François D’haene already has two wins at UTMB and he’s here again to go for a third win. In the following interview, François talks about how a fall affected his summer running plans, how those changes may have helped him for UTMB, and why he’s so excited for this year’s race.
François D’haene Pre-UTMB Interview Transcript
iRunFar: Bryon Powell of iRunFar here with François D’haene before the 2017 UTMB. How are you, François?
Francois D’haene: Fine, thank you.
iRunFar: I think it’s more busy and more tiring before the race, no?
D’haene: A little bit. It’s more and more busy.
iRunFar: You’ve had a race season that hasn’t been so busy. You won the MaXi-Race back in May, and then you fell? What happened?
D’haene: It was a stupid fall. In my program I have a nice winter and then Madeira and then MaXi-Race, and everything was perfect. I was thinking to go up and up and up after Madeira and MaXi-Race and Lavaredo. Madeira was super, super good. I just had to confirm it. I wasn’t really focused after MaXi-Race. Okay, I will go to Lavaredo just to see. I made a stupid fall and has pain on my ribs. Okay, I don’t want to take any risks with the competition at UTMB. I just made another race the beginning of July, a 70k in Switzerland in Verbier. I was okay, just my legs needed to train again. I had just 10 days for holidays. Then after that, I kept on training progressively until the end of July and beginning of August when we made a nice recce around Mont Blanc.
iRunFar: With the Salomon team?
D’haene: Yes, it was perfect training in four days. Then I tried to continue and keep my fitness.
iRunFar: I know it’s always hard to miss a race especially one like Lavaredo, but was maybe that good for the UTMB preparation?
D’haene: I think if I can see back, a lot of people said it’s better for me because I’ll be more fresh. I think it’s true because it’s already four races for me since the beginning of the year. Yes, to be true, it’s a lot of pressure…
iRunFar: With having Madeira and MaXi-Race, those are both long races even time-wise.
D’haene: Yeah, I think it’s enough even for a season. Now I’m okay. I’m fresh. I really want to try to do this amazing loop.
iRunFar: Amazing loop—you’ve done this twice? You’ve done the loop once.
D’haene: Yeah, I hope it will be a loop.
iRunFar: Yeah, there’s a little chance of a change, but the CCC has confirmed…
D’haene: I think the biggest problem in mountains is when there is a big storm, but if it’s cold, rainy, or snowy, it’s the game. We are here for mountain trails and this is a mountain, and we have to be ready for that.
iRunFar: Yeah, it’s part of the sport and a nice part of the course.
D’haene: Yeah, maybe it will be slower, or maybe it will be harder for sure, but it’s part of the sport.
iRunFar: On a course like UTMB, there have been some changes. The course record isn’t that important.
D’haene: If you don’t want some snow and some rain and some hot, you have to go into the desert.
iRunFar: Or Western States.
D’haene: Western States, sure.
iRunFar: You’ve run this race twice. You’ve won this race twice. Do you think you have a good chance to win it again this weekend?
D’haene: To win it again is impossible to say. I was lucky to win it two times. I was really lucky because not a lot of runners have an opportunity to win this race. I’m very grateful about that and so, so happy about that. My training is good, and I’m really happy to take part of this amazing edition with lots of very nice athletes and a lot of good athletes that I’ve never run with. I’m so happy about that. I just hope to push myself as much as I can and then the position will be the position. For sure, if I have no problem and I can see the finish line and I can push as I can, I will be happy about the position.
iRunFar: Do you think this is the strongest field you’ve raced against?
D’haene: Yeah, to be in this it’s sure.
iRunFar: Who do you think beside yourself is in the best position to win?
D’haene: I don’t know. This is why I like ultra-trail. If you see me against all these runners in an 80k, it’s easy to say who will win. If it’s flat, it’s easy to say who will win. If it’s 100k, it’s easy. Here, it’s the mountains; the weather will be crap; it’s 100 miles; it’s not 15 hours; it’s 20 to 22 hours, which is seven hours more than 15 hours. That’s why… everything can happen.
iRunFar: Like last year—who would have thought Ludovic [Pommeret] would have been the champion 50k in? No one would have picked him, even himself.
D’haene: Sure. Yeah, I’m sure even Kilian [Jornet] is a little bit stressed about making this trip because you don’t start 20 hours of running like it’s a marathon or something because for 20 hours, you never know what’s going to happen with your stomach or with your legs or with your ankles. Even a stupid fall, you never know…
iRunFar: Which we saw at Hardrock with Kilian.
D’haene: This is why I think a lot of people like this sport and it’s why so many people are here. That’s why we’re here, too. We never know what can happen.
iRunFar: What are you most excited about this weekend? What aspect?
D’haene: I just want to see what can happen. I just expect I would like to race like in 2014 in nice conditions with nice people. I’d like to run with some other runners during all the night because it was just a fabulous moment. We remember with Tòfol [Castanyer] and Iker [Karrera] that it was so incredible of an opportunity to run in the front of the race with three at UTMB. It was just a…
iRunFar: I think that will be possible this year because there are so many incredible runners that if you want to—one or two runners may go off the front of the field, but maybe there will be a pack of runners running together.
D’haene: I think it will be at least until Arnuva there will be a lot of runners except maybe some American runners, eh?
D’haene: Maybe, yes, but maybe it will be too hard for them if they start too fast.
iRunFar: It’s happened before.
D’haene: We’ll see.
iRunFar: Best of luck. Bonne chance. Enjoy.
D’haene: Thanks very much.