François D’haene, 2016 Vibram Hong Kong 100k Champion, Interview

After a 2015 plagued by physical problems that prevented him from racing his best, François D’haene showed that he’s back in good form with his win of the 2016 Vibram Hong Kong 100k. In this interview, François talks about his stomach problems from last year, how his battle with second place Yan Long Fei played out, and how he really wants to race the Western States 100 again this year.

For more information on how the race played out, check out our results article.

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François D’haene, 2016 Vibram Hong Kong 100k Champion, Interview Transcript

iRunFar: Bryon Powell of iRunFar here with François D’haene after his course-record-setting win at the 2016 Vibram Hong Kong 100k. Congratulations, François.

François D’Haene: Thanks.

iRunFar: You made a quick transition from mountaineering in South America to running fast 100ks in Asia. Did you expect to be able to run so fast?

D’Haene: No, not really so fast. I expected I was trained pretty well and just expected to finish the 100k very well but not as fast and not win. Yeah, I was okay to finish well, but I’m very surprised at the win and the record.

iRunFar: Yeah, it was a good race the whole way. You and Yan Long Fei ran close.

D’Haene: Yes, there were three of us including Gediminas [Grinius] and Yan until around 40k. Then it was more climbing, and I go with Yan. On the trail I feel I might be a bit better than him. I can climb maybe faster. But it has a lot of flat parts and road parts and with each part he’d come back. He just stayed behind me. He never, never, never led. He put maybe one attack on the road and pulled maybe one minute ahead before CP8. I said maybe it was finished for me. I said maybe I just keep my own rhythm and maybe he’ll come back on another ascent. Then after CP8 there are two big ascents. I tried to come back, but then again the road and a descent. Then the last road and ascent of 500 meters and I caught him maybe 1k before the last summit. Then I pushed all I had on the last descent.

iRunFar: The last descent was a few kilometers long and on the road. Were you ever looking over your shoulder?

D’Haene: Yeah, always, always, always. I didn’t really think I could finish in first, but I think he was really, really cold and I think a little bit tired. I push, and I push, and I push. I had good feelings but I know he’s too fast for me on the road. Today, it’s 100k on mountains and roads. It was cold and with the ascents and the descents and everything. This time I was in front, but I think he’s got a lot of experience on trails. He’s really, really strong and for sure we’ll see him next time.

iRunFar: In 2014, you had an amazing season. 2015 was a rough year for you in some ways.

D’Haene: Yeah, I had some big stomach problems in [Ultra-Trail] Australia, but I didn’t find what to fix. I trained again for Western States and I feel good in the first part, but then the same problem came back. I really would like to finish, but just walking. I felt really, really horrible. Then I feel good come August, but then it’s too late to come back. That’s why I’m here in Hong Kong because I started my training in September, and I’m coming back, coming back, coming back. I want to make one big race before my ski season.

iRunFar: Now you go to ski season.

D’Haene: Now I go to ski.

iRunFar: Does it feel good to put last year behind you, to have one really strong performance where you can say, “Okay, I’m strong again.”

D’Haene: Yeah, it’s really important for the confidence. I was really happy about last year because I had a lot of experience even if my results in Western States weren’t what I expected, it was an incredible experience. I really liked it. Yeah, the mood, the race, the people—it was really, really amazing for me. I remember nothing about 2015. For sure I was really happy today to have no stomach problems. I trained pretty well. Yeah, I can be strong again. Even it was more than expected because when I ran last year with Yan, I say when I run 100k like this profile, for sure I will be behind him. I tried to catch him. I pushed all the day, all the day. I tried to put him behind me a little bit. It worked, not for a long time, but it worked.

iRunFar: You have your ski season which you prepared for today with the cold temperatures. After skiing, do you have any races planned running for this year?

D’Haene: Yeah, I’ve planned something. I may go to Transvulcania. I’d like to, but I’d really like to go to GR20 [for a speed-record attempt] because I was not able to go last year because of my stomach problems. I would like to go the end of May or beginning of June. Then I will try to go to Western States. Then I will make a small race, and then I’ll determine the end of my season. Normally Diagonale des Fous but…

iRunFar: So back to Western States.

D’Haene: Yeah, I would like to do GR20 and then to Western States. I know it’s close, but I have six months for training [to prepare].

iRunFar: Congratulations on your great start to 2016. We look forward to seeing you race.

D’Haene: Thank you. See you at Western States.

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