.
iRunFar: Having some road speed helps. Last year’s champion was a very fast 100k runner from Japan.
D’Haene: Yes, but last year it was turned the other direction. This year it’s this direction and I think the technical parts are more at the end than the beginning and maybe for me it’s better.
iRunFar: Best of luck out there, François.
D’Haene: Thank you.